20. NFL (Atlus, 1989)
I'm not really a sports guy, but even I can admit there are some pretty good sports games on the NES - Tecmo Super Bowl in particular being a legendary one that still has a huge fan following to this day. Easily the worst I know of is the blandly-titled NFL, developed by Atlus and published by good old LJN. The game is just uninspired and ugly to look at, with horrendously slow gameplay, choppy animation and the barest minimum of sound design (with a constant blast of white noise standing in for a cheering crowd). But the biggest idiot move of all was the fact that there's no onscreen play selection; hell, it's not even in the manual. All the plays were listed on a poster
that came in the game's box, which made it much easier to lose. It was at least notable for being one of the very first video games to actually use the NFL license, but when even the Atari 2600 has more enjoyable football games, it's all a bit moot.
19. Swamp Thing (Imagineering, 1992)
When you go from licensing hot properties like the Simpsons and Ghostbusters to a low-tier comic book character like Swamp Thing, you know your game company is in trouble. Moreso when the already clumsy gameplay of the Simpsons titles somehow gets even more tedious, and any of the clever ideas that made them redeemable get tossed out in favor of stiff platforming and repetitive combat with the same small handful of monsters. Slow, plodding, overly difficult and backed by annoying recycled sound effects and uninspired music, Swamp Thing is another bad platformer on a platform that brought us some of the finest examples of the genre. Imagineering's games were generally bad, but I dare say this is the worst thing they ever released.
18. Dirty Harry (Gray Matter, 1990)
Mindscape brings us another licensed turkey, once again taking a book/film franchise with some solid video game potential and botching it on every front. Sluggish controls, cheap enemies, lousy hit detection and levels that seem to be intentionally designed to be as obnoxious as possible. The first stage alone is a gargantuan maze of buildings and sewers that you can potentially get lost in for hours, dying to death traps and gun-toting goons that assault you every five steps. That's bad enough, but then you throw in illogical puzzles (you have to wear a white
suit to get past that goon, otherwise he'll just punch you across the room!), a soundtrack comprised of ear-grating noise and the fact that you can only input a password to save at the end of the level (meaning losing your last life means losing all of your progress on stages that can take well over an hour to complete) and you have a very miserable experience. The only highlights are some decent digitized voices on the title screen and during the ending.
17. Athena (Micronics, 1987)
16. King Neptune's Adventure (Color Dreams, 1990)
Micronics again? More like Migraines, because that's what their games inevitably give to you with the sheer ineptitude of their design. They threw out halfassed ports without a care throughout most of the 80s - Ikari Warriors, Ghosts n' Goblins, Ghostbusters, and now Athena. Loosely based on the arcade game by SNK, the game is a sidescrolling adventure that, frankly sucks on every level. Stiff controls, a jump height that seems to be completely random, and harsh random note music combine to make Athena a thoroughly unpleasant bout of gaming to try and sit through. But the most unforgivable sin of all is that, like a Week of Garfield, you have absolutely no post-hit invincibility, so any enemy can and will drain your health to nothing in under a second. And considering you're constantly swarmed by the damn things, it's a miracle if you ever make it past the first stage. The NES had plenty of great classic platformers, but Athena is definitely not one.
I'm not going out of my way to pick on Color Dreams; I'm really not. But when you put out such large and consistently terrible waves of games that you make LJN look like Capcom in comparison, it doesn't really give me much of a choice. King Neptune's Adventure is not only among their worst, but it's so bad that it's nearly unplayable. In addition to garish visuals with backgrounds that constantly flash psychedelic colors (epileptics be warned) and harsh sound effects and random note music, you have two impotent attacks that your enemies seem to actively avoid, stages that seem to drag on forever and incredibly broken screen scrolling that requires you to be at the very edge of the viewable area, all but ensuring that you're going to run into every enemy you come across. It all culminates in you getting killed long before ever accomplishing much of anything, which isn't the mark of anything resembling a quality game.
15. Color a Dinosaur (Farsight Technologies, 1993)
Why would you even make a coloring book game on a system that can only support 8 on-screen colors at a time? Not only that, the game doesn't even seem to ever use all eight colors at once, just giving you three or four to work with in various patterns to kinda sorta give the illusion of multiple colors. Then you add in janky music on the menus and the cursor rigidly being locked to specific points on the screen to color in, and you really must question what the point of even making this game was when Mario Paint was released in the same year. ...Oh, right, to cash in on that. There's really not much else to even say about it, it's just shovelware in its purest form. But when it's brought to us by the company that produced the Genesis version of Action 52, are you really surprised?
14. Metal Mech: Man and Machine (Sculptured Software, 1991)
Sculptured Software (a company that brought us such gems as Day Dreamin' Davey and Captain Novolin) tries their best to horn in on the success of Blaster Master. Unfortunately, this
was their best even after three years of technological improvement. A game with choppy controls and cheap enemies swarming you every three seconds, with your bullets being so small and rigidly locked into directions perpendicular to your mech's cockpit that they're guaranteed to never hit anything. You'll also frequently have to leave your mech behind to accomplish objectives on foot, but frustratingly, it can still take damage even when you're not in it. And it will, since enemies never stop swarming and attacking even when you're elsewhere. It'll be a miracle if you can survive long enough to see past the first few screens of the game, let alone complete a stage. Metal Mech is overall simply plodding, ugly and frustrating. If you want this same concept but done well, then do yourself a favor and play the real deal - Blaster Master - instead.
13. Hokuto no Ken (Toei, 1986 in Japan)
Everyone with a passing interest in anime and manga has at least heard of Fist of the North Star, the classic tale of a martial artist named Kenshiro wandering the post-apocalyptic landscape and making hooligans explode with superpowered martial arts. Unfortunately, while Hokuto no Ken's manga and anime outings stand as staples of the action genre to this day, its video game adaptations remain some of the worst ever devised. Probably the most well-known and infamous is the 1986 Famicom release, which features lousy visuals (looking like corrupted graphics you'd see on an NES with corroded connectors) and levels that seem to loop endlessly. Which they do, unless you know to follow Lin via the extremely intuitive method of standing in doorways and pressing Up+A+B. That's all fine and good, but after the first few levels she begins to lead you astray, making level navigation a matter of complete guesswork. Pair that with constantly swarming enemies that never cut you a break and cheap bosses that can whittle your health bar away in no time flat, and you have a true disaster in the realm of gaming. Not even being able to explode enemies with your fists (in a surprisingly gory display for an NES title) could make the experience tolerable.
12. Ganso Saiyuki: Super Monkey Daibouken (Techno Quest, 1986 in Japan)
A game based on the classic Chinese tale "Journey to the West", which you'd think would lend itself well to video game adaptations; alas, there are very few of them that are any good. Super Monkey Daibouken in particular is regarded as one of the very worst games on the Famicom, and it certainly isn't hard to see why once you start playing. 80% of the game is slowly
trudging across a huge, bland world map with very few points of interest, taking passages to other equally nondescript portions of the map and trying to make your way to the end. Throughout, you're taken to Zelda II style sidescrolling combat sequences (pictured), though with none of that game's polish or entertainment factor - movement is stiff and awkward and hit detection is almost nonexistent, making winning these segments a matter of pure luck. Oh, and you're in a constant race against time too, as running out of food or water makes your health drop rapidly until you die. It's also one of the few Famicom games to prominently feature load times
, showing just how much of a poorly optimized piece of crap it really is. Ganso Saiyuki is regarded as a legendary kusoge
among Japanese gamers, and it's not hard to see why after playing it for any length of time.
11. Robodemons (Color Dreams, 1989)
Yep, it's Color Dreams again, and yep, their games just seem to get worse and worse. Robodemons is a blend of their usual broken platforming engine and quite possibly the worst standalone shmup ever made. In the latter regard is the fact that you are such a massive target, but your weapon is a small, awkward to use boomerang that can only have one hsot onscreen at a time and takes several hits to bring down anything (especially the bosses, who are all but guaranteed to take you down before you can do enough damage to defeat them). The platforming stages are no better either, with hordes of tiny enemies that always seem to appear just outside of your weapon's range and are all but guaranteed to hit you. Garnish with the usual suspects of grating music and harsh buzzes for every sound effect, and you have another bomb from a company that consistently made nothing but.