If there’s one thing we always loved about retro video games, it was the nostalgic sense of innocence that so many of them possessed. Super Mario. Donkey Kong. Sonic the Hedgehog. All names that bring to mind the kinds of child-centric fun that got us into video gaming in the first place.
However, with the recent reappearance of 203 copies of the bizarre and slightly terrifying (in an “I fear for the state of humanity” kind of way) Night Trap at a US trade-in store last week, we started to think about retro video games that weren’t quite so innocent. In fact, some of them were so downright weird, creepy, or otherwise bizarre, that we’re not quite sure how they got made in the first place.
So, without further ado, here’s our top ten countdown of retro games that most definitely wouldn’t be made now*:
10. Night Trap (Sega)
For anyone lucky enough never to have heard of Night Trap, prepare yourselves. The game involved the player watching a group of young women via security camera, protecting them from vampiric augers that attempt to invade the house. While the producers argued that this protective element was the most important thing to take away from the game, it’s hard to get over the voyeuristic nature of gameplay that requires the unwitting observation of women whose lives rest in your trap-wielding hands. Its only saving grace nowadays is how brilliantly corny the effects and acting are. Comedy gold.
9. Seaman (Dreamcast)
Yes, you read that right. Someone actually named a game ‘Seaman’ and didn’t mean it ironically. In this Dreamcast cult classic, the player breeds and raises a strange man/fish hybrid whose lugubrious quips and instructions guide them towards his final evolution, and jump into the great beyond. It was one of the few Dreamcast games to take advantage of the console’s microphone attachment, although we’re not sure that spending a portion of every day talking to a frog-man via your TV screen would be a healthy way to spend any great amount of time.
8. Frankie Goes to Hollywood (C64)
The game inspired by the band, when Frankie Goes to Hollywood was released back in 1985, many were surprised to find that it wasn’t actually all that bad. Capitalising on the UK New-Wavers’ increasing popularity at the time, the game was set in Liverpool, and is quite literally full of faith, love, sex and war. Plus there’s totally a murder to solve. It’s hard to imagine a One Direction tie-in game managing quite those levels of epic.
7. Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game (Saturn)
Let me get this straight. This is actually the game tie-in of a movie that was originally based on a game? Oh lord, what have we become? Featuring animated versions of the real-life actors who took on the roles of Ryu, Ken and co., Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game epitomizes the worst things about video game movie adaptations. If it wasn’t bad enough that they made the movie in the first place, they then went and made a weird digitized version of the cast where the only possible highlight is the joy of making Kylie Minogue face off against Gomez Adams, which, as we all know, was the showdown to end all showdowns.
6. Peek-a-boo Poker (also Bubble Bath Babes/Hot Slots)(NES)
While, of course, there are still pornographic video games (and many questionable dating sims), it was with games like Peek-a-boo Poker that the genre first began. The game’s poker-based premise was a flimsy premise for basically getting women to take their clothes off over and over again, which will come as no surprise. What is surprising now, however, is the fact that this game was released on the NES. Nintendo, now known for being the most ‘family-friendly’ of the gaming companies, must have once catered to a much broader crowd. It’s certainly hard to imagine anything like this cropping up alongside Super Mario on the WiiU.
5: Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu (NES)
Generally thought to be one of the least playable NES games of all time, Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu is a truly atrocious piece of programming. Your attacks fire harmlessly over (and even through) the heads of enemies, you rarely know what it is you’re actually supposed to be doing, and the whole thing is riddled with more bugs than mealtime on I’m a Celebrity. Play-worthy only for its awful, terrible, badness, this is definitely one to avoid.
4. Bible Adventures (NES)
Now, before we get started on this one, we should just clarify; Bible Adventures doesn’t make this list purely based on its religious content. Rather, it’s on here because not only is it a terrible game, but because it commits the cardinal (geddit?) sin of using gaming as a flimsy disguise for an overt and didactic form of religious teaching. The Bible is jam-packed full of meaty stories that would actually translate pretty well into a video game, but instead we have the option to wander around stacking farm animals on Noah’s freakishly strong head while listening to a random sequences of robotic beeping sounds. Hallelujah.
3. Michael Jackson Moonwalker (Genesis/MegaDrive)
It’s probably pretty self-explanatory as to why this game would never be made nowadays. While his musical legacy means he is still firmly entrenched in the mainstream, there’s no doubt that the concept of a video game where you play as Michael Jackson, rescuing small children from the clutches of a child-capturing villain, feels a little close to the bone. The game itself was quite enjoyable, and as movie tie-ins go, wasn’t a bad one, but it seems safe to say that pitching this idea in 2014 wouldn’t get you very far.
2. Mad Nurse (C64)
When it comes to truly creepy game concepts, the Commodore 64 definitely takes the crown. In at number two is the truly unsettling gameplay behind Mad Nurse. A spiritual predecessor of Lemmings, the player controls a trainee nurse working on a maternity ward, whose job it is to stop newborn babies killing themselves. Hooray. No matter how old the game, or how bad the graphics, there’s something truly disturbing about this whole concept. As one Youtuber puts it, “The sound of babies dying will haunt me forever”.
1. B.C. Bill (C64)
At number one is a game whose basic premise is so creepily awful, it’s hard to believe that it ever got made in the first place. In B.C. Bill, it’s your job to make sure caveman Bill has a happy life, which naturally means having as many wives as possible. But how do you get these wives? Well, you simply have to smash random women over the head with a club, and drag them by the hair back to your man-cave, of course. Not the most PC of gaming concepts, but for a game set in the stone age, probably not totally inaccurate.
* Or alternatively, “Ten Games We Hope Are Never Made Again. Ever.”
If you’re in the mood for some decent retro gaming, check out our “I Played…” gaming compilations. Featuring the best music from the greatest vintage consoles around, you’re sure to find something you love. Whether you loved Nintendo or Sega, hitting the arcade or playing an epic game or 20 on the Amiga at home, we’ve got you covered.