There's a class of games so terrible, that gamers have become desensitized to them. It can be of any genre, from any studio, and still there will be low murmurs of scorn and an acceptance of the absolute worst as the most likely outcome. I'm talking, of course, about licensed games: the kind that can bring the mighty names of others mediums to farcically hilarious new lows.
This isn’t to say that all licensed games are bad. Telltale has made a career out of taking beloved franchises and making them arguably better, and they’re only the most well-known developer to tackle these games. The fact that we point to Telltale as an anomaly, however, proves that there’s something to the trope that licensed games are doomed to languish in obscurity...at best.
If you ever needed proof that it can get much, much worse, then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve collected 15 of the absolute worst licensed games that variously make their source material, or even just their run-of-the-mill competitors, seem like masters of the craft. Glitches, terrible voice acting, nonexistent gameplay, and the occasional utterly broken slapdash cash-in pockmark these games, just as they have tarnished our collections. So let’s dive in, and get to the gory details!
For those of you who prefer the horrifically creepy to the horrifically bad, we’ve got you covered. Check out our 15 Creepiest Dating Sims to feel visually disgusted in a whole different way!
15 Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis
If one bit of solace can be extracted from the exceptionally painful experience that is Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis, it’s that at least Sony fans didn’t have to endure it. Battle for Atlantis was one of the few games to use Aquaman at the time of release, and the only one to give him a starring role, setting fans’ expectations pretty low. Even a serviceable game starring the submarine hero would likely have done well.
Sadly for those fans, this game is horrendous in almost every respect. Even extremely basic quality control issues—such as making sure that your game’s camera doesn’t make your audience sick—were completely ignored, leaving players to contend with wonky controls and a hideous underwater environment. Because of these issues, the game gained a great deal of notoriety, even inspiring the name of the Razzies-esque game award show “The Golden Mullet Awards” for those gross in-game locks.
14 Survivor: The Interactive Game
Before we give this lazy video game adaptation of the popular Survivor television show the mocking it’s due, we’d be remiss not to admit that the concept for this game did its developers no favors. How, exactly, are you supposed to take a game show that mostly revolves around ostensibly unscripted drama and make it anything worthwhile? Especially in 2001, Survivor’s chances were pretty much doomed from the start.
So how did the developers replicate this drama? Maybe focus entirely on the challenges? Perhaps make an in-depth dialogue tree with substantive responses? Nope! They just decided to make the human element of the game so irrelevant that some thought it made no difference at all. There’s even a GameRevolution review that’s more creative than the game itself!
13 Deal Or No Deal
In another case of “publisher adapts a game show with mechanics impossible to replicate because it’s easy money,” Deal or No Deal boxes itself in even more than Survivor. At least in the latter case, there was some action element of the show that might perhaps enable game devs to create a game façade. What exactly was the logic here? The entire point of Deal or No Deal is risking losing money by going forward, and the drama that comes with that. Otherwise, it’s just a game where you point at boxes.
You can probably guess what happened here! With a concept that essentially requires zero input besides making a functioning game with graphics that don’t make the eyes bleed, Deal or No Deal failed on both accounts. While all versions looked awful, the DS version was by far the worst, managing to garner terrible reviews because the game only randomized the boxes after several rounds of play.
12 Dragonball Evolution
In a stunning turn of events, the game no one asked for based on the movie no one asked for is a trainwreck! We’re talking about Dragonball Evolution, a game so bad only Famitsu could like it. The premise doesn’t do the developer any favors, of course, considering it is essentially the same as every other Dragon Ball fighting game except starring North American 20somethings. Just being tied to that masterclass of filmic failure condemned this game to the bargain bin.
Yet it’s difficult to believe any game could get such rave reviews as “the antichrist of the latest era of videogames” without getting something fundamentally wrong. The fact that you can just jam the square button and win the game probably has something to do with that. As seems to be a necessity for terrible licensed games, the presentation is somehow even worse, taking Evolution from bad to excruciating.
Like many games attempting to cash in on the success of a long-dead series’ revival, Thundercats smartly tries to put the emphasis on the story. I say smartly because the actual “game” part is relegated to essentially two categories: things that are missing, and that should be missing.
In the “missing” category, notable omission includes any playable character other than Lion-O, developer input on anything not already found in the series, enemy variety, and a basic sense of pacing. Some things that immediately come to mind that you probably wish wouldn’t are the exceptionally long and obnoxious boss battles, of which there is little variation, and just all of the art: the animations are sloppy, the background fuzzy, and wow are the sounds grating! And of course, it wouldn’t be a crappy fighting game if the combat wasn’t relegating to smash a single button.
Why? That’s the only question your mind can ponder in the presence of this game. It’s no secret that the reboot of Ghostbusters was controversial, but at the very least it creates a viable option for an adaptation. Even a lazy adaptation of the film, or another inoffensively bad callback to the original film, would make some very basic sense despite being flawed.
Given these two seemingly obvious routes, the developer decided to go with option three: make a completely different crew that no one cares about and jam in a few references to the new film. WHY? Even when you consider that the turnaround time on the game was a measly 8 months, it makes no sense! Naturally, the final product was lambasted as painfully unfunny, wretchedly joyless junk that was so bad it even failed its most basic goal of being a cash-in; it somehow managed to bankrupt the developer.
9 Ju-On: The Grudge
When the best review for your game includes the term “throwaway” in its lede, there’s a good chance that you've made a mistake somewhere along the line. Whether the mistake was in the boardroom when this developer decided, “hey, let’s make a game composed entirely of jump scares!” or throughout the development process as Ju-On: The Grudge was rushed to cash in on the franchise’s anniversary, the result is clear and trite.
Even good horror games are often criticized for relying too heavily on jump scares, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that a game based around the cheapest tool in horror also comes off as cheap. Ju-On tries to market itself as a “haunted house simulator” dually because that makes it sound like there was any thought put into the development, and the game also gets in on that juicy “simulator” marketing hype. Even that wasn’t enough though, as this game sits at a lofty 39 metacritic score.
There are a lot of Godzilla games. I mean, A LOT. That means two things for entries in the franchise: first, there’s probably a game out there that’s quite literally done your exact premise, and two, you’d better try your hardest not to make the worst game in the franchise. The 2015 rendition of Godzilla technically succeeds in that latter respect, managing to only be the second worst in Godzilla history, but I’m going to challenge that presumption.
When the absolute worst rated game of the franchise, Godzilla Unleashed, came out, it was on the tail end of a Godzilla game explosion. Reviewers were expectedly fatigued, likely contributing to the score. What exactly is the 2015 version’s excuse? No one was asking for it, the finished product came a year and a half after the 2014 film tie-in, and the graphics barely look acceptable for a PS3, much less a PS4.
7 The Expendables 2 Videogame
You’ve got to love licensed action games. They just don’t know how to name anything. This isn’t The Expendables 2, oh no. If the developers don’t let the player know they’re playing a video game, how will they? Actually, that may be the best idea this developer had, considering that the game is so bad it hardly resembles anything else on the market.
So what will you find in the game of the sequel of the movie full of those actors who were in better movies 20 years ago? A twin stick shooter that reduces the one theoretically engaging element of the film—ACTION, EXPLOSIONS!—and makes it unbearable to sit through. Unsurprisingly, most of the actors from the film didn’t want to be associated with this game, and that was probably a smart move considering you wouldn’t even be able to tell it’s supposed to be them anyway.
6 Shrek: Super Party
Most of the games here are bad in one respect or another. Some of them try really hard to copy the style of another, more successful title, while others are empty, cheap cash-ins on a series’ legacy. Shrek: Super Party has the dubious distinction of being one of the few that attempts both of these things simultaneously, ripping off Mario Party while making it blatantly obvious how little respect it has for that series’ format.
Like the absolute worst of the Mario Party series, Super Party (seeing the similarities?) relies on a small amount of inane, same-y mini-games to provide the meat of the game proper. Unlike the worst Mario Party titles, it makes you suffer through increasingly obnoxious cutscenes with a much, much smaller amount of board content wrapped in a loud, catchphrase-spewing package. Kids deserve better than this.
5 The Shield: The Game
The Shield: The Game at least has the courtesy to let you know that it’s going to be horrible merely by reading the name. Read that name again. “The Shield: The Game.” Who gave that the greenlight? The same people who thought that the best way to discourage you from not murdering enemies when you’re ostensibly a cop is to shoot them, and then arrest them, lest you suffer a game over.
The Shield has all the things you crave in an absolute trash-fire of a game: you have the horrible voice acting, nonexistent gameplay, and a story that pales in comparison to even those found in a freshman creative writing class, much less one of television’s most beloved series. The most interesting part of the game is the interrogation, which often effectively amounts to torture. Ironic, considering you’ll experience the same thing.
4 Iron Man
There’s a hot debate in the gaming world, one of the biggest questions out there. More controversial than Gamergate and more important than “are games art?”—there’s a singular question on everyone’s mind. You probably know what I’m getting at.
Which is worse: Iron Man or Iron Man 2?
I opined that Iron Man 2 was worse, even giving it a slot on my list of the 25 Worst Xbox 360 Games of All Time, but there’s a strong argument to be made for the converse. After all, as bad as the sequel is, at least it didn’t have a completely broken PC port (mostly because it didn’t have a PC port, but I digress). Like its bastard, Iron Man features virtually unplayable mechanics on any medium, with some saying that the literal only working mechanic was flying. That’s not exactly a glowing review in an action game!
3 Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer
Nearly every single review for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer relates the game back to another game, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. That could be because Fantastic Four coincidentally plays like Ultimate Alliance (though it sure doesn’t look like it; I’m not here to bash the latter after all). More likely, Fantastic Four saw the success of that game, and tried to copy it with a different franchise’s coat of paint.
However, as blatant as this is, you don’t even need to be aware of this similarity to know Fantastic Four is awful. A few minutes with the painfully executed combat, or dealing with the horrible takes from the voice actors, and you’ll know exactly what this game is made of. In this one case, it’s sort of a blessing that it barely rounds out 6 hours by most estimations.
What can be said about Yaris that a screenshot hasn’t already told you? As you can see, it looks hideous. But why does it look so hideous? And what kind of name is YARIS anyway? Well unfortunately, I have to be the one to inform you that YARIS is not only much worse than your first instincts have suggested, but it also is a top-to-bottom advertisement for Toyota. That’s a thing companies actually think will work, apparently.
Somehow, in a game that is both a racing game and a shooter, it does neither of these things serviceably. There are only three car models in the game, with random assets thrown in as “enemies” for you to fight. For some reason, you’re fighting an MP3 player. Critique of modern entertainment culture, I think not, except perhaps as a proof of concept.
1 Pimp My Ride
Without even addressing anything else about a game, there’s a bare minimum of self respect that we’ve all come to expect from game developers. Just like you wouldn’t put firearms in an E-rated game, you don’t release a game that is literally broken. By this I don’t mean “broken” in the way most critics mean it, I mean there is the basic expectation that a game will function properly.
Whether that means a double-digit frame rate, a system that doesn’t crash, or a save system that won’t corrupt your progress, Pimp My Ride has none of it. This abject failure precludes enjoyment before it has a chance to disappoint you, which it undoubtedly would have. The people from the show are not meaningfully active in the game, and the worst part of the game is also the most prevalent element: the driving. Never before have I wished for mini-games, but a game as bad as Pimp My Ride will make you do crazy things.