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5 retro games to avoid at all costs

We all remember the best games we've ever played, but what about the stinkers? Here are five of the shockers we've played over the years, so you don't have to.

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With over 50 years of video gaming behind us, we have have been treated to countless games – many of them great, even more of them so-so. Then there are the choice few that boggle the mind on how and why they were ever released.

It is a few of the latter that I’ve chosen to celebrate here, so to speak. Retro game shockers that I’ve encountered that I just can’t shake from my memories.

So read on and find out five of the worst games across multiple computers and consoles. And no, they’re not so bad they’re good – they’re just bad.

After Burner

  • Released: 1988
  • Platform: ZX Spectrum

Not only was After Burner a hugely disappointing arcade conversion across just about every format on its late 80s release, it also almost finished my career as a games journalist just as it was starting. Working for Computer Gamesweek in my first professional writing job, I was asked to review After Burner on the ZX Spectrum as the main test in the issue – an exclusive at that.

However, the game didn’t turn up. Added to that, it was also on the cover and, as a weekly magazine, the covers had to be printed before the rest of the magazine went to press. We had one option and, yes, we went there. We wrote a review based on a very brief view of the game that we’d seen prior. It got a score in the 80s or even 90s – I seem to remember. The magazine went to the printers, the game finally arrived and, yep you guessed it, it was was nowhere near an 80+. Let’s just say, lessons learned have stayed with me my entire career since.

Kenny Dalglish Soccer Match

  • Released: 1990
  • Platform: Amstrad CPC

In complete contrast to my experience with After Burner, Kenny Dalglish Soccer Match turned up with plenty of time for my review for Amstrad Computer User – I just wish it hadn’t. As a Liverpool fan all my life, it still bothers me to this day that the great man’s name was used on such an embarrassment of a football game.

You can literally score from the kick off by just running at the ball and keep going until you run it into the opposition’s goal, with barely an obstruction. The player animations are also so bad they look like they’ve had their legs broken before kickoff. I think I gave it 3 or 4% as a score in the mag, simply because you could reuse the plastic tape case it came in.

Dick Tracy

  • Released: 1990
  • Platform: Commodore 64

This is quite widely considered to be one of the worst games for the C64, so I’m hardly treading new ground – but boy is the game based on the Dick Tracy movie bad. To be fair, it was rush-released to coincide with the film’s release and seems far from finished (something common around that time) but the cuts in development time left the end result fairly unplayable.

The graphics too were hopelessly shoddy, even for the time period. There are Atari 2600 games that looked better a decade before, and enemies just vanishing the moment you shot them really took the biscuit.

Sonic 3D Blast

  • Released: 1996
  • Platform: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis

In all honesty, Sonic 3D Blast (called Sonic 3D: Flickie’s Island in Europe) was fairly well received on its original release but not by me. I felt that switching from the 2D platforming action of the first two games to an isometric 3D view ruined the entire point of a Sonic game – the speed.

In addition, I consulted on potential advertising campaign for Sonic 3D in UK which we didn’t win – so my hatred of the game may have a little to do with that too. Regardless, even today, the game is barely remembered as one of Sonic’s finest moments.

Duke Nukem Forever

  • Released: 2011
  • Platform: Xbox 360

Not only did Duke Nukem Forever take 14 years in development hell, when it finally saw the cold light of day, it missed just about every mark- certainly in gameplay and humour terms.

The script alone seemed like it had been written in the 90s and not revisited to sense check it for a 2010s audience. Borderline misogyny, woefully unfunny toilet humour, and outdated pop culture references were so cringeworthy it was hard to see past them. As it happens, the development studio musical chairs it had suffered meant you weren’t likely to have to put up with them long anyway, you’d turn it off soon enough.

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Rik Henderson
Rik Henderson
Rik is a professional journalist with more than 35 years experience across online, magazines and television broadcasting. As well as the creator of GamesLifer, he is the News Editor of, while his previous work includes stints as editor and group editor on several monthlies and weeklies covering video games and technology. He has also been a series producer on daily and weekly TV shows, and has presented and guested on multiple TV series too, including GamesMaster, Games World, Game Over, Virtual World of Sport, Live TV, Greatest Christmas TV Ads, and The Apprentice.