The NES was a very popular console upon its release. It dominated the Japanese market, only getting competition later when the Sega Master System and Genesis were released. However, every console has flop titles and these are the worst NES games you could play.
I’ve played through a ton of NES games over the years. But, these stand out as the worst that many in the community including myself agree. So, as I played these games, I thought why not show my picks on the worst NES games of all time? Here you go!
Developer: Active Enterprises
Publisher: Active Enterprises
Multicart video games existed but not every one of them sold well or did well. Action 52 had 52 different games, most of which are universally considered to be absolutely bad. One of the games, Cheetahmen, is a poor copy of the Ninja Turtles.
The NES version was particularly hated because it had bad games, among other things. Active Enterprises planned a Cheetahmen franchise, yet that never happened because Action 52 did very poorly, in both reviews and in terms of numbers sold.
Developer: Active Enterprises
Publisher: no publisher
Cheetahmen II was a planned sequel of the planned hit franchise, but it was never finished. Only 6 levels out of the proposed 10 were complete. The game was never published, though copies found their way to a Florida warehouse and eventually, the second-hand market.
Some levels were broken and inaccessible without patches, which were later released by avid modders and NES fans. The game could actually be finished, but only after 2012 and a Kickstarter campaign to make an NES cartridge of the game.
Taboo: The Sixth Sense
This is a tarot game. The purpose of the game is to have a tarot reading between players. It had adult content which was typically banned in any Nintendo games at the time. It was advertised as a party game for adults.
What made the game bad was everything about it. You could have a tarot reading and that’s it. You can then have another tarot reading. There is no progression, rewards, quests, or objectives, other than to have a reading, with some mildly adult-themed cards.
Publisher: CSG Imagesoft
Dragon’s Lair for the NES is its own version of the eponymous LaserDisc game. The original title had beautiful graphics because it was made by an ex-Disney animator, and because of LaserDisc’s storage size.
The NES version can be called one of the worst NES games ever. It has terrible controls and the main character dies from one hit, despite a health bar that implicates some damage resistance. Clunkiness, bad graphics, and terrible gameplay design make Dragon’s Lair a bad NES game.
Developer: Wisdom Tree
Publisher: Wisdom Tree
Bible Adventures is a series of three games on a single cartridge that basically copies Super Mario Bros. 2. It is a poor copy. The other problem is that the game recycles its levels, making them basically the same, with similar gameplay.
Despite it having three games, they play out the same. The game is based on the Old Testament and was never sold in stores. Despite that, it was reported that there were at least 350,000 copies sold, presumably to Christians. As far as gameplay is concerned, it was terrible.
Kid Cool and the Quest for 7 Wonder Herbs
Developer: Vic Tokai
Publisher: Vic Tokai
Kid Kool is a platformer, and it would’ve been fine if you could control the character. It is a Super Mario clone, like many games that came after it. However, since it is based on a heavily skewed system of control, it does a poor job.
In platformer games, you want to have control over your character, otherwise, you will miss a jump and lose a life. Here, fun too fast and you’ll go flying over the screen. That looks fun, once, but then you lose a life and can’t get past a simple obstacle.
Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum
Developer: Beam Software
Publisher: Data East
Dash Galaxy is a platformer, though it has many puzzles and other types of challenges. The problem is in the game design, as it is with most of these challenging, or rather, poorly designed games. Sometimes, it punishes you for no good reason.
You had to time your jumps, using speed and enemy position. You also have a limited supply of bombs, detonators, and air. Floors have an overhead view and puzzles that can result in a game over, while rooms are side-scrolling and difficult in their own way.
Color a Dinosaur
Developer: FarSight Studios
Publisher: Virgin Games
Releasing an NES game when you already have the SNES with its better potential, was a strange decision. Releasing a game that has basically nothing in it, was an even stranger one. You could color a dinosaur in this rather literal name.
It was meant to be a children’s game, however, unlike other similar games, such as Mario Paint, this one was as simple and unrewarding to play. There was no replay value, and as such, the game is one of the worst NES games, back then and today.
Transformers: Mystery of Convoy
Games that were made after an animated series could have performed, if they were actually designed well. Most of these games suffer from bad design and poor decisions, and that is the case of Transformers: Mystery of Convoy.
The problem was in the controls and the insane difficulty. Games are supposed to be challenging, but not so much that if you make a single mistake, you would have to start over. Poor controls don’t help already difficult games, as we have already seen.
Developer: Ocean Software/Interplay
Publisher: Ocean Software/Acclaim Entertainment
Originally released for the Commodore 64, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST, Total Recall was a fine game. The NES version, however, was developed by Interplay, who turned it into a platformer, and not the best one.
It was a platform game on other systems, however, it was not as different as this one. The NES version was reinvented by Interplay and according to many people, it was a poor choice. Performance was lacking and the game felt sluggish and simply bad.
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Bethesda has a knack for making flagship titles that the community afterward fixes. There was no modding community for the NES at the time, and this isn’t an Elder Scrolls, Fallout, or Starfield title. This is a pixelated mess.
The goal of the game is to find Waldo, as we can expect, however, Waldo sometimes changes colors. Some parts of the game are so graphically similar that you literally cannot find Waldo. Given the resolution, and the lack of effort, the results are poor and your eyesight will suffer.
Publisher: Milton Bradley Company
Time Lord is a side-scrolling action game that pushes players to their limit, but not in a good way. There is a ticking time limit to finishing the game, 36 minutes and 30 seconds. You have no continues so when that timer is done, you’re done.
If you lose all your lives, you are also done and have to start from the top. Other than the time travel and period-correct weapons, the game has nothing going for it, except the rigorous challenges for those who like games that are not fun nor challenging for the right reasons.
Developer: Bally Midway/Sunsoft
Publisher: Bally Midway/Atari/Sunsoft/Microstyle
Xenophobe is actually a great action platform title but on any other platform than the NES. It did very well on the Atari Lynx. The NES version has controls that make platforming so bad that you want to immediately leave the game.
Another decision that hurt the game is the permanently split screen. This was presumably done so that when the second player joins, they get the bottom part of the screen. Given that most people play alone, this was infuriating and a really bad design choice.
Developer: Color Dreams
Publisher: Color Dreams/HES Interactive
Raid 2020 is an action side-scroller, but it scrolls so badly that it makes the action hard. There is also a weird graphical bug that makes characters blink in the game, opposing ones, and your main character.
The story of the game is simple, you are off to shut down a drug gone rampant, but that isn’t the game’s problem. Moving, shooting, and enjoying the gameplay is. Given that the game gets in your way all the time, it is definitely one of the many bad NES games.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Developer: Imagineering/Sega/Manley & Associates
Publisher: THQ/Sega/Capstone Software
Games based on movies have either flopped or did well. This one wasn’t a good game on the NES. It is a side-scrolling action game that makes it very hard to play. You run away from your pursuers, but it isn’t easy to do so.
Notably, the game gets in your way and makes it hard to enjoy. It was awarded the Worst Sequel award in 1992, it also got the Worst Movie to Game award in 1996. It is not a pretty title to experience, despite the popularity of the movie.
There are always a few bad eggs and these were the worst NES games. You can surely find a game that will upset you more than any of these, but these have performed poorly at the time and are still every bit unpleasant to play.
Play them with an NES emulator or on the original console if you really want to push your luck.