What would the golden age of video games be like without the influential developers from isles of Japan? When you are asked to name notable exports from Land of the Rising Sun, the thought of video games instantly pop into your head, and for good reason. Japanese influence on the game industry will be forever chronicled in the annals of popular culture and business. An enormous amount of the games we play in America are either from The United States itself or localization of titles from Japan.
With amazing creations like Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, Mario, and Pokémon, we are led to believe that every title from Japan has the potential to be an instant classic. In all honesty, there are a ton of whiffs and misses, and some concepts are downright weird. Thankfully, most of them never quite make it beyond the Sea of Japan.
Amidst commercially successful games, there are domestics ones that are targeted solely for the amusement of the Japanese market, niche or otherwise. Thus, publishers are careful not to localize a title that is too obtuse, or likely to get lost in translation. They must be extra-aware of Japanese norms and consumer habits that are deemed offensive anywhere else. The usage of the word “horrific” in this article either means poor in quality, as the term “kusoge” might suggest, or just so catastrophically-distasteful that it should linger around a back-alley dumpster in Tokyo with stuff like 'tentacle' videos and weekold melonpan. Here are 15 games that are made in Japan that were so horrific they never made it overseas.
15 The Yakyuken Special
This concept originated as a dance and chant used at a Shikoku baseball game. Yakyuken was mistakenly labeled as a strip variation of the game of rock-paper-scissors because of the Japanese adult industry adopting the concept in their videos and games. Being released on the Panasonic 3DO and Sega Saturn, The Yakyuken Special was one of the more prolific ones of this genre. The game has been openly mocked on Youtube and has even been described as having a horrific concept and presentation. Though the gameplay is simple and easy to grasp, suffering through the painfully-awkward dancing of each model to an equally terrible song is not worth the naked payoff at the end. The sequel has a better all-around quality, and better-looking models, but neither is delivers more than a temporary novelty for a super-niche demographic.
14 Boong-Ga Boong-Ga
Created by the now-defunct South Korean developer Taff Systems, Boong-Ga Boong-Ga was an arcade game that required gamers to “kancho” or spank a fake pair of buttocks that was installed into the cabinet with a giant plastic finger. A kancho is an act where someone puts their hands together in a gun-shape, and uses their index fingers to poke another person’s rear end. The prank is popular with school children from Japan and Korea. I’ve heard stories from my friends, who have taught English in both countries, that they had students kancho them in the schoolyard during lunchtime. Obviously, those who are not familiar with this type of prank will surely not understand why anyone would thrust their fingers up someone’s anus for amusement. Sometimes, pranks and jokes are lost in translation. Therefore, Boong-Ga Boong-Ga will forever only be acceptable to the people who performed it in their childhood days.
13 Gals Panic
As an eroge game based on a fascinating arcade classic Qix, Gals Panic was a series of puzzle games released by Kaneko that required gamers to uncover photos of scantily clad and naked women by capturing areas with a cursor that resembles a sparkling dot without being constantly murdered by the stage bosses. The bonus levels consisted of some of the most perverse mini-games imaginable. While in high school, I located an arcade in Los Angeles that imported this coin-munching gem from Japan. Nudity aside, the Gals Panic games were brimming with personality and delivers challenging gameplay. But be warned. If you do manage to play this game anywhere outside of Japan, you get your fair share of disgusted and judgmental stares from surrounding patrons. For that reason alone, it was probably wise of Kaneko not to bring this game over to put at the local Chuck E. Cheese.
12 Takeshi’s Challenge
Before renowned actor and comedian Takeshi Kitano, also known as Beat Takeshi, was known by cinephiles around the world with Hana-bi and Battle Royale, he was asked by Taito to help in the development of a video game bearing his name called Takeshi’s Challenge. Kitano wanted to include hyper-violent elements and various adult content to the project, but was rejected due to technical limitations of the original Famicom, and how Nintendo wanted to only release family-friendly games. What resulted must have come from Kitano’s twisted sense-of-humor. If you thought E.T. The Game was bad, be prepared for this one. Though appearing as a standard platformer about a disgruntled salaryman, completing the game was an impossible task due to asinine challenges like singing karaoke for an hour and hitting Kitano 20,000 times to defeat him. Kitano admitted in interviews that he hates modern technologies such as computers, cell phones, and video games. Takeshi’s Challenge truly embodies his hatred and is widely-considered one of the top kusoge — a Japanese term for crappy games, of all time.
11 Lone Soldier
Developed in Europe and released for the PS1 in 1996, Lone Soldier was a 3D shooter that entrusts a commando to avert nuclear disaster by killing as many terrorists as he can. Sounds interesting enough, right? There were a lot of problems with the game, including terrible controls, even worse graphics, and some of the most appalling sound effects and voice acting ever burned on to a Playstation disc. Oddly, when the game was released in Japan, minimal localization was attempted, as it lacked dubbing or even subtitles in Japanese. Luckily, the game was only released in Europe and Japan, sparing the rest of the world the pain and heartache from purchasing this game.
10 Lolita Syndrome
Long before Enix developed gaming classics and merged with Squaresoft, they produced many odd adult computer games including one called Lolita Syndrome. Set in a house of horrors named Maison Lolita, the object of the game is to solve various puzzles to liberate underage girls from traps that would otherwise lead to their gore-filled deaths. For some terrible reason, every reward comes in the form of seeing the girl naked. Though Enix would create many more erotic games in the ‘80s until finally becoming a mainstream publisher, Lolita Syndrome became one of their more popular titles. Thankfully, this disturbing title never made it out of Japan, and Enix went on to produced great games for the world, such as Soul Blazer, Star Ocean, Dragon Quest, Act Raiser, and Illusion of Gaia.
9 Cosmic Race
For such a monumental gaming console, the original Playstation library in Japan sure had its fair share of terrible games. Having the distinction of being one of the worst games in history, Cosmic Race was the only game ever created by the defunct developer, Neorex. The game was a futuristic racing title that featured horrendous graphics and unintuitive controls. Most of the maps consisted of strange polygons in the form of giant triangles that are set as the race markers and boundaries. Compared to similar games released at the time like Wipeout on the PS1, Cosmic Race looked like it was created for a console of the previous generation. Honestly, even F-Zero looked superior, and it was a launch title for the Super NES.
8 Hakaioh: King Of Crusher
Hakaioh: King of Crusher was a “rage simulator,” and one of many kusoge released for the original Playstation in Japan. The plot is about a typical Japanese salaryman who goes berserk after being bitten by a mystical house fly. The objective of the game is to fill a destruction gauge by destroying the surroundings to advance to the next level before being killed by enemies, who happens be the Japanese military. Though it appears to be an interesting premise loaded with potential, the protagonist, for some uncanny and unexplainable reason, morphs into a werewolf and then a Godzilla-like dinosaur. Possessing pretty straightforward beat ‘em controls, Hakaioh is mired with camera problems and repetitive gameplay. The whole game is just a case of Rampage gone completely wrong.
7 Transformers: Convoy No Nazo
With over three decades of success, the Transformers franchise is one of the most lucrative and popular properties in history, and cemented the partnership between Takara-Tomy and Hasbro, two of the most influential toymakers in the world. Before Transformers gained traction in America, ISCO and Takara created a platforming game for the Famicom titled Transformers: Convoy no Nazo, roughly translated as Mystery of Convoy. The game centers around Autobot City Commander Ultra Magnus as he fights endless amounts of Decepticons on a mission to uncover the killer of Optimus Prime, known in Japan as Convoy. Though not a terrible game per-se, Convoy no Nazo was insanely-difficult to finish including a stage that was incompletable unless it was done in a specific pattern. Most of the time, the bosses consisted of a giant Decepticon logo trying to kill a mini-size Ultra Magnus.
6 Hoshi Wo Miru Hito
Also known as Stargazer, Hoshi Wo Miru Hito was a role-playing game which based its engine on other popular RPGs at the time, but failed at doing so at an epic level. Thus, it is widely considered in Japan as one of the most legendary kusoge ever made. It is very difficult to pinpoint one reason why this game is so horrifically bad, because it was poorly designed in so many areas. Due to it not having a save function, restarting the game through a password meant the characters’ levels were reset to 0, and yes, the leveling started at 0 rather than 1. Important things like dungeons, towns, and treasure chests were invisible on the maps, so finding them was close to impossible. Listing any more of this game’s shortcomings might make your head explode, which would likely be the consequence of playing Hoshi Wo Miru Hito.
5 Dream Emulator
For a country with such draconian anti-drug legislation, it is a wonder how the developers for Dream Emulator made a simulation of a trip. The levels are set in a dream world where the player can interact with his/her environment and influence future dreams much like a time-traveling adventure. Designed by Osamu Sato, who has a knack for creating obtuse and unconventional games like Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou, Dream Emulator is likely considered one of the weirdest games ever released for a major console. Though its narcotic conceipt has innovative gameplay, an interesting premise, and a cult-following, this game was far too outlandish and strange for distribution outside of Japan. The title itself would draw negative attention from overprotective parents.
4 The Kung-Fu Master Jackie Chan
Created during a time when using digitized sprites was the hot thing in video games, Kaneko developed a Mortal Kombat-like fighter featuring Hong Kong actor star Jackie Chan that played like a Fatal Fury title. Every boss faced in this game was one incarnation of Chan in his various movie roles, who appears extremely-upbeat even after he murders you in battle. Unfortunately, fatalities cannot be performed on Chan, in case any anti-fans want to take it out on his digital avatar. Jackie never loses. He just gets back up and gives a thumbs-up to the player. Kaneko released an upgraded version named Fist of Fire, but you know what they say about polishing a turd. Thanks to the video game gods, this fighter was never released outside of Japan.
3 Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special
The Fire Pro Wrestling series features some of the best wrestling games in the 16-bit era, including eight titles for the Super Famicom. Though lacking licensing, most of the characters in the series are based on real-life pro-wrestlers. The problem of Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special was not its gameplay or anything aesthetic, but rather its extremely-morbid storyline that features the murder of the protagonist’s tag-team partner and trainer by the evil world champion, who resembles Nature Boy Ric Flair. Though the main character wins the title, the pain of losing everyone he’s ever cared about causes him to commit suicide soon after the bout. Who would have thought such an entertaining pro-wrestling game would maintain such a melodramatic storyline that is comparable to “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke? Predictably, this title never made it outside of Japan.
2 Battle R
These next two games are so revolting we don't want to give them any oxygen by using their full titles. Not unlike Lord Voldemort.
BR is a 3D fighting game where combatants utilize suggestive special moves and lose clothing as they take damage. It seems like par for the course for most erotic games developed in Japan, and even mainstream fighters like Dead or Alive actively tease gamers with hypersexual characters. Unfortunately, that’s where the innocent and titillating fun ends, as the game encourages gamers to attack their opponent after defeating them in hand-to-hand combat. The game led to the formation of the Ethnics Organization of Computer Software, the Japanese equivalent to the North American’s ESRB system, many years later. Illusion created a sequel that omitted the violent post-match attack, but the damage was already done.
Another game so revolting it's not worth repeating its title.
As the premier publisher of 3D erotic video games and pushing the proverbial envelope with every release, Illusion Soft has a policy prohibiting the distribution of their games outside of Japan. When they released RL in 2006, a game about a pervert who harasses, kidnaps, and attacks a mother and her two daughters, the contents of the game became so notoriously-controversial that various nations around the world pressured officials in Japan to ban the sale of the game. In 2009, nearly three years after its release, the Ethics Organization of Computer Software, the Japanese game rating system, made the distribution of the game illegal in Japan. Though Illusion explained that their title didn’t violate any Japanese law, they eventually disavowed references to the game and removed it from their website. The only saving-grace in RL is that the villainous protagonist faces a gruesome death no matter what action he takes. Thankfully, most of us will never know further details beyond that.