The 15 Best Old School Video Games No One Played (And 15 Bad Games Everyone Did)

Games, glorious games! There really are a ridiculous amount of them about, aren't there? Our hobby's been about for over 40 years at this point. That's 40 years of development, 40 years of film tie-ins, 40 years of beautiful hidden gems. God knows that even in one generation, it's pretty much impossible to play every good game. I'm sitting here looking at my PS4 and realizing just how many incredible games have been published on it, and how many I'm yet to play. If you cast your mind back to your first system, for me, a PS1 (okay, an Amiga, but that was a hand-me-down), there are games on there that I treasure to this day. Yet sometimes, when I try and talk to my friends about Tenchu, or Hogs of War, they look at me blankly.

Sadly, what many of them do remember are the awful, yet bafflingly popular games. Tie-ins, opportunistic cash grabs, and just plain bad games that somehow sold bucketloads. I'm talking about stuff like The Simpsons Wrestling, or the PS1 South Park game (believe me, The Stick of Truth was a revelation). Sure, these aren't the tragic games like Bubsy 3D, but they're still bad games that sold gamers a promise that they didn't keep. That annoys me. Luckily, I've got a few thousand words here to elevate the forgotten games, and rip into the terrible ones. As always, if you feel we've missed a game out, in either category, don't hesitate to let us know!

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

30 Best: Tomba!

Tomba! was a really weird little game. It merged 2D and 3D in an era when that wasn't an established concept. The characters were lovingly rendered in a psuedo handdrawn style, and the combat was innovative, letting you use weapons or simply jump on your enemies' backs and bite them like Luis Suarez finally losing it. There were 130 events in the game to complete, which made it pretty darn meaty. It got a sequel, but man, I'd love to see the franchise revived on this generation's consoles.

29 Bad: Killzone

Killzone was a weird project when it launched. It was Sony's main attempt at beating Halo at its own game, but it failed quite dramatically. While Killzone had a nice gritty atmosphere, it lacked the grand space opera of Halo. It also had its fair share of glitches and plain shoddiness. There was barely any reason to switch between characters, and the AI was as intelligent as a block of lard. It often just stood there staring at the wall, letting you take them out with impunity. It wanted to be the next big franchise, and honestly, it just failed.

28 Best: Black

From one shooter that spawned an undeserved franchise, to another that should have spawned one but sadly did not. Black's whole selling point was its plain meatiness. The gunshots were LOUD, the environments featured a huge amount of destructibility, and it was very difficult. In a world that was packed with games like Halo, where the guns are futuristic and don't really feel like they pack a punch, Black was a throwback to the spectacle of games like Doom. Can you imagine a sequel to Black in 4K, glass and concrete flying at the screen, gunshots deafening you? It would be beautiful.

27 Bad: Superman 64

It's an old bugbear of gamers everywhere, but Superman 64 is the epitome of this article's bad games. It was unfinished. There was distance fog all over the shop, which meant you could only really see about four feet in front of you. The missions were less epic superhero stuff and more repetitive, boring stuff, like flying through a series of hoops, for no good reason. The controls were terrible. You could clip through the world randomly, at any point. The AI was stupider than anything seen before or since. It is easily one of the worst games ever, yet it sold over 500,000 copies.

26 Best: Future Cop: LAPD

I doubt this game would be made today. It was too weird, too experimental, and required too much of an influence from games like Syndicate. Developed as a part of the Desert Strike franchise, it spun off in its own weird direction. You climbed into an LAPD mech from the year 2098, and tasked you with taking on and stopping a huge variety of crimes, with brutal efficiency. These crimes ranged from rogue lunatics to rogue supercomputers, and it was just plain fun. It also featured a mode, called Precinct Assault, which inspired pretty much every MOBA.

25 Bad: Mario Party

I don't understand how this franchise is quite so popular, spawning an almost unprecedented amount of titles. It's plain bad. The minigames are dull and uninspired, but more to the point, it's just a badly-designed title. You can quite easily get repeat minigames on your first run, and if you want to play a 50 turn game, strap yourself in for what is going to be one of the most painful few hours of your life. If you're sober, or playing on your own, God help you. It could quite easily cause an existential crisis.

24 Best: Tenchu

No one remembers Tenchu, and that's a crying shame. A stealth game set in feudal Japan, it tasked you with assassinating a range of targets across an array of well-designed environments. You could use a wide selection of weapons, including primitive guns and paralysis powder, to carry this out. Then, towards the end, it just went mental. You ended up fighting demon lords in hell, for heaven's sake, like some sword-wielding, ninjitsu-knowing Doom Guy. It had a couple of sequels, and then apparently fell off the face of the Earth.

23 Bad: Resident Evil

Now now, put away your torches and your pitchforks. I love the Resident Evil series, but the original isn't good. It really isn't, man. The game feels clunky, and I mean for more than just the tank controls. The story is quite astonishingly dull, the combat feels really cumbersome, and the dialog. Oh my lord, the dialog and the VA. Jill Sandwich, anyone? It's a wonder that it was as popular as it was, but I'm glad it was, otherwise we wouldn't have Resident Evil 4. Just don't go back and play the original, even out of nostalgia. It's just rough.

22 Best: Little Big Adventure

Way back before LittleBigPlanet, we had Little Big Adventure. Made by an offshoot of Delphine, the masters of the weird behind Another World, this was a very French little adventure game. You controlled Twinsen, gathering different magical relics and fighting the evil dictator FunFrock. It was incredibly endearing, and allowed you free reign over its impressively large world. You could travel the entire world, fighting enemies with your glowing ball of magic wherever you went. Wonderful and weird, it sold just 30,000 units in the West.

21 Bad: The Simpsons Wrestling

The Simpsons games have always been somewhat schizophrenic. Either they're fantastic like Hit and Run or the arcade game, or terrible...like this. If you're looking for actual wrestling, you'll find none of it here. Instead, you manipulate janky-looking renders of beloved characters while smacking the buttons incoherently like a chimp in front of a typewriter, slapping your opponents aimlessly. It should have been a really fun little game, because it had a solid concept, but it's horrendously ugly and does not play like a wrestling game whatsoever.

20 Best: Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit

If you hate this game, I understand. It is delightfully bonkers. It starts out as a cool, gritty mystery, and then goes crackers. That's why I love it. In what other game can you control a zombie who knows kung fu, and can fight off a bunch of NYPD before backflipping 20 feet onto a moving subway car? In what other game do you get wrapped up in Mayan prophecy, before having to fight the living form of the internet? It is joyfully silly, but that's its charm. David Cage hasn't done anything as great since.

19 Bad: Rugrats: Search For Reptar

I don't know how this became one of the best-selling games on the PS1. Maybe I'm underestimating the power of Rugrats fever. In this game, you controlled Tommy Pickles as he attempts to find jigsaw pieces. It was insultingly easy, even for children, but then it was difficult in all the silliest ways. The camera controls were shonky, even by the standards of 3D platformers of the era. It was plauged with odd bugs involving collision detection too. Basically, unless you were a kid who really loved Rugrats, you'd struggle to find much fun in this game.

18 Best: Crimson Skies

If you wanna talk about fantastic games that just disappeared into the aether, Crimson Skies must surely be near the top of that list. It put you in a world where the United States shattered into numerous different countries, plagued by air pirates. The year was 1937, and you stepped into the boots of one of these pirates, Nathan Zachary. You had to fight against an array of enemy factions, but despite being a flight game, it was immediately accesible thanks to a superb arcade-style control system. Inventive and original, this game still holds up today.

17 Bad: South Park

Early South Park may have been an inventive show, but its first game outing is easily one of the worst games ever made. The levels were huge and terribly designed, which, when paired with characters who moved at glacial speeds, was infuriating in the extreme. Pop-up was huge, and the distance fog, being white, tended to blend into the snow, so you had no idea if you were bumping against an invisible wall. The graphics are extremely ugly, and the gameplay the essence of repetitive: complete one level, and you've seen everything it has to offer.

16 Best: Hogs Of War

By all rights, Hogs of War shouldn't have worked. You stepped into the trotters of an army of pigs representing each of the main combatants of World War II and proceded to battle it out in a manner similar to the 3D Worms games. But it did. The voices helped a great deal, being provided by the late, great Rik Mayall (Flashheart from Blackadder). The weapons were inventive, ranging from shotguns to gas that would drive your opponents mad. It featured a good variety of well-designed levels, and let you promote your pigs as the game progressed. A fantastic game that's much forgotten.

15 Bad: Night Trap

It's weird when you realize that a legendarily bad game like Night Trap sold tons of copies. It was effectively, one full-length quicktime event. Like Dragon's Lair, you had to hit buttons at the right time to save a bunch of teenage girls from cyborgs. It's as silly as it sounds. It was dragged before Congress who suggested that it promoted violence, particularly against women. It didn't, but it was dumb. To make it even worse, the video quality was shockingly bad, with the washed out color of the Sega CD not helping matters.

14 Best: Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Ask anyone if they remember Psi-Ops, and you'll likely get a blank stare. Which sucks. It was a truly innovative game, which inspired a couple of other titles like Second Sight. The game combined some superb gunplay with a whole host of psychic abilities, including telekinesis, remote viewing, mind control, and pyrokinesis, which let you summon a large wall of flame with which to subdue enemies. It was better than basically any other games with psychic powers, and I'm honestly surprised that the game didn't spawn a franchise.

13 Bad: The Lion King

Well, this is timely, isn't it? While the film may be a classic, the game certainly is not. I had it on the Mega Drive/Genesis, but I never got past the first level. I am definitely not alone in that. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this game had a difficulty similar to Dark Souls. Despite this, it was tedious, meaning if you were good enough to actually get past the first level, you'd soon find it boring you to death.

12 Best: Shadow Man

This game scared the hell out of me when I was a wee nipper. You play as a Voodoo priest who must protect the world of the living from various monstrosities. The link? A creepy teddy bear. The atmosphere was fantastic, and genuinely creepy. The characters were well fleshed out, and it presented players with a truly unique premise for a game, with you crossing between worlds frequently. You have to destroy an asylum built in a world by Jack the Ripper, for goodness sake.

11 Bad: Manhunt

I'm not censorious whatsoever, but Manhunt has always seemed somewhat grim to me. Dark, gritty, and decidedly "edgy," it just never seems like a lot of fun. It feels like whatever you do, you'll come away from playing it feeling dirty. It's uncharacteristically poorly made for Rockstar, too. The combat is very clunky, with the reticle largely refusing to do what you actually want it to, and the AI is lame in retrospect. It's about as intelligent as an orange. It's meant to shock, but it doesn't really earn its shock value.

10 Best: (c-12) Final Resistance

Honestly, until I was researching this game, I had absolutely forgotten it existed. Set in a future where aliens have invaded Earth to try and steal all our carbon, it plays a lot like the Syphon Filter series. You're a cyborg and fight aliens and other robotic brethern, but it's the combat that makes it. It's a tightly made, fun third-person shooter, that no one remembers whatsoever. While it may not be super original (though the story is), it makes up for in terms of pure fun you can have with it.

9 Bad: Dirge Of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

Dirge is the correct word. This spinoff is frankly terrible, and most Final Fantasy fans would rather forget it exists. You play as Vincent Valentine, a character from FFVII that you probably forgot, and meander your way through his dull story. And boy, is it dull.  The game throws long cutscene after long cutscene at you, interspersing it with astonishingly dated FPS gameplay. It was dated when the game came out, with stupid AI the least of its issues. If you've never played FFVII, you won't understand a thing, if you have, you'll hate it.

8 Best: Conker's Bad Fur Day

Ever wanted a game where Rare takes its cutesy world and makes it extravagantly messed up? Well, Conker is the game for you. It's a hilarious game that isn't afraid to throw in a huge amount of curve balls, including a mission that parodies the chestburster scene from Alien. You fight a giant pile of...well, have a guess, called The Great Mighty Poo, and get roped into a fight between Grey Squirrels and the teddy bear Nazis called the Tediz. You encounter the weasel mafia, and basically spend the entire game getting into NSFW scrapes.

7 Bad: Carmageddon

I'm just gonna go ahead and say it now: Carmageddon sucks. I thought it didn't, but I went back and played it fairly recently and it is terrible. I'm not even talking about the abortive N64 release, or the censored UK version that replaced pedestrians with zombies. The uncensored version, on the PC, is still awful. For its time, it looks terrible, the races are repetitive, and the cars handle like milk floats weighed down with concrete. Sure, you can run over pedestrians, but after a couple of minutes, what fun can that provide?

6 Best: Power Stone

Power Stone was an incredible brawler that had the supreme bad luck to come out on the Dreamcast. It's one of the best party games ever made, with each combatant able to pick up various objects lying around the arena, including tables and rocks, with which to batter your opponents. After building up your power, you could unleash barmy power moves. The characters were well-designed and varied, including a geisha, a London boxer, a middle-eastern dancer, and a Native, all pummeling seven shades of heck out of each other. If you're bored with Smash Bros, try this game out for size.

5 Bad: Shaq Fu

Shaqfever has long since passed, and I hope that we as a group can collectively remove our rose-tinted specs and admit that this game was awful. The fighting is lifeless, which is a mighty big criticism when you remember that this is allegedly a fighting game. The cinematics are awful, which is surprising considering this game was made by Delphine. They're like powerpoints. Shaq handles like a bunch of milk crates, and has the lowest number of special moves of any character in the game. The graphics are lovingly rendered, but the gameplay does not stand up to scrutiny.

4 Best: The Legend Of Dragoon

When JRPGs were all the fashion, SCE pushed this one out and then promptly left it to fend for itself. It was gorgeous, with its dappled sunlight effects particularly memorable. The story was fun, the combat had a cool combo system that helped seperate it from the JRPG pack, and a fantastic transformation mechanic. The cinematics were equally as good as anything Square put out too. If you want to play a classic JRPG from the PS1's golden era, but are sick of Final Fantasy, give this one a shot.

3 Bad: The Simpsons Skateboarding

If you thought I was done with bad Simpsons games, you couldn't be more wrong. Another ludicrous tie-in, Skateboarding tried to be one thing: Tony Hawk but with Simpsons characters. There were several problems, but here's the worst: there were barely any tricks. Yeah, really. It had a manual system, but whether you manualed or not seemed in the lap of the gods. The levels had hardly any skate lines, instead placing obstacles seemingly randomly. Add to this some truly abysmal graphics that make THPS2 look gorgeous, and you have this mess of a game.

2 Best: Otogi: Myth Of Demons

Developed by FromSoftware, you can see a lot of the Souls DNA in Otogi. It features a huge number of levels and destructible environments, and oh my lord is it a pretty game. The lighting in particular still holds up to this day. You fight your way through evil hordes with 33 weapons, with light and heavy attacks playing a key role. You need to beat enemies to refill your magic meter, which drains constantly. If it drops to zero, you're done, and must restart. If you want to see from whence Dark Souls came, play Otogi.

1 Bad: Shadow The Hedgehog

Here we go, then. Here's the big one. Who honestly thought that introducing guns to the Sonic world would be a great idea? Shadow seems like a character that a 13-year-old emo would doodle on the back of their school textbook between counseling sessions about their homicidal impulses. The level design is boring and disorienting, and the dark tone it takes is bewildering. There's a comet releases a nerve gas into Earth's atmosphere. This really is from the same series where you used to release cutesy animals in the Green Hill Zone. A baffling choice, from beginning to end.

More in Lists