Once More, with Weirdness: 8 of the Strangest Ports in Video Game History

Once More, with Weirdness: 8 of the Strangest Ports in Video Game History

Ports of popular games are a normal fact of the industry, unless said port is just odd.

When a video game experiences a successful release (or when developers anticipate a successful release), ports to other systems typically follow. While some ports are as expected as water at a beach-a non-exclusive PlayStation 4 game coming to the Xbox One, for example-others make us double-take.

Some of these unorthodox ports are good. Some are bad. Others simply Should Not Be. We've rounded up eight of the strangest ports to hit everything from Japan-exclusive computers to Tiger-manufactured hunks of plastic junk justifiably left to die in the deserts of game history.

Street Fighter II (Game Boy, 1995)

Some console-to-Game Boy ports are mysterious for simply existing. They arouse the question "...But why?" I suppose the answer is obvious (Hint: "Money, Mr Squidward!"). At any rate, projects like Street Fighter II for the Game Boy are interesting to look back on. Here's a game optimized for six-button controls and roomy battle arenas, all whittled down to two-button controls and one of the teeniest screens in gaming history.

Unsurprisingly, Street Fighter II for the Game Boy makes a lot of compromises: Your move strength is determined by how hard you press the Game Boy's buttons (talk about a flashback to the pressure pads from the original Street Fighter), the roster of challengers is thinned out, and there aren't even unique endings for each character-just a generic "Congratulations!" when you lay Bison flat. The character sprites, while well-rendered, are over-large and take up too much of the Game Boy's sparse visual real estate. I also admire how this port utilizes character portraits from Super Street Fighter II, but none of the New Challengers show up to duke it out with Ryu and the (diminished) gang.

Several iterations of Street Fighter II were on the Super Nintendo by 1995, and the Super Nintendo itself was hardly cutting-edge tech by that time: Acquiring a 16-bit copy of the game and a console to play it on wouldn't have been difficult. Maybe some kids were just that desperate to play Street Fighter during the long ride to grandmother's house. Or maybe they were entranced by the admirable Game Boy chiptune adaptations of Street Fighter II's classic songs. You know what, I can respect that.

Console Ports of DOOM (SNES, Jaguar, 3D0, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, mid-1990's)

Running DOOM on low-spec hardware is an inside joke with game players: Kind of the inverse of asking "But can it run Crysis?" Nowadays you can literally get DOOM to run on a laser printer, but there was a time when id Software's revolutionary 3D shooter gave console game developers big headaches. Back then, the gold standard for console DOOM ports was-get this-the Atari Jaguar version. Every sinner has at least one good deed chronicled in the Book of Life.

YouTube channel Stop Skeletons from Fighting has an informative breakdown of DOOM's console growing pains. The problems developers faced range from expected (problems securing the original game's source code) to the unbelievable (the CEO of the company in charge of porting the game to 3D0 literally thought the job involved copying and pasting the game's music and graphics from the PC to a 3D0 disc). Oh, video games. You want us to forget your awkward teenage phase, but all your humiliations are archived for everyone to laugh at.

Super Mario Bros Special (NEC PC-8801, 1986)

Pardon, were you about to extoll the superiority of computers' processing power over home consoles back in the day? Denied. Let's take a step back to the '80s with Hudson Soft's efforts to port the classic platformer Super Mario Bros to Japan's NEC-PC88 computer. While Hudson Soft was no fly-by-night developer and it tried its best, Super Mario Bros Special is one awkward piece of work.

The primary problem is the NEC-PC88's inability to scroll the screen from left-to right. Instead, Mario travels from one static screen to the next-not a great way to play a platforming game. But when you finish laughing about how terrible the whole thing looks and sounds, you begin to see a Super Mario "sequel" with some interesting new power-ups and level design ideas that honestly would've made for a decent mid-'80s action experience. C'est la vie, Mario.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Nintendo DS, 2007)

Like Street Fighter II for the Game Boy, the Nintendo DS port of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is another esteemed entry in the "Err, yeah, sure, why not" school of game ports. And, like Street Fighter II for the Game Boy, Modern Warfare for the DS is more or less "OK." It does have one unfortunate quirk: As a game from the beginning of the Nintendo DS's lifespan, you're expected to control the 3D action with the touch pad. It didn't work well for Super Mario 64, and it doesn't work very well here, either (anyone remember that thumb-stylus Nintendo packed with the DS in hopes touch-screen analogue controls would catch on?).

While this iteration of Modern Warfare lacks online multiplayer over the DS's rickety infrastructure, you can still get together with pals for some solid local multiplayer action.

Crazy Taxi (Game Boy Advance, 2003)

For much of the early aughts, the Game Boy Advance was gaming's Jurassic Park. Developers ported games to the little handheld to see if they could without really stopping to wonder if they should. The result is a library of fuzzy-looking 3D GameCube / PlayStation 2 / Dreamcast ports that were ambitious if nothing else. Again, Stop Skeletons from Fighting has a great breakdown of these lawless experiments.

For my cab money, nothing says "Game Boy Advance port" like Crazy Taxi. The low-res graphics, the muffled voice clips, the compromised soundtrack (no Offspring or Bad Religion here)-it's all so quintessentially GBA. It's also pretty good! I wouldn't recommend Crazy Taxi GBA over its console brethren, but the Crazy Taxi formula generally lends itself well to bite-sized gameplay sessions. Awriiiiight!

Resident Evil 2 (Tiger Game.com, 1998)

You might be tempted to think Tiger Electronics' Game.com handheld was something an apparition screamed about in one of your fever dreams. Nope, it was a real thing. It just died in record time because it was poorly-made, to say the least. Believe it or not, this molasses-slow black-and-white port of Resident Evil 2 is amongst the very best offerings in Game.com's paper-thin library. Its death was a blessing.

Rockman & Forte (Wonderswan, 1999)

Rockman & Forte / Mega Man & Bass came exclusively to the Super Famicom in 1998, and a Game Boy Advance port followed in 2002. Said GBA port isn't very good, but it's generally unremarkable. The 1999 Rockman & Forte port for Bandai's Wonderswan handheld, however, is bad and weird.

There are enough Mega Man games in the world to fill a classroom, and Rockman & Forte for Wonderswan is the left-back student who sits in the corner and eats paste. The game, which is developed by Bandai under license from Capcom, is difficult to control, and the Robot Master weapon-weakness mechanic that defines the series is absent (all weapons dish out the same amount of damage). The unusual sprite work just ties the whole package together-but we're talking about a package filled with furious late-summer wasps. Mega Man X, this is not.

Bioshock for iOS (iOS, 2014)

In the year 2014, mobile games were big news. Investors and journalists wondered if a console-free future filled with Apple tablets was imminent. Answer: Nah. Though 2K's classic adventure game BioShock arrived on iOS with excitement and fanfare, people quickly realized the folly of paying $14.99 USD or more for downsized battery-gobbling mobile ports of console games.

BioShock for iOS also came out around the same time as iOS 8-a system update that played merry hell with games parked on the App Store. Thousands of titles broke, and when applied fixes simply broke again whenever Apple rolled out another update, many developers opted to just pull their mobile ports. 2K put a gun to BioShock iOS's temple and pulled the trigger when iOS 8.4 broke it beyond repair a mere year after its release. Good night, Big Daddy. Good night, all hopes of console-quality mobile gaming.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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