The announcement by Limited Run Games that they are re-releasing the 3DO 'classic' Plumbers Don't Wear Ties is, to say the least, shocking and unexpected. I guess it goes to show that any game, good or bad, has a chance to be re-released on more modern systems. Though it is a crying shame that games that deserve a re-release keep getting ignored. I mean, who the hell is Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties appealing to? Folks like me who collect games and want a whole set? Hardcore 3DO Fans? The Angry Video Game Nerd?
It really doesn’t help that Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties is legitimately one of the worst games ever made. Oh no, not the ‘flavor of the month’ type of hatred we see for games that don’t really deserve it mind you. In fact, I always kind of chuckle at the hyperbole of that kind of discussion; even really bad games like Cyberpunk 2077 has some redeeming qualities to them. No, Plumbers is in an elite crop of titles so bad they can’t even be good, a list of games so bad that it's amazing that they even get re-released.
We have seen Limited Run do this twice now, first with Night Trap, and now with Plumbers. I am starting to see a trend here. So let's list six games that would likely join Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties in that exclusive list of just actually awful games but for some reason get a re-release.
Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing (2003)
Let’s be honest, the only reason people remember Big Rigs from every other bargain bin budget PC title is the fact that the internet exists. It reeks of being at the right place at the right time in the mid-2000s, where snarky reviews everywhere could just record footage of a nearly unplayable game and tear it to shreds. You’re winner indeed.
When I say nearly unplayable, I mean it too. From no collision detection, lack of any type of physics, to even the fact that the developers forgot to program a race in it, Big Rigs is a treasure trove of bad game design that is frankly lucky to have the cult status it does. It is probably the only real cult hit on this list, and you know one day you will see it grace a downloadable window on the PlayStation Store somewhere, still broken after nearly 20 years.
Cassette 50 (1983)
I was originally going to put Action 52 on this list, but that's too mainstream when you think about the history of shovelware games. Shovelware, as we know it, is basically about quantity over quality; basically, the more games you have, the quality of them is irrelevant. Of course, most of them would be crap then, and there is no better example to showcase this than the granddaddy of shovelware, Cassette 50.
Some of you reading this now might be wondering, what the hell is Cassette 50? Well, the short version is, it’s a collection of 50 games created in BASIC, marketed heavily in gaming magazines for several months before release for systems like the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64. Oh, did I mention that almost all of the games were created by kids who had their titles bought for only £10 by publisher Cascade Games?
Yep, this is a game that you can argue was built off the backs of child labor. Granted, for the kids it was a labor of love, but it says a lot when you have a collection of 50 simple games made by children that are effectively primitive clones of other titles.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1988)
Another ‘classic’ from the internet, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has a rather notorious reputation for being one of the worst games ever released on the NES. It’s not for lack of trying either; every aspect of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is just broken on the most basic level. The general premise is left unexplained, hitboxes are simply all over the place, and playing as Jekyll is one of the most infuriating experiences you can have, simply because he can’t hurt anything on the screen.
It’s a shame too, because the concept is not terrible, as you need to avoid stress like The Incredible Hulk as much as possible, or else you turn into Mr. Hyde. The stiffness of the controls and the lack of any real pattern or logic to the Jekyll sections hurt it so badly though that it's just a boring, unfun mess. So you know Nintendo will bust it out for their NES Classic library. Hell, they put S.C.A.T. and The Immortal on there, anything is possible.
Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (2009)
The Leisure Suit Larry series has had a lot of ups and downs over the years, but there has never been a bigger hole to climb out of than Box Office Bust, a 2009 misfire by Team 17 that was so bad it killed any mainstream potential the franchise would have going forward. Box Office Bust is supposed to be a comedy, starring Larry Lovage on a terrible mission to do odd jobs for his uncle Larry Laffer (the original Larry, it’s confusing I know) at a movie studio. Horrendous platforming, broken puzzles, and comedy fitting an Adam Sandler film are what awaits you if you actually play this.
That last part is not just a dig at Sandler films either. Box Office Bust was actually written by Allen Covert, a frequent collaborator of Sandler's at Happy Madison Productions. It also spent a lot of money to get celebrity voice work, including Josh Keaton, Jay Mohr, Jeffrey Tambor, and Shannon Elizabeth. And no, they don’t save the game; they make its flaws stand out worse. When your adventure game spends $30,000 on Artie Lange for a single two-hour voice session, you know you have the wrong priorities.
Stalin vs Martians (2009)
Calling your game a parody doesn’t save it from being bad. Stalin vs. Martians learned this the hard way, a game that was purposefully a parody of... something apparently. It is never really clear outside of terrible Russian communist jokes because of the pretty tasteless humor that thinks it’s smarter than it really is. The developers likened this to a Troma film in interviews, but that just besmirches the Troma name.
It is also on record for having a really short shelf life. Stalin vs. Martians was released in April 2009, and three months later it was pulled from store shelves. Why? Well, we never got an answer for that, other than the official website stating it would have an upgraded version released soon. That was 11 years ago though, but I am sure the love for a murderous dictator fighting an alien with Hitler’s face in a subpar RTS with a techno soundtrack will appeal to someone, right?
Superman 64 (1999)
Another legendarily bad game, Superman 64 is what happens when you have ambition but no support or time. Or license holders trying to sabotage you at every turn. Or out-of-touch folks who didn’t want much violence in an action game with Superman in it. Yeah, strap in for this one.
The story of Superman 64 is a tragic one really, with developer Titus Interactive basically shackled by Warner Bros and DC Comics to really do any sort of playtesting or quality control for the game. It has been well documented that the developers at Titus, after being hired to make Superman 64, had to deal with a hostile reception from Warner Bros. Licensing team, to the point where WB wouldn’t even approve of Superman swimming in the game until some of the developers showed him doing so in a comic book.
Now if that’s not a major FU to the developers, consider that DC Comics also got in on the action by mandating that Superman not punch real people or break down anything because “he is a good person.” I wonder what DC thought of Zack Snyder's take then.
Honorable Mention: Bad Rats Show (2016)
So remember folks, the next time someone tells you that X is a bad game, just remember, it’s at least not any of the games on this list. Or Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties. Seriously, why does this get a re-release before something good like Fallout: New Vegas? Ah well.