Without videogames, many of us would have lives, children and permanent jobs. They're terrific ways to forget that in real-life, like gardens, commitments require regular attention. They can't all be glorious, action-packed tours de force, however -- many videogames are nothing more than half-baked rejects, the 'D' students of the electronic world.
But these particular 30 dunces weren't merely bad -- they were never given a chance at success because they suffered epic fails from the moment their titles were conceived. A truly abysmal name might strangle a game's chances, but it's prime chuckle material and we've lassoed two-and-a-half dozen for your rib-tickling pleasure.
We begin our journey with game names that are...
Just Plain Wrong
Tongue of the Fatman
Commodore 64, DOS, Mega Drive - 1989
Premise: As an alien of your choice, fight your way through bad guys and ultimately face the Fatman -- a hard-ass who needs a healthy portion of defeat.
The tongues of fat men are indeed compelling. Why a series of games never spun off is beyond us -- Legs of the Fatman, Ear Canal of the Fatman and Failing Vital Organ of the Fatman all would have been huge winners.
Super Nintendo - 1991
Premise: Spanky is a monkey with balls. Throwing these balls is his way of attacking enemies, and at the end of each level there's a boss. All very traditional, all very entertaining.
But come on! Spanky the monkey? Japanese developer Natsume -- most famous now for its Harvest Moon titles -- was either disastrously fond of Western euphemisms, or simply terrible at picking innocent game names. Would you pick Spanky the monkey off the shelf for your kids?
Nintendo DS - 2005
Premise: More a tool than a game, Touch Dic is a dictionary and translation title for the Nintendo DS, using the console's touch-happy stylus.
We want to say this is a game-naming FAIL, but we just can't. It's from Korea and is now on the shelves as Touch Dictionary. But we'll never forget the day our pals at GameSpot first told us there was a game called Touch Dic... happy, happy times.
If It Moves, Shoot It!
Amiga, DOS - 1989
Premise: A top-down shooter, in which killing creatures from the depths of the cosmos is far more appealing than asking them to explain the mysteries of pi.
The title might be sound advice, but a more satisfying game of the same name would involve playing the role of a commando who watches over the sleeping body of Pete Doherty.
Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals
Amiga, DOS - 1989
Premise: In this third-person adult-themed adventure, horny dork Larry tries and fails to seduce women on an island resort, after his girlfriend leaves him for a cannibalistic lesbian slot-machine repairwoman.
The tongue-twistingly long title for this game does nothing but make us look back on 1989 with fond memories, and worry that we want the pixellated lady to remove her... is that a sweater? No, she might just be badly burned. Best leave her to her own devices, actually.
Animals are even dumber than humans
Barbie Horse Adventure
Xbox, PS2 - 2003
Premise: Barbie rides a horse, while looking for a flock of other horses that managed to get themselves lost.
Of all the things we've envisioned doing with Barbie, having her ride a horse comes right below having her visit a dentist or paint a fence. A far more enjoyable blend of large-chested plastic women and the equestrian lifestyle would be akin to Dead or Alive, only instead of Kasumi and Ryu, it's Barbie and a ruddy great shirehorse.
Attack of the Mutant Camels
Atari - 1983
Premise: A bunch of enormous yellow camels are making their way to your base. Since you're fond of your base, you must massacre them from a plane.
Camels are hilarious. Slaying hundreds of them as they shoot fireballs from their mouths borders on the insane, which is why this game was so riveting. Why this hasn't been made for our current generation of consoles is beyond us. Stick Barbie on the back of a mutant camel and you've got yourself a AAA title.
Extreme Sports with the Berenstain Bears
Game Boy Colour - 2000
Premise: Kayaking, dirt biking and tobogganing are just three of the half-dozen sports you can force on a bunch of innocent bears for your sick pleasures.
This game was not well-received, and fortunately no-one has attempted to meld extreme sports with woodland mammals since. Dancing on Hot Coal with the Berenstain Bears might've had greater success, or perhaps Decapitating Wandering Campers with the Berenstain Bears. If no one makes these soon, we're starting our own development company.
Commodore 64 - 1987
Premise: A hamster -- radioactive, of course -- with martial arts skills, takes on various opponents in this rodent beat 'em up.
Seriously, of all the animals in the world you could assign ninja skills to, they choose the one with the stumpiest little arms and legs. If you're making a ninja animal game, pick something that stands a chance of being a decent ninja. A giraffe, maybe; get some ninja neck action going on.
Frogger: Helmet Chaos
Nintendo DS, PSP - 2005
Premise: You play a frog. Stop a bloke destroying your home by jumping around various landscapes. There's some chaos to be had, but disappointingly not in the anatomical region the title so coyly alludes to.
We have to admit, Helmet Chaos didn't fill us with excitement over and above the normal thrill we'd feel about playing the role of a restless amphibian. Maybe we need more overt genitalia gags.
Games that never had a sporting chance
Ninja Baseball Bat Man
Arcade - 1993
Premise: In this scrolling beat 'em up, it's up to you to annihilate enemies by using ninja skills and baseball bats. Marvellous.
Now this is what we're talking about! Ninjas, baseball bats, ninjas with baseball bats and lots of people who need injuring. It's exactly like Barbie Horse Adventure, only instead of Barbie, it's ninjas, and instead of a horse, it's a baseball bat.
Atari Ninja Golf
Atari 7800 - 1990
Premise: As if ninjas with baseball bats wasn't enough, this ninja has a sword and a collection of golf clubs. He plays a bit of golf and between holes he hurts other ninjas and various animals. Splendid fun.
Of all the ninja sporting games on the market, Ninja Golf has to be the most rad. But again, this could've been a really successful franchise: Ninja Beach Volleyball, Female Ninja Ice Hockey, Ninja Tiddlywinks... endless possibilities.
Billy the Wizard: Rocket Broomstick Racing
Wii, PC, PS2 - 2007
Premise: It's exactly as it sounds: you're a wizard that races on a fast broomstick. Extraordinary. Where did they get that idea?
We prefer more ninja action in our games. If Billy was a ninja, we'd probably pay more attention.
NRA Gun Club
PS2 - 2006
Premise: In this National Rifle Association-endorsed shooting game, you shoot targets, not people, at various courses and indoor events.
It's to be expected that a prominent gun club doesn't want to condone the shooting of innocent passers-by. In the competitive world of gaming, where removing heads with axes and running over prostitutes is rather vanilla, a gun game with no mindless violence could be considered refreshing. But of course it's simply mind-numbingly dull.
GOLF Magazine Presents 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples
Sega 32X - 1994
Premise: Golf simulator with decent physics and terrains, for its time. And sniggering.
We're not going to rip on this game for anything more than its unnaturally long title and hilarious innuendo. It had some decent courses, passable graphics and considering it was 1994, fairly good ball physics. Ball physics! It must be catching.
Vehicles, and how they can be boring
PC - 2007
Premise: You drive a 3D bus around a 3D world. Think Microsoft Flight Simulator, only with buses. Yes, that's it.
If you ever wondered what it was like to drive a bus, Bus Driver is for you. The developer -- take a bow, SCS Software -- really could've gone a little further with the title. Extreme Double-Decker maybe? You can't run prostitutes over or engage in any road rage -- you can't even smoke a rollup or encourage the schoolkids to fight. Certainly a missed opportunity.
Ship Simulator 2008
PC - 2008
Premise: Much like Bus Driver, only instead of a bus, it's a ship. A range of excruciatingly dull ships in fact, from tug boats right up to the HMS Titanic. Pick your favourite iceberg and evacuate the women and children for a cheery night in.
As if driving a bus wasn't exciting enough, Ship Simulator also exists. It's hardly got the same pull as Ultimate Psycho's Ultimate Chainsaw Meets The Local Church Choir, has it?
Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder
PS2, Xbox - 2005
Premise: Trucks and trucking. That's it really. You need to raise cash to get your Ma out of trouble with the law, and to do that you need to go wheelin' and dealin'. In trucks.
It's got a catchy name, full of innuendo and intrigue. Apart from the intrigue bit. The most amazing thing about it was that Big Mutha Truckers was successful enough to warrant a second innings -- but not a third outing, the mooted I Like Trucking and I Like to Truck.
Astro Fang: Super Machine
NES - 1990
Premise: Drive fast cars along a highway, on a planet far, far away...
We're all for racing games, and we're all about space. But Astro Fang: Super Machine sounds like it should be about a gigantic dog with huge teeth, floating around deep space in a machine, decapitating extra-terrestrials. Now that would be a killer title.
Seriously, is this some kind of tax write-off?
Dreamcast - 1998
Premise: Tripped-out robots beat each other up in this sort-of-anime, sort-of-beat 'em up game.
Don't let the name fool you -- there are no hot robot-on-robot love scenes. Quite the opposite, actually. It's primarily a 3D fighter title with quaint story lines, but it scores points for suggesting that it's possible to seduce a machine.
PS2, PC - 2006
Premise: The job of the chemist is no longer confined to those with basic medical training and an ability to sell contraceptives with a straight face. In this instalment of the Tycoon franchise, you get to run a chemist's store. W00t!
It's hardly the most appealing Tycoon title in videogames history, and not one we'd rush out to buy. But if you want to spend your free time pretending to purvey branded pharmaceuticals, you go right ahead.
Yes Prime Minister
Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum - 1987
Premise: Tie-in game from the popular BBC political comedy of the same name. You play as Prime Minister of the UK for a week.
Not exactly a gaming landmark, the Yes Prime Minister game may be the actual low point of licensed games, a particularly sludgy barrel to be scraping. It's a simple decision-making game that mirrors UK politics, but somehow lacks the pizazz of Ninja Baseball Bat Man.
How To Be A Complete Bastard
ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC - 1987
Premise: Invade a party for rich folks and demonstrate your boyish skills of being a complete and utter git, by for example loosening the screws on the handles of the disabled toilet.
This wonderfully tasteless game was always for the Bart Simpsons of the world. Nothing similar has ever really been made since this game was released -- if it were, the combined uproar from Fox News and the Daily Mail would wipe out life on Earth. A classic retro game to check out if you ever get chance.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
SNES - 1995; PlayStation - 1997
Premise: Does it matter? It's called Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. It was a tactical RPG with your typical Japanese storyline.
At absolutely no point in this game could you hug ogres, so its title is nothing but false advertising and misleading marketing. But Tactics Ogre was a popular series, with Let Us Cling Together the seventh instalment, despite the dearth of beastly bow-chicka-wow-wow.
What were you smoking, and do you have any left?
Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender
DOS, Mac - 1992
Premise: Oh noes! A priceless vase is lost on a distant planet where men have been eliminated and women have invented the eponymous machine to let them mate. It's your job to bravely retrieve the trinket in this third-person action game.
Whoever came up with the plot for this game was clearly smoking something expensive, but it's undeniably creative. How many games have you seen in recent years with such an utterly ridiculous premise? Very few, we'd wager. Very few.
Princess Tomato in Salad Kingdom
NES - 1988
Premise: As one Sir Cucumber, you must win the hand of Princess Tomato -- daughter of King Broccoli -- by retrieving the stolen royal Turnip Emblem, in this first-person puzzle-solving adventure game.
This is the kind of manure our parents lettuce vegetate with in the 80s -- rotten concepts with leaf-thin plots and stupid carrotters. If this title sprouted these days, it'd be roasted within two seconds of leeking online.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
SNES, Mega Drive - 1993
Premise: A horror shooter, in which you battle through over 50 levels of zombies, destroying them with an imaginative variety of weapons. Think Resident Evil meets Half Life 2.
This has to be one of the greats. Dozens of levels, all essentially the same, big bosses at the ends of stages, gallons of shooting and piles of mutants. The tongue-in-cheek title may have killed its chances of success, but it reflected the innocence with which the game approached mindless violence. Published by Konami, this genuine cult classic was the precursor of the amazing Silent Hill games.
PC, PS2 - 2005; Wii - 2007
Premise: It's a ninja again, but this time it's a gingerbread man who needs to save the world from evil pastries. Oh goody.
This game was hated by everyone who reviewed it, yet it still managed to get a release on the Wii two years after first being launched. It was made by the same people who made Billy The Wizard, the kid who flew speedy broomsticks. Time for a good game, chaps.
Keith Courage in Alpha Zones
TurboGrafx-16 - 1989
Premise: In this side-scrolling action title, you play Keith Courage as he battles the aliens of BAD (Bad Alien Dudes). It doesn't get more retro than this.
You wouldn't want to meet a Bad Alien Dude out on the street. He'd make a mess of you, unless your surname is Courage, Extreme or Nukem. Unfortunately your character was clearly the dorky younger brother of the heroic Brad Courage, which put you -- and the game -- at a fatal disadvantage.
70's Robot Anime Geppy-X: The Super Boosted Armor
PlayStation - 1999
Premise: No idea. It's all in Japanese and we didn't get it in the UK. It's a bit like watching anime and has male and female characters.
That'll do. That name is reason enough. -Nate Lanxon