duke nukem forever

Last week was all preachy and glum, so I’ve chosen to revert back to a more easily digestible Top 5. And what’s more cheerful than laughing at all the horrendous things the industry has tried to pass off as something we’d actually want to buy?

At first I thought of doing the Top 5 worst games, but that’s boring and overdone. So why not just do everything awful? It’s a gaming Hall of Shame, so let’s take a look at the Top 5 worst things ever.

Worst Console: Nintendo Virtual Boy

This is actually a pretty hotly contested slot. There have been some really crappy consoles over the years, but the Virtual Boy took the top spot as it’s the only one that manages to inflict not just emotional, but physical pain as well.

If you’ve never clapped eyes on this monstrosity, just take a look at how back-breakingly uncomfortable this thing is.

I think no one ever actually tried playing this for more than five minutes, because if they had they’d realise sitting hunched over like that was about as comfortable as a coffee enema.

In addition to curving your spine irreparably for a lifetime of Quasi Modo swagger, you also gave a hearty middle finger to your eyesight. Because after you managed to pretzel yourself into the appropriate gaming position, you were greeted with this:

virtual boy tennis

Honestly, just looking at the picture makes my eyes itch.

Worst Movie: Max Payne

Now I know what you’re all thinking. Come on, Max Payne wasn’t that bad. Hell, Uwe Boll makes three movies a year that are worse than Max Payne. You’d be right, but you’d also be very wrong.

When Uwe Boll pinches off a turd like House of the Dead, we all knew it was going to be bad. It’s a bad game, it’s a shallow premise and it’s being made by possibly the worst director of all time. It skips a cinema release entirely and I doubt even the actors’ families watch it.

Max Payne was different – it was a damned good game with a damned good story and they cast a frikken’ multiple-Oscar nominee as the protagonist. Then they gutted all that silly “substance” and “plot” that was getting in the way of Wahlberg shooting people.

Wahlberg has proven himself capable of much more than crap like this.

Wahlberg has proven himself capable of much more than crap like this.

Max Payne makes the list because it could have been so much better.

Worst Video Game Cover: Phalanx and Bust-A-Move

This is a somewhat less conventional category, but when you see these covers you’ll understand why it needed to be made. First up, we have this gem:

phalanx

There’s a bit of inconsistency here – the description of the game as a “hyper-speed shoot-out in space” and the extra from The Hills Have Eyes playing a decidedly non-spacelike banjo.

I have absolutely no explanation for this. I don’t even have so much as a theory. If any of  you can explain the alcoholic axe-murderer with an obscure musical instrument being featured on the cover of a space-shooter, please share it in the comments.

Next up we move from vaguely unsettling to pants-shitting terror, with the decidedly non-threatening sounding “Bust-a-Move”:

bust a move

This is a game where you pop colourful bubbles. Seriously. It’s like something PopCap would make; your mother would probably play it on her iPhone. So to best convey this, Acclaim decided to go with someone who looks like they’re on Day 6 of their live-in tour of Guantanamo Bay. Astute readers may have noticed his eyes have been propped open by matches, just in case any of the kids buying this were planning on sleeping ever again.

I just want to be in on that meeting when the artwork came back, and someone looked at these horrified, tormented men trapped inside bubble prisons and said, “Yup, looks good!”

I’m opening this one up to reader theories as well, because seriously, what the hell?

Worst Company: Activision

I know, I know, this isn’t all that original of an answer. Activision is definitely the company to hate right now, but rightly so. It’s not that they make bad games, and as much as they’re demonised by the public I doubt they’re anywhere near the supremely evil corporation they’re made out to be either.

They have, however, sucked the passion out of the industry. At the risk of sounding like some kind of hipster, Activision to me represent the new-age of gaming. Sometime in the last ten years, while our backs were turned, gaming became big, big business. Activision is focused on profit margins and nothing else, and that’s what makes them so successful.

Franchises like Guitar Hero and Call of Duty are bled dry with annual releases, until the golden goose finally stops laying and is promptly killed and discarded. To Activision’s credit, this is a strategy that they’re open about.

The first 3 Google Image categories for CEO Bobby Kotick are "Evil", "Horns" and "Money". Go figure.

The first 3 Google Image categories for CEO Bobby Kotick are “Evil”, “Horns” and “Money”. Go figure.

And I don’t blame them. At the end of the day, businesses are all about making money, and this is something Activision does very, very well. They acquire developers and franchises, milk them dry, and then move onto the next one. The head of one of the CoD developers, Treyarch, was asked in an interview what game he’d like to work on next. His response? “That’s not up to me.”

I might see the merit of this kind of business, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. This is a company that’s lost touch with what gaming is (or was) about, and that’s why they’ve made my list.

Worst Game: Big Rigs Over the Road Racing

People pretend this is a contentious topic, but it’s just not. Sure Superman 64 was a pile of crap, but you could at least have some semblance of fun in that game.

Big Rigs is hands down the worst piece of software ever to masquerade as a game, and I know this because I’ve played it.

See that checkpoint structure? You can drive right through that. And through those houses. And over that cliff.

See that checkpoint structure? You can drive right through that. And through those houses. And over that cliff.

Every single thing in this game is inconsequential. It’s a “race”, but there’s no winner. There aren’t lap times or scores to beat, you can drive backwards, forwards, or off the map entirely. It really doesn’t matter at all. Your “opponents” don’t leave the start line.

You don’t go any slower up hills, it’s impossible to crash into anything because you can go through everything – you can climb sheer cliff faces like you’re cruising down Route 66 on a Sunday. Physics is a word the developers didn’t manage to look up while spending most of their work days huffing paint thinner.

Calling it bugged wouldn’t really do it justice; incomplete is closer but not quite enough. It’s just not really a game at all, which makes it the worst because it actually claims to be.