Publisher: Acclaim / Developer: Mirage
Release Date: Dec 1994 (USA)
/ Jan 1995 (UK/EU)
It's hard to shake the feeling that history has been a little unkind to Rise of the Robots, a title which promised so much and felt like it marked the beginning of a new generation of technological power. When it was first announced, it was the hottest title on the planet, mixing gorgeous CGI visuals with Street Fighter-style action. It was seen as such a sure thing that it was released on pretty much every gaming system around at the time, and while some were better (and worse) than others, the SNES version stands out as particularly disappointing. The AI is insultingly stupid, there are hardly any moves to speak of, and the fancy pre-rendered visuals look a lot less impressive when scaled down on Nintendo's console. The result is a mess and one of the worst one-on-one fighters on the system – although Brian May's music is decent, at least.
Publisher: Paramount Interactive / Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: Apr 1994 (USA)
Basing your video game on an animated movie aimed at adults hardly seems like the recipe for success, but it doesn't help when the game itself plays like a dog. Stand-up comedian Robin Harris was the inspiration for the movie (and the game) but passed away two years before the film hit cinema screens in 1992. The resultant Bebe's Kids game was developed by Radicant Entertainment and is one of the few games to have had the ignominy of being panned by Nintendo Power, the officially-sanctioned publication famous for going easy on even the direst of releases. The visuals are terrible, the scrolling is jerky, and enemies take a ridiculous number of hits to kill – you might think we're joking, but it's actually insane how many blows are required to take down even the lowliest grunt in this game. You have a pathetically small selection of moves, too, while your character is so sluggish it often feels like you're fighting in zero gravity – and, to make matters worse, Bebe's Kids is guilty of the greatest crime a side-scrolling fighter can commit: there's no two-player mode. Utterly atrocious.
Publisher: THQ / Developer: Imagineering
Release Date: Dec 1991 (USA)
/ 1st Jan 1992 (UK/EU)
Movie tie-ins were all the rage in the early '90s, so it was almost inevitable that we'd get a video game version of the smash-hit film Home Alone. While the SNES version looks a lot nicer than its NES and Game Boy counterparts, the gameplay is as dull as dishwater and completely squanders the intriguing premise offered up by the film's 'one kid against the invaders' storyline. While these licenced titles are always going to be made with one eye on a fast buck, Home Alone feels particularly underbaked and cynical; it plays like a shallow and repetitive mini-game rather than a full-price release.
Publisher: Kaneko / Developer: System Vision
Release Date: Dec 1992 (USA)
It wasn't just movies and TV shows that got the SNES platformer treatment back in the '90s – even food brands got in on the action, as is evidenced by the abysmal Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool. For starters, it's so short you'd have good reason to complain about value for money – if, that is, you can possibly bring yourself to overlook the fact that it's dull, repetitive and saddled with terrible, floaty controls and a general lack of variety. Amazingly, this actually managed to garner some attention from mainstream magazines back in the day (GamePro even put it on the cover), but the reality is, Chester Cheetah isn't cool in the slightest, and playing this only makes you feel like a fool.
Publisher: Malibu Games / Developer: Imagineering
Yet another terrible licenced title, Family Dog takes inspiration from the animated TV show of the same name. With little to do but leap around platforms in sparsely-populated environments and dodge enemies, it soon becomes a repetitive slog which isn't enlivened one bit by the dubious presence of samey mini-games. Playing Family Dog today is an odd experience, as it doesn't benefit from the popularity of the show – and that merely exposes the terrible controls, poor level design and general lack of ambition all the more. This one really is a dog (sorry), even if you happen to remember the original cartoon.
Developer: Hudson Soft
Release Date: Nov 1991 (USA)
There's a good chance that anyone outside of North America is wondering who the heck Bill Laimbeer is – and there may well be some within North America saying the exact same thing. Laimbeer is hardly in the same league as Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neill, yet here he is, starring in his own video game. In an even more bizarre twist, this is a basketball game set in the future, with a focus on (as the title suggests) playing dirty – something that Laimbeer was famous for during his professional career. Originally released on the Amiga and Atari ST under the title Future Basketball, it was swiftly ported to the SNES (along with Laimbeer's name attached) to become the first basketball game on the console. While Speedball 2 successfully riffed on this concept, Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball is blighted with terrible visuals, jerky scrolling, poor controls and a top-down perspective which makes it hard actually to appreciate you're playing basketball, a sport which is as much about vertical space as it is about horizontal space. One of the oddest sports titles of all time and another SNES game to avoid.
Publisher: Tengen / Developer: Tengen
The Pit Fighter arcade game was released before Capcom's Street Fighter II arrived on the scene and revolutionised the genre, so it can be forgiven for not boasting the same level of playability and depth. It did at least offer some cool digitised characters and surprisingly brutal combat, and that made it a prime target for arcade-going players. The issue is that home formats of the period were woefully underpowered when compared to the coin-op hardware and couldn't hope to replicate the experience. Ironically, the SNES – as one of the most adept domestic platforms of this era – should have been able to make a half-decent stab at it, but the end result is missing so many features it's not worth bothering with, even if you're a hardcore fan of the arcade original. The sprites are tiny, the selection of moves is limited, and the whole thing just plain sucks. Dire.
Publisher: Ocean / Developer: Ocean
Release Date: Feb 1995 (USA)
/ Apr 1995 (UK/EU)
Ocean was famous for churning out a seemingly endless selection of licenced video games in the '90s, and some of those were quite good – RoboCop and Jurassic Park spring to mind – while others were truly, truly terrible. The Flintstones, as you might have guessed, falls into the latter camp. While the visuals are half-decent – there's some great animation and parallax scrolling on display here – the gameplay is incredibly frustrating; the lead character Fred Flintstone doesn't jump anywhere near high enough, yet he hangs in the air like a balloon – and this leads to many annoying deaths. Other questionable design choices led to a game that's borderline unplayable when compared to the greatest examples of the genre on the SNES.
Publisher: Ocean / Developer: CTA Developments
Another game based on a largely forgotten '90s cartoon show? We were really spoilt for choice during the SNES era. While the visuals do a commendable job of imitating the cartoon (the introduction sequence is cool given the limitations of the cartridge format, we'll admit that), the controls are awkward, and the game becomes incredibly difficult very quickly, thanks to the fact that you're basically escorting another character through each stage – one of the most annoying video game tropes of all time, turned into an entire game. Sheesh. All of this makes us wonder how much of its target audience of cartoon-loving youngsters persevered with it before taking it back to the store and trading it in for something more worthwhile. But you know what's worse? Eek! the Cat is basically a reheated version of the decidedly average 1993 Amiga game Sleepwalker, but even less appealing. Yuck.
Publisher: Absolute Entertainment / Developer: Absolute Entertainment
Like Don Bluth stablemate Dragon's Lair, Space Ace was a fancy LaserDisc-based arcade title from the 1980s which was later adapted for consoles as a 2D action title. While the side-scrolling Dragon's Lair adaptation wasn't all that terrible, Space Ace, for whatever reason, turned out much worse. Lacking any kind of imagination and creativity, Space Ace's soupy, unresponsive controls and harsh difficulty (the opening section alone is enough to make you want to smash the cartridge into a million pieces) make it a pain to play. Yet another case of using a popular arcade IP to fool a few kiddies out of their pocket money, we're sad to report.
Publisher: THQ / Developer: Imagineering
Release Date: 10th Jul 1992 (USA)
One of the few 3D coin-op titles to gain any kind of traction (no pun intended) prior to the arrival of the likes of Sega's Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter in arcades, Atari's Race Drivin' was predictably ported to home consoles of the era – with wildly differing results. The poor old SNES struggles with real-time 3D when it's not using the Super FX chip, and Race Drivin' – a title released before that chip was even created – is something of a turkey when it comes to performance. The frame rate is so poor it often falls into single-digit territory, and this predictably makes it insanely difficult to control the car and anticipate its movements, resulting in a pretty dire racing experience.
Publisher: Raya Systems / Developer: Sculptured Software
Release Date: Nov 1992 (USA)
Is there anything more terrifying that the words "educational video game?" Attempts to fuse learning with interactive entertainment rarely work, and Captain Novolin is a prime example of this. While we have no issue with a game that raises awareness of those suffering from type 1 diabetes, this laughably limp action platformer has so little in the way of redeeming features it makes you wonder if it actually did more harm than good back in the day. The makers of the Novolin brand of insulin, Novo Nordisk, funded development and even distributed 10,000 free copies to hospitals. We imagine it probably made the poor kids feel worse, not better.
Do you agree with our list? Are there games on here you don't think are that bad, or ones we've missed that you think are even worse? Let us know in the comments, and you can help this list evolve over time – and warn people off potential stinkers.
In the meantime, if you're sick of reading about bad games, why not check out some of our 'best games' guides instead?