Plenty of video games have strange elements, yet you might not call the entire experience of playing them ‘weird’. For example, playing as a tiny plumber with a penchant for jumping on enemies and throwing their empty shells around is a bizarre concept, but we rarely think of the Mario series as being weird.
However, the colourful world of Mario and friends is nothing compared to flying a samurai’s disembodied head around 80s America or taking control of a blood-sucking mosquito tasked with feeding on a family.
And yes, those examples are both taken from real games.
Given the thousands of video games created in the past few decades, there have been so many clones and rip-offs that seeing just how creatively weird developers get from time to time is a testament to the diverse power of the medium …
We’ve all fantasised about being a common mosquito and sucking blood from stupid, unwitting humans, right?
Well, maybe that was just us. Regardless, the mosquito-simulator is definitely an under-used concept … except for Mister Mosquito, of course.
This 2002 game casts players as one of the little blood-suckers as they deprive members of the Yamada family of their precious red stuff. The aim of the game is to collect enough sustenance to help you survive the winter, remaining hidden to avoid being squished.
However, it has to be said that Mister Mosquito stars no ordinary mozzy. The titular hero is a cute, colourful little guy with green wings, and he’s brilliantly animated. The entire game has visuals that still impress today, with basic household appliances and characters rendered on a huge scale. When you’re discovered, ‘battle’ mode is triggered, and angry humans become terrifying giants, complete with thunderous footsteps and flailing hands.
Weird, unique, and worth checking out!
Zombie Nation (AKA Samurai Zombie Nation)
Remember that flying samurai head we mentioned in our intro?
Well, this is it.
Few games can claim to have a unique concept, but Zombie Nation is definitely one of them. This NES oddity sees players cast as the ghostly head of a samurai (Namakubi) on a quest to destroy the newly-zombified American populace. As an alien meteor has caused undead-related havoc across the States, only this spectral samurai himself can put things right – by blowing up buildings and generally being a disembodied badass.
This is something of a cult favourite, so online prices vary from less than $10 to well over $1000.
LSD: Dream Emulator
No, you really did read that right.
Headline-baiter LSD: Dream Emulator is as nutty as it sounds, but with the PlayStation’s technology, it looks incredibly tame today. This was the creation of Asmik Ace Entertainment, based on the dream journal of one of its artists.
Basically, the game revolves around exploring one dreamscape after another, wandering through various environments and encountering numerous people or objects. After each stage, a graph presents the player’s mental condition and mood, and there are dozens of dreams to check out.
Imagine this: one night, you climb out of bed and traipse to the bathroom to relieve yourself. A common situation, one we’ve all been in.
However, what if you were inexplicably pulled into the toilet and taken to another world populated by bizarre bacteria-based creatures? This is the concept at the heart of Toilet Kids.
After a brief cut-scene shows our anonymous hero being pulled into the bowl and tossed into another world, the game itself simply plays as a top-down shooter in the vein of 1942. Only with more bodily excretions, of course.
Okay, this game’s pretty darn horrifying.
Virtual-pet games are meant to be cute and fun. Think of Nintendogs or Neko Atsume. They’re bright, they’re colourful, and a pleasure to spend time with.
Seaman, on the other hand, plays like a David Cronenberg body-horror script adapted into a video game rather than a movie at the last minute. Players have to care for the Seaman himself, a bizarre fish with a human face and the ability to speak. He goes through various stages of life, and gives trivial information from time to time.
Speaking of trivial information, Seaman itself was narrated by the late, great Leonard Nimoy. This is only really worth checking out if you want to feel more horrified by a form of underwater life than you’ve been since you last watched Jaws.
The Typing of the Dead
Ever played The House of the Dead? It sure was fun shooting all those zombies and monsters with your lightgun, wasn’t it?
Well, how about replacing that sleek pistol of yours with … a keyboard?!
That’s right. The Typing of the Dead is basically The House of the Dead, but instead of killing enemies with bullets, you use the power of precise key-tapping instead. As the undead freaks jump out at you, type out such sentences as “Why am I at work on a Saturday?” and “Birds are chirping! The hills are green!” as they appear.
Promotional games are nothing new. Remember Cool Spot, the platformer starring the spot from the 7 Up logo?
With Sneak King, Burger King’s own crowned, bearded, royal mascot got to lead his own adventure. Players are tasked with sneaking around various environments and delivering burgers to unsuspecting, unpaying customers. It’s pretty weird, but isn’t the most exciting or innovative game you’ll ever play.
Seeing the face of one of the world’s biggest fast food companies creeping up on people on his tiptoes is good for a laugh. You’re unlikely to get more out of the game than that, though.
Management games usually involve setting up a business of some kind, earning money, and channelling said funds back into the enterprise to gain more success. It’s a simple but effective system, leading to games that can theoretically go on forever and reward players for entrepreneurial thinking.
So, naturally, creating your own toilets and charging customers to use them is the perfect subject for a management game, right?
Toilet Tycoon is a gimmicky title that allows you to live out all those fantasies you’ve had about running your own water closets.
Yes. It really is that good.
Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City
Back in the 90s, Michael Jordan was one of the most famous sports stars on the planet. As part of the hugely-successful Chicago Bulls NBA team, Jordan was known by those who knew absolutely nothing about basketball itself, thanks to his branded footwear, role in the movie Space Jam, and more.
With Chaos in the Windy City, Jordan explores a twisted version of Chicago, taking down zombies, giant eyeballs, and other weird entities using various basketballs (of course). What makes it so weird is the idea of a sports star appearing in a non-sports game, fighting all kinds of monsters as an action hero. It’s kind of like paying millions of dollars to use Arnie’s likeness and putting him into a basketball game.
The blatant product placement turned some gamers off, but it was pretty well-liked at the time of its 1994 release.
Like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal is a basketball star who transcends the sport itself. He’s branched out into acting and, with Shaq Fu, video games.
Like Chaos in the Windy City, Shaq Fu is so weird because it takes Shaq entirely out of the game he’s known for, and casts him as a brawler. Even stranger, Shaq Fu sends its hero to a bizarre parallel dimension and sees him embark on a quest to rescue a young boy from a monstrous mummy.
The game itself is a fairly average fighter, saved thanks to the colourful environments, well-designed characters, and range of moves. At a time when Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and other quality fighting games were widely available, Shaq Fu had weak legs to stand on. It has its fans, however.
In 2014, a sequel was announced, and appears to be in development.
What’s the weirdest game you’ve ever played? Let us know!