WORST OF THE WORST:
The BOTTOM 50 Console Video Games
Part II

Updated Jan 20, 2018

In case you missed it, read Worst 50 Console Video Games Part I before proceeding further!

#25 Great Ice Hockey

Sega Master System (Sega 1986)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2009/3/10

Worst 50 Remarks: I always thought the controller was broken, but now I've finally coming to terms with the fact that this game just flat-out SUCKS.

screenshotOf all the pitiful entries in Sega's "Great" line of sports games, this wretched atrocity permanently resides at the bottom. Great Ice Hockey is the plankton of the video game food chain. The main problem is how it inexplicably requires the piece-of-crapolla Sega Sports Pad - the single most unresponsive track-ball ever produced! The game begins like any 8-bit hockey title, presenting a bright white rink, some uptempo music, and small players not unlike those in Ice Hockey (NES, 1988). Immediately after face-off however, you immediately realize how worthless the controller is. You'll spin it like mad with your thumb, only to watch your player creep a half-inch. At first I thought my controller was broken! Before you can get off a pass off a swift CPU-controlled player snags the puck and speeds off toward your goal. The rink is spread over three screens, and when the screen flips from one to the next, you lose control of your player. Calling this unplayable would be an understatement! I can't imagine anyone persevering through an entire game, because a mere two minutes of this inflicts more suffering that any human should endure. From what I hear, these controllers were originally quite expensive, so you have to feel for the poor kid in 1986 who saved up his allowance all summer long just to purchase this steaming pile of dung. The saddest part is, this could have been a respectable game had Sega allowed it to be played with a normal controller. I suspect this was a case of greed on Sega's part, so in that case I'm glad Great Ice Hockey was a total bust.


#24 Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor

Xbox 360 (Capcom 2012)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2013/2/10

Worst 50 Remarks: I felt like a total jackass trying to play this stupid game.

screenshotThis game is wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin. The original Steel Battalion (Xbox, 2002) was an epic mech shooter packaged with its own monumental controller. I suspect Capcom envisioned the Kinect as a way of incorporating a sprawling control panel into a game without having to produce the massive hardware. Well, if Heavy Armor is any indication, the Kinect is not ready for prime time - when it comes to sophisticated war simulations at least. The opening stage attempts to walk you through the basic controls. You're housed in a claustrophobic cockpit with three other soldiers. You are literally surrounded with gears, monitors, buttons, levers, and handles. As the game demonstrates the function of each, it tries to ease the process by displaying a ghostly hand or flashing the controls that require attention. Getting through this training exercise does not inspire confidence. In fact, it makes you wonder how the [expletive] you're supposed to remember all this stuff!! Even if you could, Heavy Armor will drive you crazy with its lack of responsiveness and poor precision. In the heat of battle you'll find yourself waving all over the place, often triggering the controls you did not want to push. Sometimes the game seems to have a mind of its own, changing your view and activating controls at random. Once I attempted to look out of my tiny window, only to have a hand close the shutter over it instead. And for all the headaches the motion controls entail, guess what? You'll still need to use a regular controller! That's right, it's used to fire, look around, and perform other actions. Using your binoculars requires you to hold up your hands to your face, which makes sense until you realize you have to move the right thumbstick to look around! It's as though the game couldn't be properly played with a controller or the Kinect, so we get the worst of both worlds. The overall tone of the game is ill-advised as well. The original Steel Batallion was generally serious, but this one tries to be Saving Private Ryan-serious with its gruesome gore and over-the-top profanity. I cannot believe Capcom gave this project the green light. This is embarrassing.


#23 Bubsy 2

Genesis (Accolade 1994)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2012/5/6

Worst 50 Remarks: The most insulting sequel since SwordQuest: Fireworld.

screenshotIn the early 90's Bubsy firmly established himself as the most reviled character in video game history. The fact that I am subjecting myself to his ill-advised sequel raises serious questions about my mental health. Sporting an idiotic demeanor, irritating voice, and corny sense of humor, Bubsy is a national embarrassment on par with Jar Jar Binks. His wacky animations and digitized quips ("Is there a doctor in the house?!") will make you cringe. The stages consist of whatever random garbage the designers could pull out of their butts. You'll get pyramids, castles, and worlds of musical instruments but there's no rhyme or reason to any of it. I selected a pirate stage only to end up in some kind of space station. Each area is strewn with hazards but you never know what's harmful and what's helpful. Some objects inexplicably propel you into the air while others are fatal to the touch. I often found myself keeling over for no apparent reason. The controls are a mess as you're constantly sliding and diving all over the place. The stages have "bad design" written all over them. When designers feel the need to place large arrows all over the place, it's time to consider a new line of work. Toss in some obnoxious sound effects and grating carnival music and you have an unmitigated disaster. I can appreciate the full-colored manual (a rarity for the Genesis), but the game itself is about as useful as a poopy-flavored lollipop. Bubsy 2 sets the bar so low that every game I review from here on out will be outstanding by default.



#22 Tron Solar Sailor

Intellivision (Mattel 1982)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2001/2/17

Worst 50 Remarks: You have to write stuff down? Is this supposed to be homework?!

screenshotCan somebody explain to me Mattel's fascination with Tron? They must have made a deal with Disney (or the devil), because they have no less than three games based on that weak film! Tron Solar Sailor is even more aggravating than usual because it requires the voice module, and you actually have to write down codes that it tells you. I know a little bit about video games, and if you need a pen and paper to play, that's not a good sign. You move your ship though a grid containing spiders and tanks. Your first impulse is to shoot at everything in sight, but this will quickly drain your energy. If you want to excell at this game (and who doesn't?), you have to play defensively, dodging the shots from tanks. Should you make it to the correct sector, you'll have to enter the code you wrote down. What's the point? If you make it to track "zero", you'll navigate a 3D tunnel while collecting digits to override a code. Solar Sailor is too complicated and not fun. The music and voice effects are pretty cool, but they're wasted. I'm pretty sure I hate this game. Yes, yes I do.



#21 Alex Kidd in High Tech World

Sega Master System (Sega 1989)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2012/4/7

Worst 50 Remarks: Messages like "Kattie is the fatest" prove Alex Kidd was actually an early pioneer in the practice of body-shaming!

screenshotThe first two Alex Kidd games were nothing to write home about, but Alex hit rock bottom in High Tech World. If making bad games was a crime, the designer of this one would have gone to the chair years ago! High Tech World is a clumsy combination of puzzle solving and platforming. The main character is "Prince Alex" who resides in a sprawling mansion. In the first stage he discovers there's a new arcade in a nearby town, but the only way he can locate it is to find and assemble eight pieces of a map. That's the kind of stuff people had to do before we had the Internet. Fortunately for Alex, all of the pieces are conveniently located in his house. To gather them up you'll move between floors, explore rooms, speak with people, and collect random items. It's like Maniac Mansion, except for the fact it makes no sense. If you try to put on a suit of armor, you die. If you turn on a computer, you die. There are bizarre messages posted on the wall like "Sega #1" and "Katie is the fattest". When you ask your father for a piece of the map, he'll give you a "fake" one the first time, so you have to ask a second time. Who came up with this garbage? In one case a lady won't give you an item unless you take an actual test with math, science, and history questions! I actually failed the first time! Stage one is mainly trial and error, so thank goodness you get a password after completing it. Stage two is a shoddy side-scroller where you battle ninjas in a forest. It's crazy hard thanks to unforgiving collision detection and deplorable controls. A single hit sends you all the way back to the beginning of the stage. The final two stages include a village area where you need to "pray" exactly 100 times in order to acquire a critical item! This game is an atrocity, and I'm still trying to figure out why it's called "High Tech World". I've played my share of bad games, but this one is Verizon Customer Service bad!


#20 Attack of the Mutant Penguins

Jaguar (Atari 1995)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2008/10/5

Worst 50 Remarks: Atari threw a bunch of random ideas at a wall and hoped something would stick. That's no way to design a game.

screenshotAttack of the Mutant Penguins tries to be a wacky platform game with strategic undertones, but it's just a colossal waste of time. This strikes me as the kind of game designed by a bunch of tie-wearing executives in a stuffy boardroom. Mutant Penguins is little more than a hodgepodge of derivative ideas that don't amount to anything at all. You control some freaky looking alien trying to eliminate an army of mutant penguins. Each 2D stage consists of floating walkways in space, not unlike Toejam and Earl (Genesis, 1991). You begin by collecting little gremlins used to open chests and access special items. Once you obtain a weapon (like a frying pan), you proceed to bash the hell out of the penguins before they can tip a giant scale. As if the idea of mutant penguins isn't wacky enough, they are also decked out in cute cowboy and indian outfits. They don't fight back, but they can take a lot of abuse before bursting into gory displays of intestines and eyeballs. This game makes absolutely no sense, and it's annoying to boot! The action is slow and confusing, and even special weapons like dynamite and guns fail to add any excitement. There are some nifty stereo sound effects (on the character selection screen) and some decent tunes reminiscent of Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, 1993), but otherwise you can chalk this one up as a total loss.



#19 Ice Breaker

3DO (Panasonic 1995)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2010/3/12

Worst 50 Remarks: I'm impressed the 3DO had the raw horsepower to render all those 2D triangles.

screenshotThis puzzle game is something I can see being devised on a cocktail napkin over a few drinks in a bar. Ice Breaker has the pretense of being artistic and abstract, but in fact this puzzle/shooter hybrid is ugly and intellectually devoid. Each selectable stage is a scrolling field littered with hundreds of triangles that you try to eliminate using a white triangle. You can ram the blue triangles, shoot the red ones, and lure wandering yellow mini-triangles into the green ones. The best puzzle games turn a simple concept into an obsession, but Ice Breaker turns a confusing concept into a pointless exercise. Its gameplay is slow, tedious, and aggravating as hell. The three-quarter viewpoint offers a lousy perspective, and the inexact controls don't help matters. As you methodically clear the field, there's no counter indicating how many triangles remain, which would have at least provided the player with a sense of progression. One slip-up and you'll have to restart the entire level - with all the triangles restored. Upon dying, the screen says, "Game over, DUDE", like the developers were trying to be hip or something. Advanced stages introduce new types of triangles, but the added complexity just pushes an already unpleasant experience into the realm of unbearable. The user interface has load screens out the whazoo. Want to select a new stage? Sit through a load screen. Want to adjust the audio? Kick back and enjoy the load screen. Need to scratch your butt? Welcome to the load screen. The stages can be played in any order, and the game keeps track of those you've completed. And there's no shortage of stages, as Ice Breaker offers 150 levels of increasing difficulty! That's 149 more than you'll ever need.


#18 NHL Hockey

Intellivision (Mattel 1979)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2009/11/25

Worst 50 Remarks: If you ever fantasized of watching snails compete in hockey this game will make your wildest dreams come true.

screenshotThe Intellivision has a pretty solid sports lineup, but NHL Hockey is the ugly duckling of the litter. The sport of hockey is fast and smooth, and let's face it, those are two qualities the Intellivision is not known for! The rink only consumes about a third of the screen, and the tiny players look like three-legged bugs crawling around! There's a tan home team and a green visiting team, so what's the point of the NHL license? Speaking of colors, I understand the need to highlight certain players, but could they have devised worse color scheme? There are tan, green, brown, and purple players scattered around the rink. The controls are initially uncomfortable, but after extended play, they are just painful! Even when you manage to gain control of the puck, your player is so slow that your thumb will be sore by the time you drag his listless ass across the screen. And as if shooting wasn't difficult enough, an impenetrable goalie blocks everything, so you can only score with a quick follow-up shot. Passing is pretty much out of the question. After getting called for a penalty, it takes forever for your player to meander over to the penalty box, and once there, he slouches like a fat slob in an easy chair. Can we please get this guy a beer and a remote?! I also find it amusing how the instructions boast of the game's "computerized scoring". Am I supposed to be impressed? C'mon - even Pong had that! Like real hockey, the game is played in three 20-minute periods, but even a single full period of this would be hard to endure. My friend Eric had a funny story about NHL Hockey. The first time he played it against a friend, they played an entire game before realizing they had been scoring on their own goalies!


#17 Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Make My Video

Sega CD (Sega 1992)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2011/11/20

Worst 50 Remarks: After this debacle Mark Wahlberg was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor in the weight room.

screenshotIs there a day that goes by when Mark Walhberg doesn't cringe at the thought being associated with this? The "Make My Video" titles are inherently bad, but this Marky Mark edition is the worst. The opening scene shows a kid searching his bedroom, and the murky, monochromatic visuals prompted my friend Chris to ask if something was wrong with my system. No Chris, this is how Sega CD games really look! Three rap songs are featured: "Good Vibrations", "You Gotta Believe", and "I Need Money". Good Vibrations is catchy enough (C'mon c'mon! Feel it feel it!) but the other songs are pretty bad. The "game" (and I use the term loosely) involves editing a music video by switching between clips and applying pointless video effects. Prior to each song you'll watch a set-up clip that gives you guidance on how to edit the video. Some of these scenes make no sense. What in the world is that young girl doing in a men's locker room asking a sweaty boxer how he wants the video to look? Just before the action begins you'll hear Marky yell, "Make my video gay!" for some inexplicable reason. The video edit screen doesn't give you a whole lot to work with. You can toggle between three sets of running film, but the small screen dimensions coupled with poor video quality make the footage hard to make out! Besides clips of the original music video, there's a lot of throw-away black-and-white footage that Sega clearly did not have to pay anything for. There are clips from old cartoons, movies, and random things like boxing cats. I considered bumping up the grade to a D for the boxing cats, but then remembered that I still have to live with myself. Applying effects will chop up, flash, color, and generally obfuscate the already-grainy footage beyond recognition. In fact, if you apply more than two effects, it looks like a garbled mess! The "reward" for your efforts is watching the resulting abomination of a video in a window that takes up about one-fourth of the screen. And no, you can't skip it! If Marky Mark isn't the worst Sega CD title ever made, it's certainly the most mock-worthy. This one might need to be witnessed first-hand to appreciate the full extent of its badness.


#16 Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure

GameCube (Kemco 2001)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2006/2/4

Worst 50 Remarks: Apparently all visitors to the Universal theme parks are issued complimentary brooms and dustpans at the entrance gate.

screenshotImagine a game where you are a kid wandering around a virtual Universal Studios theme park, collecting items and visiting attractions that play like mini-games. It sounds promising - especially if you enjoy theme parks as I do. Sadly, this game takes that perfectly good concept and butchers it beyond recognition. It's as if the developers went out of their way to make the gameplay as frustrating and awkward as possible. You begin by selecting between six of the most hideous "children" I've ever seen in a video game. Then your guide, Woody Woodpecker, provides a short introduction. Could they have come up with a more annoying and unlikable guide? I doubt it. Whenever I hear that high-pitched voice, I just feel nauseous. The theme park itself doesn't look bad, with its lush scenery and crowds of people walking around, but navigating the place is a real chore! You're extremely limited as to where you can move - there are invisible walls all over the place! You'll see all sorts of interesting buildings you'd like to explore, but as I learned - if you want to go there, you can't. The fixed camera angles are disconcerting, and it's sometimes even hard to locate your kid amidst the other pedestrians. Entering an attraction lets you play a mildly amusing mini-game, like riding a bike in the side-scrolling ET stage, or shooting targets in the first-person Wild West level. Other attractions, like Water World, simply consist of watching about five-seconds worth of not-so-special effects. I didn't get to try all of the attractions, because most of the time Woody Woodpecker says, "You can't get in here because there's too many people". What the [expletive] is that all about? When Woody won't let you in, there's not much to do except pick up trash around the park. Can you believe it? Instead of experiencing the wonders of Universal Studios, and I'm forced to collect trash instead! Who designed this thing? You can stop and talk to people, but it's pointless, as they just utter rubbish like "Hello", and "This is exciting!" Exciting? What game are they playing?! There's also an idiotic movie trivia game, which offers really bad multiple-choice questions about inconsequential films like Dragon Heart, Patch Adams, and Back to the Future 3. Due to a bug in the game, occasionally the choices aren't even displayed on the screen! Univeral Studios Theme Park Adventure is an absolute travesty - the video game equivalent of raw sewage. I'm usually quite amused when I review bad games, but this one just left me feeling disgusted.


#15 White Men Can't Jump

Jaguar (Atari 1995)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2003/6/1

Worst 50 Remarks: The developers should have consulted with someone vaguely familiar with the sport.

screenshotHere it is folks - quite possibly the worst video game ever! Sure, the Jaguar system has more than its share of dogs, but this two-on-two half-court basketball game is particularly embarrassing. And the only thing it has in common with the movie is the name. Using semi-digitized characters that scale poorly, it's next to impossible to tell what's going on at any given time. The ugly pixilated players, combined with some of the choppiest animation ever seen in a video game, turn the screen into a complete mess. Unresponsive controls and cheap AI make you want to pull your hair out. White Men Can't Jump is supposed to have a "street" vibe, but you'd never know by the weak "rap" music and idiotic voice clips ("Rockin!"). The players are a bunch of fictional street ball characters including some tiny white girls (who can dunk of course). Ball physics is non-existent, and I think I saw one girl do an acrobatic dunk with no running start from behind the three-point line. The flat, blocky backgrounds wouldn't even cut the mustard on an NES game. Adding insult to injury, this is one of only two Jaguar games to support the multitap (the other being NBA Jam TE), and I could barely get the thing to work! I've played thousands of video games in my time, but I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a game LESS than White Man Can't Jump.



#14 Super Action Football

Colecovision (Coleco 1983)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2008/10/15

Worst 50 Remarks: There's very little "football" to be found here, much less "super action".

screenshotOn paper, Super Action Football would appear to be the ultimate classic football game. You view the field from a raised angle as if you were a spectator. The field contains all of the proper hash marks, a scoreboard, and even referees! The detailed players actually scale slightly as they move between the foreground and background. Super Action Football is great until you try to play the damn thing. You need to use the oversized Super Action Controllers, which have about 73 buttons, levers, and spinners (give or take). They're actually quite ergonomic if you're an alien from the Zorgon system with three heads and nine arms. The game comes with two thick manuals. One is the instructions, and the other is a playbook that's thicker than a real playbook! Setting up a simple pass play is a mind-boggling experience, requiring you to enter about five numeric codes. Then you hike the ball and things get complicated. Your players don't move on their own, so you'll need to individually position your receivers and blockers one at a time. Adding insult to injury, these guys move so slowly that you might mistake this for the Senior Citizen Football League! In the meantime your linemen are all standing around like a bunch of statues. The act of throwing a pass requires you to press a non-intuitive combination of buttons - in conjunction with rolling the spinner! The ball moves with no regard to physics, and the animation is horribly choppy. There's only one reason to play this with friends, and that's from the hilarity derived from relentlessly mocking it. Super Action Football may just be the most ambitious and least playable football game ever conceived.


#13 Karate

Atari 2600 (Ultravision 1983)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2006/7/9

Worst 50 Remarks: I had always wondered what the alternative to "full contact" karate was.

screenshotWhen my friends play Karate for the first time, they all tend to have the same reaction. First they stare at the screen in disbelief for a few seconds, before finally blurting out "Are you F-ing kidding me?!" This unplayable abomination is a personal affront to anyone who has ever paid money for video game entertainment. It's a one-on-one Karate contest where the fighters never actually touch each other! The green and purple characters are admittedly huge, but then couldn't be more blocky or slow moving. The way they constantly gyrate, it looks as if they're dancing with each other for Pete's sake! In fact, if you crank up the Bee Gee's "Staying Alive" as you play, the game almost makes sense. The fighting "action" is a complete joke, with punches and kicks that look simply heinous (what appendage is that?!). The collision detection is non-existent; your opponent can be right up against you, yet is always out of reach. If not for the scores displayed on top of the screen, you'd never even know that contact was made! If you can convince yourself this is a dancing game with controls that transcend human comprehension, then Karate is the best game in the world. Otherwise this garbage gets my vote for worst Atari 2600 game of all time. Note: This game was reissued by Froggo in 1987.



#12 Jaws: Ultimate Predator

Wii (Majesco 2011)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2012/9/18

Worst 50 Remarks: Still trying to figure out how to make Jaws perform a dragon punch.

screenshotA few years back I played a really bad Jaws game called Jaws Unleashed (Xbox, 2005), which was about as fun as being consumed by an actual shark. Ultimate Predator is equally unpleasant. The opening cut-scene has still pictures with voice-overs. The characters are real actors processed by computers to give them a "painted" look. It's a bizarre effect that screams "low budget". You view the action from behind your shark, not unlike Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (Dreamcast, 2000). It seems reasonable that you can dart forward, bite, and swat with your tail. After all, this is the kind of stuff sharks do in their free time. Less convincing are moves like "block" and the ability to perform "combos". Umm... is this a fighting game?! The bloated control scheme even incorporates a targeting system and a "shark sense" which transforms the entire screen into split pea soup (ugh). Short missions let you do stuff like maul divers, kill squid, and destroy boats. It sounds like a lot more fun than it is. Instead of ripping off limbs and ramming boats, you just kind of thrash around until your victims magically disappear. You wouldn't even be able to tell if you were dealing damage if the divers didn't blink red! The collision detection is pathetic, and the horrendous camera makes it hard to see what's going on. Where is the gore? Where's the bloody carnage?! Even kids will regard this as super lame. It's bug-ridden as well, as I discovered when I became hopelessly stuck in the opening tutorial! Jaws Ultimate Predator is a bad game that preys on unsuspecting customers. Stay out of the water.


#11 Superman

Nintendo 64 (Titus 1999)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2003/2/25

Worst 50 Remarks: The list of this game's innovations include buildings that are perfectly flat. Why didn't anybody think of that before?!

screenshotRipped to shreds by critics, Superman is regarded by many to be one of the worst video games of all time. I'm not sure about that, but it certainly is bad. The 3D characters look extremely rough, cars look like boxes, and the flat ground is tattooed with patterns that are supposed to look like houses from high above. Unfortunately, many of your missions require you to walk right over these surfaces, and they look really, really stupid. The buildings look respectable, but the city is completely shrouded by a thick fog that severely limits your visibility. Superman's background story is incomprehensible, and many of the missions (all timed) seem confusing and pointless. Flying him through an obstacle course of giant rings (quite common in this game) is an exercise in frustration thanks to the unresponsive controls. I really did give Superman a chance, but the more I played it, the more I hated it.



#10 Swordquest Waterworld

Atari 2600 (Atari 1983)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2016/7/25

Worst 50 Remarks: These cookie-cutter "adventures" Atari tried to pass off were shameful. Poor Warren Robinette must be rolling in his grave.

screenshotGoing into this, my friends had an irrational fear that this game was somehow related to that Kevin Costner Waterworld movie. They should be so lucky! Scott said he knew something was up by the devilish grin on my face as I inserted the cartridge. Suckers! What a total farce the Swordquest series turned out to be. The first game, Swordquest Earthworld (Atari, 1983), was a pretty pathetic excuse for an adventure. Atari must have been delusional to think they could have passed off three more of these games which share 95% of the same code. As the third and final chapter of the short-lived series, Swordquest Waterworld was only available via mail order from Atari Age magazine. The poor schmucks who ordered this hunk of junk ultimately got the last laugh, as it has since become a super-rare collector's item. In Swordquest Waterworld you explore seven item rooms and three action stages. Not even gaudy color schemes can hide the fact that the rectangular item rooms are super boring. Some even have invisible walls - the bane of my existence! Black objects litter the rooms. There's a doll, shoes, chair, pineapple, necklace, crown, and other random shapes. The goal is to place the correct combination of items in certain rooms. These reveal numbers that reference words in the included comic book, spelling out a secret message. The game also dispenses clues in the form of item pairs on the bottom of the screen. I honestly tried to solve the puzzles but scribbling down the clues is a real pain in the ass because so many of the objects look similar. The trial-and-error gameplay gets old in a hurry and the "action" stages don't help. In one you must swim past sharks, and it sucks how you always get nailed just as you're reaching the right edge of the screen. In another stage you hop between ice floes, and it's frustrating because you need to be so exact. In the third stage you get knocked around by a school of red squid. In 1983, Swordquest Waterworld may have held some degree of mystery, but now it feels like a pointless exercise. Where the hell is Kevin Costner when you need him?


#9 Heavy Nova

Genesis (Micronet 1991)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2006/6/4

Worst 50 Remarks: What? We blew our entire development budget on the intro sequence?!

screenshotFor the love of God man! This may be the worst Genesis game of all time! Heavy Nova is so utterly revolting that it made me want to go play Bubsy! Yes, I realize that qualifies as "crazy talk", but Heavy Nova is the video game equivalent of throwing up in your mouth. I should have been tipped off by the back of the box, which describes the game as "Amazinly Exciting!" It opens with a stylish, cinematic intro depicting ominous approaching space vessels, followed by some nice close-ups of your terminator-inspired robot. At this point, I was actually getting a bit psyched up, but little did I know the degree of wretchedness I was about to inflict upon myself. Heavy Nova puts you in "control" (in theory at least) of a large robot that looks like something out of Cyborg Justice (Sega, 1993). Each stage challenges you traverse a brief, unimaginative obstacle course of lasers, falling rocks, and small droids before facing off against the obligatory mech "boss" (inexplicably referred to as a "Doll"). Your robot is one seriously uncontrollable hunk of metal. While it's possible to kick, punch, and fire your jetpack, the controls are less responsive than a cable TV customer service department. The lag time with the controls is so reprehensible that you'll swear you're playing over a 300-baud dial-up modem (vintage 1982). During boss sequences, the game attempts to be a one-on-one fighter, but don't ditch that Street Fighter 2 cartridge just yet. As the boss pounds your sorry ass into oblivion, you'll struggle in vain just to land a single blow! Heck, half of the time your robot is facing the wrong direction! Controls are especially problematic because you need to use one hand to hold your nose the whole time. Only by using the stage select feature (on the options menu) did I realize that subsequent stages are just as pointless. Even the soundtrack is offensive - it's nothing more than a disjointed series of random notes! Heavy Nova lowers the bar for all Genesis titles, making games I previously thought utterly deplorable seem perfectly respectable. From here on out, everything else gets an A.


#8 Highlander (CD)

Jaguar (Atari 1994)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2007/10/3

Worst 50 Remarks: This makes the Jaguar CD look like a laughing stock. Ummm... more so?

screenshotThis is the game Jaguar fans don't want you to see, because it exposes the Jaguar CD as the complete farce that it is. Highlander's intro features a lengthy animated sequence lifted directly from the TV series. There was a TV series? Hey, I'm as surprised as you! You then assume the role of an unarmed young man being hunted by soldiers in a burnt-out village. The high-resolution, pre-rendered scenery looks good, and the otherworldly soundtrack would be quite effective - in a good game. Unfortunately, your pixilated character is composed of about five triangles, and he moves like a turtle. You'd think a 64-bit powerhouse like the Jaguar would be able to handle a 3D adventure, but it struggles mightily. Simply wandering around the village is a chore due to sluggish, awkward controls. Making matters worse are the constantly changing camera angles. Not only are these disorienting, but take forever to render! Once the soldiers get close enough attack with clubs, you'll take a beating regardless of whether their blows actually make contact. This causes you to temporarily lose control, making you susceptible to further beat-downs. When will the hurting stop?! You can punch and kick until the cows come home, but your foes are always about a millimeter out of range. You'll find items in huts around the village, but just when you think you've come upon something useful (like a stick), you're told "you can't use that here". Attempting to flee the village causes you to be shot dead by an unseen assailant, but take it from me - that guy was doing you a favor! If there is a decent game buried deep down in this CD somewhere, I'd be surprised. Highlander is beyond awful - it's embarrassing. Why is the main character's hair blonde in the cut-scenes, yet bright pink in the game?? Equally shameful is the box art, which depicts Highlander as a blonde woman in what appears to be a cheap Aquaman outfit. If Atari expected garbage like this to pass as a legitimate game, perhaps the company deserved its untimely fate.


#7 Bubsy 3D

Playstation (Accolade 1996)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2012/7/8

Worst 50 Remarks: As if he wasn't repugnant enough in two dimensions!

screenshotIf you hated Bubsy in 2D, wait until you get a load of this 3D atrocity. This is the kind of game that makes you stare at the screen and shake your head in disbelief. The main character is incredibly unfunny and creepy to boot. His goofy voice will make you cringe as he randomly tosses out lines like "Owwww - what's the number for 911?" The game allegedly takes place in "distant worlds", giving the developers an excuse to throw together the most unimaginative, aesthetically repugnant stages ever devised. They are basically composed of geometric shapes with gaudy color schemes. The draw-in is horrendous as triangular mountains and square platforms magically appear as you step forward. Strewn across the landscape are hundreds of atom icons. You're supposed to collect those things, but that would be a colossal waste of time. Populating the flat, featureless worlds are green, armless goons that stand around and spit red projectiles. You can pounce on them for points, but the horrendous digital controls make even landing on a stationary object tricky. Enemies are deadly to touch, and thanks to poor collision detection just being in the general vicinity is fatal. Lining up Bubsy for jumps is tedious work, and that fact that he'll grab the side of a ledge if you come up short is little consolation. Combining 2D sprites with 3D objects makes depth perception hard, so grabbing floating objects is very frustrating. The weird music sounds like something from a haunted carnival. Playing Bubsy 3D is one of the most unpleasant experiences you'll ever endure. I forced my friend Scott play this a few months back, and the poor guy is still in therapy. Lacking any glimmer of charm or creativity, Bubsy 3D takes "bad" to a whole new dimension.


#6 BMX XXX

Xbox (Acclaim 2002)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2008/4/1

Worst 50 Remarks: Here's the line, and there's BMX XXX way over there [pointing].

screenshotThis ill-advised title attempts to combine BMX biking with erotic strippers, and it's not exactly a match made in heaven. You have to question the state of mind of the Acclaim executive who said, "Yeah, this is a good idea." Languishing in bargain bins since its inception, BMX XXX may well be the worst video game ever conceived. This game is so tawdry that after reviewing it I had to take a shower. While not truly X-rated (more like an R rating), it pushes the boundaries of bad taste with its pimps, prostitutes, crude humor, nudity, and profanity. At its core, BMX XXX is a marginal dirt bike game with maze-like stages loaded with ramps and icons. In addition to performing Tony Hawk-style stunts, you'll need to gather certain items in a limited time, or locate hidden objects. The controls are abysmal. The A button is used to accelerate but releasing it "hops", so you end up hopping all over the place. The steering controls are responsive, but since the poorly designed stages are heavily constrained you often find yourself bouncing around like a pinball! Stage locations include the Bronx, Vegas, a Dam, and Area 51, but they're all terrible. The audio effects are truly obnoxious, both in terms of their volume and quality. Expect a lot of vagrants shouting obscenities like "get the [expletive] outta here!" The only thing XXX has anything going for it is its uptempo soundtrack, which even includes a track from Green Day. The juvenile humor is cringe-worthy, the graphics are riddled with glitches, and the whole package is sloppy in general. If you select a female rider, the characters still address you as if you were a guy. Clearing stages rewards you with short videos of topless dancers, and while the girls look good (duh!), the dark, grainy videos are not worth investing hours to unlock. If you want to know how bad BMX XXX is, keep in mind that parents didn't even bother to complain about it! That's saying something!


#5 Panic!

Sega CD (Data East 1994)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2002/1/4

Worst 50 Remarks: No, you're not missing the joke. It's just not funny.

screenshotThis dreadful game makes no sense at all. Panic is supposed to be an offbeat puzzle game with zany cartoon graphics. Each screen puts your cartoon character into a wacky situation, and in order to "restore order" you need to push the correct button on a panel. These panels consist of 7 to 10 buttons with odd symbols on them. If you push the correct button, you go to the next puzzle. Push the wrong button and you'll see some kind of madcap animation. For example, your man might pull a parachute cord and an elephant might appear. That's so funny I forgot to laugh. Most of the puzzles make absolutely no sense, so you're reduced to pressing the buttons at random, and the resulting animations are incredibly stupid. It's difficult to believe that this game is intended for "mature audiences", considering how infantile it is, often sinking to the level of toilet humor. I really can't say enough bad things about this one. It's astonishingly bad. I think I hate it.



#4 Dark Castle

Philips CD-i (Silicon Beach 1991)
Grade: F
Reviewed: 2010/11/14

Worst 50 Remarks: A game or a comedy routine? You be the judge!

screenshotThis platform game is not atypical for the Philips CD-i. Dark Castle boasts superb graphics (for its time), amazing sound effects, symphonic music, and some of the worst gameplay I've ever been subjected to! When you first start the game you're treated to eerie organ music, crashing thunder, and the sound of a drawbridge opening - complete with rattling chains. I can't get over how clear the audio is - it sounds like the bridge is about three feet away! The gameplay involves conquering a selectable set of stages before facing off against a black knight. You'll jump between ledges, climb ropes (ala Donkey Kong Jr.), and toss biscuits at rats, bats, mummies, and executioners. The stage layouts are nicely detailed and the textures of the castle walls look photo-realistic. The crystal clear audio features slamming doors, flapping bat wings, and squeaking mice. Unfortunately, once you start playing Dark Castle, the illusion of quality rapidly dissipates. The deplorable controls had my friends exclaiming, "Are you [expletive] kidding me?!" Your knight tends to take several steps at a time, making him prone to accidentally stepping off narrow platforms. He walks along stairs slowly, making him vulnerable to swarming bats and projectiles. He can only throw while standing still on a flat surface, where you adjust your "aim" by pressing up or down. Not only is the scheme wildly counter-intuitive, but the adjustment is painfully slow, making you a sitting duck for converging foes. It feels like you're fighting the controls the entire time. Touching any object results in you falling flat on your face. The frustration factor is exacerbated by corny animations of your doofus stumbling around and tumbling down the stairs. The game ends with a high score screen and an option to save your negligible progress. Being on the lowly CD-i, I would have been willing to give Dark Castle the benefit of the doubt had it been the least bit playable. Sadly, it's not!


#3 Carmageddon 64

Nintendo 64 (Software Creations 1999)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2017/3/5

Worst 50 Remarks: For your own eye safety this screenshot should be viewed indirectly using a box with a pinhole.

screenshotOn paper Carmageddon sounds like a slam-dunk winner. You're racing around post-apocalyptic world smashing cars and running over zombies. How can this be bad? Oh it can be bad alright! In fact, Carmageddon may just possibly be the disgraceful thing I've ever played. Let's begin with the gut-churning dreck that's meant to pass for graphics. The textures in the game are so fuzzy you'll feel the need to put on glasses - even if you don't wear them! The storefronts are best described as "smeared". Even the hazy skylines in the distance look blurry! The angular roads are strewn with so many barricades you can't even tell where the [expletive] you're supposed to go! How am I supposed to race "laps" when the track goes in five different directions? You know you're in trouble when you start seeing the message "wrong checkpoint". The first time I played the game I quickly found myself at the bottom of a lake, searching for some means to escape. Then I noticed other cars milling around under there! WTF? The controls are abysmal. You'd expect the analog steering to offer some degree of precision, but it's all-or-nothing as your car jerks abruptly from side-to-side. In addition to racing, you can "win" (and I use the term loosely) by destroying other cars. There are no traditional weapons like Twisted Metal (PS1, 1995) but you can collect icons that unleash semi-automated attacks. The CPU opponents are utterly clueless, languishing in ditches and wedged hopelessly between rocks. Your third option is to mow down all the zombies, but locating all of these cardboard cut-out ghouls would take forever. Even watching them splatter into green goo is unsatisfying. The audio track is just a irritating jumble of beats and samples. The fact that this is a PC port explains a lot but it's still no excuse. Carmageddon 64 is such an atrocity it actually gives Superman (Nintendo 64, 1999) a run for the money. If a friend ever asks you to play Carmageddon, be sure to punch him in the face.


#2 Plumbers Don't Wear Ties

3DO (Kirin Entertainment 1994)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2015/7/16

Worst 50 Remarks: Like a car wreck on the side of the road, you can't help but stare.

screenshotIf you're willing to stretch the definition of "video game" far enough, Plumbers Don't Wear Ties might just be the worst ever! This "interactive romantic comedy" challenges you to fix up a plumber with a trashy blonde named Jane. In the bizarre intro sequence Jane appears in various states of undress imploring you to play this awful game. It doesn't bode well that she's standing in front of a wrinkled bedsheet and the audio is awful. Full-motion video (FMV) technology has never been held in high regard, and Plumbers can't even get that part right. Instead of actual video the game presents still pictures with voiceovers. The opening scene depicts a phone call between the plumber and his mother, and sitting through it pushes the limits of human endurance. Not only does every joke fall flat, but you're forced to watch the dude lounge half-naked in bed for ten minutes. After a while you start to wonder if this is the kind of video game you actually interact with. When Jane encounters the plumber in a parking lot you're finally prompted to select a course of action, but the choices make no sense and neither does the mayhem that ensues. Every scene is full of pointless dialogue and circular discussions. Did someone actually write a script, or did they test that "1000 monkeys at 1000 typewriters" theory? Periodically there's a loud buzz and some obnoxious guy in a loud suit yells at you for no reason. There's no way to fast-forward a scene, but accidentally hitting the right bumper will restart the current scene (ugh). And this game is so mean-spirited! The boss interviewing Jane berates her, propositions her, and then attacks her! The fact that this disturbing sequence is played for laughs is mind-boggling. The game lies too. The warnings of "gratuitous nudity" are ridiculous considering how heavily censored the visuals are. Even when Jane is in lingerie she's completely obscured by wacky computer graphics. The game is short but not short enough. My friends couldn't tolerate it for more than a few minutes, and begged me to shut it off. Bad games are a dime a dozen, but Plumbers Don't Wear Ties is the stuff of legend.


#1 Worms Forts Under Siege

Xbox (Sega 2004)
Grade: F-
Reviewed: 2016/4/12

Worst 50 Remarks: Worms 3D was bad enough, but Forts just doubles-down on every one of its misguided design flaws. It makes me physically nauseous.

screenshotWorms was once a proud franchise before it was destroyed by a clumsy transition to 3D. I thought Worms 3D (Sega, 2003) was a travesty but nothing could have prepared me for the polygon horror that is Worms Forts. Instead of addressing the glaring flaws of the first 3D game, Forts doubles down and piles onto its rickety foundation. At least in Worms 3D you could locate enemies (with some difficulty) and readily access an arsenal of weapons. Worms Forts places the worm armies in far-flung reaches of each sprawling stage, so you can't even see another team much less attack it. To enable your weapons you must first construct towers like some half-assed version of Sim City. This new building element adds no fun whatsoever; just a whole lot of tedium. Navigating your worms around the landscape is a tremendous hardship, partly due to the poor camera which makes it nearly impossible to tell where the hell you are. You'll spend so much time fiddling around with the camera angle that even the worms begin to yawn! The weapon controls are needlessly complicated. Could we at least get a trajectory path?! The heinous graphics suffer from egregious clipping issues, and being subjected to multiple unwanted replays after each errant shot is pure torture. One time i attempted to shoot an enemy worm in the face with a bazooka from point-blank range... and still missed! When playing with friends we played an entire contest without killing a single worm. Worms Forts goes well beyond trainwreck territory. You just can't "unplay" a game this bad. A wise man once told me "this too shall pass" but he clearly never played Worms Forts.


Dishonorable Mentions

Twisted the Game Show (3DO)
Alien Syndrome (Wii)
TV Sports Basketball (Turbografx-16)
Fox Hunt (Playstation)
Worms 3D (Xbox)
Star Battle (Astrocade)
Outlaw Golf (GameCube)
Sentinel (Atari 7800)
Pinball Challenge (Channel F)
Cyberball (Genesis)

Back to Worst 50 Video Games Part I

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