Open Discussion: Bad Arcade Games

arcadehero August 24, 2012 32
Open Discussion: Bad Arcade Games

I was sent the following message from a long-time site contributor, Phil Arrington. Phil provided video from an auction in California back in 2010 and also setup some live coverage from trade shows in the past where he and I walked around the show floor to give you a look at what was going on. Here’s what he would like to discuss:

I seriously been giving this some thought for a long time now after me and one of my co-workers had a discussion over the current gen games which consist of games that are just bad and just dumb down where anyone can pick up the controller and just play.

And it had me thinking…..what was the last bad arcade game to ever see the light of day? This is a serious question in my view because, in all honesty, I can’t think of none.

Like, the last game that was consider horrible arcade was between Capcom Fighting Jam and SNK vs Capcom…..even then, those games were still consider average and not just plain horrible…and those were released almost 10 years ago.

Hell, even Justice League wasn’t that bad for a game that didn’t pop up anywhere.

So my question is….what is a bad arcade game…..what’s been a horrible release in the last 20 years? Street Fighter the Movie Arcade game?

I’ll spout off a couple of thoughts and let you guys take it from there in the comments.

What a bad game is somewhat subjective. If we were to venture out onto the internet I’m sure the chorus of “E.T. is the worst ever, start there!” would drown out most thoughtful discussion in that regard but there are worse games than E.T. (try Rise of the Robots sometime – I’ll take E.T. over that any day).  The thing is that games that are horrible are often broken – perhaps hampered by bugs or poorly implemented features or they clone another idea that was popular and somehow manage to do a worse job at it (Again, see Rise of the Robots as a great example). In arcades it is difficult for this to happen as really bad games almost never get out of testing. So a horrible arcade game is going to be a rarity since the expense of putting one onto the market is substantially higher than a home game and if you see that it can’t make money on test, not many are going to be crazy enough to pull the trigger and produce it without making a lot of changes or just dumping it entirely.

In regards to bad arcade games in more recent times, there are some games I don’t care for that are usually are mixed bag types of games as opposed to downright terrible games. Some examples: Sega Racing Classic (more disappointment than a bad game – it was still Daytona at its core and that was an excellent racer, I just think that everyone wanted much more out of that than a higher resolution and there was the loss of the Daytona license). Justice League (it did have some problems but it grew on me after a few plays; it looked better in person than the screenshots but still was lagging well behind what could have been done in 09; the character movement needed some tweaking particularly in how fast you run along. Still it was playable and fun to play with a second person). Panic Museum (everyone I have talked to seems to like this one so maybe it was just me), Paradise Lost (it looked great but the changes made to it sucked any personality the game had in the first place which wasn’t much to begin with, enemies just run haphazardly onto the screen as you mow them down, bosses just appear with no theatrics whatsoever). None of these games are at the level of a Street Fighter: The Movie type of game however so on that point, I would have to say I’m in agreement with Phil.

I think to get into examples of what would be horrible, we would have to look to China currently where on occasion, usually because of poor rip-offs, there are some examples of really bad games being made(Happy Bounce Ball, Ultimate, Pong Pong Table, Pandora’s Adventure, as some examples). It’s hard to say though since it is difficult to come across these games out West, since they rarely see the light of day over here. The industry there will mature with age though and we’ve already seen that occur with games like Storm Racer which had the quality of any racer made by an established arcade developer.

If you have a different take on it however, I’d love to strike up a discussion in this regard so type away!


  1. masterLEON August 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    I’ll bring up Sega Golden Gun. I played this on a recent trip to Winnipeg, Canada and I was sorely disappointed. The game ran with a higher resolution, but lots of the textures were still low-res. The environments were very simple, but the enemies seemed to have higher poly counts. the result? Inconsistent frame rates and slowdowns. I don’t expect this from ANY recent SEGA arcade game. The camera movements and scene progression has the exact same feel of the House of the Dead 1 and 2. Not to mention that you’re also fighting against ancient zombified Chinese warriors and monsters. The enemies were very simple rehashes of your standard HotD archetypes, but everything is made easier with the fully automatic pistol. Heck, even the reloading is automatic, but you can at least manually reload by shooting offscreen (and it’s faster, too). The only thing unique is the shop system which you can pay for powerups by trading in some of your point score, this wouldn’t be too bad considering that if you want the high score, you’d refrain from buying anything. But, the game allows you to insert more credits for more score to spend! If anything this game reminds me of, it’s a poor clone of House of the Dead 2 using Konami’s Terraburst arcade hardware. Oh, and the dialogue and acting is about on par with HotD 2, but not as classically memorable or something i would describe as, “so bad, it’s good.”

  2. masterLEON August 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Sega Race TV is another casualty of Sega’s racing game cash-ins. A paltry selection of tracks with simple layouts and relatively short length and a limited boost gimmick who’s usefulness is erased by the final lap is what drags this racer down. I’d rather play Midway’s C.A.R.T. Fury and have a better time at it.

    • TDR2000 August 25, 2012 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Agreed, its fun, but it is really good. SEGA should make old-school driving games for next gen arcades. Why isn’t sega making a spiritual sequel to the outrun games? that would rock it that happened!

      • TDR2000 August 25, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

        Sorry, I meant it “ISN’T” really good.

  3. arcadehero August 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Both good examples I thought about but figured they are better left to discussion down here below. One weird thing about RaceTV was the replacement game for it didn’t fare much better on the market it seems (R-Tuned) even though that was a solid game. China of the Dead um I mean Golden Gun was a strange one, I’ve heard it does poorly on location and I can certainly understand why, for the reasons you bring up. I give that one props for having a cool cabinet but that doesn’t make the game fun. Still, these games are playable, although not particularly good.

  4. RJAY63 August 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    The worst arcade driver has to be Valve Limit from 2004. Played it at a local cinema complex and couldn’t believe something this bad was ever released. God-awful graphics, appalling physics and a bizarre selection of transsexual co-drivers! Thankfully I only saw it at 2 locations.

    Another bad driver is Hog Wild: Chase Up. Ghastly graphics and lazy gameplay – only ever saw this at my local Sega Park in 2003/4.

    • arcadehero August 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Good examples – I had never heard of Valve Limit. That is a weird one for sure judging by the video.

  5. arcadehero August 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    I just remembered one that could be put into the terrible category – Crossfire Maximum Paintball. What a bizarre game that I’m sad I ever spent a quarter on.

  6. Takosh August 25, 2012 at 12:40 am - Reply

    From the the fighter category, Guilty Gear Isuka was rather awful.

  7. HeavyElectricity August 25, 2012 at 1:59 am - Reply

    The thing with arcade games is that the business model means they shouldn’t ever get away with being broken messes. When you put down money for a consumer game, it’s all up-front so a company only needs to make one sale to each customer – you can to some extent get away with a terrible release. In the arcade, your game has to sell itself repeatedly. Players won’t put a second credit into a game they think is bad and earnings should start to weed out the duds. (Of course, financial success isn’t the only measure of a game’s quality – blah blah blah HeavyElectricity talks about 2Spicy again.)

    Of the games I’ve seen since I became involved with AH in 2008, the one that least impressed me was Justice League.

    • arcadehero August 27, 2012 at 7:07 am - Reply

      How I wish Too Spicy could have been given a second chance :/

      • Phil "iTossWomenSalads" Arrington August 28, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply

        I agree with this

  8. Mackmall33 August 25, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Tattoo assassins, yuck, what a atrocity, I played it on mame and it makes me wanna throw up at how disgusting it is. I also played Johnny Nero: action hero and that was just a piece of garbage!

    • monkeybroly August 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      I also played Johnny Nero: Action Hero, I agree that game was garbage, worse than Area 51!

  9. polster August 25, 2012 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Jeez, whats with the hate on arcade games in china? just because the games are low grade rip-offs, doesn’t mean they’re terrible games. A game cannot be judged until you really play it!

    • arcadehero August 27, 2012 at 7:02 am - Reply

      Well I have played a number of these games from China. As I stated, there are some good ones – Storm Racer and Power Truck (although PT might have been developed in Taiwan but SR is definitely Chinese) are good but then you have Bloody Taizerhuang (nice cabinet, terrible game), Happy Bounce Ball, Pong Pong Adventure, Sports Run or Pandora’s Adventure. I’m willing to give Chinese games a chance, don’t get me wrong on that but so far a vast majority of what I have played is actually terrible.

      • polster August 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm - Reply

        I understand, Storm Racer is amazing because it reminds me of Ridge Racer, and its one of my favorite racers. Power Truck is like fast & furious mixed with 18 wheeler, and thats a cool combination. Yeah, some games in China aren’t really mind-blowing, but just fun to play nonetheless. I also love to give the Speed Driver series a try, it might have something special compared to Maximum Tune, such as a colorful cast of characters that piqued my interest!

        • arcadehero August 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm -

          I have a hard time deciding between Power Truck and Speed Driver 3 but those are both IGS games. IGS has certainly improved their quality over time. Power Truck is a game that has to be experienced on the hardware to truly appreciate – the sound system makes a huge difference. It edges out Storm Racer for me – which was a solid game but both PT and SD3 were absolutely excellent. IGS has a lot of experience though so they have that advantage.

  10. Field305 August 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    BloodStorm was a terrible game. How dare they try to dethrone Mortal Kombat with such garbage.

  11. voltz August 26, 2012 at 3:04 am - Reply

    I had a rather horrifying play of DC’s Justice League a year back. You’re looking at gameplay that’s more like a cheesy hack at Gauntlet Legends and if you’re going to put yourself on par with any superhero biased fighters, you got to look at X-MEN or The Avengers as the bar or don’t try.

  12. Steffen August 26, 2012 at 3:35 am - Reply

    I’d actually say that probably everything by Gaelco is a bad arcade game.

    I have played Radikal Bikers, Rolling, ATV Track and Tokyo Cop. And they all kind of sucked.

    Let’s start with Tokyo cop. It’s kind of a Chase HQ style where you have to chase a criminal. The first four levels are so easy that it’s actually boring. And then suddenly the game becomes so hard that it’s not fun anymore.

    The rest of the list are racing games which somehow can’t motivate me trying to win. It’s probably due to the fact that it’s they are lacking some balanced gameplay.

    What also makes these games pretty dull or even bad is their technical quality for their. Gaelco developed their own hardware that had much less power than their Japanese counterparts standing next to them.

    The only good thing is that catchy song of Radikal Bikers.

    • arcadehero August 27, 2012 at 7:10 am - Reply

      I had to play Radikal Bikers over and over, trying to find something to like about it. I had a chance to play it on free play since I worked for the arcade that had it and the reason I was playing was that us employees were always trying to find a game to become king at. I tried RB for a time but I gave up after a while as no one else wanted to try given how not very good the game was.

      • editor August 27, 2012 at 10:47 am - Reply

        There was some good GALECO games, but there were also some poorly developed titles that caused the collapse.

        I could be cruel and say when GAELCO started focusing on NAMCO/Brent build requirements, using sales team information, the games really started to suck, but that could be seen as harsh.

        I remember standing next to a GAELCO R&D leader who created Radical Biker explaining how sales team information had help them shape the game – and when I asked why the scoring and play was so off – he looked over at the sales guy who would not comment. When the game bombed, no one would ever mention the involvement again.

        Tokyo Cop was a great game that failed to work due to poor loading, scoring and general changes that NAMCO JP requested changes to be able to sell in Japan – only not to really buy any number. This is kind of the way that SEGA changed their latest driver to suit another sales team!!

        • arcadehero August 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm -

          The one good comment I ever heard mentioned about Radikal Bikers was I had a co-worked that he thought the main character “was totally hot”. I then had to mock him that it was a video game character and a fairly blocky one at that (although at the time all 3D characters in games were pretty blocky)

  13. Gabe McGrath August 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    Not sure of more recent titles, but if we go back to the 90s, PIT FIGHTER was a shocker, and the board doesn’t fetch much.

  14. editor August 27, 2012 at 10:52 am - Reply

    As a consultant, I am not really allowed to voice direct opinion on winners or losers – it also pays not to write off games too early.

    That said, there is one driving game that nearly knocked me out how bad it is!

  15. Nick August 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Pretty much anything made by Global VR can be put into this. I don’t think I’ve played games that look worse then N64 games that came out less then five years ago. At Disney Quest I played Twisted: Stunt Racing and Justice League Heroes and they were all terrible. Same goes with the new NASCAR. Sure they can get up to 10 players on huge HD screens, but if the game isn’t fun, nobody’s going to play it. Whenever I go to Dave and Busters I always see tons of people on Daytona USA a game almost 20 years old and nobody on NASCAR.

    Paradise Lost is also garbage. Just waves of waves of enemies. The worst is the “Air Raid: Multiplayer Theater” that some Dave and Busters have that replaced some RARE Galexian 3 units. I’ve watched people sit there for a total of three minutes, get tired of the game and walk out because of how bad the game was.

    I really wish Sega AM2 would come back and wow us with something that would bring players back to the arcade.

    • masterLEON August 30, 2012 at 9:09 am - Reply

      In NASCAR, I can have only a halfway decent time playing in the first seat. Beyond that, the other seats’ framerates turn into a choppy mess progressively by the 2nd seat and more. By the 4th seat, you can barely react to what’s going on. Is the 1st seat acting as the server or something? Still, even if that, that’s gotta be some horribly inefficient network code NASCAR is running. Daytona USA never suffered from network-induced lag. Then again, nowadays the trend is to shove low-level PCs into a cabinet and call it a game. :/

  16. editor August 30, 2012 at 4:30 am - Reply

    @Nick – the walking away from a game still in play is a great assessor of a poor game, when you see this at show (when the games are on free-play) I always note this down, as nothing tells you a game is poor than a player voting with his feet mid-play!

    SEGA #AM2 (Sega Amusement Machine Research and Development Department 2) was one of the four great R&D amusement groups, along with #AM4, and Taito’s GM teams.

    However those days have gone, the lunacy of SEGA’s restructuring of the AM network, only now to be re-restructuring it back to how it was; the collapse of the Namco R&D divisions, and the general malaise in new development.

    I too long for the days when I walked onto the Preview trade exhibition floor and was wowed by the latest SEGA deluxe cab.

    • Nick August 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      I’d see people walk away from games that Global VR made at Disney Quest where their on free play, even little kids too. Stef mentioned Tokyo Cop. Why that game made it into so many arcades is beyond me. I like to call it “Chase H.Q without the fun” If you make one mistake in the first level you can never catch up with the other car. My 5 year old nephew hated it, but last weekend he played Dirty Drivin’ and he loved it and kept asking when he could play it again.
      Johnny Nero: Action Hero almost gave me a headache playing it. The screen flashed WAY too much and I played it on two different machines.
      Sega Race TV looked like a lot of fun but the controls were just off. I played a couple of games but I couldn’t get into it. I could see what they were going for but I know why it failed.

      • editor August 31, 2012 at 7:27 am - Reply

        The bone yards of the industry are littered with good games let down by bad controls. I still wonder if it is not time for consumer and amusement to have some qualifications in development.

  17. Molloy September 1, 2012 at 3:47 am - Reply

    I feel like Sega and Namco haven’t done a good game in years, aside from fighters and the occasional dull but serviceable lightgun game. There’s been an endless stream of bad racers in particular. I’m pretty sure a lot of their development has been sent out to China so we end up getting ugly, boring games like Rambo and Primeval Hunt.

    However the honour of worst arcade game of the last 10 years goes to Valve Limit R. I really recommend trying it if you can find one in the wild. It’s hilariously awful. I of course live a few doors down from an arcade but I never visit because this is the sort of shite they have there.

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