Video games have a long history of being strange. Even some of the greatest franchises which we take for granted, like Super Mario Bros., are quirky in nature. When distilled to its core principles, it’s about a plumber saving the princess of a mushroom-themed kingdom from evil turtles. Most video games are at least a little bit quirky, even the ones which look completely serious on the outside. For example, in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the map “Hijacked” takes place on a boat and yet, an airstrike can be called in, and it won’t sink the boat.
Some games go far beyond video games logic and become downright weird. Sony and its different models of PlayStations have been fertile grounds for such unusual games. This could be explained by the fact that Sony’s consoles have often been the best-selling of their respective generations, thus attracting all kinds of developers, games, and ideas. After all, if a concept is so strange that it becomes a gamble financially, the best bet would be to expose it to the market which has the widest audience.
We have explored the libraries of every PlayStation iteration, including the handhelds, to find the strangest, freakiest, and weirdest games ever released on a Sony platform. Some of these games ended up spawning entire series. Others were less successful. But all of them stand as testaments to the unbridled imagination of the industry.
15 Parappa The Rapper (PS1)
This game is the proof that “weird” does not necessarily means “unsuccessful.” The description of this game can make it seems like Parappa the Rapper is just a bunch of random concepts drawn from a hat, but it’s definitely more than the sum of its parts. You play as a dog who is also a rapper, and you try to win a flower’s heart by becoming better at rapping. How can you improve? By following your sensei’s advice. Your sensei also happens to be an onion in a kimono. And that’s it!
Despite the peculiar synopsis, the truth is that Parappa the Rapper is a trailblazer in the rhythm games department. The object of the game is to press buttons on the controller in time with the instructions of the music. While it might sound lame, this is the kind of game which will convince you after one play session. It was popular enough to both spawn a direct PS2 sequel, and a guitar-based spin-off called Um Jammer Lammy. The game is also available for PSP and PS4, in remastered form. So really, at this point, it’s kind of your fault if you haven’t played it yet.
14 Killer7 (PS2)
Imagine reading this synopsis when looking up a movie: “A man who absorbs the souls of the dead can transform into their physical manifestation to stop a conspiracy where Japan tries to take over the US using invisible terrorists. At the same time, child assassins and immortal beings invading the US Senate.” This sounds like complete madness, but it’s also very intriguing. It’s also the exact story line of Killer7, a video game which takes its absurdly high-stakes narrative and complements it with experimental gameplay.
Killer7 switches from third-person to first-person depending on the situation, but most of the shooting parts are on-rails, meaning that the player is restricted to a predetermined path through the environment. The challenge comes from surviving your enemies’ onslaught, but also from solving puzzles which require the help of every personality inhabiting your character’s body.
Unlike many other games on this list, Killer7 uses its 'out-there' storyline and presentation to support its story instead of relying on quirkiness as a simple gimmick. Every last strange element is part of a bigger purpose, and everything ties together neatly in the end, even the Power Rangers look-alike trying to assassinate politicians.
13 Irritating Stick (PS1)
The entire object of this game is to guide a metal rod through a maze, without touching its borders. If you do, the game loudly buzzes to say that you messed up. If you succeed, you get a trophy, and sometimes doves fly away. Obstacles include sharp blades, rolling metal boulders, and a female robot whose nipples can extend and retract to mess up with your stick. All the while, a very excited announcer comments on your performance and narrates the selections menu, trying to make mundane activities sound exhilarating. And yet, you’re only moving a stick through a maze.
The very existence of this game was puzzling at the time of its release to most North American and European gamers. Why is navigating a stick through mazes supposed to be that much fun to begin with? The thing is, the game is based on a segment of a Japanese game show, where a real person would try to guide a metal rod through a metallic maze, which would legitimately send electric shocks to the player, while the announcer would scream at their face to try and make the player miss. The English version removed the context and the annoying announcer, leaving Irritating Stick as a puzzling stand-alone game. As a result, the game failed commercially and critically.
12 Chulip (PS2)
In Chulip, you play a young boy who gets rejected by the girl of his dreams. In order to win her heart, your father teaches you to become stronger by kissing people. You can kiss young people, old people, soldiers, people living in garbage cans, animals, and aliens. Of course, not everybody is receptive to your quest, so you need to sneak up on them. Kissing many people gives you more health, and eventually, wins over your dream girl.
Chulip is a game full of bad life lessons which got more attention than it deserved because of its odd game mechanics. The kissing part is only a small piece of the game. The player can also be struck by lightning, shot by police officers, and save their game by using the bathroom. If one takes away the absurdity of the gameplay, Chulip becomes a tedious romp with unclear objectives and frequent cheap deaths. Its quirkiness was not enough to overcome its flaws, and thus the game’s sales were abysmal.
11 Noby Noby Boy (PS3)
The base concept is peculiar, but cute. You play as a worm-like being called “Boy,” and your aim is to stretch yourself over levels, to spread harmony or something like that. To be quite honest, I was never certain about the goal, but it’s certainly relaxing as hell (and amazingly colourful). It’s a good combination for someone who wants to relax for a few moments. Your “Boy” can stretch over houses, animals and non-playable characters, and eventually over entire neighborhoods.
After someone is done stretching their worm (what a weird sentence), a player could submit the accumulated points online. In turn, this helps a bigger worm called “Girl” stretch from the Earth, to the Moon, and then to every other planet, all the way back to the Sun. The long-term goal was to foster cooperation amongst players online, all so that “Girl” could complete an entire spin around the Solar System. That ultimate goal was finally achieved in December 2015. For reference, the game was originally released in February 2009. So it took a little over six years of continuous gameplay for fans of Noby Noby Boy to reach the “end” of the game. This is one instance where a weird game was not only made to elicit surprised reactions from its audience, but also to try and unite gamers the world over.
10 LSD: Dream Emulator (PS1)
Is this even a game? LSD: Dream Emulator was only released in Japan, so any first-hand knowledge of the “game” has been accumulated through YouTube videos. I must say that these videos are unsettling in a way that I haven’t seen since the cursed VHS from the movie The Ring. It takes you through a visual representation of a dream journal from an artist at Asmik Ace (usually more renowned for their excellent wrestling games). The scenery, the music, everything is designed to make you as uncomfortable as possible. The environments are interactive, and the setting can change when you interact with the proper object in the dreamscape.
It is unclear if there is an actual goal in LSD, although the game will wake you up from your “dream” if you reach the end of one of its settings, or if you fall off a cliff or something like that. The screen at the end of a level does not rate you on anything substantial. Instead, it rates your state of mind, from “upper” to “downer,” and from “static” to “dynamic.”
So there you go. It’s a game which isn’t really a game, and it’s so random that you will rarely experience the same thing twice. I hope I was clear enough?
9 Dog's Life (PS2)
This is a game which is weird in a way that makes you wonder why anyone thought of translating this type of experience into an actual game. On the other hand, the whole thing does make sense because it is true to its source material in a way which few games are. In Dog’s Life, you play as a dog named Jake who aims to save his love, a beautiful Labrador named Daisy. As Jake, you pee on things to expand your territory, and fart on people you don’t like to defeat them. Because you’re a dog, you also have access to a “Smell-o-vision” which allows you to detect smelly things. So far so good, right?
Things take a turn when the story gets involved. It’s about taking down Miss Peaches, who kidnapped your girlfriend. Miss Peaches is the head of a company which turns stray dogs into cat food. So what’s a dog to do? You fart on Miss Peaches to send her to her doom and save the Labrador.
If you can believe it, the game was not entirely successful, although it does hold a Guinness World Record for the most voice performed by a single voice actor, at 32.
8 Octodad: Dadliest Catch (PS3, PS4)
Octodad: Dadliest Catch has a simple premise: you are a loving father and husband trying to make it through everyday life. Oh yeah, you also happen to be an octopus wearing human clothing. Married to a human, and somehow fathering human babies, and you desperately want to preserve your secret. Should the truth about your identity be revealed, an evil chef will take the opportunity to capture you and cook you.
The object of the game is simply to perform regular tasks without arousing suspicions as to your true identity. The problem is, all of your limbs are controlled by an extremely awkward control scheme, which means that something as simple as buying groceries or doing household chores could send your limbs flying all over the place. You will crash objects, constantly. These actions fill up the meter signifying people’s doubts about your true identity.
The best part of the game might be the multiplayer mode, which allows four players to each control a different limb of Octodad to hilarious results. Whoever first thought of a dad in human clothes, we salute you. It only sounds dumb until you try it.
7 No One Can Stop Mr. Domino! (PS1)
In this PlayStation classic, you play as a sentient domino who runs around 3D environments laying down other dominoes. For example, Mr. Domino could be running around a grocery store, or a city park, putting down dominoes in a row until he gets back to the start. At that point, a chain reaction starts depending on where you put your dominoes, and you get points depending on how many dominoes fall in a sequence. No one, be it at the amusement park or the casino, sees it as problematic that a single domino runs around the place while other dominoes simply appear out of nowhere. Taking a look at the different events that triggers how dominos fall only ups the weirdness factor.
At one point, Mr. Domino runs around a house, and he has to push family members down to trigger his sequence. This can be done by simply tripping them, but one cut scene depicts the mother of the family finding a bomb in her oven, which does not kill her, but only dirties up her face in some kind of Looney Tunes logic. Despite the strange concept, Mr. Domino is an enjoyable little puzzle game.
6 Mr. Mosquito (PS2)
Before you start thinking that Mr. Mosquito is some sort of wacky name for a deceptively complex concept, rest assured that the game is as simple as its name. You play as a mosquito, and your only purpose in life is to suck blood from the unsuspecting humans living with you. This type of riveting gameplay is rendered slightly more complicated by the fact that humans will try to kill you should your presence be detected. Luckily, you can defeat them by hitting their pressure points to relieve stress. And… that’s about all there is to it! Suck blood, don’t get caught, and you’re golden!
Mr. Mosquito was originally a Japan-only title which was localized by Eidos Interactive, under a completely different label called “Fresh Games,” as a way to distance themselves from this odd video games should it fail. It wasn’t a chart-topper, but it was successful enough in Japan to warrant a sequel, which removed some of the constraints of the original. You see, Mr. Mosquito required the player to suck blood from certain pre-programmed places on the human body. The sequel, on the other hand, allowed the player to suck blood from any body part they wished. You can see where this is going.
5 Hatoful Boyfriend (PS4, PSVita)
Hatoful Boyfriend is part of a genre which is closer to an interactive novel than a video game. This type of game is extremely popular in Japan and is slowly gaining ground in English-speaking countries. The storylines often revolve around love and relationship, even when the story takes place in a pigeon-exclusive college. That’s right! Hatoful Boyfriend puts you in the role of the only human attending a bird college. While navigating high school and solving the bigger mystery of “why am I the only human in a world of talking birds?”, you attempt to find love by seducing one of your eight avian friends.
The style means that gameplay is mostly restricted to making decisions and choosing dialogue options. Still, Hatoful Boyfriend maintains the weirdness by throwing you in the middle a conspiracy involving guns, biological weapons, and bird flu apocalypse. All of which stars pigeons, doves, and other birds. The universe created around the avian society is so intricate that it eventually expanded to include books, mangas, and audio dramas which were all fairly popular in Japan.
And yet, I can’t get past the fact that this is a game asking you to romance a pigeon.
4 Incredible Crisis (PS1)
Incredible Crisis developed a cult following over the years because it was one of the first examples of mini-games compilation, a genre which would eventually include WarioWare and Mario Party. It also became infamous because of its bizarre story and disjointed gameplay. Among the tasks which the player is asked to complete, there’s a driving mini-game where the player is strapped to a stretcher rolling out of control in the middle of traffic. There’s also a game of “Simon Says” played with aliens, and at some point, you must give a woman an “erotic massage” in one of the cabins of a Ferris wheel.
All of these activities are part of one very odd day in the life of a Japanese family, who are doing everything in their power to make it on time to their grandmother’s birthday. Everything which I described in the previous paragraph is the result of different family members trying to escape their bad luck. The four characters also get involved in a bank robbery, an elevator explosion, and get stuck aboard a runaway train.
I know it sounds like I have just been regurgitating random words on my keyboard, but it is all true. The hyperactive story and gameplay might not hold up as well these days, but in 2000, there was nothing else like it.
3 Katamari Damacy (PS2)
It’s a story as old as the world itself. A king gets drunk one night and accidently destroys most of the stars in the sky. It’s then up to his 5-cm tall son to go back to Earth, roll up a bunch of stuff together (plants, people, animals, park benches) in a big enough ball to replace the stars, and then repeat the process until the night sky shines bright again. We’ve all been there, but in 2004, it was still considered a novelty. To someone who isn’t familiar with video games, it will still sound like utter nonsense.
This is possibly the most successful entry on this list, but around the time of its original release, Katamari Damacy was regarded as an oddity. Its release in Western countries was not guaranteed until it had shown enough popularity in Japan. A game which asks you to simply roll a ball over a landscape over and over was not considered a sure-fire hit, but thankfully, the public fell in love with the colourful graphics and relaxing gameplay. It is worth noting that both Katamari Damacy and the previously mentioned Noby Noby Boy are the brainchild of Keita Takahashi, whose imagination is apparently limitless when it comes to peculiar concepts.
2 Stretch Panic (PS2)
After developing games such as Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, and Sin & Punishment, developer Treasure decided to explore concepts with more whimsy and fewer bullets. The result was Stretch Panic, a game in which you play as Linda, a girl who must rescue her sister from evil demons with the help of her possessed scarf. To defeat the bad guys, the scarf must be used to stretch different things, such as the ground beneath their feet, or their heads, or their nipples. I mean, you don’t have to stretch the nipples specifically, but the game definitely does not forbid it. For reasons which the game never really explains, most stages are filled with a single type of enemies: cartoon women with breasts which are proportionally as big as the rest of their body.
Most of the game could be summarized with a single word: Why? Gaming publications of the time were equally puzzled, undecided if the unique gameplay was a stroke of genius or a cluster of unfiltered ideas. The popular Japanese magazine Famitsu gave it a 30 out of 40, but Electronic Gaming Monthly rated it negatively at 4.9 out of 10. Treasure was apparently similarly unconvinced of their own product, as they went back to their familiar shooters with their next game, the famously difficult Ikaruga.
1 Flower (PS3)
“Weird” does not always mean “strange.” In this instance, “weird” stands for something unfamiliar, a concept as of then unexplored, and which brings one to rethink about what exactly composes a video game. Flower contains no dialogue or text, and instead simply forms its story through what is shown on screen. In the same vein, the game contains no tutorial, and it’s up to the player to figure out the objective and controls.
There’s no real goal in Flower. The player controls the wind in several dream-like sequences and uses the controller to guide a single flower petal through the landscape. Other petals eventually join, and sometimes, touching a tree or another flower will transform a small part of the land. There’s no time limit, no lives, no enemies. The entire game can be played through in about an hour, and yet, it’s endlessly replayable. It’s weird in the sense that it is barely a video game as we know it, and yet, it’s strangely addicting and relaxing.
If one is to define strange games as unique and refreshing, then it’s hard to find a stranger game than Flower.