Three video games worth burying forever

28 Apr 2014

An image from the game ET

With the recent excavation of thousands of buried copies of Atari’s ET game, considered one of the worst in history, here’s three other games worthy of such treatment.

To coincide with the launch of Steven Spielberg’s legendary film ET, video game makers Atari allegedly paid out between US$20-25m just for the rights to a game based on the film, with a further US$100m spent on its production.

Considering this was 1982, this amount of money was essentially a make-or-break move by Atari that in the long run is attributed to downfall of one of the biggest gaming companies of its time and even the industry in what was considered the biggest slump in the video games market ever that saw a 97pc drop in revenues from US$3.2bn in 1983, to US$100m by 1985.

From the off, the project was doomed. Atari had approached game designer Howard Scott Warshaw who had previously made the commercially successful Raiders of the Lost Ark video game but had given him a production time of less than three months, an almost impossible task.

The game itself is a visual mess, riddled with bugs and had no perceivable plot or structure. Playing ET, the player walks around collecting pixels, all while trying to avoid men in trenchcoats who take you to what looks like a jail which you can immediately escape from.

Even if you were able to escape, you were left at the mercy of seemingly random holes that you would drop into that were difficult to get out of unless you managed to glitch yourself out of them.

The game, unsurprisingly, was universally panned and sales were poor to non-existent, so much so that Atari were left with millions of un-sold copies or games that were sent back from angry customers.

Since then, an urban legend developed that Atari buried millions of copies of the game in a New Mexico desert just to get rid of them, and now an excavation team have proven this to be true having recovered 728,000 copies of the game for an upcoming documentary about the burial.

And yet, a number of games that were equally bad escaped a fate as bad as this. So what other games would be considered worthy of being buried?

Night Trap

1992’s Night Trap on the Sega Mega Drive II (with additional CD player) was definitely a case of having a great idea, put the worst possible execution.

With the Sega CD player, recorded scenes with real-life actors was, for the first time, able to make its debut in gaming.

So how did they make the best use of this incredibly innovative gaming experience? Have you playing a peeping Tom from a cheesy B-movie, that’s what.

With the aim of the game being to solve the mystery of the disappearance of women at a slumber party, the game was considered so violent and gratuitous in nature at the time to be involved in a senate hearing in the US to ban it.


Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing

If ever there was a game rushed out way before it should have been, the game more commonly referred to as Big Rigs would be it.

Released in 2003 by American game developer Stellar Stone in an operation in Ukraine to save costs, the game saw the player race in ‘big rig’ trucks against other AI-controlled opponents in very limited amount of tracks.

After its release, it didn’t take long for the game to be develop a cult-like following for what can be considered one of the worst-designed games of the 21st century, so far.

Not even appearing to have been beta-tested, the racing game did not actually see any racing take place as the AI never moved from the starting line and one of the maps known as Nightride simply crashed the game if you selected it.

The game also appeared to defy the laws of physics with hilarious results including the ability to drive through any object, drive up mountains without resistance and reverse to an infinite speed.

But perhaps its most well-known legacy is that when the player reached the finishing line, by themselves, they would be presented with the message “You’re Winner!” just to add the icing on the cake of an appallingly-produced game.

This video review of the game by Gamespot’s Alex Navarro has since gone on to become legendary for those who know about the game.

The War Z

Take note developers, if you’re trying to ride on the coat-tails of an already successful game, at least attempt to better it in some capacity.

Step forward The War Z (no, not World War Z as they later found out in a lawsuit from Paramount pictures). in the autumn of 2012, a mod of the ARMA II military simulator was released putting a player in a zombie apocalypse with other online players all attempting to scavenge and survive.

The game received critical acclaim and saw copies of ARMA II sell more than when the game originally was released three years previously.

Seeing its success, the producer behind Big Rigs, Sergey Titov, decided to just use a game engine that they had and copy DayZ almost exactly with many of the same mechanics and concepts.

In the end, the simple task of copying a game was apparently too complicated for Titov and OP Productions who went to leave out many of the gameplay elements that were advertised prior to its launch and included hundreds of different micro-transaction which made the game unplayable if you didn’t pay out.

After receiving hundreds of complaints, the online gaming platform Steam, which were selling the game, removed it from the online store a month after its release for what it deemed was a fraudulent product, but has since been re-released with fixes as Infestation: Survivor Stories.


IGN reviews The War Z

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic