Most of the time, a bad video game is just a bad video game. It is mocked upon release, quickly forgotten, and then remembered years later by social media. A bad video game is normally like a bad song. They are briefly infamous, but they fade.
However, infamous video games change history. They can create a bad reputation for designers, tank companies, and even bring entire genres into disrepute. For better or worse, these games leave behind a long legacy that many will remember for decades.
ten Daikatana ended the relevance of John Romero
Designer of classic first-person shooters Loss and earthquake for iD Software, John Romero was known for flash and solid game design. With an infamous 1997 commercial, Ion Storm Productions promised that Romero was poised to dominate the video game industry.
When Daikatana released two and a half years later, the nervous laughter turned into a derision that would only be matched upon the release of Duke Nukem forever. Sloppy controls, appalling allied AI, and weak writing derided the initial announcement. Daikatana was a game made for a while. When it came out, that moment had already passed, and with it, the credibility of its creator.
9 Dizzy was revolutionary but not very good
the original Dizzy was a groundbreaking video game for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and Commodore 64. The June 1987 title’s slow, thoughtful, puzzle-platforming gameplay was inspired by the then-school-aged Oliver Twins.
the original Dizzy, however, wasn’t very good, with instant surprise kills, sloppy controls, and a clunky interface. It was, however, popular enough to spawn three and a half decades of sequels, including the much-improved third game in the series, Dizzying fantasy world. Whereas Dizzy wasn’t horrible, it was an extremely rough version of an enduring concept.
8 Jaws cemented the reputation of the LJN editor
Founded by toy inventor Jack Friedman, LJN Toys successfully competed against behemoths Mattel and Hasbro. When Nintendo positioned the legendary NES as a toy for the 1986 Christmas season, it was a natural fit for the company.
LJN did not develop its own games, but was an avid publisher of video games based on film licenses. The most infamous of these was based on the fourth film in the Jaws series. Relentlessly with sloppy controls and inconsistent hitboxes, Jaws, Friday 13and Karate Kid tainted many people’s impressions of licensed games for years to come.
seven Desert Bus adds more hope to bad games
Sometimes a bad game can have a heartwarming legacy. Part of the aborted 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 cannot exceed 45 miles per hour and veers slightly to the right.
In 2007, sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun held a fundraising marathon for Child’s Play Children’s Hospital. Event call Desert Bus for Hopethe group has raised over US$8 million, giving desert bus new life as the best worst game ever.
6 Night Trap gave birth to the ESRB
Very few games have an uglier historical reputation than the exploitative full-motion video game. Night Trap. Designed for a videocassette-based console called Control-Vision, the console was scrapped and retooled for the new Sega CD.
Weak gameplay would have done Night Trap simply forgettable, but the risky content led to a congressional investigation. Fearing a censorship regime imposed by law, the video game industry created the Electronic Software Review Board. Most modern AAA games are subject to ESRB scrutiny, which gives Night Trap a legacy that has largely survived its poor design.
5 Final Fantasy XIV was completely broken at launch
When SquareEnix introduced Final Fantasy XIVhopes were high and the stakes even higher for the sequel to the popular Final Fantasy XI. FFXIV was criticized when it launched in 2010 and described as completely broken. It was swept away from what was then still the most popular MMORPG in the world, World of Warcraft.
When restarting as Final Fantasy XIV: A Kingdom Reborn in August 2013, the game’s legacy was completely reversed. Now a very polished online experience, its modern graphics and improved gameplay quickly propelled it to the top spot. Final Fantasy XIV has since become the centerpiece of SquareEnix’s strategy.
4 Sonic 3D Blast was a sonic isometric deception
The first one Sonic game to adventure from 2d platformer model, 3D Sonic Blast failed to capture the things that made the Sonic popular series. The isometric angle made jumping difficult and large sprites required slowing down the game to avoid inadvertently bumping 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. To the output, 3D Sonic Blast flopped, adding to Sega’s credibility issues and putting another nail in Sega’s coffin.
3 Atari’s Pac-Man was a bottom for arcade ports
If not for his successor, ET: The Extra-Terrestrialthe Atari 2600 port of the arcade behemoth Pac man might have been known as the game that killed the American gaming industry. Appearing in March 1982, and primitive even by 2600 game standards at the time, the 2600 Pac man port was a terrific attempt to replicate the colorful and fast-paced arcade phenomenon.
Pac-Man Fever went freezing, 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 put the American game console industry into a bad fall.
Nintendo’s bad games were mostly forgettable. Then there were the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2. During testing, Nintendo QA expert Howard Phillips complained that the game felt like undeserved punishment. Worse for Nintendo, it looked exactly like the original Super Mario Bros. The company was concerned that players would accept an extremely difficult Mario sequel that didn’t look any neater than the original.
Needing a sequel for overseas markets, Nintendo reworked the Fuji TV promotion Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic as Super Mario Bros. 2. Tough Papa became Toad and versatile Imajin became Mario. High-jumping mom became Luigi, and float-jumping Lina became Princess Peach. American gamers loved it, and the different gameplay changed the Mario franchise forever. The Japanese suite, renamed Super Mario Bros. : Lost levelslater found acceptance overseas as a “challenge mode” for expert players, as Miyamoto had intended.
Few titles have a more infamous legacy in gaming than ET: The Extra-Terrestrial. The movie is a classic. The game is a legendary flop. Pushed in just six weeks for the 1982 Christmas rush, HEY sunk not just a designer or publisher, but the entire American console industry for twenty years.
After the crash of 1983, no US-made console would see a significant market share until Xbox began to gain momentum in 2003. Historians now consider HEYresponsibility for in the Crash is more myth than fact, but HEY remains the emblem of the damage that a bad game can do.
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