When the NES first came out, it was an absolute revolution. People said goodbye to the simplicity of Pong consoles and Atari, and a whole new generation of games appeared. Some franchises that are legendary and beloved by geeks appeared for the first time on the NES. Super Mario Bros? Check. Megaman? Check. Legend Of Zelda? Check. Final Fantasy? Check. We could go on for hours. The quality went up, and thanks to the Nintendo Seal of Quality, which granted official approval by Nintendo, gamers could be sure they’d never play something like E.T. The Extraterrestrial ever again.
But like any console in the market, the good old NES had its share of horrendous titles, both with and without the official seal. These titles, for one reason or another (being non-approved games, having a rushed development period or being extremely hard or unfair) were so horrible that gave players nightmares, and even today are remembered for one reason or another as some of the worst games ever created. Introducing now, Walyou’s 12 Worst NES Games of All Time.
Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom
Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom (AKA, “the one where he doesn’t fight the Nazis”) was a pretty fun movie back in the day, which should have served as the perfect basis for an action-adventure masterpiece. Players were expecting some fun platforming action, using the whip as a weapon, and some of Dr. Jones wit and charm. Instead, they got this:
Yay, three colours. And is that supposed to be Indiana Jones? Ugh. The game had the weirdest perspective of all time, not entirely from above, but not entirely 2D either, which screwed proportions and made most objects unrecognizable. But let’s forget the graphic shortcomings for a second, here: the map was also a mess. If the player went in one direction too far, Jones would end up where he started, but on top of this, getting anywhere was an almost impossible task given how stiff the controls were, and how awkward the whip mechanic (essential to move from platform to platform) was.
Silver Surfer is an awesome character. Mysterious, sleek, deep, constantly confronted by his past, and just damn cool. The game, and let’s be fair here, wasn’t that bad. Controls were ok, the music was great, and the graphic department wasn’t lacking. Just look at this:
That’s so cool, right? Also, the game had non-linear progression, so players could take the levels in any order they wanted, shooting their way through the waves of enemies. So, why is it on this list, if everything sounds so neat? Well, we can’t even begin to explain how soul-crushingly hard this game is. For such a character, almost invulnerable in the fiction, the fact that only one shoot kills him is pathetic. Also, no continues, and only 2 lives. You screw up, you’re DONE. This wouldn’t be so terrible (just look at Contra) if it wasn’t for the fact that everything on the screen wants you dead, and enemies never stop showing up at any moment, so there’s no break nor anything. You’re constantly on the move, dodging atacks and considering yourself lucky if you stay alive for more than 30 seconds. But when you die (and oh, you will), you will have to stare at this:
Be ready to get that image burnt into your retina. You’re gonna see it a lot. No matter what you do, you are gonna die, so don’t play this game next to your loved ones, you don’t want them to see you cursing like this.
We couldn’t find the box art for this game because, well, it’s a non-approved NES game and probably doesn’t have one. So here, stare at this horrible baby-blue cartridge instead.
Bible Adventures by Wisdom Tree is a compilation of three games that are sort of Super Mario Bros 2 rip-offs with bible themes (oh boy). You pick up something, and carry it over 2D levels. Things you can pick up include but are not restrained to: baby Moses, animals for the Ark (yeah, Noah put every animal in the ark by carrying it over his head) or sheep in David’s game. Yeah, that’s right, instead of making you fight a giant, they decided to focus on the part where David picks up sheep. Good call, Bible Adventures! Otherwise, we might even have had some fun and that’s a no-no once something has any relationship with religion whatsoever.
Look at Noah carrying a pink – something [pig] -over his head. We don’t know if people should be offended at the blasphemy or at the unresponsive controls, vomit-inducing mechanics or the just plain-ugly graphics. Damn, what a mess.
Bart Vs. The Space Mutants
We’ll be honest here… we didn’t know if this, or the horrible “Bart Vs. The World” should have made this list because, let’s face it, the two of them are terrible. Horrible controls, awkward jumps, boring graphics, and terrible music added to a story and gameplay that have nothing to do with the TV show at all exposed these two games as what they were: a cheap cash-in on Matt Groening’s intellectual property. But then, we remembered the first level of Akklaim’s Bart Vs. The Space Mutants:
Find and get rid of purple objects? Spray-painting them? Well, damn. I think the decision is clear.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Nope, we don’t mean the fantastic arcade game, nor any of the kickass sequels nor the SNES gems. We mean this:
What at simple sight might seem a decent 2d action game, not so terrible all things considered, slowly outs itself as a tedious, slow, unfair madness from whichever circle of hell. There’s nothing wrong with a game being hard, but there IS something wrong when the game teases you with impossible jumps, sections where it’s impossible to not take damage and outrageous power-ups that are simply out of reach. Probably the two screens that the players remember the most are these:
The first was an almost impossible jump on the NES, but an absolute mess on every other version, particularly on PC. It was already quite hard to not head-butt the ceiling and get to the next platform, but on PC the game had been stretched and optimized for higher resolutions, which made the platform be located even further away. Damn. The second screen, well, just look at it. You have to navigate without touching the plants. Screw this game.
Wisdom Tree and their unlicensed games strike back! Sunday Funday has the strange privilege of being the last game ever released for the NES. And it was exactly the opposite of going out with a bang, sort of like silently leaving with a poof. The game was a reworking of “Menace Beach”, a game that almost deserves an entry on its own. In Menace Beach, the skateboarding hero’s girlfriend gets kidnapped and loses garments of clothing between levels (“I’ve been here so long that my clothes are starting to rot!”, she complains), which is a strangely convincing way to keep you playing. How much pixelated skin is she going to show?
In Sunday Funday, exactly the same game but with slightly changed graphics and less offensive themes (ninjas are replaced by businessmen!), the damsel in distress is replaced by a teacher who nags the main character to get to Sunday school. So you control the guy with the skateboard who now carries a bible and goes around the street fighting fat people who will try to stop him from getting to school in time. Oh, no.
Now we’ve saved you an afternoon of horrible games. You’re welcome!
Top Gun & Top Gun 2: Second Mission
Anyone who has played this game knows what we’re talking about: what could have been a fun flying simulator, one of the first of its kind is doomed by one of the worst control schemes of all time. The plane landing sequence are infamous for being ridiculously hard and more dependent on luck than any real skill whatsoever. Besides this, the game’s visual shortcomings make for some of the most boring screens you could stare at on an otherwise very decent console, for its time. I mean, just look at this:
Ah, the blue sky with blue ocean below. And to top it all off, a blue ship where players are supposed to land, but will probably quit after attempting to two times, at most. Damn. The worst part is that when this game came out, this was being sold full price. I seriously can’t imagine gamers being too happy with their purchase.
Mario Is Missing
Now look at that cover. We know what gamers who don’t know the game must be thinking: “Hey, Walyou, you must be wrong! That looks like a kickass game. You get to control Luigi! Platforming! Stomping on Goombas! Awesome!”. We admit it, the concept is pretty good: Mario has been kidnapped and it’s up to Luigi to save him. Besides, the game looked visually cool, as they re-used the sprites from Super Mario World for the SNES which were smoother and better looking than any previous releases. Except, well, there’s no action whatsoever in the game, at all. Players can’t even die. The game has a lot of this:
Talking. In a Mario game. The gameplay is all about solving puzzles and choosing the correct answers, placing objects in their place and so on. We understand, the game is supposed to be educational and, well, we don’t have a problem with this type of game, except it’s not even good at that. Some of the most memorable sequences involve, for example, recovering a King Kong and placing it on the Empire State. The concept is just baffling: Mario has been captured so Luigi has to find a huge gorilla and place it on a building. “Just you wait, Mario, I’ll save you in a moment, first I gotta do something totally irrelevant involving an ape!”
The Karate Kid
Ah, LJN. The company famous for taking every franchise players and geeks held dear and destroying it creating some of the most awful games ever. Amongst the things they’ve ruined, we can count Spiderman, Beetlejuice, Terminator, Back to the Future, Wolverine, Jaws, and, well, The Karate Kid. Now, how do you screw up a Karate Kid game? You just have to release a Ninja Gaiden or Double Dragon clone with fast-paced combat and that’s it! But clearly, this went above everyone’s head at LJN and instead players got a 2-d side-scrolling game with every conceivable problem.
To begin with, the attacks are awkward, and players will have a hard time hitting anything below them. This might be not much of an issue, but you just wait until you have to get rid of an enemy from above a platform. Also, every time something hits the character, he just flies backwards towards a pit, so one hit kills are pretty common. To top it all off, there’s no invulnerability after being hit, so if something hits you, it’s probably gonna hit you at least three times. We like hard games, that’s cool with us, but unfair and broken games? Ugh, that’s a no-no.
Oh, no, we’re not talking about Konami’s arcade masterpiece here (“Welcome to die!!!”), but about another of LJN’s major screw-ups, the X-men NES game. This is another case of an impossible to screw up game gone wrong: players have a view from above (ugh) and each one of the coolest X-men (Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler) is doomed with a pathetic melee attack, rendering them unplayable. The rest of the characters are… decent, we guess. Have fun controlling Cyclops, no one’s favorite. The game wouldn’t be so bad if the computer didn’t force you to have a partner who can be controlled by a second player or AI, but if you happen to be playing with a CPU controlled ally, be ready for one of the worst AI’s in a game ever programmed.
Apparently, the computer AI thinks the best way to progress with the game is staying in one area and kill each and every single of the unlimited enemies that spawn all over the screen. And the worst part it’s not even that good at that, so the best you can hope for is for it to die quickly so you can start having some fun. Damn, talk about a broken game.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
No list could ever be complete without this “gem”. We might be talking of possibly the worst game ever created. That is, if we decide to call this a game anyways. Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde is a side-scroller where you control Dr. Jekyll, a guy who doesn’t have any attacks except a cane attack that can kill bees, who is trying to get to his wedding. The problem is everyone in town hates him and want him dead. Every single thing that moves is out to kill you, either by bumping into you, planting bombs beside you or by being crapped on by a bird (we’re being dead serious, here). Now, let’s assume for a second you’re a superb, fantastic player who knows this game perfectly (why would you want to, that’s another issue)… well, you could play the entire game without seeing Mr. Hyde. You’d just have the illusion of playing the worst 2d game ever, starred by the most boring character in the world who can’t do anything. Fun, right?
Thing is, if players die they’ll get control of Mr. Hyde who has to traverse the same stage backwards, relieving stress by killing demons. Players have to make the stress bar go down to zero before they arrive to the spot where Jekyll died, or they’ll be killed by a thunder. Their reward for managing to do this? Why, being back in control of Jekyll, of course! The funny part is that when players get to control Mr. Hyde, it even starts to resemble a real game, despite the erratic ranged attack, pathetic melee hits, and just plain weird mechanics. Do yourself a favor, forget this game even exists, and go play some Castlevania.
Action 52 & Cheetahmen
Action 52, the holy grail of unlicensed games is a weird piece. The retail cartridge had 52 games for a whopping $199 dollars (damn), most of which were unfinished, broken games. Some of them wouldn’t even launch, or just freeze after a couple screens. But also, the ones that DID work were just Atari knock-offs, generic games that seemed programmed by a really amateur team. We’re not lying here, 40% of the games are just some sort of space shooter where nothing happens most of the time. But out of all these games, we were told, one was better than the rest. Which one, you ask? Why, Cheetahmen, of course!
In Cheetahmen, players control a group of “anthropomorphic” (we’re using the term loosely, just look at the image above) Cheetas, who were meant to be the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but destiny didn’t think so. Players had to traverse a couple 2D stages, not many as the game ends abruptly because of a bug after stage 2 or 3, suffering from terrible controls and bugs which made the cheetahs “fly” amongst other problems (invisible health bar, attacks with ridiculous range, and pathetic jumps are the main offenders). The game even had a sequel, just as broken as the first one, in case you have a hunger for terrible, unplayable games.