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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. Amagon (Aicom, 1989)

Amagon is yet another dime-a-dozen side scrolling shooter with platforming elements, and does nothing to differentiate itself from any other game like it.  The visuals are bland and unappealing, the levels are just flat plains full of enemies, you can only fire in one direction (straight ahead), your bullets require extremely precise hit detection and don't even travel the full length of the screen, and your jump is the same awkward jump you've seen in every bad Game Maker game on the Internet - go straight up at one speed, hit the peak of your jump height, go straight down at the same speed.  All  in all, just a thoroughly mediocre experience.  But this game wouldn't have been nearly as high on the list were it not for one factor: that bloody ear-rape they call audio.  Every tune in the game is high-pitched, tinny and annoying, and every sound effect (few though they are) is seemingly engineered to sound awful - the bullets are just a flat burst of static, and every enemy dies with the same shrill noise.  Amagon isn't a game so much as it is psychological torture.

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, or any other console for that matter).  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. Darkman (Painting By Numbers, 1991)

Another movie licensed film released in the same year as PbN's Robocop 2, and unfortunately, it suffers from the same faults of uninspired gameplay, gaudy visuals and controls that rank among the worst ever seen in the platforming genre.  The physics are just completely wrong - you slide like you're on ice while walking, yet come to a dead stop when landing from a jump.  Balancing on ropes is a clever idea, but awkwardly handled by alternately pressing the A and B buttons, with a mistake at any point causing you to jump off or punch the air, then fall off (usually into a pit).  Then you factor in bad hit detection, ugly graphics and countless cheap deaths due to the lousy level design, and you have another crap sandwich brought to us by Ocean.  So is there anything good about this game?  Well, the title screen looks pretty nice, and the game does work in Darkman's talent of disguise in a pretty clever minigame segment.  That's about all I can give it though...

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. Urban Champion (Nintendo, 1986)

Yes, even Nintendo themselves weren't exempt from making some pretty lousy and underwhelming NES games.  Coming to us from the "black box" era, Urban Champion was a lame, shallow one-on-one fighter where you attempt to punch your opponent off-screen three times and eventually land him in a manhole.  Then you get to do it again.  And again.  And again.  Repeat add nauseum until you get bored, shut the game off and go back to playing Mario.  Yes, they attempt to break up the monotony by having hazards like a lady dropping a flower pot on your heads or the police rolling by, causing both players to reset their positions, but that just drew the tedium out even further.  The one-on-one fighting game genre was still in its inception back in the '80s and wouldn't hit its stride until the early '90s, but I can't imagine that utterly forgettable games like Urban Champion helped shape it into anything bigger and better...

94. Mystery Quest (Carry Lab, 1989)

The NES was home to a lot of legendary platformers that are still played to this day, including Ninja Gaiden, Mr. Gimmick, Castlevania, the Mega Man series, and of course the quintessential classics, the Mario trilogy.  One you've probably never heard of on the platform is Mystery Quest, and there's a good reason for that; the game just isn't very compelling, with very generic gameplay and level design overall.  We also got a vastly stripped down version from the original Famicom Disk System version, which had a greater variety of castle mazes (six in total, compared to the US version's two); a pretty staggering decision considering ROMs that could hold well over the capacity of a FDS game were common by 1989.  They basically just gave us an inferior version of an already none-too-great game for a quick buck, which definitely earns it a lot on this list.

93. The Great Waldo Search (Radiance, 1992)

If you're of a certain age you probably remember the Waldo books - enormous elaborate illustrations you had to spot Waldo (and various other objects) in.  Fine enough stuff for a book; not so much for a video game.  Especially one that costs substantially more than one of the books ($50-60 at the time) and which can be finished in roughly five to ten minutes.  Yeah, that has to be a record for the least amount of content in an NES game made in the '90s.  Hell, even the early ports of old arcade games mostly had more depth to it than this game provided.  But as bad as all that is, I do at least have to give it credit for having detailed graphics and relatively large sprites that actually allow you to find Waldo; as low a bar as that is, it's still much more than can be said for another Waldo game we'll be seeing much further down this list!

92. Aladdin (NMS Software, 1994 in Europe)

Yep, there was a port of Aladdin on the NES; a port that uses the Game Boy version (itself a very trimmed-down copy of the Genesis version) as a template.  Not even a fraction of the Genesis game's smooth animation or fast-paced gameplay is on display here; it's slow as molasses and they made no attempt to use the wider color palette available.  A pretty pathetic display for a 1994 game on a console that was capable of producing some downright beautiful graphics (and hell, even most of the games on this list look better).  But the real kicker is that there is a competent and even relatively fun Aladdin game on the platform - a pirate production based on the Super Nintendo version of Aladdin!  This was just a last-ditch cash grab of the worst kind.

91. Contra Force (Konami, 1992)

A spinoff of the Contra franchise, pitting the player, as one of four characters, against a team of terrorists.  However, in contrast to the easy to learn, tough to master run-and-gun gameplay that made the series a favorite, Contra Force feels very overdesigned; the game 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 it's a far cry from the classics that came before it!