Making a good video game is incredibly difficult. It requires loads of talent, creativity, hard work and time. In contrast, making a bad video game is rather easy. Hand the task off to an intern or, barring that, a hyper 6-year-old, then kick back, drink a half rack of Hamm’s and watch Gossip Girl.
Selling that bad video game, on the other hand, is tough. But it’s nothing a fat endorsement check to a celebrity won’t cure.
1. Steven Seagal is the Final Option
The title of this game is probably the most accurate phrase ever uttered. No matter what life throws at you, Steven Seagal should only be the Final Option in all circumstances. Seagal’s problem solving method relies exclusively on broken necks and crotch punching, which isn’t appropriate for all of life’s tribulations. After all, leaving a pile of spine-severed Gap employees seems a bit extreme just to return a cable knit sweater.
Back in 1993, video game developer TecMagik announced work on a Steven Seagal video game, touting their project as the first celebrity licensed video game. Plus the game would use the images of live actors as digitized sprites, ala Mortal Kombat, for that extra bit of realism. Strangely enough, their licensed action star doesn’t actually appear in the game besides the title screen. He's played by a look-a-like because TecMagik admitted the resolution of their “real life” graphics was so low you couldn’t tell the difference. In fact, the resolution is so low, they could have had Danny DeVito stand in and you wouldn’t know the difference. Actually, the way Steven looks these days you might not know the difference in real life either.
Despite the lack of his physical presence in the game, Seagal involved himself heavily in the production, shaping the game’s story. And what’s that story? Something about saving a woman’s son by walking through a munitions factory and murdering every lab technician and maintenance worker in your way.
That's right, as Steven Seagal you bring swift, yet merciless, death to civilians and wage slaves who patiently wait for you to judo chop them into oblivion. That company must have the most overworked HR department.
Even though Tecmagik crafted 18 levels of Steven Seagal is The Final Option, the game never saw release. Plenty of people seem to have played the unfinished game. You could blame the game’s failure on the economics of the game industry at the time or over-estimating the draw of the ever-puffying (or-as I call it-“The Puffening”) actor. However, I like to think Tecmagik simply couldn’t release the game because, due to undiluted badassery, once you inserted the cartridge, the game would throat punch your Super Nintendo until it exploded.
2. Dr. Ruth's Game of Good Sex
Slap on your Swatches and Snap Bracelets because we’re going back to 1986, the year Geraldo opened Capone’s vault (and found nothing but moonshine), Tom Cruise taught us all about the need for speed ,and a pushy little German lady kept telling the world how to have sex.
If you owned a Commodore 64, you had the opportunity to play Dr. Ruth's Game of Good Sex—perhaps the closest thing to sex avid Commodore 64 users ever achieved. And how saucy did Dr. Ruth’s game get? How about “multiple choice” saucy? Yep, the game with the provocative title (by 80’s standards) proved nothing more than a sex quiz. More people have learned about sex by taking a trip to the farm.
3. Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City
“Be Like Mike”: it was the mantra for a generation, whether you watched basketball or not. Everyone wanted to be like Michael Jordan. So naturally a video game allowing you to do exactly that must be a no-brainer. And thus EA’s Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City synthesized exactly what it’s like to “be like Mike” by letting you hurl flaming basketballs at zombies.
Any Michael Jordan game could have offered up the ability to smash the glass and hang in the air longer than Baron Harkonnen (Dune reference, you’re welcome). However, the overachievers at EA thought it would make a much more interesting challenge to craft a Michael Jordan game that had very little to do with basketball. Besides murder by basketball, the only basketball-type activity in the game is every now and then a basketball hoop appears and Mike must take a quick break from bludgeoning the undead (or anyone trying to take your picture, really) for a slam dunk.
The combination of a basketball legend with a barely tangentially related to basketball concept made for an offering gamers found easy to refuse. Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City made the Top 10 list of Worst Games in the ever charitable Nintendo Power. Did I forget to mention the zombies have basketballs for heads?
4. Home Improvement
Kids, the most important part of making video games is not the graphics, the game play design or controls. No, all you need for a great game is a licensing deal. And it really doesn’t matter what license you get. Make a Pet Rock game or a 60 Minutes game (Morley Safer and Andy Rooney fight inside a dumpster to the death) or, in this case, Home Improvement. How do you transform a domestic comedy into a fun video game? Have Tim Allen chase dinosaurs with a nail gun. Wait, what? Look kid, it doesn’t have to make sense because making video games is hard and shut up and buy the game. The only one who found anything funny about this version of Home Improvement was Tim Allen, chuckling to himself as he cashed the licensing check.
5. Chuck Norris Kung Fu Superkicks
This game proves that Chuck Norris can’t even take a walk without get hailed by a tickertape parade of blood and broken teeth. Chuck Norris walks toward a distant monastery while incredibly ill-informed thugs try to stand in his way. Said thugs almost spontaneously explode into pink mist. Or at least, they should in a Chuck Norris game. But it turns out Chuck Norris Kung Fu Superkicks is so hard only Chuck Norris could beat it.
The reason for the heightened difficulty was the game actually did something a little revolutionary for the year 1983: it featured fighting combos. Almost a decade before Mortal Kombat, Chuck Norris Kung Fu Superkicks asked gamers to memorize complex joystick warping, button mashing sequences on their Atari 2600. And since Chuck Norris was little more than a loose collection of pixels on the screen, you never knew if you’d landed a combo with success. Of course, none of this matters if you’re Chuck Norris. When Chuck Norris loses in a video game, it’s the game that dies.