Let's face it: video games are weird. What other artistic medium is populated with kooky ideas like a yellow puck man eating ghosts and fruits (he's got to watch his diet, after all); monsters you can collect and store in your pocket; teenaged andromorphic toads that love to battle, and an Italian plumber out to rescue his girlfriend from a barrel-throwing king-sized gorilla. Yes, video games are weird, but that's not really a bad thing. These games may seem out there in their premises, but they're overall creative, innovative, and, of course, fun.
When it comes to fostering a home for strange and unusual video games, Nintendo has been a loving father to numerous oddball titles across its various gaming systems. With a game development history that spans over 40 years, there's bound to be a nonsensical game or two in the gaming giant's library. As you may have seen from our sister-site, ScreenRant, the NES system homed a laundry list of crazy licensed games during its lifespan. For this list, we're expanding our horizon to include weird video games that either featured Nintendo characters in head-scratching ways or bizarre games that were unique to a Nintendo console.
From a poorly animated Legend of Zelda game running on a CD player to an epileptic-inducing endless runner littered with the dankest of internet memes, here are 15 licensed Nintendo games that make absolutely no sense. Let's get weird!
15 The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games
One of the most famous "what could have been" stories in gaming history is the ill-fated partnership between Nintendo and Sony. In 1994, Nintendo was looking into manufacturing a CD-add on for the Super Nintendo that would function similarly to the Sega CD. To help produce games in a format unfamiliar to them, Nintendo enlisted two companies that were extremely knowledgeable in the CD business: Sony and Philips. However, following the commercial failure of the Sega CD, Nintendo terminated its CD-add on plans for the SNES and slammed the door on Sony and Philips. While Sony used its painful breakup with Nintendo as motivation for creating the PlayStation, Philips was offered the rights to use Nintendo characters in its upcoming gaming/CD system called the Philips CD-i.
Unfortunately, the games Philips would make out of those famous Nintendo characters would end up being some of the worst video games in history.
It's hard to pick your poison when it comes to the awful Legend of Zelda CD-i games, so let's go with all three. The first two games, Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, took the top-down adventure series and disfigured it into a wonky side-scroller that wasn’t exactly easy on the eyes. What truly make these Zelda games infamous, however, were the amateurishly bad animated cutscenes. Take a look for yourselves.
Knowing it could never top the laughably bad animation of the first two CD-I games, the third Zelda game called Zelda's Adventure just featured awkward live-action cutscenes that make Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders look like a blockbuster. In fairness, Zelda's Adventure played more like the original games by returning to the top-down perspective, but it still failed to capture Nintendo magic like the CD-i games before it.
14 Hotel Mario
Before we leave the CD-i behind, there's one more famously bad video game starring one of Nintendo’s most iconic character. That game would be Hotel Mario. Maybe it was because the CD-i's TV-shaped controller wasn't the perfect match for the precise handling of an average Mario platformer, but for reasons unknown, Philips decided the best way to sell its doomed gaming system was to make a Mario game where the famed plumber opened and closed doors.
Much like Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, Hotel Mario's atrocious animated cutscenes must be seen to believe.
As previously stated, the main objective of Hotel Mario is to make the player go through a series of doors, while Goombas aimlessly wander around the lackluster 2D environment. There are no exciting power-ups to try out, no pipes to explore and no Yoshi to ride. Just… doors.
A more traditional Mario game called Mario's Wacky World was in development for the CD-i, however, development was canceled once Philips pulled the plug on its one and only gaming console.
13 Rap Jam: Volume One
What do you do when you’re given the rights to make a video game starring Coolio, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Public Enemy and other popular rap artists from the 90s? Make a basketball game, of course. Rap Jam: Volume One was a 1995 SNES game released by Motown Software, a video game publisher that spun-off from the popular Motown label. The publisher had a noble intent of producing high-quality African American-oriented video games. Unfortunately, Rap Jam and a video game adaptation of Bébé's Kids were the only games that came from the label.
There’s not much joy to mine from Rap Jam, outside of gazing at the portrait of your favorite rap artist on the character selection screen. The game’s graphics are muddy, hit detection is bad, and, overall, it’s not a fun basketball game.
12 Taboo: The Sixth Sense
While there’s bound to be a spirited discussion about the current state of Rare post-Microsoft acquisition, there’s no doubt that the British company’s golden age was when they were developing games for Nintendo. Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark… the list goes on. One shameful game you won’t be playing on Rare Replay, however, is a spooky little card game called Taboo: The Sixth Sense.
Published in 1989 for the NES, Taboo was packaged with a warning out-of-character for a Nintendo game. “No players under the age of 14,” the box read – essentially kicking out Nintendo’s biggest demographic, thus dooming the game to financial failure. What made the game unsuitable for younger players? It was a Tarot card reading simulation filled with violent and sexual imagery – for an 8bit NES game, at least – and pessimistic fortunes that paint your life as a miserable failure. Awesome!
It also wasn’t much of a game. Cards would shuffle, your fortune would be told, and that’s it. Not exactly a game you beg your parents to spend $40 on. The most mileage you’ll get out of Taboo is using the lucky lotto numbers to play in real life when you can’t think of any good ones yourself.
11 Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest
It’s not easy being a box. With a killer cubical tyrant and his evil square-shaped cronies devouring all of nature, it’s up to you to work your way up the food chain and take him out. Or, at the very least, produce genetically superior offspring that will. Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest is a game so strange that Nintendo of America passed up publishing it in North America, despite it being made by Nintendo-affiliated developer Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem, Advance Wars). Atlus, who are no stranger to weird, yet, exciting Japanese games, picked up publishing rights in America and released it for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002.
The game has you live out Charles Darwin’s natural selection theory, as your Cubivore will continuously evolve into a stronger creature, depending on the enemies you devour. There’s also a mating ritual involving Cubivores of the opposite sex that results in a child with additional limbs. Perhaps it was the thought of cubes having sex that scared Nintendo of America away from the game.
Real-time strategy games and pinball go together like peanut butter and ketchup. Developed by Yutaka Saito – the developer behind Sega’s creepy man-fish simulator named Seaman – Odama takes the beautiful setting of feudal Japan and jams it inside a pin table. You play as Yamanouchi Kagetora, a young general seeking vengeance for his father’s death by deploying his army and a giant powerful ball named Odama. Anyone who has ever played a pinball game in their life will feel right at home in Odama. Manipulate the left and right flippers to bounce the Odama ball at targets and enemy soldiers. Just be careful not to strike your own men in the process.
While the plot about avenging your father’s death is heavy, Odama doesn’t overdo it with the dramatics, as evidenced by Kagetora wanting to preserve the “Way of Ninten-do,” a philosophy meaning "The way of heavenly duty." A cute reference to Nintendo’s Japanese name meaning “Leave luck to heaven.”
9 All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.
Living in the PC gaming era, we’re used to seeing video games modded to include outside characters being hilariously inserted into games where they don’t belong. Rarely do we ever see a developer drastically alter its games to officially include celebrity cameos. However, Nintendo did just that in 1986 with All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.
Released exclusively in Japan as a raffle prize, All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. changes key aesthetics of the original Super Mario Bros. game to feature the stars of the famous late-night Japanese radio program All Night Nippon. For example, Goombas and Piranha Plants are now big-headed caricatures of Sunplaza Nakano and Tamori, DJs from the radio program. The most obvious difference in All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. can be found at level one, which turns the sunny setting into nighttime, in keeping with the theme of the show.
Extreme sports games come in all shapes and sizes. Extreme skateboarding games, extreme biking games, extreme snowboarding games, extreme unicycle… games? Developed by Nintendo and DMA Design – who will later go on to create the controversial Grand Theft Auto series – Uniracers involved players racing riderless unicycles across nine tours of five 2D tracks. Players were encouraged to perform stunts to build momentum on the race track and score more points.
While you won’t see ESPN hosting any extreme unicycle completions anytime soon, Uniracers was a delightfully silly stunt game for the SNES. If you missed out playing this game during the 90s, the likelihood of legally buying this game at a fair price today is terribly low. Pixar Animation Studios sued DMA Design over Unicycles claiming the developer ripped off the unicycle design and concept from its 1987 short film Red's Dream. DMA Design lost the lawsuit, resulting in Nintendo ceasing further production of the game.
7 Iggy's Reckin' Balls
Add in one cup full of racing, a spoon full of platforming, and an entire bag of nightmare fuel and you'll have Iggy's Recking Balls for the Nintendo 64. The now defunct Acclaim Entertainment tried its hands at cutesy mascot games with Iggy, but ended up producing something far more horrifying instead. The designs make the edgy Madballs toys look like cuddly teddy bears. The game's box art featuring the title character's gross mug is the stuff of nightmares.
Despite the fact you're playing as a bunch of freakish and sentient balls, the N64 game is average at best. You race around short-lived circular tracks in a 2D 1/2 perspective, use your grappling hook to climb over the occasional platforms, and win racing medals. More fun playing with friends than by yourself, that is... if your friends can stomach the character designs.
6 Feel the Magic: XY/XX
Much like Disney, Nintendo built its foundation of success on family-friendly games. For better or worse, Nintendo rarely steps out of its G-rated comfort zone. However, on the Nintendo DS, Sega and Sonic Team produced a peculiar handheld game that explored sexuality, albeit in a strange way. Feel the Magic: XY/XX is billed as a romantic comedy that follows a young male silhouette protagonist trying to win the affection a silhouette of the opposite sex, while being cheered on by a strange cult of men wearing bunny ears.
What makes Feel the Magic so loony are the minigames tied to its romantic plot. Sure, things start out tame when the game has you take off the woman’s wet clothes near a bonfire with the stylus or play a Simon says-style game of repeating the woman’s dance moves, but it's not long until we enter surreal territory. If there were a Family Feud survey about what people did on their first date, it’s doubtful “remove the scorpions that fell on my lover’s back” would be in the top five answers, nor would “push a goldfish out of my stomach.” And yet, these are just some of the absurd things Feel the Magic has you do in the name of love.
5 Pokémon Conquest
With a multi-million-dollar gaming franchise like Pokémon, there are bound to be a few offbeat spinoffs. Games like Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon Snap, and the ever-popular Pokémon Go all have merits, but the Nintendo DS title Pokemon Conquest is where the series cranks up the implausibility to 11.
The 2012 game by Tecmo Koei is actually a crossover between Pokémon and the developer’s Nobunaga's Ambition role-play strategy games. You traverse a fictional feudal Japan world to befriend wild Pokémon and use them to conquer rival regions so you can unite them as one. It’s bad enough that Pokémon is often equated to an all-age cockfight, as trainers regularly engage in combat via pocket monsters for fun or self-gains. Now, we’ve crossed fanfic territory by having Pokémon being used as literal tools of war. Not to mention the visual disconnect of these serious-looking warriors being positioned next to these cutesy creatures.
4 Doshin the Giant
For a God named the “Love Giant,” Doshin the Giant certainly received no love from Nintendo of America. Despite the originally planned 64DD game jumping ship to the GameCube, Nintendo of America never released this quirky God game in North America, but at least Japan and Europe were able to get their hands on it.
The love God Doshin looks like a cross between a yellow smiley face logo and the Jolly Green Giant. Doshin the Giant plays like your typical God game. You control the big lug and decide if you want to help the island natives that worship you every day or crush them under your humongous toes. Going the evil route will Doshin from a loveable hunk to an agent of chaos. No longer will he be a simple yellow giant, Doshin becomes a simple demonic giant. Villagers will either build monuments of love or hate, depending on the player’s actions.
The Wario franchise is quite a rollercoaster ride. Originally created as an evil counterpart to Mario in Super Mario Land 2, Wario went on to star in his own platforming series of his own. He also appeared in spin-off games like Mario Tennis, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Bros. That apparently wasn’t enough for Wario, as he decided to show Nintendo up and create video games himself, and boy, do these games fit the character.
The WarioWare games are a collection of surreal and easy to digest minigames made by the greedy plumber and his cast of colorful friends. One minigame will have you try and capture an alien before time runs out, go gold digging by picking your nose, time when to apply eye drop to a woman’s face, and so much more. While no WarioWare game has been announced for the Nintendo Switch, 1-2 Switch will keep the weird spirit of game development alive, based on its previews.
2 Rhythm Heaven: Fever
Music games aren’t as popular as they used to be, with the fall of Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band. With that said, the gaming genre is still filed with strong and bizarre titles. Samba De Amigo, Space Channel 5, and Rez are all well known among aficionados, but one music rhythm series that hasn’t had much chance to shine is the Rhythm Heaven series.
Rhythm Heaven Fever for the Wii and Wii U function like your average music game. The player must play in time to the musical rhythm by tapping the A button, B button, or pressing both simultaneously. What makes this game stand out is the wacky scenarios you must play rhythmically to, such as stabbing peas with a fork, interviewing a masked wrestler, and a double date that keeps being interrupted by flying soccer balls. Rhythm Heaven: Fever is that odd, yet charming, Japanese import game you always read about but never imagined could be released in the states.
1 Meme Run
Truly saving the best for last, Meme Run for the Nintendo Wii U is a game that needs no introduction, so please sit back, relax, and watch this video.
Yes, this game is an endless runner. Yes, this game is filled with all the internet memes that were once funny, but were beaten to death like a dead horse by Reddit users. No, it’s not a very fun game, nor was it worth the price tag of $5. No crazy amount of trollfaces can disguise this game as anything more than a forgettable endless runner you would see sold on mobile, not on a Nintendo console.
Meme Run didn’t have a long shelf life, as the digital game was pulled off the Nintendo eShop following a potential lawsuit with artist Carlos Ramirez over the trollface imagery.