8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

Nostalgia is a powerful feeling: it can bring back happy memories, but it can also make us overlook some pretty egregious flaws in the things we have loved. Case in point: Here are eight games that were fairly lousy — but people insist on loving them anyway.

Disclaimer: Despite literally everything I'm about to say below, I personally love each and every one of these games. Nostalgia really is potent stuff.

8. Batman (1986)

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

Batman's first of many forays into the world of gaming was... well, it was bloody weird. And about as un-Batmannish as you could possibly get.

Released for the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC at the height of Batman's descent into grittiness in the mid 1980's, Batman was a bizarre, isometric action game where Batman navigated the strange, distorted, and garishly coloured locales of the Batcave searching for parts to the Bat-Hovercraft in an attempt to go and save Robin. The Dark Knight didn't fight goons, he fought floating eyeballs and weird yeti monsters. This game controlled poorly, it looked atrocious and none of its convoluted puzzles made a lick of sense.

And yet, Batman is fondly remembered despite its inherent terribleness. Demakes and fan-made emulators regularly re-adapt the game for newer platforms, but aside from being the first ever Batman game (which is probably why it's still beloved, to be honest), it's remembered for its first experiment with the concept of checkpointing in video games, meaning that players could save their progress mid-level. I mean, that feature was convoluted as hell, like the rest of the damn thing, but it's something to be remembered by.

7. Shadowrun (2007)

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

Ah, Shadowrun. The seminal science fantasy tabletop RPG, known for its strategic depth and layered mechanics. So after a decade without a game adaptation, what better format to translate Shadowrun to than the multiplayer shooter! Wait, what?

Shadowrun released in 2007 to absolute bewilderment, not just because it was a multiplayer-focused online shooter, but because there was hardly anything to it. The game had cut a single-player campaign before release due to resource issues, and what was left was a handful of maps and gametypes that kept players engaged for about a week before they wondered where their $US60 ($79) had gone.

But all these years later, the game has a small but dedicated fanbase who cherish this weird outlier in the world of Shadowrun Games (the franchise has since returned to RPGs, with much acclaim), running their own servers long after official ones were closed for good.

6. Oregon Trail (1979)

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

Oregon Trail was meant to be an edutainment game teaching people about the long treks settlers took across the old west. In a way, it was educational, but not really about the plight of the budding Pioneer: it taught you that every choice you will ever make is wrong and you will kill everyone you care about with your mistakes. They will die from snakebites. They will die from starvation. They will accidentally shoot themselves with their guns. And yes, they will die of dysentery. Repeatedly, again and again.

Oregon Trail was phenomenally difficult, even more so for a young kid — so instead of really teaching them something, it traumatized them into watching people die horrible, horrible deaths over and over again, and have it all be on them. It wasn't a game, it was emotionally-scarring frustration wrapped in a disk.

And yet, the game, through multiple spinoffs, remakes, and pastiches, has sold over 65 million copies since its first release, on almost every platform under the sun. Oregon Trail's childhood-ruining trauma unites generations of kids in nostalgic remembrance as they recall their settlers (often named after friends and family, who were likewise often regaled with tales of their gruesome in-game deaths) and their tragic fates.

Nothing unites people like tales of their loved ones pooping themselves to death, apparently.

5. Tron 2.0 (2003)

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

Before Tron Legacy gave us creepy CG Jeff Bridges and a thumpingly good Daft Punk soundtrack, the classic film (itself kind of bad upon hindsight, despite its beloved status) received an official continuation in the form of Tron 2.0, a first person shooter so aggressively bland that not even Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role as Alan Bradley could save it.

Trying to cater to the then resurgence of the first person shooter's popularity, 2.0 quickly tossed aside the iconic identity disc weapon and replaced it with standard assault rifles, snipers and shotguns (covered in glowy lines because, I dunno, Tron) as players trudged through the computer world trying to stop not FCon, the even more sinister organisation that had taken over Encom. It was received well critically — partly because of its link to the classic Tron — but bombed financially, to the point that Legacy director Joseph Kosinski flatly denied its place in the Tron canon with the arrival of the new movie.

Those who did purchase the game loved it despite its flaws, creating a burgeoning community that picked up where developer Buena Vista chose not to, after a meagre 2 years of support. Communities sprang up to maintain the game — and additional singleplayer and multiplayer levels, as well as even a fully fledged expansion, were created. Talk about fighting for the users.

4. Shenmue (2000)

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

I'm fully prepared for the fact that even mentioning Shenmue in relation to this list will probably lead to some people wanting me strung up (or whatever the internet equivalent is these days), but goddammit people: Shenmue was not very good, and we should probably stop clamoring for a third one.

First released for the Dreamcast, Shenmue was quite unlike anything before it. Following protagonist Ryo Hazuki as he tried to avenge the death of his father at the hands of shady gangsters. Sounds like an intense, riveting Japanese action game, right? Nope. Shenmue was a bizarre quasi-life sim that had players slowly trudging around a digital simulation of 1986-era Yokosuka, talking to people, fulfilling menial tasks, all to advance the sluggishly cinematic story.

At the time, Shenmue became an instant classic, praised for its scope and uniqueness. But its most determined fans also forget that the hallmarks of modern gaming that they find so loathsome — a focus on cinematic storytelling rather than gameplay, quicktime events, and so on — were popularised by Shenmue. It was unique, yes, but not great.

But it's become iconic because of the fervent demand for a third entry in the series, originally scrapped after Shenmue II underperformed, to the point that many would have you believe Ryo's adventures were the second coming of Christ if it meant that there might be a Shenmue III. Some things are best left forgotten, and Shenmue is one of those.

3. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996)

Shadows of the Empire was a weird intersection of pop culture and gaming history. Part of the media tie-in extravaganza in the fledgling Star Wars expanded universe that covered books, comics and games, Shadows of the Empire was also one of the first games available for the new Nintendo 64 when it released to much excitement.

But reviews were mixed. Bad controls, less than stellar visuals (that the N64 struggled to run at times), a lacklustre story and bland shooting levels were just some of the glaring flaws that people pointed out. Yet Shadows is still beloved among Star Wars fans for one reason. This was the first level:

One of the first 3D recreations of Empire Strikes Back's Battle of Hoth, Shadows' first level was so good, so nostalgia inducing, to this day most fans forget that there was actually a terrible game attached to it.

2. Battletoads (1991)

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

Battletoads is fondly remembered today for its difficulty. But Battletoads wasn't just difficult, it was hellishly challenging. This is a game so hard it basically sabotages the player on purpose, to stop them from succeeding — right down to the infamous Turbo Tunnel level, which saw players trying to navigate through a perilous obstacle course on a hoverbike that almost felt like it was moving at the speed of light. Full caches of lives saved through skillful navigation of the preceding levels were depleted in moments, time and time again, as you watched your poor Battletoad smash into something, dying in a fiery, taunting explosion.

Games are meant to be fun. Battletoads wanted to take your fun and shove it down your damn throat repeatedly until you choked to death. Gamepads were flung across the room, cursewords you were probably too young to be uttering were shrieked in frustration.

And yet, this Rare series is still subject to rumours of a revival, spoken about in hushed whispers as fans dream of Microsoft (who now owns Rare) announcing a sequel or a remake, desperate gluttons for punishment wanting more. Liking Battletoads is akin to the video game equivalent of Stockholm syndrome.

1. Deadly Premonition (2010)

8 Terrible Games That People Inexplicably Have Nostalgia For

Is it possible to have nostalgia for something that's only five years old? In a way, nostalgia for Deadly Premonition is sort of like nostalgia for something far older (and arguably far more worthy of such sentiment).

Originally called Red Seeds Profile in Japan, Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro's goofy comedy/horror game had its heart in the right place: a loving pastiche of Twin Peaks that saw kooky FBI agent Francis York Morgan investigating a murder case with weird, supernatural undertones in a rural American town. But its low-budget nature belied its heart, with horrendously clunky gameplay mechanics, bizarre and frequently terrible voice acting, and atrocious graphics leading to it being savaged by critics upon its release.

But for those who played it, Deadly Premonitions' heart shone through, earning it a cult status and a diehard fanbase for the game and its oddball and endearing creator. The comparisons to Twin Peaks aside, the strange and often insane story and characters of Greenvale, Washington gripped people in such a way that fan reaction was strong enough to see Deadly Premonition get a director's cut with expanded content (and even slightly improved visuals!) to market, three years after its release.

Got a game that you love, despite its horrible, horrible flaws? Don your nostalgia goggles and let us know in the comments.


    Battletoad sucks. Awful then and is just as bad now.
    Not sure about the Batman blurb. This was ground breaking back when released and made full use of the isometric design that was very popular at that time. Sadly never played, as it didn't get converted to my beloved BBC micro!! Was in the same vein as Head over Heels, Get Dexter and most of the successful Ultimate adventure games (Alien 8, Knightlore).

      If your only complaint about Battletoads is its difficulty (as the article author's is), then that's a pretty poor argument for saying it sucks.

      Last edited 03/05/16 12:42 pm

        Game difficulty has never been an issue for me dude. it was a poor game. Plain and simple.

          If your issue with it is not the difficulty, then what is it?

    Deadly Premonition is one of the most awkward, poorly voice acted, terrible to control, borderline masochistic games i've ever played...

    I fucking love that game.

    Last edited 03/05/16 12:14 pm

    I've never heard even the most cultish gamers showing any nostalgia for the 2007 Shadowrun. Surely it's the 1993 Shadowrun for SNES that's the one that people remember fondly.

      Dude, I got to interview one of the guys who MADE the 360's Shadowrun, even HE hates the game!!!

      I heard about a Shadowrun game coming and thought this is going to be sweet. Than I found out it was an Arena shooter and I lost all interest.

      Later I found they attempted to salvage what they could from a game that got killed before it was close to being done. The later RPG games where great but.

      The 2007 Shadowrun is one of about three games I've ever returned, out of literally thousands bought. (And I do mean the actual meaning of the word literally.)

      I bought it having heard of Shadowrun before, as a sort of edgy hybrid RPG with a mix of technology and magic.

      Imagine my disappointment at finding the 360 version was a third-rate Unreal Tournament clone, with basically nothing from the mythos.

    Nope. Oregon Trail was fun simply because you could name the settlers, in which case it more became a race to see who would die first and from what.

    Also, Battletoads was awesome. The pause music alone is worth the price of admission. Also, how satisfying was it smashing some enemies with a giant boot or fist?

    Yeah, you're right.

    I will string you up by your ankles for putting Shenmue on this list.

      Maybe the list made him soo depressed that he wanted to write about a great game? You know, for once...

    What?!? Deadly Premonition was amazing! So what if it doesn't look hyper-realistic, or the gameplay is a bit clunky. The atmosphere and the story were great.

    Which brings me to Shenmue. I wasn't aware that people found cinematic storytelling "loathsome". And although my memory might be hazy, but I remember Shenmue handling of QTEs were much better than most newer games. There were alternate paths, and you didn't always immediately fail if you didn't press the button.
    The article also seems to forget that Shenmue III was actually funded (part Sony, part Kickstarter), and is happening.

    Also, opinions. Just because a game is denerally disliked doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. :p

      Rather than having a problem with QTEs themselves, he seems to more have a problem with this game being the cause of their modern proliferation.

      I mean it's still a crock of an argument, but y'know.

    Not sure if many were 'lucky' enough to experience the Lawnmower Man FMV game on the PC (1993, I think), but despite its minimalistic, ultra-laggy single button gameplay I loved it because it was so atmospheric.

    Note that this is not the Lawnmower Man 16-Bit game which was on SNES (although I liked that too).

      I do actually remember that game. I remember that first-person flight type of section that I kept dying in because the game was telling me to go up, and so I pressed the up arrow on the keyboard. Turns out, the flight controls were effectively Y-inverted, so I actually needed to press the down arrow on the keyboard in order to fly up. The game did a terrible job of actually explaining that to you and I only discovered it by accident after days of frustration and confusion.

    So the only complaint about Battletoads was that it was too hard? And that's why it sucks? Why is it a game like Dark Souls is praised for its difficulty but a game like Battletoads is bashed for it?

    Take a teaspoon of concrete, harden up and git gud. I finished the Battletoads games when I was younger. Were they frustrating? Sure. But that doesn't make them "terrible". There's nothing wrong with a game that actually challenges you.

    Last edited 03/05/16 12:40 pm

      Although to be fair, a lot of Battletoads' difficulty comes from trial and error learning where the pitfalls are, rather than learning systems and rules that can be applied to any future encounter.

        Still, that trial and error gameplay is still used in games today and again, that doesn't make them bad games. What makes a game bad imo is if it's hard because of stuff out of your control (controls suck or there are glitches etc). What he's saying is effectively "I couldn't finish Battletoads cause its hard, therefore it sucks."

          The main thing that comes to mind is the blind drops in the terra tubes, really. At least with the turbo tunnel it's about reaction speed and stuff when you have to dodge the blocks, but there you just have to jump down to the next screen and lol jks you had to go all the way to the right better luck next time.

            I suppose thats fair. But again, lots of games do stupid things like that and dont make this list. I guess the point is that he's singling out battletoads even though plenty of other games were guilty of being hard/trolly in the same vein, and still do today. Doesn't necessarily mean they are bad games.

              Oh, of course. Not trying to argue that a few blemishes make for a bad game, just pointing out that the blemishes do exist.

                Hey no game is perfect. I'm glad we came to this understanding. Have a nice day @mrtaco

                  Now now, this is the internet. We can't have any of that awful civility around here.

                  Your mother was a retro-blaster and I bet you couldn't even get to the impact crater :P

        There's plenty of pitfalls that meet that definition in the Souls games too...

    I wax nostalgic for Hybrid Heaven on the N64. For simple reasons that the game simply shouldn't exist - a turn-based mixed martial arts RPG. Incredible fun in a boring masochistic sort of way

      Boring? No way! That game was fantastic. I love the idea that if someone piledrives you, you now know how to piledrive someone else.

    I dont understand this list at all. I'm wondering why titles like Goldeneye [n64], Virtua Fighter [saturn] and Resident Evil 1 [all sorts]. They're just bad.

    That batman game looks strangely similar to Solstice on the NES...

      There's a freeware remake of Batman made in 2010

      That's what is reminded me of! Solstice! Ahahahahaha.
      Time to delete my memories of that again.

    Oh, if we're gonna play THAT card.

    Okay... Let's see...

    Deus Ex, that sucked... Why? Cause you're old...

    Um... Final Fantasy 7, that also sucks wang...

    Why am I crying? Why is it this hard to lie?!

      Yeah... I know this is going to outrage people... but if you didn't play Deus Ex when it first came out and you go and try and play it now - it's actually pretty damn awful.

      The gameplay and mechanics are all janky as hell, and... dear god, that voice acting is painful. Everyone I know who played it back in the day still loves it - everyone I know who didn't can't stand it.

    I loved tron 2.0. The upgrades and virtual looking environments were a lot of fun.

    Whatever, I fucking love SOTE in all its blurry glory.

    I think it's dumb to call old games terrible for having bad graphics or controls. Literally every game on 64 had bad controls (other than starfox which ironically now has bad controls on the Wii U!) because the 64 controller was awful by design. Goldeneye was ugly as fuck and the controls were clunky and awkward. It's also dumb to call games bad because of things that came after them. QTEs were great before they became a scourge. Anyone remember Die hard arcade? Fantastic QTEs.

    Don't even get me started on battletoads. Sure it was stupid hard and glitchy to boot. For the time it was colourful, imaginative and satisfying to play. The bikes sucked, turning into a bell and smashing bats against walls did not!

      I loved Die Hard Arcade! Picking up the lighter and a can of mace, WHOOSH. Anti tank gun. BOOM.

      I got to the last boss of Battletoads once, so much of that game was about memorisation and being able to react fast enough.

      I made it to that level where u had to jump on the moving snakes a few times! That was it though. Still loved it,we weren't spoiled for choice back then...no digital access, no Bali copies, couldn't afford games only rentals if we were lucky. I remember loving the shit out of smash tv on nes even, so hard...at least I can save in dark souls, nowhere near as intense as knowing u had to start all over!!

        Mate.. I was all about Smash T.V. "I'd buy that for a dollar!"
        That game probably was actually bad though haha.

    Shadowrun got a bad rap because it wasn't an RPG. As a shooter, minus the disappointment, it was actually pretty decent. Think it was also one of the first cross platform shooters too, from memory. Used GFWL so PC and 360 could play together, iirc.

    EDIT: To clarify, I was also initially mortified they made a team FPS out of Shadowrun - but I quite liked it after all was said and done.

    Last edited 03/05/16 1:51 pm

      I never even gave it a chance. Just because it wasn't an RPG.

        Even for an FPS it didn't have a story. It was an FPS arena shooter.

    Shenmue was great.

    Battletoads was annoying but I was obsessed with it. Convinced mum to rent it from Video Ezy and spent about a week straight playing through it.

    Tron 2.0 and Shenmue bad? This list goes straight into the trash.

    For me, the appeal of video game nostalgia is remembering being a kid. The actual quality of the games is largely irrelevant.

      I've made the mistake in the past of going back to relive some games that I have treasured memories of, 10 or 20 years later, only to have said memories ruined. I learnt to leave games of a certain age in the past, where my memories recall them as incredible.

      Not that they suddenly aren't, 10 or 20 years later - just... not quite as awesome as my memories make them out to be.


          Star Wars trilogy with a cough?! gtfo

    Shadowrun 2007 was actually fairly fun. It helped fill the void until Halo 3.

    2, 3, 4, and 6 were all brilliant, and yes - you should be strung up or whatever the equivalent is.


    C'mon. Shadows of the Empire had 3 good levels not just the Hoth level.
    Hoth obviously is one, the Speeder bike level, and the last level where you could fly the Millennium Falcon.
    There was also a battle against Boba Fett that was memorable

      I constantly replayed it up until about halfway I think, some of those levels were boss

      I beat SotE somehow, after long hard hours of learning to wrangle the controls/camera. There were a lot of fun things in there, and it kinda reminded me of a 3rd person Dark Forces in parts. Probably hold up terribly today, but I still agree that it was more than just that first level.

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