The Switch’s launch line-up may have been slim, but at least there wasn’t a ‘day one dud’ lurking alongside the likes of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Bomberman R. Damning praise, we know, but there’s truth in those words.
Previous Nintendo consoles haven’t been quite as fortunate as the Switch, with plenty of clutter arriving alongside such system seller as Super Mario 64, Luigi’s Mansion and Zelda: The Twilight Princess. It’s easy to see why publishers think they can get away with it. Console launches generate a huge buzz, and so it’s easy for day one adopters to get caught in the hype and pick up two or three games on a whim.
Retailers always seem to overstock launch games too, due to being unable to predict demand. Unsold copies of Asphalt 3D sat on the shelf for years after the 3DS’s launch. Rayman 3D and Splinter Cell 3D, too. Three cheers for Ubisoft, a publisher you’ll be reading a lot more about in a moment as we delve into the world of disastrous Nintendo launch games.
FIFA 64 – Nintendo 64
It took more than a couple of months for the N64’s library to reach double figures – the system launched in Europe with five games, with Blast Corps, Wave Race, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Wayne Gretzky Hockey and NBA Hangtime arriving in the weeks and months that followed.
FIFA 64 sold well during launch not just because it was FIFA – EA’s golden goose, even back in the ’90s – but also because there wasn’t a great deal available for N64 owners to buy. It has been said that almost all the early launch titles shifted a million copies, save perhaps for Midway’s efforts.
We don’t know how many copies FIFA 64 sold exactly, but whatever the amount, EA didn’t deserve a single penny. It’s often referred to as the worst iteration in the series, sporting rubbish animation, bizarre camera angles, slowdown, and repetitive commentary. FIFA 64 was a £60 embarrassment.
The Sims 3 – 3DS
“It’s almost an achievement that EA has made a 3DS version of a game that’s not only worse than the Wii version, but the DS version too,” began the Official Nintendo Magazine’s review.
“For some reason, the 3DS version of The Sims 3 has removed the mood bars that tell you how hungry, clean, tired and so forth your Sim is. No big deal, you know, it’s only the WHOLE POINT of the entire game,” they continued.
The final score? A miserable 20%.
Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure – GameCube
A mini-game package featuring bite-sized chunks of Back to the Future, E.T, Waterworld, Jurassic Park, Jaws and Backdraft sounds like an appealing package. It was a shame, then, that Kemco managed to screw it up superbly.
One of the least conventional games ever, Universal Studios mostly entailed walking around the park while picking up litter. That’s providing you were able to spot any – the obtuse camera and use of 3D characters on 2D backdrops often made rubbish hard to spot, obscured by NPCs and whatnot. Once enough rubbish was eventually found, you’d then have to find and talk to Woody Woodpecker, purchase the appropriate hat from the gift store, and then find the corresponding ride. Step out of sequence and you would be greeted with a queue of fellow thrill seekers and a prompt to come back later.
Honestly, it was like playing a videogame designed by Marge Simpson.
Your reward for picking up people’s trash? The chance to play some limp mini-games that were over pretty much before they’d even begun, ruined either by poor controls or horrible camera positioning. The Waterworld game wasn’t even a game – it was the Universal Studios’ show rendered in crude CGI, with the only interaction being a choice of camera angles. Even Waterworld on Virtual Boy had more effort put into it, and that’s saying something.
GT Pro Series – Wii
GT Pro Series was not an entirely new game, but rather a conversion of a little-known Japanese GameCube racer with some hastily tacked on motion controls. We’d imagine that a fair few gamers were duped into parting with their cash simply because it came with a free steering wheel.
Ubisoft allegedly purchased the rights to convert this cel-shaded racer to Wii in August 2006, giving just three months to prep it for launch. It’s no wonder that felt like a quick cash-in, with shoddy controls and dated presentation. Eurogamer dished out a miserable 2/10 while describing it as “absolutely, unequivocally, shockingly awful.”
Fellow launch title Monster 4×4: World Circuit was also a conversion – this time from the original Xbox – but it fared better in every respect. It even threw a Rocket League style soccer mini-game into the mix.
Far Cry Vengeance – Wii
Here’s another shoddy effort from Ubisoft. It wasn’t poor controls that killed this one – in fact, most critics found them to be more than serviceable – but rather the idiotic AI, fuzzy visuals, poorly compressed FMV sequences and terrible multi-player modes.
Infamously, it managed to make the cover of NGamer magazine one month. We’d wager this was something the team no doubt regretted once the finished product landed on their desk. It went on to receive a resoundingly low 23% in the following issue. “[It] Turns your living room into some kind of talent vacuum,” was their final verdict. Fair play to ‘em.
Super Fruitfall – Wii
There’s a little bit of history behind this maze twisting 2D puzzler – it started out as a £10 PlayStation 2 title from the infamous purveyors of filth Phoenix Games. It was then snapped up by System 3 for a Wii release and shoved out the door on launch day for double the price.
Considering it eventually ended up on DS and PSP with bad scores across the board, it’s that System 3 snapped it up as they thought they could make a quick buck on it rather than develop it into something great. There was never any potential here for a truly great puzzler.
Army Men Advance – Game Boy Advance
3DO released so many bad games in such a short space of time that their reputation was a joke. During the early days of the PS2 they were putting out sordid steamers monthly. No less than seven Army Men games were released in 1999, in fact. And you thought Activision milked the Guitar Hero series heavily.
Keen to defend their name, 3DO went on record to state that most people who purchased Army Men games – their biggest brand, and by some margin – enjoyed the series and usually owned more than one game in the franchise. Like the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” – 2001’s Army Men Advance was the beginning of the end for the Toy Story inspired series, with 2002’s Army Men RTS being the last out the door before 3DO filed for bankruptcy.
This clumsy top-down shooter suffered from cluttered backdrops, imprecise controls, and a general lack of polish. While not the worst entry in the series – reviews were around the 5/10 mark – you should pity anybody that picked this up during the GBA’s launch instead of F-Zero or Super Mario Advance.
Sprung! The Dating Game – Nintendo DS
Well, you can’t deny that Ubisoft didn’t understand the Nintendo DS’s demographic from an early outset. Indeed, it seemed odd at the time that Ubisoft planned to release a dating sim – known as Crush during its development – but stuff like this went on to become the DS’s bread and butter.
“The game is essentially just a bunch of conversations that take place during two characters’ stay at the Ski Lodge, so anyone actually expecting to hit the slopes for some skiing will be very, very disappointed,” said IGN.
We’d go one step further and say that anybody hoping for a compelling gaming experience would end up disappointed, skiing or no skiing.
Ping Pals – Nintendo DS
If more than two months of development time was spent on THQ’s Ping Pals, we’d be very surprised. It wasn’t even a game as such, more of a glorified version of Pictochat – the DS’s built-in (and thus free) chat software.
“With PictoChat coming as standard, this is a bit like paying money to breathe air,” said the Official Nintendo Magazine. Off it trotted with a 9% review score. It also gained an equally embarrassing 0/10 from the now defunct publication GMR, while EGM gave it 0.5/10.
Easily one of the lowest scoring games of all-time, ignoring the fact that it isn’t technically a game; it merely exists because THQ wanted to get something on store shelves during the DS’s launch.
Asphalt 3D – 3DS
Proving that history repeats itself, Asphalt 3D suffered from all the faults of the DS original including glitches, slowdown, and horrid visuals.
Vehicles appeared to be merely floating on top of the track, and when crashing into an opponent the screen simply juddered and shook, almost as if the developers ran out of time to include crash animations.
We should count ourselves fortunate Ubisoft appears to have lost all interest in releasing Asphalt games on consoles. We haven’t seen the series grace this side of the industry since 2011’s Asphalt: Injection. Another six games in the series have graced mobile formats since, we kid you not.
Family Party: 30 Great Games – Wii U
For the uninformed, mini-game compilations hold much appeal – a dozen games on a single disc, often for less than the price of one, seems a good deal in principle. As those who experienced the horror of Action 52 on the NES – or perhaps its little-known Mega Drive counterpart – know all too well, the mini-games these compilations contain are either basic or broken. Or in some instances, both.
Simply because compilations did big business on the Wii, where the demographic really didn’t know any better, the Wii U launched with three of them – Game Party, Sports Connection, and Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade. It was Family Party that received the biggest kicking, although the other two didn’t get off lightly either.
To be truthful, it was less of a kicking and more of a mauling – Family Party has the second lowest Metacritic of all-time, with zero redeeming qualities whatsoever. Poor visuals, rubbish controls, and terrible voice acting amount to a game so bad that it’s pretty much unplayable.
We genuinely feel sorry for anybody that christened their Wii U with this shambles. Even more so if they purchased it at full price – a whopping £40. Namco-Bandai didn’t even have the decency to launch it at around £20, despite it clearly having a development budget of a bag of jelly beans and a six pack of Panda Pops.