Follow TV Tropes

Please don't list this on a work's page as a trope.
Examples can go on the work's YMMV tab.

Following

The Problem with Licensed Games

Go To

"From a bygone era of gaming where every major movie release had to have a shoddily-produced video game tie-in to generate extra hype. An era where the movie cast was contractually obligated to mutter their lines as the same character with a sleazy corporate executive named Todd breathing down their neck in the recording booth. And they clearly only did it for a paycheck and didn't want to be there because they thought gaming was a cultural dead end for storytelling. An era where a movie studio would tell a development staff to rush out a game as fast as possible to coincide with the movie release, not understanding that game development is a painstaking and laborious process that requires finesse and years of careful crafting to pull off correctly. 'Nope, get it done in eight months or we'll sue!' Which resulted in many of gaming's most forgettable and sometimes most embarrassing moments."
Advertisement:

The problem is that Licensed Games tend to be mediocre at best. But why?

There are two ways to sell games: Quality of game, and reputation of name. Most games that sell fall into at least one of the two categories. So... video and card game developers could take some time to develop an original property made with care, imagination and the ultimate goal of developing a brand new franchise. Or, they could just buy into an already-popular property via licensing — permission to build a game around a TV show, or a movie, or a comic book, or a work of literature, or anything really (and we mean anything note ).

Given the built-in customer interest and sales potential in a licensed property, there's considerably less incentive for developers to make an actually good game. This is most obvious in Video Games, but it also applies to Board Games and Trading Card Games. Pinball games tend to avert this, as it's very hard (but not impossible) to screw up pinball. The situation varies in the Tabletop RPG world; some licensed games are pretty poor, but many are okay and some are famously good. It helps that the writers are often dedicated borderline fanboys who are in the business for love (it's not likely to be for the money), and who know the subject-matter inside out.

Advertisement:

Of course, the ability of licensed games to sell on name alone is a major reason for their poor quality, but it's hardly the only one. Developers are often pressured by movie studio execs to have the game ready for release alongside the movie (which, in the studio execs' eyes, practically equates these games to tie-in action figures, lunchboxes, and other low-grade merchandise), which can shorten development time. Stretching the plot of a 100 minute movie into a twenty hour game can lead to a lot of filler material or serious diversions from the movie's plot. Sometimes the diversions are not the fault of the developer, but rather down to the game being based on a draft or early version of the property, only for the final product to radically depart from the initial concept - a character heavily featured in the game can be cut entirely or a major concept is removed or changed due to poor audience tests. This can happen late enough so there is no time to alter the game to more closely match the finished property.

Advertisement:

Licensed games also attempt to emulate the most popular genres at the time in an effort to maintain appeal — side-scrollers and Fighting Games were popular in the The '90s and more recently, Grand Theft Auto clones and shooters are common as well. Sometimes they will be a confusing mesh of gameplay genres as the developers attempt to figure out just what their license could be used for to fill up enough game time to push it out the door, and that's assuming the product isn't chock full of Game Breaking Bugs because of the short Q/A window. Perhaps worst of all, many licensed games are made by people with little (if any) knowledge of the franchise they are licensing. So games based on these franchises tend to completely miss what made the franchises popular to begin with. Thus, many licensed games are designed in a manner that has nothing to do with the plot or general style of the franchise (for example, The Riddler, instead of giving Batman riddles, might just blast him with a rifle throughout the entire boss fight).

And despite what one might expect with a title based on a lucrative property, there is often ironically less money available than usual for a company to spend making a licensed game; a significant amount of the funding that would normally be channeled into the title's actual development is instead used up before development just to buy the license in the first place. Also, a bad non-licensed game might be cancelled or delayed. A game that has a license lined up for it is either obligated to release in a specific time frame, or the publishers will decide to shove it out the door for an easy buck from fans of the license; another reason why so many licensed games are contenders for worst game ever, period.

Another thing to note is that back in the The '80s, plenty of product licensees in the US did not know what to expect from the video game industry and who would be the most appropriate to give a license to, so they did the sensible thing and grabbed a telephone book to search for the first game development studio that showed up on the pages. The video game corporations Atari, Activision, Accolade, Acclaim and Absolute Entertainment (summed up in chronological order for ease) had given themselves their own brand names exactly for this reason. It is only as of the late 90's, with a very recognizable AAA video game development industry, that this trend was put to a halt.

As of The New '10s, the video games version of this phenomenon has largely (though not completely) faded away. The first reason is that the economics of game development made licensed games less viable: as video games were established as a multi-billion dollar industry, media and sport licensors caught on and greatly increased the cost necessary to get a license. This made getting niche and unproven licenses unviable and, along with the rise of cost of retail video game development, restricted the profitable licenses worth acquiring to only the biggest video game publishers or the licensors themselves, with companies such as Warner Bros. investing heavily into video game publishing and treating video games of their properties just as seriously as any other component of the Expanded Universe. The other factor is that, quite simply, consumers eventually caught on to the poor quality of licensed games and stopped buying them. This, combined with the death of the worst offenders of this trope such as Acclaim and THQ (which itself stated its desire to stop being associated with bad licensed games marketed for kids before its bankruptcy), means licensed games are far less numerous in recent times and are more likely to either be bigger-budget Mobile Phone Games or tentpole productions not tied to any specific release, averting the development issues that made most licensed games bad. "Traditional" rushed cash-ins still exist, but they're nowhere near as common as they used to be.

Another reason for their decline is the fact that video games have increasingly been seen as a narrative medium in their own right. A game that's just a straight adaptation of a film won't have a compelling story since you've probably already seen the movie and know what to expect. Mind you, a game based on a comic book can still tell an original story, but if it's based on a movie or TV show, its only chance of being taken seriously is if it's a prequel, inter-quel, or tells some kind of side-story parellel to the one on the big screen, though it can still fall victim to other problems listed here.

Of course, movies based on video games don't tend to go over well either, for much of the same reasons. It's a kind of cross-media Porting Disaster.

A related trope is the phenomenon, prior to The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, wherein many non-videogame companies - up to and including Quaker Oats - had a gaming division.

There are exceptions, of course. A pretty good chunk of these were either released years after the source material or were based on a franchise that had been running for years, thus relieving the time pressure often inherent in licensed games. This Trope is so widespread, it's probably easier to list only egregious examples. Exceptions should be listed on their own page. See Spiritual Adaptation for a way some games go around this, intentionally or not. Quite often, this Trope is a result of a product being Christmas Rushed.


Note: Examples are listed by the medium of the source material or license the game is based on.

    open/close all folders 

    Advertisement 
  • Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool and Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest are two of the sorriest 16-bit Mascot with Attitude platformers. The snack food mascot may be Totally Radical, but he doesn't seem like the fastest animal on land in either game.
  • For a short time, Burger King had three Xbox/Xbox 360 games that starred their namesake King character. Gameplay's simplistic and boring, the graphics are totally underwhelming for the platform and reviews ranged from bad to awful. Their only redeeming quality is that they were $4 and the main character is Creepy Burger King Mask Guy, which puts them dangerously close to So Bad, It's Good territory. (The game Sneak King involves sneaking up on hungry people and forcing them to eat Burger King food.) With these in mind, they sold millions and became cult classics for many gamers.
    • The graphics are somewhat justified by the fact that they are playable on both the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox, with the game made to take advantage of the 360's backwards compatibility. It doesn't explain the texture pop-ins that sometimes look worse than a PS1 game at times.
    • Sneak King plays much like a kid-friendly version of Manhunt or Assassin's Creed. Think about that for a second.
  • A somewhat ironic example: Motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson is certainly no stranger to licensed merchandise, and video games based on their bikes are no exception. While the Sega-produced arcade games L.A. Riders and King of the Road were released to more or less positive reception, the ones for home consoles and PC are largely viewed as bargain bin fodder. As to why Japanese developers were able to adapt the H-D franchise better than studios from the very country where the Motor Company originated, or elsewhere, that's a mystery.
    • One such example is the Wii game Harley-Davidson: Road Trip. You play the role of a motorjournalist for HOG Magazine (based on the real-world publication of the same name), and are given a series of assignments on a motorbike by the company. The game was largely panned as a mere cash-in, with mediocre graphics, poorly-conceived gameplay elements and a hidden object-esque photography mode where you get off your bike and take pictures of random objects which have practically nothing to do with Harleys. There is also a free ride mode where players can cruise on a given track, but you'd be better off riding a motorbike in Real Life due to the lack of interesting scenery.
  • Smarties Meltdown for the PlayStation 2 is a 2006 platformer by Europress and Koch Media based on the British chocolate candy (not to be confused with the American fruit tablet candy of the same name) that are comparable to America's M&M's. The entire game takes place in a Smarties factory in space, which leads to a lack of variety in level environments. The entire game just feels tacky and cheaply made, with the actual levels being frustrating to navigate due to not being designed around the game's tank controls (an already long-obsolete control scheme for a platformer by 2006). The music is minimalistic, there's a generic story about saving your friends from a Mad Scientist, a sudden last level jump in difficulty if one makes it that far, and a short and unsatisfying ending where the credits don't even roll. Also the game's interface is written with Comic Sans. This alone makes it feel like most of the budget went to the publisher gaining the Smarties license and hiring Dave Benson Phillips (a 1990s British children's presenter most recognizable for Get Your Own Back, who at the time of 2006 was not very relevant to the public) to voice the game's main protagonist, Big Blue.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man:
    • The PS2 version of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is borderline unplayable. It's got graphics on par with an early PlayStation 1 game, next to no voice acting, no actual ending, and just plain bad 2D fighting mechanics.
    • Spider-Man: The Sinister Six (not to be confused with the Game Boy Color title of the (almost) same name) is an exceptionally rare point-and-click adventure game for the PC based on the series. The game is incredibly obscure, and given its myriad of problems (such as frustrating puzzles, finicky action sequences with poor controls, atrocious graphics, and a meandering and rather weak story), it may well be better that way.
    • Revenge of the Sinister Six fared no better: it's an NES game that is way too difficult for the wrong reasons, featuring clunky controls (not helping that B jumps instead of A) and only one life and one continue, with no way of getting extra continues.
    • While the Ultimate Spider-Man (2005) game is pretty good, the same cannot be said for its sequel/prequel, Spider-Man: Battle for New York on GBA. While the Nintendo DS version is alright at best and So Okay, It's Average at worst, the GBA counterpart is an awful game loaded with glitchy collision detection (since enemy attacks and Hazards can hit you even if they never touch you, while your own attacks can pass through enemies without damaging them for no reason), enemies and turrets are often placed in spots where you can't see them, a grueling difficulty curve made absolutely unfair thanks to the above issues, mediocre graphics (even by GBA standards) and a forgettable soundtrack.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga was a game based loosely on the "Fall of the Pantheon" arc from the comics and developed by the otherwise competent Eidos Interactive. It would simply be an unremarkable puzzle platformer, but it also has graphics that do little to take advantage of the PlayStation and Sega Saturn and is Nintendo Hard in spite of its short length, as the Hulk goes down in far fewer hits than he realistically should. At the very least, it has a great soundtrack, the Assist Character mechanic was interesting if not weakly implemented, and the cutscenes can veer into invokedSo Bad, It's Good territory.
  • With The Avengers in Galactic Storm, Data East decided to make an Avengers Fighting Game without most of the series' recognizable heroes. The only playable A-lister is Captain America, with the rest of the roster consisting of Black Knight, Crystal, Thunderstrike, and a bunch of obscure Kree villains. Bizarrely, they did include some better known Avengers like Iron Man and Thor...but only as Assist Characters. The clunky CGI models, stilted animation, repetitive music and limited voice work don't help matters, nor does the fact that Marvel Super Heroes dropped the same year, with a much more recognizable cast of heroes like Spider-Man and the Hulk.
    • To a lesser extent, the 2020 Marvel's Avengers suffered a similar situation, as reviews and critics complained about the exploitative microtransactions, lack of enemy variety and an extremely grindy system. This resulted in the game underperforming financially, with Square Enix reporting a $6.5 billion loss.
  • The idea behind Justice League Task Force isn't a bad one, but a mixture of bland graphics, Limited Animation, clunky gameplay, unresponsive controls and a roster of only nine characters (three of which are bosses) make for a completely underwhelming cash-in. The fact that it was only released for the SNES and Genesis also means it lacks the flashiness of the games it was either copying or trying to compete with.
  • While not a terrible game per se, Spawn: Armageddon for the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox is a painfully mediocre brawler even with Todd McFarlane himself handling direction. The game has a laughably small amount of combos, a large variety of weapons that barely feel any different from one another, frustrating level design, enemies that are either cheap or don't put up a fight at all, and combat that shamelessly apes the Devil May Cry series without any of the depth and style that makes it one of the best in the genre. It says something about its underwhelming quality that we haven't seen another Spawn game since then.
  • The Buck Rogers tabletop RPG by TSR was doomed from the start. To begin with, the game was made by decree of Lorraine Williams, the head of TSR at the time who also just happened to own the Buck Rogers IP (and thus hoped to make money from both ends of the deal). She pulled top writers from Forgotten Realms to make an RPG that nobody except her really wanted, and doing that with her usual management style (which included a ban on playtesting, and a mandate to shove the product out the door as fast as possible in large quantities) meant that the game had no hope of being a good RPG. Even with Williams' promotion, only a couple of game supplements made it out the door.
  • Atari were infamous in their Infogrames era for their licensed video games based on several Franco-Belgian comics. The Smurfs, Asterix, Tintin, Spirou and Lucky Luke were among the series that received video game adaptations, all of which were incredibly hard for the wrong reasons.

    Film — Animation 
  • Bébé's Kids isn't a great movie to begin with, but its SNES licensed game, developed by Radical Entertainment, is one of the worst to be found on that system. Wretched controls, hideous graphics, dull music, unintelligent yet tough enemies, a two-minute timer... and that's just the first level. It doesn't get better from there.
  • Don't expect much going into the Console versions and DS version of "Happy Feet" the video game. It is essentially a weak DanceDanceRevolution clone with bland fishing and sliding levels spliced in between.
  • The Polar Express, a multi-platform adventure game based on the hit movie. The graphics are okay for the time, nothing phenomenal and they don't reach Uncanny Valley like the film. The gameplay features various Unexpected Genre Changes, though they're poorly played out. The voice acting for some of the characters isn't so great either. The worst part of the game has to be the timespan; it can be beaten within a few hours or less, one sitting and it makes you feel you're missing out.
  • Shrek is infamous for spawning numerous horrible licensed games. Swedish gaming magazine LEVEL once gave a Shrek game 4/10 and noted that it's surprisingly good for a Shrek game. For a few more specific examples:
    • There are multiple racing games, one of which, Swamp Kart Speedway for the Game Boy Advance, sticks out with its hideous graphics and bizarre, awful menu music on top of being a blatant Mario Kart rip-off. The worst part about that game is that every time a racer passes you, they go "Bye-bye!" (taken from the scene in the movie where Shrek tries to explain to Donkey how "ogres have layers"). And the same "Bye-bye!" sound is used for every single character.
    • Fairy Tale Freakdown is also a good example, being very easy, having bad controls and the mugshots of the characters trying too hard to emulate a CGI appearance (the game was released on the Game Boy Color).
    • Even more insulting is that the first Shrek game was supposed to show off the hardware capabilities of the Xbox, and was actually supposed to be an original IP before being repurposed into a Shrek game. The end result is a wannabe Tech Demo Game that impressed absolutely nobody, suffering from mediocre gameplay, terrible Camera Screw, and abysmal audio. Its supposed Updated Re-release for the GameCube (named Shrek Extra Large) is even worse, with a graphical downgrade and poor frame rate issues.
    • Shrek Treasure Hunt already has an incredibly lame premise where you're just going around collecting items for a picnic, making the title rather questionable at best. Not only is the game thoroughly unengaging and dull, it's particularly brought down by its absolutely horrendous visuals, and despite hardly looking at all graphically impressive by PS1 standards, the frame rate borders on slideshow territory. This is completely inexcusable considering the game came out in 2002, a decent amount into the sixth generation's lifespan, so the developers should have been more than familiar with ways to mitigate it by that point.
  • While The LEGO Movie Videogame is the opposite of this trope, its sequel, The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame, isn't. Many of its issues are due to being built off of LEGO Worlds, which includes all the flaws from that game (such as the camera system clipping through the terrain in several parts, for example). The real kicker here though, is that the game does a half-assed job at adapting the story. None of the cutscenes are voiced (or recreations of the scenes from the movie!), with only Lucy narrating everything, and the ending is blatantly unfinished. Many of the side quests drag on for too long, the worlds are uninspired, none of the characters have their own unique abilities, and the Nintendo Switch version of the game has a plethora of performance problems. The result is an Obvious Beta that many fans consider to be the worst LEGO game ever released.
  • Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius has two different game adaptations, both of which (especially the PlayStation 2 and GameCube versions) are quite dreadful:
    • The PS2 and GameCube iteration was developed by the same studio as SpongeBob SquarePants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman. It's a 3D platformer with a fixed camera angle, poor graphics (with possibly the worst-looking model of Jimmy ever made), horrendous controls that can lead to cheap deaths, plenty of glitches, only six levels consisting of the same thing over and over again, a very poor grasp of the source material, and absolutely terrible level design; it's clear no part of the game was designed around the camera system, or even the basic controls. In one part of the game, you need to jump up from a ledge to a higher platform, a simple task that just about any platform game will have plenty of—only nine times out of ten, Jimmy can't jump high enough to consistently reach it. Other parts of the game position the camera in such a way that it hides Bottomless Pits by making platforms seem connected until it's too late.
    • The other version, developed for PCs, while not quite as horrendous as the version above, still isn't good enough to avoid falling into this trope. While it wasn't as frustrating to play, it has very dated (while not as bad as the version above) graphics that barely stand up next to an early PlayStation game (despite releasing in 2001!), the controls are very slippery (though considering what happened to the PS2/GameCube versions, it could have been worse), the animation is very limited and eye-gouging (characters look like lifeless puppets and are completely motionless during conversation), the game is very short-clocking in at about two hours, the gameplay, while more functional, is very dull and uninteresting primarily consisting of one Fetch Quest after another, and it bears very little resemblance to the movie in terms of plot (though still more than what can be said for the PS2/GameCube versions). About the only redeeming factor is the original voice cast being present.
  • Coraline received a video game adaptation for the PlayStation 2 and the Wii that went way too far in becoming a Pragmatic Adaptation. The game is more than playable and does a solid job of recreating the source material and even getting some of the voice actors of the movie to reprise their roles. It finds its spot here, however, due to the mediocre graphics and dull gameplay consisting of bland minigames and mission objectives. The story falls short as well since the game can't seem to make up its mind on whether or not it wants to follow the movie or just do its own thing. Chunks of the story are omitted, with heavy Broad Strokes and awkward character dialogue that explains the game's controls, which to some defeats the purpose of the game even more, as one is just better off just sticking to watching the movie. On the higher note, the soundtrack is excellent, and the Game Over screen is very memorable. The Nintendo DS version of the game, however, is a different story.
  • SpongeBob HeroPants (a video game tie-in to The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water), is the second of two SpongeBob games released under Activision and a direct follow-up to Plankton's Robotic Revenge while suffering from many of the same problems. Dull platforming, tiresome combat, mediocre graphics (doesn't help that it was stuck on handhelds and the then previous-gen Xbox 360), and a plot that barely has anything to do with the film except for the fact that the cast's superhero forms return (including a horrifically-rendered photorealistic CG Sandy). It served as a Franchise Killer for the SpongeBob video game franchise until THQ Nordic got the publishing rights to the series back and put out Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated which revived the series.

    Literature 
  • Windham Classics in the early '80s had several brilliant games; their The Wonderful Wizard of Oz text adventure that incorporated elements from the first two Oz books, their Below the Root game that became possibly the first video game to be a canon sequel to a non-video game work, their witty Alice's Adventures in Wonderland game, their faithful Treasure Island text adventure... and then there's their attempt at Swiss Family Robinson that has an awful parser, a very bad mapping system, and poorly written instructions, and was obnoxiously short even by the era's standards.
  • Ray Bradbury helped write a text-adventure, semi-canonical sequel to Fahrenheit 451. Even by text adventure standards, it's pretty frustrating. You can be killed for something as simple as crossing the street at the wrong times of day, there are several times you have to fight off a Hound or Fireman...and the result is based on if the computer feels charitable, and you advance the plot by contacting members of the Underground using literary quotations as pass-phrases. However, the parser system is pretty craptastic, and if you so much as leave out a punctuation mark, then you lose your chance to use the phrase, and have to leave the building and come back to try again. Worse, it has plenty of You Can't Get Ye Flask moments as "Talk to man" works sometimes, while others you have to use "Ask Man" with no indication as to what. Top it all off with a Downer Ending, plus a side order of Fridge Logic, if you manage to put up with the game's quirks long enough to reach a conclusion.
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a game for the NES, loosely based on the book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Featuring mangled controls, Fake Difficulty everywhere (the mad bombers can easily take your health away in one bomb if you're right in the bomb's way and Jekyll moves really slow), Everything Trying to Kill You including cats, dogs, birds, etc. Hyde's levels aren't much better. You have to press Up+B to shoot a fireball, which isn't so bad...but sometimes it only works when it wants to. The Hyde levels are technically "timed" in a sense if you catch up to where Dr. Jekyll went insane, you'd instantly get a Game Over (but at least you get continues). Furthermore, the American version inexplicably removed two levels that were in the Japanese version and repeated two levels to compensate. The Angry Video Game Nerd considers this the worst game he's played that involves actual gameplay.
  • Many of the The Lord of the Rings non-movie games:
  • Animorphs games:
    • Animorphs: Shattered Reality for the PlayStation is a classic example. Horrific controls, crappy graphics, annoying and downright weird sound, no sense of storyline whatsoever, and the main gimmick only being used in specific (rare) instances in-game; these things make baby Andalites cry. This is not made any better by the fact that the game looks like a re-skinned Crash Bandicoot. Even the animations look almost exactly like Crash's, and the Wumpa fruit has been changed to "A" coins.
    • By far the worst of the trifecta has to be the Game Boy Color game, simply titled Animorphs. While Shattered Reality is a straightforward Platform Game and Know the Secret is an Action-Adventure title, Animorphs is a Role-Playing Game that, to put it altogether too mildly, takes a great deal of inspiration from the Pokémon games. Boasting a largely incomprehensible script, forgettable music (criminal in that the music of the previous two titles is one of their few redeeming features), no strategy of any kind, lackluster gameplay, a faulty password system in place of a save feature, many Guide Dang It! moments, and a truly horrid amount of game-breaking bugs, it's quite clear that this is the one Animorphs title that truly deserves the label of Shovelware. The game received bad reviews from IGN, though oddly enough, Nintendo Power gave it a 3 out of 5.
    • Animorphs: Know the Secret, while possibly not as offensive as the PlayStation game, is pretty subpar and has trouble being consistent with the books (such as assigning the wrong signature morphs to the wrong characters).
  • The Shannara video game adaptation. For RPG elements, it isn't too awful, just badly cliched, but the gameplay mechanics — especially the combat engine — suck horribly.
  • The NES Where's Waldo? game (released by THQ in 1992), owing to the severe graphical limitations of the system, is barely playable (as all the people in the crowds are identical stick figures, and thanks to palette limitations, Wally/Waldo himself isn't always wearing the same colors!) and has none of the visual fun that makes the books memorable. The SNES and Sega Genesis game The Great Waldo Search is better, but still not that great, being one of the shortest games on either system. Every time you make a menu selection, you get to hear the same low pitched "Where's Waldo" voice sample. Every. Damn. Time.
  • Extreme Sports with The Berenstain Bears would have been passable as an NES game but it came out in late 2000 for Game Boy Color. Every event in the game is pretty much the same, a downward course with marred controls, only made different by the graphics like boating, skateboarding, or snowboarding. The game has no background music and sound effect taken directly from an Atari 2600. If you do manage to beat the game it won't take long, only about ten minutes.
  • The NES game based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has Tom on a mission to save Becky who has been kidnapped by Injun Joe. Sounds somewhat like what might have been in the book? Except on the way, Tom has to go through different levels with pirates, purple gorillas, demons, giant squid, a giant helicarrier airship, and a Loch Ness monster. Does any of this sound like anything from the Mark Twain book? Maybe if Twain was on drugs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 1987, a game based on the British Series Grange Hill was released by the prolific developer Bug-Byte Software. The target demographic quickly discovered that Real Life offered the same gameplay options with vastly better graphics. The game's also noteworthy for having one of the most ludicrous Non-Standard Game Over scenarios in any game: You can "die" by accepting a packet of drugs from a pusher. YouTube reviewer Stuart Ashen featured Grange Hill in his list of the quickest game overs, and said that the fastest way to die is to walk back home and prepare to get scolded by your mother.
    Ashen: Gonch's mother really does look like she's going to kill him. Look at her! She looks like a cross between an Egyptian mummy and a praying mantis!
  • Kamen Rider games:
    • Kamen Rider BLACK: Taiketsu Shadow Moon for the Famicom Disk System is a side-scrolling action platformer with okay graphics, bland stage design, sluggish movement and atrociously bad controls.
    • Kamen Rider ZO had a game for the Sega CD. Just picture the movie given the So Bad, It's Good Godzilla-style dub, then make it playable Dragon's Lair style.
    • While the Kamen Rider / V3 / Kuuga-Kabuto fighting game series has a bunch of entries in the other page, some of them are less lucky. A change of developers (Kaze did Kamen Rider to Agito, and Digifloyd did Ryuki to Kabuto) made the series noticeably worse, with the low points being the shallow Kamen Rider 555 and Kamen Rider Blade games.
    • The Rider Generation series were average beat'em up games on the whole, but with lots of Fanservice. However, All Kamen Rider Rider: Revolution inexplicably changed the genre into a Metroidvania game that all but killed the franchise.
    • The The Bike Race budget game is an absolutely broken racing game that disregards any physics. It also ignores the Riders' abilities by putting generic special bike powers.
    • While Genealogy of Justice's story is good for fans, everything else is just plain bad. The Fixed Camera straight out of Resident Evil is slow and bothersome for the awkward beat'em up engine, the puzzles are weak at best and the motorcycle scenes are straight out of Battletoads, with next to no life and the brilliant idea of racing an obstacle-filled lap with the camera on the front of the rider.
    • Kamen Rider Summonride is a critically-panned game, filled with shallow and lazy fanservice with no purpose and impossible to play without buying lots and lots of toys.
  • The Muppets:
    • Jim Henson's Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival is a minigame collection released for the NES in 1990, though the minigames all seem like early 1980s knockoffs with their amateurish graphics and shallow, repetitive gameplay, often made worse by bad controls and hit detection. Versions of this game were released for the Apple ][, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS a year earlier, and they are even buggier than the NES version, with the MS-DOS version prone to random softlocking.
    • Jim Henson's The Muppets, released in 1999 for the Game Boy Color, doesn't fare much better. The plot of the game is that Kermit and Animal are trying to rescue their friends, who have been taken to various time periods by Dr. Honeydew's time machine. The game suffers from clunky controls, sub-par graphics, horrible music, enemies that take way too many hits to killnote , and poor level design. Every level is a huge labyrinth, and Kermit and Animal take damage from falling from even the lowest of heights.
  • Narcos: Rise of the Cartels looks promising at a first glance: it boasts pretty good production values and makes the interesting choice to adapt the first season as a XCOM-inspired turn-based tactics game with management aspects. However, as youtuber minimme elaborates, the initial positive impression gives way to mediocrity thanks to the game's litanny of bad design choices, such as the inexplicable decision to let players only move one unit at a time per turn (a major kneecapper in a tactical game), extremely repetitive mission structure, unbalanced units and shallow management gameplay due to the lack of meaningful choice and the fact that player can never run out of money. As an adaption of Narcos, it fails due to none of the original actors reprising their roles and being replaced by bad sound-alikes and that it remakes key scenes of the show as generic shootouts with little to no resemblance to their original context.
  • The Nickelodeon GUTS game for the SNES suffers from repetitive gameplay (Basic Training and Tornado Run are one and the same, but obviously given different names), annoying music, and the fact that the Aggro Crag, the final event, is just a glorified Basic Training level. Also, you have to get a certain amount of points in the first-player mode, there are more girls (6) than boys (2) when you choose your player, and there's no Mike O'Malley! Moira "Mo" Quirk (Mike's co-host), on the other hand, is there.
  • One notable crappy Power Rangers game is the Nintendo 64 version of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. The cutscenes were done in a comic style, which might be good... if they weren't drawn really, really, crappily. The gameplay and graphics weren't anything special either - British magazine N64 compared it to "constipated puppet men jerking around LEGO cities". It also had the misfortune to be released at a time when the Power Rangers franchise had fallen out of favor, which couldn't have helped.
    • While the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers games released for the SNES, Genesis, and Game Gear belong on the other list, the Game Boy adaptation is not so good. The Game Boy version suffers from poor graphics, poor use of the Super Game Boy color palette (the main color is the color of your chosen Ranger), a cheesy bleepy rendition of the iconic "Go Go Power Rangers" theme (and before you blame the system's 8-bit limitations, here's the version for Power Rangers: The Movie on the same system, and here's the Game Gear version), and the fact that using your weapon drains a bit of health. The fact that the game has only five levels doesn't help matters.
      • The Sega CD version doesn't fare much better. Though it uses video from actual episodes, the whole game is a sequence of quick-time events, where you press the indicated direction or button, but the scenes are the same whether you succeed or fail. It also has Easy-Mode Mockery, where you have to play on hard to see all the levels (the first episode and the 5-part Green With Evil storyline), but hard mode doesn't show you what you need to press or when.
    • The download-only Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Mega Battle for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One could have easily been a decent side-scrolling Beat 'em Up, but is ruined completely by its abysmal hit detection, unbalanced difficulty, lack of content (the game is only a few hours long, there is no online mode, and all the Rangers' combo lists are basically identical), and tedious level design with a severe case of Checkpoint Starvation. Angry Joe completely tears it apart here, and would later name it as the second worst game he played that year.
    • Outside video games, there is a Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers card game, but its rules tend to make little sense. The designers seem to fail to appreciate that resource systems are more about time than actual resources.
  • At the height of its popularity, Home Improvement, of all shows, got a video game adaptation for the Super NES, entitled Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!note  Since building stuff, grunting, and arguing with Jill over missing the playoffs wouldn't be very conductive to a platformer, Tim Taylor instead has adventures across several other television sets to recover his stolen tools. Said TV sets are huge, confusing, badly-designed labyrinths filled with numerous real death traps and deadly animatronics like sword-wielding knights and dinosaurs that breathe fire(!). To add insult to the injury of frustrating, lackluster and repetitive gameplay, the game includes a booklet without any information in it aside from the repeated insistence that "Real men don't need instructions." It seems more likely that an actual manual was left out because if they really wanted to be helpful to players, the only directions in it would be to remove the Home Improvement cartridge from the console and replace it with a better game.
  • Star Trek:
    • Some of the elder statesmen out there might remember a tabletop tactical fleet game called Star Fleet Battles. Complex even by comparison of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, but balanced out over years and years of play to create a strong thinking-man's starship wargame. It even has a "turn sequence" which sets out in detail which step is to follow which — basically writing the subroutine for the players. Now, what happened when somebody finally figured out you could put something like Star Fleet Battles out as a computer RPG and wash your hands of all the pencil-based bookkeeping? Starfleet Command, that's what happened. Missing several core races in the original release (for rights reasons), horribly buggy at the best of times, and sometimes couldn't even install on your computer without the game crashing the machine as it was transferring files.
    • Then there's Star Trek Pinball, a video pinball game universally panned for wantonly slapping Trek artwork on three annoyingly bad pinball games filled with grainy graphics, unrealistic physics, frequent crashes, and an advertised-but-absent LAN multiplayer feature. It is widely believed that the game was rushed as an attempt by Interplay to raise money due to problems during development of the unreleased Star Trek: The Secret of Vulcan's Fury.
    • Star Trek New Worlds, a dreadful clunker of a ground-based RTS featuring fuzzy graphics, ludicrously complicated resource management (You Require More Vespene Gas? How about five fucking flavours of it or you can't build anything?), and wonky AI. The only thing the game has going for it is the fantastic soundtrack.
    • Star Trek: Shattered Universe may well be the single worst game to bear the Star Trek license. It has the admittedly very cool concept of exploring the Mirror Universe during the TOS movie era, but this concept drowns in a mess of glitches, Fake Difficulty, bad controls and generally poor gameplay. Adding insult to injury, this is the last game from the period when Trek games were being regularly produced — largely due to Star Trek: Nemesis being a Box Office Bomb and Star Trek: Enterprise getting cancelled — making it a very sour note for the game franchise to go out on.
    • Star Trek Online launched in a very incomplete state due to a ridiculously Troubled Production: the original studio, Perpetual, never got anywhere and eventually lost the license. Cryptic Studios elected to start over from scratch using the engine from their superhero RPG Champions Online, but because of contract terms had to do four or five years of work in a year-and-a-half. As a result, while the background literature was pretty good, the end-game content was severely lacking, the Starfleet single-player campaign was repetitive and uninspired, and the Klingons didn't even get a storyline mode—you couldn't start a KDF character until you had a level 30 Starfleet character and KDF characters could basically only level at all through PVP. To make matters worse, the game's then-publisher Atari starved the game of investment so they could use the profits to pay off their debts. It wasn't until Perfect World bought Cryptic and restructured the game into an Allegedly Free Game microtransaction model that things started to improve, and the game still really didn't hit its stride until the Legacy of Romulus Expansion Pack added playable Romulans and gave the Klingons a full campaign.note  LOR finally brought the game to roughly the state it should have been in when it came out three years earlier.
  • Robot Wars: Metal Mayhem for the Game Boy Color is the first game based on the series, and generally considered the worst. The 8-bit handheld wasn't capable of doing the series justice, and it shows: several of the robots look and play nothing like their in-game counterparts, staple mechanics like flippers and srimechs are non-existent, and battles generally consist of either ramming into your opponent and holding down A to flail your weapon about, or taking advantage of their poor AI to lure them into an arena hazard. On top of this, the roster mostly consists of obscure robots that were knocked out in the heats, including five that lost in their very first match (two of whom were beaten in a single hit), while fan-favourites like Razer and Hypno-Disc are completely missing. The controls are terrible (trying to turn too quickly causes your robot to spin uncontrollably), and the Robot Workshop is so limited that it may as well have not been included.
  • Doctor Who games:
    • Doctor Who: Return to Earth by Asylum Entertainment on the Wii. The gameplay consists, for 90% of the game, of shooting crystals at floating smiley faces with the Sonic Screwdriver (which, on top of being completely nonsensical for Doctor Who, is even more bizarre than the Out of Character Amiga platformer Dalek Attack) and shoddy stealth while dealing with an uncooperative camera and severe framerate lag on some occasions, the graphics look like they came from an upscaled PlayStation 1 game with special effects that make the classic series look like modern Summer blockbusters and a decent dosing of Uncanny Valley animations, the plot's an incoherent excuse to have Cybermen and Daleks in the same story, reducing their in-game intelligences to herp-derping, walls-staring levels in the process, the level designs involve tedious backtracking to fill up on crystals and (in the endgame) messy masses of floating platforms with reckless disregard for in-universe sense and the mandatory ball maze minigames are frustating enough to make you want to toss your Wiimote. The only positives are the Murray Gold soundtrack and the Sonic Screwdriver Wiimote that was released alongside it. The kicker? Nintendo reportedly paid The BBC £10,000,000 for exclusive Doctor Who games, and yet the free note  Adventure Games have far better production values. As the Official Nintendo Magazine in the UK put it, Asylum are "people who hate games, sci-fi, and everything decent about humanity". Ouch.
  • Long before that, there was Destiny of the Doctors, notable for featuring Anthony Ainley in his final performance as the Master before his death... and not much else. The game puts you in the shoes of "Graak", a blue blob and literal Featureless Protagonist who is tasked with rescuing the seven incarnations of the Doctor who have been captured by the Master; in essence, you're playing as a non-entity while the Doctors themselves are barely even in their own game. The gameplay itself boils down to bobbing up and down the corridors of the TARDIS in first person while avoiding familiar enemies and solving puzzles to reach the Master, but your objectives are unclear, the controls are stiff, the enemies range from braindead to nigh impossible to avoid, and the game's 3D engine constantly has you get hung up on obstacles or even hopelessly stuck. Saving the Doctors involves beating several unintuitive minigames like racing the Master by train/car, solving a maze, or jousting a Sontaran, but the awkward controls and cheap difficulty means you're likely to die the first few times going through them which boots you back to the main menu and forces you to replay large chunks of the game because save points are few and far between. The few saving graces to this game are Anthony Ainley hamming it up in the cutscenes, and the encyclopedia sections that feature clips from the show.
  • Hell's Kitchen received a PC game adaptation that is, while not horrible, decidedly sub-par. Spoony severely disliked it, noting that Gordon Ramsay looks weird and pretty nearly the entire point of the show is lost — there's no competition factor whatsoever and it's almost impossible to make Ramsay angry unless you're a damn perfectionist who wants gold stars.
  • Lost: Via Domus for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. It's faithful to the show, and even utilizes the flashback system. The high points are the story, the use of music from the show, and the very realistic environments. The gameplay is slightly reminiscent of 1990s Adventure Games like King's Quest and Monkey Island, only in full 3D. However, the game's overall quality is mediocre— you get a gun but only use it a few times throughout the entire game, and there's the recurring (and annoying) fuse-plugging minigame. The actors for Ben, Sun, Desmond, Mikhail, Tom, and Claire lent their voices for the game (mostly because they have only 4-5 quotes for the whole four hours of the game), but the rest of the characters were voiced by stand-ins. For this reason, they often sound a little different than from the show (this hit Locke the worst) and some characters (Jin, Desmond, Tom after he takes his beard off) are horribly Off-Model. To top it all, the game is short, and the ending? A Gainax Ending; you get onto a boat and ride off the island...only to see Oceanic 815 break up and crash onto the island, with you waking up on the beach as opposed to the jungle, and your love interest, who was killed shortly before your flight, having been restored to life, albeit bloodied. Also, you can die randomly in the cave sections, which are all built like mazes. It should come as no surprise that the only Let's Play of the game at the time of this writing is actually called "Let's Endure Lost: Via Domus".
  • The NCIS video game is very poor and was described as "a point and click adventure without the venture".
  • The Office (US) has a PC disc game. It is a time-management game similar to Diner Dash that involves handing out colored folders, and the character designs are out of the Uncanny Valley, not to mention that the game has none of the show's humor, even when pulling office pranks, and the music isn't the show's iconic theme music.
  • The Sopranos: Road to Respect has mediocre graphics, lousy game mechanics and has you playing Big Pussy's illegitimate son who gets to beat up a bunch of thugs by button mashing with the occasional character from the show cameoing for good measure (including your father's ghost).
  • Of The Shield: The Game one reviewer said that it "has no appeal to anyone who has more than 50 percent of his brain intact. Anyone who isn't in a vegetative state will most likely wish that he were after getting through all 15 levels of the game."
  • Then there is Desperate Housewives: The Game. Basically, the game is The Sims with a story line and voice work which sound absolutely nothing like the DH actresses. The game is known for a glitch which rendered it unplayable on many laptops and computers. When the game is inserted, the computer screen will simply read FAIL. Still, the game does have a very well written story and does let you interact with many of the DH characters. Video can be viewed here or here for the Lets Play Bad Game Theater version.
  • Miami Vice received a little-known DOS game by Capstone (reviewed here) that suffers from terrible controls, convoluted gameplay, and ridiculous bugs. The game is like a puzzle/platformer hybrid controlled entirely by the mouse and spacebar. In the review linked above, the reviewer could not figure out how to pass the second level because there's nothing to be anything to really indicate the goal of the level. He also encountered several strange, albeit unintentionally amusing glitches, such as Crockett and Tubbs's sprites becoming cloned and their inexplicable ability to walk across thin air where no platforms are indicated.
  • The CSI: NY game isn't as good as the others in the franchise. It isn't totally awful, but for some reason is mostly puzzles and hidden item stuff as opposed to the more detailed evidence collecting, tests, interviewing, etc. of the other two shows. Plus, the puzzles can frustrate to no end, especially the "draw a line without touching the non matching items" one and the "draw the outline" one. Plus, each case is short, and Mac and Stella are the only player characters, as opposed to either all of the team at various points or an original player character like the rest. And fans tend to view it as yet another example of the show getting the short end of the stick.
  • The company that tried to make a Babylon 5 flight simulator game honestly tried to make it a high quality game that faithfully depicted how a StarFury would handle. They took so long trying to get it right that they were still working on it after the series was over, resulting in the project being cancelled.
  • The Adventures of Gilligan's Island, produced by Bandai for the NES in 1989, is generally regarded as one of that console's worst titles, due to its unreliable controls and extremely hard to beat enemies.
    • The Gilligan's Island Pinball is frowned upon by veteran players, who find it unchallenging and unbalanced — the main game objectives are too easy to achieve, and the "Jungle Run" shot allows even moderately-skilled players to rack up several hundred million points in one round. Still, it's fun as long as you don't take it seriously.
  • The Battlestar Galactica game on console should have been a lot better than it is, given that Starlancer co-developers Warthog Games were behind it. Unfortunately, it's something of a letdown; unreasonably difficult with poor controls, and a plot and setting that mixes and matches elements of the original, remake and probably Galactica 1980 into an incoherent mess of an Alternate Continuity, despite being sold as a direct prequel to the 2003 series.
  • America's Next Top Model has two games that were released for the DS and Wii and are basically Top Model In Name Only. The Wii version in particular suffers from buggy controls, the occasional weird glitch (such as the model's head coming OFF in the final catwalk) and both unoriginal gameplay, flat voice acting and a very cliched, boring story. On top of that, once you "win" (quite easy to do), there's one last line you say (which isn't awe-inspiring or anything) and then a blank screen. That's it.
  • While there is a lot of games from the Ultra Series in the other page, Ultraman All-Star Chronicle is a very mediocre cash-grab RPG.
  • Space Sheriff Spirits, based on the first three entries of the Metal Heroes series, failed on all accounts. While the Space Sheriff Gavan mode is full of stupid gameplay choices, the overly-hyped Crisis Crossover mode reuses characters and animations from the earlier mode and only amounts to a bunch of shallow extra missions.
  • Iron Chef America received a tie-in game called Iron Chef America Supreme Cuisine for the Wii and Nintendo DS in 2008. The show and its concept in and of itself sounds like it would lend itself fairly well to a video game, but in execution, the game just completely drops the ball. While the gameplay could be far worse, admittedly, (though it could also be a lot more interesting) near about everything else brings the game down. Gone is the elaborate Iron Chef set, replaced mostly by simple countertops and stovetops. Only three actual Iron Chefs (Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto, and Cat Cora) are featured in the game, along with host Mark Dacascos and commentator Alton Brown, and their character models in the game look generic and bland at best, just outright bad at worst. There is also no judging shown in the game at all; once you finish your dish, you are thrown straight to the results screen, and there is little reward for actually winning. On top of that, there is Loads and Loads of Loading and, at least in the Wii version, non-stop commentary from Alton Brown, using his horrendously botched character model that makes him look like a talking spiky-haired potato). In short, the game(s) provide a very watered-down and mediocre experience of the show and make the energetic and exciting show seem like a total snorefest.
  • Big Time Rush: Dance Party for the Nintendo Wii, a rhythm game tie-in to the Nickelodeon TV series Big Time Rush. On one hand, it at least features actual songs from the show. On the other hand, it features a super-basic premise with none of the wacky shenanigans from the show, ugly graphics even for the Wii, UI glitches, the same repetitive dance moves, stiff animation, and ridiculously easy gameplay. You're supposed to dance along to the song ala Just Dance, the problem is that this game can't detect whether or not you're actually doing the dance move correctly so there's nothing stopping you from shaking the Wii Remote to the timing of the song. There's a pointless career mode with No Ending and no reward for finishing.
  • Tweenies: Game Time was released for the PS1 in 2001 by BBC Multimedia. The game is a Mini Game Game, but there are only four mini-games; "Jake's Dot World", "Milo's Space Race", "Bella's Fairytale Castle" and "Fizz's Disco". These mini-games can all be beaten within five minutes. The game's character models are ugly, Max's in particular looking nothing like his TV series counterpart, and the game has tons of loading screens, including one before the screen that asks you whether or not you want to play the same mini-game again. The game's FMVs run at a very low framerate, and sound design is horribly bit-crushed. The game also has two notable glitches; one that makes the game load forever, requiring you to reset it, and another that makes the game stuck on a repeating sound when you choose a mini-game before the Tweenie you play as finishes talking. Caddicarus has an entertaining review of the game.
  • ALF had a video game released for the Sega Master System in 1989. The plot of the game is that ALF is trying to repair his spaceship so he can head to Mars. What would otherwise be a short adventure game (20 minutes at most) can take well over an hour due to Fake Difficulty through convoluted controls, bad programming, and Goddamned Bats which become Demonic Spiders due to ALF being able to take only one hit. The game consists almost entirely of Trial-and-Error Gameplay, both by design and by mistake, as it features a lot of unfair traps, including shop items that make you too poor to buy the items you'll actually need and one, the ALF book, which restarts the game after triggering an Info Dump that ends by informing the player of such, the only time that it is so much as hinted at.note  The Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed this game as part of his "The Twelve Days of Shitsmas" marathon.
  • Hannah Montana: Music Jam for the Nintendo DS has some cool features, like the ability to make music videos and record your own songs, but there are only four pre-recorded songs, subpar graphics, the guitar in the game sounds more like a toy piano, a story mode that takes about an hour to complete, and random, unrelated mini-games.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: A Twitch in Time for the PlayStation, despite nailing the show's humor and writing and returning voice talent from the show failed to leave an impression due to very average graphics, poor slippery controls and hitboxes that cause needless damage/unfair fall deaths, Welcome to Corneria voiced dialogue (that is easily glitched into repeating by pausing), and an uncooperative camera with no aiming or strafing system that makes encountering and fighting enemies an ordeal. Every single issue of early 3D platform games checks the boxes.

    Music 
  • KISS Pinball for the PC and PlayStation consists of two pinball boards which are both utterly generic aside from the graphical styling and a few voice clips. The soundtrack is made of generic rock riffs and contains no KISS songs. The PlayStation version also suffers from nauseous camera panning.
  • Spice World, based on the Spice Girls. It's a Minigame Game padded with interviews with the girls, and there's only about three of the minigames, and it has an uninspired ending. If you want to experience it for yourself, click here.
  • Revolution X, featuring Aerosmith is a mixed case. It makes for a rather decent, albeit Nintendo Hard (especially if you're playing alone) light gun arcade (making it essentially So Okay, It's Average), but the home conversions for Genesis and SNES are nothing short of awful, with severely downgraded graphics, limited continues (thus ratcheting up the difficulty in getting to the end) and the music looping indefinitely to the point of annoying the hell out of the player. And worse yet, the SNES and Genesis version could offer Super Scope & Menacer support (it's still a rail shooter, after all), but nope.
  • Guitar Hero: Van Halen, unlike the other two band-centric entries of the series, is widely seen as a disappointment and the nadir of the series. A lackluster selection of supporting acts (with only the odd shiny nugget, such as "Painkiller' and "Space Truckin'"), the headliners' selection all but ignoring the Sammy Hagar era, a dearth of extra features meaning that the game can be beaten in one afternoon, and essentially being more of the same with a Van Halen coat of paint - all of these helped cement, once and for all, the perception that Activision saw GH as nothing more than a Cash Cow Franchise, even as it was losing steam in the wake of the recession. Unsurprisingly, it came out early in 2010, the same year the series died its first death.
  • While Vendetta and Fight For NY were warmly regarded, Def Jam: Icon is a mediocre at-best fighting game which has fuck-all to do with its predecessors and was criticized for making changes to a proven formula. Rapstar, meanwhile, is a karaoke game which is divorced from the other Def Jam games. This otherwise forgettable dud is remembered more for the legal troubles it caused, which ended up putting 4mm Games out of business and hindering the development of Skullgirls.
  • The Make My Video quartet (C+C Music Factory, INXS, Kriss Kross, and Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch) are often consider the worst games ever put out for the Sega CD, and some of the worst Full Motion Video games on top of that. Gameplay, such as you can even call it that, amounts to arranging clips of poorly compressed and grainy video for three songs per artist, with no reward outside of sitting through your creation.
  • 50 Cent Bulletproof is a buggy and uninspired third person shooter (or in the case of PSP version, top-down shooter) with a very stupid plot that could easily fit a single music video. At least it earned the Surprisingly Improved Sequel 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, which has better gameplay and a more outlandish tone that pushes it into So Bad, It's Good.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dick Tracy on the NES is a good example of how not to balance a video game. To start with its many issues, it is incredibly Nintendo Hard, and it is guaranteed to cause several Game Overs. While it has a Password Save - it only keeps track of what case the player starts at. Any clues or weapons obtained after a Game Over will have to be collected again. The game also has no idea whether it's following the movie or not, such as using characters' likeliness from the film but not the story proper. There are a lot of Demonic Spiders and Goddamned Bats during the overhead and side-scrolling segments, many of which pose a threat to Dick Tracy himself. Platforming is extremely suspect, especially during the pier levels where Tracy's Super Drowning Skills come into play. You also have to interrogate suspects to see if they're involved with the crime or not, and you can't back out once you talk to them. There's also a lot of Railroading involved - even if you collect the last clue that says the suspect did it first, you must have every clue beforehand. Then the last case throws a curveball at the player: after finding the final clue that tells the player they need to arrest Big Boy Caprice, the game doesn't tell you where he is (he's at the Club Ritz) or why Pruneface is there as one of the six suspects in the first place when he doesn't appear at all. At least the graphics and soundtrack are good, but that is what keeps this game from truly being bad.
  • Garfield has a string of licensed games that are as lazy as the cat himself.
    • The Famicom game A Week of Garfield starts going wrong with its Excuse Plot, where Garfield somehow wants to save Odie. In actual gameplay, it's a side-scrolling platformer with ugly graphics and primitive level design. Beating a level requires jumping around randomly to make a key appear. Difficulty comes mainly from having to face enemies like spiders with a pathetic kick attack and no Mercy Invincibility or extra lives. The array of weapons Garfield can use are limited and inaccurate.
    • The Commodore 64's Garfield: Big Fat Hairy Deal is an adventure game. The problem is that it's ripe with Moon Logic Puzzles and Red Herrings, plus it has absolutely no hints for what you have to do. It's even Unintentionally Unwinnable if Garfield ends up eating an important item he happens to be carrying around. The graphics are also rather ugly, and the soundtrack consists of one looping track. The Amiga release helps it out a bit, but it's still not a game worth recommending.
    • Garfield had a string of generic platformers between the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, the worst being Garfield: The Search for Pooky. The game's start screen is written in Comic Sans and miscapitalizes the title, which sets the tone perfectly. The cutscene graphics are poorly cropped directly from the comic, ripe with scaling and coloring errors, and the dialogue is awkwardly written. It has to be seen to be believed. The gameplay suffers from weird physics and boring sidescroller levels.
    • Garfield Kart and its remaster Garfield Kart: Furious Racing are arguably two of the fat cat's most famous video game outings...for all the wrong reasons:
      • The original game for the Nintendo 3DS garnered much ridicule from gamers over its absurd premise, and when they finally got their hands on it they found the game was hardly any good in practice either. The presentation is bland, the gameplay is exceedingly run-of-the-mill, the karts control very poorly, extra content is frustrating to unlock, and there's hardly anything distinctly "Garfield" about it besides the playable characters. The game is also absurdly easy due to the rampant Artificial Stupidity of the AI drivers. Sharing a system with Mario Kart 7 (which, mind, was Christmas Rushed onto the 3DS as an emergency and still ended up a stellar game for the system) only serves to highlight how bland and unambitious the game is compared to other kart racers at the time.
      • The upscaled port for consoles and PC, Furious Racing, manages to be even worse than the original game. That it adds very little new content that isn't already in the original game is problematic enough, but the game also has the misfortune of being an absolute trainwreck. The AI drivers go from being dumber than Odie to playing so unfairly they put the infamously unbalanced Rubberband AI in Mario Kart Wii to shame (not helped by the addition of hat power-ups that can give AI players either additional or more accurate ammunition to hit you with) and make finishing most races in a position higher than third a chore. The game and physics are poorly designed for the new speeds the karts can reach, as races are absolute chaos on higher difficulties with karts regularly shooting off the track due to not being able to turn quickly enough, dropping through the track or through walls, driving on walls if you hit them right, and going flying out of control or being flipped completely over from so much as hitting an anthill. Add the game's broken and unhelpful respawn system that resets the player's position if they so much as brush their kart against a wall, and you get a game whose only true merit is getting your friends together to revel in how hilariously broken it is.
  • Popeye games:
    • Popeye Saves the Earth is often considered as the worst modern-day Pinball game ever made, and with good reason. The Popeye characters are shoehorned into an Anvilicious Green Aesop Excuse Plot (Popeye saves endangered critters from Bluto the corporate polluter, really), while the game is a clunky affair where half of the table is blocked by the giant white toilet-shaped hull of Popeye's boat. It wasn't any better for Williams Electronics, as the game required customized tooling which raised its price, and the company got threatened with lawsuits when they tried to use a minimum orders clause to force distributors to buy machines they didn't want. About the only good thing you can say for the game is that it keeps small kids entertained with an inoffensive theme.
    • The 2021 game for the Nintendo Switch was developed by Sabec, developers of such venerated classics as Calculator and Piano. Wildly overpriced at $12.99, it's an arcade-y Endless Game where the player must collect hearts or letters thrown by Olive Oyl, essentially a low-budget remake of Nintendo's 1982 arcade title. The gameplay is utterly mindless; the stages (all three of them) consist of low-poly, seemingly untextured models purchased on the cheap from a stock model library, and are much too large to support the gameplay; and glitches wreak havoc on any genuine attempts to play the game—swimming around or even opening the HOME Menu can cause Popeye to die for no reason.
  • Snoopy's Silly Sports Spectacular for the Nintendo Entertainment System is a compilation of sports-themed mini-games similar to Track & Field.note  The game only has three characters from the Peanuts franchise; Snoopy, Spike, and Woodstock. Each event has questionable controls, and some events, such as "Pile of Pizza" and "River Jump" are near-impossible to complete as a result. Watch The Angry Video Game Nerd review the game here.note 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • While most of THQ's wrestling games based on WWE tend to be well regarded, two of their attempts to branch into different genres were not so lucky. First there was Betrayal, a Game Boy Color Beat 'em Up panned for "idiot AI" among other things. Then there was Crush Hour for the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox, which is essentially a poor man's Twisted Metal whose only redeeming feature is the Narmtastic commentary provided by Jim Ross ("TWISTY ROCKETS!").
  • WCW: Backstage Assault, built on the already questionable Mayhem engine, removes any semblance of wrestling and just goes for a clunky backstage brawler.
  • Hulk Hogan's Main Event for the Xbox 360, which fails to take advantage of the Kinect capabilities as promised. Unlike the other wrestling games listed here, this isn't a product based on a wrestling company, although it does promote Hulk Hogan's former role in TNA.
  • WWF WrestleMania for the NES is the first WWF-licensed game, and easily the worst. The entire game consists almost entirely of punches and kicks. The only grappling hold (in a wrestling game) is a body slam. On top of that, the controls are just awkward and unresponsive, making the simple act of pinning the opponent difficult. The quality of the game (or lack thereof) can't even be blamed on system limitations, as decent wrestling games do exist on the NES (Pro Wrestling and Tecmo World Wrestling come to mind).
  • WWF King of the Ring isn't any better than the above-mentioned WrestleMania and it was released at the end of the NES' life cycle. It has worse visuals, fuzzy DPCM samples, and wrestlers sharing the same moveset. While it does have a nice draw at making your own wrestler, it only goes as far as modifying their attributes.
  • ECW had two disastrous video game adaptations at the end of its lifespan:
    • The first was Hardcore Revolution, which Acclaim clearly made it to ride the coattails of WWF War Zone and WWF Attitude. Not only are the controls worse than both of those games, the exclusive match types aren't even worth it. The AI's tendency to cheat does not help things either. The fact it's Attitude with an ECW coat of paint did not do well with ECW fans.
    • Then came Anarchy Rulz, which has been considered one of the worst professional wrestling games of all time. The cheating AI still exists and it does little, if anything, to address the problems from Hardcore Revolution. Its tepid reception helped serve as the Franchise Killer for ECW video games.

    Sports 
  • While FIFA Soccer games in the late 2010s normally rate with wildly deviant reviews, FIFA 20 Legacy Edition for the Nintendo Switch is nigh-universally panned as nothing more than a reskin of previous games, with the new features of mainline FIFA 20 nowhere in sight. The highest professional Metacritic review is a Spanish site at 65, which the majority giving it sub-50 ratings; IGN in particular gave it a 40 out of 100 and called it a "macrotransaction". As for fan reviews, with the exception of a few devout fans who will give it a 10 out of 10 no matter what, the reviews are almost unanimously negative, and the user Metascore sits at 0.2 out of 10 because of it.
  • The later entries in the EA Sports NASCAR series suffered this, especially the two 7th generation entries, '08 and '09. Both were noted for mediocre gameplay, muddy graphics and buggy netcode that occasionally crashed online races, and '09 even went so far as to remove the manufacturer logos from the cars, basically rendering it an inaccurate visual representation of the sport. At least one review called the series "The Casey Mears of EA Tiburon".note  Sales collapsed hard across all platforms, and EA dumped the license after shoving a Wii-exclusive kart racer out the door in early 2009. No one can agree whether the new Activision/Eutechnyx NASCAR series is a victim of this or not.
    • To elaborate on the situation with the Activision era games, NASCAR: The Game 2011 and NASCAR The Game: Inside Line (the latter was re-released for the PC market on July 24, 2013 through Steam as NASCAR: The Game 2013) were each riddled with dozens of problems and so difficult that even some Sprint Cup drivers had trouble playing them. Because of these issues, Activision ended up losing their contract to Deep Silver when it came time to start development on NASCAR '14. However, Eutechnyx remained the developer, and reviews indicate that, while vast improvements were made, they're still a long way from resolving the game's issues.
    • Deep Silver and Eutechnyx eventually lost the license to Dusenberry Martin Racing, who brought in Monster Games, the developers behind the beloved NASCAR Heat/Dirt to Daytona games from the early 2000s. They even acquired the NASCAR Heat name and titled the first installment NASCAR Heat Evolution to lure in fans of those games and build hype. That hype collapsed when the duo put out a bug-infested mess that was widely regarded as a thinly-disguised alpha build. DMR immediately rebranded as 704Games but NASCAR Heat 2 only got slightly better reviews, as while there were fewer bugs, it was also missing features that had been present in previous NASCAR game series. Consensus on subsequent entries in the "new" NASCAR Heat series was "adequate, but never quite grew the beard", with NASCAR Heat 4 agreed to have come the closest.
    • For NASCAR Heat 5, the rights were handed to Motorsport Games, who immediately removed Monster for a team made up of 704 staffers, with the resulting product being widely criticized for being a Mission-Pack Sequel. Motorsport quickly pivoted to the next release, simultaneously announcing that the Heat branding was being dropped while also declaring that their own internal development team had been readying a game for ninth-generation consoles since 2019. Said game, NASCAR '21: Ignition, was hyped to high hell and back by the publisher - only for streams of the early release version to reveal another bug-infested alpha build masquerading as a AAA release. (Common glitches include: spotty collision detection that causes cars to react like they hit an invisible brick wall for no reason or simply phase through the track into a bottomless void; Artificial Stupidity that can't maneuver around stalled cars a full straightaway in front of them, then can't figure out how to back up once wrecked, creating massive wads of cars that clog entire tracks and break races; and a spotter that randomly starts yelling "Two-Two-Two-Two-Three-Three-Three-Three" for up to a minute at a time if the player car stays three wide for too long.note ) Motorsport Games then displayed some of the worst PR mismanagement of the fallout ever seen in gaming or racing circles, eventually culminating in the cancelation of the planned stand-alone follow-up in favor of DLC to update the driver rosters and rules, while also quietly giving their CEO a 632% pay raise. Around this time, reports came out that claim NASCAR is looking to sever ties with the publisher immediately, as is Indy Car, with overseas licensers like the British Touring Car Championship and the FIA/Le Mans having already canceled their agreements amidst a slew of lawsuits and allegations of the company's executives creating the parent company as a Ponzi scheme, complete with documentation of previous such allegations dating back to 2004, coming into the public record. Thanks to all of this, most critics and fans have dubbed Ignition "the worst NASCAR game of all time".note 
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games were good at avoiding this until Ride & Shred, but Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 pretty much takes the cake of skateboarding disappointment. For starters, the game weighs 4.6 GB, while the day-one patch is larger, being 7.7 GB. But that was only the beginning. The game frequently crashes, has a lot of glitches, half of which can break the game, lack of the actual Create-A-Skater mode, poor online capabilities, bland maps and lots of the exact same challenges, save for different objects. The fact that the contract between Activision & Tony Hawk to make games ended the day it was released doesn't help in the slightest. You can watch the review here. The game stopped the franchise dead in its tracks for several years until a remake compilation of the first two games gave the franchise some shred of dignity back.
  • George Foreman lent his name and likeness to two Acclaim boxing games in the 1990s, both of which fall under this trope:
    • The first, George Foreman's KO Boxing, suffers from extremely monotonous gameplay that suffers from severely broken hit detection, along with a severe case of The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, turning every fight into an aggravating Luck-Based Mission. It does feature the novelty of voice acting by Foreman himself, albeit the Genesis port conspicuously freezes up every time it delivers a speech sample. The 8-bit versions of the game are even worse, with the NES and Game Boy versions feeling like lame Punch-Out!! clones, and the Master System and Game Gear versions being probably the worst of the lot, ending up as Reformulated Games that go for a more Street Fighter-like perspective, but ratcheting up the difficulty to completely absurd levels while making the controls even worse.
    • The second, Foreman For Real, is admittedly an improvement on its predecessor, with reasonably impressive graphics and sound for a 16-bit title, even if it loses the voice acting from Foreman. However, the gameplay is still monotonous and repetitive, and, in the complete opposite of KO Boxing, it's actually pretty easy to exploit weaknesses in the AI and win every match in a Curb-Stomp Battle.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons games:
    • Heroes of the Lance is an excellent contender for "worst Dungeons & Dragons game ever". If the drab graphics, clunky controls, repetitive music and rotten hit detection don't turn you off, maybe the fact that the game has a nasty Unwinnable condition will do it for you (as described there). Don't suffer through it alone.
    • Even worse is Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor (not to be confused with the Gold Box game simply titled Pool of Radiance, which averts this trope). Aside from horrible balance issues and a thoroughly dull campaign, it has one spectacularly awful bug—if you install the game to anything other than the default filepath then try to uninstall it... kiss the entire contents of your hard drive goodbye!
    • Dungeons And Dragons Daggerdale is a So Okay, It's Average Diablo-clone.
    • The Dragonlance MUD was plagued by a number of issues, including being released at a time when MUDs were dying off as a genre. The game's economy would have suffered from runaway hyperinflation if not for the ludicrous rental fees needed for lodging; any time the player logged off the game, they would be charged a thousand gold per hour when the average enemy dropped 5 to 20 gold. Buying a house was counter-productive, since it meant paying more money; after paying an exorbitant amount of gold to get the house, you still had to pay rent, now at a higher rate. Failure to earn enough money before logging off for the night resulted in having random pieces of equipment repossessed to cover the cost, and many a player would log in to find their character completely naked with no weapons or items. All characters had to be approved of by moderators before they could be played, and characters of a given race had to be roleplayed as stereotypical as possible (snarky thief Kender, racist elf, etc.) and any piece of backstory or attempt to break the mold would result in your character being frozen. As in, literally encased in a block of ice as a "soft ban". How long your character was frozen was arbitrary, and only the mod who froze you was allowed to unfreeze you which had to be done manually. Lastly, special events in the game amounted to following the moderators' overpowered max level characters as they did all the work and then handed out participation awards. By the time things started to change, over 90 percent of the player base was gone and the changes were half-hearted attempts at bringing people back in without completely fixing the way the game was managed.
  • Released to much fanfare and to-do, the Xbox 360 game Shadowrun was widely panned as So Okay, It's Average. It captures very, very little of the essence of the setting and is a fairly dull online shooter. The PC port is even worse, for all the reasons already listed, as well as requiring Windows Vista (at a time where it was still incredibly expensive and ridiculously buggy) to even install it.
  • SpellFire, a hastily put together CCG based on Dungeons & Dragons and mostly reused art, created by TSR to cash in on the Magic fad while it lasted. Three years later, TSR went bankrupt and was bought by WOTC, the creators of Magic... but not before being reduced to using photos of TSR employees in extremely crude costumes as card "art."
  • Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati: New World Order is a collectible version of their previous classic Illuminati. Unfortunately, they borrowed many mechanics and cards from the non-collectible version without thinking about how deckbuilding would allow them to be exploited, and most games of INWO were immediately won by whichever player went first.
  • Games Workshop has had many truly horrible licensed games put out based on its various properties. This is because GW has in the mid 2010's made its license much more available, usually getting a piece of the pie rather than a flat fee. This has resulted in some great games from studios that usually couldn't afford this license to some garbage that should have never seen the light of day.
    • Warhammer 40,000: Storm Of Vengeance is usually hailed as a five-lane game with no humor and no charm and a slapped on Warhammer 40,000 theme.
    • Warhammer 40,000: Regicide is chess with Warhammer 40,000 pieces and a couple of game modes which add randomness and hit points and so on to chess.
    • Dawn of War: Soulstorm is not this trope even though it is very much hated; its production was troubled for other reasons. The Dawn of War series is generally well-received with Soulstorm being the black sheep of the family.
  • You’d think that Pokémon, of all games, wouldn’t fall into this trap since it’s based on video games. However, the Pokémon Play It! CD-ROM game, meant to introduce fans to the trading card game, is mostly remembered for having awful, awful character artwork, and less than stellar graphics in general. While it plays fine, it's rather slow-paced and limited in scope (only four decks total, which version 2 expands to seven). The online Trading Card Game released on tablets is viewed as somewhat better, though.

    Theme Parks 
  • Six Flags Fun Park is a strange Minigame Game released for the Wii and DS that is more or less a gruelling experience with a hideous Art Style, Bland waggle-filled Gameplay and practically has nothing to do with the titular Amusement Park and might as well have a generic name (though this could be do to licensing reasons).
  • Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure for the Nintendo GameCube. The game is a Minigame Game where you play as a random kid in the eponymous theme park trying to get on the rides based on Universal's famous movie franchises. The game is saddled with extremely monotonous and boring gameplay. In order to get on any of the attractions and rides in the park, you don't do anything reasonable like trying to get tickets, no. You have to run around the park picking up garbage, and there's a lot of it. Navigation around the park is difficult as the camera doesn't follow your character, and you're given no map, so it's very easy to get lost. To make matters worse, the minigame attractions themselves are very brief, one-note, have bad controls, a bad camera, or contain all of the four problems, making the excruciating, convoluted effort to get access to them not even worth it. The Angry Video Game Nerd looks at the game here.

    Toys 
  • The Barbie Diaries: High School Mystery for the Game Boy Advance has extremely blurry graphics, a dull soundtrack, and is extremely difficult and tedious for its target audience of young girls.
  • Games based directly on the Transformers toys:
    • The Transformers for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum back in the mid-1980s, published by Ocean Software. Memorable incidents include Autobots dying from a fall of any distance, Autobots dying from landing on a slope after flying, Autobots dying from not being pixel-perfectly positioned when switching characters, Autobots dying from the bizarre collision detection, Autobots dying for no apparent reason, Autobots dying... perhaps the game was designed by Decepticons? Except for the fact that the Decepticons are even MORE fragile, as the game inverts the typical 'touch me and you die' game mechanics — any Autobot who is flying or in vehicle mode will instantly kill any Decepticon by ramming them. This means that Bumblebee, who has ridiculous amounts of shields, is a death machine in car form.

      According to this interview, even the development team thought this particular Transformers game was awful.
    • Transformers: Convoy no Nazo was created to tease the death of Optimus Prime in between the second and third seasons of The Transformers, the cause of which had not been revealed yet in Japan due to the movie's delay. Predictably, it's lazy, rushed, and hardly playable thanks to having ludicrous amounts of Fake Difficulty — Ultra Magnus can take only a single hit before dying. Collecting all seven RODIMUS letters will let you replay the game as Rodimus Prime, who has a different vehicle mode sprite, but is budget-savingly a palette swap of Ultra Magnus in-game and controls identically. Struggle through the same tedious procession of flat, enemy-filled stages twice, and the game has an embarrassing A Winner Is You ending to reward you for your efforts.
    • Somehow, the people at Takara thought the game deserved a sequel in the form of Transformers: ★Headmasters. Despite numerous improvements (can take more than one hit before you die, save feature, more than two characters), it's still as bad as Mystery of Convoy and is riddled with errors. All but one of the playable characters share a sprite, the one who doesn't is depicted as the wrong character, etc.
    • Transformers has a weak trading card game primarily based on the live-action movies. It's a "3D Battle-Card Game" that certainly has its flaws: characters are represented as punch-out buildable cards that can either be built as vehicles/animals or out-of-proportion Off-Model robots (here's Optimus, for those interested), and the game can easily be played without the card models. Only two sets were released.
  • LEGO generally did well with licensed games, even prior to the Traveller's Tales LEGO Adaptation Game era. Unfortunately, they still produced a few duds along the way:
    • Most of the LEGO games made in the 90s or early 2000s have Cult Classic followings, but LEGO Creator: Knights' Kingdom and Creator: Harry Potter are not among them. Both are built on the same engine and mechanics, and both are equally bad spinoffs of another much better received LEGO game. The UI is quite confusing and unintuitive, both games treat the player like a complete toddler, to the point of including completely mandatory and unskippable tutorials that go on forever, and both have very corny voice acting. The only thing noteworthy about either game is the fact that the latter holds the title of the first (and only) LEGO game from the pre-TT era to be based off both the toy and another existing property.
    • Rock Raiders has a very well-received, if flawed, real-time strategy game on the PC that has a very dedicated cult following and active modding scene to this day. That said, most people would rather forget the PSX iteration was a thing. It completely forgoes the RTS-oriented gameplay in favor of an action platformer with ugly visuals, bad controls, and almost no original ideas. There's even an Urban Legend of Zelda floating around that Sony's European branch initially declined the game due to its low quality, which would explain why the PAL version of the game that did eventually release is so drastically different from the original NTSC version, though many still argue it's not different enough to save it from this trope.
    • Like the above, LEGO Racers also has a reworked iteration, this time on the Game Boy Color, and it's an eyesore to put it lightly. The game is what can best be described as a Pole Position clone, but worse in every single way, including dull, repetitive visuals, very loose and slippery controls, and a draw distance so low that it's impossible to see what's coming. The sound design is also painful, with obnoxious sound effects and poorly remixed music from the original console/PC version.
    • Among BIONICLE video games, there are two major multi-console licensed games, neither of which received very good reviews. In general, given how complex and huge the BIONICLE lore is, it's something of a disappointment to see such potential squandered on generic shooter gameplay.
      • There are many things wrong with Bionicle: The Game, a near-Nintendo Hard action-adventure shooter-platformer mishmash that was released barely finished in 2003. The controls render it almost unplayable, since the view doesn't change to follow the player, so you have to position the camera manually while simultaneously running, jumping, attacking, blocking and sometimes gliding. The camera keeps bumping into things and in some parts even moves from itself, throwing you off course (and off platforms) easily. The game features odd animation and amateurish voice acting, and the visual design is rather ugly, while the gameplay is surprisingly repetitive, despite the varied landscapes you play in. The game tries to superficially follow the franchise's Myth Arc, but only manages to keep one or two key points, so there is no cohesive narrative. Meanwhile, the presentation could not possibly have been any more Narmy — the way the characters spout the cheesiest of clichéd lines while keeping a straight face, and with just how anticlimactic and random the final cutscene is, you would think the game was meant to be a parody, but the punchline never comes... unless you count the final prize for completing the game — a nonsensical outro and another look at the loading screen — but then, the joke's on you.
      • The Game Boy Advance version of The Game isn't as well-known as the PC and console versions, but that's probably for the better. The controls are terrible and they tried to introduce some sort of camera system, but it's just laughable and doesn't really help you. The targeting system doesn't seem to work most of the time, the graphics are terrible, and the perspective is really butchered. The music is fairly decent, but that's about the only redeeming quality; the game is almost unplayable.
      • The creators of Bionicle Heroes thought the game wouldn't be as fun if it stayed true to the story. So they took a Broad Strokes approach, and rewrote it from scratch, explaining that the evil Piraka have used the Mask of Life to transform Voya Nui's creatures into random monsters. That was an easy way of making Mooks out of characters who had no business wandering about on the island (though they're still referred to in-game as being not copies, but the real things). In the end, it received slightly better reviews than The Game but proved to be even more divisive than its predecessor among the fanbase for its comedic tone, a stark contrast to the rest of the franchise, and making the characters completely unrecognizable. Three of the bosses are characters that have been dead for 1000 years and another one isn't even a villain (in fact, he was the Big Good of the year in which the game's events take place). Even if the game is completely non-canon, it still lacks an actual story, which most other LEGO games have, outside of a poorly-voice acted intro cutscene, after which the game drops all pretense of story. The gameplay itself, meanwhile, is repetitive and tedious: you just walk on a mostly predetermined path (only one character can jump, and you don't have control over even that), shoot mindlessly, and at random intervals open secret areas. That's it. It's also way too damn easy, as you spend more than half of the game in an invincible Golden Super Mode. When you beat the six main bosses, they become playable, but what fun you have with them is lost after a while, because when you acquire the final boss, he overrides them. At least the level design is visually pleasing and creative, the unlockables are kinda fun, and the game has a nice soundtrack. The Nintendo DS version on the other hand, while not as well-known as the PC and consoles, fares better enough to escape this.
    • LEGO Friends qualifies for two reasons. First, it's In Name Only as it has absolutely nothing to do with LEGO at all, to the point that the characters are all humans. Second, it hits so deep into the Girl-Show Ghetto that even most Barbie merch would blush. While it's understandable that LEGO would take a back seat as it did in the Scala line it was originally based on (it used human dolls over sets that were still built with LEGO, if to a lesser extent than your average set), the game is mostly about a bunch of teenage girls who run their band Tuff Stuff. Most of the game is just stereotypical teenage girly socializing while trying to make music for their band, and is one of the most bizarre choices for a LEGO game adaptation. Unsurprisingly, LEGO never bothered with games based on the girl-oriented product lines afterwards.
  • Two of the games from the American Girls Collection for the Nintendo DS, namely Julie Finds a Way and Kit Mystery Challenge were given scathing reviews, mainly due to piss-poor gameplay and controls. The American Girls Premiere game for the PC and Mac is a different story, though.
  • The video game for The Trash Pack was heavily reviled by both fans and reviewers alike for being a high-priced video game that only contains four minigames and a checklist for the first wave of figures.
  • The Tamagotchi virtual pet toys' first Game Boy adaptation is notorious for how easy killing a Tamagotchi is (even moreso than the Tamagotchi Ocean, which is considered Nintendo Hard) and the frustrating mechanics of the games. Even if you don't neglect it, it might suddenly just decide to die out of nowhere. The entire Game Boy trilogy's death scenes are also infamous for their disturbing ways of playing out, even to some adults.

    Video Games 
  • Pac-Man for the Atari 2600, one of the most infamous examples. See Porting Disaster and that other Wiki for details.
  • In a twist on this trope, Frogger: The Great Quest got a license to make a game about a classic arcade game. While some Frogger games before and after were actually surprisingly good, this one attempted to make it into a 3D action platformer and failed miserably. You attack enemies by spitting at them, and when close enough you use frog-fu (no, we're not making this up, this is the exact terminology the game uses). The controls are horrible, the only difficult thing is figuring out what the heck you're supposed to do, there is no replay value unless you want to start the whole game over again, and the voice acting is somewhere between bad and the kind of voice that makes you want to take a hammer to your head. Not to mention the very Unfortunate Implications presented by the story and the unlikability of any of the characters.
  • Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (a Recursive Adaptation, since the cartoon it's based on is in turn adapted from the regular Sonic the Hedgehog series) garnered a number of criticisms since its release:
    • The textures and other graphical effects are subpar, looking more like a GameCube game from 2002 than a Wii U game from 2014.
    • Its slower pace than most other Sonic games has been routinely compared to the infamous Werehog, with monotonous use of the "Tetherbeam" mechanic to destroy enemies.
    • Some also hated the constant chatter from the heroes during gameplay (especially since the game's attempts at humor tend to fall flat).
    • Perhaps the most damning thing, however, is the slew of bugs and general lack of polish that the game exhibits. Among others:
    • All of this led to people nicknaming the game "Sonic '06 2" and "Sonic '14". Sega was quite aware of its lack of quality, since they withheld review copies and tried to take down early Let's Play videos. It wasn't enough to save the game from absolutely flopping and killing off the Sonic Boom subseries before it could truly take off.
  • Any Nintendo game not actually made under its name is pretty much crap, but the most infamous examples are the four games made for the CD-i in the mid-1990's. The three Zelda games in particular have awkward controls and repetitive gameplay, while Hotel Mario has equally repetitive gameplay, where Mario must close all the doors to the seven hotels to save Princess Peach, completely abandoning the core mechanics of any official Mario game, where every enemy can be killed just by stepping on it. The cutscenes of each game, despite being a haven for YouTube Poop, don't fare much better, suffering from poor voice acting and awful character designs and animation. Naturally, Nintendo executives hated the games, and a second Mario CD-i game was eventually aborted.

    Web Animation 
  • Extra Credits discusses this in one episode and explains the roots of this problem. Back when the civilian internet and video game magazines didn't exist, parents purchased games for their children based on franchises their kids liked being on the cover. Because these games would sell regardless, making them became less about making a good game and about cutting corners and production costs whenever possible, resulting in some very shoddy games.
  • RWBY: Grimm Eclipse is criticized for a bland and shallow combat system (Remember: This is a game based off an animated web series that prides itself with its over the top fight scenes), tedious grinding, unfair difficulty and railroading level progression, all taking place in empty and overly-spacious environments. Cases were also made against RWBY Deckbuilding Game (despite its polish, the niche genre and overtly complex system made it not catch on and last only one year) and RWBY: Crystal Match (too casual and shallow).

    Web Original 
  • A very rare and ironic in-universe example occurs in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 5: 8-Bit is Enough.
    Strong Bad: Say it with me, The Cheat: Licensed video games are never good.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is a downplayed version of this trope, since its presentation is legitimately good (the graphics and music are top-notch, and the essence of the Nerd himself comes across well), but the sheer difficulty turned some people off from it, as well as the fact that the game follows some of the game design conventions the Nerd absolutely hates (though not without irony).
  • In-universe example with Charleyyy and Friends: The Video Game, from the SuperMarioLogan video, "Bowser's Video Game". The game's atmosphere and humor are very accurate to the show it's based on. However, despite being advertised as an M-rated game, it surprisingly lacks a lot of the advertised adult content. In addition, the game suffers from unresponsive controls, Charleyyy loses health from ridiculous things such as not having any mail in his mailbox and not having any gas in his car, there are tons of loading screens, and, as proven by Bowser Junior, the game can be beaten in ten minutes, complete with an A Winner Is You ending.
  • While most official (or officially-approved in the case of the games in htfgames.com) Happy Tree Friends games tend to be So Okay, It's Average due to being plain arcade games or just one of those "generic" Flash games, the absolute low point when it comes to the games is probably Happy Tree Friends: False Alarm for the Xbox and PC. Before the smartphone games, it was the only major release (the older mobile games are rather obscure), and it's the only one to be released for a console, at that. Graphically, it stays true to the show... but perhaps too much. The mostly-solid bright colors look unpleasant, the Happy Tree Friends' 3D models look plain (what with the stiff, flat face whose expressions only change when they gets certain injuries), and the blood and gore graphics are very dull and cheap-looking. Gameplay-wise, it's just an uninspired Lemmings clone minus the behavior-changers (you can only freeze, thaw out, scare off, or burn the Happy Tree Friends) and with more Artificial Stupidity. While every level has environment-based gimmicks and traps, they all feel the same. Also, the game's rather short (at around 2 hours for an experienced player), it doesn't make use of all the HTF characters (not counting the episode that comes with the game and the Xbox achievement icons, only 8 out of 20—Lammy and Mr. Pickels didn't exist yet—main characters are in-game) and the special episode it promises is already readily-watchable on YouTube in its entirety.
  • The Irate Gamer Game, despite being hyped for years, looks like it was made in a week. It's a platformer for mobile devices with really bad controls even by those standards, dull levels, minimal enemies, pointless ladders (you can't go up), and overall lazy design. The only upside is the art for the comic book-style cutscenes. The game only lasted 3 months on the iOS App Store before getting pulled; it was revealed that it was a reskin of a different mobile game that sells its assets to potential game makers. The Irate Gamer himself made a (now deleted) glowing video about it, comparing it to Angry Birds. Years later he realized he was scammed.
  • Race With Ryan, a Ryan ToysReview Mascot Racer, was criticized for being a $39.99 game with only six tracks, 21 racers that turn out to be 7 racers each with 2 variations, and the annoying photorealistic Ryan who appears on the screen frequently shouting out poor quality voice clips. Otherwise, with its beautifully-designed tracks and good controls, it's a So Okay, It's Average game.
  • Discussed in Kohdok's "The Seven Deadly Sins of TCG Design", which examines the reasons why so many Collectible Card Games fail to catch on. The fifth sin is licensing — like licensed video games, licensed trading card games usually turn out bad. Common issues include games being rushed, Executive Meddling in general, and an over-reliance on gimmicks. Kohdok also states that trading card games based on movies don't work because a single movie doesn't provide enough content to keep a TCG going for years.

    Specific Companies 
  • Disney usually has a solid track record when it comes to licensed games, which can be seen on the other page. Unfortunately, not all of their games are winners:
    • Paperinik New Adventures is regarded as one of the best comics ever created in Italy and one of the best Disney comics in general. The videogame based on it, however? They cut all the 30+ years of history the character has, only introduced a handful of the beloved "new" characters, and made repetitive stages and boring boss battles. It's a shame that this is what most people outside of Europe think about when they think "Paperinik".
    • The Sega Genesis is home to some of the most memorable Disney licensed games, but Fantasia isn't one of them. Developed by Infogrames and very loosely based on "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of the original film, the game suffers from sloppy programming, awkward controls, haphazard level design, tinny music that hardly does the film's soundtrack any justice, gameplay that alternates between Sega Hard and Fake Difficulty... and Chernabog isn't even the Final Boss despite the final level taking place on Bald Mountain. Once you complete the game, you are rewarded with a cheap animation of Mickey shaking hands with Leopold Stokowski. The worst part is that the game was rushed out to tie in with the film's 1991 VHS release, and one of the developers admitted in an interview that the game needed at least two more months of development to iron out its flaws. The game ranked #6 on Mega's "10 Worst Mega Drive Games of All Time", and is reviled by Genesis fans across the net, including Urinating Tree. Adding insult to injury, Roy Disney insisted that no adaptations of his uncle's work be made, so he demanded that all future sales and advertising cease and every unsold copy be destroyed.
    • Ariel: The Little Mermaid was developed for the Sega Genesis, and so could offer fancier graphics than Capcom's NES game The Little Mermaid, which is better in almost every other way. It also tries for greater complexity of gameplay, but ends up forcing the player to swim around labyrinthine levels with unresponsive controls and terrible collision detection hunting for Baleful Polymorphed friends to shoot musical notes at; these musical notes are also a very weak primary attack. Flounder and Sebastian can be summoned, but don't really help much. After slowly putting down Final Boss Ursula, the ending consists mainly of a "Congratulations!" screen.
    • While the SNES and Sega Genesis versions of the 1994 game by Westwood Studios belong on the other list, these Lion King games are vastly inferior;
      • The NES and Game Boy versions of The Lion King are considered porting disasters of their SNES and Genesis counterparts. The Game Boy version just cannot handle the combat from the 16-bit games. Moreover, the game slows down and flickers when a few enemies appear on screen. The NES version is even worse, because not only is it an Obvious Beta, it is also a porting disaster of the Game Boy version with the only upgrades being the resolution and color graphics. To twist the knife further, the game box claims there are ten levels, but there are actually six, meaning the player can never play as Adult Simba. Mercifully, the game was released only in Europe. Twisting the knife even further, there exists a bootleg NES port that is widely considered to be superior to the official NES release.
      • While The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure for the PS1 follows the plots of the first two movies fairly well, and has high-quality video clips from said movies (albeit dubbed with the game's voice actors), the game suffers from sub-par graphics, even for PS1 standards, unresponsive controls that lock on occasion, Simba's attacks (rolling and roaring) getting him hurt more often than the enemies, collecting the tokens required to beat the levels being far too easy, and mediocre unlockable bonus games. Things only got worse when it was ported to the Game Boy Color. Hardware limitations obviously meant the video clips couldn't stay, and in turn players received even sloppier graphics, repetitive gameplay, and none of the memorable music from the films, with one incredibly annoying song playing throughout the entire game.
      • The Lion King 1½ for the Game Boy Advance is significantly better than the two above examples, but still doesn't make it that far past "mediocre". It controls decently well and has a clever tag-team platforming mechanic, but suffers from shallow gameplay, bland level design, no bosses at all for no explainable reason, and a very short game time. If you don't go for 100% Completion, you can beat it in a little over an hour. If you do decide to go for it, be prepared to deal with tons of frustrating Trial-and-Error Gameplay with item placement that frequently requires the player to be psychic.
    • Toy Story has had its share of licensed games over the years, and while many of them are very well put together and fun, there are a handful of exceptions. Coincidentally, most of them are handheld ports of the franchise's console game entries:
      • The Game Boy port of the first game, based on the first movie. The gameplay feels very slow and plodding, the graphics try and fail to emulate the movie, controls are terrible, and it's missing many of the levels that its console counterparts have.
      • The Game Boy Color port of the Toy Story 2 game. Like the above game, the controls and physics are terrible, and the game also doesn't seem to understand the source material very well; having the LGMs and Rex as enemies with no reason for it.
      • The Nintendo DS version of the Toy Story 3 game. The controls were stripped down completely, feels less imaginative, and lacks the game's most popular feature, namely the Toy Box modenote .
    • Unlike the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and PC versions, the Game Boy Color version of A Bug's Life has simple graphics with a weird color scheme, repetitive stages, hard gameplay and annoying sound effects.
    • Wreck-It Ralph is possibly the most successful video game movie out there. Ironically, its own video game adaptation has been panned for its subpar graphics, being short (it has only 18 levels), repetitive (the levels all feel the same), easy (there is no penalty for death) and having a ton of wasted potential.
    • Alice in Wonderland, the video game adaptation of Tim Burton's 2010 film, was a decided letdown to fans of the movie. Many of the battles are unintuitive, and the player doesn't even play as Alice — rather, as five residents of Underland (though they do fortunately consist of fan-favorites such as the Mad Hatter), who have to make their way through the entire map while preventing Alice from being captured. It's not horrible, but it's extremely disappointing.
    • Gargoyles for the Sega Genesis looks rather nice, at least in the first couple of levels, and Goliath is very mobile, but the combat is atrocious; attacks never seen to deal a consistent amount of damage, with fights either ending in half a second or turning into long-protracted affairs. Goliath's grab attack is Awesome, but Impractical since the hit detection on it is terrible and most enemies you can grab will just start meleeing you the instant you get into range to use it. On top of that, the difficulty curve is extremely steep, capped off with having only one continue and no passwords.
    • Darkwing Duck has a stellar NES licensed game published and developed by Capcom, mainly because it uses a modified version of Mega Man 5's game engine. The game developed by Interactive Designs for the TurboGrafx-16, on the other hand, is vastly inferior. It suffers from a lot of problems, such as stiff and sluggish controls which only serve to make the platforming parts even harder, boring music, unfair difficultynote , and only four bosses (Tuskernini, Megavolt, Moliarty, and Steelbeak; the NES version at least lets you fight the other members of the Fearsome Four).
    • Gravity Falls: Legend of the Gnome Gemulets for the Nintendo 3DS. While its spritework, dialogue, and characterization are well-done and show-accurate, thanks to Alex Hirsch overseeing the project, the game suffers from incredibly monotonous gameplay, music that sounds more fitting for a western, boring boss battles that are blatant rehashes/reskins of one another, and the game itself being far too easy. Also, the game is very low on the creepiness factor, and this is Gravity Falls we're talking about.
    • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Tipton Trouble is dull, repetitive, and lazily put together. In the words of Cole Sprouse, "The best way to beat that game is to eject it and physically destroy it."
      • Its GBA sister game, Tipton Caper, doesn't fare much better. It's a dull clone of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap with tedious and simple puzzles, lousy stealth segments, and movement speed so painfully slow you'd swear the twins themselves are just as bored as you are.
    • While Monsters, Inc.: Scream Team is a well-regarded 3D platformer in its own right, the same can't be said for the far more obscure PS2-exclusive Monsters, Inc. game, which has ugly graphics that look about on par with a PS1 game, poorly designed platforming with extremely difficult sections early on in the game (the second level features a mail train segment which lasts a long time and instantly kills Sulley if he falls at any point while the third level has both a chimney segment which requires pinpoint-perfect reflexes and accuracy and a zipline that takes you right back to the beginning of the level without telling you) and demotes Mike to an NPC. To top it all off, the game adapts the movie's plot so badly that it comes off as a Random Events Plot, and has an insulting A Winner Is You ending that doesn't actually resolve anything the game brings up.
    • The Finding Nemo tie-in game isn't a trainwreck by any means, but it still contains a horrible case of Loads and Loads of Loading (sometimes more than a minute per level!), ugly visuals, obvious soundalike actors, and gameplay that is little more than a lame Gameplay Roulette that tries a little too hard to follow the movie shot-for-shot, which ended up constraining it a bit too much. Many of the stages are quite uninspired as well, ranging anywhere from Pass Through the Rings to sliding puzzles. The Gamecube version in particular deserves special mention as it doubles as a Porting Disaster, with incredibly noticeable lag on quite a few of the stages that makes the already lousy visuals even harder on the eyes.
    • On one hand, The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge has a lot of good things going for it. Most of the movie's original cast is back, the graphics are good, the story serves as a decent sequel to the first movie, and the songs are good (even if they're just the ones from the original movie with new lyrics, though there is one new one). However, its Devil May Cry-style combat is very repetitive with a poor camera, and the player frequently has to backtrack to do something as simple as refill their health. It also takes several seconds just for the pause menu to appear.
    • The Incredibles licensed game is a mixed bag. It features a decent variety of gameplay, the controls are tight and responsive, and you even get Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone narrating the tutorials. However, most of the levels are long, tedious, repetitive, and at times confusing or downright unfair, with overly-precise platforming that often forces the player to backtrack. The game also suffers from Fake Longevity in the form of Padding that often has you doing the same things over and over again (you have to fight the Omnidroid three times, with each fight being nearly identical and lasting an eternity). It's not the worst licensed game ever, but it's not as great as it could be, either.
    • Tarzan has a phenomenal tie-in game released for fifth-gen consoles. To tie in with its follow-up TV show, another Tarzan game was made called Tarzan: Untamed for the PS2 and GameCube, and to say it's a disappointing follow-up is an understatement. The game features bland, uninspired linear level design that is extremely on-rails with almost no freedom of movement, the visuals are dull and ugly (even being outshined by the aforementioned game despite being released on far inferior hardware), the controls are stiff and heavy, all three bosses require Button Mashing to defeat, which can be difficult without the use of a turbo controller, and the game is extremely short.
    • There were two video games based on The Rocketeer: the Nintendo Entertainment System verison developed by Ironwind Software and Realtime Associates and published by Bandai in 1991, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System verison developed by Nova Logic and published by IGS in 1992. The NES game has colorful cutscenes that follow the movie, but still suffers from an overabundance of enemies who can easily kill you while it's hard for you to kill them, as well as a jet pack that requires you to find fuel for it, and even then, should only be used sparingly. While the game does provide a password system, you still get a Game Over after losing one life. The SNES game, despite being on a more advanced console, is even worse, as the first few levels require you to beat an airplace race, and in order to win it, you must pay close attention to what's going on in the tiny box in the HUD, not what's going on on the main screen, when it should be the other way around. In the shoot-em-up levels, which appear later in the game, you can actually destroy your health power-ups, and while enemies can change direction to attack you, you can't. Your reward for beating both games is an A Winner Is You ending. The Angry Video Game Nerd has reviewed both these games, saying that the SNES version in particular may have surpassed The Wizard of Oz and Hong Kong '97 as the worst SNES game he's ever played.
  • Acclaim and LJN Toys (which merged in 1990) were really, really bad for this during the 8- and 16-bit days. Acclaim didn't learn its lesson and continued to publish crap until its eventual bankruptcy (and limited revival as a distributor of Korean MMORPGs. Acclaim and LJN were so bad at this that they received extreme scorn as The Angry Video Game Nerd's most hated game companies.
  • Similarly, a lot of THQ's input from the early '90s consisted of crappy licensed projects, with such games as Home Alone, Where's Waldo?, and Wayne's World under their belts. They were also the GBA's equivalent of LJN, right down to being founded by the same person. Thankfully, most of their console games slowly started to improve through the 2000s. Several of their Nickelodeon and Pixar games from that era are usually on the other page.
  • Brash Entertainment did nothing but these games, with their Alvin and the Chipmunks and Jumper tie-ins receiving some of the absolute lowest scores of the 7th generation. Naturally, the studio was quickly shut down 18 months after being formed. note 
  • Just pick any film made between 1988 and 1993, and there's a good chance Ocean Software made a side scrolling platformer (possibly with extra top-down levels) out of it...regardless of how suitable the subject matter is.
  • Pack-in-Video developed a good chunk of video games based on either movies or TV shows in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Some were either otherwise average or just bad. Some of those games include Knight Rider, Friday the 13th, Predator, Rambo, and Die Hard...all of which were released on the NES, published by either LJN or Acclaim (although Die Hard and Predator were published by Activision).
  • Radical Entertainment was responsible for quite a number of bad licensed games in their early years; the aforementioned Terminator for the NES was their first game, no less. It makes one wonder how the hell they went from dreck like Bébé's Kids to great games like [PROTOTYPE].
  • Anything made by DSI Software is guaranteed to be garbage.
    • March of the Penguins is one example.
    • M&M's Kart Racing might be their worst game. Every character speaks in the same male voice, even Green. This should speak volumes about how much effort was put into it.
    • It's worth noting that the DS port of M&Ms Kart Racing is, however, a passable if uninspired racing game that is much less buggy and has no voice acting.
  • Blast! Entertainment Ltd. was a short-lived studio (it lived 2006-2009) that published nothing but those types of games. All of them were so bad that no one with a clear mind would ever buy their games.
    • Their most infamous title is Little Britain: The Video Game for the PS2, which was nominated by various UK critics for being the worst licensed game ever made at the time of its release. The same critics also noted that it was the worst game they ever played on that system.
    • They also made the PS2 version of Home Alone, which is tenuously related to its source material at best (not even appearing to be set during Christmastime), has weak graphics, and the gameplay it features is very slow and boring.
  • Data East Pinball was a repeat offender of this trope when they first started getting into Licensed Games in The '80s and early Nineties; the strategy was to spend lots of money buying Pinball rights to then-popular themes, then apply them to whatever pinball game was in development at the time. While the tables themselves ranged from "So Okay, It's Average" to "Guilty Pleasure", they were also often considered a waste of the license (see Back to the Future, above). To be fair, this situation improved over time, with games like Tales from the Crypt and Jurassic Park ranked among the best games from The '90s.
  • ISCO is a contract developer to run away from really fast (being the contract developer hired to make the above Transformers: Convoy no Nazo). The reason they get their own section is because all of their games tend to have the same problems, which are ugly graphics, bad sound effects, awful controls and lack of playability. They are so horrible that after playing their games you will probaby never look at LJN the same way ever again.

Alternative Title(s): Movie Video Games Suck, The Problem With Licensed Videogames, The Trouble With Licensed Games, Trading Card Lame

Top