10 bad games you should play

Die Hard Kusoge

The Masochist’s Cookbook

I’ve been writing up kusoge games on a near-weekly basis for two years now. I’m up to 65 articles, if my count is right. That’s a lot of bad. But you know what? Sometimes I enjoy it. I have some good memories of the bad games I’ve been sharing with you.

Kusoge is a portmanteau of the Japanese word “kuso,” meaning crap, and “gēmu,” for game. Crap game. However, the term “kusoge” has a certain degree of affection behind it, sort of like “Eurojank.” The game may be poorly made, it might be excruciating to play, but there’s something that makes it worthwhile. Maybe it’s broken in a hilarious way. Perhaps you can tell that the developer really tried their best in poor circumstances. Or maybe the design is such a trainwreck that you can’t look away. Whatever the reason, kusoge doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a waste of time.

I also believe that experiencing the worst will make you appreciate the best even more. You inoculate yourself against bad design and develop a tolerance for inconveniences. I’ve heard people say they just don’t have the time to play something that they don’t enjoy, but trust me when I say you’ll enjoy steak a lot more after you’ve spent some time chewing on a bouillon cube.

Don’t know where to begin? Here’s an open buffet of games carefully curated from my career of kusoge.

Please don't look at me like that
Screenshot by Destructoid

Harvester (1996, DOS)

Oh, gosh. Harvester is a game that will stick with you for a while. In fact, I think it might have burrowed itself so deeply into my brain that you could describe it as “trauma.” I think it fucked me up a little.

DigiFX Interactive’s 1996 adventure, Harvester is one of the most disturbingly surreal games I’ve ever player. It mixes gruesome horror, dark humor, and offensive tastelessness into an absolutely nauseating kusoge. Despite the fact that it has gained a cult following for its surprisingly deep themes and unapologetic brazenness, it’s not all that much fun to play. However, it is nearly impossible to tear yourself away from as it twists and turns in completely unpredictable ways.

It’s the perfect embodiment of kusoge. It’s undeniably awful while simultaneously being jam-packed with unforgettable moments. Just watch out for the offensive parts.

Die Hard NES Gunfight
Screenshot by Destructoid

Die Hard (1991, NES/Famicom)

If you’re into immersive sims, Pack-in-Video’s Die Hard for NES is perhaps a prototypical example of the genre. While it’s completely 2D, Die Hard drops you in Nakatomi Plaza, and leaves it up to you to figure out how to save the hostages and take out Haaaaaans!

While it has a lot of indications of being a cheap attempt to cash in on the license, for whatever reason, the developers of Die Hard went all-out in creating a unique take on the action film. It’s a rather challenging game with unintuitive controls, and a lot of very important information about what you should be doing is left to experimentation and mystery.

It’s a tough game to love, but its experimental approach is worth seeing.

Jurassic Park it's going to hork
Screenshot by Destructoid

Jurassic Park (1993, SNES)

I’ve spent more time than I thought I ever would talking about Jurassic Park on the SNES. As its inclusion here suggests, it’s not a particularly good game. However, it’s clear just from playing it that some on the development team had a real passion for it.

Most notably, the indoor areas are depicted using ray casting, giving a 3D effect similar to Wolfenstein 3D. There’s also completely unnecessary fractals that can be turned on whenever you’re at a computer. While the game doesn’t really relate much to the movie, there are a number of references to the book instead. To top it off, the soundtrack is bizarrely, and almost unfittingly, funky. There are some definite oddities, numerous limitations, and some annoying design, but if you want to play a licensed movie game that actually has some force behind it, Jurassic Park is one to check out.

Smashing Drive King Kong Kusoge
Screenshot by Destructoid

Smashing Drive (2000, Arcade/Gamecube/Xbox/GBA)

Smashing Drive may look like a clone of Crazy Taxi on the surface, but underneath, it’s a lot less interesting. Smashing Drive is more of a straight racing game where you just happen to be driving a taxi cab. And then it just gets more bizarre from there.

Your taxi is more like an armored death cab, and you grab powers along your route like buzzsaws and jet boosters. You drive along the wall and through traffic, trying to slice your time down by taking some strange shortcuts through burning buildings and movie theatres. To top it off, the soundtrack sounds like the local radio station is coming out of an anesthetic fever dream.

Bonus points if you play it on Game Boy Advance, which features some strangely impressive 3D graphics. You lose out on the bizarre soundtrack, though.

Spelunker Kusoge Waterfall
Screenshot by Destructoid

Spelunker (1985, NES/Famicom)

Sometimes considered one of the original kusoge, Spelunker is a bit misunderstood. It’s an extremely unfriendly game that punishes you for seemingly innocuous mistakes, like stepping off the elevator wrong. Put your trust in its design, and see it smashed against the rocks.

However, after you get over the frustratingly steep learning curve, Spelunker reveals itself to be a rather fun and challenging platformer. I think there’s a lot to be said for its core design, as 2009’s Spelunker HD takes the controls, the limitations, and the eccentricities and transplants it into a bigger game with more content. Spelunker is truly one of gaming’s greatest acquired tastes.

I considered Spelunker II for this list, but that one’s a bit stranger. It goes in a much different direction from the first title to the point where they barely seem related. I also wrote that one up as part of my Famicom column, but maybe we’ll fit it in next time around.

Road Rash 64 - Kick kusoge
Screenshot by Destructoid

Road Rash 64 (1996, N64)

I have the appropriate amount of respect for the Road Rash series as a whole, but I’m fond of the sole N64 entry especially. Road Rash 64 takes the series’ concept of motorcycle-mounted combat and absolutely ruins it. Any sort of precision or feeling of an actual race is completely destroyed. Opponents rubber-band like they have separation anxiety, the physics feel like they were designed by someone with amnesia, and the weapons and environments feel like the designers gave up. It’s amazing.

If you go into Road Rash 64 with the right mindset, there isn’t a game out there that’s more hilarious. Bikers launch from their vehicles, you can ramp off of cars, and if you kick someone while under the influence of a 4X multiplier, they will rocket off on a journey to low orbit. The late stage bikes go too fast and the last track in the game is just one long straightaway that ends in a solid wall.

Road Rash 64 may not be the best designed game, but it absolutely knows how to have a good time.

American Idol I did it again Kusoge
Screenshot by Destructoid

American Idol (2003, GBA)

I absolutely hate American Idol and reality TV in general, and I honestly picked up this game out of morbid curiosity. Is it a good game? No. Does it smell like cheap license cash-in? Yes. Is it strangely entertaining? Double yes.

I’ve seen more depth in lockpicking mini-games, as American Idol is a rhythm game that uses two buttons. You follow an icon as it goes around in a circle and press buttons when you’re told to, all while a papercraft doll gyrates on screen, belting the Top 40s of the late ’90s through tinny, compressed audio. Then, when you screw up, your singer starts warbling like their vocal cords just turned into taffy. It’s great!

Muscle March Start of Run
Screenshot by Destructoid

Muscle March (2009, Wii)

Muscle March definitely isn’t a good game. I’m not even sure being “good” was a goal for the team. Know, you’re here for the musclebound “people” as they chase off their beloved protein powder. It’s like a playable Katamari Damacy cutscene, and generally lasts about that long, as well.

Unfortunately, it went down with the Wiiware ship. I keep forgetting that. I guess it’s kind of mean that I brought it up on a list of games you should play, but you can’t buy it anywhere. I’m sorry.

Snake's Revenge Kusoge
Screenshot by Destructoid

Snake’s Revenge (1990, NES)

Disowned by Hideo Kojima because he had absolutely nothing to do with it, Snake’s Revenge was Konami’s attempt to follow up on the success of the NES version of Metal Gear that Kojima also didn’t have anything to do with. You’re supposed to hate it.

However, despite being really dorky and not quite as ambitious, Snake’s Revenge really isn’t that bad. The worst parts about it are some extremely stupid side-scrolling sections, but aside from that, it’s a reasonable continuation of the Metal Gear formula. I feel it’s worth playing mostly because Hideo Kojima tried to assassinate it. To be fair, he created Metal Gear 2 as an answer to it, which is much better but… Now that I say that I say that, I feel like I’m picking through Kojima’s trash and eating the scraps.

Super Monkey Daibouken - Fight Scene
Screenshot by Destructoid

Ganso Saiyuuki Super Monkey Daibouken (1986, Famicom)

There really is no redeeming quality to Ganso Saiyuuki Super Monkey Daibouken. From nipples to foot fungus, it’s an abysmal game. This isn’t a case where I’m going to tell you that there’s some neat design buried beneath all the razor blades. It’s actually sometimes referred to in Japan as “kyuukyoku no kusoge” or “ultimate crappy game.”

No. I think you should play Ganso Saiyuuki Super Monkey Daibouken to see how far it is to the bottom of the barrel. Even the most basic parts of the game are cryptic beyond human comprehension, and it fails to function at the basic level that you could describe as a game. The overworld is a slog through a lot of pointless terrain, the combat struggles to even function, and large portions of the game is just filled with empty suffering.

But isn’t that the point of kusoge? Sometimes, it’s like turning down an alleyway and finding yourself face-to-face with a naked clown holding a tuba. Your instinct screams that you should turn and run, but some broken part of your brain locks you in place, wanting to see how things play out.

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About The Author
Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.
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