By request: Worst game played to completion

By request of dtsund

Well, now, that’s a heck of a question. I have played a lot of games to completion — a lot — and a lot of them have been lousy. But the worst? The absolute crappiest of them all? Whew. I’ve been racking my brains over this question for almost a year and I’m still not sure.

Here’s a thought: Let’s vote. I’ll list some nominees. You make the final call.


Killzone: Shadowfall

The crazy thing about this game is that I hated it most of the way through, but the final level? The final level is so good. It’s so different from the rest of the game, so not-loud, not-stupid, not-arbitrary — a tense stealth mission filled with quiet purpose.

Good thing I don’t have the memory of a goldfish, huh?

Shadowfall is an infuriating game, because it can’t decide what kind of shooter it wants to be from one mission to the next. Seriously, every single level has a different feel to it. Here’s one like Far Cry! Here’s one like Halo! Here’s one like Half-Life 2! Here’s one like the endless mob swarms of Call of Duty! There are signs of competence all over the game. It could have been really good, but Shadowfall never takes the time to let a concept ripen. It never explores a mechanic, spastically jumping to the next instead. And half the time those new gimmicks are so ill-conceived or amateurishly executed that they bring the game grinding to a halt.



Actually, Battletoads is infuriating in the same way as Shadowfall. Rare just couldn’t settle on making a consistent game and instead treat Battletoads like a stage mechanic fun-pack. And the gimmicks aren’t executed universally well or even somewhat consistently. Anything resembling platforming is just the worst thanks to the floppy animations and enormous appendages of the stupid toads — those hit boxes and edge detection, oh geez. It’s arbitrary, it’s difficult, it often requires precision memorization yet offers extremely limited continues… Man. Battletoads is just not good. Great pause theme, though.



Unlike the other games, which are extremely polished and simply full of inept design choices, Karnov for NES was one of the least polished games I’ve ever played. And yet I slogged through to the end, much to the amazement of the friend I’d borrowed it from. He’d owned it for ages and couldn’t make progress beyond the second stage or so. My feat didn’t earn his respect or anything. He just thought I was some sort of freak.

I have a hard time remembering exactly what made Karnov so terrible besides unclear level goals, inconsistent mechanics, a weird item selection system that kind of worked in real-time and made picking inventory items needlessly difficult, sloppy collision detection, terrible graphics and music, crummy level design, opaque rules, um… yeah.



No, I’m just kidding. Calm down.


Haunted Castle

I guess this one doesn’t quite count because I didn’t actually beat the game. I got to the very end and ran out of virtual “quarters,” game over. But it’s really kind of impressive how terrible a game based on Castlevania can be! It does the same things Castlevania did, except it does them more ineptly and with less respect for the player. Stiff controls, cheap level designs and enemy placements, totally weird sequences that radically change the game out of nowhere… Truly a disgrace of an arcade machine.



According to Metacritic, the lowest score I’ve ever given any video game has been a 30/100. You see, I have a tendency to abuse my position of authority to avoid having to play the utter stinkers. But Sprung happened when I was newly formed in this world of games journalism… and also the only one at 1UP willing to give Nintendo DS the time of day in that dark pre-kite era. But it’s not that Sprung was forced upon me; I willingly offered to play it. What a mistake.

So, the idea behind Sprung, I guess, was to pray that DS would appeal to an older, more mature audience than the Game Boy family. Which it did… eventually. Not at first. Not when Sprung was a fresh wound gaping in our souls. So it was a dating sim without an audience. Cloying written, with a cast of deeply unlikeable characters and proto-bro personalities.

Not to mention unintuitive writing! Well I still remember entering into a conversation with the game’s token Asian women and being prompted to buy her a drink. It turns out I was supposed to buy her a mint julep, because she was from the South… except there hadn’t been enough dialogue spoken for her to offer any tells for her accent. This feels especially ironic now that I actually do live in the South, close to my wife’s Vietnamese cousins, who grew up in Wilmington and have the thickest Southern accents I’ve ever heard in my life. Basically I’m saying Sprung is a miserable imitation of life and should go drown in a tub of mint juleps.


I’m going to be playing a lot of Game Boy games in the near future. I bet some of them are going to be absolutely hideous.

Well, there we have it. Those are the picks that come to mind. Now, you tell me: What is the worst game I’ve ever played to completion?

18 thoughts on “By request: Worst game played to completion

  1. I remember Sprung having a handful of legitimately funny lines. But I also remember it consisting largely of choosing random dialogue options without any hint of what will work and what will lead to Erica peeing herself and you as well.

    And I remember one gallery item being impossible to unlock for some reason.

  2. Wow! Haunted Castle?! That game is infruriatingly hard, in such a drastic & cheap way compared to the good castlevanias. But I gotta say that it has some nice tunes.

  3. That’s a hard one. I generally don’t play bad games to completion. Hmmm, if I go way back Alex Kidd in Hi Tech World. It’s not originally an Alex Kidd game and it is just bad. I was stuck for months because to get key item you have to pray in front of a shrine 100 times. Im100 percented Donkey Kong 64, but that isn’t that bad considering. Oh I remember. One summer my friend with a Nintnendo made the unfortunate choice of getting Predator on NES. I persevered through that game, memorizing the patterns and beat it. It’s a bad game. But putting the effort in to beat it I have more respect for it than most would.

  4. Peeing… herself? Did I hear that right? There’s something you don’t see too often in a video game…

    I usually pull out of bad video games before I finish them. Hell, I don’t have the patience or attention span to finish MOST video games, regardless of quality. But the worst video game I ever played to the end was likely Capcom’s dreadful NES port of 1942. You know, the game that mocks you with that shrill military dirge for thirty-two mind-numbing stages. I was much more persistent (and stupid) back in those days, I guess. I’ve also beaten a few games that are considered wretched by everyone but me, like Milon’s Secret Castle. I must have developed an immunity, I dunno.

    Speaking of Hudson Soft, I also beat the crappy NES version of Bomberman and its Xbox 360 counterpart, Act Zero, the one with the grimdark art direction. WHY I felt the need to do this, I don’t know, but I’ve got the achievement as proof. Not to mention an ugly stain on my career as a gamer.

  5. I’ve been playing a lot of old GameBoy games lately and I’m pretty sure “TBD” is the correct answer here. Looking at your GBW database it seems Castlevania: The Adventure soon will be on your “to play” list. It’s at least as bad as Haunted Castle and I pity you for having to play through even worse games in the future.

  6. Yeah, lots of ill-advised design decisions on display here, but in the end I’m gonna have to go with Sprung, which looks godawful in general as *well* as badly designed.

  7. All right, well… I’m gonna have to go with Killzone, because it strikes me as a depressing paint-by-numbers shooter that slavishly follows all the industry trends I hate. The fact that it’s poorly made is just icing on the crap cake.

  8. That’s a tough one—I’m pretty unforgiving with bad games. Part of me would probably answer Enchanted Arms … but to be honest, I liked that game. It might be the most critically reviled game I’ve finished, though. (Remember Cameron Lewis’ famous Games Radar non-review review? Memories!)

  9. It is hard to say which game is “worst” because unless you have a sincere interest in the game to begin with, you can’t really dislike it. I don’t care about games like Killzone or Sprung. I love the “idea” of games like Karnov and Haunted Castle, but their execution was terrible in those cases. I tried to give Battletoads a chance in the 90’s on emulators, but I could never see why anyone would want to subject themselves to those controls and glitchy coding elements.

    I guess I would vote for Battletoads. :/

  10. Super Metroid ha ha ha ha hurk. I think a more interesting question is what’s the worst game you played to completion that was otherwise a critical or commercial darling? The Sprung sounds like untread ground, though.

  11. I’m gonna defend Battletoads. You’re right that each level has a new gimmick, but I actually think they are executed much better than you’re giving them credit for.

    Yes, they are brutally hard, yes, the hit detection can be a little touchy. But there is also a lot of really solid design, and tons of creativity. The snake level is a brilliant concept, that could totally work as it’s own game. It also builds pretty nicely, from a gimme first section that teaches you the ropes, to a brutal fourth section that forces you to use everything you learned. The much maligned turbo tunnel does the same thing: starts out simple, teaches you the ropes, and then gradually raises the stakes, demanding more and more of your skills.

    Of course Battletoads isn’t a perfectly fair game, it’s constantly surprising you and sometimes throws some cheap shots. But it does have warps to help you quickly get back to where you left off, should you lose all your continues. It has other bad design decisions (poorly designed multiplayer,) but the overall level of high quality design and creativity outweight these, IMO.

    Honestly I think Battletoads is one of the better NES games. When it comes to very difficult games, you spend a lot of your time practicing levels over and over. Few games are as fun to do this with as Battletoads, because every level is different. It’s a very fun game to master.

  12. Oh, uh, I haven’t played any of those except Xenogears and a bit of Karnov and Battletoads, and none of those were that bad. Out of what i know about them, Sprung is probably the worst!

    I’d put Yoshi’s Island DS beneath all of those though. What a miserable heartless creation that thing was.

  13. I’m a long-time Kongregate-r and before that a habitual Newgrounds gatekeeper, by which I mean I’ve played some real real dross in the form of Flash gaming. But those are so forgettable I probably don’t remember the real worst.

    Of the commercial games I can remember, I have finished Bible Adventures, but the one that sticks out is Mega Man X: Command Mission. I will always remember the claustrophic, boring low-res decor, the awful story, but it really came down to uninvolving mechanics. I played it with a friend, swapping the controller forward and back, and we had a long-established rule to pass the controller when we were giving up on a challenge or had just died too many times. Not in Command Mission. Command Mission started to take on this pattern where we’d just throw up our hands and let the controller fall to our laps in signal of defeat. And I think it’s important to note that it was never HARD? Easy games tend towards boring, Hard games towards irritating, it almost seems impossible that Capcom developed an irritating easy game, but they did. By god they did it!

    We had played X7 just before that. What a horrible night to have a series you’re trying to complete.

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