Because sometimes you just look at a game and have to ask yourself, “How did this get made? Who thought this was a good idea?”All games, even the best ones, have stupid parts that make you ask, “What were the developers thinking?” The Library in Halo. Stealth sections in Zelda. The awkward 1 on 1 old man fighting game at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4. Nobody gets it right 100% of the time, and even the best games manage to showcase a stupid idea or two. In the case of the games I just mentioned, it’s easy to let a mistake or two slide because the rest of the experience is so damn good.
But this list isn’t about an errant design miscalculation or a short, forgettable drop in quality. This also isn’t a list about games that have one or two poorly thought out sections or a gameplay gimmick that didn’t pan out — No, this list about something much worse. This is a list of games that were stupid from the moment they were conceived.
There are plenty of bad games out there that probably sounded good on paper — I bet Duke Nukem Forever sounded awesome when they were designing it a decade ago, and while it obviously eventually evolved into a notably not-funny train wreck, the idea of a Duke Nukem sequel wasn’t flawed on a conceptual level. As much as I’d like to (justifiably) continue shitting on Duke Nukem Forever, this list isn’t about plain old bad games like Duke. This list is about stupid ideas that sounded stupid from the very moment they were pitched, and that somehow ended up going through the entire production process and that managed to actually appear on store shelves. These are the videogame equivalents of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room or Jennifer Lopez’s Gigli; these are games that were flawed frpm the moment of inception, games that are based on ideas so stupid you wonder why nobody on the dev team asked “Why the hell are we making this?” during their production process.
Now, it’d be easy to fill this list up with the usual Wii shovelware or PC casual titles (seriously, look at the PC “games” section of your local Target or Wal-Mart,) but that’d be no fun. Instead, I’ve picked stupid ideas and stupid(er) games that came out of supposedly reputable publishers and developers who really should have known better.
WWE Crush Hour
The idea: Put wrestlers in a game that isn’t about wrestling.
It’s 2006, and THQ is making bank off of their series of games based around the lucrative WWE license. The Wal-Mart crowd just can’t get enough of THQ’s annualized wrestling games, but that’s part of the problem: as with Madden or FIFA, THQ can really only get away with releasing one version of their “sports” game per year. Their solution: make a game starring wrestling superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and not have them wrestle; instead of doing, y’know, the thing they’re famous for and that people want to watch them do, THQ instead opted to shoehorn world wrestling’s most famous faces into a half-assed Twisted Metal clone.
I’m not really sure what goes through wrestling fans’ heads as they watch a WWE match, but I’m pretty sure not one of them has ever stopped and thought, “Watching these guys wrestle is cool, but it’d be even better if they climbed into brightly colored clown cars and launched rockets at each other.” Yet that’s pretty much exactly what WWE Crush Hour is: a game that stars pro-wrestlers, but doesn’t involve any actual wrestling. I’m sure most people who read that previous sentence probably understand the stupidity of that concept, but apparently THQ management didn’t. I hope those same guys are still working in the game industry, because I’d like to pitch them some similar game ideas I’ve had, like Batman Preps His Taxes and Downton Abbey Kart Racing.
The idea: Let’s make a game based on the worst thing to ever be associated with Dragon Ball.
There’s no shortage of Dragon Ball games out there: Akira Toriyama’s famous fantasy martial arts epic has managed to maintain it’s popularity around the world, even decades after its release, and game companies have been creating games based on the franchise ever since the NES/Famicom days, with new DBZ games still coming out on a roughly yearly basis and always managing to still sell well.
Well, except for one. Dragonball Evolution is a game that nobody wanted to play based on a movie that nobody wanted to see. You’d think publishers wouldn’t waste their development budgets making a game based on a movie that everyone within their target demographic was guaranteed to hate, but hey, thinking like that is probably why you aren’t an executive at Namco Bandai. Evolution sort of plays like Tekken… except in stead of having an arsenal of combos at your disposal, your best choice of attack is usually to just spam the square button over and over… and instead of a cast of recognizable fighters, you get to play as the sub D-list “celebrities” (plus Chow Yun Fat,) that were in the film. Strangely enough, none of the cast of the movie could be bothered to do any voice acting for this game, because apparently even Ernie Hudson and… uh, that sort-of-okay-looking-from-far-away Asian chick from The Real World were too good to appear in this abomination.
Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi
The idea: It’s like Tekken + Princess Leia
WWE Crush Hour was a case of a videogame company shoehorning one of their licensed properties into a type of game that had absolutely nothing to do with said license. Dragonball Evolution was a crappy fighting game. Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi is both.
Now, the words “Star Wars” and “fighting game” don’t necessarily clash: I’m sure most Star Wars nerds (including myself,) would kill for some sort of 1 on 1 lightsaber simulator. But unfortunately, that’s not what Masters of Teras Kasi is; instead of letting you live out your favorite duels from the movies, the stupidly named Teras Kasi (yes, Star Wars nerds, I know it’s an in-universe term that refers to a fighting style,) takes all of your favorite Star Wars characters (plus one or two you probably haven’t heard of/don’t care about,) and drops them into a Tekken/Virtua Fighter styled 3D fighter. And yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.
The controls are stiffer than Han Solo in carbonite, and the game’s combo systems and fighting mechanics have about as much depth and nuance as Hayden Christensen’s acting. There is some bizarre joy to be derived from seeing Princess Leia literally punch Darth Vader to death, but unless you really enjoy watching Boba Fett get into awkward fist fights with a Storm Trooper, there’s no reason to inflict Masters of Teras Kasi’s unique brand of self-flagellation upon yourself.
Shadow the Hedgehog
The idea: Creatively bankrupt game company develops way to steal money from 10-13 year old wannabe tough guys.
Sega’s made a lot of bad games ever since the Dreamcast died, but no other game epitomizes Sega’s fall from grace better than Shadow the Hedgehog, the company’s incredibly patronizing attempt at turning their talking animal mascot franchise into something more “mature.” You may be asking, how do you take something as fun and colorful as Sonic and make it into a dark and gritty revenge story that will appeal to today’s discerning, jaded ‘tweens? Well, Sega has answered your question, and it’s every bit as insipid and embarrassing as you’d expect.
Shadow the Hedgehog is basically Sonic’s emo, deviantart-looking doppleganger who was designed by a bunch of marketing execs to tap into their idea of what lame kids think is cool. He embodies everything that is wrong with modern character design, and despite being a Simpsons-esque parody of what a terrible videogame character is supposed to look and act like, apparently he was popular enough to get his own game.
Unsurprisingly, when you design an entire game around a terrible character, the end result ends up being just as terrible. Shadow’s game plays like your average (terrible) Sonic 3D platformer, with all the usual overly loose controls and sloppy level designs you’d expect, except with one main difference: because he’s so obviously bad-ass and full of teenage angst, Shadow can use guns to fight his enemies. I don’t know why you would, since the basic jumping attack works fine in almost every situation, but hey, if you want to awkwardly shoot at enemies instead with a control scheme and a camera system that obviously weren’t designed to facilitate gun-based combat, well, now you can.
The best thing I can say about Shadow the Hedgehog is that it’s not the worse Sonic game ever made, (that dubious title belongs to the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog reboot,) but that’s sort of like saying getting herpes is preferable to getting AIDS.
The idea: Let’s make a game where you don’t have to deal with the hassle of actually playing a game.
I’m hesitant to list Pokemon Channel on here, because I’m not really sure if it actually qualifies as a game or not. It’s basically a full priced, Pokemon screensaver for your Gamecube. Pressing the power button to turn it on is basically the extent of its interactivity.
There’s been some bizarre concepts for Pokemon games before: Pokemon Snap made taking pictures of Pokemon into a surprisingly fun rail-shooter, and Hey You! Pikachu was, at the very least, a decent way to keep any younger relatives or siblings you may have had out of your hair for an afternoon. Pokemon Channel is none of these things: it’s not fun, and it’s complete and utter lack of interactivity means even the most easily entertained of grade schoolers will likely tire of it after fifteen minutes.
You see, while even the most esoteric of Pokemon spin-offs have had some sort of vague goal or purpose, there’s no real point to Pokemon Channel. You can unlock a special Pokemon to download into your GBA at the end, but other than that, you don’t do much other than simply sit there and watch Pikachu watch other Pokemon on TV (how meta.) Despite being released as a fully priced Gamecube game, Pokemon Channel isn’t all that different than say, a DVD of the Pokemon tv show, in that you’ll spend more time watching it than playing it, and it has about as much interactivity as the set-up menu on that DVD. Nintendo’s vetting process for deciding what games get published by them and what gets canned is infamously harsh, but apparently somebody in Kyoto was asleep at their desk when Pokemon Channel came through the office.