The world of video games is nothing short of creative. Starting back in the early 1980s, when graphics were limited, both developers and players had to use their imaginations to ensure enticing gameplay. And, as games have become more sophisticated, ideas about what games should be have become increasingly complex. Now, you can create just about anything.
With that said, many games have gone the route of completely weird, and even off-the-wall insane.
From their concept to their graphics to their gameplay, there are so many aspects of weird and quirky games that are indescribable. Here is a roundup of some of the weirdest games in history, starting all the way back with Atari. Some are incongruous, others are head-scratching, and still others may terrify you a bit. But all of these games are real, and really, really odd.
What’s your favorite weird or quirky game? Let us know in the comments.
1. Atari 2600: Sneak n’ Peek
Back in the rough days of Atari, anyone could try to make a game about pretty much anything. This is why Sneak n’ Peek exists: no self-respecting game development company would make a game based on hide and seek.
Yes, hide and seek. One person has the option of hiding in a room or sneaking out the door to another room, and the other person stumbles around looking for the person who is hiding until the timer runs out. The limited graphics on this game also make it very difficult to play (where are the hiding spots?), so odds are you’ll awkwardly flail around until the time runs out.
Sneak n’ Peek is one of the few games that’s actually better accomplished in the real world, so if you’re thinking about playing, you’re probably better off just going outside.
2. NES: Zombie Nation
The year is 1999. An alien meteor named Darc Seed crashes in Nevada, rapidly turning all American people into zombies. You are the world’s only hope: a disembodied ghost head of a samurai named Namakubi. You must float through American cities, destroying buildings with eyeballs and vomit while catching hostages falling from the wreckage.
Yes, this is, in fact, the plot to a real game. Zombie Nation is a cult-hit Famicom port from Japanese developer Meldac that brings the side-scrolling shooter genre to a weird and gross new height. As challenging as it is confusing, the high point of this game is the chance to take down an animated, evil Statue of Liberty.
3. SNES: UniRacers
One of the only games to be developed specifically by the console manufacturer, UniRacers was made by Nintendo of America in 1994 to supposedly make a statement that the SNES could handle high speed and intense graphics that Sega claimed it could not. How that was supposed to be solved by anthropomorphic racing unicycles, I’m not entirely sure.
The nature of UniRacers aside, the racing elements of the game are actually really fun. Of course, you have to get past the weird living unicycle bit to get there. The game is a perfectly kooky encapsulation of what the video game company thought was “extreme.”
4. Sega Genesis: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
Speaking of extreme, Sega was showing off its graphics capabilities in an inexplicable company-funded launch title, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. Based on the King of Pop’s music video collection and short film, Moonwalker has two objectives:
1. Save little kids hiding in closets.
2. Fight criminals with your smooth dance skills.
The ridiculousness of this game is only amplified when you use Jackson’s “special” move, which forces all enemies on screen to break into a serious dance sequence. The game has some great music (Jackson’s, naturally), but it is just too bizarre. There’s even a crotch-grabbing move. Yikes.
5. Sega CD: Panic!
Panic! is a special kind of game that never stops being weird. Set in an armageddon-like scenario full of crazed machines, you play a young boy in red overalls who becomes trapped in the mainframe after being sucked in through his — you guessed it — Sega CD.
The gameplay of Panic! is incredibly simple — you teleport to a room and push buttons found on a given controller. The catch is, you have no clue what the button will do. Sometimes, it will teleport you into another room, but others will put you through a gag cut scene dependent on the theme of the room (like a vacuum sucking out all the color of a scene or a chemical from a chemistry set turning you temporarily into a gorilla) that resets your choice in the room. Twenty-five buttons are “booby traps,” and when you unfortunately press them, you’ll set off a bomb at a designated monument such as the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.
This game is as random as it gets, but it never ceases to elicit a chuckle.
6. N64: Clay Fighter 63 1/3
The Clay Fighter series is an extended parody of virtually every fighting game that’s ever existed, and the franchise’s magnum opus, Clay Fighter 63 1/3, is the most nonsensical of them all. An obvious affront to the the use of “64” in names (Mario 64 and Starfox 64, for example), Clay Fighter 63 1/3 is goofy, messed up and full of odd clay characters. Santa in a sumo suit? Sure. A mutant made of taffy? Why not? What do you expect from a franchise that spotlights Earthworm Jim and BoogerMan?
Clay Fighter 63 1/3 has a sick sense of humor — it’s as close as you’ll ever get to an early raunchy title from Nintendo.There are farts, vomit, rubber chickens and mutant bunny rabbits galore. Oh, and fighting too.
7. Dreamcast: Samba De Amigo
A monkey with maracas! Happy fun Latin music! Samba De Amigo is peppy and upbeat; it also made you prone for wild flailing in your living room before the Wii was in vogue. Playing this game feels like you’re on hallucinogenic drugs — and people watching you flick around maracas to match the monkey’s movements will probably think so too.
The weirdest thing about Samba De Amigo for the Dreamcast isn’t even the game itself. It’s the setup for playing the game that’s difficult. Each maraca is plugged separately into a bar at the player’s feet, and the bar uses sensors to triangulate where the maracas are in relation to it.
Long story short: you look incredibly goofy playing Samba De Amigo.
8. PlayStation: Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is super weird, but in a good way. You play as Abe, a slave working at RuptureFarms, an alien meatpacking company. Abe is happy at his job until he finds out that he and his race of people, the Mukodon, are going to be slaughtered. Then a big head comes down to tell him that he is destined to rescue the workers from the factory.
The gameplay from this first installment of the Oddworld is bizarre, challenging and even a bit scary. Not only must you solve difficult and life threatening puzzles, but you must learn how to communicate with fellow Mukodons to help save their lives.
9. Xbox: Playboy: The Mansion
Throw Rollercoaster Tycoon, The Sims and back issues of Playboy into a blender, and you end up with Playboy: The Mansion. Inexplicably starring a young Hugh Hefner in a universe where the Playboy Mansion already exists, the game is meant to walk through the history of Playboy.
Instead, it all plays like an odd version of The Sims with a Playboy reskin. The goal is to make the magazine, but also to form “relationships” with the business partners and romantic interests that flit in and out of Hugh’s life. The only difference, of course, is the amount of nudity. Both confusing and boring, it’s a wonder that Playboy: The Mansion even exists in the first place.
10. PlayStation 2: Katamari Damacy
Thankfully, there is plenty of proof that “weird” doesn’t equal “bad” in gaming. Katamari Damacy is a delightful, funny and clever action puzzler that uses its extreme weirdness — rolling up everything on earth into a giant ball to replace the moon — to its advantage.
The purpose of the game is simple: Just roll up everything that you can into a crazy sticky ball. The bigger the ball gets, the bigger you get, and the bigger things you can roll into the ball. It’s kooky fun, but its bizarre play-style has earned it a passionate cult following.
11. Gamecube: Cubivore
Life for the animals is hard: Either you’re the hunter, the prey, or sometimes you’re stuck in the middle. That’s the dilemma that plagues Cubivore, except instead of animals, you’re little squares with flappy appendages. And you’re trying to mutate as fast as you can to get as many mates as you can so your family can become rulers of the wild.
Does that make any sense to you? Me neither.
But Cubivore is fun in its sheer simplicity — all you have to do is eat, and you’ll be strong enough to take on everyone else.
12. Xbox 360: Space Giraffe
According to creators Jeff Minter and Ivan Zorin, Space Giraffe is supposed to be inspired by popular Atari tube-shooter Tempest, but to the naked eye it looks like the Xbox took acid.
With a bunch of random colors, high contrast, and shifting gameplay, you have to concentrate hard to make any sense of the situation. There’s pulsing lights, rave music and an occasional mooing sound to indicate you’ve earned a power up, but beyond that it seems like a seizure.
But if you can make it to the end of a level, there is an encouraging message: “CONGRATURATION! YOU SUCCESS! A WINNER IS YOU!”
13. Nintendo Wii: Rhythm Heaven: Fever
The mind of Japanese game designer Yoshio Sakamoto must be super-duper twisted. The WarioWare creator is known for making game scenarios gross (sniffing up snot!) and ridiculous, proving himself as the considerably more kooky counterpart to Nintendo enigma Shigeru Miyamoto.
Rhythm Heaven: Fever is a perfect example of Sakamoto’s addictive, ridiculous gameplay. The objectives are simple — press the buttons at the right time to keep the rhythm as best as you can. But the scenarios are very eccentric: Whether its flipping around like a seal, kicking balls away from gophers or posing in front of paparazzi as a famous luchador, the goofiness of the game is adorable, charming and unbelievably fun.
14. PlayStation 3: Catherine
Finally, the most bizarre game available for the PlayStation 3 was actually one of the highest-rated and most beloved games of 2011. Part-dating sim, part-platform puzzler and part-horror show, Catherine is best enjoyed when you have no idea what’s going on, but you’ll stick around for the difficult and mind-bending gameplay.
Vincent Brooks begins to have serious nightmares after his girlfriend, Katherine (with a ‘K’), begins to pressure him on marriage. When he meets the beautiful and mysterious Catherine (with a ‘C’) and begins an affair with her, the nightmares get more intense. By day, the player navigates Vincent through the challenging task of juggling two women while deciding his fate. By night, the player must frantically climb a staircase tower while being chased by a giant baby, or disembodied hands stabbing the tower with a fork.
It’s quirky, clever and even a little stressful, but Catherine is a super-playable weird game.
Thumbnail courtesy Namco