Top 11 Weirdest Games of All-Time, part one
By Damien Wilkens
18 December 2008 — Video games, by their very nature, are weird; we control a yellow circular creature that pops pills until he gains the ability to eat ghosts, an endomorphic plumber has to save the princess from a fire-breathing snapping turtle, we drop differently shaped blocks to form lines for our Soviet masters. We don't even blink at this stuff, so for a game to truly be considered weird, it has to reach a level of insanity that's usually reserved for comic book villains and dendrophiliacs. This is why I've decided to compile a list of the weirdest games of all-time.
Now I know you're ready to venture into Zany Town right away, and trust me, I'll take you there. We'll laugh, you'll get a little tipsy, I'll say something about your mother and you'll take a swing at me; all the good fun you expect. But first, there are a few things you need to know:
All Atari 2600 porn games have been instantly excluded from the list. So no Custer's Revenge here. (Though, if you want a good primer course on weird, look up Beat 'em and Eat 'em, then get back to me.)
No Ninja Golf. Yeah, I know, but I already covered it in a previous feature.
At some point we're going to reach what I like to call the International Date Line of Weirdness. This is the point in the list where our comparatively tame Western weird gets tossed aside to make way for a level of weird that only the Japanese can consume. Luckily for you, it starts in the second portion of this piece, so brace yourself from there onward.
Now, onto the games.
11. Seaman (Sega Dreamcast)
This game is a testament to Sega's creativity while at the same time posing the obvious follow-up question as to what exactly they were smoking.
You begin by preparing the tank for your Seaman. With the exception of the fact that the tutorial is narrated by Leonard Nimoy, this part of the game is largely unremarkable. You can talk about weirdness all you want, but until you have Mr. Spock instructing you on how to raise your virtual fish-man, you're really just talking out of your ass.
You start with an egg in a fish tank, watching the birth of this thing. For the first 20 minutes you'll have no idea what's going on. There's an egg that suddenly breaks into about a dozen eyeball / sperm creatures, and then a snail-ish thing harvests them. I think. Seriously, you just sit and watch this. Eventually the snail creature spits out a litter of Seamans (Seamen?) and the experience begins.
At first they only speak with a sort of infantile gibberish, but over the course of several days they grow to love (or hate) you. Oh, and they might even kill each other. Of course, if you're one of those people that likes to test how much of a dick you can be in a game from the outset, you can slaughter them all yourself. There's oxygen deprivation, boiling and other such sadistic methods. I chose to love and nurture my four wonderful children, then watched in horror as one of them killed two of his brothers. Suddenly I was left with half of the children I started with. I decided to name the well-behaved one Dubs Junior and the murdering one Fuckchop.
The game runs in real time according to the Dreamcast's internal clock. As such, you need to check back often to see how your godless abominations have developed. If you set the clock to, say, 2029, you'll come back to a post-apocalyptic world where not only are your Seamen dead, but Leonard Nimoy is nowhere to be found. Since a future without Leonard Nimoy is a future I'd rather not live in, I decided to play it straight by turning my boys into useful members of society. Dubs Junior quickly grew in vocabulary and started asking me all sorts of questions about the world. He was an inquisitive young chap, and I happily answered his queries. Fuckchop, on the other hand, liked to sit in the corner and tell me what a useless father I was. If he thinks I'm paying for therapy when he gets older, he's crazy.
Eventually my two sons grew into adults themselves, and I was so very proud of (one of) them. Sure, I felt like I needed a straitjacket since I had spent the past week or so talking to my virtual fish offspring, but the experience wasn't that odd to me once I got used to the concept. It's actually kind of charming in a way. Maybe I shouldn't add this to the list, I thought.
Then, it happened. Fuckchop got behind Dubs Junior and did this.
Fish incest. This game has asexual fish incest.
Where did I go wrong as a parent?
Perhaps it's best that we just move on.
10. Captain Novolin (Super NES)
There are thousands of different superheroes out there, all with their own unique quirks and abilities. Spider-Man does, presumably, whatever a spider can. The Hulk is strong. And Captain Novolin is diabetic.
I'll repeat that. His power is that he has diabetes.
The evil Blubberman has kidnapped the mayor of Pineville, and it's up to our hero to thwart his plans, all while avoiding aliens disguised as junk food and keeping his blood glucose at a steady level.
Captain Novolin has the wonderful distinction of not only being one of the weirdest games, but also one of the worst. Though many think this was intended to be an educational game for diabetic children, I am of the belief that this was actually made by people looking to make fun of the disease. Even if you want to ignore that the title character looks like something I used to draw on my Trapper Keeper, it needs to be stated that Captain Novolin is the weakest superhero ever. He makes Aquaman look like Darkseid. When the evil alien snack foods rocket towards him, all he can do is jump over them. He doesn't punch or kick or shoot beams of energy. He hops.
If real aliens were to ever threaten the planet and Captain Novolin was our last line of defense, I would be first in line to join the Zoulbakk Empire. Everything kills him. If he touches the giant bouncing doughnut, he dies. He eats more than his recommended meal plan, he dies. One time, he jumped when there was absolutely nothing on screen and died in midair. You know what this game is saying to those poor, unfortunate kids that play it? "Look here, you friendless little twerp, you will never be able to accomplish anything. Don't even think about following your dreams, because the second you step outside into the daylight, you're gonna die. Your entire existence can be ended by one candy bar. You bring shame to your family. And you're ugly."
There are occasional levels wherein our hero will hop upon his trusty speedboat while avoiding evil sticks of chewing gum and sweets. Because when I think of diabetes, I think of high-octane speedboat chases. Also, between levels a giant disembodied doctor head will tell you about good meal choices, and then asks you to check your blood sugar levels. All you need to do is match two color bars, and there's no way to lose.
Now that I think about it, why is Captain Novolin the only one that can save the world? Couldn't you just recruit someone that doesn't die at the sight of a doughnut? Hell, you can call me if doughnuts are your problem. I can call my sidekick Giant Glass of Milk, and together we'll have the situation taken care of inside 15 minutes. It's a dirty job, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice for the fate of mankind.
09. Journey (Arcade)
Here's a fun, useless fact for you all: there are not one, but two video games based on the band Journey.
The first is an Atari 2600 game known as Journey Escape. It consists of avoiding crazy groupies and shady promoters on the way to the band's trademark Scarab ship. It's not that weird outside of the fact that it's, you know, a Journey game. Oh, yeah, and because the band's manager is inexplicably Kool-Aid Man.
The other, however, is more than qualified to be a part of this list. A year after Journey Escape was released, an arcade game with the simple name of Journey was created. The story of this one? I'll let the game tell you itself:
Wild alien groupoids have seized Journey's electro supercharged instruments. Your mission is to help Journey retrieve their instruments from the dangers of the five galaxies. Trek through hazardous obstacles in quest of each instrument and battle your way back to the Scarab vehicle. When all five missions are completed, Journey begins a spectacular concert at the Galactic stadium. Journey plays their hit song while Herbie guards the stage from frenzied groupoids who are trying to take the instruments.
Okay, first, did they just tell us the ending of the game? Secondly, there is a Galactic stadium, which presumably holds fans from everywhere in the galaxy. So all of these aliens actually made the decision to see Journey? Why have these civilizations not been destroyed?
The game itself looks like someone's Mario Paint project gone horribly wrong. The members of the band are represented by deformed black and white heads pasted onto tiny colorful bodies. They all hop into their equally abstract ship and head off to save their instruments. You can tackle the five levels in any order you chose. In that way, I suppose it's like Mega Man. Well, if Mega Man chose not to fight Dr. Wily and instead just made really shitty music. Whichever level you choose, each one is basically the same: you avoid obstacles, retrieve your "electro supercharged" instruments, then fight your way back to the ship. All of this is going on while Journey's greatest hits play in the background. Really, until you've shot death rays out of your cosmic-powered microphone stand while listening to a MIDI rendition of "Don't Stop Believing," you haven't truly lived.
This all happens in one screen with a band member's name at the bottom, assumedly because no self-respecting human would admit to knowing the names of any of the members of Journey. This entire game can be beaten in about four minutes, which is just enough time to get the MIDI version of "Wheel in the Sky" stuck in your head.
08. Tail of the Sun (PlayStation)
Ages ago, a caveman was out hunting on the frozen wastes when he slipped and fell into a crevasse. In 1988 he was discovered by some scientists and thawed out. He then went to law school to become... wait a second. Sorry. That's the opening to "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer."
No, in this game, you're a narcoleptic caveman who is trying to collect woolly mammoth tusks so that he can build a tower that reaches the sun. You somehow achieve this by eating, killing and fucking everything in your path. One could actually make a case for this being the very first sandbox game, as you can pretty much do whatever you want from the moment the game starts. A good portion of the game consists of running around eating anything, including rocks, rice cakes and sugar cookies. Everything you eat partially increases one of the caveman's attributes, as evidenced by whatever part of his body glows after eating. These influence things such as your speed, intelligence and, for want of a better word, masculinity. Unfortunately, that one is at its max from the outset, so I'm not going to be able to write the phrase "glowing caveman crotch" with any sort of context.
Very rarely you'll come across a living creature, let alone a mammoth. When you do happen upon one, your main options are to either throw something at it, or simply pummel it with your fists. Chasing your prey around is harder than it sounds, seeing as your caveman will randomly fall asleep for no reason. It doesn't matter what he's doing; the caveman is to sleeping as Captain Novolin is to dying. There really is nothing quite like running towards some elk at full stride, then falling face first and sliding down the side of a mountain. If you actually do succeed in killing the animal, you are given the choice of taking the meat for yourself or returning it to your tribe so their crotches can glow and they can make babies faster. (As an aside, a cavewoman's vagina is also apparently three feet wide, as these babies come out fully grown and ready to hunt.)
What any of this has to do with making a tower to the sun, I haven't a clue.
Everything in Tail of the Sun is, well, primitive: the graphics are blocky, the terrain is featureless and the creatures are abstract. I almost feel uncomfortable simply calling this game weird. I think the more appropriate word is "transcendent." It's the sort of game that almost makes you feel as if you're briefly operating outside of yourself before your soul comes crashing back down into your body to ask you why the hell you're playing it. On some level, this could probably be considered an expressionist masterpiece, but that doesn't make it any less insane.
07. Monster Party (NES)
A runner-up for my Worst Games I Ever Loved piece, and the one game that inspired me to create this list, Monster Party is everything right with video games: it's loud, colorful and doesn't make one lick of sense. You could not possibly create Monster Party in any other medium. Video games are the only place for such an idea to thrive.
Let's start with the story. A young boy named Mark is heading home from a baseball game when a green-winged monster appears in front of him. You know what? I can't do it justice. Here is the entire epic exchange:
Mark was walking home from a ball game. He looked up and saw a bright star.
While he stared at it.
The star got bigger and bigger.
The beauty of the star made his eyes moist, so he didn't notice that the star fell and landed right in front of him.
It wasn't a star but a monster. Mark quickly asked.
Mark: Who are you?
Monster: I'm Bert!
Mark: What's up?
Bert: I'm looking for help. Evil monsters are out of control in my world. Come and help me.
Mark: I'm afraid to fight the evil monsters.
Bert: Don't worry! With your weapon, you'll be able to destroy them easily.
Mark: This isn't a weapon, it's a bat!
Bert: Bat! Batter! Anything is ok! Anyhow, let's go!
Bert grabbed Mark's hand and flew away.
Bert: What's your name?
Bert: Mark, my planet is dangerous. So, we must act together.
Bert: Like this!
Then they fused together.
This is how Mark's adventure began!
Alright. Where to start? Is "what's up" really the best greeting for a mythical flying beast? I also love how Bert's best idea was to recruit a child. Chuck Norris wasn't available? Jack Bauer? And let's not even get started on what that fusion looks like.
As Mark, you advance through levels using your bat to fight such evils as dogs with human heads, naked legs sticking out of the ground, eggs that shoot bubbles, floating chairs and pants. Yes, pants. Eventually you'll consume a capsule that allows Mark to go all Super Saiyan and turn into Bert. It should be noted that Bert is a much better fighter than Mark, which of course begs the question as to why he needed to kidnap him in the first place. I spent way too much time trying to figure out why the evil mummy in Shaq Fu needed a young human boy, so I'm not even going to try here.
Above all else, the boss battles take the cake. They're not really innovative or even particularly difficult, but you know by the time you get to the second boss just how messed up this game truly is. The first is a giant plant that calls you "baby" and blows bubbles at you. Strange, yes, but the second boss is a giant dead spider.
Here's a list of some other bosses in Monster Party: a jack-o'-lantern that politely asks that you don't pick on him, a giant shrimp that turns into an onion ring and later a shrimp kabob, a talking well that shoots plates at you, a minotaur that shoots cows at you, a translucent mummy whose legs are asleep, a cat hiding inside of a dresser that throws troll dolls at you, the flying torso of a punk rocker, dancing zombies, a wall made entirely of bloody green faces and a giant caterpillar named Royce.
To cap things off, the game ends with Mark melting like in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I'm not even joking.
06. Samurai Zombie Nation (NES)
Shooters are inherently weird. It's part of the reason why the genre doesn't exist much anymore. No matter what you put in front of that little laser-firing ship, most times it's going to be something unusual. Case in point, the next three games on this list are all shooters.
Think about that title for moment. Samurai Zombie Nation. What images come to mind? When I first heard of it, I always imagined a shogun warrior slicing down the undead with his blade, kicking ass as only a samurai can.
This game is about a decapitated head that shoots loogies at buildings.
See, an evil force known as Darc Seed has turned the entire American population into zombies and has stolen a legendary samurai sword. This does not sit well with the head of Namakubi, a great samurai, who goes on a journey to retrieve the sword. Lesson? Fuck with the world all you want, but if you take a man's sword, his disembodied head will come after you.
Namakubi's method of heroism is a bit questionable as well. All he does is destroy everything in his sight with his loogie bullets. In theory, this is supposed to reveal human captives that he needs to save, but the way he saves them is more than a tad suspect. Namely, he eats them. The one hope for humanity is a giant floating head that blows shit up and eats people. By the time you let this sink in, you'll likely have reached the first boss: the Statue of Liberty. But not just any Statue of Liberty. This isn't the noble lass that helped the Ghostbusters. This Lady Liberty is eeeeeeevil.
After you rip through her like the monster from Cloverfield, you move to Area 51 and destroy more stuff. "Don't worry folks! I'm here to take care of the zombie menace, and shoot my phlegm of justice at everything!" Whenever you die, Namakubi sinks to the bottom of the screen and yells some curse in Japanese. There are a grand total of four levels, but I like to shut the game off after this one. The game peaks right here.
First, you have to fight two blue clones of yourself, trying to avoid their snot-bullets while hitting them with yours. But that's not the best part. The absolute zenith of Samurai Zombie Nation is the boss of the level.
And just what is the epic climax to this stage? Five words, one man: Beware naked zombie Sean Connery.
At this point your synapses have likely been overloaded with the sheer amount of awesomeness in front of you. No doubt you'll need some time to recover, and frankly I can't think of a better note to end on for today.
Please join me next week, wherein we cross the International Date Line of Weirdness. Trust me, folks. You haven't seen anything yet.
Thanks to Video Game Museum for a majority of the screens, and The Spoony One for introducing me to the wonders of naked zombie Sean Connery.