Sometimes, despite a developer’s best intentions, a project just doesn’t come together. At other times, an overabundance of ambition or a faulty design document mean that a game is essentially doomed before it even hears the starting pistol. In some ways, these games are worthy of celebration; they’re cautionary tales that show other developers what not to do. Despite this, mistakes keep being made, leaving us with some serious dreck. Here, in no particular order, are the 25 worst video games of all time. Bear in mind we’re not talking about games that are merely mediocre or boring; these games are certified turkeys.
1. Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing
Sergey Titov’s name is, for many gamers, mud, which is a shame; in interviews, he displays a rare self-awareness and understanding of his legacy. However, that legacy includes Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, a borderline unplayable mess of a “racing” game in which the AI doesn’t work as it should, the mission objectives are non-existent, and the gameplay is rudimentary at the very best.
2. Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties
Oh, good gracious. If you’ve “played” Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties, we have nothing but sympathy for you. It’s a barely-interactive erotic visual novel in which most of the scenes are just poor-quality static images. The narrative is completely nonsensical, descending into utterly amateurish madness before the first half is even over. In many ways, this really is a “so bad it’s good” proposition.
3. Ride to Hell: Retribution
Ride to Hell: Retribution proved that terrible games were still alive and well in the seventh console generation. During its design process, this game was presumably supposed to be an open-world affair, but we’re assuming that when this ambition proved beyond the devs’ reach, the project was scaled back dramatically. Terrible combat, awful animations, and repetitive gameplay make this one to avoid.
4. Bubsy 3D
The developers of Bubsy 3D have admitted that the game is a failure, and they’re absolutely right. This broken, buggy mess is horrible to control and eye strain-inducing to look at. Bubsy himself is immensely irritating, and the levels consist merely of a series of flat geometric shapes rather than anything resembling real environments. A total cat’s dinner through and through.
5. Duke Nukem Forever
We’re almost hesitant to include Duke Nukem Forever on this list; it is, after all, a just-about-playable first-person shooter. The thing is, though, it was supposed to be so much more than that. Forever began development shortly after Duke Nukem 3D, so it had an extremely long time to gestate. Despite this, the finished game still somehow ended up feeling rushed.
The reaction 2015’s murder simulator Hatred wants to provoke is right there in the title, but unfortunately, in order for it to do that, it would have needed to be competently made. As it stands, Hatred is barely functional. It plays horribly, making its supposedly controversial violent fantasies feel inconsequential and boring. Do yourself a favour and give this one a miss.
7. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
There are so many terrible 3D Sonic games to choose from that it’s hard to limit our list to just one. However, we’re going to do just that, and the game we’ve chosen is 2006’s execrable Sonic the Hedgehog. The story is hateful nonsense, par for the course for Sonic Team, but the stiff, awkward gameplay and awful controls are absolutely unforgivable.
8. Ninjabread Man
The term “low-effort” is a pretty harsh one; even the worst games have usually had a lot of time poured into them. Not so with Ninjabread Man, which is suspiciously identical to games like Anubis II and Myth Makers: Trixie in Toyland. All of these games are awful, and Ninjabread Man really takes the cake (or the ninjabread) thanks to its unresponsive controls and massively uninspired level design.
9. Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
This game is partly on the list thanks to the first game’s controversy, which saw GameSpot reviewer Jeff Gerstmann fired under suspicious circumstances. The sequel is more of the same boring, hackneyed rubbish, with the two completely unlikeable main characters thrust into yet another tedious series of third-person corridor shooter arenas. Yawn and Lynch, more like.
10. The War Z
Oh, dear. Sergey Titov’s name pops up on this list once again. Titov has explained in interviews exactly what went wrong with The War Z, but frankly, it doesn’t really matter; the end product is what people will remember, and this game is simply a cheap rip-off of DayZ, only without half of the features or any of the interesting emergent gameplay mechanics.
11. The Legend of Zelda (CD-i games)
There were three The Legend of Zelda games released for the Philips CD-i, a disc-based console that was billed as a home entertainment centre. All three of them were, of course, unplayable, so we’re including them all here. The two side-scrollers started off with a noble intention to innovate, but the laughable cutscenes and terrible perspective put paid to that. The less said about the top-down adventure, the better.
Another obvious entry for this list, John Romero’s Daikatana is more famous for the story behind its development than for the game itself. Romero’s project kept growing in budget and development time until it became completely untenable, and what was left at the end of that debacle was an overly difficult, frustrating, and repetitive first-person shooter.
13. Superman 64
There are two kinds of stages in Superman 64: outdoor flying stages, where you must fly through a series of rings, and indoor maze levels. The game starts with Lex Luthor telling Superman to solve his maze, but the text is overlaid on a ring level. That’s about as good as this game gets; it’s awkward, annoying to control, and laughably visually inferior when compared to other N64 games.
14. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Famously, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial sold so poorly that it forced publisher Atari to dump a bunch of the Atari cartridges for the game in a landfill. If you play it now (and we’re not going to tell you how so that you can save your mental health), you’ll see why. This is a poorly-explained hodgepodge of terrible ideas, none of which really seem to relate to the iconic Spielberg movie.
15. Custer’s Revenge
We’re travelling back to the days of the Atari 2600 again so that we can tell you about this game. Released as one of the Atari’s “erotic” games, Custer’s Revenge is a disgusting endorsement of sexual violence, and an awful game besides. You play as General Custer, and your goal is to violate a Native American woman who’s been tied up. We don’t often moralise about games, but this is just vile.
16. Dungeon Keeper
The original Dungeon Keeper is a certified classic. It tasks you with building a dungeon and keeping your minions happy, tending to the traps and structures within your creation. This mobile update, however, exhibits all of publisher EA’s worst tendencies. It’s stuffed to the gills with exploitative microtransactions and money-making exercises, making it borderline unplayable unless you shell out real cash.
17. No Man’s Sky
Now, it might not be fair to list No Man’s Sky here, given how many updates it’s received. There’s still a debate regarding whether a game should need a full year or two before it’s playable, but nevertheless, this listing reflects the original launch state of the game. There was, to put it simply, no content and no gameplay here. It was a repetitive, boring slog that subsequent updates have improved massively.
18. eFootball 2022
At time of writing, eFootball 2022 is no longer the worst-reviewed game on Steam, which might sound like damning with faint praise, but there were a good few months when it could claim that accolade. Konami has gathered a reputation for not putting any effort in whatsoever, and it’s hard to look at eFootball 2022’s threadbare mode selection and clunky gameplay and not draw the same conclusion.
“Peter Molyneux lies” has become something of a tired trope, but it’s hard to dispute that it’s true. Godus represents the apex of Molyneux’s worst excesses; he promised the earth to the winner of his Curiosity ARG and didn’t deliver, further tanking his reputation. That doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the quality of Godus as a game, but what does is its low quality and undeniable feeling of familiarity in the mobile market.
20. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition
The original PS2-era Grand Theft Auto games are all unassailable classics, so it’s hard to imagine how Rockstar managed to mess this release up quite as thoroughly as it did. All three games were released in a borderline-unplayable state, with constant bugs and glitches interrupting the action. The visuals, too, received an unwelcome makeover, smoothing out the rough-and-ready graphics to an unacceptable degree.
21. Hotel Mario
Another terrible CD-i game, Hotel Mario is marginally less atrocious than the Zelda games we mentioned earlier, but it’s still not very good. The animated cutscenes are as laughably awful as ever, and the gameplay revolves around rote, tedious door-opening puzzles that never coalesce or feel compelling. Watch the cutscenes on YouTube and skip the game.
22. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
What are you actually supposed to do in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The jury’s still out on that one, but one unequivocal decision that seems to have been made is that this game is garbage. It’s hard to argue with that; the visuals, which are mediocre, are the best thing about this confusing, frustrating pile of rubbish. It’s like if Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest had been designed by people with no game development experience.
23. Balan Wonderworld
We’re sorry, Yuji Naka, but it might be time to take a long break and think about what you’re doing. While it might be true that you’re one of the luminaries responsible for Sonic the Hedgehog, there’s just no excuse for the fascinating awfulness of Balan Wonderworld. In 2021, there was just no reason to limit player controls to a single button, and the gameplay concepts don’t even feel like they’re designed around that restriction.
24. Cyberpunk 2077
The PC version of Cyberpunk 2077 is a pretty solid, if unacceptably glitchy, RPG. However, that doesn’t explain the PS4 and Xbox One console versions, which, quite frankly, shouldn’t exist. The performance on both consoles is atrocious, and there were so many game-breaking bugs on these platforms that it was genuinely hard for many players to progress through the story.
25. Action 52
We’re ending our list with a legendarily terrible game. Released for the NES back in 1991, this unlicensed game (of which there were a surprising amount) featured a wallet-tempting 52 games in a single package. What the marketing didn’t tell you, however, is that every single one of the games was awful, with terrible game design and head-scratchingly bad visuals.