Many gamers, myself included, have grown up playing Nintendo games, and for a good reason; Nintendo basically invented the modern console market, and their games have a reputation for high quality. When you see Nintendo’s logo on a video game box, you can expect a game overflowing with creativity, invention, and attention to detail — sometimes you can even expect a game that completely rewrites the rules of video gaming, like Breath of the Wild did for open-world adventuring. You simply cannot deny the impact that the company has had on video games as a whole.
Yet, even a company with a track record like Nintendo’s can’t get it right every single time. From their inability to drum up support for systems like the Wii U and Gamecube to their draconian policies on online play, the developer has had their share of missteps – even when it comes to creating great games. For every undisputed classic like Super Mario 64 or Chibi-Robo (don’t @ me), there are myriad games that don’t manage to get their mechanics right, that don’t feel like they have that Nintendo touch, and that just aren’t fun to play. Yet, because of Nintendo’s sterling reputation, many of these titles still sell spectacularly well, burning unsuspecting players who just want to have fun. Here are the 15 terrible Nintendo games that still sold incredibly well.
15 Superman 64
Often called one of the worst games of all time, Superman for the Nintendo 64 (usually referred to as Superman 64) attempted to put players in the iconic suit of the Man of Steel. It did this through such gameplay innovations as forcing players to fly through rings and struggle to complete mazes while hampered by unresponsive controls. It also boasted some of the ugliest graphics on the Nintendo 64 – a system not exactly known for being a visual powerhouse. But despite its horrible, broken gameplay, the game actually sold well enough that its developer, Blue Sky Software, was considering a PlayStation port. For the love of God, Nintendo, please don't include it in the Nintendo 64 classic.
14 Wii Music
One of the many Wii casual titles published by Nintendo in an effort to appeal to a broader gaming audience, Wii Music became infamous among gamers for its underwhelming reveal at E3 2008 before its release. The game is casual to its core and offers very little challenge or even interest to experienced players. Its music selection is decidedly pedestrian due to the constraints of using only public-domain tracks and its gameplay, meant to make players feel like they’re in control of the music, is pretty low-impact, barely requiring any skill or musical knowledge. But like most of its sister titles, Wii Music sold millions of copies worldwide.
13 Deadly Towers
Back in the NES days, as developers were still creating the guidelines for what video games would look like, lots of mediocre-to-crappy games were pushed out onto unsuspecting audiences. The action-adventure game Deadly Towers is one such title. On the one hand, it featured early implementation of RPG mechanics like stat-building into video games, an innovation that would change the whole medium; on the other, it was brutal and unfairly difficult even by the standards of the era. It was an actual chore to actually play. But, as one of the first role-playing games on the system, it filled a void in the NES’ library of games, meaning that it sold like hotcakes.
12 Mario Sports Mix
Developed by Square Enix for the Wii, Mario Sports Mix is an odd title – it’s not an installment in the various Mario sports franchises like Tennis or Strikers, nor is it an iteration on the more casual-leaning Wii Sports concept. Rather, it tries to split the difference and plop Mario characters into very simple sports minigames. It’s made well enough, but there are only four game modes, and all of them are quite simple, so there’s not much to do. Unlike, say, Wii Sports, it lacks a certain magic quality that would make its simplicity appealing - it’s made for everyone and no one. But the casual concept and the addition of Mario characters made Mario Sports Mix a big hit upon its release.
11 Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Players could once count on the Paper Mario series to provide in-depth RPG gameplay, but 3DS entry Sticker Star rewrote the rules of the franchise… for the worse. Basically, instead of the deep turn-based battle system fans loved in previous installments, Sticker Star introduced a card-based system that only lets players progress when they’ve collected the right items. Battling requires very little skill, and low-level encounters have no benefit for the player, removing a core part of the series’ appeal. When Sticker Star was released, however, it had been nearly a decade since the last proper installment in the series (Super Paper Mario for the Wii was marketed and received as more of a spin-off than a real sequel) and it outsold the first two Paper Mario games within its first week of release.
10 Wii Play
Another casual Wii title that Nintendo pushed out, Wii Play was a launch title for the system in many regions designed to introduce players to the use of the Wii remote… never mind that the system’s pack-in game Wii Sports already did that. Wii Play featured nine party-oriented minigames that are built for two players, many of which began as tech demos for the system. The games have a serious lack of depth, meaning that the real value of the game came from its bundled Wii remote – a $40 investment when sold separately. This strategy was basically Nintendo admitting that the game was only worth $10, but it also meant that the game sold spectacularly and remains one of the best-selling Wii titles ever made.
9 Hey You, Pikachu!
For whatever reason, video games keep returning to voice control as a novel way to provide player interaction. Hey You, Pikachu! for the Nintendo 64 was an early experiment in this method, centered around players talking to a virtual Pikachu. As you might imagine, the game was marketed towards younger children, for whom the novelty of talking to a digital Pokémon would be thrilling; the voice recognition software was even calibrated towards higher voices, so it’s harder for adults to even play it at all. But with no story and few in-game activities, they’re not missing much. It’s a game designed around a limited gimmick, but that gimmick and the Nintendo 64’s thin software library meant that Hey You, Pikachu! sold nearly 2 million copies.
8 Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link
A controversial and flawed entry in the Legend of Zelda series, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was an ambitious attempt to completely rewrite how the franchise functions. Many of its innovations were carried over to later installments, like the addition of NPCs, towns, and a magic meter; but the game itself is a chore to play, and its hybrid of top-down overworld questing and side-scrolling enemy encounters creates a strange, choppy rhythm that doesn’t fit the series. Of course, the first Legend of Zelda was a massive, world-changing hit, and players were hungry for more, meaning that Zelda II found its way into millions of homes.
7 Super Mario Run
Super Mario Run, Nintendo’s first foray into mobile gaming, is built on an interesting premise: Mario moves automatically through short, dense levels, and players control his jumps with simple finger taps. There’s some fun to be had, especially in collecting all the colored coins that litter the levels, but the game is so short that it’s hard to get invested. What’s worse, it actually requires an online connection to play, defeating the point of a mobile game; if I can’t play a game on my phone while waiting for the subway, why play at all? But the hype behind Nintendo’s first real mobile game and the massive mobile audience meant that it was downloaded millions of times when it was released last year.
6 Mario Party 10
You could really put any of the more recent Mario Party entries here. Always a divisive series, Mario Party has only gotten more controversial as recent installments have done away with some of the most cherished features of the franchise; for instance, in Mario Party 10, players now travel around the board as a group instead of taking turns and activating different board events as they move. This makes games move faster, but it sucks out much of the game’s drama and makes it less satisfying to play than ever. However, these games seem to always sell well due to their accessibility, and Mario Party 10 is no different; it’s one of the few big hits on the Wii U.
5 Star Fox Adventures
I kind of love this game, but Star Fox Adventures definitely benefits from nostalgia. Played in the cold light of 2017, it’s hard to deny that it’s a strange mix of Zelda dungeon structure, collectathon platforming, and Star Fox shooting levels, with annoying voice acting and a clichéd story thrown in for good measure. At the time, the mixture of different elements was thrilling, but it never coheres into a full game that actually makes sense. Also, triceratops sidekick Tricky is the worst. For some time, it was one of the GameCube’s best-selling games, and it introduced Krystal to the Star Fox franchise, where she’s now a permanent fixture; but whether or not she deserves to be is another question.
4 Ice Climber
One of a batch of original NES titles that never quite bloomed into a franchise, Ice Climber has acquired fan-favorite status due to its main characters, Nana and Popo, being featured in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Like a lot of NES games, Ice Climber is brutally difficult; unlike the good NES titles, however, it isn’t hard in a fun way, as unresponsive controls and slippery ice physics create an openly hostile game for players to try and navigate through. But, as the climbers’ feature in Melee attests, Ice Climber sold well, and its various re-releases on multiple systems have pushed its sales numbers even higher.
3 Pokémon Stadium
Yeah, I know, this game changed our lives as young Pokémon trainers, since it was the first time we got to see Pokémon battles in 3D on a home console. Playing against your friends is undeniably fun, but there’s really not a lot to Pokémon Stadium; the Pokémon roster is severely limited, there’s no adventure or story like there is in the handheld titles, and the included minigames aren’t bad but definitely don’t make up for the lack of content. Considering how paper-thin the game is, it’s kind of amazing that Nintendo actually charged full price for it, and that it sold like gangbusters – enough to warrant a sequel with similar issues.
2 Donkey Kong 64
Donkey Kong 64 is beloved (and introduced gamers to the DK Rap, which is amazing), but unlike Donkey Kong Country on SNES or the recent Donkey Kong Country Returns series, it’s not actually that good of a game. It stretches the collectathon game design that was popular during the era to its breaking point, with separate swathes of collectibles for each playable character. It also suffers from a terrible camera and pales in comparison to the other big 3D platformers for the N64, lacking the same sense of charm and purpose as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. But despite these flaws, it was a huge hit and one of the N64’s most iconic titles.
1 Link’s Crossbow Training
Remember when the Wii was big and Nintendo tried to push multiple peripherals on gamers to scam us out of more money? There was the Wii Wheel that came with Mario Kart Wii, the Wii Fit board, and then there was the Wii Zapper, a supposedly upgraded version of the original NES Zapper that was really just a fancy Wii remote case. Link’s Crossbow Training was meant to be the Zapper’s coming-out party; in reality, it was a short shooting-gallery game that used the world of Twilight Princess as a fancy skin. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t worth retail price either, and the Wii Zapper never really got off the ground. Yet, thanks to the Zelda license and the Wii’s wide install base, Crossbow Training sold millions of copies.