A gaming developer can tell a pretty simple story with a pretty limited palette. Take for example two lines and a square. Each player controls a line, and the object is to keep the square from going past your line. Great, simple enough, and now we know everything we need to know about the game we're playing. It's tennis, and we are a tennis player.
But what if, instead of just two lines and a circle, we add a tennis court. And rackets. And real green balls! And actual players! We can name one of them "Chet." And the other one "Mandy." Chet also likes surfing and nachos. He's in love with Mandy, and has been for some time, but doesn't know how to tell her. Mandy loves going to the mall with her friends, drinking milkshakes, and of course, playing tennis! We script a long scene where it looks as if they're finally going to share their first kiss, but right before they can... BLAM! Time for A TENNIS TOURNAMENT TO THE DEATH! It's PONG 2K5000!
Cutscenes have flushed out characters have added a world of depth to video games. But for every memorable and legitimately moving cutscene, there are tons that just never should have happened. Fortunately, we've done the dirty work, watching tons of awful cutscenes, all so you, our loyal reader, never have to. These are 15 of cutscenes from video games that are so painful, you won't be able to look away.
Did we miss anything? Tell us your favorite awesomely bad cutscenes!
15 The Hotel Mario Intro
Everybody loves the Super Mario Brothers. Arguably the first truly memorable face of gaming, Super Mario has starred in hit game after hit game, and, to be sure, there was a time it seemed Mario could do no wrong. And then came Hotel Mario. The game featured a bizarre control scheme that saw the run and jump buttons switched from their normal spots on the controller, making gameplay frustrating and unintuitive. The plot was a stretch even for a Mario game: Bowser has turned the Mushroom Kingdom into the 'Klub Koopa Resort,' a hotel for his kids to play at. Who knew all this time he kept kidnapping princesses, he was really just trying to break into real estate.
The CD-i allowed for animated cutscenes that, while they may have been technologically advanced in some ways, made for some pretty painful moments. While the animation and voice work leave something to be desired, maybe the worst part of this intro is where Mario and Luigi break the fourth wall and start directly addressing the player, telling them to "check out the enclosed instruction book." Whew, thanks Mario. Hopefully it'll tell me how I can safely turn this game off and never play it again.
14 Night Trap: The Bathroom Death Scene
In the early days of video gaming, before graphic capabilities evolved to where they are now, creating a realistic, immersive experience could be a real challenge. For that reason, a lot of developers experimented with using live action footage to make their cutscenes feel, well, literally more real. Today, the effect feels distracting and jarring, which makes 1992's Sega CD game Night Trap feel really weird, since virtually the entire game consists of (poorly) acted cutscenes. Pretty much all the characters are women. And for the life of them, they just can't seem to find enough clothing!
This game is heinous enough on its own, but watching the cutscenes takes it to another level. In this bathroom scene, three armed men chase a woman in lingerie around a bathroom until they are able to hold her down and suck her blood with some kind of claw thing? Also, it clearly pierces her neck, but her vocal quality doesn't seem to change at all? She's still screaming full blast as they drag her out of the bathroom and into the...??? If only there were some way you could skip these cutscenes and get back to the game, which consists of...more cutscenes. The name couldn't be more accurate: this one's a trap.
13 Tali Sings To Shepard In Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is a bit of an outlier on this list. It's a critically praised game from a pretty universally enjoyed series. But every so often, BioWare takes a risk they just don't need to, and the scene where Tali sings to Shepard is one of those moments they'd probably like to have back. The scene starts out pleasantly enough, with the two of them sitting down to watch a movie Tali loved as a child. She even offers the charming detail that she and her friends used to watch it as kids, in a nice, relatable moment for a character who constantly has her face hidden. Then, she utters five of the worst words you can ever hear in a game: "We can activate sing along mode!"
What follows is a viciously uncomfortable scene where a character with no visible mouth or eyes serenades her companion with a mediocre song no one playing the game could possibly have ever heard before. It's probably not intentional, but even Shepard looks confused. "Who doesn't love a good cross-species romance?" Tali asks. Hard to argue with that one.
12 Shadow The Hedgehog Intro
Perhaps no gaming franchise has had a tougher transition to next-gen consoles than one time giant Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic's charm was derived primarily from its simplicity: you're a hedgehog. You go fast. There ar rings. The most complicated thing to happen on the Sega Genesis was introducing a red echidna named "Knuckles." And Knuckles was cool as hell.
With the leap onto next-gen consoles came new characters, and among them, Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow was made by Professor Robotnik on a space station called the ARK. On the order of the government, Robotnik's mission was to find the secret to eternal life and harness the power of the Chaos Emeralds-- you know what, I'm just going to stop here. This is already way more information than I need from a Sonic game.
The intro to the game is another level of awesomely bad. Literally, the first thing you see when you start up the game is Shadow locking and loading a gun. A gun! WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE DONE TO MY SONIC GAMES? After that, it only gets worse, as we learn two things: Shadow has amnesia, and SOMEBODY ELSE JUST PULLED A GUN AND SHOT AT SOMEONE. Look, the graphics are solid, there's no question. But for this fan of the Sonic series, these overly plot-heavy cutscenes are just not what I'm looking for. And what's with all the Hedgehog/real human interaction scenes? More on that later...
11 Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero: Delivering The Map Of Elements
For a time, it seemed the Mortal Kombat franchise could do no wrong. At a time where a lot of developers and games were shying away from intense violence or bloodshed (Nintendo even edited the blood out of MK 1 on the SNES), the Mortal Kombat series embraced it, with vicious combos and fatalities. MK started a generation of parents asking the question, "Are you sure we should let our kids play this?" So Midway did what any developer with a hot commodity would do: try to expand the brand. And that's what brings us to Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.
One can only assume there were more Mythologies games planned for other characters in the series, but the poor reception for the first installment stopped any of that progress in its tracks. While pretty much any of them could work for this list, I've singled out the cutscene where Sub-Zero presents a character known as "Grandmaster" with a map. Putting live action acting in the middle of a video game just feels weird and off, and the costumes come off as cheap and poorly made. Things really heat up when Quan Chi, who looks like the love child of Uncle Fester from the Adams Family and Lord Zedd from Power Rangers, enters the room. And then begins the circling. So much circling. It's like the director said, "we can't just have you guys stand still and create tension through editing. You've got to walk around each other in a circle for no reason." Sub-Zero has his arms way out at his sides as if he's carrying two buckets full of water. The acting is cheesy and over the top, and if the gameplay wasn't enough to turn you off, the cutscenes definitely were.
10 The WCW/nWo Revenge Intro (N64)
The late 1990s were a boom period for professional wrestling, and while the decade produced some great in-ring action, it also made for a number of great wrestling video games. WCW/nWo Revenge for the Nintendo 64 would rank towards the top of that list, and its revolutionary gameplay would be used again in games like WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and especially the highly revered WWF No Mercy. However, the game’s intro is one gamers would desperately like to forget. Instead of opening up in a ring, or even an arena, the first thing gamers saw when they put Revenge in their N64 was a truck driving down an abandoned road in Atlanta, GA. After various shots of the truck driving in the dark (what could be more exciting), it suddenly came to a screeching halt when there, blocking its path was… Sting. And that’s it. Just Sting, standing between what appeared to be two burning trash cans, and looking kinda mad. In the words of the truck driver himself, “What?” The intro then gets a little more bearable, as it cuts to shots of various wrestlers in action. But to this day, that opening video and the choices that might have lead to it are a real head scratcher.
9 Muppet Monster Adventure Intro
It's time to play the music! It's time to light the lights! It's time to sit through one of gaming's most painful cutscenes and suffer as your favorite childhood characters are dragged through the mud! The PS1 was actually a fairly powerful system, capable of creating some impressive cutscenes (think Final Fantasy 7 or Metal Gear Solid). But as with many games that hope to pull a profit based solely on name brand recognition, Muppet Monster Adventure fell pitifully short of graphically testing the Playstation's full potential. While the voice acting feels pretty on point, the graphics are a disastrous mess. Kermit looks like a green eggplant with a Kermit the Frog head stuck on it and deflated tubes for arms and legs. Ms. Piggy is about three times larger than any other character. And Gonzo just looks...sad. Poor guy. I mean, look at this haunted tree. The only person it's scaring this the guy who bought this game and didn't save the receipt. The character movement feels jilted and primitive, as if they're trying to walk through molasses. Maybe the worst part of this intro is we learn Robin is going to be the game's protagonist. When will we finally get the Sweetums game we deserve?
8 Mega Man Legends: Tronn Bonne Has Feelings
If you're noticing a theme on this list, it's probably this: adding unnecessary cutscenes to games that have built their reputation on simple, enjoyable gameplay is almost always a bad idea. Mega Man Legends is no exception. When you pick up a Mega Man game, you're looking to do pretty much two things: blast baddies and steal their powers (I guess using their powers would then technically constitute a third thing, but I'm lumping that in with stealing their powers. Don't judge me).
In this particularly long and pause-ridden cutscene, Tronn Bonne, one of the game's villains, slowly comes to the realization she may have feelings for our hero. "I don't understand," the fourteen-year-old girl says from inside her giant murderous war robot. "Whenever I think about him, I get this funny feeling." What a coincidence, every time I play this game, I get a funny feeling I should be playing Mega Man X instead.
7 Kingdom Hearts 2: The Death Of Goofy
Kingdom Hearts is a series loved by millions, and with good reason. Its creators found a way to combine elements and characters from Square’s beloved library of incredibly successful RPGs with the world of Disney adored by adults and children everywhere with incredibly successful results. That is, most of the time. One memorable moment, although maybe for the wrong reasons, is the scene in Kingdom Hearts 2 where the player is lead to believe cherished children’s character Goofy (star of cinematic classic “The Goofy Movie”) is dead. After an evil Heartless explodes a nearby boulder, Goofy jumps in the way before it can land on King Mickey’s head. He then falls to the ground, motionless, as Sora, Mickey, and Donald, unable to revive him, react as if he has met his untimely end. It’s not until after a battle with a horde of Heartless that Goofy comes racing back, and quite obviously proclaims, “Gwarsh, your majesty, I get bumped on the head all the time.” Gwarsh indeed, Goofy. Gwarsh indeed.
6 Ride To Hell: Retribution the "Lovemaking" Scenes
What's hotter than sex in video games? If you said "sex in video games where everyone keeps their clothes on and the same annoying song plays every time," congratulations, you are most likely a member of the creative team behind Ride to Hell: Retribution!" Widely regarded as one of the absolute worst games of all time, the sex scenes in Ride to Hell: Retribution makes any BioWare sex cutscene look like a romantic weekend in the hills. Why are these women so interested in this man? Why did a team of developers decide this was something worth creating? And why, why, why are his hands so huge? It's disturbing on a number of levels. You'd be embarrassed if someone walked in on your watching quite a few of the cutscenes on this list, but there's a strong chance you could end some relationships if someone caught you watching any of these coital catastrophes.
5 Far Cry 3 Ending
Much like Mass Effect 3, Far Cry 3 at first glance might seem like a strange choice for this list. It was generally well received, and its open world, choose your battles gameplay made it an enjoyable play through from start to finish. However, taking a closer look, the Far Cry 3 story actually leaves a lot to be desired. Think about it: you and your white buddies are captured on an island of pirates, and, through a series of lucky breaks (and lots of killing), become the savior of the peace-loving natives Rakyat people. Even though they've been fighting back against the pirates for what we can assume is a very long time, you are the only one who is finally able to liberate their people. Oh yeah, and the leader of the Rakyat, Citra, falls head over heels in love with you. Sure.
But where Far Cry 3 really goes off the rails is in it's ending sequence. The game gives you a choice: either join the Citra and kill Liza, your old girlfriend, or don't kill your old girlfriend. Seriously. That's the choice. Kill an innocent person or don't. It feels like the second option was literally put in the game just so trolls could feel good about finishing it. If you choose not to kill Liza, Citra really lets you have it, reminding you if you leave, you'll just end up like your friends, who will all "have kids and boring lives." Hmm. Good point, wouldn't want to have to potentially deal with offspring and working a 9-5. Can I have that knife for a second?
4 Resident Evil 1: Pretty Much Every Cutscene
Listen, Resident Evil is a terrific franchise. And the first installment belongs near the top of any horror game aficionado's list. That said, these cut scenes, my goodness. The game's intro is a movie that features actual actors, a close-up shot of what looks like a dog mask, and dubbed over lines. Blending actual actor performances is a concept that rarely works in games (calm down over there, Night Trap), and RE 1 is no exception. Also, in the cast rundown, the costumes look like they were purchased for $9.99 at a Halloween store. I've seen cosplayers with five bucks and a bit of string put together something better than some of these.
Things don't get much better in-game. From the sounds of things, none of the voice actors were in the same room together while they did the recording. And though some of the dialogue may have been okay as just text bubbles on-screen, hearing it done out loud is just torture. Then there's the issue of iffy translations, for example, Barry's unforgettable line "...Jill, here's a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you." It also might be handy to have a few people proofread your script before it goes into recording.
3 Sonic 2006-Sonic And Elise kiss
Hey! It's Sonic again! Seriously though: who doesn’t love Sonic the Hedgehog? He’s fast! He’s cool! He can spin! He has a human girlfriend!
Wait, what was that last one again?
Yes, that's right, in their 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog reboot, developers decided that what Sonic really needed to successfully make the jump into next-gen games wasn't improved gameplay or bug-free levels, it was an inter-species relationship. In this particularly memorable scene, Sonic lies, presumably deceased, surrounded by Chaos Emeralds (aren't emeralds by their very nature supposed to be green?). To bring Sonic back to life, Elise prays to the Chaos Emeralds, and then goes all in, planting a kiss on the lips of her dead, blue, definitely not a human, boyfriend. Maybe the worst part about this scene though is that all of Sonic's buddies are standing there watching this happen and NOBODY DOES A THING. I mean, look at Knuckles standing right there. He could totally stop this. He could say something like "I don't want to see this, " or "You know, I bet there's another way to do this," or "Does anyone actually think this will sell games?" For shame Knuckles. This one's on you, Knuckles.
Counterpoint: who doesn't love a good cross-species romance?
2 Zelda Wand Of Gamelon Intro
Oh, Phillips CD-i. You almost make a list like this too easy. The Legend of Zelda franchise is famous for brilliant, genre revolutionizing games like A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and, of course, The Wand of Gamelon. Oh, hang on a second, I don't think I remember that last one. And there's probably a very good reason for that.
I've singled out the intro for the purposes of this list, but the fact is, Wand of Gamelon is responsible for some of the most cringeworthy cutscenes in gaming history. First off, it's impossible to tell how large or small any character actually is because they keep moving inexplicably back and forth from the camera. Everybody squiggles and moves as if you're watching an episode of Dr. Katz or the first season of Home Movies. And what's with all the gesturing and hand acting? I never thought I'd say this, but can't some of these animated characters take an acting class? It feels like at any point the action is going to stop and this game is just going to start teaching me typing or something. And you have to love the words "a month later" appearing on the screen, only for it to then cut to a character saying "a whole month gone!" Remember? From literally half a second ago?
It's amazing with how bad this game was that it doesn't come up more when discussing the history of the Zelda franchise. In fact, I'd venture a guess that most casual gamers haven't even heard of the title. Conspiracy? Only time will tell. Check back in a month.
1 Tidus And Yuna Laughing In FFX
You know, when I'm down, nothing makes me feel better than tilting back my head, opening my mouth, and letting out the most horrific forced laughter that seems to land somewhere between a goose and a screaming adolescent boy. Anybody else feel that way? No? Just me? Apparently not, because in this completely unforgettable cutscene from Square's Final Fantasy X Tidus and Yuna do just that. The scene begins with Yuna trying to cheer Tidus up by telling him to force himself to smile. Then, when that's not enough, she asks him to force some laughter. And, beyond any shadow of a doubt, Tidus delivers just that. Yuna quickly realizes her mistake, telling him, "you probably shouldn't laugh anymore." Preach, honey. The insincerity of this scene takes away from the otherwise organic love story between the two leads, and as if that wasn't bad enough, you can't even skip it! You HAVE to watch this scene every time you play the game. Godspeed.