F— This Game

If you’ve played enough video games, you’ve come across a few that are clearly made by assholes. Just miserable haters of joy and fun. Most of these popped up in the 8-bit era. Today’s video games hold your hand to such a degree that you are bound to beat them eventually. There’s too much money going into their development for it to be a good idea to actively piss people off.

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good challenge. I’ve beaten Battletoads.

This was about where most players felt that Battletoads should politely fuck it’s own face.

Many people hate Battletoads. I completely understand this hatred. Battletoads nearly got inbedded in the wall many times. But I actually like Battletoads a lot. It demanded you get good at it, but you COULD actually get good at it. It took me the entire summer of ’91 to do it, but by August I was climbing that spinny tower regularly. These following games, though, if I never played them again in this life I’d be perfectly fine with it.

Zanac

I got this back on the Wii’s Virtual Console. I’d always seen it in stores as a kid and I mean always as in everytime I’d be in the video game section. Which in hindsight makes a lot of sense. But it’s made by Compile and they generally have a good reputation and I tend to enjoy a good spaceship, shoot ‘em up and five dollars wasn’t asking much so why not? It controls well and has some good power-ups. It’s just that it punishes you for grabbing them. Or actually doing well for that matter. The game’s AI reacts to how well you’re doing and in later stages throws so much shit at you that I’ve put the controller down and had the same results as if I had tried. And then as a sort of troll, after stage 10, even if you get to the end of stage 12, continuing starts you at 10 again. My pre-adolescent hothead self used to threaten to shit on certain game cartridges and if I had Zanac back in the day, I think that would’ve been the first instance where that was not an idle threat. Even with the VC’s ability to save your game state I wasn’t able to beat this and I really never intend to. I could spend that time more wisely by seeing how many times I can slam my face into a wall and still look like myself. There’s challenging and then there’s simply being a dick.

 

Faxanadu

This is a game that seems to be held in high regard by many. I have to imagine that’s mainly nostalgia because I’ve played this game recently and this is a game that could mainly be described as broken or, if I’m being less charitable, stupid. I should have known what I was in for when I encountered the first enemy in the game. You have to duck to hit him…Except you can’t duck in this game. Who on the creative team thought it was a good idea to let you start the game by buying this great sword and then not be able to use it on the first enemy you encounter? Good developers will usually use early stages to teach you how to play the game. I’m not sure what this is teaching you except maybe “we couldn’t be bothered to think logically and would discourage you from doing so.” It doesn’t get any better from there. This game has the worst enemy placement of any game I’ve ever played. You will routinely find something hanging out right at the top of the ladder you have to climb to proceed. You can’t attack while on a ladder so there’s no way avoid it. You just have to take the hit. This happens at about 70% of the ladders in the game. What a fun time to be had! My favorite is the enemies placed directly at the edge of the screen you’re entering, immediately knocking you back into the previous screen And this will happen to you over, and over and on multiple, multiple occasions…This is a game that feels like no one played it before releasing it. Or they were they just tired of  enjoyable experiences and wanted to make a statement.

Cobra Triangle

I had to mention this as it’s the only game that ever got chucked out onto the front lawn in anger. I was clearly not rational at the time this happened and I’m not sure what I meant to gain from it because I immediately retrieved it– games were expensive. But this is an irrational game. Sure, it seems like a lot of fun at first. It’s R.C Pro Am in a boat. With guns! Then you realize you’re going to be playing the same 5 or 6 stages over and over except progressively cheaper each time. Not harder, which would imply the challenge builds and requires you to refine your skills. Cheaper. This just throws you into situations that the mannered and awkward play control doesn’t equip you to deal with. Need split second timing? Fuck you! We’ll give a vehicle that makes slow, wide turns and make you have to change direction often. This is sort of neat when you first start playing– it feels like you’re really driving a boat. But eventually they’ll have everything attack you from every angle all at once and overwhelm you. Or they’ll stick you in really narrow pathways and have a current relentlessly push you towards your death forcing you to repeatedly reverse direction with your wide-ass turning radius and keep crashing into the sides and losing health. I would call this bad game design, but 8-bit Rare Ltd. games routinely had some equivalent of tying you to a chair and kicking you in the face. Maybe it’s their dry British wit. They also made Battletoads… I never beat this horrific fuckfest. Around the time it ended up on the front lawn I had kind of sworn off putting up with anymore of Rare’s brand of psychotic wankery. I still like Battletoads, though.

 

Super Ghosts and Ghouls and Goblins and FUCK!

The level of astonishing hatred this series has unleashed on kids who only wanted to chill out after a hard day at school is well documented. But you can’t have a list of asshole games without mentioning these because no games have ever been bigger assholes.

I played Ghosts N Goblins back in 1988 at my friend’s birthday party. This series divided each stage into two parts but every stage or part was rife with the same sort of sadism so changing up the scenery was really artbitrary. In each game, two hits kills you. Getting hit launches you, often into something that will count as your second hit if you’re not already dead. And these games all routinely attack you in ways that are impossible to defend against or evade for that matter, so get ready to experience soul crushing futility. That night no one ever got past the middle of the second part of the first stage. Eventually people stopped trying. I’m not sure if the kid who brought it to the party felt any shame for buying it or subjecting others to it. But he should have. My reaction at the time was that this game didn’t need to exist.

It was followed by a less evil sequel in Ghouls N Ghosts. This was on the Sega Genesis and was actually a pretty faithful port of the arcade. You could actually attack up and down now which you’d think would be an advantage but it just meant more things attacking you from above and below. It was still cheap as fuck and I needed to cheat in order to beat it, but at least it wasn’t the medieval torture device the first one was. And it was a good looking game. I’m not saying I would choose to play one of these but if you were to force me at gunpoint to play one, this would be the one. It approaches a thing that could resemble enjoyment if you squint really hard.

And then they made sure to kill any sense of that with Super Ghouls N Ghosts. Someone at Capcom must have had a bet that they could make a beautiful looking game with inventive stage design and high production value that would be absolutely reviled. That guy made some money. All the things that make this series so lovably sisyphean are on full blast. You can accidentally pick up a shitty ass weapon, and now you’re stuck with it and the game will just say “fuck you, deal”. You have to go through the whole game twice and it’s twice as hard the second time through. And in order to even get in the final room you have to possess the shittiest weapon in the whole game, which means you have to attack the overpowered, unrelenting bosses guarding the door with basically your face. Aaaaaand…you can only get that weapon in a couple places. If you happen to accidentally pick up another weapon, the game will just say “fuck you, deal”. Every time someone plays Ghouls N Ghosts N Whatever, a kitten dies.