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Your Weekly Kusoge

What is a kusoge?

"Kusoge" (糞ゲー, or クソゲー) is a Japanese compound word - "kuso", meaning "garbage, crap, shit", and "ge", short for "geemu", the Japanese pronounciation of the word "game". It means, quite literally, "shit game". We are not using a Japanese word solely to come off like pretentious hipsters - we are using it because there isn't an equivalent word quite like it in the English language.

In the most general sense, a kusoge is simply a terrible game. But a specific culture has sprung up surrounding games like these, people that celebrate these games for their sub-par quality. Dubbed "kuso bunka" ("kuso culture"), it revels in mockery and silliness. In many ways, it's the equivalent of the B-grade (and below) movies featured on the likes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The English speaking fan community have adopted a similar culture, although they tend to lean more towards the juvenile side, berating these titles with spiteful scatological humor. We at HG101, instead, are celebrating their awfulness, laughing at them, and enjoying them for the failures they may be.

Keep in mind that, in this context, anything dubbed a kusoge may not be a completely terrible game, it just may have a kusoge quality - that is, the game itself may actually be pretty decent, but have something really awful about it that's demanding of ridicule. For example, a notable one amongst the Japanese audience is Grandia III. It's a technically sound game with some decent graphics and a fantastic battle system, but the story and writing is abhorrent, well underneath the already low bar for JRPG storytelling.

So let's define some kusoge qualities:

-The graphics are awful. Simple enough to understand. The art style may be really ugly, silly, or just plain strange. The Zelda CD-i games and its infamous cartoons are some of the most well-known examples. This can also apply to games that were technologically impressive at the time but have become very dated since - the computer rendered craze of the mid-90s and the digitized sprites found in the likes of any number of Mortal Kombat clones would qualify.

-The game is excessively tedious and boring. Again, self explanatory.

-The game is terribly programmed. This can mean it suffers from technical glitches - excessive slowdown, choppy frame rates, graphic corruption, excessive load times, crashing - or otherwise the game plays terribly, with unresponsive controls, bizarre physics or inaccurate collision detection.

-The game is excessively difficult. This one is more subjective than the rest, because there exists an audience who will take any monstrously difficult game as a challenge, regardless of whether its challenge comes from clever design or poor controls. Spelunker is one of the most well known.

-The game is intentionally obtuse. Many adventure games in the 8-bit NES era lacked any real direction, requiring little more than tedious trial and error to figure out what the hell the game wanted you to do. Castlevania II might qualify, although it really isn't that bad relatively speaking. The worst example would be the infamous Famicom game Takeshi no Chousenjou.

-The writing and voice acting are terrible. This encompasses bad/hilarious translations and localizations as well. Most of SNK's Neo Geo library qualifies to some extent given their hilarious win quotes. Zero Wing would too, for its legendary TAKE OFF EVERY ZIG intro, even though the game itself is pretty solid.

-The game scenario is fundamentally ridiculous. Another one where Takeshi no Chousenjou is often brought up, because it involves losing your job, getting divorced, singing karaoke, then flying across the ocean to find treasure. From an American perspective, pretty much any of those Wisdom Tree Bible Adventures games would qualify as well, just for how little they have to actually do with anything legitimately Christian.

This also applies to licensed games. Most licensed games are pretty bad and expecting them to be so is almost a given. But there's a special place in kusoge hell for licensed games which fall into a totally inappropriate genre. Like that weird Batman maze crawling game on the PC Engine? Or the Star Wars 3D fighting game, Masters of Teräs Käsi?

-The game is intentionally stupid or bizarre. Some games revel in being kusoge - Cho Aniki, with its big muscular beefy men is a big one. So is the extremely strange Bishi Bashi Special series of minigames. Some of these are pretty amusing, although some of them appear disingenuous solely for the sake of trying too hard.

This article will be updated frequently for some new awful (or awfully silly) game to check out and lament.

Takeshi no Chousenjou (Famicom)

Bible Adventures (NES)

Batman (PC Engine)




Bonus Round: Not Quite Kusoge



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