What is the worst NES game of all time?
Our exploration of the NES gaming industry will highlight the games that fell short, confusing, frustrating, and even making you second-guess your game preferences.
Intrepid explorers, get ready as we showcase the infamous 22 games that reached the lowest points of notoriety in the NES world.
These games tested the fortitude and determination of even the most patient players, from clumsy controls to perplexing level design.
Table of Contents
- 22. Conan
- 21. Double Dare
- 20. Home Alone
- 19. Bart vs. the Space Mutants
- 18. The Uncanny X-Men
- 17. Rambo
- 16. Hydlide
- 15. Dragon's Lair
- 14. Jaws
- 13. LJN's Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure
- 12. Top Gun: The Second Mission
- 11. Ghostbusters
- 10. The Karate Kid
- 9. Back to the Future II & III
- 8. Fester's Quest
- 7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- 6. Deadly Towers
- 5. Cheetahmen II
- 4. Super Pitfall
- 3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- 2. Friday the 13th
- 1. Action 52
Conan the Barbarian carved his way through Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery stories long before Hollywood brought the bulky warrior to life on the silver screen. It was only a matter of time until the well-known character made an appearance in the realm of video games, and the NES adaption tried to convey the ferocious attitude of Conan.
Conan's combat system is one of the main factors contributing to its reputation as one of the worst NES games. We experienced some seriously annoying hit detection flaws and poor responsiveness as we swung the pixelated sword. Battles that ought to have been exciting and fulfilling became tedious as each swordsman's blow failed to make the impression that a renowned warrior should have.
21. Double Dare
Remember the popular TV show Double Dare that filled homes with fun and excitement?
Sadly, the NES game fell short in its attempt to capture that crazy atmosphere. Double Dare, a 1990 video game from Rare, tried to mimic the excitement and pleasure of the show's physical challenges, but it ultimately fell short in terms of providing a pleasurable gaming experience.
Multiple elements contributed to Double Dare's failure, with its problematic gameplay mechanics playing a major role.
We found it difficult to maneuver through the on-screen pandemonium due to the clumsy and unresponsive controls.
The gameplay was also repetitive and boring, lacking the diversity and excitement that helped make the TV show so adored.
20. Home Alone
while the idea of turning the popular movie Home Alone into an interactive game on the NES experience looked exciting at first. The end product ended up being one of the worst NES games of all time.
The movie's storyline, which focused on the escapades of a clever little child defending his home against clueless burglars, provided plenty of fodder for entertaining gameplay. The NES platform's implementation of this idea, however, left us gamers who seemingly enjoyed the movie entirely unimpressed.
The game's awkward controls and unresponsive behaviours were the key factors in its notoriety. It was hard trying to manoeuvre Kevin through the home and set traps.
We were unable to connect with their virtual alter ego due to the poor precision and slow response times, which only served to increase their growing unhappiness.
Steer clear of Home Alone on the NES if you are looking for a better experience.
19. Bart vs. the Space Mutants
There are several games for the NES that have a particular place in our hearts. Sadly, not all memories are pleasant.
With one of the most adored Simpsons characters as its main character, Bart vs. the Space Mutants quickly gained popularity as a game that promised thrill and adventure.
The enormous intentions of this game, however, were rapidly overshadowed by its apparent shortcomings, leaving gamers disappointed and yearning for more.
We are faced with an extreme challenge that verges on punishment in Bart vs. the Space Mutants. While being driven to the point of despair by the need for pin-point accuracy and unshakable precision in even the simplest actions.
The game's faults and steep learning curve turn it into a frustrating exercise in frustration rather than fun.
Bart vs the Space Mutants is surely one you'll have pulling out your hair as it's a terrible NES game.
18. The Uncanny X-Men
The Uncanny X-Men's release for the NES was eagerly anticipated by players. The possibility of controlling well-known characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm, as well as the chance to oppose Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants' wicked ambitions, held great appeal.
While we quickly learned, that the game's reality was much less than what we had anticipated.
This game was notoriously featured on an AVGN episode. It's one of those games you would have look at the box art in a video rental store, get extremely excited to see your X-Men in a video game, bring it home and be entirely disappointed.
The hit detection is terrible, you can't see what your firing at. The stages have no flow and path, you have no idea what you're doing or where to go next.
You'll fight a ton of unbelievable looking enemies like pigs in a blanket, shy away from X-Men it's simply terrible.
Rambo used to conjure up thoughts of a bold, unstoppable fighter fighting alone against insurmountable odds.
Of course, the idea of playing this renowned character in a video game was really thrilling. Gamers were ready to immerse themselves in the grim Rambo universe in order to partake in the adrenaline-pumping action that made the movie series so popular.
Unfortunately, players' high expectations were drastically exceeded by the reality they encountered in the Rambo NES game. Rambo delivered a depressing experience full of severe problems and perplexing design decisions rather than a heroic adventure deserving of its legendary namesake.
You'd think it would be a clone of iconic games like Contra from the boxart. What a slam dunk that would be. Unfortunately you're running around with a tiny knife killing snakes, bugs and other random enemies.
It's more of a game like Zelda 2 than anything and a really bad one for that matter.
Speaking of Zelda clones, Hydlide actually was released first as it was a popular PC port.
For starters, there's no sword animation. The enemies just dissapear off the screen as you take them out.
How can you even tell what's going on?
Hydlide also made mistakes in the areas of audio and visual. The visuals of the game lacked the refinement and charm that other NES games from the time had.
Similar to the visual design, the sound design fell short of producing an immersive aural environment that would improve the overall experience.
The password feature of course doesn't make it easier. You have to save the game, then head back into the menus and write down the actual password.
Are you feeling confused yet? We certainly were when we had to play this bad NES game!
15. Dragon's Lair
With its ground-breaking animated graphics and dramatic presentation, Dragon's Lair became an arcade sensation in the early 80s.
Gamers all over the world were excited by the prospect of this novel experience coming to the NES. Dragon's Lair, however, fell short of the grandeur it had promised when it finally arrived on the NES platform.
The hit detection in Dragon's Lair is insane. It feels like you're floating in outer space the way you seemingly jump with zero purpose.
To couple that, the control scheme is different depending on which side of the screen you're on. It's almost like the Mortal Kombat of interactive platformer games.
The NES game version of the classic film Jaws had the potential to be an exciting gaming experience.
Jaws is remembered for its ability to instill dread in viewers. But it's worth noting that the game fell short of capturing the spirit and intensity of the movie. Let's explore the reasons Jaws is regarded as one of the worst NES games ever made in more detail.
We should have known the moment we saw LJN on the cover. Poor games were always on the mind of game developers at LJN it's not even funny.
You don't even fight sharks in the main gameplay. All we got stuck seeing is fighting off fish, getting into battles at random.
Each of the areas are exactly the same as you move around.
5 minutes later and you're already fighting Jaws.
Yes, you heard that right, Jaws can be completed in the same amount of time it takes to warm up your favorite snack.
13. LJN's Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure
Like any popular film series, a video game version appeared on the scene quickly. We'll solve the mystery behind LJN's NES game Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure.
The notorious LJN promised that Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure will immerse gamers in the outrageous world of the endearing pair. But when we investigate this misguided NES game, it becomes quite evident that LJN's attempt to imitate the enchantment of the movie fell well short of being good.
There's no in game instructions on what to do when you start. Just telephone numbers that go nowhere. Next, you're set off to shoot the numbers of each of the phone numbers to dial the number.
Once you do progress, you're set in an isometric viewpoint. There's no music after until about 30 seconds in. Moving around a pane where you have to stay on. It's like Ted has an allergy to grass.
Steer far away from LJN's Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure if you value your time!
12. Top Gun: The Second Mission
Ah, the memories of retro gaming!
The Nintendo Entertainment System gifted us with unforgettable aerial escapades, capturing our imaginations and propelling us into dogfights and daring missions.
The uncomfortable and awkward controls of Top Gun: The Second Mission were a significant factor in its infamy. It was difficult to control your fighter jet because the inputs were slow to respond and the movements were erratic.
Everything moves so fast, you'll feel extremely dizzy if you're picking it up for the first time. We couldn't imagine playing this for more than a few minutes without having to take a break and clear your mind.
The music in the game is one of the standout features. We just couldn't get past the fact that everywhere you look, there a missile being fired your way.
After the 1984 movie phenomenon Ghostbusters, people yearned for more supernatural adventures. With the promise of an interactive experience where we could don the proton pack and capture naughty spirits, it only made sense that the franchise would make its way to the NES.
We instead got a terrifying disaster that fell short of capturing the spirit and excitement of the Ghostbusters universe.
All you do is select buildings, drive the Ecto-1 and collect cash to unlock the last level of the game. The kicker is, you need to empty your traps each time you collect ghosts from a stage.
You also run out of gas, to only have your Ghostbusters get out an push the car if you do. Fuel up at a gas station or simply hit some oil containers on the road to fill you up.
Better get used to that 8 bit chiptune variation of the Ghostbusters song. It's literally the only one in the entire game. That'll stay engraved with you for life if you're one of the lucky ones that had this as one of the few games way back when it was released in the 90s.
10. The Karate Kid
It seems like licensed movie games were notorious for being bad NES games with amount of them that are featured on this list. The Karate Kid is no exception.
Numerous design issues plagued the Karate Kid video game, leaving us perplexed and longing for a genuine martial arts experience.
The awkward and unresponsive controls are what gave The Karate Kid its terrible notoriety. It was frustrating to try to manoeuvre Daniel through his training drills and battles because punches and kicks frequently missed their intended targets.
We found it so challenging to put strategies into action and effectively defeat opponents due to the lack of precision.
The Karate Kid is the definition of a hard NES game.
9. Back to the Future II & III
Imagine travelling through well-known sites from the Back to the Future movie series as the intrepid time-traveling lead character Marty McFly.
Fans of the franchise are excited and nostalgic just by the premise. Unfortunately, the execution of Back to the Future II & III for the NES fell well short of expectations. The game had the ability to send us to exciting adventures throughout several periods.
Back to the Future II & III's aesthetic appeal was lacking in an era when NES games pushed the boundaries of graphics. Sprites and environments in the game lacked detail and frequently had lacklustre visuals, failing to convey the spirit of the alive and dynamic Back to the Future universe.
We wished we could go back in time, pull up the flex capacitor and get 1.21 gigawatts to make sure that Back to the Future II & III never existed!
8. Fester's Quest
We were suprised when we saw Fester's Quest be produced by none other that Sunsoft.
That's right, the same developer that produced amazing NES games like Batman, Journey to Sillius and Gremlins 2.
From the beginning of this bad game you're thrown into an unpleasant and perplexing world with little to no instruction. We were just left bumbling around aimlessly, attempting to figure out the point of the game and how to advance.
Uncle Fester appeared to be the target of enemies that ranged from strange critters to terrifying aliens. The frustration grew as our health quickly dwindled and killing enemies needed exact time and accuracy.
Fester's Quest belongs in the past like Back to the Future, we would go back and make sure this one didn't get created either.
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a pop cultural phenomenon that combined mutant turtles, humour, and martial arts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, won the hearts of millions of people. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo established an empire that included comic books, cartoons, toys, and of course video games with their vibrant personalities and exciting adventures.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES game by Konami was created amid the turtle-powered craze. Fans excitedly awaited an immersive gaming experience that would capture the heart of the franchise, promising the chance to lead our heroes through the perilous streets and sewers of New York City.
It was frustrating to have to navigate through challenging mazes, fight hordes of foes that have nothing to do with the lore of TMNT and endure nonstop platforming parts.
We were absolutely overwhelmed with some of the platforming sections where you can just fall and have to take on the respawning enemies in true NES hard fashion.
6. Deadly Towers
Deadly Towers initially seemed to have promise. we were completely lured in by the promise of epic missions and mythological enemies because to the game's eerie atmosphere and mediaeval fantasy backdrop.
Gamers quickly discovered that, despite its alluring exterior, the game was a tedious and perplexing endeavor that would challenge even the most intrepid explorers.
As we fought to make our way through the obscenely long list of towers and defeat the mysterious adversaries that awaited us, what should have been an engrossing experience turned into a dizzying nightmare.
The enemies are flying around whimsically and your hit detection is so off. You have no idea where to shoot the swords to take them on.
With no in game map, you'll be extremely lost having everything look so similar. It's like a giant guessing game that keeps you puzzled as to what to do next!
5. Cheetahmen II
Unlicensed NES games are usually a crap pile.
There's a reason why Nintendo put their seal of quality on each of the covers. Oh wait, that's why the rest of these games are officially licensed ones.
Yeah, quality control was really something that was overlooked by Nintendo in the 90s.
In order to redeem its predecessor and enthral NES users, Cheetahmen II was created as a follow-up to Action 52, a collection of minigames notorious for their poor quality.
The clumsy and unresponsive controls of Cheetahmen II made navigating the dangerous world a frustrating experience. We found it incredibly difficult to make exact movements, which resulted in several untimely deaths and a general lack of fun.
4. Super Pitfall
Super Pitfall, alas, was a victim of a plethora of design decisions that reduced its potential to a pointless exercise. The core gameplay mechanics and level layout, intended to enthral and test players, turned out to be a frustration swamp.
It became impossible to move over dangerous terrain and avoid fatal traps, which resulted in endless suffering and an overwhelming sensation of powerlessness.Super Pitfall's lack of polish and attention to detail was a further harm.
Cheap deaths are the name of the game in Super Pitfall.
Throughout their unfortunate excursions, we ran into a number of bugs and irregularities, adding to our extreme aggravation.
The experience was marred by a sense of unfinishedness that seemed to result from the game's early release.
3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The divisive impact Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had on us sets it distinct from other NES games.
We'll make the case that the game's complexity and odd design decisions were deliberate attempts to depict Dr. Jekyll's inner conflict.
They contend that the game's goal was to stimulate discussion and present a challenge to the typical gaming environment.
If you end up losing as Jeckyll, you'll spawn as Hyde. It's just that the section is actually in reverse. The people are all attacking you when you think they're your friends.
What is going on in this game?
2. Friday the 13th
Another LJN classic garbage game is Friday the 13th.
And while it does get a bad rap in the retro gaming community, it's almost misunderstood.
Sure, it does have some useless items like rocks that you can only throw two feet in front of you. You could easily cover some ground if you're one of the whimsy camp councilors.
The concept is rather simple, you're set to fight Jason three total times as he goes in and out of the buildings that have the kids that he goes out and attacks.
With tons of cryptic messages throughout the game and lack of main direction apart from the beeping noise as Jason alerts you to come rescue people in the camps.
Friday the 13th is a bad game that we've actually warmed up to once we figured out the clunky controls and the overall direction.
1. Action 52
Due to Action 52's numerous issues and shortfalls, it has earned a reputation as one of the worst NES games.
The creators of Action 52 compromised quality for sheer quantity in their ambitious effort to produce an unparalleled number of games. As a result, the collection was rife with dull ideas, formulaic gameplay, and apparent technical flaws that made several of the games essentially unusable.
Action 52 was infamous for having numerous bugs and programming mistakes. Each game included in the compilation appeared to have its own set of technical issues, ranging from strange physics to game-breaking bugs.
Action 52 suffers from a wide variety of bad concepts and is a sheer avoidance if you're looking for anything that resembles quality.
It should have been illegal to sell a game this bad.
Bad NES games exist as a reminder that not all creative and innovative endeavors will be successful, even in that field. These games serve as a helpful reminder that success is frequently paved with failures, and that it is through these setbacks that we develop, advance, and push the boundaries of what is conceivable.
The existence of subpar NES games highlights how important quality is in game production. In order to provide a satisfying experience, many games lacked the precise attention to detail, design coherence, and technical polish.
They act as a rallying cry for creators to put quality first and invest the time and effort required to create unique and compelling gaming experiences.
Here are all of the games that were covered in this article:
- Action 52
- Friday the 13th
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- Super Pitfall
- Cheetahmen II
- Deadly Towers
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Fester's Quest
- Back to the Future II & III
- The Karate Kid
- Top Gun: The Second Mission
- LJN's Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure
- Dragon's Lair
- The Uncanny X-Men
- Bart vs. the Space Mutants
- Home Alone
- Double Dare