The gaming industry would certainly be different without the influence of the Japanese minds who have brought us some of the most memorable games in recent memory. Without Japan, there would be no Nintendo, no Super Mario, no Final Fantasy, not even the much talked about Console Wars between the Genesis and the Super NES. Indeed, the world itself would be much different if there wasn't a Japanese influence in video games.
However, it doesn't mean that everything from Japan has the potential to be the next biggest hit. Often, people living in the Americas and Europe are spared from some extremely weird titles that would probably cause more uproar than contribute to the retailers' bottom line. For every hit, there are plenty of whiffs. Indeed, some could only be deemed as acceptable and marketable only in Japan. Sometimes, cultural norms and habits of the Japanese could never be translated or even localized. Thus, it is probably wise that some games never made it outside of the country.
The Japanese term “kusoge” actually means a cruddy game, and this idea of terrible game design actually originated from some perverse minds of developers who are Japanese. Some are distasteful, and some are just simply disastrous with a couple of awesome titles sprinkled in. Here are 25 console games created in Japan that were too disturbing for an American release.
Created by Kaneko, Gals Panic was an eroge series with gameplay from the classic arcade puzzle game called Qix. Stages would require gamers to carve out sections of the play area to uncover photographs of scantily-clad people and, occasionally, even ones posing in their birthday suits. However, the screen was often loaded with enemies and stage bosses that can easily destroy the player if they happen to be hit while capturing areas. While this game was mostly for the Japanese arcade market, several cabinets did make it to the United States in Japanese-themed amusement centers. Released on the Sega Saturn and first PlayStation, Gals Panic SS would be the first title to ever be featured on a home console. Predictably, the game was never exported outside of Japan, but did find its way to international gamers via emulators.
One of the most devious and perverted games to ever be released for console gaming, Cleaning Squadron Clean Keeper is loaded with animated female characters who are parading around during bath time, eating bananas, and covered in bubbles. Though it was rated for ages 15-years old and up, it seems more of a game that should only be sold to those of legal age. In this crazy high school harem, the goal is to clean the dirtiness of a high school in heaven. If you see some of the gameplay screens, it seems like the people who made this game are going anywhere but heaven. Indeed, in the typical anime fashion, all of the high school students look more like grade school children. Disturbing, right?
Being one of the more bizarre titles to non-Japanese residents, The Yakyuken Special was a grown-up version of the rock-paper-scissors game that is extremely popular in the country. Because of this devious nature of this game in Japan, it is often utilized in the Pink entertainment industry, especially in games and videos. Released on the Sega Saturn and the Panasonic 3DO, this particular game was one of the most well-known titles of the genre. Due to the nature of the game itself, it was luckily kept as a domestic exclusive. However, it didn't stop several online gamers creating gameplay videos on Youtube to mock the cringe-worthy gameplay and music. The game was super-niche and probably would be lost in translation for foreigners unfamiliar with this cultural tidbit.
Known for being some of the best 16-bit wrestling games of all-time, the Fire Pro Wrestling series were famous for having extremely-fun gameplay despite not featuring any real-life personalities and wrestlers. During the run of the Super Famicom, there were eight different titles created for the console. While the games lacked official licensing from Japanese and American promotions, characters were heavily-based on actual wrestlers throughout pro-wrestling history, such as Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Though some Fire Pro Wrestling games were received stateside, Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special was not one of these. With a storyline that featured actual murder and deaths (in a wrestling game?), this game clearly wasn't going to past the strict Nintendo of America smell test. Thus, this melodramatic title never was imported to North America.
With a name like Seaman, you might think that it is a double entendre, but it is literally about keeping a fish with a human face alive, much like another Japanese creation, the Tamagotchi pet. Released for the Sega Dreamcast, it utilized the rarely-used and rarely-remembered Dreamcast microphone attachment during the gameplay. While the first game was actually brought over to North America and featured the voice of Leonard Nimoy, the sequel was only released in Japan. If you can get over the creepy notion of raising a man-faced fish as a pet, then Seaman is right up your gaming alley. Despite being a smash hit in Japan, the game was forgotten outside of the country. Thus, it was probably wise that there wasn't a sequel released for a floundering Dreamcast console in the States.
As one of the most prolific female singing groups in Japan and most of Asia, AKB48 and their myriad of sister groups in several Japanese cities and Asian countries have been the stars of numerous video games for consoles and arcade. However, the idea of Japanese idols might be a topic that is heavily lost in translation and maybe even disturbing to foreigners who see the genre as unwholesome. AKB1/149 was third and final game in the trilogy of dating-simulations released for handheld consoles only in Japan. Most of the gameplay consisted of answering various questions in order to gain the favor of a particular member. The cringe-worthy moments occur during several point-of-view kiss videos and the fact that some of the members are young junior-high aged teenagers. Given the fact that the members are also prohibited from dating, having a dating-sim based on the group seems quite weird, indeed.
One of the most popular toy and film franchises in the world, Transformers have been around for the past three decades. A game created by ISCO and Takara, a Transformers game was produced for the Family Computer, otherwise known as Famicom. While the game never was exported out of Japan, many Transformers fans managed to get a copy of this very difficult and unforgiving video game. Filled with puzzles and deadly enemies, Convoy No Nazo starred Autobot City Commander Ultra Magnus in his quest to crush the Decepticon regime and find the murderer of Optimus Prime. However, a lot of the game consisted of a pixelated Magnus fighting against a gigantic Decepticon insignia in some of the worst case of character designs I have ever witnessed in gaming.
Hakaioh: King of Crusher was not considered a beat-em-up game, but described by their creators as a “rage simulator”. Its claim to fame is due to it being one of the worst games to ever be released for the original PlayStation in Japan. Thus, this game is known for being classified as a kusoge, the Japanese terminology for cruddy games with terrible design or concepts. The player controlled the protagonist who develops strange transforming powers after being nibbled by a possessed house fly. Quite simply, the point of the entire game was to destroy as much as the environment as possible in order to fill a destruction gauge before the Japanese defense forces drains your health. The main character would morph into a werewolf and then a giant-Godzilla-like lizard. Though it presented a simple concept, the gameplay was extremely-repetitive. Such absurdity meant it stayed only in Japan.
Highly disturbing and widely-inappropriate, 177 is a game that was guaranteed never to be distributed outside of Japan. Tremendously devious, most of the game's unsavory plot is so grotesque we'll omit it to spare everyone from hearing about the brutality. First, I can talk about the significance of the number of 177, which is the Japanese police code for a four-letter word beginning with an “r”. Pretty much the protagonist plays a criminal with a mission to hunt down an unsuspecting female, similar to that Custer's Revenge game. With that being said, I think it is best to move on from this topic and onto another entry, lest we burst into flames.
Though critically-successful and being one of the most memorable survival games in Japan, the disturbing nature of Sweet Home, filled with gore and horrific imagery, was never distributed outside of Japan. This was probably for good reason. Directed by Tokuro Fujiwara, who produced Resident Evil, this game would have elements that were reused in the famed-gaming franchise. Based on the film sharing the same name, this Famicom survival role-playing game features numerous puzzles and supernatural battles. Because of its violent and gruesome death scenes, it was never even put in front of Nintendo of America. If you enjoy people being burned alive and angry specters (and also can read Japanese) this one is actually worth picking up for any survival game enthusiast.
Known in Japan as Beat Takeshi, Takeshi Kitano is better known by foreign cinema-enthusiasts for his memorable roles in Battle Royale and Hana-bi, as well as being a part of the live-action Ghost in the Shell film. Before all of those acclaimed projects, Taito actually asked for his help in creating a video game based on his ideas named Takeshi's Challenge, a platformer about a pissed-off salaryman. While Kitano's more violent elements were left on the cutting floor, the developers still integrated his more absurd demands and ideas into the game, including singing karaoke for an hour and forcing gamers to hit an in-game Takeshi for over 20,000 to finish it. Admittedly, Kitano is known for hating video games and other modern technological devices like computers and cell phones. Unsurprisingly, the game embodied all of the actor's hate and disrespect and placed it into a Nintendo cartridge.
We all have skeletons in the closet, or something unsavory of the past that we would like to keep buried. That is probably the case for one half of the Square-Enix game company. Many years ago, Enix developed games for targeted towards grown-ups, including an extremely odd game called Lolita Syndrome. By the title, many readers already know what the topic of this game might be. Taking place in a horror house, the objective is to solve puzzles in order to save young females from gruesome ends by escaping some gnarly, Saw-like traps. Even worse was the rewards came in the form of cartoon characters in their birthday suits. Eventually, Enix would move on to more worthwhile pursuits, such as the Soul Blazer trilogy, Star Ocean, and the Actraiser series. Owning a game like that in the States would be considered contraband.
The Splatterhouse games were awesome! Unfortunately, the second ever Splatterhouse game to ever be released for a home console was never brought over to North America. Knowing just how strict those folks at Nintendo of America were in the 80s and 90s, the reasoning behind why Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti was never released for the Nintendo Entertainment System is probably understood without explanation. Done in the popular Japanese style of super deformed characters, this Splatterhouse game was filled with humor and jokes. This wonderful platformer would never see a release in North America, and that is a real shame, as it is an absolutely fantastic way to spend a comedic and gory afternoon.
People who have knowledge about Japan knows about their anti-substance legislation and policies. Yet, a strange game called LSD: Dream Emulator somehow made it to store shelves for the Sony PlayStation despite being a dead-ringer for simulating an actual acid trip. Set within a dream realm, interacting with certain items would influence the coming future. Similar to one of his other titles Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou, Osamu Sato's Dream Emulator was equally as weird and just as popular in Japan. However, the game's questionable title and concepts meant that it would never be distributed outside of the country. Still, the game found notoriety on the internet for being monumentally weird, obtuse, and clearly modeled for the Japanese market.
A video game that made it to Europe but never to North America, Demolition Girl tells a story of a supermodel who turns into a giant and rampages around Japan. Yes, there is no Sylvester Stallone or Wesley Snipes in this film, but there are plenty of destroyed buildings and lots of collateral damage. The protagonist plays the role of a jet pilot who's mission is to save civilians, as well as taking measurements of her bust size. Also, the model happens to only do her rampaging in her spiffy outfit. Indeed, that sounds like a concept that would only be understandable in the country of Japan. While some copies did make it the States, this game is one of the more obscure ones even among internet gamers.
While the sequel somehow made it to North America, the debut release of Clock Tower never saw official sales in the States. However, a fair number of fan-lead translations did allow a lot of international gamers to take part in this truly disturbing horror-survival game. Basically a point-and-click adventure, Clock Tower was based on the works of Dario Argento. The main character was actually modeled after Jennifer Connelly's appearance in Argento's film Phenomena, released in the mid-1980s. While examining the clock tower mansion for clues and equipment, the protagonist Jennifer is relentlessly pursued by a freak-of-nature killer who wields gigantic scissors. Pretty much most of the game to trying to solve this murder mystery without suffering a “Death End” at the hands of “Scissorman”.
Known as one of the worst role-playing games of all-time, Stargazer, (Hoshi Wo Miru Hito) was poorly-designed in so many ways that it would make someone's head explode. Somehow, this epic and legendary kusoge made it to market and into the history books as a precautionary tale of how not to develop a video game. Despite being based on numerous popular titles during its production, this game lacked an actual save function, meaning that turning off the game would force gamers to have their characters' levels reset back completely down to zero. Locations on the over-world map were not indicated by icons, so they were inherently invisible. So, if you managed to find these towns and dungeons, make sure you never turn off the console, as it would pretty much erase your entire progress.
Here is a game that didn't make it out of Japan because it was absolutely terrible in every way. The original PlayStation had its fair share of bad games, especially in the domestic Japanese market. One of these monumental failures was created by a defunct company, Neorex. Their lone game was probably one that put them out of business. Cosmic Race had incredibly-terrible graphics, where stages would consist of ugly polygons and other unsightly shapes. It looked so bad that people often mistake it for being developed for a console of a previous generation. With other excellent racing games in the market like Wipeout, Cosmic Race was little more than comic relief. Thus, we were spared from ever witnesses this atrocity in our Playstation library.
Ikenie no Yoru, known in the English-speaking world as Night of Sacrifice, is one of the most disturbing and frightening games to ever come out in Japan. Surely, the Japanese sure know their way around horror and survival games. Yet another game where a bunch of people are stuck in a mansion, ready to be slaughtered, aside for several jump scares here and there, there might be little else to offer to gamers who are not fans of the genre. Most of the gaming mechanic revolves around avoiding ghosts, who can end anyone in your party by a mere touch. Thus, stealth and sheer planning takes priority in this very scary survival adventure. Published for the Nintendo Wii, the game was never released outside of Japan.
Based on a manga character that was never seen in North America, Utsurun Desu.: Kawauso Hawaii e Iku!!! was a Famicom game released in 1992 by Takara, the toy company that developed Transformers. While the game appeared to be a traditional, average run-of-the-mill platformer in the veins of Super Mario, there would be situations within the various stages that seemed impossible. Gameplay was extremely lacking in terms of intuitiveness, as the humorous nature of the game overpowered any concern with creating a balanced and well-designed title. The graphics were memorably horrid. Unsurprisingly, it is rated as one of the worst games in Japanese console gaming history, and it was actually for the lack of trying.
Here is a game that has a connection to the original Dragon Ball series. Both were able the Monkey King from the Journey to the West novel. However, this Famicom video game never did receive the same amount of notoriety as Goku and friends. Heavily-based on the Chinese novel, Ganso Saiyūki: Super Monkey Daibōken was featured on Game Center CX for being one of the hardest and incomprehensible games to ever be released in Japan. That is saying a lot. Not only do a ton of half-man half-demon enemies try to murder you at every given turn, it is actually easier to perish due to starvation similar to the classic Oregon Trail game. The only difference is that your oxen have not died while you tried to ford the river, because there are no rivers in your journey.
If Leisure Suit Larry was a middle-age Japanese salaryman, then you would get the main character in The Houchi Play, where the objective of the game is to flirt with women so you could give them unwanted attention. That is exactly how wholesome this game can be worded, as it is pretty much just creepy way to spend your time. Surely, if this game was ever imported to North America, there would be a picket line with people petitioning (and probably for good reason). When the whole point of the gameplay is to grieve pretty women, everyone could understand why The Houchi Play was only available for domestic purchase. Crisis-averted to say the very least.
So, this is not that terrible Bebe's Kids video game, but it is indeed, pretty bad. In a game that would probably sicken conservative American parents around the country, Toilet Kids never made it out of Japan, as the toilet humor would never translate properly in English, anyway. Released for the PC Engine, otherwise known around the world as the TurboGrapfx-16, this shooting game revolves around the story of a boy who somehow manages to get flushed down the toilet into some strange new world. Unfortunately, the Ninja Turtles are not on the other side. There are just a bunch of cruddy enemies anwholehile lot of evil flies on the screen. That is probably a good reason why this game stayed only in Japan.
A children's cartoon that is filled with long periods pants-less-ness and inappropriate jokes, Crayon Shin Chan is definitely one of those programs that would be lost in translation and pretty much shock audiences outside of Japan. Filled with many mini-games, the Super Famicom release of Crayon Shin Chan is title that has both good and bad components. While some of the mini-games are ruthlessly-difficult to win, they are, in fact, pretty entertaining and fun. If you are the type of gamer who likes a challenge, this one is sure to tickle your competitive fancies. Most of the time, it is like fighting an uphill battle wearing greased-up Converses. The unforgiving A.I. and ample amount of cultural references made this game an obvious choice not to be released in North America.
The heroic ideals of the battleship Yamato have been a part of many popular culture references in Japan. So, it is just so painful to see that one of the worst games in Japan in 2012 is actually Taiheiyo no Arashi – Senkan Yamato, Akatsuki ni Syutsugekisu, which translates as Pacific Storm – Battleship Yamato, Deploys at Dawn. In a odd game that is like a perversion of the board game Battleship, this game features lackluster gameplay, terrible sound effects, and an unforgiving A.I. Thus, winning this game of strategy would take a little more luck than military skill. All of those aforementioned reasons in addition to being a game touting the former glory of the Japanese war machine, this Yamato game never made it to American shores.