The Elements Of A Great Bad Game

by Dan Ryckert on Jul 23, 2013 at 01:09 PM

After recording over 200 episodes of Replay and around 150 episodes of Test Chamber, us Game Informer editors have run into our share of terrible games. Many bad games are fail to impress even in terms of their inadequacy, but other stinkers can wind up being memorable and hilarious experiences. What makes a bad game worth playing (or at least witnessing and mocking)? Let’s take a look at the building blocks.

A ridiculous story

I remember being sold on 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand from the moment it was announced. As soon as I heard “50 Cent travels to the Middle East to retrieve his diamond-encrusted skull from terrorists,” I knew I was in for a good time. Sure enough, it’s a consistently entertaining experience thanks to how downright ridiculous it is. For more along these lines, check out our Replay of Rising Zan: Samurai Gunman.

Wonky physics and glitches

Some of the most “out of left field” laughs come in the form of unexpected graphical freakouts... Odd animation loops, weird clipping issues, and insane ragdoll effects are staples of bad games, and can often lead to funny results. Few games featured these laughs more than Jurassic Park: Trespasser, and you can see them in all their glory here.

Hilariously broken gameplay

One of the most obviously important elements of a great game is that it plays well, so the opposite holds true with terrible games. When a game fails to function on a core level, it’s easy to stare in wonder and laugh at how it ever got released. We’ve had plenty of fun with this kind of game on Replay, from the broken platforming of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero to the all-compassing awfulness of Superman 64.

A flair for the dramatic

High-budget, triple-A titles frequently have trouble conveying drama, and bad titles are predictably way worse. Low budgets, hacky writing, and shoddy voice acting can converge to create some great moments, such as the cry of despair when Raz Karcy huddles over Pipo’s lifeless body in the “classic” Overblood.

Bad romance

Sex scenes in films can often be awkward, and that’s with flesh-and-blood stars. When you add polygons to the mix, the odds of weirdness go way up. Replay fans have seen the stilted romance of Cyberia, and fans of more recent terrible games should know of Ride To Hell’s sexy (read: terrible) reputation by now.

Better with friends

Game Informer’s history of hating Mario Party is officially recognized by Nintendo, as indicated by the 13 year-old certificate that proudly hangs in our office. The franchise lacks any real skill, with YouTube videos demonstrating how you can win by doing literally nothing. That said, several members of our staff (myself included) have fond memories of stupid multiplayer nights with Nintendo 64 controllers in hand. When a friend loses because of poor minigame design or some control foible, it’s always good for some mocking.

Any bad game is more fun with friends on the couch. Hell, Ben Hanson and I laughed for a good half hour while watching Tim Turi use the wonky physics in Ouya’s The Amazing Frog to make a frog simulate sex with a boombox. The games on this list are all terrible for different reasons, but make sure you’ve got company if you want to get maximum enjoyment out of your awful games.