Bottom of the barrel.
During my quest, I graded at least 100 games with an “F” rating. Countless others received scores in the “D” and “C” range. No doubt about it: there’s an overwhelming amount of terrible titles for the NES. While the system’s great games will forever hold places in our hearts, so too will the bad; sometimes more so, depending on how traumatic the game.
But what makes a “bad” game? Is it poor design, poor control, poor graphics, music, rabble rabble? Certainly, obvious lack of care in a game’s development factors into its “badness.” For me, playability or lack thereof cements a game as good or bad. I can play through a good game like Castlevania from start to finish and have a wonderful time doing so. It’s challenging, sure, but everything you need to complete it – weapons, items, strong control – is designed into the game itself. In other words, it’s playable and completable – even if it is harder than sin. On the flip side, Deadly Towers is technically playable, in that, you can beat it if you try hard enough. Its incompetent design, however – poor hit detection, vague objectives, wandering through pointless rooms – renders it difficult to actually play the game, let alone enjoy.
Thus, the games on this Bottom 86 list are organized in terms of playability: playable (really bad, but hey, if you want to torture yourself…), barely playable (broken in many aspects, but your character still kinda does what they’re supposed to), and unplayable (“what is this?” “I can’t even begin to…” “how was this ever released?!” and other various exclamations).
Every game on Part 1 of the list is considered playable by me. Proceed with caution.
As a wise man once said, if you got beef, eat a pork chop. Or, you know, disagree in the comments section.
86 – GHOUL SCHOOL
Ghoul School should have been like “The Breakfast Club,” except with monsters and blood instead of Emilio Estevez and feelings. Instead, it’s a go-nowhere locker-exploration fest that calls throwing random ghouls at you inspiration. Please yes, forget about Ghoul School.
85 – FISHER PRICE SAGA
Sure, I could have chosen one of the three Fisher-Price wastes of time, but in my eyes, they’re a complete blocky package. Firehouse Rescue, Perfect Fit, and I Can Remember are perfect examples of games for children that don’t actually teach children anything. And if you shoved all three games’ content into one cartridge, it still wouldn’t be worth the price of admission.
Dash Galaxy doesn’t offend as much it confuses. Is it supposed to be an action game? Dash can’t attack (he has bombs, but they’re limited) and he can barely jump. As I said in my review, “No boss, no attacking, no doing much of anything other than picking up items that don’t do much of anything.
83 – MOTOR CITY PATROL
Motor City Patrol was almost the precursor to Grand Theft Auto, but it decided to suck instead. Cops-and-robbers with Hot Wheel rip-offs is all fun-and-games until someone (here’s lookin’ at you, Source Research and Development) forgets to develop a worthwhile map system.
82 – DIRTY HARRY
Harry should probably take a bath at some point, eh? Indeed his NES game finds him in top dirty form. Convoluted controller layouts (‘A’ and ‘B’ just to jump?! ‘Up’ and ‘A’ to kick?!) and boring exploration portions kick Harry up from mediocre to filthy, as quick as you can say “Go ahead, make my day.”
Unless you have a big honkin’ joystick, flight sims are usually less than enjoyable. Flight of the Intruder pretends that the NES can handle a flight sim without a joystick. Having to account for thrust, altitude, pitch, and yaw with a D-pad is no amateur flight jockey’s idea of a good time.
Oh, Wally. Tell me, when did beating up junkies become fashionable? And I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to berate kids with anti-drug propaganda in the form of an NES game. Winners don’t need Wally Bear.
The worst pool game on the NES by a wide margin. Sure, there’s lots of in-game options for the discerning pool enthusiast (14-1 Rack Game? Slow down, Break Time!), but good luck being able to play a full game without wanting to break your opponent/the pool table in half. Poor physics and overbearing load times are but two of my many objections.
78 – CLIFFHANGER
Sly Stallone and nature have a go in Cliffhanger. As with most poorly conceived and developed games based on ridiculous source material, Cliffhanger does not look, control, or play as a game should. Perhaps most damning is the in-game sprite that looks nothing like Stallone. The outrage…
77 – P’RADIKUS CONFLICT
If all you want out of a non-linear exploratory shoot-em-up is to shoot salted snack treats, P’Radikus is for you! If you’re seeking fully-formed gameplay that involves more than obliterating pretzels and searching the galaxy for some meaning (any meaning), stay away from this so-called “conflict.”
Hide and Speak remembered to include digitized Big Bird sermons, but forgot to include challenge. I know Sesame Street games aren’t for guys in their late twenties, but I refuse to believe that kids are as dumb as these child’s game developers think they are.
75 – PREDATOR
“C’mon, kill me, I’m here!” Don’t be surprised if you shout this famous Arnold line from “Predator” many times while you’re playing the NES adaptation. Don’t be surprised if the game obliges you either. Predator is notoriously cheap, difficult, and awful – a triumvirate of terrible.
74 – AIRWOLF
Airwolf laughs at your desire to progress. “Want to beat a mission? Figure out what this dial means first!” “That’s just my fuel gauge…” you reply to Airwolf. Airwolf frowns and says, “Of course it is! Now… shoot this fighter jet!” A jet appears on the bland blue horizon. You shoot it down. “Ok, now can I go to the next level? I’ve shot a million jets already!” Airwolf cackles infinitely without replying. Your mind begins to break. You shut the game off, silencing Airwolf‘s mockeries forever. Peace and silence are your reward.