Usually I like to celebrate the very best of games here, looking at intelligently crafted and inspiring video games. Sometimes, though, you don’t want to indulge yourself with a magnificent meal; sometimes you just want to eat rubbish, enjoying it all the more in the knowledge it’s really, really bad for you.
These games are just like that; really bad games that, on some level, have given me just as much entertainment and fun as any other game.
Number five – Renegade
Long before the scrolling beat-’em-up hit its stride with Final Fight and Streets of Rage, Taito’s Renegade stumbled in. I got this game for the Master System, and even at that tender age I knew it was something pretty special. Bashing enemies in the guts and throwing them into each other is as fun now as it was then, but the real enjoyment comes from sprinting at enemies and magically sliding across the floor with your fist outstretched. Kicking riders off their motorbikes in the chase level proves just as satisfying as you’re thinking, but apart from that every single level follows the same formula – run run punch. Punch punch kick. Kick punch “you ain’t tough enough for me”. Run run punch.
I spent quite a few hours on Renegade in my youth but to this day I only have one abiding memory of it: that of Mr K., all slicked-back hair and attitude, chewing wildly whilst the subtitle proclaims “you ain’t tough enough for me.” That and pinging thugs onto subway tracks.
Number four – Pinball Graffiti
Pinball games are all completely appalling, with perhaps two exceptions. Pinball Graffiti is not one of them. Bad table design forces you to alternate between hitting ridiculously easy shots and once-in-a-lifetime chancers to earn any points at all, and you’ll often find yourself doing the same shots for twenty or thirty minutes at a time on each of the game’s few tables.
What makes Pinball Graffiti so uniquely terrible is its story mode, where you play a poor slob setting out into the world to become… the world’s greatest pinball wizard! It’s the dream of every poor inner city kid, I’m sure. To achieve this goal, you of course need to practise religiously and develop unity with your steel ball, but that shouldn’t stop you, say, reading magazines, talking to people in bars and, best of all, playing basketball for money. Perhaps they didn’t think the pinball was bad enough on its own. I can assure them it was.
Number three – Sega Worldwide Soccer 2000 Euro Edition
I was a big, big fan of the football games on the Saturn – I spent many hours winning cups and trophies of all kinds, enjoying the ridiculous balloon physics and hotspots generously placed around the pitch. They were both pretty big successes too, and so a Dreamcast sequel seemed like the best thing ever.
Unfortunately the game itself is laughably bad. Virtua Striker 2000 is dire too, but looks like Pro Evolution 4 compared to this. After patiently sitting through a good two or three minutes of loading screens you then have to endure an even worse game of football, in which the ball flies from player to player and end to end like a particularly racy hornet. There’s no solidity to the players, the ball or the passing, and it’s possible to dribble around players without much opposition whatsoever.
There are worse football games than this one – World Cup Italia ’90 and UEFA Striker were both dire – but SWWS 2000 EE earns its place on this list for two reasons.
1. Ludicrous goals. No matter where the ball lands, you’ve got a pretty good chance of scoring. I cannot tell you how many halfway line bicycle kicks I have conceded, or how many opportunist volleys have sailed past my lumbering oaf of a goalkeeper, and many of them have been scored by reason number two.
2. Chewtang. My brother’s favourite (fictitious, I gather) player, Chewtang has scored more goals past me than any other player ever. If he were real, PelÃ© would be a nobody. Nothing makes losing more painful than the cry of “CHEWTANG” echoing around the room.
Number two – Gauntlet Legends
I was a big fan of the original Gauntlet – “Red Wizard is about to die!” and all that – but the modern day milking of its once-good name is absolutely shameful. Worst of all is the travesty that is Gauntlet Legends on the Dreamcast; with shoddy graphics, pathetic sounds and the most tedious gameplay I can imagine, it’s a genuinely awful game.
In a way I consider Gauntlet Legends a precursor to many modern-day MMORPGs – you select a class of character and improve your abilities, as a rule, by killing things. Lots of things. The same things over and over and over. Then, when you finally get to an interesting enemy, you find out the fifteen levels you gained in the past hour aren’t anywhere near enough, and you’ll have to repeat the same levels to stand any chance.
You can attack enemies if you want, but you can also just walk into them and let the game attack for you – it’s weaker, but at least it saves you grinding down the cartilage in your fingers to dust. Turbo attacks and magic are ridiculously poor, but the “team combo attacks”, where two players combine their skills, have to be seen to be believed, in the worst possible way.
Yet, for all its flaws, it’s still stupidly entertaining to hammer buttons with a friend for an hour or two. There’s a steady flow of enemies to batter and enough laughable graphics, FMV and sampled speech to satisfy anyone’s tastes. Good old Midway.
Number one – San Francisco Rush 2049
As far as futuristic racing games go this is bottom of the pile. F-Zero and WipeOut have the market cornered as far as anti-gravity ships go, but SF2049 has a cunning trick up its sleeve – put wings on cars! Hit a ramp at high speed in the race and your car sprouts wings that let you drift safely to the track below. It’s totally ridiculous and deserves no place in racing.
Thank goodness, then, for Stunt Mode. Here you drive your car on specially-designed stunt tracks with half pipes, ramps and more, and clever use of the wings allows you to execute skilful tricks such as Endos, Flips and Wheelies. That’s the theory, anyway – in practice it’s much, much more satisfying to hit ramps at full speed, waggle the stick and see what happens. It makes the Tony Hawk games look like pinpoint military strategy.
It’s not quite as dire as Gauntlet Legends, but it earns its place above it for the ability to use a first-person view in Stunt Mode. All I can say is: don’t do that after eating.
They’re certainly not the kinds of games I usually play, let alone write about, but the more I thought about them, the more I realised how much fun I’d had playing them, and how much laughter and enjoyment they’d given me.
So, dear reader, isn’t the question this: are they really bad games after all? Yes, yes they are. But they’re good bad games.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? What games do you play in spite of – or because – their poor quality?
This post is part of the ProBlogger “Top 5” Group Writing Project. Go check out the entries and enjoy them!