For millions of us, the fine folks at Nintendo have been the architects of our childhood. They introduced us to the wide world of gaming with their roster of fun and colorful characters and immersive worlds, all presented with the company’s signature style and polish. They’re the Disney of video games, basically.
The combination of Atari’s disastrous E.T. game and an all time low in consumer confidence caused a market-wide crash in 1983. In response to this, Nintendo decided to brand all their games with the Nintendo Seal of Quality, the Big N’s assurance to the customer that their product was not only an official, licensed product, but that it was something worth slapping down their hard-earned cash for. Of course, not every game that featured the graphic deserved to have the word “quality” plastered so boldly on their covers.
To celebrate the decidedly mixed reaction to the Nintendo Switch, here are 15 Video Games So Bad (Or Offensive) That Nintendo Wants You To Forget About Them.
15. Metroid: Other M (Wii, 2010)
Intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran is one of the most recognizable icons in Nintendo’s expansive line-up of popular characters. The original Metroid is a stone-cold classic which featured a great twist revealing Samus to be a woman at the end. After the successful Metroid Prime series of games, Nintendo returned to the main franchise in 2010’s Metroid: Other M, developed by Team Ninja, mostly known for the Dead or Alive series.
Unlike other entries on this list, the overall presentation was pretty good. The graphics were appealing and the game could be genuinely moody and atmospheric when it wanted to be. The real sticking point ended up being the story. It sucked, to put it bluntly. It had overlong cutscenes featuring lame dialogue and flat voice acting. Worse still, the characterization of the previously badass and tight-lipped Samus was terrible, making her a sort of blathering air-headed idiot with no agency of her own. She’s oddly passive in her own game, and almost every significant event in the plot is down to other characters. There’s also Samus’ weirdly submissive relationship with her commanding officer Adam. This leads to infamous bits of cringe where Aran refuses to use half of her suit’s awesome abilities until Daddy Adam says so. Other M was widely criticized for its story, and since later Metroid games have moved away from it, it’s fairly safe to say Nintendo aren’t too keen on people bringing up the time they did a disservice to the Space Pirate whuppin’ Samus like we just did. Sorry guys.
14. Pokémon Dash (DS, 2005)
There are only two types of people: people who like Pokémon and liars. Okay, that’s probably a little strong, but even if pocket monsters aren’t your thing, it’s hard to deny the series’ massive popularity and its global success. The franchise recently came back in a big way thanks to last year’s one-two punch of Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sun and Moon.
The title Nintendo perhaps doesn’t want you thinking too much about is Pokémon Dash, the racing game released for the Nintendo DS. Gameplay was simple, with the player controlling Pikachu around several courses and racing through checkpoints. The game was controlled by dragging the DS’s stylus over where you wanted to go, and it got no more complicated than that. There’s no reason outside of cynical business that this mediocre racer needed to be a Pokémon game. It was clearly rushed and unpolished, and it justifiably received less-than-impressive reviews. Game Informer went one step further in their review, writing: “Don’t think of it so much as a game, but more as an exercise in anger management.” We’re betting Team Rocket were on the development team.
13. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U, 2014)
Sonic the Hedgehog has had a rough time since his heyday on the Sega Genesis. Fans of the blue blur have had to endure one disappointing game after another, made all the worse by the very occasional decent title that’s released before the series falls back into old habits again. The chances are pretty high that you’ve heard how bad 2014’s Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is. The negative reception of the game soon became the main talking point as people gathered around to warm their hands on the absolute dumpster fire it soon turned out to be.
Rise of Lyric was clearly a rush job, and it shows in every aspect of the game. It’s glitchy, repetitive, and full of terrible decisions. It had subpar level design, boring gameplay, and some truly grating dialogue that made you wish Sonic and friends would shut their stupid mouths as soon as they’ve opened them. Considering that this was basically a glorified advert for a TV show, comic book series, and toyline, it did little to endear itself to its potential audience. The game’s notoriety didn’t do any favors for the reputation of the flagging Wii U system either, which had undersold due to a variety of marketing issues and lack of killer games. Don’t expect Sonic Boom 2 on the Switch anytime soon.
12. Friday the 13th (NES, 1989)
It just wouldn’t be a discussion about bad Nintendo games without the license-abusing LJN making a show-stopping appearance. To be honest, we could pretty much put their entire back catalog on here, but the Atlus-developed Friday the 13th holds a level of infamy that many of their other works do not.
The game is loosely based on the movie, and the player must choose one of six camp counselors to attempt to stop Jason. The basic idea is that you would wander around Camp Crystal Lake fighting wolves, bats, and zombies until an alarm goes off, warning you that Jason Voorhees is about to kill. You must then confront Jason and defeat him in a Punch-Out!! style fight. If the player does this three times, they win.
This is all well and good, but aspects of the game are almost purposefully designed to frustrate. It’s incredibly difficult from the moment you press the start button. Enemies tax your health at every turn, and the maze-like forests serve to cause anguish rather than the sense of horror LJN was probably shooting for. Hope you like awkwardly throwing rocks at zombies, because that’s all you’ll basically be doing until Jason shows up and mercifully puts you out of your misery with his mighty machete.
11. The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island (NES, 1990)
There really wasn’t anything they wouldn’t make a video game out of in the NES era, was there? For some reason, Bandai figured that castaway sitcom Gilligan’s Island would be the perfect thing to adapt into a game and did just that. We’re not quite sure how to turn a sitcom into a compelling game experience, but we can say with a degree of certainty that it’s definitely not like this.
While the game did an admirable job in recreating the show’s theme song, the rest of it was less successful. You play as the Skipper and have to walk around the island talking to people. Sure, that was what the show boiled down to too, but games need something a little more than that. You had to interact with familiar characters until you found out what to do, fetching various items that the castaways needed. As you walk around, Gilligan follows you, repeating the same lame jokes ad nauseam. The game had a pittance of weird boss battles including a gorilla and a final skeleton boss that could send you all the way back to the start if he beat you, meaning you’d have to walk and talk with the same bozos over and over again just to get back to where you were. Sounds fun, right?
11. Mario is Missing! (SNES, 1992)
Educational games are usually heavy on the education and light on the fun. Nintendo’s portly plumber Mario has been responsible for several anti-fun titles, but arguably one of the worst is Mario is Missing! for the Super Nintendo. In the game, you play as a solo Luigi for the first time in the series. Mario has been kidnapped and you have to save him from Bowser by going from city to city learning facts and grabbing important artifacts.
The idea of a game that educates the kids playing it isn’t a bad one, but it doesn’t excuse how boring Mario is Missing! is. There’s no challenge outside of getting trivia questions right or wrong. The menus are awkward, and there’s no fun to be had outside of navigating the cities looking for clues. Even jumping on the Koopas’ heads feels wrong. With normal Mario games, there’s a playful nature to them, and working out how to make your way to the end of a level almost certainly taxes your brain just as much as regurgitating a few dry facts does. Luckily, Luigi (aka the best Mario brother; fight us) finally got a proper starring role in the excellent Luigi’s Mansion series, and all was right with the world.
9. Deadly Towers (NES, 1987)
Deadly Towers is perhaps one of the most difficult games to come out of the NES era. Whereas some games were intentionally hard, like Castlevania, this one took difficulty to a whole new level — to the point that it felt like a deeply personal insult. It was one of the first RPGs to be released on the system, and it featured an appealing aesthetic with colorful levels and a slew of different enemies to fight. It sold like gangbusters when it was released in the U.S. in 1987, but soon, people started to realize what a costly mistake they’d made.
If you haven’t played it, picture a sprawling world filled with same-y looking rooms and disorientating secret passageways. Your hero has a weak sword attack that does barely any damage, and you must use it to face roomfuls of different enemy types, some requiring around 20 hits to kill. Not only that, but their attacks will knock you around the screen or, more often than not, off a ledge, insta-killing you and warping you back to the very start of the game.
As if to twist the knife even further, the ridiculous password system means absolutely nothing, as you always spawn outside the castle no matter what code you input. Your Deadly Towers experience will either have you hopelessly lost or the victim of a total mugging by the game’s unforgiving roster of jerks. If you ever plan to revisit this one (and we’d strongly suggest you don’t), make sure you have some sturdy controllers and hide any and all sharp objects.
8. Carmageddon 64 (N64, 2000)
In the late ’90s, the Carmageddon video game series caused quite a stir in the press. A controversy spawned around the game’s central mechanic (nabbed straight from cult film Death Race 2000) where race drivers were rewarded for violence and mayhem, with bonus points added for killing innocent pedestrians. The series enjoyed some infamy for a while, but it soon found itself censored or banned in many countries. When Carmageddon II port Carmageddon 64 limped onto the Nintendo 64 in 2000, much of the series hype had cooled, and N64 owners were left with a stinker of epic proportions.
Firstly, the game was ugly as sin. To be fair, the N64’s polygonal graphics haven’t aged well in general, but this was unacceptable even for the time. Controls were awkward and the whole thing played sluggishly, which is hardly ideal for a racing game. Any perverse glee you may have had from mowing down a pixelated crowd was nerfed when Nintendo deemed it all too controversial and opted for hordes of morally safer zombies instead, missing one of key aspects of the game’s gory, over-the-top appeal. This one makes the list because the Big N insisted on changes that took the game from controversial and offensive to some and made it a watered-down, painful experience for all instead. Plus, there’s that problematic “64” in the title. Nobody’s forgetting what system this bomb appeared on.
7. Doctor Who: Return to Earth (Wii, 2010)
Perhaps one of the more obscure titles on this list, Doctor Who: Return to Earth was only released in a select few countries such as the UK and Australia. For once, irritating global copyright laws worked in the United States’ favor, sparing any American Whovians this truly miserable experience.
There have been some reasonable Doctor Who games released, but this isn’t one of them. Gameplay is a mixture of broken stealth and tedious mini games to collect different colored crystals for use with your sonic screwdriver. It’s hard to see how this is a proper fit for the license in any way, especially since the whole “different crystals for different abilities” thing is not how the Doctor’s screwdriver actually works in the show. The game does feature the voices of actors Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, but it’s not enough to redeem the dated graphics, janky animation, generic story, and humdrum dialogue. Many critics have cited it as one of the worst games ever, and easily one of the worst released on the Wii system.
6. The Zelda trilogy (Philips CD-i, 1993/1994)
Nintendo is notoriously cagey these days when it comes to letting other studios use their properties without their involvement. One of the reasons for this could be The Legend of Zelda games released for the flop Philips CD-i console back in the early ’90s. Reviews for all three games were fairly solid, but time has not been kind to the series, especially since some of the “proper” Zelda games after the experimental trilogy went on to become regarded as some of the finest games ever made.
The first two titles, Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon were basically the same side-scrolling experience with a different lead character. The games took advantage of the CD-i’s full-motion video capacity and included animations to help tell the story. This was impressive for the time, but these animated bits are infamously bad and needlessly creepy. The third game, Zelda’s Adventure took a different, but equally horrible approach. The gameplay switched to a top-down presentation like the original NES game and featured live-action cutscenes instead of the twisted, nightmarish cartoon visions of the first two. The results are…well…judge for yourself. Thankfully, these three titles have been confined to history, and serve as a momentary blip for the usually excellent series.
5. Ninjabread Man (Wii, 2007)
Ninjabread Man was originally released on the PS2 in 2005, but Data Design Interactive decided to port it over two years later to the Wii, because apparently, enough people didn’t suffer the first time around. It’s a terrible third person action platformer akin to the sort of games you’d find on the PS1. You (theoretically) control a gingerbread man around dessert-themed levels collecting things. That’s it. If the awful gameplay wasn’t enough, the game also had a bunch of bugs that caused multiple glitches and would sometimes crash the whole thing entirely. It was universally despised on release, and if there was any justice in the world, that’s where it should have ended.
But this title just refused to die. Seemingly not content with just Ninjabread Man stinking up store shelves, DDI released a ton of games that all played the same with different themes. Next came Anubis II, an Ancient Egyptian reskin, then Trixie in Toyland, and finally Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventures. While none of them originated on the Wii, it was Nintendo’s system that gave them their notoriety, and soon, they became all-too-handy examples of the low-quality shovelware that was ported to the console during its lifetime.
4. Manhunt 2 (Wii, 2007)
Rockstar Games is no stranger to controversy. As the company behind the headline-grabbing Grand Theft Auto series and other equally violent games, they’ve faced nearly every type of criticism there is. However, with all of that in mind, the furor surrounding Manhunt 2 must have surprised even them. The controversy began a mere two days after it was officially announced with the unfortunate news that a real-life killer in the UK was apparently a big fan of the first Manhunt title. While it was eventually deemed to be unrelated to the murder, it set the tone for how the game was going to fare in the press.
Stateside, infamous video game hating activist Jack Thompson soon started a moral campaign against the game and lobbied to have it banned. The Wii port of the game was singled out for a lot of the negative attention for two reasons. One, it was widely regarded as a family-friendly console, and two, the player used the motions of the Wii Remote to execute enemies with weapons such as sledgehammers. Many pearls were clutched at this last point in particular, with some of the game’s public critics stating that it was a training simulator for murderers. This is obviously nonsense, but the game soon had a reputation. The worst part is, the game wasn’t even particularly great, garnering markedly lower scores than its predecessor.
3. Superman aka Superman 64 (N64, 1999)
There are no two ways about it, Superman for the Nintendo 64 is awful. It’s not only the worst superhero game ever (in our humble opinion), but a strong case can be made for it being the worst of all time – the complete nadir of the medium as a whole. Quite why it was ever deemed acceptable to sell as a product to actual people is baffling.
In the game, you play the Man of Steel as you’re forced to fly around Lex Luthor’s virtual maze solving his time trials. Half the game is devoted to flying through floating rings, and the other half is made up of boring maze levels. Controls were unresponsive, meaning steering Superman was a slog, akin to crawling uphill through molasses. Even though the game is officially titled Superman, everyone calls it Superman 64 – a stark reminder that one of the worst games to ever exist appeared on one of Nintendo’s babies. As the planned PlayStation version was scrapped, it also stands as a Nintendo exclusive, which must sting a little.
2. The entire of Virtual Boy games (1995/1996)
Nintendo’s Virtual Boy may be the company’s biggest misstep in their long history. It was a huge piece of hardware that boasted a form of stereoscopic 3D, which was super impressive at the time. However, the thing was an almost instant flop thanks to its wallet-punishing price, terrible design, and poor marketing. Oh, and the small fact that few people actually enjoy feeling sick.
After some hands-on time with the machine, many reviewers complained of headaches, dizziness, and nausea. So not only did you have a console that was awkward to play, but it had the potential to actively make you ill, just what you want after a long day at school/work. It sold very poorly, and when several scientists spoke up about the potential for eye strain and even brain damage, that was all she wrote for the Big N’s ugly hunk of red plastic. Luckily, the Nintendo 64 came out soon after, and everyone understandably went for the console that didn’t pose a threat to their well-being or their lunch.
1. Bubble Bath Babes (NES, 1991)
One game that definitely didn’t get the Nintendo Seal of Quality for a number of obvious reasons was 1991’s Bubble Bath Babes, an unlicensed and unauthorized cartridge for the NES developed by Taiwanese studio C&E. Gameplay was like a hybrid of Tetris and Puzzle Bobble. The main thing that set it apart from other terrible unlicensed titles is that progressing further in the game unlocked pictures of pixelated babes in various states of undress, making it one of only three pornographic games to be made for the NES.
Three guesses who made the other two. Yep. C&E also created Hot Slots and Peek-A-Boo Poker. The games have since become rare collector’s items, with boxed copies of Bubble Bath Babes in particular regularly going for over $1000. It’s unlikely that Nintendo wants people to remember that a) there were a number of unlicensed games available for their system and b) the NES has an 8-bit trilogy of erotica lurking within its library.
What other titles from Nintendo’s extensive gaming library do you think they wish we’d all just forget about? Let us know in the comments.