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Top 100 Worst NES Games, #90-81

90. American Gladiators (Incredible Technologies, 1991)

One of many games brought to us by GameTek, a publisher primarily known for their games based on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy (as well as the infamous Robotech game for the Nintendo 64, which spent many years in development only to be cancelled as the company went bankrupt).  They weren't exactly known for quality entertainment throughout their career, and American Gladiators is just another example of that.  The game gives you five events to play - jousting, wall climbing, human cannonball, Powerball (think "capture the flag") and "assault" (overhead shooting).  Which would make for a pretty fun game if they were enjoyable, but they also suffer from choppy animations, questionable hit detection and some truly grating music, not to mention outrageous difficulty.  The only up-side of the package was a rather amusing digitized scream when a character was defeated and plummeted offscreen.

89. T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage (Atlus, 1988)

Another underwhelming title from the early days of Atlus and LJN, T&C Surf Designs certainly puts on a respectable front with its large character sprites and colorful visuals.  The same cannot be said for the gameplay, however.  The game is split between two events - skateboarding and surfing - and unfortunately neither one is particularly fun to play.  Both suffer from lousy controls, and those paired with the large character sprites make avoiding obstacles much harder than it really should be.  You get eight lives per event, but they don't work as traditional video game lives usually do - taking a particularly bad fall can deplete two or even three lives from your reserve, and there's no way to get them back.  There's also no real goal to the game other than to get a high score, so any thrill of accomplishment is quickly diminished there as well.  The NES did have some good summer sports games (Kings of the Beach, the original Skate or Die and California Games come to mind), but T&C was definitely not one of them.

88. King's Knight (Workss, 1989)

Before Square achieved runaway success with their Final Fantasy franchise in Japan, dominated the world in the Playstation era with Final Fantasy VII, then flushed all their success down the crapper with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, they tried their hand in a few other fields like racing games, 3D platformers and this, a weird hybrid of a platformer, an overhead shooter and an RPG. Collecting powerups will make your characters faster, boost their attack power or defense, or restore health.  An interesting concept to be certain, but unfortunately, a good concept doesn't necessarily equate to a good game, especially when finding said powerups just equates to mindlessly blasting everything on the screen over and over again, including whittling your way through entire mountains one block at a time until you find something.  Being forced to slowly pace your way through hails of enemy fire through five extremely slow and repetitious stages doesn't make the action any more compelling, either, and you absolutely need all four characters alive for the final stage if you want to beat it.  King's Quest is a decent idea dragged down by a completely lackluster execution.

87. Last Action Hero (Teeny Weeny Games, 1993)

Last Action Hero was one of Arnie's less popular films that attempted to bring self-referential satire to the proceedings, with it mostly just coming off as clunky and unnecessary.  The game, on the other hand, is your typical bad movie licensed fare - taking a few scenes from the film, then pasting some lackluster gameplay on top just to get it on store shelves in time to ride the movie's hype wave into profitdom.  To that end, Last Action Hero is a terminally repetitive beat-em-up with nothing to distinguish it from any other game like it.  Nothing good, anyway - most other games in the genre at least had competent hit detection, let you move through the levels faster than a snail's pace and had at least some degree of variety to their action.  They also didn't feature some of the most harshly contrasted and ugly digitized stills in video game history just to say "it really is based on the film, you can see it if you squint really hard, honest!".  Last Action hero is overall just a lousy experience, especially when you consider the huge plethora of better beat-em-ups the NES platform brought us...

86. Predator (Pack-in Video, 1989)

Yes, this section of the list is really laying it on thick with the licensed titles, but can you blame me when so many of the NES' bad licensed titles make LJN's game library look positively magnificent by comparison?  At a glance Predator is just another lousy platformer game with a license pasted on, but the sheer asininity of its design earns it a badge of notoriety.  In addition to slippery physics and being able to fall through the sides of platforms (never good things in a game with lots of precision platforming), the game seemingly goes out of its way to frustrate the player into submission.  Weapon icons are seemingly always placed in the most inconvenient spots possible (placing fist weapons right before a hallway full of enemies being a commmon sight) and some levels are devoted entirely to blasting your way through bricks, one by one, with well-placed grenades.  So in addition to having to precisely place the things so you don't make the level unwinnable, you often have to get them awkwardly wedged in walls just to make sure they blow up the right brick and allow you to proceed.  Did I mention you can never blow up more than one brick at a time too?  ...Yeah.  Some solid music can't save this turkey from being a frustrating ordeal.

85. WWF Wrestlemania (Rare, 1989)

One of many licensed professional wrestling games released on the NES, but as this and many others proved, the genre still had a long way to go.  Not that they weren't trying over at Rare, though - the game's presentation is top-notch, with colorful title cards and well-animated characters (complete with many of their signature moves), as well as spot-on 8-bit renditions of many of the wrestlers' themes.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the gameplay.  Slow-paced action, weird hit detection, and AI that literally cheats by giving itself super-speed and doing much more damage with attacks than your character can makes the game a chore to play.  Not to mention missing elements present even in earlier wrestling games on the NES - there is no action outside the ring, and even basic controls like pinning vary wildly from character to character, making the game not only frustrating to play, but unintuitive as well.  With games like this, there's a good reason professional wrestling video games never really became well-known and loved until the Nintendo 64 and Playstation rolled around.

85. Cliffhanger (Spidersoft, 1993)

Yes, the date on that header is correct; this game really was released in 1993.  And yes, that screenshot is an accurate representation of this game's visual style.  You can probably already see one of my major gripes with this game.  Well, there's a lot more that can't be gleaned from just that.  Like the shrill random noise that's supposed to pass for music, the lousy collision detection that makes killing enemies a chore, and the fact that even from the very first stage of the games, the platforming requires pixel-perfect jumps or you'll likely fall down, hit spikes and die instantly.  In short, pretty much everything that can be done wrong in a platformer is done wrong here, and the fact that this game was released this late in the NES' lifespan and had several better games in the genre to draw inspiration from is simply shameful.  But I guess I can take some solace in the fact that, being a late release on the platform, nobody really played it either.

83. Rocket Ranger (Beam Software, 1990)

Cinemaware was a bit of an institution among PC gamers in the late 80s and early 90s, attempting to turn games a more cinematic experience with high-resolution character sprites and animations despite the limited hardware of the time.  In that regard they were partially successful, creating games that looked fantastic and captured an epic serial-like feel, but whose gameplay wasn't quite as high-tier to match.

Now take that concept and try to port it to a platform with much less to offer in terms of technical specs, and the results are... less than stellar, as Rocket Ranger proves.  While the game still looks solid for an NES title, the gameplay does not follow suit, mostly just consisting of simple and repetitive minigames dragged down by clunky controls and questionable hit detection.  Not to mention cutting several elements from the PC game, leaving behind a scaled-down experience of the original game with none of the benefit of its visual gimmick.

82. Barbie (Imagineering, 1991) 

Barbie isn't exactly the first character who comes to mind when you think of prolific video game heroes and heroines, and yet she's somehow managed to star in a larger number of games than most big-budget companies' characters can even dream of.  The first was a Commodore 64 game from all the way back in 1984, but her first console release was this one.  Published by the ever so popular Hi-Tech Expressions (we haven't seen the last of them on this list, trust me), Barbie is a confusing blend of platforming and puzzle elements, with neither one being done particularly well.  The platforming for Barbie's large size, sluggish jumping and single walk speed (also glacially slow), and the puzzles for being utterly nonsensical, having you throw one of three "charms" at various objects in the environment in order to get them to do what you want (which often isn't entirely clear anyway).  Still, once you master its quirks, the game is also extraordinarily easy and can be cleared in under half an hour.  I think even the game's target audience of little girls was clamoring for a better game shortly after buying and starting up this turkey...

81. Bible Adventures (Wisdom Tree, 1991)

Here's our first entry from Wisdom Tree, a company known for trying to push the Bible in the realm of gaming but having no actual talent at making games, so it all rather came to naught.  Still, they made a surprising number of them in their short career, and probably the best known of them was Bible Adventures, a compilation of three different games based on three Biblical stories - Baby Moses, Noah's Ark and David and Goliath - with an engine that loosely copies that of Mario 2.  that means lots of picking up objects and platforming.  Unfortunately, the clumsy physics and cheap enemies make getting through the stages a very arduous task, especially in Baby Moses where the soldiers like to knock you down, then toss Moses in the river.  Not that the game seems to mind much if you just go on without him, though, merely giving you the message "Congratulations!  But you forgot Baby Moses" at the end of the stage.  The other two games, Noah's Ark and David and Goliath, pretty much just amount to tedious collect-a-thons with the latter at least having a little bit of variety by giving you a weapon and some enemies to fight with your sling (including Goliath himself, who goes down in one hit - accurate to the story, but not exactly compelling game material).  An overall inept game, though it's at least pretty harmless.  And downright tolerable compared to a lot of other junk the company would release on the platform...