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Top 100 Worst NES Games, #100-91

I got to thinking that it was high time I did another top list, but where could I turn?  I'd exhausted almost every video game platform I own.  I could do PC or Arcade games, I suppose, but I don't think I'd be giving a lot of them a fair shake because I hadn't played a huge number of those games in their heyday and wouldn't really be able to give them a fair assessment as a result.  But then it hit me: Why not do a list of bad NES games?  That platform brought us a lot of immortal gems, certainly, but there were also a lot - and I mean A LOT - of bad ones.  And the ones everyone knows about (mostly from exposure to the Angry Video Game Nerd and other caustic critics) are only scratching the surface of the awfulness the platform had to offer.  So I decided, why not.  Let's bring some other obscure baddies to the surface and give them the shellacking they deserve.

Oh, and I also imposed one simple rule: I'm only counting games that were commercially released in the heyday of the system (1985-1995).  So no homebrews or reproductions, no unreleased games, and none of those penis-laden racist ROM hacks every twelve year old with a copy of Microsoft Paint churned out back in the late 90s.

100. Hydlide (T&E Soft, 1989)

Hydlide honestly wasn't a bad game for its time; it was one of the first action-RPGs ever released on Japanese computers, and had quite a bit of longevity and content for a game that ultimately took up less than 40 kilobytes of space.  The big problem was that its time was in 1984 and it ultimately didn't get published in North America until 1989 - five years after its original debut and two years after the vastly superior Legend of Zelda.  So everyone who saw a screenshot or two and expected another Zelda-esque adventure ended up being extremely disappointed, which was understandable, if a bit unfair.  Also not helping Hydlide's case was a heavy emphasis on grinding and  touch-based combat make it a chore to play, essentially boiling the entire process down into long bouts of enemy bopping interlaced with a lot of savescumming.  So while it was a pioneer for the genre, Hydlide's only value nowadays is as a curious footnote for RPG fans who want to see where the (much better) Ys series drew its inspiration from.

99. Renegade (Technos, 1987)

Kunio is a beloved franchise among many old-school gamers, particularly with River City Ransom and its numerous over-the-top sports games that put as much emphasis on pummeling your opponents as they did on scoring points, but it did not get off to an auspicious start.  While the two-directional attack scheme was pretty innovative for the time, the clunky hit detection, overall difficulty and ugly visuals certainly didn't win it a lot of points.  Nor did the later levels, which were very frustrating exercises in trial and error as you attempted to maneuver through mazes of doors, with one wrong move taking you all the way back to the beginning of the level and forcing you to try again while giving you none of your health back.  At at the end of it all you had a final boss who could whip out a gun in the blink of an eye and shoot you dead in one hit, bringing a quick end to your run and forcing you to start the game from scratch.  The NES had quite a lot of good beat-em-ups, but there's a very good reason people always go for Double Dragon, Mighty Final Fight, TMNT and the later Kunio titles over this one...

98. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Hillsfar (Marionette, 1993)

Released on PC platforms between two Dungeons and Dragons PC titles (Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds) and intended to be an "in-between" adventure players could use to build their levels and gold reserves before the latter's release.  As you could imagine, though, this makes the NES version's existence rather pointless since there was no practical way to transfer data between games (and Azure Bonds was never released on the NES anyway).  Which is a shame, because the game has just about everything it needs to be a decent title in its own right - some good graphics and animation, clever minigames that range from archery, lockpicking and traveling paths on horseback while avoiding potholes, and of course good old fighting.  Hillsfar attempts to create an action-oriented D&D experience and honestly succeeds for the most part, but the lack of a real plot or any direction to its gameplay unfortunately just makes it all feel meaningless.  If you want a more substantive game in this style, try out Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; while not a perfect experience itself, it plays much better than this turkey does.

97. Wall Street Kid (Sofel, 1990)

One of those "why does this even exist" games, Wall Street Kid, as its name suggests, is about investing in the stock market to earn a big enough profit in order to not be disowned by your rich family.  Exciting, right?  Well, even the developers seemingly thought that weak premise wasn't enough to carry a game, as they tried to work in a dating sim element as well - you have to work out to maintain your health and spoil your girlfriend by buying her things and going on trips with her, or your character will fall into depression and end the game.   So if you ever wanted to play a simulation that highlights the life of being a negative stereotype of a rich person - shallow, greedy and obsessed with lording their wealth over others - I guess this is the game for you.  The rest of us would probably be better served by investing in a more entertaining game.  Or in the actual stock market; your choice.

96. Magmax (Nihon Bussan, 1988)

Magmax is a perfect example of a competently designed game that just isn't much fun to play, taking the form of a dull, side-scrolling shoot-em-up with a generic futuristic motif.  Said motif is really the only thing of note about it, having you fighting some fairly clever boss designs (pictured: three-headed robo-dragon) and your ship being able to add parts onto itself until it becomes a giant walking mecha with a laser beam firing from its chest.  Other than that, though, Magmax is purely one-note and repetitious, with irritating music, an overall bland aesthetic and levels that seem to stretch on forever.  The NES had plenty of other unremarkable shoot-em-ups, but Magmax is one that particularly grates on me for having a cool concept that it utterly fails to take advantage of...

95. Rambo (Pack-in Video, 1988)

Good old Pack-in Video brings us another mediocre licensed title in Rambo.  Based on the film Rambo: First Blood Part II, which you'd think would lend itself to some fast-paced run-and-gun action in the vein of Contra.  However, they instead took it in a completely different (and much worse) direction, instead turning it into an action RPG with confusing navigation (thanks to similar looking environments and an unintuitive map layout), bizarre enemies and some extremely wonky hit detection, making landing hits on enemies and avoiding damage yourself much more difficult than it needs to be.  Other "fun" design elements include being stuck and unable to proceed if you make a wrong decision at the middle of the game, a broken password system that enjoys giving out invalid passwords (resulting in hours of lost progress) and even being able to glitch through floors in some areas and end up back at the beginning of the game.  Pack-in obviously wanted to cash in on the success of Zelda II, but they forgot the most important element - making the experience enjoyable instead of buggy, tedious and frustrating.

94. Deadly Towers (Lenar, 1987)

One of the first Japanese RPGs to be released in North America, and like Hydlide, it's another example of a game that was passable in its day but which has not withstood the test of time whatsoever.  As in my old RPGs there is a very heavy emphasis on grinding in order to earn money and upgrade gear, and the sheer size and number of enemies in each tower you had to traverse was downright staggering, requiring you to either have an impeccable memory or make maps.  Death also came very easily, with enemies able to deplete your health in only a few hits and you easily being able to fall off the tower to an instant death in almost every room, only exacerbated by the fact that you frequently had to exit rooms via very narrow pathways with nothing stopping you from slipping right off.  There's a lot of content and longevity for a 1987 release, but with the advent of far more refined and playable action-adventure games like Zelda, Crystalis and Rygar, Deadly Towers was destined to be left in the dust.

93. The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak!  (Taito, 1994)

One of the very last NES games to be released and the second-rarest officially licensed game on the system, but those few who bought it back in the day and the collectors who shell out a fortune for it nowadays didn't find much of worth.  The first Flintstones game on the system was no masterpiece either, but it at least had some nice graphics and music and played reasonably well.  This one capture's the show's visuals well, but the sound design is downright irritating (your character, despite moving super slowly, does a tire screech sound every single time they stop.  It really gets old).  Some very spotty hit detection makes platforming and landing attacks on enemies more difficult than it should be, the controls for a lot of things (particularly climbing on wires) are weird and unintuitive, and some of the later obstacle courses are on par with Battletoads in the amount of precision required, but are far more frustrating owing to the sluggish controls.  It does at least have some clever mechanics here and there, but it's overall just a slow-moving, clumsy, irritating experience that isn't worth even a twentieth of the asking price it goes for on eBay.  Proof that just because something's rare and expensive doesn't mean it's good.

92. The Lion King (Dark Technologies, 1995 in Europe)

I'll be honest; I didn't think this game was real at first.  I thought this was just some low-quality Hong Kong bootleg cart somebody mislabeled ROM images of as a joke.  It looks the part of one, it sounds the part of one, and it abruptly ends halfway through the film's story, so it's got that in common too.  But nope; this was officially licensed and published by Virgin Interactive in 1995 - a time when the NES was all but dead and even the 16-bit consoles were starting to be phased out.  The lowest of the low when it comes to cashins, and I'm honestly surprised Disney even allowed one of their properties to be put on something of such abysmal quality.  The 16-bit version of the game was no masterpiece, but it was at least a competent and entertaining title; this one's just a quick and dirty cash-grab that isn't worth anyone's time.

But the real kicker is that there's a bootleg version of Lion King that's much more accurate to the 16-bit versions.  It's pretty bad when software pirates do a better job with the license that you probably paid a lot of money for!

91. Contra Force (Konami, 1992)

More proof that Konami was playing both sides of the quality aisle with their releases, and even had no qualms about doing so with some of their most beloved franchises.  Contra Force is a spinoff of the Contra franchise, pitting the player, as one of four characters, against a team of terrorists.  The game also includes a Gradius-style weapon upgrade system, though it's somewhat counter-intuitive in that your upgraded weapons are often harder to use than your standard gun (and you can't switch back without dying).  One can also summon a computer-controlled ally for a short time to attack enemies in order to do some damage while remaining relatively safe themselves.  But for all its ideas, Contra Force plays absolutely terribly, having copious amounts of slowdown even with relatively few enemies onscreen and a marked lack of challenge, with most bosses being easily defeatable by simply finding a single spot outside of their attack range and firing away.  To date, it remains one of only three Contra games never released in Japan (alongside the two notorious Playstation Contra games), and it's not hard to see why - because nobody there wants to play this crap!