The end, finally.
PART 1: A WASTE OF TIME
PART 2: A WASTE OF MONEY
PART 3: A WASTE
25 – AFTER BURNER
Just when you thought it was safe to play Sega’s After Burner on your NES, the licensing gods cursed every illegally produced cartridge, making the result thoroughly unplayable. Controls barely work, the game’s POV is nausea-inducing, and the on-screen action is nearly indiscernible. Even before Genesis did what Nintendidn’t, Sega and Nintendo refused to play well together.
24 – STUNT KIDS
Playing Stunt Kids is like careening down a sidewalk of broken dreams. There are no stunts in the game – unless you consider staying balanced on one’s bike a stunt. It’s amazing that these kids ever qualified to race on obstacle courses, given their penchant for falling down. Stunt Kids had potential (the obstacle course designs are pretty neat), but there’s little use in trying to make these kids stunt or much of anything.
23 – DEADLY TOWERS
The so-called “worst NES game of all time” might not be as bad as they say, but it’s still in the “top” 25 so I wouldn’t call it “good,” either. Offenses include: overly strong enemies, laughably bad hit detection, poor sense of direction, among other things. Deadly Towers is a frustrating reminder of how not to rip off Legend of Zelda.
22 – HUDSON HAWK
Bruce Willis and “friends” (i.e. movie studio executives) really thought “Hudson Hawk” was going to be a hit, didn’t they? I mean, they commissioned a really bad Nintendo game out of it. That’s what all the other top film franchises of the ’80s and ’90s did! Hudson Hawk‘s difficulty (unplayability) stems only from the character’s poor jumping abilities. If he could jump higher than a couple inches off the ground, you might not be reading this blurb right now.
21 – HYDLIDE
Hydlide was a flawed, but interesting game when it first released in 1984 for Japanese computers. Many of the mechanics it introduced, however, were downright primitive by the time of its NES re-release in ’89. Dragon Warrior and The Legend of Zelda in particular refined Hydlide‘s grueling combat system and password save features. Today, Hydlide is a go-nowhere grindfest – a shame, given the game’s innovations.
20 – LAST ACTION HERO
From the review: “First mistake: Arnold can’t punch someone without taking at least one hit. Ever. Since the enemies constantly regenerate and come at you or are located where you can’t hit them in the level, your lives will go down like so many shattered pelvises. I’d honestly be surprised if this game was beatable without a Game Genie. It’s just that cheap.”
19 – RAID 2020
A creepy protagonist in a trench coat who doesn’t move in the direction you want him to go; empty levels that won’t complete until you go through them several times; enemies that refuse to die; guns that refuse to fire at a normal rate. Raid 2020: A Color Dreams Joint.
18 – DESTINATION EARTHSTAR
Like Star Voyager, Destination Earthstar gives the appearance of depth via convoluted gameplay. Take a look at that screenshot: it’s possible to know what’s happening in the map, but even when you do, that doesn’t make the markers any less ridiculous. And when you run out of ammo (despite the fact that you’re a fully equipped space craft), make sure to take an aggravated selfie and post it in the comments section; for posterity and my own amusement.
17 – ULTIMA: WARRIORS OF DESTINY
Warriors of Destiny is one of the slowest, choppiest games I’ve ever been forced to play. Imagine you’re behind someone driving fifteen miles-per-hour in a sixty mph zone; that “someone” is your in-game party. The menu replacing commands (like ‘Talk,’ ‘Open,’ etc) with symbols annoyed me too, but mostly, it’s the game’s lack of speed. If you want to discover how much patience and perseverance you really have, give Warriors of Destiny a try.
16 – ROBODEMONS
Robodemons is an unlicensed Ghosts ‘N Goblins ripoff created by a company that had no business making games of any sort. The aggressive difficulty stems from the main character’s underpowered boomerang weapon and overabundance of enemies. The character/level designs are tacky, the controls are all over the place, and the gameplay consists of absorbing the hatred of the so-called Robodemons. I fold.
15 – TOP PLAYERS’ TENNIS
The only tennis game on the NES where you don’t play tennis. Oh, you may prepare for a game of tennis. You may get excited by the four-player option, the silly Miracle shots, the ahead-of-its-time create-a-character feature. Once you realize you’re simply unable to serve the ball over the net at all, you’ll question whether Top Players Tennis involves tennis, gameplay, or anything besides Chris Evert and Ivan Lendl’s misguided sponsorship.
14 – ROLLERBLADE RACER
More like LOLlerblade Racer, am I right, friends? Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am right. When you can achieve the main goal of the game (to collect 5000 points) in the first stage, but the game forces you to complete every stage thereafter, something’s wrong. Rollerblade Racer feels like some poor game developer’s lost bet.
13 – GHOSTBUSTERS
Ghostbusters makes everything a chore. Want to drive across town? Don’t run out of gas and be forced to start at the beginning. Need to capture a ghost? You have a small window of time to do it, and the ghosts are insanely difficult to capture. Want to ascend Gozer’s Tower? Prepare to climb dozens (yes, dozens) of staircases very slowly while ghosts suck the life out of you. I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts, but I will forever keep my distance from Ghostbusters.
12 – OPERATION SECRET STORM
Operation Secret Storm is a gritty sandstorm to the face of justice. Unbalanced controls, erratic enemies, pathetic hit detection equal a triple play of poor game design, and that’s just the tip. It is, without a doubt, the worst Color Dreams game ever made. Low praise indeed.
11 – SPELUNKER
From the review: “Spelunker descends into levels via elevator. Scattered across the cave are pulleys, ropes, and stairs to bring you to high places. Jump too high off of any of these platforms, and Spelunker keels over dead. Other ways to kill Spelunker: falling into a hole, standing too close to a bomb, hitting the top of certain ceilings, being touched by a ghost… Spelunker should be a hearty cave explorer, not a 120-year-old with brittle bones. Also, three lives and you’re dead, no continues, no concessions. No thanks. A distinct gaming premise ruined by poor mechanics.”
10 – JIM HENSON’S MUPPET ADVENTURE: CHAOS AT THE CARNIVAL
Chaos beyond control. The five Muppet-driven mini games in Muppet Adventure are enough to make a grown man cry-y, particularly Grover’s “Lost in Space Ride,” Animal’s “Crash Car Course,” Kermit’s “Raging River Ride,” Fozzy’s “The Amazing Ice Cream Maze,” and Kermit’s “Moon Mishaps.” Wait, that’s all of them? Consider my cheeks soaked!
9 – ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE AND FRIENDS
In Rocky and Bullwinkle, you’re forced to use your special move to kill enemies – any enemies. If you run out of your special move, you absorb the enemies’ hits. Can’t avoid ’em, can’t hit ’em, even though Bullwinkle has horns that could easily penetrate through one’s solar plexus without too much trouble. Also, I loathe this game’s graphics, feel, all-around existence. Go suck a lemon, Rocky, Bullwinkle, and friends.
8 – CIRCUS CAPER
Circus Caper combines several things I hate into one evil-soaked platformer: circuses, clowns, knee socks and the children who wear them. Mostly, I can’t handle the clunky controls, abhorrent hit detection, and the one-life-and-it’s-game-over madness. When progression feels like more trouble than it’s worth, it’s time to abort the caper.
7 – THE LAST STARFIGHTER
From the review: “…because of the lack of things to shoot, the wonky controls, the horrible placement of your ship in the center of the screen, and the huge amounts of luck that it would take to actually beat the game (let alone progress past the first level) The Last Starfighter is less a shmup than a malevolent entity bent on causing human beings pain and suffering. And I’m not a man given to hyperbolic statements or long Faulknerian sentences.”
6 – THE GREAT WALDO SEARCH
“Man, Waldo’s just not trying anymore.” With these words, Bart Simpson inadvertently summed up The Great Waldo Search. Waldo is almost always out in plain sight in the game’s five levels. Find him and a scroll in each level and the game’s over. FINAL PLAY TIME: Ten minutes. I generally agree with the adage “Quality over quantity,” but when there’s hardly any content to begin with, it becomes a moot point. The Great Waldo Search is a pathetic excuse of a virtual Waldo book.
5 – HOME ALONE
In Home Alone, the goal is to trap Harry and Marv consistently for twenty minutes. Succeed and the cops come to pick them up. Fail and the game is over. So… if you succeed, you have a twenty minute long game with zero replay value. Want to play just for the heck of it? Harry and Marv are difficult to trap, and the limited one-screen gameplay seems more suited to an arcade experience than a home console game. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.
4 – CASTELIAN
One does not “play” Castelian: one endures it. You’ll need the patience of a thousand monks to wrestle your frog up tower stairs without a) getting repeatedly hit by enemies, causing you to fall down a level; or b) falling down the tower because you miscalculated/missed a jump. Castelian controls you, hombre.
3 – THE UNCANNY X-MEN
From the review: “X-Men has its obvious terrible qualities – chunky Atari graphics, melody-deprived music, tedious button-mashing gameplay – but these aren’t what make the game stand apart from other bad NES titles. No, X-Men is so much worse than the sum of its parts. Playing it, one gets the sense that LJN exerted great effort in making this game as horrible as possible. This is no slapdash effort. It takes long man-hours and rolled-up sleeves to make a game this foul. But the most confounding aspect of X-Men isn’t how bad it is: it’s that the game understands and revels in its badness.” Indeed it’s Uncanny X-Men‘s lack of shame that gives it such torturous powers.
2 – DRAGON’S LAIR
Dragon’s Lair is the only game I’ve ever played where I couldn’t move past the first screen, and not for lack of trying. Dirk the Daring can handle numerous bats plowing into his face, but he can’t jump onto a drawbridge without disintegrating?! Despite being a knight, he uses daggers instead of that big honkin’ sword on his back?! Embracing death – not saving Daphne – is Dirk’s call in life. Dragon’s Lair is death in cartridge form.
1 – ACTION 52
When I first reviewed the unholy behemoth named Action 52, I played every single body-crumpling, brain-stomping game. Some games were merely bad. Others didn’t work past the title screen. Others were impossible to progress beyond the first level, due to the game’s love affair with glitches. Action 52 isn’t just one all-encompassing bad game: it’s fifty-two sorta, kinda, almost, barely games, compiled for the player’s infinite bemusement. Think of any attribute of a poorly developed title – busted controls, go-nowhere progression, lazy level design, squalid graphics – then apply them liberally across Action 52‘s coding. Such waste! Active Enterprises then had the gall to charge two hundred American dollars upon its release, as if these so-called game-like substances were worth less than four dollars a piece. Action 52 isn’t worth the brief time it takes to illegally download it, let alone physical currency. I urge those of you who haven’t played Action 52 to leave it be. Don’t seek it out. Repress your curiosity. If a cartridge could destroy worlds, it would be Action 52 and it would destroy yours without hesitation. It is the worst NES game (s) of all time.
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27 replies on “The 86 Worst NES Games – Part 4”
Last Action Hero is indeed beatable without a Game Genie! I beat that game religiously when I was a kid (you know, because I was stupid and didn't have enough new things to play). The key is spamming the crouching punch when fighting bosses.
That's amazing! Forget Arnold: you're the real last action hero!
I can't help but laugh out loud every time I think of Action 52. It's just that terrible!
Also, I had the same reasoning for why it should've been #1 on the list; it's not one bad game, it's 52 bad games in a cartridge.
The best of all is how these guys had plans for a lot more stuff related to the game, as if it was going to be a great hit or something.
Good list! Had a great time laughing at all these horrible games.
Action 52 is horrible, but it was gonna suck anyway. The persons that made it only had two weeks of training!
The worst part about Action 52 is people on eBay are selling it for a minimum of $350 for a loose cartridge. I've never been a fan of unlicensed NES games and this is a perfect reason why!
If you own a NES, the Muppets and the Bible are to be avoided…
I figured Hydlide would make this list – it still makes me twitchy to think about. I had to see what the #1 on this list would be – but it's hard to argue based on everything I've read and seen.
In reference to Home Alone, do you think that twenty minute time perioid to avoid Harry and Marv is symbolic of how long he did it in the movie? Of course the movie still brings a chuckle or two but the game leaves me desiring the twenty minutes of life I've lost. Oh and the Muppet Carnival game can go the deepest part of Hell.
I think the twenty-minute time period represents Bethesda not knowing how to make a full game based on Home Alone. I don't blame them (I don't know how I'd make a Home Alone game, nor would I even want to), but that's still no excuse.
“Dragon's Lair may not be the worst game I've ever played”, I remember you saying. Oh, how times change. Great list, awful games. Thankyou.
My best friend and I made a drinking game out of Action 52. We played every single game, and whoever wound up dying first or advancing the least amount of time/distance had to take a drink.
You can't make a drinking game with Dragon's Lair without winding up in detox.
For an NES game Dragon's Lair IMO at least LOOKS good. But then visuals have always been a strong point in those games.
Yeah, the visuals are fantastic. Then there's everything else…
Graphics don't make the game. An example: Out of this World for the SNES.
i really dont think after burner deserves to be on this list, also whers dr. jeykl and mr. hyde?
He gave Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a B- (Surprising, isn't it?)
NGB2 was one of those NES that I was unaware of until reading it on some website back in ༼ I believe. “We was robbed” indeed. Once I got my hands on a Famicom version of the cart and gave it a play through I was hooked. I nabbed the cart on a trip to Japan in May of 2001. I found the cart in some random retro game store while on the hunt for some other game. In all my subsequent journeys to Japan I've never seen another copy of NGB2 since. A rare find and a great game. Great reviews btw Dylan. Enjoy your time off. I do want to say that I have indeed read all your reviews
I'm glad to see Deadly Towers didn't make the bottom 10, lol! I know it's poorly designed, but I still really enjoyed it—after I finally got some character upgrades and sense of direction. I don't remember how many YEARS that took. :-/
Castleian at #4? Eh, debatable…it was a smashing classic on home computers, so I can imagine a bunch of of C64 owners knocking on your door with pitchforks 😛
Yeah, I've heard the C64 game is superior to the atrocious NES port.
I was so excited when The Last Starfighter game came out. I thought it would be just like the game in the movie, or at least sort of like it.
I didn't think it was going to be not like it at all.
You missed Athena and Convoy no Nazo
I have done my top 10 best, now I’ll do my worst
10. Back to the Future
9. Dragon’s Lair
7. Rocky and Bullwinkle
5. Home Alone
4. The Uncanny X-Men
3. Winter Games
2. Back to the Future Part II & III
1. Action 52
These are definitely some crap games. A superb list!
I’ve never seen Mag (with a “G”) Max discussed in any of these list but it is the worst game I ever owned on NES.
So much fun!
Afterburner? Earthstar? You’re still so innocent. None of these can prepare you for the horror that is Super Monkey Daiboken.
Only Action 51 is considered a rival.