Video games have evolved radically over the past few decades in more ways than one. At the dawn of gaming, many developers had to experiment with what worked and what didn’t. What was fun and what was boring. What was aesthetically pleasing and what looked bland. Needless to say, there were quite a few hiccups along the way, and localizing a video game to a different language is no exception.
Though we’ve come a long way since gaming’s humble beginnings, it seems like we’ve almost perfected translating modern video games. This is just as important a task as character and level design as games become more apt toward storytelling and building an immersive experience. Admittedly, many early video games missed the mark and had less than stellar translations… yet some of the worst localization errors have become so iconic that the gaming public has welcomed them as a part of gaming history and will most likely never be forgotten. From some of the most popular series that are still around today to the translations that are from some of the rarer hidden gems, here are 15 of some of the worst video game translation fails.
Metal Gear Solid was my first title in the Metal Gear series. It was a game that made me realize just how well storytelling could be done through video games. With cinematic cutscenes and a fantastic script, Metal Gear Solid felt years ahead of its time, so when I discovered that many of the events discussed in the game took place in two NES prequels, I had to play them. What I soon discovered was that the original game started off with mediocre gameplay and a rather shoddy translation.
Much of the awkwardness of the dialogue probably stems from hardware limitations, not wanting to drown the player in paragraphs of meaningless text. Codec conversations were short but sweet and enough to guide the player through the game. Yet the first enemy you encounter in the game suffers from an extreme case of narcolepsy and falls asleep and wakes up and falls asleep within fifteen second intervals. In between naps, he states out loud "I feel asleep!!" obviously intended to say "I fell asleep" or quite possibly, but less likely, "I feel sleepy." Not only is this soldier inept at guarding his post, his grasp over the English language is poor at best.
You can expect to see a lot of classic NES games on this list, simply because these are some of the earliest examples of poor video game translations. "A winner is you" is the caption used after defeating an opponent in the NES title Pro Wrestling, congratulating the player for beating the opponent in the previous match.
"A winner is you" is probably one of the most popular mistranslated video game quotes in video game history and in later years far past its release becoming a familiar meme that most gamers are familiar with. Even though many people are unfamiliar with the quotes origin, despite the game being well received at the time, "A winner is you" is often quoted by gamers and non-gamers alike as a form of congratulations and is a line that will most likely be used for some time to come.
Earlier Final Fantasy titles didn't so much suffer from a poor translation, but rather lines that just felt campy or unlikely for a character to stay. Final Fantasy IV is no exception. In one particular scene, the sage Tellah lashes out at Edward, a bard who was in love with Tellah's daughter, Anna. In a fit of rage after blaming Edward for the death of his daughter, he attacks him in an attempt to kill him insulting him along the way, only for Anna's ghost to eventually intervene and convince him to stop.
"You spoony bard!" is shouted at Edward while attacking. Despite it being known as a poor translation, the phrase "spoony bard" has become so popular with the fans of the franchise that even later reworked translations for the game's remasters has contained the line while many other aspects of the script were changed. The phrase is so popular, the term "spoony bard" has worked its way into many other Final Fantasy titles and has even been referenced in other games like Ace Attorney. Considering its legacy, maybe it's not such a fail after all. A winner is you, you spoony bard!
Setting the stage for Contra 3: The Alien Wars, we are greeted with an opening cinematic, one that will likely remind you of the film Independence Day. A city skyline is desolated by a powerful beam shooting from the clouds, only to leave the city in ruin. Enter our heroes Bill and Lance, the main protagonists from the prequels and seemingly the only two people capable of ending an alien invasion. While gearing up to save the day, Bill states that "It's time for revenge," and Lance responding with "Let's attack aggressively," already with an automated weapon in hand. Who needs an army when Bill and Lance are ready to attack aggressively?
Though the phrasing makes sense, it's often viewed as a silly line in a run and gun shooter as you're battling hoard after hoard of alien militia. Given the circumstances, is there really any other way to attack? It's as redundant as saying "Let's sneak quietly" or "Let's sleep tiredly." When the human race is nearing extinction and you're already geared up with such heavy artillery, I think it is safe to assume that attacking will be aggressive regardless.
Not all translation errors in video games are due toward poor localization. Sometimes, misspellings or grammatical errors are just overlooked by the localization team. The Double Dragon series makes its way back to the NES, yet we still see the series pop up every now and then today, most recently with the retro release of Double Dragon 4 on the Playstation 4. If you're familiar with the franchise, you probably know that the two main characters are twin brothers dubbed Billy and Jimmy. Despite the characters appearing in each video game, by Double Dragon 3, the duo was accidentally labeled as "Bimmy and Jimmy" rather than "Billy and Jimmy" in the opening cinematic for two player mode.
This mistake actually lived on in later years in the series. In 2012's Double Dragon Neon.
While keeping the name Bimmy for Billy and changing Jimmy's name to Jammy, a new duo was formed. Bimmy and Jammy. Based off of the original error found in Double Dragon 3, Bimmy and Jammy are mutant versions of the two brothers serving as a boss later in the game. This is one of the many examples of developers embracing awkward translations in the past and making them present in the series' modern day lore.
A decent portion of fighting games probably could have made this list due to many quotes throughout these games coming off as pretty corny. Whether its intentional or simply shoddy translation, there is no doubt that Fatal Fury takes the cake. Possibly the worst offending quote is "What a tough. I think I used about 61.5% of my strength" simply due to its bad translation and overall cheesiness of the line. You think 61.5%, huh? That's a pretty specific number, but who am I to judge?
Other strange quotes include "Your fists of evil are about to meet my steel wall of niceness" and "Blood is thick, but syrup's thicker. Think about it." Personally, most of the quotes from this game are completely over my heard and thinking about them too hard would probably use up about 61.5% of my mental capacity.
Aero Fighters 2 was a vertical-scrolling plane shooter developed by NeoGeo as an arcade game in the mid-nineties. It's mainly known for its campy storyline and ridiculous cast of characters: a pop star pilot, a one-year old baby prodigy, and of course Spanky, the first ever dolphin pilot. Whether a baby or a dolphin is more ludicrous than the other, that's for you to decide.
Though Aero Fighters 2 script is far from gold, one particular line has made the game popular due to its broken "engrish," replacing an "R" for an "L" in "flying". Spanky declares "I never thought I'd be frying over a jungle," which is only made more humerus when the line is being spoken by a talking dolphin. I'm pretty sure most gamers never thought any of these characters would be "frying" over a jungle either, Spanky.
Everything from the ending of the original Ghostbusters video game is a complete mess from the incorrect spelling, incomplete sentences, and improper grammar. Also, if you're thinking the ending to the game couldn't be that bad, take a look at the screenshot above. That's it. Even bypassing the spelling of "congratulations" to "conglaturation," the next few lines are some of the most awkward sentences in gaming history. "You have completed a great game" is the only sentence that makes sense... that is if you are one of the few to consider this terrible product a great game. Then it leads to "And prooved the justice of our culture" which somehow makes up its own sentence, contains a misspelling, and makes little to no sense. "Now go and rest our heroes!" ties it all up, making this one of the worst screenshots in video game translation.
Despite being one of the worst endings ever for a video game, Ghostbusters: The Video Game from 2009 is willing to poke a little fun at the history of this movie's gaming franchise and the ending screenshot can be found on computer monitors in the game. It may be one of the worst endings in video game history, but it also makes up for one of the most humorous easter eggs.
Speaking of terribly translated endings in video games, the original Ghosts 'n Goblins for the NES is another example of shoddy translation on an overwhelmingly difficult game with little payoff at the end. To make things worse, to get the "true" ending, you have to power through what is already a difficult game twice with no way to save progress and little room for mistakes. After your initial run through, you are greeted with the screen stating "This room is an illusion and is a trap devised by Satan. Go ahead dauntlessly! Make rapid progress!" Rinse and repeat.
After making your way through an even more difficult version of the game from beginning to end again, you get the real ending: Another misspelling of congratulations and the game letting you know that "This story is happy end. Thank you." But hey, nothing is more rewarding than beating a difficult game and being rewarded with one of the biggest translation fails to make its way in a video game. Oh, and you're welcome.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was quite different with an all new gameplay style and art direction for the series. Not only that, but Hyrule was given more life with multiple NPCs and various towns to visit. With more NPCs comes more dialogue and with more dialogue comes a greater chance of a translation fail. Error is a character located in the town of Ruto and upon talking to him, he simply says "I am error." Another character, named Bagu also makes an appearance in the game. Interestingly enough, Bagu was supposed to be translated to Bug in the English version of the game, thus creating the pair Error and Bug. Even though Error gets the credit for being one of the biggest translation blunders in Nintendo, Bagu is actually the error you're looking for.
Being such a popular mistake, the quote has made itself into other games, including another Nintendo flagship title Super Paper Mario and a third party title The Binding of Issac. It's always a treat seeing these gaming translation legends live on to the next generation.
Forget the script for the original Resident Evil, which was more of a victim of terrible voice acting than a bad translation (and let's be honest, we've grown to love it). Resident Evil: Revelations was on of the first big Resident Evil games to come to a portable gaming device, being the Nintendo 3DS. It was a rather impressive title for a handheld device and actually didn't suffer from poor translation within the game itself.
So why did this particular game make the list? They actually misspelled the word "Revelations" on the box art to "Revelaitons." Mistakes could easily be made within a game's text, but its rather extreme making it to the cover and actually releasing it without anyone noticing. Whether this was simply a translation error or a misspelling, it's definitely quite the embarrassment on Capcom's part. Capcom fixed future shipments of the game with the proper spelling.
Games with voice acting tend to have the added benefit of catching translation errors. Perhaps if phrases like "I feel asleep" and "You spoony bard" were spoken aloud, someone would hear how terrible the translation sounded and would possibly be worked upon. Seeing as Magneto's infamous quote was spoken in X-Men: The Arcade Game, there is no visual documentation of his famous quote. Yet if you slammed quarters into one of these arcade cabinets as a child, you'll most likely remember Magneto's infamous line "Welcome to die!" as he taunts the oncoming team of X-Men.
Oddly enough, the rest of the game doesn't suffer from such nonsensical lines, albeit mediocre voice acting. Sure, most of it is a bit hokey, but Magneto stating he is "Master of magnet" and repeatedly shouting "You are dead" during the final battle adds to the humor of this translation and what has made it such a popular catchphrase in gaming culture today.
Final Fantasy VII has the honor of being one of the more recent games on this list, despite its release two decades ago. While localizing video games has improved drastically over the previous years, Final Fantasy VII still had a few hiccups over the course of the game, despite an overall decent translation. One of the most infamous quotes from early on in the game is "This guy are sick," spoken by one of the game's leading ladies, Aeris... or Aerith if you prefer, but that's a whole other localization controversy.
Even with "This guy are sick" being one of the most glaring grammatical mistakes in Final Fantasy VII, there are still plenty of other mistakes sprinkled throughout the game. Though most of these errors have been fixed throughout different ports of the game, the original Playstation is noteworthy for having mistakes such as "Off course!" when being asked whether or not you want to continue in the battle arena or the misspelling of the word "because" in an important scene where Sephiroth tells Cloud "Beacause you are a puppet."
Well, this was a complete disaster. Releasing just a few years ago in 2014 for the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita, Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is probably the worst translation in recent memory. Despite other games in the series having overall decent translations, its like the localization team didn't even bother to try. It's not even just a weird translation error here and there, but literally the whole game is plagued by clumsy dialogue, some of which makes no sense at all. Games of yesteryear get a pass since gaming was a relatively new form of media and translation was a mere afterthought compared to gameplay, but in this day and age, there is pretty much no excuse.
Sony did attempt to resolve the problem, however. a patch was released for the Playstation 4 version. Unfortunately, Vita users were left in the dust, only with the option of uploading their saved data to the console version. Then again, if you like hysterically bad video game translations, Hollow Fragment might be worth picking up. Who wouldn't want to keep such classic lines such as "That way the penetration will be easier" or "Well, we pretty much got used to it since we did that much penetrations."
You can't talk about terrible video game translations without mentioning Zero Wing. Zero Wing wasn't particularly a popular game by any means, though its name soared into internet fame through the late 1990s to the early 2000s as a fan-made music video surfaced featuring the opening sequence. Originally an arcade game, the game was successful enough to be ported over to the Sega Mega Drive. Added to the console version was a rather unnecessary cutscene trying to flesh out the plot of a game which otherwise didn't really have one.
Lines such as "All your base are belong to us," "We get signal," or "Somebody set up us the bomb" have been branded into internet history as the music video went viral, heavily in part to the website Newgrounds. Even though Zero Wing isn't a bad game, it will sadly never be remembered for its gameplay but as the poor translation that memed its way into internet and gaming history, as well as into everyone's hearts. This is one meme that has a chance to survive make its time.