Crazy Ideas that Became Video Games

Regular readers of this blog will have no doubt noticed my absence last week. Well, maybe you noticed, or maybe you didn't. Sadly, I wasn’t on holiday, or even working hard on other projects; I was shivering and hallucinating with some sort of virus. As I lay feverish in my bed, I began to conceptualise all sorts of things, though I kept no record of them and they are happily long gone from my memory. However, it did get me thinking about inspiration and how it hits people in different ways.

Video gaming is no stranger to truly crazy ideas, as you may remember from my blog post on Ten Weird Arcade Games You’ve (Probably) Never Played. Some of the games in that post could well have come from relatively sane ideas, though: Exterminator is a game based on exterminating bugs in a house, and Densha de Go! is predicated on the simple concept of driving a train. Some are obviously less sane than that, but I won’t be going over old ground again (I’m already too traumatised by my experiences).

This week I will be looking at some of the game ideas that seem as though they could only have come from hallucinations brought on by illness or mind-altering substances, or failing that, from the sort of person with which none of us would be entirely comfortable sharing a confined space.

Like video games there are also loads of amazing and weird arcade machines. In this article I cover some arcade games, video games and more. 

There will be no further mention of Boong-Ga Boong-Ga or Snacks ’n’ Jaxson in this article.

Plants vs. Zombies (2009)

Since its release, Plants vs. Zombies has made its way to a wide range of platforms, including practically any computer made in this century and most phones made in this decade. The idea is simple, yet delightfully insane (well, it wouldn’t be on this list otherwise): zombies are attacking your house and you must strategically place plants to destroy them. Here’s the trailer:

Plants vs. Zombies comes from a big, well-known studio, yet somehow they managed to approve an idea clearly brought about by some form of insanity. PopCap created classics like Peggle and Bejewelled, but with Plants vs. Zombies they apparently had had enough of simple, straightforward casual puzzle games and decided to inject a modicum of craziness into their output. They even included a character named “Crazy Dave” who gives you advice and new types of killer plants, as if to highlight the fact that they knew it was all a load of enjoyable gibberish.

As an aside, the ending song for Plants vs. Zombies could have been featured in my post on The Catchiest Video Game Music of All Time, and highlights not only the great sense of humour in the game, but also how utterly bonkers the game is as a whole.

Fun Fact: While in development, Plants vs. Zombies’ original name was Lawn of the Dead, but “legal reasons” meant it had to be changed, sadly. Curse those blasted legal reasons and their vagueness.

Shaq Fu (1994)

Originally released on the SNES and the Mega Drive (that’s the Genesis to our American cousins), Shaq Fu often crops up in lists of the worst games ever made. I may pen my own list along those lines at some point, but for now we’ll just concentrate on how utterly barmy the concept of the game is: the basketball star Shaquille O’Neal wanders into another dimension and has to save a small boy from an evil mummy. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, I don’t have a good explanation for how this game got made.

Shaq Fu was developed by Delphine Software, one of my favourite 90s software houses (they produced the excellent Another World, Flashback and Cruise for a Corpse, among others), but something must have gone horribly wrong in the game planning stages, as instead of providing an exciting adventure game, they produced a fighting game about a basketball player. I can only surmise that Delphine’s staff must have been high on their own success with Another World and Flashback, or perhaps high on something else.

Fun Fact: The website exists solely for the purpose of tracking down and destroying any copies of Shaq Fu that they can find. Their reasoning is that the game is so bad it should be destroyed, but frankly I think they’re doing the world a service by making it just a little more sane.

Noby Noby Boy (2009)

I touched on the insanity of Katamari Damacy in my blog post on The Catchiest Video Game Music of All Time, but for this post I thought I’d highlight another game by the same developer, Keita Takahashi. I regret this decision, however, because now I have to try and explain Noby Noby Boy to you, and I’m not sure that I can.

The main character is called “Boy”, and you have to make him stretch by moving the analogue sticks on the PS3 controller. As you stretch, you can wrap around things, push things around, and even eat things. There are no instructions, no goals, no achievements and seemingly neither rhyme nor reason as to why you must stretch. Once you’re done stretching, however, you can submit your score over the internet to the Sun, and add your stretching to the cumulative stretching done by everyone crazy enough to actually play Noby Noby Boy. As everyone adds to the stretching of “Girl”, she reaches out through the Solar System and grows past the various celestial bodies.

Evidently Takahashi-san has a very unique mind. I’m not sure what has caused him to be so unique, but I am sure that I don’t want any part of it. In fact, I think I need a lie down. Watch this video and I’ll come back with some headache tablets.

Fun Fact: At the time of writing, “Girl” has just passed Neptune last week, so now players can play on the Neptune level of the game. After five years, this game is still spreading its insanity into minds around the globe. I’ll let you decide whether that’s a good thing or not.

LSD: Dream Emulator (1998)

Okay, so this one pretty much tells you in its title about its influences. It claims to be based on the dream journal of a member of staff at Asmik Ace Entertainment (you’ve almost certainly never heard of any of their other games), and the journal itself was released for public sale alongside a soundtrack CD, but if you call a game “LSD” then you must expect us to infer that there has been some sort of chemical influence.

That inference is only reinforced by the game itself. Although there’s no real direction to the game as such, in each turn (called a “dream”) you are able to wander around through strange environments, looking at things like pterodactyls and walls with eyes. Then you can transport yourself to different environments and possibly encounter a sinister grey man, a demon or even a man coming out of a wall who headbutts you into a new dream. Eventually you unlock the ability to have “flashbacks” to previous dreams.

I think I’ve made my case pretty clear that this game is inspired by hallucinations of one sort or another, but just in case you needed more evidence, watch this video:

Remember, kids: Don’t do drugs. Or if you do, make your experiences into a frighteningly odd video game.

Fun Fact: LSD was invented as an attempt to create a stimulant for the respiratory and circulatory systems. Instead, it ended up as a stimulant for crazy PlayStation games (among other things).

QWOP (2008)

QWOP is possibly the only game in existence named after the buttons used to control it (though if you have other examples, please send them to me). Using the Q, W, O and P keys on the keyboard, you have to control the thighs and calves of an athlete and make him run. If you’ve ever tried to individually concentrate on how your thighs and calves tense and relax while you run, well, you’re a pretty weird person, but you’ll have a decent idea of how QWOP feels to play.

I’m not sure what could inspire a person to create a game like QWOP aside from some form of insanity (or being just plain evil). “Imagine what it would be like if you had to control each muscle in your legs individually instead of just doing it without thinking”, the creator must have thought to himself, “everyone will love finding out what that’s like”. It turns out that everyone did love it, as the browser-based game has received more than 30 million hits so far, as well as an iPhone port. However, it clearly demonstrates how insanity can inspire games which are wonderfully creative, if not the sort of thing most people would ever imagine playing.

Check out a video here of how easy QWOP is to play:

and then feel free to try it out for yourself at if you’re feeling brave.

Fun Fact: The world record for 100 metres in QWOP stands at 51 seconds. Frankly, I’ve never had the patience to learn how to get further than about 6 metres before falling over, let alone run 100 metres in a record-breaking time. Some people just have too much time on their hands.

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (2005)

The title of this game translates as “Yeah! Fight! Cheer Squad”, and that’s the most normal thing about it. Each level of this completely insane DS-based rhythm-action game features a story in the Japanese manga style, wherein a character is faced by seemingly insurmountable difficulties (such as not being able to do their homework, failing to come up with new designs for pottery, or having to fight a giant mouse destroying the city) and calls out “OUENDAN!”, summoning the eponymous cheering squad to perform inspirational cheering moves while they overcome their problems.

Did you follow all of that? Throw in a soundtrack full of J-Pop cover songs, a man trying to cover up the fact that he’s a werewolf, Cleopatra trying to lose weight by building pyramids, and some extremely well-dressed male cheerleaders, and you get Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. Clearly we have to make some cultural allowances with this game, since male cheerleading is far more normal in Japan, but it must have taken a unique mind with some fairly hefty influences to conceive of such a weird game. Watch a level from it here:

Be warned: Linda Linda is another stupidly catchy song and may stay with you for the rest of the day.

Fun Fact: Ouendan was so popular that two sequels were made: Elite Beat Agents (for Western markets, featuring Avril Lavigne and Cher, among other artists) and Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (which translates as “Let’s Go! Hot-Blooded Rhythm Spirit Yeah! Fight! Cheer Squad 2”, of course).

Octodad (2010)

Octodad is a special kind of bonkers. The kind that makes you stop, scratch your head, make sure you’ve actually seen what you think you’ve seen, and then go about your day, safe in the knowledge that things on this planet are actually a little stranger than you ever realised.

The plot revolves around the titular Octodad, an octopus who has somehow managed to pretend to be a human for long enough to have acquired a normal job, a house and, even more improbably, a wife and two children. As Octodad, you have to complete tasks such as tidying the house and playing with your kids, all without arousing suspicion that you are in fact an octopus. This is made all the more difficult by the completely insane controls (rivalled only by QWOP in their intentional difficulty) which see you stretching tentacles all over the place and bouncing off walls and household objects.

Octodad was conceived and programmed by a group of students from Chicago, and while it would be libellous to assume that any chemical influences were involved in the creative process, I’m just going to sit here and quietly think it to myself.

Fun Fact: Octodad has somehow proven popular enough to also spawn a sequel (Octodad: Dadliest Catch), and in keeping with much of today’s blog post, it also has a catchy song.

Seaman (1999)

Sega made this game. Good old, sane, Sega. That trusted, relatively normal developer who brought us games about super-fast hedgehogs in red shoes, maraca-shaking games, and Space Channel 5.

Hmm, perhaps we should have expected insanity from them after all.

Seaman, however, is the sort of insanity no-one could expect. I’ll try to explain: using a microphone you must communicate with a virtual fish with the face of a human, while the voice of Leonard Nimoy offers cryptic advice. The game is set in a laboratory where you are tasked with learning all about the mysterious Seaman species, so the game provides little instruction before playing. Seaman talks to you to help you learn, though it’s often insulting and unfriendly. Oh, and you have to talk to it every day (in real time) or it will die.

I’m starting to run out of ways to say “this game was made by people who were mad, or ill, or on drugs” so I’ll just let you work that bit out for yourselves. I will add, however, that perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that Sega’s fortunes plummeted at around the same time as games like Seaman were around, since they couldn’t tempt players away from the relatively normal games of the PS2. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Dreamcast, but perhaps a little more sanity would have gone a long way. Watch here:

Fun Fact: Seaman was not the first console game to use voice recognition, though it was a close second after the almost-as-insane Hey You, Pikachu! on the Nintendo 64.

The Typing of the Dead (1999)

The House of the Dead is an arcade staple. Schlocky horror mixed with fast-action shooting makes it a common feature in many arcades. It’s certainly taken more than a few 50p coins from me. However, rather than stick with a winning formula, the developers chose to mix it up a little with The Typing of the Dead, as your guns are replaced with keyboards. Zombies advance towards you and attempt to bite or slash you, but instead of blowing their heads off with shotguns, you have to type specific words as quickly and accurately as possible to kill them. Other than the replacement of guns with keyboards, the game is exactly the same as The House of the Dead 2. Makes perfect sense, no?


When I think of zombies, my first thought is not that it would be logical to type at them to kill them. That’s not my second, third or fifty-third thought, either. Somehow, however, someone did manage to get that thought into their head, make it into a game, and rather improbably, make it fun.

Watch some footage here, which is worth it for the terrible voice acting as well as the novelty of seeing game characters wearing Dreamcasts and keyboards instead of carrying guns:

Fun Fact: The Typing of the Dead even made it into the arcades, though sadly not outside of Japan. Seeing arcade machines with keyboards just reinforces how utterly bizarre this game idea is.

Typing of the Dead


Classroom Aquatic (not yet released)

I think I’ve saved the most absurd game for last in this week’s list: Classroom Aquatic, which bills itself as “the world’s first cheat-‘em-up”. The basic premise sees you as an exchange student in an underwater school for dolphins (though you are a human), taking an exam for which you’re entirely unprepared. You have to distract the dolphin students as well as the dolphin teacher, so that you can lean over and copy answers from someone else.

Although Classroom Aquatic hasn’t been released yet, it’s available in its alpha (unfinished) state to download at, giving you a chance to try it out before you decide whether you want this dolphin-classroom-exam-cheating game, or one of the many others in this desperately overcrowded genre. Frankly, I feel like this sort of game should be sold by dodgy-looking characters in pub car parks or dark alleys, as it’s obviously not intended for regular human consumption.

Here’s the trailer, just in case my description hasn’t sold you on the idea:

If that’s not the most insane concept for a game you’ve ever seen, then I really don’t want to know about it.

Fun Fact: Dolphins don’t really know anything about the artistic works of van Doesburg or the plot of The Last of the Mohicans. Also: my head hurts.

So, that brings us to the end of this little trip through the world of insanity and its effect on game creation. In the future I may look at the ways in which games have represented character insanity, or tried to replicate the effects of a character taking drugs or falling ill, or I might spend the rest of the year watching nice videos of kittens to calm my mind.

However, if you think I’ve missed out on any examples of truly bonkers game design, or you just want someone to talk to about the brain damage you’ve suffered from any of these games, please do let me know! You can get in touch with me through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected].

Written By: Dave Morgan

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