Video games can be bad for a variety of reasons: poor controls, unfair enemies and levels, ear drum piercing sound, terrible graphics, or any given combination of factors. Sometimes, games just don't work or are programmed so poorly that they are literally unplayable. Usually, these games are rightfully ousted and end up in our nearest bargain bin buried under games of their like-designed ilk. However, with the rise of video game collecting and the popularity of the systems and games of collectors' child hood years, some bad games have become extremely valuable. Like, the cost of a mid-priced sedan valuable. Sometimes, this is due to a limited run of a game, the developers going out of business, or the project being scrapped during production. Other times, the games are recognized for their nature and disappear into obscurity, or in the case of one, are buried in a New Mexico landfill.
Whatever the case, these awful CDs and cartridges are clawing their way back to the surface of collectors' wish lists. Why? Not to be played, that's for sure. A lot of the games on this list are unofficial releases or just down right weird, meaning that they were hard to come by the first time. These games are valuable solely because of their status as gaming oddities; a tribute to the industries missteps and developers unchecked ambitions. Even though they sucked the first time, these oddities are here to stay and in some cases, take a few paychecks with them.
15 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Released in the innocent days of the Atari 2600 by Wizard Game Company, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was an aberration in video games at the time. You play as Leatherface and dodge cow skulls, wheelchairs, and tumbleweeds while you try and catch up with your constantly screaming victims. Speaking of constantly screaming victims, the sound is awful. There is no soundtrack: the only sound effects you get are a high pitched bleat that plays intermittently as the “screaming”, and the puttering of Leatherface’s chainsaw. I know that a lot of these qualities can be chalked up to being a product of the times; after all, the Atari 2600 only has so much processing power to work with. Because this game was developed and released in the infantile stage of video games, its “violent” content barred the game from being sold at most retailers. Due to the embargo, physical copies of the game are extremely hard to come by. Currently, full sets of the game sell for as much as $500.
Another of Wizard Game Company’s bizarre Atari slasher-flick video games. Following the 1982 release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween roughly followed the set up of the first movie. You play a babysitter—supposedly Laurie Strode from the movie—and must rescue panicking children from Michael Myers in a generic house. Saving the children means having them follow you from room to room until you make it to one of the areas with a door. They exit, you gain a few points, repeat. You must dodge Michael Myers in the process, however he’s so slow that he really never poses much of a threat. This may have been the developer’s attempt to make it more like the movies; he does walk everywhere after all. Two versions of the cartridge were released: one with the official Wizard Game Company sticker and one with a simple white sticker with the title written in orange sharpie. Complete sets of the game fetch upwards of $500.
13 LSD: Dream Emulator
Released in Japan by Asmik Ace Entertainment in 1998, LSD: Dream Emulator is a first-person walking simulator for the original PlayStation. Based on a dream journal of an artist at Asmik, the content of LSD was, and still is, incredibly strange. You’re tasked with exploring different procedurally generated dreamscapes over the course of thirty days. Most dreamscapes are somewhat different, though it’s hard to find your bearings before unknowingly transporting to another environment. Touching random objects and items will transport you to different dreamscapes or out of the dream entirely, requiring you to skip to the next day. Although I understand the need for creativity and spontaneity in video games, the poor controls and somewhat grating soundtrack means LSD: Dream Emulator becomes boringly tedious after the first fifteen minutes. Although the game has cultivated a cult following in recent years, it was widely unknown when it was initially released. Due to this, copies of LSD usually fetch upwards of $300.
12 Batman Forever
Released around the same time as the movie, Batman Forever is, like most movie/video game tie-ins, an awful game. You control either Batman or Robin as you fight your way through environments based loosely on the movie. While the graphics were decent for the time, the gameplay and soundtrack were horrible. Combat is a generic slog through faceless cronies, while the unresponsive controls put it on the fence of being almost unplayable. The games progression makes little to no sense, and you’ll find yourself jumping into random corners of the screen and kicking walls to progress. The soundtrack is full of nonsensical and poorly composed tunes that further add to abysmal quality. Searching for a copy to purchase, (I don’t know why you would) can yield typical results for a low par game from the SNES era: usually anywhere from $.89 to $5. Inexplicably, in recent years, sealed copies of the game can go for as much as $140.
11 Bubble Bath Babes
A puzzle game unofficially made for the NES in 1991 by developer C&E, Bubble Bath Babes is a collectors item for one reason: breasts. The game is a standard puzzle game clone, in the same vein as Tetris. You connect rising bubbles to bubbles of a similar color and they clear away. If you clear away all the bubbles and complete the level, you’re treated to pixelated boobies. That’s it. Because of the game’s obvious 'adult' nature, especially in the early days of gaming and for a Nintendo system no less, the game is extremely difficult to find. American Video Entertainment rereleased it as Mermaids of Atlantis with all 'adult' elements removed or obscured in some way, although the game was again re-rereleased by Panesian with all boobs intact. Due to the obviously lewd content on a system as innocent as the NES, a physical copy of the game can sell for upwards of $1000.
10 Plumbers Don't Wear Ties
An obscure “interactive romantic comedy,” Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties is an abomination developed for the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer system. The game follows John and Jane, two single Los Angeles locals who are being berated by their parents to find a significant other. John is a plumber that wears a tie and Jane is a large chested woman looking for a job. Through chance they meet in a parking lot when Jane shows up for a job interview and initially turns Jack down, then subsequently is sexually assaulted by her future boss. Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties makes about as much sense as buying a 3DO in the first place. The only interaction you have with the game is making decisions that advance the story to the next set of events, which are played out in a kind of slide show; there is no live action video, just pictures. Even though this game is absolutely horrific, copies can bring in anywhere from $75 to $100.
9 Nintendo World Championships
A real piece of video game history, the Nintendo World Championships cartridges were an extremely limited production NES cartridge that went along with the 1990 real world competition of the same name. A grey cartridge was given to finalists of the competition and limited to ninety copies. The more coveted gold cartridge was awarded as a prize for a Nintendo Power competition and limited to just twenty-six copies. Because of the extreme rarity of these cartridges and their significance to Nintendo and gaming as a whole, they are a sought after collectors item. The thing is, there is no actual “game” on the Nintendo World Championships cartridge. Instead, the cartridge contains modified versions of Super Mario Brothers, Rad Racer, and Tetris. All excellent games in their own right, the NWC cartridge limits the playtime across all three to a measly six minutes and 21 seconds. The objective is to get as high a score as possible over all three games, culminating in the highest total score. And that’s it. I’m not trying to denounce video game history here, and it is definitely a neat piece of any collection, just not one warranting a price tag of over $100,000, which one went for in 2014.
8 Birthday Mania
Birthday Mania for the Atari 2600 was the work of a sole programmer who wanted to create his own game out of his love for the system. The game operates as follows: the words “Happy Birthday” appear on screen and an Atari rendition of “Happy Birthday” then plays. You’re then dropped into the role of a floating head that “blows out” candles by shooting them in typical scrolling shooter fair. Once enough candles pass the bottom of the screen still lit, it’s game over. This isn’t a terrible game, especially for the Atari 2600, but opening presents on your birthday hoping for a copy of Pitfall or Spy Hunter only to receive Birthday Mania must have been a drag. Although, the cartridge does have an empty space, so whoever is gifting the game is able to write the name of the recipient, which could give it some sentimental value. An estimated ten copies of the game were sold while it was being made, making physical copies incredibly rare. Some estimates put a single copy of the game at $6,500, while others put it as high as $35,000.
7 Stadium Events
Released by Bandai for the NES in 1987, Stadium Events was the first game to take advantage of Nintendo’s Power Pad controller. The power pad was basically a rolled out mat that you’d stomp on to take place of regular NES controller. Stadium Events lets you compete in Olympic like events using the Power Pad: running in place for the 100-meter dash, running and hopping for hurtles and the long jump. All in all, the game was pretty mediocre, a simple gimmick to sell one of Nintendo’s more bizarre and unresponsive controller concepts. Due to Nintendo’s choice to rebrand the game, changing the name to World Class Track Meet, the cartridge was pulled from most retailers after a lowly 200 cartridges were sold in North America. This makes Stadium Events considerably the rarest game on the NES; a factory sealed copy sold for $35,100 in 2015.
6 Hong Kong '97
An unlicensed Super Famicom game made by homebrew company HappySoft, Ltd., Hong Kong ’97 is a complete mess of a game. With images of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Chinese revolutionary Deng Xiaoping ripped straight from other sources, the game is off to a bad start. With a completely hodgepodge story, including one of the only appearances of the F-bomb on a Nintendo console, you jump right into gameplay…that has absolutely nothing to do with the story, as you simply control a generic man who throws projectiles at enemies that proceed towards you from the top of the screen. Every couple of rounds, a giant, decapitated Deng Xiaoping head will try and crush you until you shoot it enough times, causing it to disappear in a flurry of ripped pictures of mushroom clouds. The game is absolutely horrid, so much in fact, that it has gained cult status. Nothing remains of HappySoft today and most curious gamers question if a physical cartridge of Hong Kong ’97 existed in the first place. If a copy was ever found, the cult status and featured F-bomb could drive the price into the unseen territory for a video game.
5 E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
The holy grail of bad games, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial used to be a rarity. You play as, who else, E.T. as you try and find pieces of a phone scattered in random pits across the game world. Scientists and government agents constantly pursue you and will take any collected phone pieces while dragging you back to the starting point of the game empty handed. This would be all well and good, except the pieces are randomly dropped into any number of pits every time, making memorization useless. Awful controls, terrible graphics, and a completely nonsensical game rightfully crown E.T. The Extra Terrestrial as one of, if not the worst, game ever made, period. The game was so awful that Atari buried it, along with other unsold Atari cartridges, in a New Mexico Landfill. A copy after the burial sold for as much as $100. In 2014, the site was dug up and copies of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial has accordingly fallen in value.
4 Red Sea Crossing
Based on the story of Moses parting the Red Sea, Red Sea Crossing is an Atari 2600 game that is extremely rare. It was originally packaged with a coloring book and cassette and was only available by ordering directly from the manufacturer by phone. You play as Moses as he makes his biblical journey across the parted Red Sea, moving from screen to screen while dodging foes like giant clams and snakes. Nothing remarkable and a play through only cements the fact that the game isn’t very good, but like most, just a product of the limited hardware of the Atari 2600 console. Considering the game wasn’t available at retailers, owning a physical copy is extremely unlikely. If you do find a copy however, make sure you’re getting your fair share out of the deal: a cartridge of Red Sea Crossing sold for over $10,000 in 2012.
3 Air Raid
The sole title developed by Men-A-Vision for the Atari 2600, Air Raid is one of the most sought after video games ever. The game is a typical scrolling shooter: enemies descend and shoot at you as they advance towards the bottom of the screen and the city you’re tasked with protecting. Shoot the enemy bombers and jets and accumulate points until you die. The game is, like most Atari 2600 games, fairly standard for the limited processing power of the system; the sound and graphics aren’t anything special. The game has risen to popularity in recent years with its near mythic existence making it a gem for any game collectors shelves. With an extremely limited release, somewhere in the park of ten cartridges, finding a copy is both unlikely and extremely profitable. A complete copy sold for $33,400 in 2012.
2 Action 52
An unlicensed cartridge released by Active Enterprises in 1991, Action 52 is an awful game. It’s a collection of 52 “different” games all on one cartridge, which definitely would seem like an awesome buy, especially in 1991. Thing is, all of the 52 games are largely the same: you switch between platformers and space shooters that are, in some cases, literally the same game. Most of them even share sprites and sounds from the same pool, meaning the sound gets old, quick. Even though it relies on some of video games most full proof genres, most of them crash midgame or are unplayable due to poor control and bugs. Because of its infamously bad content, commercial failure, and unlicensed production, the game is notoriously rare. The cartridge alone can go for anywhere north of $250, while complete copies usually start somewhere around the $400 mark.
1 Cheetahmen II
Game number 52 on the Action 52 cartridge, the first Cheetahmen was a disgustingly bad platformer that failed to springboard the Cheetahmen franchise into the spotlight. The game suffered from the same ailments that plagued many of the games it shared the Action 52 cartridge with: recycled sprites and sounds, wonky controls, and controller snappingly bad gameplay. Even though Action 52 was an extreme commercial failure, Active Enterprises had already started development on a separate Cheetahmen II cartridge. 6 of 10 levels were completed and the game was scrapped, with incomplete cartridges stored away in a warehouse. In 1996, the cartridges were found and 1,500 made their way into gamers’ consoles and collections. Even though Cheetahmen II was just as awful as the first, the cartridges limited quantity means that a physical has been known to bring in close to $1300.