When I was a kid, I used to love going to the video store to rent video games. Yes, young readers. Stashed amongst the endless sea of VHS tapes were loads upon loads of video games (mostly for NES and Sega because all this hit a peak in the early 90s). So just like I was prone to rent any horror movie they placed on the shelves, I also had a similar compulsion to rent any NES game that came out. And I discovered many great games this way, some that were quite weird, and a few that were so bizarre they continue to haunt my brain.
I’m still amused by weird video games and the stories behind them. Here are 10 of the most bizarre video games I have encountered.
I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM
Based on the Harlan Ellison novel of the same name, this one is a point-and-click adventure that follows the same plot as the very dry and bleak book, which makes for an equally dry and bleak video game. The book/game are set in the future when machines have killed everyone, but a handful of people. These few remaining folks can only survive if they can convince the machines of humanity’s worth through heady adult situations like rape and genocide as a means by which to explore their own personal psychological flaws. It’s just like FROGGER, except the logs are moral dilemmas which cause you to confront your own critical errors and past judgments, and there are no frogs.
TYPING OF THE DEAD
Remember HOUSE OF THE DEAD 2? I spent hours at the arcade sinking
quarters into that one. Apparently some nerd/genius video game designer thought “what better way to teach kids the importance of correct typing skills then by shooting zombies?”. But you don’t actually shoot zombies. You kind of type them to death.
SPLATTERHOUSE: WANPAKU GRAFFITI
Namco Bandai’s SPLATTERHOUSE is an absolutely amazing game, which was a high point of my childhood. You played as Rick, a muscle-bound mask-wearing maniac who travels through a blood-soaked mansion beating monsters to an oozy pulp to save his girlfriend. Yeah, it kicked so much ass. But leave it to Japan to make a twisted game even more twisted. They took the same SPLATTERHOUSE characters and made them adorable, big-eyed, cute dancing cherubs, but there is still the same amount of gore and bloodshed. This one is equally hilarious and disturbing.
My god, this game was dark. Like really, really bloody, bleak and dark. Steve wakes up with amnesia in a rural town. He must confront local townsfolk to find out what’s going on, and the town of Harvester is full of insanity and bizarre oddities including a child-abusing teacher, a legless veteran, a local cult, some suicide, murder, arson, and serial killers. Ultimately, the protagonists must murder innocent people in order to learn the truth which is really screwed up. This game is pure madness. And why yes those are a bunch of dead cats in the game play still. Madness.
I love this game. Absolutely love it. I have no idea what it means or why it exists, but it is like a form of transcendental mediation for me. You play as a small alien creature with a head that looks like a giant Tylenol who rolls a ball collecting everything from angels to food to sumo- wrestlers, all while peppy Japanese music plays, and your dad tells stories about his bitching pompadour haircut. And it has one of the greatest soundtracks ever.
TONGUE OF THE FATMAN
This 1989 fighting game featured characters out of a LSD-induced John Waters’ casting call. The warriors include a girl who uses her Mohawk as a weapon, a guy who farts fireballs at enemies, and the game’s namesake- a fatman with a giant mouth and tongue in the middle of midsection.
There is an entire group of now-adult Sega Dreamcast players who have PTSD from this game. A fish with a very human face is your pet. This thing is straight out of Lovecraft. You have to feed your underwater mutant and play with it and such, but the whole time, your inner psyche just wants to kill it with fire. And the whole sinister experience is narrated by Leonard Nimoy.
In this Japanese video game, you are a mosquito trying to feed on a family before they swat you, crushing you to death. The game also lets you enter into combat mode where you ram victims until they stop trying to kill you. Since most of the people in the game are in various states of undress or in some cases bathing, the game feels really weird and voyeuristic.
DR. JEKYL AND MR. HYDE
This one was supposed to be a kids’ game, but it’s full of 1800s literature, complicated puzzles, and convoluted rules about why you are either Jekyll or Hyde. And there are occasional lightening bolts which kill you. I have no idea what’s going on.
You play a roadie for the band Journey and must lead them through seas of sexy groupies.