The 15 Weirdest PC Games Of All Time
From the start, PC games have given us realistic simulators, absorbing adventures, epic RPGs and experiences that shape our lives in a thousand tiny ways. Sometimes though, they're just nuts. Here then are what we consider the 15 weirdest games in the PC's history, from dancing vengeance demons to Biblical racing to... well... whatever the heck E.Y.E is about.
For more weirdness, check out our weekly Saturday Crapshoot column - each week, a new lost gem or weapon grade atrocity from the archives for you to enjoy, including the game above, The BlobJob. Yes, it was weird. But it wasn't quite weird enough to get a place on this list.
Read on to see what made the cut...
Phantasmagoria may be the best known of the 90s' interactive horror movies, but nothing got stranger than this. Awakening in a small town with amnesia, and only a week before the town blood drive decides to help itself to all of his, our hero Steve has to get to the root of the most messed up small town ever. From the teacher who only disapproves of 'spare the rod, spoil the child' because a baseball bat is more effective, to the crazy veteran who won't let a lack of legs stop him protecting America from the evil commies, to the horrors awaiting in the home of Harvester's local cult, it's messed up and bloody throughout. How do you feel about a puzzle where you burn down a poor woman's diner, leading to her committing suicide and taking her daughter with her? That's nothing compared to the stuff in the second half...
Amongst the other... cough... highlights are being able to simply murder most of the characters for no reason, gory but cartoon death sequences around every corner, and a steady build up to the town's big secret - that it's all really a virtual reality simulation designed to turn gamers into serial killers. At a time when the industry was desperate to avoid regulation and being brought up in front of stern government types in suits, Harvester flipped two fingers up to the idea and said "Yeah! And learning to murder is AWESOME!"
Check out the whole story in all its deranged glory here, or for a quick video sampler, the best death in adventure gaming, ever.
"Mommy, how are music videos made?"
"Oh, it's very simple. You see, when a music producer wants some new tunes, they get hold of an interdimensional transporter and jump over to the Distortion Dimension with a million dollars or so in their pocket, where guitar wielding robots try to kill them. Now go to sleep, and try not to think that your body is made of zillions of cells, any one of which might suddenly go cancerous."
Yes. Total Distortion. It embraces its own insanity in everything from introducing an intergalactic conquerer called the Metal Lord that it then completely forgets about, to making it both possible and necessary to drink down cocktails of shark hormones and worse to stay alive until you've raised enough fame to be a success in our world. While obscure as a game, and ironically full of absolutely appalling music, it lives on today mostly courtesy of the wonderful "You Are Dead" song that sees out your every major mistake. There are worse legacies...
The Zoo Race
After the Great Flood, Noah and the animals were very happy to be chosen to live on the Earth. Noah then declared the games of Celebration to begin. The sons of Noah built racetracks and then encouraged the animal creatures to race in them.
That's not even the weird part. What the description doesn't mention is that The Zoo Race is actually about a group of people hanging around in a library who get morphed into animals and forced to compete in the racing equivalent of Saw. We're talking Noah and sons throwing exploding barrels at them, blasting them with flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and having to leap through glass walls - some with brick walls behind them. Then they all dance.
Plumbers Don't Wear Ties
What's weirder - the game, or the fact that it even exists?
For a long time, Plumbers Don't Wear Ties was the official PC Gamer touchstone for low quality. It scored a frankly generous 3% back in PCG UK 8, and while there have been lower scores (Monsters, Inc. Wreck Room Arcade: Monster Tag for instance), none have matched its insanity.
It's only a game by the loosest definition, and even that's being generous. At a time when FMV seemed like The Future Of Gaming, it served up an insane photo story about a plumber named John and a would-be office girl named Jane who meet while on a mutual quest for love. Jane gets propositioned by her sleazy boss, leading to the three of them running around town looking at stuff, and really nothing else. At least, unless you count warring narrators, random clip-art, and production values so sloppy, at one point they just throw an out-take in for the hell of it. This is a game so bad, unwittingly buying a copy entitles you to the free murder of one of your enemies. Oh, and despite the picture and the intro, it's as erotic as a lump of cold veal in the crotch. There's exactly one video sequence in the whole thing, with the only nudity being the two characters taking a shower. It's censored unless you put in a code, but you're missing nothing.
On the plus side, this game employing about as much technology as an Amish cyberpunk does mean that the entire game can now be played on YouTube and everyone can see for themselves just how low things can go. Click here to start, and choose the pop-ups as they appear.
Russia certainly knows how to make weird games, and they don't come much odder than this mix of driving and RPG set in an gloopy organic world that defies you to follow it. The walkthrough is full of advice like "One cycle you might get 540 beebs for a gluek," and "An exception is Rubbox, which you need to get into Beeboorat escaves without dying or getting demoted to a raffa," and that's just the start. This may look like a simple top-down racer, but trying to decode the action without help is a short path to absolute insanity.
That doesn't make this a bad game of course, just one as impenetrable as a diamond fortress. It actually had a fairly devoted fanbase, though not so much in English speaking countries. Check it out in action here, and don't worry too much if you don't understand the narration. Chances are good that no language would be too helpful for this one. Phlurblepoot.
Tongue Of The Fatman
What, isn't the title enough? It's called "Tongue Of The Fatman", people!
Beat-em-ups are no strangers to craziness. We've seen dinosaurs duking it out, giant pandas sharing the stage with martial arts experts, bikini warriors at war, and even Darkseed's Mike Dawson take a level in badass for the sake of his lady friend.
For raw, eye-popping "What the crap?!"ery though, you can't do much better than this alien blood sport. Combatants include Edwina, the Amazon warrior with a killer mohawk that snaps out like a whip, Puff Boy ejaculating goo at his enemies, and Behemoth, who simply clambers up on his arms, points his butt up and farts a fireball into his enemy’s face. King though is the titular Fatman, Mordu, who really leaves his opponents... licked. Yes. Moving swiftly on then...
GAG: The Impotent Mystery
When games try to be sexy, sanity is often the first casualty. Lula 3D. Riana Rouge. The list goes on. Few have the commitment of this insane Russian adventure though; the tale of a secret agent (who has a business card reading 'secret agent', so he must be good at it) who gets turned impotent after being bitten by a penguin and has to save the world from an evil group of Satanists with little but a naked-lady version of Tetris, a fake gynaecologist ID, a flying chicken and some dancing wind-up boobs. He also has the ship from Myst in his toilet, just because. Warning: while there is a bit of nudity in this game, it's censored for your moral convenience... by penguins.
Why? Do you really have to ask? Hopefully not, because there's no good explanation.
The great thing about games is that they can take us anywhere. Any place. Any time. As anyone. We can lead humanity to greatness. We can uncover ancient mysteries. We can explore the very boundaries of creativity, and have a whole multiverse at our fingertips simply by first using them to press a power button.
Or we can sit and pretend to be a public toilet entrepreneur, making a fortune from other peoples' sudden need to poop. Toilet Tycoon knows exactly what it is and how much your eyes roll at the mere idea of it. Not to be outdone though, its makers have information up about a sequel - though not apparently the sequel itself - promising a massive boost to the simulation including research, politics, and mining resources. Hmm. Or maybe they're just taking the piss. They have experience there, after all. Even if it won't be April 1st again for quite a while...
Limbo Of The Lost
Limbo Of The Lost is mostly - and deservedly - remembered for largely being made of stolen assets. As a tiny, tiny sample of the list, it took backgrounds from Oblivion and Thief, a special effect from Spawn, put a gargoyle from Beetlejuice on the menu... just check out the wiki for a more comprehensive look. The idea that anyone could expect to get away with this is incredible. But it's not as weird as some of the stuff in the actual game...
Here's an actual puzzle, not intended as a joke. You need a bottle of green liquid, and all you have is a green bottle. Unfortunately, when you put water in it, the water - seen through the green bottle - is bright blue. Wait! I know that's two logic fails in one, but don't hit your head against the desk yet! How do you turn it the right colour? You add saffron to the water. Because blue and yellow make green. That is a puzzle that somebody designed.
It gets worse. This is a game with a whole town covered in oddly not-cold snow, because it turns out to be ashes from burned bodies. There is a Native American character who actually says 'Paleface', and an evil witch called 'Cranny Faggot'. The main character, Briggs, supposedly the Captain of the Marie Celeste, spends most of the game stumbling through the underworld asking clearly trapped people for help escaping it, for reasons explained on a second disc rather than actually in the game, before finally saving mankind. And his reward? His reward is this. It is amazing, but not as amazing as the fact that this game was in production since the Amiga was a popular computer, and its creators still thought they were going to make a sequel to it.
Here's a full Let's Play of it. Read on, but only if you dare! Sorry, no, there's no risk involved. If you have a lot of time to spare. It's pretty long, but totally worth it...
The game: a clever first-person beat-em-up that proves melee can be more than just a thing to do when your gun runs out of ammo. The world: what really makes it fun.
Zeno Clash (and its somewhat disappointing sequel) really went all out to create a cool world to explore. You're Ghat, one of the children of a hermaphroditic bird called FatherMother in a world of near constant combat. The inspired weirdness doesn't stop with the names and plot though, but drips into every element of this world's design - the enemies, the outfits, the names, the lot. Unfortunately there's not enough actual exploration of it, due to the focus on punching people in the face to earn the right to punch other people in the face, but it's a wonderful type of fantasy that breaks totally from the classic medieval style and that we simply don't see often enough.
E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy
Many cyberpunk games let you hack doors. In E.Y.E, the doors hack back. If you can follow the poorly told plot, there's plenty of it, leading to several endings, and with more twisty-turniness than you'll get in the whole Deus Ex series put together. Trying to decode the factions and double-crosses and people who may or may not even exist though means that the system requirements for E.Y.E really should have included 'Aspirin. ALL the aspirin'.
Some examples! You don't choose a class, you create a gene profile, full of likely bizarre sounding terms like 'Binah' and 'Tiphereth' influencing the usual Strength/Intelligence type stats without any attempt to explain how they relate to creating a futuristic warrior type with a killer of a confusion headache. Not weird enough for you? Your very first objective is waking up from a dreamworld. Your new world is full of factions with names like "Secreta Secretorum". Even the tutorials serve up stuff like "You just wake up after your death, but careful, you went mad." Exploring the world is like finding yourself in the middle of a Broadway musical where everyone else knows the singing or choreography, and just shoots you in the face when you try to improvise. For bonus points, it also tries to make you feel bad for shooting them, with kill messages like "You just killed a soccer player."
On the plus side, it is very generous with the cyber-powers that other games would make you wait ages for. And you do regularly get to deliver dialogue like "Your words seem as devoid of intelligence as your eyes. I'll leave you to your pathetic life." So, at least there's that.
Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead's Revenge
Hands down one of the most impenetrable games ever created, to say nothing of being one of the least necessary. Pumpkinhead was an 80s slasher flick about a revenge demon cutting loose and killing lots of people. Obviously then, the game is a supernatural FPS set in a Limbo style world full of clips from the movie, pre-rendered rail shooters, inexplicable rules that lead to random death or a chorus of mocking children simply confiscating vital inventory objects for no apparent reason, scavenger hunt puzzles with no rhyme or reason.
The insanity hits its peak with the ending, and the reveal that even the Pumpkinhead designers didn't seem to expect anyone to reach it. What's your reward for all that craziness? A video of Pumpkinhead doing a little dance. That's really the ending. Really.
Here's a Let's Play of the full game (and of course the Spoony Experiment review that brought the game back to peoples' attention) that shows off the full insanity. It's important to remember though that not only does this game make no sense, it makes no attempt to even explain itself. You are completely on your own in a world of this. And we all know what 'this' is an anagram of...
It's not just one of the PC's weirdest games - it's one of the most depressing. Plague has struck, and it's your job as one of three shadowy investigators to enter the dying streets and take care of business before it's too late. Pathologic's clock never stops running, with the situation becoming bleaker and bleaker by the minute. What makes it weird though is that this is no ordinary unlucky town, but a nightmarish mix of biology, geometric insanity and hidden agendas. It's darkly absorbing once penetrated, but almost takes ghoulish pleasure in its ability to confuse and distract. The developers would go on to make the even more surreal game The Void, but Pathologic's more grounded, twisted setting still makes it our choice for this list.
Barkley Shut Up And Jam Gaiden
Crazy games often, well, try too hard and aren't much fun beyond a few specific moments. This one manages the trifecta of being insane, actually funny, and worth playing. It's a parody of console RPGs, obviously, only set in a future destroyed by a truly amazing dunk, with basketball player Charles Barkley taking a break from fighting Godzilla after a repeat incident threatens to throw everything into chaos. Well, more chaos. The world always has room for a little more.
There's no point simply repeating its jokes, this being a freely available game. The sequel is coming later this year. Its name? Barkley 2: Revenge Of Cuchulainn. Its full name? The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa.
Wrecked is an edutainment platform game, and that's not what's strange about it. No, that's the fact that it's a game intended to teach kids about the dangers of drugs, by having them... take a ton of drugs. Yes, they're the power-ups! Each has a different effect, with the closest to any real education coming at the end with a breakdown of how much jail time your stash would get you.
“Wrecked is a game about drugs,” the intro warns. “Lots of young people take drugs these days. Most of them don’t come to serious harm, but some do, and some die. The best way to avoid the risks of drugs is not to use them. So don’t use drugs! But if you do – play Wrecked.”
Well, quite. An alcohol themed sequel was on the cards, but never actually released. Pity. It would have been interesting to see the inevitable final game in the trilogy, "Smoking: The Cool Killer".