Video games are a damn fickle business. You never quite know what’s going to be a hit, or how long it’s going to be a hit before it sinks into the crap-sodden abyss of the damned and forgotten (along with leisure suits, NSYNC and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career). I didn’t think much of Undertale when I first saw it, for instance, but it became a huge deal powered by the meme machine.
Popularity for a game or series is a real double-edged sword too. As you become a bigger name, more and more eyes are on you, waiting for you to screw up. When you do, the Internet sets off on a horrible tirade of bitching and/or death threats. The pressure on AAA franchises to deliver is real.
Craptacular titles themselves are nothing new. They’re being released month in, month out. When a major franchise screws up, though, that’s something different. That’s failure on a catastrophic scale, in a first-world-problems-to-the-extreme sort of way. These are the kinds of things that can end multimillion dollar gravy trains forever; like if Activision released Call of Duty: Hippie Edition where you could only hug your opponents.
As we know, some diehard fans will defend their favourite series to the death, regardless of the horrible ballaches they release from time to time. But there are some crimes against gaming, some wanton besmirchings of good names, that it’s just not possible for us to excuse. Check out these 15 Terrible Fighting Games From Amazing Franchises.
15 Tom and Jerry in War of the Whiskers
Right from the start, here’s a curveball entry. I know what you’re thinking: Huh? Tom and Jerry, the much-beloved cartoon duo from my childhood? Ah, the nostalgia. I sure hope they didn’t star in a diabolically awful fighting game back in the day or anything. That’d mar my memories of them to no end.
Well, friends, bad news on that score. War of the Whiskers really happened in 2002, the sequel to 2000’s Tom and Jerry: Fists of Furry. If you haven’t heard of either, it’s because they were ass.
Both titles cast you as either Tom, Jerry or one of a small cast of other animals nobody cares about because they weren’t Tom or Jerry. An entirely forgettable, simplistic and options-barren button masher that doesn’t do the iconic pair justice.
14 X-Men: Mutant Academy
This is where the whole problem with licensed games –particularly superhero ones—comes in. Sometimes, the source material is just way too freaking cool for games developers to possibly live up to. Remember Superman 64? Of course you do. You should feel like an invincible badass knight of eyeball laser vengeance when you’re playing as the Man of Steel, not be flying through rings like it’s Baby’s First Flight Sim. Screw you, Superman 64.
Screw you too, X-Men Mutant Academy. This fighter hit PS1 and Game Boy Color at the turn of the millennium, and wasn’t anything like as awesome as X-Man-on-X-Man combat should have been. Another limp Street Fighter knock off, with visuals shonky even for the Game Boy’s standards. The PlayStation version looked decent, I’ll give it that, but I can’t give it anything else.
13 The Simpsons Wrestling
The curse of licensed games is pretty well documented. Very rarely do games-of-the-film end well, and if you’ve seen any of Uwe ‘Boll-ocks’ Boll’s adaptions (House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, etc), you’ll know that films-of-the-games don’t generally fare any better either. By and large, The Simpsons has gotten off quite lightly when it comes to adaptions, with one main exception.
The Simpsons Wrestling is the yardstick by which all awful is measured. Even by the standards of early PS1 3D, the characters looked dire, the gameplay consisted of mindless button mashing and it was horribly broken. Why is Ned Flanders able to destroy me with holy lightning bolts from across the stage? I don’t know, but I’m not amused, that’s for damn sure.
12 Street Fighter V
You know how it is. You walk into a room, forget why you entered said room, and just stand there with a bemused ‘why was I ever even born?’ sort of expression on your face. It happens to everybody, even AAA video game developers. Sometimes these guys release a game then realise they’d FORGOTTEN TO DEVELOP THE DAMN GAME.
When Street Fighter V first arrived, it was an empty husk of a game, a chrysalis from which the butterfly of disappointment had burst forth, dancing around fans’ heads and giving them the finger with its teeny butterfly hands. It lacked any real single player at all; even the obligatory story mode had to be added by update later. It was a lazy, cash-grabbing affair, and soured gamers toward Capcom even more than they already were at this point.
11 Sonic the Fighters
Sonic’s been having a bad time of it the last couple of decades. Since his glory days, all kinds of gimmicky crap has been shoehorned into the games. There have been talking swords, racing games and even –and I can feel my undercarriage shrivelling at the very thought of it—that one where you ‘steered’ Sonic around with the Wii remote (Sonic and the Secret Rings). Brrr.
All of that, I guess I can shrug off. But Sonic Fighters? That was a travesty too far. If Virtua Fighter ever had a frontal lobotomy, Sonic Fighters would be the result. A simplistic, half-assed take on a genre icon, the highlight being your battle with a grayscale version of your own character. The excitement is almost too much. Be still, my aching loins.
10 Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi
Teras Kasi, in Finnish, means steel hand. So there you go, my friends, you can’t say this wasn’t an educational experience for you.
Now, the concept here was fairly solid. A fighter set in the Star Wars universe? Princess Leia vs Han Solo? Darth Vader vs Chewbacca? What’s not to like? Count me in. A little suspension of disbelief is needed, because surely Darth Vader could do that little pinchy hand motion of his and crush all his opponents’ throats without a fight, but it’s better not to question these things.
The sad fact was, though, once you got into the game, it was underwhelming in all kinds of ways. It set itself up for failure by promising that players could set up epic dream-duels from the franchise.
9 Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
By the late nineties, Mortal Kombat had pretty well defined what it was all about. Gaming was still in its relatively young, rebellious teen stage and the brutal combat and gore-tacular fatalities had made the series a huge deal. With that established and a growing fanbase eager for more, there was only one thing for Midway to do: Pull something totally different out of their butts and ruin everything.
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is a side-scrolling brawler akin to Tekken 3’s Force Mode. It stars series mainstay Sub-Zero, and is an awkward kind of prequel to the original Mortal Kombat. It sports the kind of monstrously ugly sprite work that makes you want to punch your own eyeballs in the face and was clunky as hell. Still, like many prequels, you can safely it doesn’t exist without losing out on anything important.
8 Xena: Warrior Princess: The Talisman of Fate
Here we are again, stretching the definition of the word ‘franchise’ because we’re fearless renegades who don’t play by the rules.
Ah, Xena. You were the lust object of young dudes (and their dads, secretly) everywhere back in the day. Everyone wants a woman they know could kick their ass, and kick asses this gal did, episode in and episode out. We’re talking super scaly dragon butt too, which makes her all the more desirable. The Talisman of Fate, on the other hand, did not.
This N64 title was quite impressive visually, with arenas authentic to the show, but it was awfully barren and shallow to play. Animation and collision detection were super wonky too. The game arrived just as the TV show was winding down and isn’t the best legacy to leave. Fortunately, most of us didn’t even know this one existed.
7 Bleach: Shattered Blade
You know how it is when a new console’s released. Whichever fancy new gimmick the system comes equipped with, developers will fall over themselves to shoehorn it into their games. This is a Nintendo thing, first and foremost; the launch of the DS and Wii saw all kinds of bizarre touchscreen/motion controlled titles which shouldn’t really have used the tech at all. It was mainly for bandwagon purposes.
Have you ever wanted to play a fighting game using motion controls? Of course you haven’t, because that’s a horrific idea. Sadly, Bleach: Shattered Blade didn’t get that memo. This anime fighter insisted on wiimote/nunchuck controls whether you liked it or not (which you didn’t, as we’ve established), and was all kinds of a bad time as a result.
6 Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls
As we’ve already seen, AAA developers have a hell of a burden to bear. All eyes, all the hype and all of our expectant wallets are on them. Change a franchise too much? The Internet howls grammatically-questionable abuse at you. Don’t change enough? The same happens. It’s a no-win situation. Which is why it’s always super dangerous to license out one of your big names to another developer.
Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls was the first installment not to be created by Technos. Instead, Leland Interactive Media took the development reins and it didn’t go down well. Instead of the usual Double Dragon scrolling beat ‘em up, we had a fighting game based on the TV series on our hands. It reeked of Street Fighter II, once again, and the presentation was lackluster in the most luster-lacking sense of the word.
Now, granted, BloodStorm isn’t technically a Mortal Kombat title at all. The thing is, though, it wanted to be; wanted to play with the big boys so desperately that it’s almost endearing. So hell, I’m including it in the list.
1994’s BloodStorm billed itself as a Mortal Kombat to out-Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat (man, that’s an ugly sentence). To do this, it tried to take the core gory brawling of the series and dial it up to 11. So there were special moves that could remove opponents’ limbs mid-battle, and even a technique called ‘sunder’ which would rip them apart at the torso. The fight would then continue until one player’s health bar was depleted, as usual.
Incredible as it sounds to see two legless combatants trying to punch each other to death, this is just another case of a clone game failing hard compared to the original (see also: Mario Kart and Doom imitators).
4 Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22
As Dragon Ball fans will know, the series has spawned endless (freaking endless) fighting games across just about every gaming format there is. All of which follow that familiar anime video game format: huge ridiculous special moves, melodrama and flashing lights/explosions out the wazzoo.
As such, there’s a kind of more-of-the-same situation going on with each release. Similar to the FIFA Soccer games that hit annually, if you like one, it’s a safe bet that you’ll like every other damn one. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a runt of the litter, though, and that runt is the horrendous Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22.
Visually awful, tediously spammy, this was the first Dragon Ball game to make it to US shores, and it’s a real shame it wasn’t torpedoed on route.
3 Variable Geo
The Variable Geo franchise is a little obscure on Western shores, so here’s the deal. The action focuses on a fighting tournament (female-only, naturally), in which combatants promote restaurants by working as waitresses when not participating. There’s a lot of honour on the line and fighters are submitted to brutal ‘humiliations’ on defeat so as to learn of the shame of losing. All of which, also naturally, are sexual. You can imagine.
So there it is, just a little typical Japan fare for you. The original title is particularly woeful not just for its gameplay and visuals, but because it eschewed any kind of story entirely in favour of… other priorities. A plot? Who needs that? Nobody, that’s who. My, grandma, what smutty hentai scenes you have!
2 Shaq Fu
The way I see it, Shaquille O’Neal was part of one of the biggest sports franchises on the planet. So we’re not violating anything, in terms of the article title, and we get to snark on one of the notoriously appalling fighting games ever made. Let’s get to it.
Where do you begin with Shaq Fu? The plot, which sees Shaq on his way to a charity basketball game in Japan, before visiting a martial arts dojo and being sucked into an alternate dimension for no damn reason at all? The difficulty, which exceeds every Dark Souls combined for levels of stupidly irritating? The gameplay, which is totally broken and lets Shaq spam one button to victory? All of this combines into one catastrophic mutated super turd of a game.
1 Primal Rage
I don’t know about you, but the whole Primal Rage series sounded like an awesome concept to me. A meteor has wiped out most of life on Earth, destroying all civilization and causing what’s left of humanity to regress to a Stone Age state. A band of huge beasts vie for control of the planet, divided into two factions: the Virtuous Beasts who want to restore order and the Destructive Beasts who just want to watch the world burn like The Joker.
The video game casts you as one of said creatures, fighting it out against all the rest. How could you go wrong with a plot like that? By trying to squeeze an arcade game’s four-button scheme onto the SNES and Genesis controllers, that’s how. From a technical standpoint, Primal Rage wasn’t so bad, but the control scheme caused some real primal rage when players tried to execute simple combos. As such, it’s just as much of a ballache to play as anything on this list.