Awfully awesome: Games so bad, they’re good

If you play a lot of videogames, then chances are that you play a lot of trashy videogames. Let’s face it: in a market as saturated as this one, the crap-to-gold ratio is very unbalanced, and no matter how discerning your eye may be, some garbage is bound to end up in your disc tray at regular intervals.

Is that always a bad thing, though? Perhaps not, when you look at how some games are able to transcend their own awfulness and become truly enjoyable. Sure, a lot of videogames are actually pretty bad, yet a few are able to combine all their sub-par elements and create something far more important than solid game mechanics, or decent animation — they create fun. 

This is by no means a definitive list; it’s merely a set of examples showing how a bad game can still be great. You may not agree, and you may even be surprised by a few of the selections, but please do come with along as we look at seven games that are awfully awesome!


I picked up Bloodrayne for what must have been less than five pounds in one of HMV’s sales, and I would be lying if I tried to claim that a hot vampire redhead on the cover didn’t influence my decision. Besides, for only a couple of quid, I couldn’t resist, so I got that and a game you’ve probably never heard of, Gift. We’ll talk about Gift one day, I’m sure. It has no place here.

Anyway, Bloodrayne isn’t a very good game. Controls are incredibly loose, the animation is sketchy at best and the plot is one of the most retarded you’ll ever see. However, for all its tacky garbage, Bloodrayne really can’t help but be quite a bit of fun. It’s like a bad eighties horror flick — it’s shit and you know it, but if you’re willing to drop your IQ a little, you’re going to be entertained. 

You basically just run around clumsily slashing Nazis with your arm blades or shooting them with guns. In order to regain health, you must jump on Nazis, wrap your legs around them and then suck their blood while main character Rayne makes erotic feeding noises. There is also a terrible mech walker section, which isn’t fun at all, and some pretty crap bosses. The rest of it, however, is puerile and nonsensical tripe — and that’s a good thing. Just switch off your brain and hop from Nazi to Nazi, sucking blood and … uh … enjoying the show. 

Golden Axe:

Let’s face it: you might have awesome memories of Golden Axe, but it’s a pretty bad game. The bloody thing is ridiculously unbalanced, as most software with a coin-op heritage tends to be, and there really isn’t much quality gaming to be had. Playing it on your own is a horrible experience, and playing it co-op invariably ends up with people saying “Oh shit, sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.” What’s worse is how the combat generally devolves into seeing who can double-tap in a direction and hit the attack button first, as ram attacks seem to be the only way to fight in the world of Golden Axe

So far, so standard. A lot of things we thought were good in the eighties turned out to be crap, but Golden Axe, somehow, still manages to be fun, even if it is annoying to get double-teamed by two jackasses who won’t let you get a decent combo in. It’s hard to explain, and maybe nostalgia factors into it, but the race to see who can ride the dragon first (even though it’s crap) and the digitized screams of extermination seem to make up for the fact that skeletons keep jumping on you. 

Besides, the game ends with Death Adder falling over and his own axe landing in his chest before all the characters escape from an arcade machine. That’s got to be worth some points. 

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:

I can hear the screams of OBJECTION now, but hear me out. I’ve only recently started getting into Phoenix Wright, and I have become hopelessly obsessed with it, even though I don’t understand how I got hooked on it in the first place. As much as you may like this courtroom drama game yourself, you can’t deny the blatantly obvious — it’s shit. 

First of all, the various stages or “cases” are all absolutely retarded, with some of the most bemusing and senseless storylines in all of creation. For a game based around the use of evidence and logical thinking, there is absolutely zero logic to be found. The characters are infuriating either for their stupidity or their unwillingness to grasp basic common sense. And if common sense was a problem, their dress sense is even worse. 

Each time you go to court, you are assaulted with the kind of moon logic that would make a Vulcan’s head explode. As a defense attorney, your job is to make the world’s dumbest judge accept that the prosecution’s witness, who is blatantly the most guilty person to make a public appearance since Susan Smith, actually committed the murder they’re accusing your client of.

The gameplay itself consists either of merely talking at people, searching screens for clues, or playing a glorified guessing game, trying to make sense of the convoluted insanity that the game’s developers have splooged into a DS cart. It really shouldn’t be considered good.

So why is it so awesome? What’s so fun about talking bollocks with annoying people, defending absolute morons and having battles of “wits” against characters forged from the very essence of retardation? I’ll tell you why it’s fun — because it’s just so satisfying when you win! The game is incredibly good at making the odds look stacked against you, and presenting you with killers and prosecutors so vile that you feel a burning desire to wipe the smug looks off everyone’s face. Every victory is a relief, and every twist, despite being stupid, manages to up the tension. Phoenix Wright may be bloody awful if you look at it from a logical standpoint … but logic will NEVER penetrate the twisted surface of this game. Just switch off your sensibilities and have a laugh. 

Total Overdose:

Several games have attempted to copy Grand Theft Auto’s violent sandbox formula, but few have come close to being as entertaining as Rockstar’s wildly popular series. Then along comes Total Overdose, a game that seems to exist solely to take the piss out of everything GTA offers, and pretty much mock every other action game while it has your attention. 

Like most of our games here, Total Overdose really isn’t good from a technical standpoint. Its combat controls are sloppier even than GTA’s, and the game offers very little in the way of depth, choosing instead to just make you kill Mexicans until you win the game. The humor is questionable and the graphics are less than impressive.

Once again, though, TO makes up for its shortcomings by offering unbridled fun. Its silly, over-the-top gunplay is hugely enjoyable, as you jump around in bullet time and bounce off the walls, scoring points for pulling off the craziest stunts you can. One has to give the game some respect — awarding points for jumping out of a car and pulling off three headshots before you hit the ground is pretty frigging awesome. 

Resident Evil:

Any number of survival horror games could have been placed in this list, as one of the genre’s defining traits is deliberately shitty gameplay fundamentals, but Resident Evil was the game that put horror on the map, so it deserves its due. Definitely a favorite among my friends at school, Capcom’s zombie adventure was truly one of the PlayStation’s most memorable titles back in the day, and one that I look upon with fondness. 

It was pretty bad, though. Laughable, even. 

How a game managed to be so scary and yet so hilariously camp is beyond my grasp, but this was a game that could at once terrify you with a cleverly hidden zombie attacker and make you burst out laughing with such amazing lines as “you were almost a Jill sandwich.” The script was something that even the most impoverished B-movie actors would disgustedly refuse, while the “actors” they did dredge up to provide voices could be used as evidence that Capcom was, at one point, exploiting the mentally ill for cheap labor.

But it was all part of the charm. Resident Evil was one of the first “B-game horrors,” and had enough genuine scares in it to make up for the fact that the cutscenes were all complete and total bullshit. 

This was also an example of shitty game mechanics actually helping to aid a game rather than hinder it. The awkward lift-truck controls, sub-par combat system and generally clumsy action helped to make the player more vulnerable to the mutated undead roaming Capcom’s iconic mansion, which upped the tension considerably. It was a style that other games would soon copy, and one that would eventually become near-extinct as gamers demanded more from their software. We won’t get a game like this again and that’s a shame. 

Resident Evil was remade with new voice acting and tighter gameplay for the GameCube. You know what, though? Without Barry being a complete retard and with all the terrible dialog removed … it just wasn’t as great. 

Commander Keen:

What list would be complete without a truly nostalgic addition? Commander Keen is a game my brother and I would play endlessly as children, and I still remember eagerly getting in from school to play it. It’s nothing but a very bog-standard, unimpressive platformer at heart — but you see, it has a thing in it, a thing so terrifying that it stuck with me for many years, and became a defining trait of my gaming memories. 

This thing!

It’s called a Vorticon, but we didn’t know it back then. We just knew it was blue and it looked like a wolf. We also knew it was extremely pissed off at us for some reason and would chase us around the level. For that reason alone, we would engage the Vorticon in a test of wits, seeing how close we could get to the blue fucker before running away unscathed. It was a timeless battle between man and blue dog-like thing … a battle we knew we had to win, because if we didn’t, we’d have to start the level again. 

The game was pretty rubbish, but the blue werewolf was King. 

Killer 7:

Our seventh and final game. Suda 51’s schizophrenic shooter Killer 7 is one of the freakiest, most demented pieces of software this industry has to offer, and it is one of my favorite games of the last generation, hands-down. As much as I love it, though, I can’t deny that it really is awful in many respects.

It’s a twisted hybrid between on-rails shooter and puzzling adventure, and the various gameplay elements are cobbled together quite jarringly. For a start, it’s far from seamless to switch from moving to shooting. In order to kill anything, you have to switch from third- to first-person, and then hit a button to scan the room so enemies become visible. Now that you can finally see an enemy, you have to shoot it to death with rather dodgy aiming mechanisms before it reaches you and explodes. 

As far as the “puzzle” elements go, they are rarely ever more complicated than “put these items in order” or “pick up this thing and put it here.” In fact, most of it is so insultingly simple that it makes me wonder why Grasshopper even put 90% of the “puzzles” in there.

Everything about Killer 7 goes against one’s idea of what a seamless and convenient gaming experience should be. It fights you every step of the way with design choices that seem to exist for the sole reason of being convoluted and contrary. It’s unnatural and it’s alienating, and for the first half hour, I wanted to throw the disc out of the window.

I’m glad I didn’t, though, because beyond the surface of pure, unbridled shit is an amazing and highly memorable experience that is so excellent in its surrealism that it manages to become one of the lasting examples of a game being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s as weird as they come, but if you have the patience to stick with Suda’s lunacy, you will be rewarded with something quite spectacular indeed. 

It is, like all these games, awfully awesome.

James Stephanie Sterling