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This is a list of video games that have gained an enduring negative reception, often due to being perceived by reviewers as having low-quality or outdated graphics, glitches, poor controls for gameplay, or irredeemable game design faults. Such games are identified through overall low review scores including low aggregate scores on sites such as Metacritic, frequent appearances on "worst games of all time" lists from various publications, or otherwise carrying a lasting reputation for low quality in analysis by video game journalists.
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Custer's Revenge is an unlicensed Atari 2600 game made by Mystique in 1982, loosely based on 19th century American General George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In addition to being widely considered offensive due to its plot involving the apparent rape of a Native American woman, the game was also poorly received for its quality. It was listed as the most shameful game of all time by GameSpy, as the third-worst game of all time by PC World, and GameTrailers and the ninth-worst game by Seanbaby in Electronic Gaming Monthly.
Industry analysts often cite Atari's Pac-Man as a major factor in the drop of consumer confidence in the company, which partially contributed to the video game crash of 1983. Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton of Gamasutra stated that the game's poor quality damaged the company's reputation. Buchanan commented that it disappointed millions of fans and diminished confidence in Atari's games. Former Next Generation editor-in-chief Neil West attributes his longtime skepticism of Atari's quality to the disappointment he had from buying the game as a child. Calling the game the top video game disaster, Buchanan credits Pac-Man as a factor to the downfall of Atari and the industry in the 1980s. Author Steven Kent also attributes the game, along with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, to severely damaging the company's reputation and profitability. Montfort and Bogost stated that the game's negative reception seeded mistrust in retailers, which was reinforced by later factors that culminated in the crash.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 is loosely based on Steven Spielberg's 1982 film of the same name, reputedly coded in just five weeks to be released in time for the 1982 holiday season. The game sold 1.5 million copies and came nowhere near Atari's expectations of five million units. On top of that, a large number of the cartridges sold were sent back to the company, because many consumers found the game to be unenjoyable. Truckloads of these cartridges were buried in a landfill in New Mexico after they failed to sell. E.T. is commonly cited, alongside Pac-Man for the Atari 2600, as the catalyst for a crash of the video game industry in 1983, as Atari had hoped that brand loyalty would help keep consumers buying their games regardless of quality.
E.T. was listed as the worst game of all time by PC World in 2006, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and FHM magazine, and was ranked as the second-worst movie game on the "Top Ten Worst Movie Games" (first being Charlie's Angels) by GameTrailers. It was also ranked the second-worst game of all time by GameTrailers, first-worst went to Superman 64. Some considered it so bad that the title screen was the only good part of the game. In 2007, GamePro named E.T. one of the 52 most important games of all time due to its roles in the 1983 video game crash and the downfall of the seemingly unstoppable Atari. It is the only game to make the list for having a negative impact on the video game industry.
Action 52 is an unlicensed multicart developed by Active Enterprises for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1991. It contains 52 original games covering various genres, from shoot 'em ups to platformers. Action 52 is one of the most infamous NES games for a number of reasons. The game originally retailed for over US$199 (which equates to about four dollars for each game). Many of its games also have poor controls and graphics, and are plagued by bizarre glitches and technical problems; some games are impossible to complete; some will not load. Kill Screen described all the games as "shit", and Atari HQ called it "really, horribly, incredibly bad." The game frequently appears on lists compiling the worst games ever, and Atari HQ called it the worst game of all time. GameSpy named it the fifth most shameful game ever, summarizing it as an "endless parade of inept programming, repetitive design and outright stupidity." A drastically different version of the game was also developed by FarSight Studios for the Sega Genesis; Hardcore Gaming 101 wrote it was better than the NES version, but "that really isn't saying much."
Night Trap is an interactive movie video game originally published by Sega for the Sega CD in 1992. It was the first interactive movie released for the system, and had initially received mixed reviews. Critics praised its smooth video animation and humor, but disliked its shallow gameplay. The game became infamous after it was scrutinized during the 1993 United States Senate committee hearings on violence in video games, in which Senator Joe Lieberman claimed Night Trap featured gratuitous violence and promoted sexual aggression against women. The game was removed from store shelves in the United States' two largest toy store chains, Toys "R" Us and Kay-Bee Toys, after both received numerous complaints. After the controversy subsided, Night Trap was ported to multiple platforms, such as the 32X and 3DO. These ports were reviewed more harshly; critics felt the game had not aged well and considered its gameplay dull. Next Generation gave the 32X version a one-star rating and GameFan called it a "so-so game that got a lot more attention than it deserved." Retrospectively, Night Trap was ranked one of the worst video games of all time by Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamesRadar, and Computer Gaming World. A remastered version of the game was released in April 2017 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and later in August 2017 for the Nintendo Switch. These ports were rated "T" for "Teen", a lower rating than the original "M" for "Mature" it was given upon its initial release.
Further criticism was brought to Zelda's Adventure, a third game developed instead by Viridis, which used a top-down approach, and shifted to a live-action visual style with digitized sprites instead of a cartoon look. According to Castle, "what [Zelda's Adventure] lacked in hideous toons it made up for with live-action FMV-visits from a beardy wizard (not a professional actor, but the game's music composer) whose shambolic preamble makes Knightmare look like The Lord of the Rings." It also suffered from poor gameplay, and a glitch preventing the game from playing both music and sound effects at the same time.
Beyond the cutscenes (which soon became popular internet memes alongside Hotel Mario), reviewers at GameTrailers have also ascribed modern negative criticism to "barely functional controls, lackluster gameplay, and numerous bugs". Danny Cowan of 1UP.com noted that Zelda fans "almost universally despise these games". The Wand of Gamelon was ranked the sixth-worst video game of all time by Electronic Gaming Monthly and the fifth-worst by GameTrailers.
Retrospective reviews of the game, however, have been negative, with the game facing criticism for unresponsive controls and the animation of closing doors. IGN, while claiming that Hotel Mario was better than the Zelda CD-i games, slammed the game for being "dull", stating that there was "no reason" for anyone to play it. GamesRadar referred to Hotel Mario as "craptastic" and named it the 48th worst game of all time, while The Guardian called Hotel Mario a "horrible attempt to cash in on the full-motion-video capabilities of the useless CD-i console". Eurogamer claimed the game to be "little more than a really rubbish version of Elevator Action". The game's cutscenes have been subject to much ridicule; IGN compared their quality to that of Microsoft Paint.
Mikel Reparaz of GamesRadar opined that while the concept of giving Sub-Zero a spin-off game was interesting based on his popularity, the game "ended up a terrible mess of ugly sprites, cheap deaths and a button you had to hit just to change the direction you were facing, and the less that's said about it, the better." Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was listed among the worst Mortal Kombat games of all time by IGN.com, whose review noted the game's "dated" graphics, "stiff" character animations, and awkward controls with high input lag.
Based on the show Superman: The Animated Series, Titus Software's Superman: The New Superman Adventures for the Nintendo 64 (often referred to as Superman 64) has the player control Superman as he is challenged by his nemesis Lex Luthor to help save the people of Metropolis. Upon release, the game was heavily panned for its unnecessary repetitiveness, difficult and confusing objectives, poor controls, numerous glitches that interfere with gameplay, and poor graphics. Notoriously, the game has an introductory ring maze sequence that the player is given no warning about, and has a time limit that leaves nearly no room for error. The ring maze section was exacerbated by the extremely short draw distances covered by distance fog, which is explained in-game as being an aspect of the virtual reality simulation of Metropolis the game is set in, but previously described as "Kryptonite fog" by developers. Titus was harshly criticized for the poor quality of the game. Titus stated that while they had grander plans for the game, "the licensor killed us", and the final game only represents about 10% of what they wanted to include.