Most of the time, a bad video game is simply a bad video game. It gets mocked at the time of its release, is promptly forgotten, then it’s remembered years later by the likes social media. A bad video game is normally like a bad song. They’re briefly infamous, but they fade away.
However, infamous video games change history. They can create a poor reputation for designers, tank companies, and even bring disrepute on entire genres. For better or worse, these games leave behind a long legacy remembered by many for decades.
10 Daikatana Ended John Romero’s Relevance
Designer of classic first-person shooters Doom and Quake for iD Software, John Romero was known for flash and for solid game design. With an infamous 1997 ad, Ion Storm Productions promised Romero was about to dominate the video game industry.
When Daikatana released two and a half years later, the nervous laughter turned into derision that wouldn’t be matched until the release of Duke Nukem Forever. Sloppy controls, awful ally AI, and weak writing made a mockery of the initial ad. Daikatana was a game made for a moment. When it came out that moment had already passed, and with it, the credibility of its creator.
9 Dizzy Was Groundbreaking But Not Very Good
The original Dizzy was a ground-breaking video game for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and Commodore 64. The slow, thoughtful, puzzle-platformer gameplay of the June 1987 title was inspired by the then school-aged Oliver Twins.
The original Dizzy, however, wasn’t very good, with instant surprise kills, sloppy controls, and an awkward interface. It was, however, popular enough to spawn three and a half decades of sequels, including the much-improved third game in the series, Fantasy World Dizzy. While Dizzy wasn’t horrible, it was an extremely rough version of an enduring concept.
8 Jaws Cemented The Reputation Of Publisher LJN
Founded by toy inventor Jack Friedman, LJN Toys successfully competed with juggernauts Mattel and Hasbro. When Nintendo positioned the legendary NES as a toy for the Christmas season of 1986, it was a natural fit for the company.
LJN didn’t develop games of their own but were avid publishers of video games based on film licenses. The most infamous of these was based on the fourth film in the Jaws series. Unrelentingly hard with sloppy controls and inconsistent hitboxes, Jaws, Friday the 13th, and Karate Kid tainted many people’s impressions of licensed games for years to come.
7 Desert Bus Adds More Hope To Bad Games
Sometimes, a bad game can have a heartwarming legacy. Part of the abortive interactive CD-ROM Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors for the Sega CD, Desert Bus is an eight-hour “realistic” video game about driving a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas. The bus can’t exceed 45 miles per hour, and veers slightly to the right.
In 2007, sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun organized a benefit marathon for children’s hospital charity Child’s Play. Calling the event Desert Bus For Hope, the group raised over 8 million U.S. dollars, giving Desert Bus a new life as the best worst game of all time.
6 Night Trap Gave Rise To The ESRB
Very few games have a historical reputation uglier than the exploitive full-motion video game Night Trap. Designed for a videocassette-based console called Control-Vision, the console was scrapped, and it was retooled for the then-new Sega CD.
Weak gameplay would’ve made Night Trap merely forgettable, but the risqué content led to a Congressional inquiry. Fearing a legislated censorship regime, the video game industry created the Electronic Software Review Board. Most modern AAA games undergo the ESRB’s scrutiny, giving Night Trap a legacy that far outlasted its poor design.
5 Final Fantasy XIV Was Completely Broken On Launch
When SquareEnix introduced Final Fantasy XIV, hopes were high and stakes were even higher for the sequel to the popular Final Fantasy XI. FFXIV was criticized on its 2010 launch, and described as completely broken. It was panned compared to what was then still the world’s most popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft.
Upon relaunch as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in August 2013, the game’s legacy was completely reversed. Now a highly polished online experience, its modern graphics and improved gameplay rapidly drove it to first place. Final Fantasy XIV became the centerpiece of SquareEnix’s strategy ever since.
4 Sonic 3D Blast Was A Sonic Isometric Disappointment
The first Sonic game to venture from the 2D platformer model, Sonic 3D Blast failed to capture the things which made the Sonic series popular. The isometric angle made jumps difficult, and large sprites required the game to be slowed down to avoid inadvertently running into obstacles.
A game that could run on both 16-, and 32-bit platforms was a tall order even for Sonic Team at the time, and they struggled under those conditions. On release, Sonic 3D Blast flopped, adding to Sega’s credibility woes and putting another nail in Sega’s coffin.
3 Atari’s Pac-Man Was A Low For Arcade Ports
If not for its successor, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the Atari 2600 port of arcade juggernaut Pac-Man might’ve been known as the game that killed the American gaming industry. Appearing in March 1982, and primitive even by the standards of 2600 games at the time, the 2600 Pac-Man port was a terrible attempt to replicate the colorful, fast-playing arcade phenomenon.
Pac-Man Fever turned ice-cold, even though the Atari game sold millions of cartridges. However, Pac-Man missed its sales targets and by January 1983, toxic word of mouth had set up the American gaming console industry for a nasty tumble.
Nintendo’s bad games were mostly forgettable. Then there was the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2. Upon testing, Nintendo QA expert Howard Phillips complained the game felt like undeserved punishment. Worse for Nintendo, it looked exactly like the original Super Mario Bros. The company feared players wouldn’t accept an extremely difficult Mario sequel that looked no more polished than the original.
Needing a sequel for foreign markets, Nintendo reworked Fuji TV promotion Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic as Super Mario Bros. 2. Tough Papa became Toad, and all-rounder Imajin became Mario. High-jumping Mama became Luigi, and float-jumping Lina became Princess Peach. American gamers loved it and the different gameplay changed the Mario franchise forever. The Japanese sequel, retitled Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, found later acceptance overseas as a “challenge mode” for expert players, as Miyamoto had intended.
Few titles have a more infamous legacy in video gaming than E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. The film is a classic. The game is a legendary flop. Pushed out in just six weeks for the 1982 Christmas rush, E.T. sunk not just a designer or a publisher, but the entire industry of American consoles for twenty years.
After the Crash of 1983, no American-made console would see significant market share until the Xbox began picking up steam in 2003. Historians now consider E.T.’s responsibility for the Crash more a product of myth than fact, but E.T. remains the emblem of the damage a bad game can do.