Remember to flush your Famicom after playing
December 31, 2011 8:56 PM   Subscribe

??? WHAT IS KUSOGE ??? From the Japanese for "shit", kuso, and "game." They're relentlessly terrible video games that in some cases have attracted a following because of their awfulness. Here are some of the most commonly recognized examples:

Hardcore Gaming 101 offers periodic writeups on these games in Your Weekly Kusoge. Here are some of the more egregious examples of the type.

Set during a peasant rebellion back in feudal Japan, the player collects money to give to downtrodden villagers while attacking ninjas trying to stop him. According to Wikipedia, this game inspired Japanese essayist Jun Miura to invent the term kusoge.
Gameplay video

Hoshi wo Miru Hito
An early Famicom RPG with many gameplay issues, including invisible towns, vaguely representational graphics, a tendency for areas to exit back to the start location on the overworld map, and greviously unfair difficulty balancing.
Dr. Sparkle of Chrontendo on Hoshi wo Miru Hito
Trashy Games' test play

Takeshi's Challenge
Seen recently here on Metafilter, it seems made to purposely annoy the player and make him feel stupid for playing a video game. Perhaps because of its blatant trolling, it seems to be rather fondly remembered in Japan.
Dr. Sparkle of Chrontendo on Takishi's Challenge
Dream and Friends' two posts on Takeshi's Challenge: #1 - #2
Let's Play Takeshi's Challenge (First part of six)
A TV ad for Takeshi's Challenge

Super Monkey Daibouken
Chrontendo declared it the worst game of the Famicom's early period, and it may be the worst Famicom game of all. Combines the nonsensical world map of Hoshi wo Miru Hito with terrible side-scrolling action sequences.
Dr. Sparkle on Super Monkey Daibouken
The Cutting Room Floor reports on a secret (explicit) message in the game's code.
(EXTRA: The Cutting Room Floor has a whole category on games with hidden messages buried in their code.)

The game's origins are Western, but its popularly is mostly Japanese. Your character dies if he falls more than a few pixels, but must survive an amazingly trecherous cave. Inspired the much better game Spelunky.
Hardcore Gaming 101 on Spelunker

Action 52
An infamous unlicensed NES game that purported to contain 52 other games. None were programmed with any kind of talent. Active Enterprises sold this cart in magazines for $100, and their target market seems to have been rich, clueless old folks wanting to get their children something nice.
Cheetamen commercial (may never have aired)
Trashy Games' test play:
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
|tsr's scans of Action Enterprises' enthuiastic CES flyer

Cheetamen II
The even-more-obscure sequel to the Cheetahmen game from Action 52. Say what you want about NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was better than this. Cheetahmen II doesn't so much have an ending as a stopping.
|tsr's article on Cheetamen II
Trashy Games' test play
Video playthrough

Menace Beach / Sunday Funday
These two are essentially the same game, the first version an unlicensed NES game by Color Dreams, the second an equally unlicensed game made by Wisdom Tree, which is Color Dreams after they changed their name to chase after the evangelical Christian market. Menace Beach is a fighting platform game in which a kid on a skateboard tries to save his sweetheart from street punks, who have chained her to a wall while her clothes rot away. Sunday Funday is the same with changed graphics; the sweetheart is now not chained to anything, is a noseless, orange-faced sunday school teacher, and instead of having rotting clothes she presents Bible trivia questions. Sunday Funday also contains a stupid side-game called Fish Fall, and a karoke sing-along for a Christian song called "The Ride."
|tsr's article on Menace Beach
|tst's article on Sunday Funday
Let's Play Menace Beach: Part 1 - Part 2
Let's Play Sunday Funday (first part of many - click through and use YouTube related links to continue): Part 1

Spiritual Warfare
Wisdom Tree's Christian answer to Zelda. Probably the best game on this list. It's not abysmal, just mediocre.
|tsr's article on Spiritual Warfare
Gameplay video
Let's Play Spiritual Warfare (first part of many)

Bible Adventures
Another of Wisdom Tree's attempts to pander to the Christian market. Three side-scrolling action games using the same engine, in which various characters carry around animals and babies in a manner I'm guessing is not literally depicted this way in the Bible.
|tsr's article on Bible Adventures
Let's Play Bible Adventures (with an entertainingly surly narrator): Part 1 (Noah's Ark) - Part 2 (David & Goliath) - Part 3 (Baby Moses)
posted by JHarris (30 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
from the magazine ad I remember, Action 52 was at first going for a lot more than $100. Found mine at a pawn shop for $12, around 15 years later.
posted by broken wheelchair at 9:23 PM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sweet! Also relevant to lovers of kusoge: this post from a few days ago about Gamecenter CX.

And thank you for at least partially defending Spiritual Warfare, which is a crap game I have a deep and abiding affection for. I assure you it was manna from heaven (sorry) for childhood-me, as it was the one game my religious parents would let me play without any time limits.

Even without the nostalgia goggles, though, I still think the idea of an modern-day, urban-setting Zelda is pretty interesting and innovative. The game was also charmingly batshit: it's not every game that makes you run through a prison pelting inmates with bananas until they convert to Christianity.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 9:38 PM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I finally have a reference for what someone was talking about like ten years ago, the only game thier parents let them play " it was like Zelda, except you threw fruit at people and they repented"
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

i am kind of cold on the whole concept of "kusoge" and ironically liking bad games

it strikes me as disingenuous

also there is something pretty offputting about that japanese games guy describing himself as a 'loser'
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:12 PM on December 31, 2011

I don't think disingenuous is the word you're looking for, although I kind of see what you're getting at. There are one or two games I know are bad but sometimes play anyway.

One of them I have a peculiar relationship with: NES Athena. It's a very strange game with many outrageous bugs, but you can tell playing it that there are some good ideas there. They took the block-breaking, secret-finding lessons of Super Mario Bros. and went way beyond town with them. Some areas are almost nothing BUT breakable blocks, and there are many ways to break them, and there are dozens of items to find hidden within. In that way, it scratches some of the same itches as Bubble Bobble.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad things to put up with in order to experience that good thing.

Playing a bad game that one genuinely dislikes, like, there's no reason to do that. But I think the kusoge lovers don't actually entirely hate those games -- instead, I think there are probably one or two qualities they actually like, and they find the badness endearing.
posted by JHarris at 10:28 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

yeah, but if you like it why not just say it? there's this kind of cheesy self-abasement going on, there, like the guy calling himself a 'loser'. like they're talking about the game, or the anime, or whatever, but constantly interjecting that they don't actually like it, it's okay, they agree with the consensus

it's a little uncomfortable-making
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:41 PM on December 31, 2011

This, of course, alludes to you: "also there is something pretty offputting about that japanese games guy describing himself as a 'loser"

can'thelpmyself This, of course, alludes to you.
posted by barnacles at 11:16 PM on December 31, 2011

No love for Deadly Towers?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:20 PM on December 31, 2011


i'm sure you're not off-putting, don't take it personally
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:34 PM on December 31, 2011

Can I nominate Drelbs?
posted by newdaddy at 12:11 AM on January 1, 2012

Not sure if it's exactly kusoge, but very nasty games like Shobon Action (Cat Mario) are entertaining to watch.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 12:34 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Damn you again, JHarris.

Which is to say, you have made numerous video game nerd posts in the last few days which have been superb.
posted by davemee at 12:53 AM on January 1, 2012

No love for Deadly Towers?

In point of fact I like Deadly Towers, and have beaten it. Since I'm making the post, I get to decide if it's kusoge or not. It's not. Nyaah!

you have made numerous video game nerd posts in the last few days which have been superb

Video game nerd posts are my native element. It is something that I often fight against, because I have a desperate need to broaden myself, or maybe appear like it. But it doesn't change the fact that, if I make a good post, the chances are high it has something to do with games, that or MST3K.
posted by JHarris at 1:04 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK. I am not a game person, but, weirdly enough, I just got back from a New Year's Eve party at a vintage game arcade/museum. There I told two true tales:

The tale of my father and I programming games in Basic on our Commodore 64 (I designed the graphics. On graph paper!)

The earlier tale of myself and the neighbor kids who, because we lived in the sticks and were deprived of such luxuries as arcades, pretended to play games on an old barrel with some boards nailed to it. We narrated what we imagined the gameplay to be like. I assure you we knew very little of the ways of Pac-man.

I am certain that both our Basic games and the barrel had better gameplay then most of these.

Especially the barrel. That was pretty fun.

Also this Cheetahmen/Action 52 commercial from the fpp is kind of blowing my admitedly booze addled mind.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:36 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

No Cho Aniki? For Americans that is probably the best example of kusoge.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:00 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ad hominem: more like kusoGAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to do Cho Aniki cosplay pretty bad, but me and all of my friends are all fatass dorks. So we'll have to settle for "Parade of Warios" instead, all of us going "WAH-HAHHHH" in unison.
posted by jake at 3:18 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll also throw in Tattoo Assassins, one of my favorite awful games, from the "Mortal Kombat Clone" era. It's unreleased (for good reason), but it's in any semi-recent mame set, and has some of the most idiotic finishing moves ever conceived. Had quite a devoted following over at i-mockery, ruined a few careers, etc.
posted by jake at 3:27 AM on January 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah it is a pretty good example of hado gei, a sort of Japanese take on American gay subculture. I'll refrain from commenting further since I am straight, although I have read some of John Rechy's later works which sort of focused on gay gym culture.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:46 AM on January 1, 2012

Firebird by Gebelli Software.

Go ahead. Play it. Experience the suck yourself.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:09 AM on January 1, 2012

Oh, man: The You Testament.
posted by sinnesloeschen at 4:41 AM on January 1, 2012

I was under the impression that the Chou Aniki games were actually pretty serious shooters that happened to have preposterous levels of homoeroticism. People don't call Parodius "shit" just because it looks stupid.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:51 AM on January 1, 2012

Three American kusoge from my childhood: Jaws, Friday the 13th, and Spy vs. Spy. Lesson: licensed games are all shitty.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2012

I realize it looks terrible now, but if ten-year-old me had had a copy of Action 52, I would have thought it was the greatest thing in the world.
posted by jbickers at 9:25 AM on January 1, 2012

Actually infinitewindow, the original home computer versions of Spy vs. Spy are not bad, and can be played two players on one keyboard. They did well enough that First Star Software made a total of three of them.

There are surprisingly many bits of Japanese kusoge that were originally Western home computer hits, due to port and translation drift.
posted by JHarris at 10:51 AM on January 1, 2012

JHarris, I don't doubt it was a revolutionary title for home computers in 1984. It was probably reasonably priced too. But for $40 in 1989, Spy vs. Spy sucked hard.

I feel bad for my dad, who knew I liked Mad Magazine and Nintendo and found an otherwise great gift that combined the two.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:26 PM on January 1, 2012

A subgroup of people on the internet that like something awful, on purpose. How shocking.
posted by Fizz at 3:10 PM on January 1, 2012

Spy & Spy, the home computer version, was and is a pretty good game, not flawless, but there are enjoyable things about it. You really do need to have another player who's into it to a similar level as you to enjoy it -- it's a better two-player game than single player. The NES version bastardizes it a bit.
posted by JHarris at 3:10 PM on January 1, 2012

Those tattoo assassins finishers are way better than anything in the MK series.
posted by Think_Long at 10:39 AM on January 5, 2012

« Older A Longer Time Ago, Two Galaxies Crossed Paths...   |   Space Quest II! Starring Sludge Vohaul (The Alien... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments