Top 10 Worst Video Games of All Time
Written by: Jeremiah McInnis
March 18, 2008
Filed Under Video Games
Want to know which video games you aren’t missing out on? Check out this list of the top 10 worst video games of all time.
10. Total Recall (Nintendo Entertainment System)
The movie Total Recall was a pretty cool sci-fi/action flick – it involved Arnold Schwarzenegger running around on Mars firing a lot of guns, plenty of mutants, and even a woman with three breasts. You would think that a movie like this would provide plenty of great material for a video game adaptation. Unfortunately, the video game version of Total Recall turned out to be an incomprehensible piece of junk – clearly one of the top 10 worst video games of all time.
The graphics are mediocre and the story bears little resemblance to the movie, but what really set players to bashing the controller against their foreheads was the game play. Unresponsive controls, repetitive levels, and armies of indestructible enemies (including everybody’s worst nightmare – leaping pink midgets) all combined to make Total Recall a total mess.
9. Urban Champion (Nintendo Entertainment System)
One of the first side-scrolling fighting games on the NES, Urban Champion set the mark for future titles to beat, and that mark was very, very low. The game offered little plot or storyline, and even less entertainment value – just a lone, unnamed pugilist stalking the streets of a similarly unnamed town, doling out rough justice with his fists and occasionally being hit on the head by a flowerpot.
As the blue-haired protagonist of Urban Champion, your mission in life is to advance across the sidewalk towards your green-haired opponent and knock him backwards. Your tactics consist of two punches – one is really slow and the other one is not quite as slow. If you stick with the game long enough, eventually you can knock your enemy back far enough to drop him into an open manhole. However, most people don’t have the masochistic streak necessary to keep playing that long – it’s a lot more satisfying to just dig a real hole and bury the cartridge.
8. Shaq-Fu (Sega Genesis)
If Shaquille O’Neal had stuck to concentrating on basketball and learned to shoot free throws, he might have become the greatest NBA player of all time. Unfortunately, he chose to dabble in acting, rapping, and video games. He was at least competent (barely) at the first two, but his video game career went down in ignominy with Shaq Fu. Released in 1994 for the Sega Genesis and Super NES, Shaq Fu’s story had the big man traveling to Japan for a charity basketball game. While there, Shaq encounters an ancient wizard and gets recruited for an inter-dimensional Kumite, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Sound bad so far? It gets worse.
The controls in Shaq Fu are some of the slowest of all time, and for a fighting game that spells disaster. To make matters worse, the attacks don’t register much of the time, leaving you punching and kicking your opponents with no damage done, while at the same time it’s virtually impossible to block their attacks. All this adds up to one of the worst games of all time. In fact Shaq Fu is so bad that there’s a special Web site dedicated to tracking down and destroying all copies of the game in existence.
7. Bad Street Brawler (NES)
Maybe you’re in the mood for a little Nintendo fighting action, kicking butt on some virtual mean streets. Maybe you want your character to wear yellow spandex and dispatch your opponents with Saturday Night Fever-style dance kicks, too. Maybe you want the objects of your aggression to be bald dwarves swinging ropes attached to country hams, and animals bearing a vague resemblance to bulldogs that attack by scooting forward in a seated position. Maybe you also want to be frustrated into a homicidal rage when your character doesn’t respond to the buttons you press, and/or cowers like a schoolgirl as the dwarves levitate overhead, landing strike after strike from their hams’o'death. And just to spice things up a bit, perhaps you’re hankering for some pithy wisdom between levels in the form of quotes like “The mouse that has one hole is quickly taken.” If so, you probably need a lobotomy. But in the event there are no brain surgeons handy, Bad Street Brawler is the game for you.
This side-scrolling fighting game from Beam Ltd. combines terrible graphics, laughable story (introducing flat-topped blond hero Duke Davis, the baddest punk rock karate fighter of all time) and poor controls to etch its name permanently in the rolls of awful video games everywhere.
6. Hydlide (NES)
The first thing you notice upon starting Hydlide is the shrill, irritating music on the title screen. “No big deal. The actual game music probably isn’t this bad,” you say to yourself. Unfortunately you’re completely, agonizingly wrong – the game just repeats those same four bars over and over again, ad infinitum. If the music doesn’t give you migraines, trying to play the game will. You wander around dozens of poorly-drawn, similar-looking screens encountering enemies that resemble blue amoebas and winged red vacuum cleaners. Fighting these enemies consists of ramming into them while desperately pressing the attack button, but most of the time the monsters don’t even seem to be affected and just kill you.
Your character looks almost exactly the same whether he’s fighting, walking around or dying, except for a red square that flashes around you as you’re getting killed; the enemies have even less animation – they just disappear if you successfully attack them. Occasionally you walk into a random area and find a magic item; other times you walk into a random area and get killed by nothing at all. Meanwhile the game music ice picks its way through your eardrums and makes your brain bleed. Despite its utter wretchedness as a video game, Hydlide probably scored some small measure of redemption for parents of inactive children – just about every kid would prefer to go outside and run around the yard rather than subject themselves to having to play it.
5. Pac-Man (Atari 2600)
Pac-Man was such a huge hit in arcades across the country that porting it to home videogame consoles seemed like a can’t-miss prospect. But the home version of Pac-Man turned out to be a huge disappointment. The game play didn’t miss much, but none of the graphics were close to the arcade version. The mazes Pac-Man went through bore no resemblance to the originals, the ghosts chasing him were boxy and hard to see, and the little dots our hero went around gobbling up had turned to green bars. Pac-Man himself wasn’t even the familiar yellow circle everybody loved and recognized – he had somehow become a lumpy, mucus-colored blob.
And if the graphics weren’t enough to suck the joy right out of any Pac-Man fan, the crappy sound effects were guaranteed to finish the job – like the graphics, they were poorly-done and bore little resemblance to the arcade game. It all added up to make Pac-Man for the 2600 one of the worst arcade adaptations of all time, and give it an undisputed place in the video game hall of shame.
4. Superman (Nintendo 64)
Superman for the Nintendo 64 is one of the dreariest, most depressing games in history. Nearly all the backgrounds look the same, and everything seems to be shrouded in a heavy gray mist. As Superman, you’re supposed to be rescuing Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane from the clutches of Lex Luther, but all you really end up doing is cursing the game’s terrible graphics and junk controls. The maps are rendered in 3D, but all the character models look 2D, jagged, paper-thin and like something you would have seen on the NES rather than the more advanced graphic capabilities of the N64.
Controlling Superman is a chore in itself, as he Man of Steel moves like a tank – a tank on ice skates. Also, his powers have to be activated by searching for enabling items, and then they’re only available for seconds at a time. On its release, Superman was universally panned by critics and gamers alike. It remains a foggy blemish on the Superman franchise, a pathetic excuse for a videogame that should’ve been hidden away in the Fortress of Solitude and never seen the light of day.
3. Custer’s Revenge (Atari 2600)
You might think to yourself that soft-core pornography involving General George Armstrong Custer forcing himself on a bound Indian woman isn’t necessarily the greatest idea for a video game on a console aimed mostly at children. If so, you’re obviously not one of the game developers responsible for Custer’s Revenge for the Atari 2600. The game was one of several adult video games by the company Mystique, which marketed them under the title “Swedish Erotica.”
The premise of Custer’s Revenge puts the aforementioned General Custer, nude except for boots and a hat, into an open field filled with arrows raining from the sky. As Custer, your job is to avoid the arrows long enough to make it across the field to the Indian woman, who’s tied to a post, wearing a feather in her hair and nothing else. Upon reaching your destination (her name is Revenge – get it? wink wink nudge nudge), Custer has his way with her, rendered in full 8-bit glory. Besides being poorly designed and generally offensive (the game drew multiple protests from Native American and women’s groups), Custer’s Revenge completely failed to turn anybody on – the Atari 2600′s graphics had a hard enough time depicting Pac-Man, let alone a naked woman. The General and his victim resembled giant pink ants made of Legos, and not even the most hardcore videogame nerds could find anything sexy in that.
2. Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing (PC)
Big Rigs is legendary for badness – upon its release it was widely ridiculed by critics, even receiving the lowest ranking of any game in history from Gamespot.com. As the player, you take control of a semi-truck for a road race over rough terrain. And when I say rough terrain, I mean you can drive your truck anywhere you want – straight down through bridges, up and over mountains, right through houses – all without slowing down, taking damage or causing any reaction whatsoever in your surroundings. You can even drive straight off the game map, spinning your wheels in a white void of space.
And don’t worry about losing the lead on your opponent – they never even leave the starting line. You win every race by default, regardless of where you choose to run it; in fact, the game often locks up a few seconds after you begin driving, declaring you a winner without even completing the race! In reality, there were no winners when playing Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing – you’re a loser right from the moment you purchased the game.
1. ET (Atari 2600)
Oh, the excitement and anticipation of getting your very own copy of ET: The Videogame as a child in the early 1980s! Oh, how those feelings of joy were quickly replaced with crushing disappointment as you fired up the Atari and actually tried to play it. The instructions told you that you were supposed to be finding pieces of a phone for ET to call home, but most of the game consisted of the same greenish screen filled with holes that ET would fall into – over and over and over and over and over again. Once you fell into a hole, you had to make ET stretch his neck to float back out, a process that seemed to take years off your life. Invariably the little alien would just fall right back in as soon as you got him out. Occasionally, just for spite, a human figure (scientist? government agent? Steven Spielberg?) would appear, chase down and grab ET, and carry him off to a blue screen with white buildings. Then you’d go right back to the green screen, blundering around and falling into holes.
As legend has it, ET was such a huge failure that it directly contributed to the decline of the Atari 2600 and the video game crash of the 1980s. The story goes that Atari had so many unsellable copies of ET that the company decided to bury them in a landfill and then pave over the top of the site for good measure, to ensure that no one would ever be exposed to the horror of ET: The Video game ever again. With the overwhelming success and popularity of ET: The Movie, this title was about as can’t-miss as a video game project could be – even a mediocre game would’ve been a huge hit. This makes the astounding level of badness that the actual game achieved even more mind-blowing, and makes it a shoo-in title for Worst Video Game Of All Time on the list of the Top 10 Worst Video Games of All Time.