Everyone loves cute and cuddly video game stars like Mario and Sonic, but there are a few other more wacky characters which are less well known, but just as much fun. When it comes to creating new experiences, history has taught us that the video game makers can literally do what they like, and boy, do they take advantage of it. The result is a few titles which are just strange enough (by way of bizarre plots, characters or player engagement) to reach cult status – immortalized and revered. Here’s a list of our hall-of-famers in all their pixelated and polygonal weirdness.
10. Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure (1995)
We’ll kick this list off with a bizarre 2D platformer from Interplay in the ‘90s. The titular character is a scientist on a quest to fix his broken machine by doing what he does best: combining toilet humor and iffy controls. This was a golden age for the platforming genre, so standing out in any way possible was an impressive feat. We remember it for its grossly endearing animation style both on the SNES and Genesis.
9. Katamari Damacy (2004)
Ah, Katamari. The PS2 original sleeper hit that rolled weirdly into our hearts. Part puzzler, part adventure, part nesting doll, Katamari Damacy had players controlling a tiny ball of stickiness, called a Katamari. The Katamari picks up small items like paperclips and candy, eventually increasing the ball size to pick up housecats, sumo wrestlers, ice cream trucks, buildings and so on. Who could fail to love its low-poly charm, bright colors and hilarious item placements?
8. Mr. Mosquito (2002)
Continuing with the PS2 craziness, we have the somewhat disturbing Mr. Mosquito. You play as a cute little mosquito tasked with sucking the blood from the Yamada family. Players must plot around each family member’s routine and force them to behave in the absolute creepiest way possible. Mr. Mosquito’s claim to fame? Well, if it wasn’t for the game’s lighthearted appearance, it might as well have been called “Personal Space Violation Simulator.”
7. Captain Novolin (1992)
This one’s a rare, peculiar gem designed with a single purpose: to stop kids from getting chubby. Developed by Sculptured Software, who created the equally weird Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon, this SNES original claims to be an “action adventure game about diabetes.” While childhood diabetes is no laughing matter, a platforming video game with abysmal controls about it is a surreal thought. This title remains an early example of what can happen when separate interests collaborate in a bizarre way to create a video game.
6. Game Boy Camera (1998)
This entry is less of a game and more of an oddity in the Game Boy’s legendary library, although it does have some game-like aspects. Originally conceived as a way for Game Boy owners to create and edit low-res photos of themselves, it also serves as music-making software with a peppering of mini-games. What made this software so bizarre were the secrets and Easter eggs therein. By performing certain sequences in the game, the player can access strange, distorted images, presumably of some of the game’s creators, along with creepy messages such as, “Who are you running from?”
5. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)
You may be saying to yourself, “Shouldn’t I be reading about Majora’s Mask over Spirit Tracks on a list of weird games?” In many ways, you’re right about Majora’s dark vibe and unorthodox approach. However, Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS is an entry in the Zelda series that feels like even more of a one-off. Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series is renowned for its rich exploration in the fantasy world of Hyrule. Spirit Tracks, completely out of left field, took the classic fantasy-inspired setting and drove a train right through its wall. That’s right—the over-arching theme of Spirit Tracks is train conducting. The game is best known as the Zelda that let players shoot pigs with a cannon from a golden train.
4. Octodad: Dadliest Catch (2014)
Octodad is a fairly newer indie PC fatherhood/sea life simulator. If that doesn’t do it for you, I can’t imagine what would. Players run the course of the entire game as a boneless octopus in a suit, much to the obliviousness of your human wife and children. The physics are hilarious as you bumble through standard atomic dad activities, such as attempting to barbecue and knocking the grill and burgers all over the patio, or taking the kids to the aquarium while desperately attempting to appear like you aren’t one of its exhibits.
3. Seaman (2000)
Sega’s Dreamcast was a lot of things. A quiet failure to some, but a brilliant flash in the pan to others. The small-but-colorful game library sported by the Dreamcast includes the completely weird, interactive digital pet, Seaman. It used the ill-fated Dreamcast microphone accessory that mounted onto the controller to accept audio input. The man-faced fish on screen was receptive of various forms of communications, but many players just weren’t comfortable with his overall uncanniness. The only thing weirder than Seaman was a special Japanese import called Christmas Seaman.
Yes, that also happened.
2. WarioWare, Inc. (2003)
One of Nintendo’s most odd anti-heroes, Wario, has had a range of his own games in which he is featured, but none are as oddly fun as the mini-game fest known as WarioWare, Inc. The game is a collection of micro-games, usually lasting a matter of seconds, which barely gives you time to even understand what you’re looking at. The tiny scenarios come at the player so quickly that the entertainment always feels blissfully otherworldly. This game put the concept of high-speed micro-games on the map. How fast can you get a finger into a nose?
1. EarthBound /Mother 2 (1995)
Some might call EarthBound (known as Mother 2 in Japan) the crown jewel of the SNES. It also happens to be one of the most outlandishly memorable and heartfelt experiences available on the platform. What’s NOT to remember about EarthBound? The game serves as a caricature of modern society, and its rabid cult following can cite any of its unforgettable quotes and humorous situations. Packed with social commentary, the RPG deals with friendship, enjoying life’s small pleasures, loss and independence. It also deals with applying ketchup to a hamburger in the middle of a battle with a hippy. Many modern games draw heavy inspiration from this one’s quirkiness.
So there you have it, our round up of the craziest plots, players and ideas you’re ever likely to see in a video game this side of the Ozark Mountains. The list above represents our idea of gaming’s weirdest, but did we actually catch them all? Let us know of your own favorites in the comments below. Whatever will they think of next?
Ryan Marchand is often found checking out the latest quirky indie release or enjoying the 8-bit goodness of a retro classic. He’s also a freelance video game writer for eBay, where you can find many of these bizarre games and other fun titles.