The debate as to whether or not video games are art continues to rage to this very day, despite strong examples for both stances. There’s one thing that both sides can come together and agree on, though, and that’s the fact that a good chunk of video games are weird -- like, insanely weird.
Not only are a good chunk of them bizarre, but there’s also another portion that defies all logical explanation, and creates truly surreal worlds and experiences that simply don’t make much sense. In fact, some of these games make absolutely no sense at all, and it’s these games in particular that we’re going to be discussing great detail.
In our list, we’ll be jumping from system to system, genre to genre, and from era to era in order to illustrate the video games that have defied explanation the most during the entire existence of the industry. Some of our entries are familiar series and famous games, while others come from relatively unknown consoles and franchises. There are some you’ve likely never heard of, and a few popular ones that’ll challenge your current perceptions of those particular franchises.
As for what constitutes "not making sense," we're using a variety of factors, such as a given game's storyline being incomprehensible, willful obscuring of logic by the designers, cryptic gameplay elements, and generally surreal elements that defy explanation.
With the ground rules laid out, let’s get started with the 25 Video Games That Make Absolutely No Sense.
25 Mortal Kombat
Unlike most other fighting games, the Mortal Kombat franchise actually has a plot, and, to its credit, is legitimately interesting. The concept is cool, the characters are cool, and the world they inhabit is cool. It’s just a shame that pretty much nothing makes sense.
The canon between each entry is a mess, and it’s been retconned a considerable amount of times, but that’s only part of the problem: the major issue is that you can end just about every character you fight against, but they’ll still show up in the next entry.
24 The Typing Of The Dead
The House of the Dead franchise is a lauded light-gun series that brought horror (and a ton of hammy, horror cheese) to the arcade scene, challenging players to rescue poorly-voiced scientists while sending legions of the undead back to their graves. There’re also a few times where players tossed their zombie-shooting guns away for typewriters -- yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.
Using your keyboard skills, you must defeat the horrifying forces of zombie evil through the power of accurate and quick typing to come out victorious, and no attempt is ever made to explain why.
23 Star Wars (NES)
To be fair, the Star Wars adaptation for the NES is fairly accurate to the source material, with only a few necessary liberties taken to enhance gameplay, such as fighting tooth and nail against Jawas to rescue your droids, or duking it out with womp rats and Tusken Raiders in a myriad of caves on Tatooine.
Perhaps the best and most accurate sequence involves a fateful encounter with Darth Vader, where he transforms into a giant scorpion and – wait, what? That’s right: Darth Vader’s final form is that of a giant scorpion. Why isn’t something this cool considered canon?
22 Alien Soldier
Alien Soldier is something of an anomaly: it has a story to tell -- an incredibly lengthy, overly-detailed story that is explained through a text-filled prologue that lasts nearly four full minutes… but doesn’t make sense.
We learn about the fear-gripped planet Sierra in the year 2015, the dangerous group Scarlet (composed of parasitic warriors created through “super genetic engineering” who can prevent humans from travelling "outside the universe"), their former-boss-turned-protagonist “Epsilon-Eagle,” who was thrown into “the space-time continuum” (which was opened by Scarlet’s use of “super powers”), and… we’re just going to stop right there. This is only halfway through the prologue, and it’s already entirely off the rails.
21 Katamari Damacy
As one of the more well-known (if it can even be called that) game series on this list, the Katamari franchise is synonymous with pure weirdness and a decisive lack of logic. According to in-game lore, the King of All Cosmos became incredibly drunk and then wiped out just about everything in the universe.
As his son, you’re tasked with collecting a bunch of junk in order to replace what was lost. This is done with a magic ball that makes anything smaller so that it can it stick together, so you roll around an increasingly large ball that’s comprised of people, buildings, cars, and all kinds of junk in order to replace the stars.
20 La Mulana
It’s not that La Mulana doesn’t make any sense, it’s that La Mulana actively chooses to not make any sense. This Indiana Jones-meets-Metroidvania game was designed to be as obscure as possible when it comes to puzzle solutions, items, and progression in general, and it definitely shows.
It also doesn’t care. It doesn’t want to explain itself to you. Even the manual (which does contain a few critical explanations) lambasts you for being a baby who needs help figuring things out. It simply doesn’t care how difficult it is to understand, and thankfully, that’s part of the fun.
19 The Souls Series
Let’s put it like this: you know your series doesn’t make sense when you actually hold a contest with a $10,000 prize awarded to whoever can adequately explain the storyline. This is a real event that actually happened, and it’s really the only evidence needed to prove that nothing in the Souls series makes sense.
Each game opens with a perilously cryptic cutscene, and the voice actors for every NPC clearly have no idea what they are talking about (although they do infuse their readings with a palpable menace that makes it fun regardless). Does the story really matter in these games, though? Not really, but it is part of the charm.
18 Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
Alright, let’s get this straight: the game takes place in ancient Japan, and the main villains are a space alien theater troupe who hope to turn the countryside into a giant stage in order to eternally put on their avant garde performances... which makes total sense.
Couple the weird plot with hilarious (and extremely bizarre) writing, infectious musical numbers, and enormous mech battles, and you’ve got a game that’s incredibly nonsensical, yet one of the most enjoyable 3D platformers on the N64. The fact that it makes little-to-no sense is just icing on the cake.
17 Balloon Fight
Balloon Fight is an old NES game that takes heavy inspiration from the arcade classic Joust, with gameplay that requires taking a very floaty character and landing them on the heads of their enemies to defeat them. The titular “Balloon Fighter” is a human male with balloons attached to his back, who flaps his arms in order to gain enough altitude to defeat an army of dreaded, evil-doing birds.
What’s the premise here? Is the Balloon Fighter humanity’s last hope against the encroaching Bird Empire? Or is this some kind of Mortal Kombat-styled tournament? We're not sure. It may not make sense, but it’s still a blast to play.
16 The Adventures Of Batman And Robin (Genesis)
The Adventures of Batman And Robin on the Super Nintendo was clearly based on the animated series of the same name, and the game’s art style, music, and gameplay were nearly identical to the series. Then there’s the Genesis port, which most definitely isn’t identical.
Taking place in some kind of nightmare version of the series, the iconic music has been replaced with a gargantuan (and impressive) industrial score, garish color palettes that paint a bleak picture, and some of the most surreal and jaw-dropping sequences to ever grace the system. It may be nothing like the series it’s supposedly based on, and it may not make any sense contextually, but there’s nothing else like it.
Imagine that you’re a video game developer, and you’re at a meeting with your coworkers. You’ve been tasked to decide the next project your team works on, and your first thoughts are unicycles and psychedelics. The room explodes with roaring applause.
Welcome to Uniracers, where you race unicycles on bizarre, pipe-like courses, all while surreal imagery surges in the background. It’s as weird as it sounds, but it’s legitimately an interesting experience, especially with its fun trick system. However, do you know what makes the least sense of all about it? Probably the fact that DMA Design developed it… you know, the people who’d eventually become Rockstar Games.
14 Mischief Makers
As a cult N64 classic, Mischief Makers is one of the few 2D games on the Nintendo 64, and it’s a serious trip. Every level is primarily built out of blocks that are living, moving faces. Whether they are sentient or not is never explained. Then there’s the issue of the plot, which is nearly identical to Star Wars, minus all of the parts that make sense.
Lastly, there’s the gameplay: whether you’re riding bumble bees, playing dodgeball with a cat, fighting huge frogs, racing on a tricycle, or shaking the ever-loving life out of everything you come across, we can guarantee it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
13 Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
Whether it’s the Sega Genesis or arcade version, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker not only borders the realms of absurdity and nonsense, but it willingly crosses over. Very loosely based on the movie of the same name, players take on the role of Michael Jackson (or multiple Michael Jacksons), who has inexplicably been granted the power to fire off magical bolts of energy.
He can also cause people to explode by hitting them with his hat, transform into a giant robot (and car), and start a dance flashmob that is fatal for everyone but himself. He also has to rescue abducted children by sending them away on what appear to be magical spoons.
12 Shaq Fu
We were torn between Shaq Fu and Chaos in the Windy City, but we had to go with Shaq Fu because it was the progenitor of the “basketball players do fantastical and impractical things that definitely aren’t basketball” genre, which would see others like the farcical Barkely: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden or even the recent Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn.
Shaq Fu follows the exploits of Shaquille O’Neal as finds himself in another dimension and is forced to engage in martial arts battles with the ultimate goal of defeating a mummy named Sett Ra. Infamously terrible, Shaq Fu is also one of the most unintentionally nonsensical video games ever created.
11 Super Monkey Ball
The Super Monkey Ball games are almost all incredibly fun (especially the multiplayer party games), but goodness gracious, don’t expect anything to be given a legitimate context or attempt to make logical sense. You don’t even play as the monkey trapped in a translucent ball. Instead, you play as the stage itself, tilting it to make the ball roll in order to collect bananas and reach the exit.
There’s a semblance of a plot in Super Monkey Ball 2, but don’t expect that to grant any major revelations. The most important thing you’ll learn is that the magic words are “ai ai poo.”
10 The Super Mario Series
With Mario being more recognizable than Mickey Mouse and starring in a huge list of superb, groundbreaking games, it’s easy to forget that almost nothing within the entire series comes close to making any logical sense. This isn’t even just relegated to the obvious elements, like evil turtles and mushrooms or plants that make people grow or shoot fire -- it’s also an epidemic for the actual world that these games supposedly take place in.
Whether its Odyssey entirely wiping out the seemingly established locations of places and countries in Mario’s world or the Galaxy series challenging the most basic concepts of the cosmos, it’s increasingly more difficult to find anything that actually does make sense in the series.
9 Gunstar Heroes
Gunstar Heroes (developed by Treasure, who also brought us the aforementioned Alien Soldier and Mischief Makers) appears to be a fairly average, if not deeper, run-and-gun game for the Genesis. However, that’s all tossed out the window once you make it to Black’s Silly Dice Maze. Partaking in an enormous board game, players find themselves in situations that seem to have wandered straight out of someone’s nightmares.
You’ll battle against things like a huge face named “Melon Bread” and even beat the tar out of someone made of curry and rice. What this has to do with the paper-thin plot is beyond us, but we do know it’s awesome.
8 The WarioWare Series
What doesn’t make sense about the WarioWare franchise? Everything -- not a single thing makes sense, and that’s okay. Each game is a collection of microgames that last only a few seconds before jumping to the next.
Each and every last one of these microgames push the boundaries of surrealism, with most featuring distinct and often horrifying art styles along with incredibly random gameplay elements and goals. One game has you clearing the air of Wario’s gas, while another has you popping a balloon to give birth to baby wearing a fig leaf, and another still tasks you with jumping over hotdogs that are speeding by on wheels. Nothing makes sense, but everything is glorious.
7 Dynamite Headdy
In our final entry from Treasure, Dynamite Headdy is… well, it’s the weirdest, most nonsensical thing they’ve ever put out. It may be a blast to play, but it’s also horrifyingly baffling in ways we could never have prepared for.
One minute, you, as Headdy (essentially a more menacing Rayman), will be shooting hoops somewhere in the sky, and in the next, you’ll be facing off against a screen-filling, robotic wiener dog that prances around while an orchestra in the background plays the march from the Nutcracker. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg, and it should tell you everything you need to know about where this game stands in terms of “making sense.”
6 Devil's Crush
If an army of demons ever attempted an invasion of Earth, what would your go-to weapon to defeat them be? Would it be modern military technology? Or would you aim for ancient religious or magical artifacts? Maybe both schools of thought are wrong -- perhaps the best option would be a pinball launched by the “spring of justice.”
That’s what Devil’s Crush asks us to believe, and we don’t, but we’d be lying if we said this macabre-themed video pinball game wasn’t one of the best ever made. By the time the excellent music is blasting and demonic imagery is erupting on your screen, you’ll be too mesmerized to realize that things don’t really make sense.
5 Double Dungeons
On the surface, this little-known game seems like nothing more than a barebones dungeon crawler that has the added bonus of co-op. The gameplay is simple as can be… but then the “plot” kicks in.
Each level starts with a “prolog” and “epilog” (misspelled as such), and each boss has practically un-translated dialogue. The writing is so incredibly bizarre that you might actually think they stopped localizing the game halfway through, believing no one would beat it. There does seem to be some semblance of a plot involving an evil sorcerer, but most of the time, you’ll get gems like “what was that rascal’s last words? Vandess. It seems to be an ominous sign.”
4 Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
The infamous Simon’s Quest almost entirely abandoned the straightforward action-platformer gameplay of its predecessor in favor of an open world experience. The game is notoriously cryptic, requiring convoluted solutions to progress through its treacherous world, all of which are entirely nonsensical.
Making matters worse are the poorly translated villagers who are supposed to be helping you. Many of them outright lie to your face, and the ones who don’t say things like “Dig up the 4th frave in the cemetery for a diamond.” What they meant to say was “go to the cemetery, drop garlic on the ground, make a merchant appear, and then take the item they give you.” It's not very helpful.
3 Cho Aniki
The plot of Cho Aniki is about someone named “Bo Emperor Bill,” who has won the “Great Galaxy Bodybuilding Contest” ten times in a row and is now invading other solar systems to steal their protein. Considering the gravity of this major crisis, Heaven (like, actual Heaven) sends down two of their champions to do battle with this corrupt emperor and his Builders Army.
Did we mention this was a shoot 'em up yet? Some enemies include titanic, ultra-ripped body builders (of course), Adam from the Sistine Chapel, and what appears to be a giant man without clothing who shoots out other men without clothing. It’s horrifying and it doesn’t make sense, but we’re glad it exists for the sheer weirdness.
2 Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls Of Tong-Nou
With these final two entries, we’ll be entering nightmare fuel territory, and Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou practically personifies the term. Players take upon the role of someone who has lost their soul. After borrowing a friend’s soul for 49 days, they embark on a journey that is perpetually trippy and uncomfortable.
Interacting with countless bizarre entities and constantly perishing and being reincarnated are just part of the puzzle, and while there is a story that is technically able to be put together and understood, it’s so outrageously eccentric that it’s impossible to say that it might make sense.
1 LSD: Dream Emulator
As one of the most disturbing, surreal, and plain old weird games to ever be released, LSD: Dream Emulator is an experience unlike any other in the world of video games, and possibly even beyond.
Less of a game and more an experiment, players explore a mishmash of “playable dreams,” most of which were based on a real dream journal, and all of which live up to the on-the-nose title due to their psychedelic and absurd qualities. Oh, and after a set amount of time, the game just ends. Nothing about LSD makes sense, but it’s an experience unlike any other.
Are there any other video games that make no sense? Let us know in the comments!