Well, after two videos I’ve decided to go back to writing. It only took a while to do so but here we are. And what better topic to write about than bad video games. There’s just something fascinating about awful video games. Of course, opinions are very subjective. Some people may really like a particular game, while others may hate it. Some people might just even hate the game because it did not come out on their favourite system (I’m looking at you, review bombers). Some games can be so close to greatness but could be let down by awful graphics, terrible sounds and repetitive gameplay. Others have woeful controls. Then there’s those that mix everything together to create something that’s critically panned. There are games out there that have received negative scores from review companies that have gone on to amass a cult following. Sometimes a game can receive a negative review at launch, only to have that opinion soften later on. To find a truly bad game can be a challenge but there are some out there (not Bubsy 3D, that’s a gift from the Heavens).
During my childhood, it was difficult to avoid bad games. There was no access to the internet and its large database of reviews we have today. Also, I didn’t buy gaming magazines so I wouldn’t know what was good or not. The closest I had was Movies, Games and Videos on ITV on a Saturday. That’s where I got the majority of my video game news from. It wasn’t perfect, with it only really showing a few clips of gameplay. GamesMaster would come later and it would give more in-depth information on games. The other option was renting games. You get the game for a night or two and just went with it. If it was bad, you wouldn’t rent it again and if it was Super Mario Kart, it was literally the only game you wanted. On the odd occasion I did get a new game, I couldn’t really afford to pick a bad one but it did happen. My earliest memory of a bad game was Back to the Future Part II on the Master System. I loved the Back to the Future series, especially the futuristic setting of the second one. My parents would buy it for me and I never made it anywhere. The first stage sees you on the hoverboard avoiding all sorts of things on the road. It just felt like it went on and on and on. Little by little I would make it further, eventually reaching the pond in front of the Courthouse. I never got past this area, no matter how many times I tried. It was a pity because the back of the box showed some cool looking levels (I eventually saw these on YouTube, yeah, they ain’t cool). My memories of it being extremely tough, with terrible controls and very repetitive gameplay, with a level that never ending.
A few years later, I would finally get a Super Nintendo. I remember getting such classics as Super Mario All-stars and Donkey Kong Country. I remember for one of my birthdays, I was dying to get a new game. Dunnes Stores in the Square had a small collection of SNES games and one of them stood out to me. It was in a powder-blue box with a funny mascot. It was Bubsy. I remember being so excited to play it and trying to play it with my sister but never getting anywhere. People would come over to visit and want to play it but I didn’t. I thought I was the weird one. It wouldn’t be until years later when I revisited that I confirmed I was right with my initial hesitations. Bubsy isn’t a terrible game. It’s mediocre but it has some things going for it. Its graphics are bright and colourful, it has an intriguing level design and its music is catchy. Its issue is the camera. The gameplay is based on building up momentum to dash through the levels but when you do build momentum, the camera has a tough time keeping up with you. In a game of one-hit deaths, this is a big issue. Mix in some dodgy controls and it can be a nightmare. Bubsy wouldn’t be the worst game I’d own though. That would come later. I remember being told I could buy a new game and seeing a brand-new Mario game on the shelf. I loved Super Mario All-stars and this bright red box looked like it would have just as much fun in it. Then I got home and it baffled me. It looked like Super Mario World. It was bright and colourful and it had catchy music. What it lacked was gameplay… well that’s a bit harsh. This game was Mario’s Time Machine and, boy, was I disappointed. I had no idea what was going on. You travelled through time, filled in some text and returned an item. That was it. I didn’t know it was an educational game and I got burned. I struggled to get anywhere with it. I remember playing it when I was a bit older and finally getting to grips with it. By getting to grips, I mean I learned you could enter the wrong word twice, cancel out and try again without penalty. I don’t have this game anymore but I would like it for my collection. I just don’t want it enough to pay for what it currently goes for.
With the advent of the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, I started to buy video game magazines. This meant I avoided the majority of bad games. My local rental store also increased its stock, meaning that I could try more games. This didn’t always work though. One year on holidays I spotted Actua Soccer Club Edition for relatively cheap. The old Actua Soccer games had been fun and I was hoping this new one would be the same. Instead, I was met with pure frustration. The game looked ugly and the controls were woeful. Your inputs were seriously delayed, leading to fouls or missed chances galore. I remember being so annoyed with it, I got four matches into a season, switched it off, ejected the disc and relegated it to my shelf to not be played for another twenty years. I decided to stick with FIFA 98 instead. Then there was WCW Backstage Assault, a truly abysmal game. Terrible controls, awful sound effects and brutal graphics, it was the Holy trinity of awfulness. The wrestlers looked, eh, interesting, if interesting was like they’d had their faces stuck in a hydraulic press. The sounds were just a combination of grunts and the gameplay was so repetitive. The game tried to encourage multiple playthroughs to unlock characters but I hated it so much I didn’t even bother unlocking Bret Hart. There’s no wrestling ring either, just a collection of boring backstage locations. Its sad because WCW Mayhem was a decent attempt that could have been built on but instead, we got hot garbage in the form of WCW Backstage Assault.
By the time the PS2 and Xbox rolled around, I was regularly reading magazines and renting games before buying them. This helped me to avoid truly awful games. Sure, I picked up the odd Unlimited SaGa here and WWE Wrestlemania 21 there but I didn’t feel they were anyway as bad as the games I mentioned above. As the Xbox 360/ PS3 gen kicked off, I began to look for retro games and one my cousin gave me was Rise of the Robots. This is probably the worst game I’ve ever played. It looks terrible, sounds terrible and plays like your controller is broken. The computer is incredibly cheap so if you are going to even attempt to play the SNES version, enter Down, B, Up, B, Down, Left, Right, B to give yourself invincibility and save yourself some heartache. Around this time, I began to watch the Angry Video Game Nerd. His witty critiques of terrible games were enjoyable and as YouTube grew, I began to enjoy more people playing terrible games. I even look forward to the Awful Block at GDQ. This led me to a fascinating realisation, I prefer to watch people play a bad game than a good one. Watching their frustrations is somewhat enjoyable, especially in GDQ where they literally just break the game. It’s a strange outlook to take but there’s just something funny about watching people struggle with Sonic 06 or continuously glitch through the road in Ride to Hell Retribution. I do try to avoid bad games now, especially since we have so much information available at our finger tips but sometimes these can sneak through, especially when I buy a bundle of retro games.
What bad games do you remember playing? Are there any “bad” games that you really enjoy? What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?