How many times have you popped in or downloaded a new game only to be disappointed by the overall product? You may play through the entire game just to get your money’s worth, but it’s certainly not a great experience.
Unless you really scrutinize each purchase, chances are you’ve been in this situation plenty; but we’re not here to talk about those minor letdowns that are fairly easy to stomach. We want to explore titles that leave us completely dumbfounded. The games that put you in a bad mood and make you wish you never got into video games. Those that are so awful you have to question whether or not there’s a joke you’re missing.
While the gaming community can be divided over games that teeter on the edge of mediocrity, it largely comes together to bash the following games. They may be awful, but if there’s one thing the worst video games are good at, it’s unifying people over their general terribleness.
The Worst Video Games Ever Made
15. Aliens: Colonial Marines
Developer: Gearbox Software
Remember when Sega promised us a really cool Alien game that put the Colonial Marines in the spotlight? The one that would require teamwork and featured building mechanics and other really fun gameplay mechanics? You may remember the skeptical optimism when the game was first featured in Game Informer’s 2008 issue and upon its first trailer in 2011. Even by today’s standards, it looked like a solid, beautiful game set in a beloved universe.
Come release in 2013, it was as if Gearbox completely scrapped the original concept several months before launch. We know by now that first-look trailers are rarely visually accurate, but the graphical degradation Colonial Marines went through was shocking – and kind of insulting.
Beyond looking like a late-PS2 release, Colonial Marines featured miserable AI, which doesn’t work when your enemy is supposed to be cunning, slick, and downright terrifying. The xenomorphs were nothing to fear as they moved sluggishly across bland environments and were a far cry from their theatrical counterparts.
From lame acting to a rushed story that retcons events in Alien 3 in the most ridiculous way, Alien: Colonial Marines was a huge letdown. Movie tie-in games are known for being bad, but the promise that Colonial Marines had somehow makes this worse than many of the awful examples out there.
14. Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis
Developer: Lucky Chicken Studios
How does spending five minutes every time you want to redirect Aquaman so he can awkwardly swim through a featureless world sound? At first, travel through Atlantis may seem like a daunting task considering how large the world looks, but don’t worry – Lucky Chicken were sure to throw up a bounty of invisible walls to guide you most inconveniently.
Terrible navigation aside, Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis tries to be a suitable superhero beat ‘em up, but it fails in the core component of those titles: the combat. Aquaman may have a list of combos you can execute, but every fight seems to dissolve into a series of awkward punches. Tired of hand-to-hand combat? Don’t worry, Aquaman has a selection of special powers that look as lame as they sound, like summoning a sole dolphin or hammerhead shark to take care of a single baddy.
The story unfolds in poorly rendered comic book panels that, instead of borrowing an actual art style from the comic series, use the game’s ugly visuals and the same circular dialogue bubble. It all comes together to show just how little Lucky Chicken Studios cared about appealing to Aquaman’s fans.
13. Way of the Warrior
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Universal Interactive Studios
Few games can do what Mortal Kombat does so well. Which is weird, because the original fighter wasn’t some amazing technical feat when it launched. It just so happen to hit the formula properly to launch a successful franchise. Wanting to get in on Midway’s success was Naughty Dog, a studio that was two years away from churning out a blockbuster hit.
Way of the Warrior is an unashamed Mortal Kombat clone, complete with motion-captured fighters and a lamer take on “fatalities.” Beyond the myriad of issues that include dull combat, awful voice acting, and muddied backgrounds, Way of the Warrior simply lacked the charm of Mortal Kombat and the inspired cast of characters. Even in a world where Midway’s 1992 fighter didn’t exist, Way of the Warrior would not be passable.
Naughty Dog do get kudos for using White Zombie’s La Secorcisto: Devil Music Volume One as the game’s score, but that far from makes up for its dozens of other pitfalls.
12. Ride to Hell: Retribution
Publisher: Deep Silver
Where does one start with Ride to Hell: Retribution? Maybe with the awful title, which also partially describes the development process of this playable trash heap. Or do we criticize the unpolished graphics, MS Paint blood splatters, deformed character models, and sleepy voice acting? Ride to Hell is the kind of game journalists dread writing about because there are so many negative points to touch on that it’s just plain depressing to get through.
Eutechnyx is known for creating a host of subpar racing titles, including the NASCAR series, Big Mutha Truckers, 007 Racing, and Cartoon Network Racing. With Ride to Hell, it continues to show the development team has no handle on how to make driving fun. Every aspect of Retribution is a chore, but the driving segments are monotonous and tedious.
To round things off, combat is nothing more than button mashing to perform the same series of punches, kicks, and blocks. For whatever reason, whenever a hit lands, it sounds like someone’s getting slapped with a wet fish. Come to think of it, that may be the best part of this literal “ride to hell.”
11. Star Trek
Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Regardless of which side of the divide you stand on for the new Star Trek movie series, chances are you’ll come together to bash the critically panned tie-in video game. Poor Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto likely didn’t know their voices and likenesses would be used for a game that was riddled with bugs, level and object clipping, miserable writing, an uninspired story, and even more bugs. Star Trek was clearly unfinished when it was released and even featured a fun glitch where some enemies became invincible.
If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a QA tester, just play Star Trek and write down every bug you come across. You’re essentially paying to test the game for Digital Extremes, the developer who somehow had a hand in creating the Unreal Tournament games through 2004, as well as The Darkness II, and Dark Sector. You know, games that range from really good to playable and fun.
To call Star Trek a mess would be a compliment — its redeeming qualities stop and end with the fact that you can turn it off and walk away.
Developer: Phantom Card
Publisher: Atlantean Interactive Games
Can you guess what you’re getting when you play Catfight?
If you said “misery with a side of pixelated 90s T&A,” then you know your way around the gaming industry. When you ponder what Catfight could possibly offer, think Mortal Kombat with a whole lot of sleaze and god awful fighting mechanics. While we’ve seen far worse sexualization of the female form in later fighters, Catfight, which launched in 1996, was certainly setting the standard.
Looking beyond this, we’re left with nothing that could possibly redeem this awful Mortal Kombat clone, which is ripe with some of the most obnoxious sound effects in gaming to date. As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, hit detection is completely off, the game runs like a poorly designed Flash title, and the backgrounds are painfully boring wallpapers of tan, green, and environments from around the world.
9. Infestation: Survivor Stories
Developer: Hammerpoint Interactive
Publisher: OP Productions
There’s nothing like playing a game that forces you to pay for essentials like ammo. You know, a staple supply in surviving the zombie apocalypse. It would be bad enough if that were Infestation’s only egregious act, but the game was riddled with additional nonsense that made it virtually unplayable.
If Infestation: Survivor Stories isn’t ringing any bells then chances are you may recognize this game’s original title, The War Z. It’s bad enough that The War Z was pulled from Steam only two days after launching for (accurate) claims of false advertising, but its return as Infestation was an empty experience that left players wanting some semblance of content.
Playing on servers with other players often led to frustration due to an abundance of hackers, but playing on empty servers against horrendous zombie AI became a bore almost instantly. Mechanically, Infestation was unpolished and near unplayable. Should your character die, you’d have to wait an hour before respawning or shell out real cash to speed that timeframe up. For a paid experience, it’s unforgivably nefarious. For a paid experience that was as bad as Infestation, it’s borderline criminal.
8. Friday the 13th
Yes. The same studio that gave us games like Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, the Persona series, the Etrian Odyssey series, Catherine, and other notable games was somehow responsible for the Friday the 13th video game of the 80s.
The point of the side-scroller is to defeat Jason Voorhees. How do you do that? Well, the game was so difficult that not everybody ever found out. The punishing difficulty was marred by a maddening soundtrack and inane gameplay that had players constantly leaping over zombie-like enemies and dodging vengeful birds. If there was one thing Friday the 13th got right, it was just how useless the counselors were.
When you do finally figure out the combination of actions needed to take down Voorhees, the game switches to a Punch Out-styled segment. Eventually, Jason vanishes, and you’re set out to repeat the same inane actions until you meet him again. If Mrs. Voorhees wanted revenge for her son’s death, Friday the 13th was the perfect punishment.
7. Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons
Developer: Gravity Co., Ltd.
Publisher: Barunson Creative Co., Ltd.
It’s fitting that a really bad game would also have a really stupid title. Don’t get this confused with the entertaining sequel that released in the 80s; Wander of the Dragons is a poor attempt at cashing in on the Double Dragon name. The Xbox Live Arcade title felt unfinished as you run into a plethora of glitches along your journey to replay the story from a much better game that came out 25 years ago.
Though it tries to lure you in with 3D environments and passable visuals, Wander of the Dragons gives you no reason to trudge through this uninspired experience. As a remake, this arcade beat ‘em up lacks the substance of the original, delivering on combat that’s somehow even less interesting than the older title it’s based on.
Double Dragon II is another game that finds itself on the long list of titles that underwent questionable Q&A testing.
6. Hotel Mario
Developer: Philips Fantasy Factory / Animation Magic
Publisher: Philips Interactive Media
Hotel Mario definitely looks and sounds like it started out as the concept for an animated porno of the Super Mario Bros. series. Then Philips Fantasy Factory – which sounds like a producer of adult films – decided to take a different turn and develop it into the “least Mario thing” that’s ever been created.
As Mario and Luigi, you’re tasked with running a hotel in several environments inspired by the series, which involves riding elevators and closing doors. That may sound dumb because it is; but we’re also not joking. Goombas and Koopa Troopas wreak havoc in Hotel Mario by opening doors and not shutting them. How dare they. Additional enemies like Wiggler and the Hammer Bros. show up to make your life a living door-closing hell, but there is little variety in gameplay.
5. Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet
It’s strange that there is any sort of praise for Bubsy 3D because it is, in few words, substantially unplayable. It’s an ugly 3D platformer that fails to have a control scheme, camera, and general gameplay fit for a title so heavy on platforming segments. Need split-second timing to make that jump? Too damn bad. Bubsy doesn’t move that quick. In fact, he’s more like a tank than a spry bobcat.
If you can somehow get over the unforgivable controls, you’ll be forced to sit through a story that features one of the worst voices in gaming. Ever. Seriously. Wear earplugs, because it’s grating and incessant.
If you somehow make it past the first unattractive level, don’t worry, there are others that look – and play – exactly like it.
4. Custer’s Revenge
Long before Japan dominated the market of adult video games, Mystique was providing gamers with unique pornographic material. There are so many things wrong with Custer’s Revenge, but we think its plot may be what really turned people off.
In it, players control Custer, a rootin’ tootin’ Americano who’s sans clothing. On the other side of Custer’s visible erection is a tied up Native American woman, who also happens to be naked. By now, the light bulb probably went off in your brain and, hopefully, you’re appalled.
Highly controversial gameplay aside, Custer’s Revenge is just an awful, shallow experience that thrived only due to its problematic theme.
If not for the focus on raping a Native American woman, it’s likely that Custer’s Revenge would have gone down as yet another uninspired title that offered no substance.
3. Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing
Developer: Stellar Stone
Publisher: GameMill Publishing
We’re not entirely sure you can legally call this thing a game, but it’s not a battle worth dragging in lawyers and legalese for.
Also, what the heck does “Over the Road Racing” even mean? Guess it’s a fitting title for the same team that thought “You’re Winner” was proper and releasing a severely unfinished game was something you did as a video game developer.
As you watch clips of Big Rigs and see how you clip through just about anything that isn’t a drivable surface, you have to remember that this came out in 2003. Granted, it was in pre-alpha when it was released, but that doesn’t excuse the abundance of issues. How many big rigs do you know that can drive at a 90-degree angle? Or can accelerate to well beyond the speed of light?
The answer is the same as how many redeeming qualities Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing has.
None. The answer is none.
2. Superman 64
Developer: Titus Interactive
Publisher: Titus Interactive
Marred by plenty of licensing issues, Superman 64 has often gone down as the worst game of all time. If you’ve ever owned it, you know why. It’s not a game so much as it is an expose on everything you don’t want to do when developing a game. As easy as it would be to blame Titus Interactive, much of the development hell came from issues with DC and Warner Bros., who were partially at the helm of this terrible experience.
Think the story of Superman being stuck in a virtual world is dumb? Chalk that up to the licensors, who refused to let Superman fight “real” people. Of course, not all blame can be placed on Warner Bros. and DC. Titus Interactive clearly bit off more than they can chew and wanted to develop a game that was too much for the N64’s power. So, instead, we received a mostly unfinished Superman game with frustrating controls, awful visuals, stupid and repetitive missions, and ridiculous AI.
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Publisher: Atari, Inc.
Who thought an E.T. game was necessary and who approved this dumpster fire of a movie tie-in?
Even for its time, E.T. suffered from terrible visuals that didn’t do the Atari 2600 any justice, and that’s saying a lot. They’re so bad that it’s difficult to determine what’s happening on each screen.
In E.T., you play as the titular alien as he tries to gather pieces of an interplanetary telephone so he can finally phone home. To move about the muddied world, he uses up an energy meter that diminishes with every move. When it hits zero, it’s game over. Sometimes. There’s a chance you’ll be revived with a significantly reduced meter that seems impossible to do anything with. Things get really fun when you get caught in a cycle of levitating out of a pit only to fall right back into the same hole because of how awfully the levels were designed.
E.T. has none of the charm or the story of the successful movie. If you somehow beat it, congratulations. You have more patience for the worst video games than people did in the 80s.