Not every game is a gem, but some are just downright awful. Whether you’re old enough to have endured the E.T. disaster or 2017 gave out your first real disappointment, all gamers know the feeling of getting burned sooner or later. Often, not only have you had your hype for the game crushed, you’re also out time and money.
As games media opens up to a wider variety of platforms and niches, this is no doubt something that will only become more prominent with time. It can get exhausting trying to remember even the most recent failures in game design -- let alone those from decades prior. Even so, those games remembered for their sheer awfulness still exist out there in the ether, waiting to be rediscovered in all their terrible delight.
The PS2 has many qualities that make us remember it fondly -- being one of the longest-lasting and best-selling consoles ever, with a massive library to boot -- but it also managed to pump out an incredible load of shovelware. For every innovative, memorable title the PS2 put out, there was an equalizing force of horrendous proportion. Here, we catalogue the worst of the worst offenders, from the hideous to the banal to the completely broken.
But why stop at just the PS2? If you want to see us lambast more terrible games, make sure to check out our 25 Worst Launch Games In History.
The golden rule for licensed games released in tandem with a movie or TV show counterpart is that, more often than not, the game will be the worse of the two; this list is chock full of such examples, and many others were contenders: Iron Man, Shrek, and The Shield are only the first that come to mind. Still, considering the critical beatdown that accompanied the 2004 movie adaptation of Catwoman, the accompanying game had to be at least a little better right? Not if EA has anything to say about it!
In a tour de force of clumsy mechanics, poor camera angles, and cringeworthy cat puns, Catwoman set out to prove it can be every bit as tragic. The fact that a few years later we’d get a thoroughly excellent reimagining of the character in Arkham City, as perhaps other heroes should, only serves to further highlight this game as the painful mess it is in its own right.
24 Godai: Elemental Force
Godai: Elemental Force is a game that, more than perhaps any other, hampers its best qualities. When a game promises the power to harness elemental fury, you probably imagine that it also works to make that experience play as awesome as it sounds. Godai does the exact opposite. Every obnoxious quality-of-life hinderance one can think of are all thrown in at once; a limited, almost crawling magic meter and a real-time spell cycling menu force the player to utilize the many, many melee weapons in the game.
Unfortunately, those are just as finicky and break easily, requiring anvils to fix them. There’s another visit to the menu. All the while, you’re getting pummelled by enemies making the same repetitive sounds over and over. If you don’t die from that (or sheer boredom), the molasses frame rate and incomprehensible camera will do the job -- or at least you’ll want to be dead.
23 The Sopranos: Road To Respect
A core dilemma in adapting popular media to the video game format is capturing the essence of what makes its source material great. Video games rely inherently on player interaction, so it can often be difficult to craft a compelling experience without giving something up. Some games make things linear for the sake of narrative, while others double down on player choice.
The Sopranos does neither of these things, opting instead to take a mobster story, as much about familial strife as it is about bashing skulls in, and minimize everything to the simplest and most contrived. The enemies you fight are indistinguishable, the missions often have you going back to the same areas again and again, and the main conceit -- that the bastard son of a traitor to the mob then becomes a member of the same mob -- blatantly ignores the personalities of the show’s characters. What do you get for such extraordinary concessions? Poorly textured boobs.
And if you really want those, there are way better options.
22 Surfing H30
As a monolithic publisher with multiple world-class development studios in their pocket, Rockstar is both known for their grandiose vision and notorious for their selectivity. Since the early 2000s, the worst that can be said is that a title of theirs didn’t meet the lofty expectations that’s been set for them. This wasn’t always the case, though, as evidenced by the questionable choice of publishing two Austin Powers adaptations in 2000 alone. The more surprising failure, however, is the one that seems scrubbed from the internet as much as possible: Surfing H30.
An enterprising searcher can scarcely discern what studio the game came from (for posterity: Opus ASCII Entertainment), and it’s easy to see why: it’s a game more about collecting buoys than actual racing, and even in that it’s technically abysmal. Though, the focus on collection might be for the best; at least this thoughtless, menial task might distract you from an experience summed up by IGN as leaving one “exhausted...annoyed and disgusted.” Rockstar would probably prefer this one left to obscurity.
21 Women's Volleyball Championship
Sports games are often one of the more difficult titles to properly evaluate. The annual reprisal and relative maintenance of core mechanics in most sports games makes them at once universally appealing and hard to innovate, but also with a simple formula to follow. Pair mechanics resembling the real life experience with competitive AI and reasonable representations of the players, and you’re in business. Then there’s Women’s Volleyball Championship, a game which, by the nature of its subject matter, is immediately unique. Unfortunately, it’s also uniquely awful.
The developer just had to succeed at the basics! Instead, we get one of the ugliest games on the PS2 despite having the dubious distinction of being the most recent game on this list. Add in laughably bad arenas of mannequin-laden crowds with some of the dullest AI around and you’ll have a new appreciation for those sports titles that are merely competent.
20 Crime Life: Gang Wars
With the raucous success of the Grand Theft Auto series -- a success that just keeps on giving -- imitators were inevitable. Following the release of San Andreas, interest in depicting modern gang life through video games skyrocketed and one of the first to swoop in was Crime Life: Gang Wars. The game is notable for many unfortunate qualities including an exceptionally ugly and lifeless environment and over-reliance on D12, the hip hop group that contributes the soundtrack and several characters.
Even without the obvious comparison to its much more feature-rich and aesthetically appealing source material, Crime Life has a flaw fatal to any game dependent on hyper-violence: it’s just plain boring. Possibly novel elements of combat that might otherwise contribute to an over-the-top sense of flourish or just gleeful mayhem end up highlighting the barrenness that permeates throughout. Just a year later, Saints Row proved that not only was there more room in the market for gangland games, but that the GTA formula could certainly be improved -- giving Crime Life no excuse.
19 Fugitive Hunter: War On Terror
Many games appeal to our more carnal sensations. One of the baser points of this is control, especially considering that user input is what sets games apart from other mediums. So it’s unsurprising that mere months after the Iraq War began, Black Ops (no, not the Call of Duty game, the company) decided to release a game whose main purpose is to kill top enemies of the US...and drug dealers, for some reason. Hence, Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror, aka America's 10 Most Wanted.
While it might be amusing for the opportunity to punch Osama bin Laden in the face, the slog to get there is atrocious. Even the most basic quality of the game -- killing terrorists -- isn’t accomplished correctly; leaving a room for a moment can result in vanquished enemies seemingly coming back from the dead, making clearing levels a massive chore. But hey, maybe that’s where Call of Duty got the idea for zombies!
Games for kids are often terrible. It’s sad, but true; companies and critics often respond with a collective “meh” -- it’s a kids’ game, what do you expect? When a kids’ game also happens to be a movie tie-in, the aptitude for awfulness only increases. In Zathura’s case, kids more than anyone don’t deserve this kind of torture.
All the film’s finesse is flung out the window within the first minute. The very first thing you’re greeted with is a stilted conversation of two brothers fighting as the cinematic painfully attempts to churn out even basic throwing actions without feeling forced. Categorically, it fails. Add in a stunningly bad framerate and AI denser than a neutron star and you get a slapdash title that speaks to the lack of regard the industry has for movie adaptations and kids’ games alike. Zathura isn’t entirely to blame of course, as there are many games that express that same irreverence in different ways, but it is a prime example of carelessness and ineptitude.
17 London Cab Challenge
Phoenix Games is notorious for being one of, if not the single worst developer on the PlayStation and PS2. To call their content “shovelware” would be a kindness; in one instance, the company ported their game The Dalmatians (can you guess what it’s based on?) and in the process retitled it Dalmatians 2 and Dalmatians 3...despite being the exact same game.
The fact that a publisher doesn’t know the difference between a sequel and a port is astounding, so it should be no surprise that when that same company decided to make an original IP, it was a disaster. Thus, London Cab Challenge was violently, horrendously birthed. What, you must imagine, would such a game be? You’re probably in London, though you’d never know it by the textures. You’re driving a cab, but realistically it could be anything from a matchbox car to a moving block of wood. There’s even a challenge -- in endurance at least, for getting through the experience without psychological damage. So in that sense, might it be called a success? No. Still definitely no.
16 Frogger: The Great Quest
Why can’t publishers just let a franchise die? Approximately 0 people were asking for a re-envisioning of Frogger circa 2001, especially right off the heels of a mixed critical evaluation of a previous 3D reboot. Still, the sales were there and therefore so was Konami. If 3D wasn’t enough, maybe making Frogger humanoid, giving him cargo shorts, changing the genre, and releasing it barely a year after the latest incarnation would surely do the trick!
Needless to say, the results were not pretty -- both literally and figuratively. Not only does Frogger: The Great Quest fail to grasp basic motor controls (ironically, the staple of its predecessors), but it also strangely has qualities very reminiscent of the Rayman series. It’s not wrong to take notes from a series you admire, but when you’re dealing with a franchise iconic in its own right, the line between inspiration and replication is thin. Frogger not only implements features essentially pilfered from other properties (poorly, at that), it just doesn’t get what made it great to begin with.
15 Army Men: Green Rogue
As yet another example of needless continuation, Army Men: Green Rogue is an even more egregious example. The conspicuous timing of the original release, less than three years after the phenomenal success of Toy Story, suggested that the series would always be a bit opportunistic. Considering that Green Rogue was the 13th Army Men release in three years (no, that’s not a typo!), that seemed to prove true.
The fond memories of Air Attack were still fresh enough to be dashed as Green Rogue broke everything likable about its successful predecessors -- even the basic ability to play the game. Green Rogue was made on-rails, a huge departure that frustrated many fans and left little excuse for technical failures. Despite the gameplay being rendered linear as possible, the developer still managed to ignore game-breaking bugs; one commonly-reported issue involved players clipping into the objects along the predetermined route. If your game doesn’t even work, maybe a 13th release isn’t necessary.
14 Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
The first 30 minutes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory consist of the titular character wistfully considering chasing after money for a golden ticket to Wonka’s factory, interspersed with cutscenes of still newspapers and audio taken directly from the movie. If that sounds dreadful already, you’re in for a ride. The painful non-adventure that is collecting 10 bucks sets you up for what will be the majority of the game: fetch quests.
You collect ingredients, you collect chocolate bars, you even collect Oompa Loompas who will then also collect candy. Whatever non-collecting that’s happening occurs through the frustrating medium of controlling (at least, ostensibly) the Oompa Loompas. What little that’s left over for the character includes carrying things -- also known as collecting’s cousin -- and platforming so simple it may as well just be walking. At this point, you’re only left with frustrating questions: why are the Oompa Loompas not following my commands? Why does this place look nothing like the Wonka factory? Why is a clearly British boy chasing a ten dollar bill!?
None of these questions are answered and really, you’re doing yourself a favor just forgetting. The same can be said for this game.
13 25 To Life
At first, it might be tempting to call 25 to Life a GTA clone in the same vein as Crime Life. They’re both poorly-voiced, hideously textured, and play like your hands got caught in a garbage disposal. They even both have “Life” in the title! Yet, 25 to Life is a different breed of awful. Where Crime Life at least had the illusion of freedom in its minuscule open world, 25 to Life does away with all pretense; it’s all mission, all the time, and that mission is invariably shooting things. Lots of things. An absolutely absurd amount of things.
Most players able to get over this would still expect something as compensation for the linearity: a variety of enemies, a decent cover system, maybe some cool abilities? This has nothing beyond a wide array of -- you guessed it -- guns! If there’s one thing that 25 to Life can teach game design, it’s the simple reminder that what and why you’re shooting is just as important as how you’re doing it.
12 Trigger Man
Continuing with the trend of shooters that think all you need is a gun and a target to make a good game, Trigger Man, aka yet another mob game, is more definitively hampered by its AI than any of the those listed thus far. Whether the gunmen decide to have a seeming mental breakdown or simply take a nap, there’s not a semblance of intelligent reaction to be found here. This is counterbalanced by bullet sponges that require the player to engage in “stealth” to get past them -- something that is almost nonexistent, as the AI goes from drooling imbecile to omniscient at random.
This isn’t enough torture for the player though, so the developer decided to throw in a load of artificial scarcity for good measure: those killed don’t leave anything behind for you and you probably wouldn’t be able to carry well-needed drops anyway given the exceptional limitation on carrying capacity. Everything about Trigger Man seems intentionally designed to create an experienced designed around a single word: “frustrating.”
11 American Idol
Avid PS2 music gamers might be thinking as they see this title, “Hey, wasn’t the American Idol PS2 game actually pretty good?” That’s because the more commonly-known version of the game is the Karaoke Revolution version developed by Blitz Games. To get to the disaster at #11, you have to go to 2003, a time before Harmonix revolutionized music games and the market was flooded.
There, you can find a dreadful cash-grab simply named American Idol. The game, as though almost warning you of the onslaught of terrible animations and one-tone gameplay to come, failed to secure the rights to use Ryan Seacrest’s image. Instead, you’re met with Tod(d?) and Georgie, intercut with real-life images of Ryan Seacrest! After making a character, you’re quickly ushered into...button prompts. The vocals are, even when supposedly “excellent,” stilted and awkward, often with only a piano backing to distract from subjecting yourself to what is essentially a self-imposed high school talent show. Cue the Simon Cowell one-liner!
10 The Simpsons Skateboarding
There’s a lot of truth to the phrase “The Simpsons did it first!” While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and its sequels had absolutely dominated the market by the time the game released, The Simpsons Skateboarding did serve as a prelude to what that series would become: pure, unadulterated garbage.
Like American Idol, this game lets you know right out of the gate how terrible it’s going to be. Here, it’s less a warning and more a barrage of obnoxious music and throwaway (and repeated) one-liners. The tutorial also mixes in a crowd cheering effect and congratulatory praise from Principal Skinner for practically everything you do, despite “everything’ referring to a shockingly small list of things.You grind a rail. Cheering and a one-liner. You do an ollie. Cheering and a one-liner. You do a kickflip. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. The weirdest thing is that for a game that wants to praise you so badly, there are so few ways to actually demonstrate it, even after the tutorial. It’s all just barren, cringe-inducing, and most of all annoying.
9 Fight Club
Fight Club is -- surprise! -- a fighting game. More surprising though, is the reason it’s on this list isn’t the fighting. Sure, the fighting is a trash fire of bad animations and lackluster styles, but the real beauty is in the details. As is becoming a trend on this list, Fight Club either couldn’t get the rights to Brad Pitt and Edward Norton’s appearances or were simply too inept to make their in-game counterparts look even remotely resemblant.
Perhaps as a result of this, the game reaches in every possible direction for a pool of fighters; many are non-characters who appear in just a scene or two of the movie. The game goes into full “what were they thinking” mode when you unlock one of the few “secret” characters: Fred Durst. Yes, from Limp Bizkit. It can be hard to make a good fighting game, but Durst isn’t going to make it any better.
The cutscenes involving this paltry cast of characters does them even less of a service, often just being jump-cuts from still images with voiceover to let you know something is happening. You just probably won’t care enough to find out.
8 Gravity Games Bike: Street Vert Dirt
The central reason most people play extreme sports games, whether they’re BMX, skateboarding, or whatever else, is the moves. Graphics, animations, frame rate, mechanics, it’s all in service to rewarding the player for or with thrilling tricks. Sure, there’s necessarily a challenge, but it’s a specific kind of challenge, centered around performing moves. Street Vert Dirt takes the concept of challenging the player to incredible, and incredibly broken new heights.
It’s not just that certain stunts, like a superman, are difficult. You’d expect that. Every stunt is difficult due to an inordinately long input time. Even simple tricks require you to hold a stick or a press for several seconds. Once you’ve mastered the awkward timing, it’s even harder to land the trick, as the game does an exceptionally poor job of telegraphing when you’re going to land (or not). If, by some miracle, you do pull of an ungodly combo, good luck trying to see the results of your struggle. Models regularly clip into the environment and the camera seems to have a will of its own, making for an experience as terrible as its namesake.
7 Animal Soccer World
If I were sure that Animal Soccer World were a game, I might consider it the worst PS2 game ever. I’m just not sure it actually is a game. Phoenix Games has the dishonor of being the first developer named twice on this list and it’s honestly somewhat shocking that they could get this much worse.
Animal Soccer World plays out like it’s actually threatening you personally. The “game” is comprised almost entirely of horrifically-animated talking animals paired with some of the most disconcerting backing tracks I have ever had the misfortune of hearing. What’s more, the voice work rarely syncs with the animation, only furthering the sense of dread and anxiety produced in the paper-thin plot. Talk of ambulances and police and things that are “supposed to happen” that “even scare the dogs” litter this “kids” game. As a modern art piece about dehumanization and the inescapable alarmism of daily life, it might actually be...well, not decent, but less terrible. For what it is, Animal Soccer World fails not only as entertainment for children, but also simply as a game.
6 Beverly Hills Cop
Everything should’ve fallen into place for Beverly Hills Cop to be a success. No one expected anything particularly astounding from it, but the plot is already set out. The game could’ve taken any of the three films, wrapped it in some simple gunplay mechanics, and voilà -- another passable, if questionable licensed title. Instead, the game starts off with someone resembling a burn victim that is supposedly our main character. You know, the one Eddie Murphy played?
Then, the game decides to throw in some stealth mechanics that no-one asked for and that simply don’t work. The cover system, which is really more of a concept than an actual in-game feature, provides next to no protection from the awkwardly shambling generic gangsters’ line of sight. Multiple deaths later and you’ll be praying for your own. The plot only gets more nonsensical from there, raising the glaring question: why even release this game that doesn’t look like or draw inspiration from its source material more than a decade past its prime? Some questions will never be answered.
5 Charlie's Angels
In another instance of a developer thinking they have better writing chops than the media they’re adapting, Charlie’s Angels takes an already-overblown trope like many others -- thieves are stealing national treasures! -- and renders it hilariously overwrought. This is no stolen Declaration of Independence; the plot genuinely wants the player to buy that someone stole the Statue of Liberty, Stonehenge, and the Arc de Triomphe.
On top of that, the voiceovers were very clearly recorded separately, with only a vaguely 70s backing track hiding the sometimes seconds-long pauses between lines. What makes it delve into the truly abysmal is the gameplay, which consists of the titular characters flailing at all kinds of enemies while nearly nude. It’s amazing that not only does the game fail in narrative and gameplay, it also fails in trying to sexualize pixels. Good camp is dumb and fun, not transparently cynical.
4 Bad Boys: Miami Takedown
I’ve said multiple times already that a game is “hilarious” or some equivalent, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that the opening scene of Miami Takedown had me nearly in tears. Blitz Games delivers yet another licensed gem in its attempt to take on the world of Bad Boys and completely misses the point.
Everything about it is comedy gold: the moderately humanesque models being passed off as characters, the complete lack of self-awareness while building up to the big “chair turn” for the villain, the clear disagreement on what constitutes ham acting between the game director and the voice actors, it’s all so perfectly miserable and completely un-Bad Boys. It’s also perfectly representative of the experience you’re about to have: ugly, poorly-acted, and completely lacking reliance on the original title -- or basic writing in general. Blitz ought to stick to karaoke.
3 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
If Miami Takedown goes home with “Most Likely To Make You Laugh,” then Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon certainly gets “Most Likely To Annoy You to Death.” The game consist almost entirely of you hitting enemies who all look, sound, and act the same with weapons that look, sound, and act the same until they die. When your health gets low, you grab a potion. Then you kill more enemies. Somewhere in-between you attempt a block or maneuver, which fails due to the poor controls, causing you to almost die. Then you grab a potion. Then you…
All the while, the timing for the controls are inscrutable and the camera seems to be actively working against you. The same, dull drum beat plays in the background, drilling into your skull. I would say that it’s almost like the game wants you to go crazy, but that would imply it had a modicum of thought that went into it. More likely, the development knew that after three years, it’s better just to cut your losses.
2 Crazy Frog Racer 2
Crazy Frog Racer 2 provides a wonderful case study in understanding the process behind making terrible games. I’m tempted to believe the entire reason this game got greenlit boils down to “the frog’s bike is invisible in the video, so hey, we don’t have to model it!” The original Crazy Frog Racer was also a disaster of supremely obnoxious pulsating music, samey race tracks, and broken vehicle handling, but it was to be expected. Something big happened, someone had to cash in -- par for the course.
The series' second iteration is spectacularly bad because not only does it not fix any of the problems present in the original, it simply extends them in the form of “new!” modes that play almost indistinguishably. Even if the development studio were able to cobble together some interesting ideas -- which, I repeat, they did not -- it would have still been hampered by the core flaws present in both titles. The second iteration is particularly galling because it is just so bold-faced in its desire to milk the Crazy Frog Train for all its worth. Out of that context, it’s somehow dated even worse.
1 Little Britain: The Video Game
Little Britain is the worst thing game on the PS2 not just because it makes fun of fat, gay, or transgender people—although, let’s be honest, the jokes are mean-spirited and just plain unfunny. Little Britain is the worst because it is offensive to the most basic expectations of what a game should be. It promises a game, nd instead provides one-off, throwaway miniature experiences not worthy of the title “mini-game.”
The “jokes” are more puerile than anything from South Park, more repetitive than the worst of Family Guy, and less funny than a Dane Cook 24-hour comedy extravaganza. The developer expresses a deep contempt for their players, minorities, comedy, and game design in general.
The game’s first minigame says everything: a fat man, dressed as a woman, roller skates down a road. The goal is to avoid obstacles and collect CDs. The actual gameplay is irrevocably broken by input lag, but the game tries to persuade you that it’s okay because it’s comedy. Little Britain essentially screams, “A man is dressed as a woman! He’s fat! Do you get it?”
We get it, we’re just not laughing.