E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was a big deal in theaters when it came out in 1982. The story about a boy on earth befriending an alien touched our hearts, so naturally, there had to be a video game. Atari commissioned Howard Scott Warshaw, who created Yars' Revenge and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark Atari game, to make the E.T. game. The result was a glitchy, buggy mess, put together in a month. E.T. was widely regarded as the worst video game ever created, even getting blamed for the Great Video Game Crash of the 1980s, and even drove Warshaw from the video game business entirely.
But does it really deserve such blame? Is the game really that bad?
I have played the E.T. game on an Atari back in the day, and I know the frustrations that go with it. It is an ambitious title for the 2600, which mostly had simple, single screen games and arcade ports (some were a bit of a stretch, right Pac-Man?). So, E.T. probably doesn't deserve the heat it got.
"Okay, Nick, name one game worse than E.T."
I can name 10!
10. 'The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare'
When Acclaim acquired the license to publish games based on The Simpsons, they ran with it, putting Bart in situations that could only be part of a Treehouse Of Horror episode. Bart went up against space mutants, traveled the world, bet Radioactive Man, escaped from Camp Deadly, and in the case of this game, put him in a series of nightmare worlds.
The story of Bart's Nightmare has Bart falling asleep while doing his homework, and his homework flies out the window, so now Bart has to go out onto the street in this dream world and retrieve it. When Bart finds a piece of his homework on the street, he needs to grab it, which sends him into another dream world, where he's either swimming through his own bloodstream, stomping downtown Tokyo as Bartzilla, flying over Springfield as Bartman, or going through a temple full of Maggie statues.
Overall, the game isn't that bad. The only reason it's on this list is that every time Acclaim announced a new Simpsons game, you were hoping for a port of Konami's most excellent arcade game. E.T. has the advantage of not having an excellent arcade game turning into a crappy 2600 port, unlike Pac-Man.
Acclaim: We have a new Simpsons game coming out!
Me: Is it the arcade game this time?
Acclaim: No, it's better! It's called Virtual Bart!
Me: Stuff it, Acclaim!
9. 'Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood'
I admit, I'm guilty of buying the videos and the video game, because watching idiots hurt themselves in stupid and gruesome ways is so entertaining. Now, I never bought the first game, but the second had a member of the Insane Clown Posse, ECW legend New Jack, and porn star Sunrise Adams on the cover, so I had to add it to my collection. It's one of few wrestling games that doesn't feature a wrestling ring, though I think the ring was unlockable.
Backyard Wrestling 2 isn't the best wrestling title out there, but for a game with legends such as Vampiro, New Jack, Vic Grimes, Sandman, Tylene Buck AKA Major Gunns, and Sonjay Dutt, and including musicians Violent J, Shaggy 2 Dope, and Andrew W.K., as well as putting in two porn stars in the form of Sunrise Adams and Tera Patrick, it deserves some merit. Though puritans might hold E.T. in a higher regard, since E.T. didn't tangle with Major Gunns.
8. 'Wolfenstein 3-D' (SNES version)
Wolfenstein 3-D is a revolutionary game. It wasn't the first first-person game, that honor belongs to 1973's Maze War, but it popularized the genre to the point that even Nintendo's legendary Metroid franchise has a first person perspective in the Metroid Prime series. I could go on and tell you how great Wolfenstein 3-D is, but you already know that, and plus, we're talking about the version on the Super Nintendo!
As we all know, Nintendo in the early 90s loved to censor games, so Wolfenstein on the SNES had to be totally sanitized, meaning the blood is gone, the attack dogs were changed into mutant rats, and all mentions of Nazis and Hitler were replaced with less offensive images. In this game, you were going up against the Statmeister, not Hitler. So what was the trade off for the censorship? New weapons not found in the original.
John Carmack programmed the port himself, and word has it he was so upset by Nintendo's need to censor his work, that he gave the source code for Wolfenstein to Wisdom Tree to create Super Noah's Ark 3D, an unlicensed game for the SNES. At least E.T. didn't need to be censored.
7. 'Ren & Stimpy: Veediots' (Or any Ren & Stimpy game for that matter.)
Acclaim/LJN aren't the only company that put out bad games. Through their initial run, THQ published some bad games long before the PS1 and N64 era. Ironic, because THQ's WCW and WWF/E games were great. But this is when they peddled crap, and brought us the Ren & Stimpy games. Games are supposed to be challenging, but the first level of Veediots is nigh impossible! And I'm sure there were no bugs in the game, either. It's purposely horrible!
E.T. was a buggy mess, but it wasn't divided by levels. It was a self contained quest to find the pieces of E.T.'s communicator to call his buddies and go home.
6. 'Pac-Man' (Atari 2600 version)
The 2600 had some commendable attempts at arcade ports. Defender, Space Invaders, and Centipede come to mind. But when it comes to taking a beloved arcade game that spawned several sequels, both authorized and unauthorized, tons of merch, a Saturday morning cartoon, and a hit song, and turning it into garbage, forget about Michael Bay ruining your childhood with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, if you played Pac-Man on 2600, your childhood was already screwed!
When Atari acquired the license from Namco to put Pac-Man on the 2600, there was such a rush to beat all of the Pac-Man knock offs to market, that when one programmer put together a prototype for Pac-Man, which was only an idea of what they could do with the hardware, Atari released the prototype! What we got were ghosts that faded in and out, so Pac-Man could die spontaneously, a bright blue maze with orange walls, and utter disappointment. Atari would later get it right on the Atari 800 computer and the 5200, but the damage was already done.
But we still get to relive our Pac-Man fever through the Nintendo and Game Boy ports, the Namco Museum collections, and the new 1UP Arcade machines.
On a side note, Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man on the Atari were better.
Fun fact: Steven Spielberg wanted the E.T. game to be a Pac-Man clone.
5. 'South Park'
South Park took off running in the late 90s. Acclaim nabbed the license and made a South Park game the only way they knew how: by assigning it to Iguana Entertainment and telling them, "Make it like Turok." Now, the Turok series was great in its initial run. It's lowest point came with Turok Evolution, and effectively destroyed Acclaim. But that's a story for another day. We're talking about South Park!
The South Park game was a first person shooter. Your first order of business is to choose one of the main four characters, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, or Cartman, and locate the rest of the characters. With all four characters, you can hold all the weapons in the game. Chef introduces each level, and you can also seek his counsel by finding his Love Shack in the field.
This game's only redeeming factor is that the humor found in the show is prevalent in the game. Other than that, I can't in good conscience recommend this game.
Acclaim made two other South Park games, in the form of a kart racer and a trivia game, but there wouldn't be another South Park game until Ubisoft's The Stick Of Truth.
That reminds me... the E.T. game on the Atari 2600 isn't the only E.T. game in existence. There've been many more, including one on the Game Boy Advance, and most recently, E.T. is playable in Lego Dimensions...but you have to buy the pack.
4. 'TNA iMAPACT!'
Midway released a TNA game back in 2008 after beating out Rockstar and EA for the license. How good the game was depended on the system it was played on. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions had online play and a CAW system. The Wii and PS2 versions dropped those features. The story mode had you playing as a wrestler named Suicide, who can be changed in the more powerful versions. Not to mention various bugs and glitches.
Midway had plans to make a sequel, and possibly a yearly series much like the WWE series, but it wasn't to be. Midway went out of business shortly after releasing TNA impact! and Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. There's really no need for an established TNA game, or Impact Wrestling as it's called now, as I see TNA wrestlers and arenas in community creations in the WWE games.
Not sure how that relates to E.T., though...
3. 'WCW Backstage Assault'
WCW's final days were painful indeed. Creative differences, egotistical wrestlers, and horrible business decisions destroyed this company which once had a rich history. Vince McMahon ended up buying the company in 2001, and hired several of their wrestlers. If WCW was becoming a joke, EA imitated reality by making this hunk of plastic junk called WCW Backstage Assault.
When THQ ditched WCW for WWF, after Acclaim lost that license and moved on to ECW, which imploded at the same time, EA jumped at the chance to, as Ted Turner told Vince, "get into the rasslin' business!" Their two attempts, WCW Mayhem and WCW Backstage Assault, were horrible at best, and a huge stain on the legacy of this once great company, which really gave the WWF a run for its money during Eric Bischoff's leadership.
WCW Backstage Assault is so named because every match takes place backstage. That's right. It's a wrestling game without a wrestling ring. WWF No Mercy and WWF Smackdown had backstage areas, but they at least had a ring. The only real reason to have WCW Backstage Assault in your collection is that it's the last WCW game ever!
2. 'Custer's Revenge'
I don't want to talk about this game. Lots of people have, and I would have nothing to add. Compared to Custer's Revenge, E.T. is Skyrim!
So that was nine games so far! What game would beat out E.T. for the title of worst game ever? Far worse than E.T.? Drum roll please...
1. 'Hong Kong '97'
This game is so bad that it never made its way westward. Hong Kong '97's story has China invading Hong Kong, and the late Bruce Lee has a cousin, named Chin, who has to kill the entire army single handedly. But it's not a brawler. No! It's a shooter. It's a lot like a Space Invaders wanna be.
E.T. had a notoriously short development cycle, being made in a month, but Hong Kong '97 was made in two days! This game also gained a cult following for how horrible it is. If you need further proof, when you boot up the game, you're treated to a loop of a Japanese pop song, and that's the only audio in the game.
E.T. got a bad rap, but these games really earned it.
Let me know what you think. @NFalkner77 on Twitter.