Video games so bad they're good

Making games is hard. Making good games is even harder. Even the simplest games need clear and appealing graphics, evocative sounds, responsive controls, deep—but accessible—gameplay, and the technical competency to tie it all together. With so many moving parts, there's plenty of room for things to go wrong. Ask any game developer, and they'll tell you: making games is hard work.

And yet sometimes, despite developers' best efforts, a game doesn't come together. That's okay. A bad game can still be a good time. Glitches and bad voice acting can provide unintentional comedy, a broken mechanic can open up entirely new, unintentional ways to play, and a rowdy group of friends can turn even the most broken game into a good time. All you have to do is grit your teeth and try.

Desert Bus

Most designers don't set out to make a bad game. Penn and Teller did. Desert Bus, part of the duo's planned Smoke and Mirrors compilation, is less of a game and more of a practical joke: all you do is drive a truck from Tucson to Las Vegas in real time. And … that's pretty much it. Oh, wait! Forgot to add: when you arrive in Sin City, you get a point! Drive back to Tuscon, and you get another. In real life, the drive between the two cities takes about eight hours at 45 mph. "I drive faster than that," you're saying. Not in this game you don't; your truck tops out at 45. There's no scenery, and there are no other cars on the road. And while the road is completely straight, the vehicle drifts to the right, meaning you need to keep your hands on the virtual wheel at all times.

Originally developed for the Sega CD, Smoke and Mirrors was canceled due to a lack of interest in Sega's peripheral. That should've been the end of Desert Bus. And yet, somehow, it survives. In the mid-2000s, a former game critic sent an advance copy of Smoke and Mirrors to Lost Levels, a website that covers canceled video games. Then, someone was crazy enough to actually play it. In 2007, Morgan van Humbeck, Graham Stark, and Paul Saunders decided to play Desert Bus on an online stream while asking for donations. The more money they received, the longer they played.

The group raised $22,085, and the annual Desert Bus for Hope charity drive was born. In 2016, the Desert Bus team received so many donations that they had to play for over six and a half days straight, raising nearly $700,000 for the Child's Play charity in the process. Desert Bus sucks and it's always going to suck, but there aren't many other games that let you torture your fellow gamers and feel good about yourself for doing so.

Waiting in Line 3D

Waiting in Line 3D isn't impressive because it's well-made. It's impressive because of exactly how much thought went into making a video game that's as boring as absolutely possible.

As a browser-based game, Waiting in Line 3D doesn't have fancy graphics or sound. All of the characters look identical, and there's only one song that plays throughout the entire game. Theoretically, you can move and jump, but only when the line moves forward, which never happens. Despite a scoreboard, you can't score any points, and other than clouds moving through the sky, the scenery never changes.

Pretty much the only thing that you can do in Waiting in Line 3D is punch yourself in the face. Punch yourself too many times and you'll die. Don't punch yourself enough, and you'll fall asleep. It's a terrible game, but that's by design—developer Rajeev Basu says that his goal while making Waiting in Line 3D was to create "a game that deliberately undermines the very idea of what a game is meant to be," meaning that the game can't be "interesting, exciting or fun." By that criteria, Waiting in Line 3D is a massive success—but that still doesn't mean we're going to play it ever again.

I Am Bread

Bad controls usually spell doom for a game, but Bossa Studios has turned them into something of an art form. In Surgeon Simulator 2013, players must perform precise medical procedures by controlling all ten of a surgeon's fingers independently—a task that's just as impossible as it sounds. After that game found some viral success, Bossa Studios followed up with I Am Bread, and boy, is it a doozy.

In I Am Bread, players control slices of bread that are trying to make their way into the toaster while avoiding obstacles that reduce their "edibility" rating. Thanks to bread's wobbly frame and absorbent texture, however, that's not easy to accomplish. You'll make a mess of both the kitchen and yourself as you battle your way across the countertops and household appliances, picking up pieces of junk a la Katamari Damacy.

It doesn't stop there, either. Fans who want to experiment with I Am Bread's surprisingly detailed physics system can also play as a bagel, a cheese-seeking cracker, or a baguette. There's even a story about a man haunted by sentient toast which (spoiler alert, as if you care) ends up being a Surgeon Simulator sequel.

And yet, despite the game's baffling controls and ludicrous setting, I Am Bread is funny, not frustrating. That's because, like Bossa Studios co-founder Henrique Olifiers says, when you fail, "it's your fault. It can't be the game's." I Am Bread's controls are wonky, but they're also consistent, meaning that, similar to the ultra-popular Dark Souls games, dedicated players can master the game—it's just going to take a lot of patience.

WWE 2K

Every year, it's the same old story: 2K Sports releases another WWE game, and fans are disappointed. It's not just that 2K seems intent on stuffing the wild and wacky world of professional wrestling into a serious sports simulator, as if WWE's winners and losers are determined via athletic skill and not T-shirt sales. Every year, WWE 2K is filled with mind-bending glitches that transform the squared circle into the birthplace of Cronenberg-esque body horrors.

These bugs are bad for people who want to enjoy some pro-graps action, but they're great for those of us who thrive on creating digital monsters, especially when paired with WWE 2K's ludicrously detailed Create-a-Wrestler tool.

The glitches get weirder every year, too. In WWE 2K14, characters can glitch into the stands, where they'll hover above the audience as their bodies are twisted beyond recognition. In WWE 2K15, the furniture got tired of being used as weapons and started fighting back. WWE 2K16 saw John Cena fall victim to alien abduction, and WWE 2K17 fused former NXT champion Samoa Joe with the props, creating a rampaging beast who was half man and half garbage can.

In short? We can't wait to see what WWE 2K18 has in store.

Deadly Premonition

Ambition does not a good game make. Sure, there are a number of interesting ideas buried in Deadly Premonition, Hidetaka Suehiro's mash-up of Resident Evil, Shenmue, Grand Theft Auto, and Twin Peaks, but as Suehiro admits, there are a lot of problems, too. Deadly Premonition's graphics look like they belong on a system about a decade older. The dialogue makes sense … barely. The plot makes no sense at all. The voice acting is terrible, and the combat, controls, and navigation make finishing Deadly Premonition an absolute chore.

And yet, like Suehiro says, "It's a game that didn't exist anywhere else in the world," and despite Deadly Premonition's many, many flaws—or maybe because of them—the game has amassed a cult following. Countless players have fallen for Deadly Premonition's eccentric setting, the fictional town of Greenvale, Washington, and have found themselves wrapped up in the game's central mystery, which starts as a simple murder case, takes a detour into government conspiracies, introduces superpowers, and then goes completely off the rails.

In short, Deadly Premonition isn't a game for critics—it's nowhere near polished enough to stand up against games like Grand Theft Auto or Silent Hill, which have a similar scope but are far better executed—but if you can withstand the game's onslaught of technical problems, you might end up a fan. At the very least, Deadly Premonition tries to do something new, and in a marketplace crowded with sequels and knock-offs, sometimes that's enough.

Galactic Dance-Off

Everybody wants to be a Jedi. Nobody wants to be Oola, the ill-fated Twi'lek dancer that Jabba feeds to his pet Rancor. And yet, while Kinect Star Wars' lightsaber-centric Jedi Destiny mode is kind of a bust, the Galactic Dance-Off is actually a lot of fun—if you don't die of embarassment first.

In Galactic Dance-Off, players control popular Star Wars characters like Han Solo, Lando, and even Oola using the motion-sensing Kinect to dance to pop songs. But these aren't just any pop songs—they're Star Wars-themed covers of pop songs, which takes the game to a whole new level. Instead of Jason DeRulo's "Ridin' Solo," a gaggle of Imperial officers get down to "I'm Han Solo." The Village People's "YMCA" is transformed into "The Empire Today." La Roux's "Bulletproof" becomes "Blasterproof," and Yolanda Be Cool's "We No Speak Americano" is remixed as "We No Speak Huttese," which doesn't even sound much like the original title, but that's the least of your worries at that point.

It's exactly the kind of thing that fans worried would happen when Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion back in 2012, and yet it's hard to be too upset. Galactic Dance-Off isn't the worst way to end an evening with friends, especially other fans, and besides, if Star Wars can survive Ziro the Hutt, it can survive this.

Earth Defense Force 2017

Terrible graphics? Check. Even worse voice acting? Check. Alien corpses that disappear mere seconds after dying, a razor-thin plot, poor artificial intelligence, no online multiplayer, and basic features—like a jump button—that are completely missing? Check.

Essentially, Earth Defense Force 2017 has all the hallmarks of a bad game, and yet, the game's mindlessly addictive shooter has a huge fan base—not in spite of the flaws, but because of them. In one review, a critic argues that "what is so incredibly endearing about this game is that it's so technically abhorrent." Another reviewer says, "The physics are ludicrous, yes. But ludicrous is a good thing." Other critics praise the game's fully destructive environments—things don't have to look pretty as long as you can explode 'em real good—and some even consider Earth Defense Force 2017's lackluster story and poor production values an asset.

Why? Because all those modern trappings would just get in the way of blowing things up. At least Earth Defense Force 2017 has that part down. With its bare-bones presentation, there's almost nothing in Earth Defense Force 2017 that gets between you and some good, old-fashioned shooting—which, compared to some of the excesses found in modern AAA games, can be something of a relief.

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing isn't just a bad game—according to the review aggregator Metacritic, it's actually the worst-reviewed game of all time.

Spend a couple of minutes with Big Rigs and you'll see why. According to Sergey Titov, the man who programmed the engine that Big Rigs runs on, developer Stellar Stone released the game well before it was finished, and it shows. Of the five race courses that players can choose from, only four actually work. Players can select to race as one of four different trucks, but they're all the same. Opponents never leave the starting line, obstacles don't stop trucks (or do much of anything), bridges don't keep trucks from falling, and there's no limit to how fast you can reverse, meaning that it's possible to propel your truck over the speed of light.

It is, in short, a disaster. That hasn't stopped people from having fun with the game, even if it is at the game's expense. The Angry Video Game Nerd's profanity-laden recap of the game has over five million views, while Alex Navarro's famous silent review of Big Rigs for Gamespot–which ends with the critic lying in the street devoid of hope–is perhaps one of the finest pieces of video game criticism ever produced.

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

Many video games are power fantasies, but few are as specific as 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. 50 Cent might be a popular Grammy Award-winning musician, but there's only one person in the world who wants to see the rapper single-handedly win the War on Terror, and that person's name is 50 Cent.

Still, ol' Fiddy got his wish. In 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, the rapper and the rest of the G-Unit Crew take on pretty much the entire Middle East after a terrorist leader makes off with a jewel-encrusted skull worth $10 million. Along the way, you'll collect new weapons, gold bars, and taunts. (Taunts are rated on three criteria: profanity, braggin', and triple-X.)

The whole thing raises so many questions. Why does a concert promoter have a skull covered in diamonds? Why is 50 Cent performing a gig in the middle of a war zone in the first place? How many helicopter-themed boss-fights are too many? (Five. Five helicopter battles is way too many.)

And then, of course, there's the big one: how did the video game driving this madness actually turn out fairly decent? There's nothing overly original here, especially if you've played Gears of War, but 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand's biggest surprise isn't its outlandish setting, it's the game's competence. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is a much better game than it has any right to be, especially if you can get past the crazy (and, honestly, kind of racist) skin on top.

Night Trap

Want to feel dirty? Then check out Night Trap, a game so perverse that it prompted Congress to hold hearings in order to figure out the effects of video game violence on America's impressionable youth, and indirectly resulted in the foundations of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

But here's the big twist: not only is Night Trap tame by today's standards, it's actually pretty silly. As a member of the Sega Control Attack Team (SCAT), players monitor security feeds in order to stop vampires from wreaking havoc on a suburban slumber party. In the '90s, parents complained that Night Trap promoted violence toward women and complained about a "shower scene" in which one of the party guests changed into a nightgown. (In the actual game, the girl doesn't shower or change her clothes on camera.) Maybe that was shocking back when Bush I was president, but when something like Grand Theft Auto 5 can sell over 70 million copies, it's downright quaint.

Most of Night Trap's action takes place in prerecorded videos, and the low production values, shaky acting, ridiculous premise, and the thrill of playing a game that you know your parents would hate all make a round of Night Trap feel a lot like watching a schlocky horror film. If that's your jam, give Night Trap a shot—if you can somehow dig up an old Sega CD console. Alternatively, as of August 2017, you can buy a re-release copy for a modern console.