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The Worst Games on The Internet Archive

Just because the Internet Archive has 2,200 games doesn't mean they're all good.

Article by Mike Williams, .

If you haven't heard, the Internet Archive has over 2,200 classic DOS games available to play right in your web browser. Nothing to download, just click and go. This collection of titles includes fan-favorites like The Oregon Trail, Prince of Persia, Wolfenstein 3D, Dune 2, and Sim City. It also hosts some of the earliest games from your favorite developers of today, like Keef the Thief from Naughty Dog (Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin) or Jazz Jackrabbit from Epic Megagames (Arjan Brussee and Cliff Bleszinski).

The problem is the use of "classic" is a stretch for some of these titles. Like any platform, MS-DOS played host to a whole mess of horrible games. These are just a few of those tainted gems. They aren't the absolute worst games in the entire collection, just the ones I happened to find and play. (Some looked really bad, but I couldn't get them to work.) Join me on my own personal trip into the heart of digital darkness.

Time Slaughter

Bloodlust Software, 1996

Time Slaughter is a digital version of the things you drew in your class notebook as a high school freshman. Time Slaughter begins with a lengthy cutscene setting up the game's backstory: an inventor named William Spade builds a time machine, which allows aliens to come back in time. They want his time machine, despite it being in what looks to be the same room. They torture him because that's what evil beings do, cutting off his arms in the process, but he shuts the machine down with his nose (yes, the absolutely what happens). The newly-armless Spade then builds himself cybernetic replacement arms and swears revenge.

After building this backstory, Time Slaughter promptly drops it for a Time Killers-style fighting game with horrible characters like Mojumbo and Jinsoku. Despite the previous voice acting the sole female character, Spice, seems to have her sounds all pulled from porn; her character design is equally as bad. Time Slaughter is ultimately juvenile-level humor and gore, in a fighting game that's cheaper than the titles that potentially inspired it.

Mega Man

Hi-Tech Expressions, Inc., 1990

If there's one thing I will not abide by, it's lying. This is not Mega Man. Sure, it may look like you're about to rock it on DOS with the original Blue Bomber, but that's just a cruel joke.

If you decide to boot it up, let me help you with the controls: Space is Fire and J is Jump. Not that it matters, because you won't get anywhere. Your first enemy is a knockoff of Transformers' Ravage that kills you no matter what you do. If you make it through the intro level, you're greeted by a choice of three Robot Masters: SonicMan, Voltman, and Dynaman. Each one has a stage that's just as uninspired as those first few minutes. The worst part? There's no music whatsoever. In a Mega Man game!

If you like pain, you can also try Mega Man 3: The Robots are Revolting.

Top Gun

Ocean Software, 1987

Top Gun for the NES is hailed as one of the worst games of its time. Top Gun for DOS is worse. There's no Tom Cruise or sweaty volleyball here. Instead, the entire game is a dogfight. You can either shoot down another player, or the computer. Most of the time, you're just staring at a blank black-and-white background. Fly too low and your plane spins out of control before crashing. Fly too high and... oh, there is no too high. You can keep flying upwards and when you release the controls the horizon line snaps right back into place.

When you do finally get into a dogfight, the other player is represented as a flickering, slow, blue wireframe. Take down your foe and the dogfight starts again. That's it. It's about as exciting as it sounds. On the bright side, you never have to land. Take that, NES Top Gun.

Tongue of the Fatman

Brian A Rice, Inc., 1989

This was actually published by Activision and some classic gamers may know it as Slaughter Sport on Sega Genesis. When you boot up the game, you're met with the ugliest man alive, Mondo, who welcomes you to the Fight Palace. In this bloodsport arena you can choose between three character classes: human, blue human, and polygon human. Once you've picked your poison you can bet on fights, check your opponent's bio, and equip weapons. So good so far.

The problem is the actual fighting game is beyond painful. Time Slaughter above is at least playable; Tongue of the Fatman can't even claim that. The controls are horrible, hit detection is a joke, and winning any particular fight is based on luck, not skill. It's a shame, because Tongue of the Fatman actually has decent presentation, it just couldn't back it up with actual gameplay.

Doctor Who: Dalek Attack

Alternative Software, 1992

"Oh hey! A Doctor Who game!" I said to myself. "That's pretty awesome. It's probably going to be a thoughtful adventure game or maybe a platformer of some sort. Is that the Seventh Doctor? Cool, I'm looking forward to this."

My naive hopes were dashed on the sharp stones of reality. Instead, you have a side-scrolling shooter, with the Doctor and his chosen companion (Ace or the Brigadier) riding Dalek-style transports to shoot at whatever comes their way. It's not even a good side-scrolling shooter, because the movement is floaty and lacking in precision. Dalek Attack is a game that misses the point of The Doctor and the point of being a shooter.

This travesty is only for the first level, because the second level is a side-scrolling platformer. Sadly, not a very good one. True to the spirit of the show, The Doctor leaps about like Nathan Drake, dispatching foes with his laser-like Sonic Screwdriver. It was on my third or fourth death that I packed up shop. I did learn something though: water hurts the Seventh Doctor. It's true because the game said so.

Mr. Pibb

BrandGames, 1998

Wow, here's a developer that didn't try to hide behind a creative name. Mr. Pibb is a game published by the Coca-Cola Company, but without the bare minimum of care and effort that went into Cool Spot for Sega Genesis. The game's "plot" involves a mad scientist turning everyone in the player's school into zombies. You're supposed to rescue the school with help of Mr. Pibb!

You do this by drinking copious amounts of Mr. Pibb and then burping on the zombies. Doing so turns them back into people, which frankly would raise a bunch of red flags in my head. The game is you wandering through the school, burping on the same two zombie sprites, which turn into the same four citizens again and again and again. I actually think I hate Mr. Pibb more after playing this. BrandGames also developed Taco Bell: Tasty Temple Challenge if you want to play an equally bad game.

Slicks 'n' Slide

T&J Kauppinen, 1993

I assume this was someone's first stab at making a game ever. Slicks 'n' Slide is the slowest top-down racer I've ever played. It's just you and three other AI racers going around a non-descript 2D track, sliding around like a madman. The sad part is the AI is about as bad at driving as you are.

This is the only game in this article that just feels me with a profound sense of sadness. Just watching these tiny pixel people drive endlessly and aimlessly around this track just filled me with a sense of ennui. The third AI racer had lapped around the track four times, but the game only counted one complete lap. What am I supposed to do with that? I can't communicate with it and let it know the race is futile.

This game makes me want to drink.

Alf - The First Adventure

Box Office Software, 1987

Remember Alf? One of those 80's sitcoms that probably shouldn't have survived? Alf was an alien from the planet Melmac who lived with a human family and always wanted to eat cats. It's about as heartwarmingly horrific as it sounds.

Alf the DOS game is a maze game where you play the disembodied head of Alf himself, wandering the streets in search of cats (you need pizza to catch them for some reason), spaceship parts, and keys. While you're doing this, you also have to avoid the dog catcher, because the man is an idiot and thinks Alf looks like a dog. Alf is boring, it's rote, and the things you're chasing are just static sprites twitching from place to place. I feel sorry for the children of the 80's that had to play this.

Special Mention: Revenge of the Mutant Camels

Llamasoft, 1994

You play a camel running and jumping across water, while shooting at birds that are trying to kill you with 1 ton weights. At one point, I was fighting rainclouds that dropped cat and dog heads on me. I got nothing for this feverdream.

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Comments 28

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  • Avatar for Romaen #1 Romaen 3 years ago
    Oh my god, I had that Mega Man game when I was little and played it until I beat it because I didn't know any better.
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  • Avatar for karobit #2 karobit 3 years ago
    Once, years ago, I toyed with the idea of playing through all of the X-Men games. I was going to write about them, just as a fun little experiment, but that wasn't the truth. The truth was that I had to exorcise the demons that came from not owning a console in my youth.

    Yes, I was the child with no NES, no Genesis, just a Packard Bell 286 SX. I was the dummy with the MS-DOS Mega Man. I was the rube trying to beat Cinemaware's King of Chicago. And I was the idiot, the moron, the nincompoop who pointed to the box at Babbage's and said to my parents "Can I have X-Men: Madness in Murderworld?"

    This game is the worst.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #3 MHWilliams 3 years ago
  • Avatar for karobit #4 karobit 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams Oh, man, I never played the sequel, but a friend of mine did have the Spider-Man/Captain America/Doctor Doom game. He loaned it to me because I had nothing else to live for but he had thankfully spilled fruit juice and/or friend chicken on the disks and they wouldn't load. I was so grateful.
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  • Avatar for grayholiday #5 grayholiday 3 years ago
    I had this ALF game for my Commodore 64. I remember putting a lot of time into it. I guess I didn't know the horrible truth about licensed games back then. I'm going to go play it now.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #6 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    Speaking of really really REALLY bad PC ports of console games, how about TMNT? It's the port of TMNT 1 on the NES, and wow is it bad. All the graphics are redrawn to look as horrible as possible, the music is all PC speakery, and the controls are stiff as hell. But that's not even the worse part... the game is literally impossible. And I'm not misuing the word literally here, it is actually impossible. They changed the level layout of a sewer in level 3 so as to make a necessary jump impossible. The only way to get further in the game is by cheating.

    Can a game be worse than that?
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #7 Toelkki 3 years ago
    At least back in the 90s or so, Slicks'n'Slides had a 4-player multiplayer on the same keyboard. At least in my circle of friends it was a rather well-regarded game, along with Scorched Earth etc. Then again, SnS was a Finnish game, which may have made us excuse its shortcomings.
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  • Avatar for ArugulaZ #8 ArugulaZ 3 years ago
    ALF on the Master System was also pretty terrible. VGJunk did an article about it... it's an appalling action-adventure with one item that actually resets the game and forces you to play it from the beginning. A fate worse than death, no doubt!
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  • Avatar for paraclete-pizza #9 paraclete-pizza 3 years ago
    @Romaen And the sequel, MM3 for PC, managed to be even worse. I thought my copy was corrupted or broken in some way because the levels seemed unbeatable, but revisiting it as an adult shows that it was just because the levels were extremely poorly designed and easy to get lost in.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #10 kidgorilla 3 years ago
    @karobit My buddy had both of them. We sure loved the X-Men back then, but no sort of devotion could make those games worth it
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  • Avatar for NinjaCatfish #11 NinjaCatfish 3 years ago
    Saw a video about this archive by Lazy Game Reviews, and it looks like more than a few of these games have bizarre issues. Some have weird extra custom content that was never in the original game, some have old "fourth word on the second page" style DRM rendering the games unplayable without searching for manual scans.



    It's really really cool that all these games are available to play in the browser for sure, but there's more work to be done, I feel.
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  • Avatar for boatie #12 boatie 3 years ago
    @Romaen I know that it's not very hard to be better at me in video games, but I'm very tempted to call BS on this, as the Dos Mega-Man is straight impossible!
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  • Avatar for Punk1984 #13 Punk1984 3 years ago
    I had that Mega Man game on floppy and then got it again with the sequel on a CD for Win95. I still have that CD next to my Mega Man 2 cart to remind myself how bad I had it before my NES arrived.
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  • Avatar for elateo69 #14 elateo69 3 years ago
    Finally I hear of someone else who tries that terrible thing called mega man for pc. I remember that floppy disk I paid $15 for a long time ago. The pc master race seem to forget their awful begginings.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #15 Monkey-Tamer 3 years ago
    The hit or miss days of the late 80s and 90s. At least today the majority of games are at least playable even if they are mediocre.
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  • Avatar for TheLostSkeleton #16 TheLostSkeleton 3 years ago
    Wow, I'd forgotten all about that Mr. Pibb game until now. Thanks (?) for the reminder.
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  • Avatar for docexe #17 docexe 3 years ago
    I knew the PC versions of the Mega Man games were very poor, but I never had seen any image of one until now. Man, talking about ugliness. The subtitle of the sequel seems very appropriate.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #18 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    I like how now, no matter how obscure a Fighter, I go "Oh, I saw a couple of these characters from this in Saltybet". Even here.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #19 hal9k 3 years ago
    @Toelkki I also have fond memories of Scorched Earth, a great little pick-up-and-play competitive game. My friends and I used to play it in the PC lab at our high school.

    The other game we played in the lab was Life & Death 2: The Brain, also available on the Archive (I haven't tried it there yet, though). It's sort of a surgeon simulator in which you play a neurologist, diagnosing and treating patients.

    We got the diagnoses down - a common one is, "Your brain's fine; your pupils are just dilated because you're high." We never pulled off a successful operation, though. If there's a tutorial, we never found it, and apparently it helps to read the directions before attempting neurosurgery. It's not much of a "We'll figure it out as we go" sort of thing, but it's fun to try!

    I've never played the first Life & Death, but I've heard it deals with the digestive tract. What is that, gastroenterology? It sounds a bit less glamorous.Edited January 2015 by hal9k
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  • Avatar for Worthintendo #20 Worthintendo 3 years ago
    I am totally in favor of this being an ongoing series, just trawling to see what you can pull up from the Internet Archive
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  • Avatar for flameboyNE #21 flameboyNE 3 years ago
    I played the crap out of Dalek Attack as a kid and refuse to believe it was anything less than incredible.Edited January 2015 by flameboyNE
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  • Avatar for Banandango #22 Banandango 3 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 I'll say one thing for TMNT, it sounded pretty awesome with a brand new SoundBlaster card installed. At least, it did to my eight year old self.
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  • Avatar for Malroth #23 Malroth 3 years ago
    Neat! Always wanted to torture myself with the Mega Man Dos games!
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  • Avatar for NinjaMic #24 NinjaMic 3 years ago
    Since I've never played that Mega Man game, I'm glad it's on there for me to try myself... for better or worse.

    I've always wanted a Criterion-style definitive collection of every version of the original Castlevania, no matter how wrong or bad. That includes the sonic assault of the MS Dos version I've seen in Let's Compare type videos.
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  • Avatar for gamer1234cv #25 gamer1234cv 2 years ago
    Great article.
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  • Avatar for paraclete-pizza #26 paraclete-pizza 2 years ago
    @Romaen Amazingly, its sequel, MegaMan 3 (yep, 3) was even worse.
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  • Avatar for brodiejohn13 #27 brodiejohn13 2 years ago
    @MHWilliams make this a series, man. This was a interesting article.
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