Seanbaby is fairly well known in online gaming communities. I believe it is accurate to say that his style of writing was what later influenced that of many game reviewers, including that of AVGN. The subject of this article is one of his most well known works, and one that likely influenced a lot of later video game critique, or possibly media critique in general. I am deciding to make a piece about this article precisely because this piece has largely gone unchallenged over the years and everyone assumes video game critique has gotten bad only recently.
The key issue behind Seanbaby’s countdown is the lack of research or substance involved in its creation. It’s all just an excuse to hear Sean’s stand up routine while using these games as a base. While I do find the quality of the humor debatable, I wouldn’t take issue with it if game reviewers were not under the impression that this was the ONLY way to review games. I have nothing personal against Sean or anything; this article is merely a work of criticism towards not just this piece, but how a lot of people review games in general. It is of course expected that Sean would be better at it as a professional than some random forum troll that thinks he’s smarter than everyone else because he thinks games made by Nintendo are shit, but that’s not setting the bar very high.
Seanbaby’s list of the 20 worst NES games likely influenced a lot of future listicles on this subject, and you rarely see any of these types that have the broad range to create them. You would think that Sean would be an exception given that this was done for a professional magazine and that he was actually around when these games were released, but a lot of the selections tend to read as if they lack knowledge about the game in question and make Irate Gamer tier research mistakes. For example, number 16 on the list is Renegade.
Renegade was one of the first 2D beat em ups and the only one on the NES to predate it was Kung-Fu. Yet here is what Sean wrote about it.
Renegade. A game that definitely needed to be made. There just weren’t any other games involving guys walking around and fighting bad guys on the street. And someone took that brilliant idea, added bad graphics, terrible control, monotonous situations, and called it Renegade.
TFW you are trying to be sarcastic but tell the literal truth. Renegade was a port of an Arcade game from 1986. Of course the graphics don’t look good; it was an arcade port originally released in 1987 (in Japan that is). It was within the first few years of the system’s life span. One will likely notice this regarding a lot of games on this list. Also Renegade was the prequel to River City Ransom. I’m pretty sure one would be a bit more appreciative of the fact that it was made now.
But it feels weird making these criticisms when I am only 23 and wasn’t even around at that time and likely have easier access to information that wasn’t as available back when this article was being written. Am I being a hypocrite by holding this piece to today’s standards while criticizing Sean for an 18 year old article for things that haven’t aged well?
Nah, I’m fine. The key difference in this comparison comes from the fact that these games are rated as the worst on the system. I don’t know how many NES games were known at the time or if there was as much information out there, but considering that the order of games that ARE included is so out of wack shows a rather haphazard organization.
Now It isn’t expected that Sean literally play EVERY NES game before making this list, but more so that he would find 20 that are appropriate for the list. About half of the games work perfectly well for this list such as Hudson Hawk, Bad Street Brawler, The Uncanny X-Men, Barbie, Gilligan’s Island, Total Recall, and Bible Adventures (although the fact that he specifies games that received the Nintendo seal of quality should disqualify this game).
On the other hand, you have games that really don’t belong on this list and are merely mediocre or even good in some cases. I’ve already talked about Renegade but there’s also the fact that Athena, Super Pitfall, Mighty Bomb Jack, The Legend of Kage, Heroes of the Lance, and Deadly Towers made this list. Now these games are far from the most shining examples of NES games (except for Deadly Towers which I unironically think is pretty badass, although there is still a lot of dumb shit it does)
If one is especially savy on NES games, one may notice that all of these titles were from the years 1986-1988, or were ports of games from that time frame. Additionally, he included M.U.S.C.L.E, a game that was originally released in 1985 in Japan, and Tag Team Pro Wrestling was released in 1984 in the Arcades. That is not to say that these games all hold up spectacularly or are immune to criticism due to their age, but I’m pretty sure it should keep them off of a worst NES games of all time list. Many of these games are held to the standards of games of their respective genres that were released AFTER they were!
And yes, in some cases like Super Pitfall, they still sucked even for the time but it at least COULD have worked and was held back by horrible controls and some horrendous crypticism and design while the licensed LJN shit was dead on arrival. Hell I will clarify that I haven’t even played most of these games so there is that inherent lapse in experience, but with just how much horrendous garbage was released on the NES, one could have found a lot worse than these games. Additionally, if the intent was to go with nostalgic games that people from that age actually played or may have enjoyed then why is there LJN shovel ware on the list?
But perhaps the biggest irony of this countdown is that many of the games on this list were early titles that aged poorly… and are written about using a style of critique that has also aged like milk.
I haven’t said much about the actual critiques or arguments put forth by Sean precisely because there IS none. Every entry comes with only a vague description of the game that says “the graphics suck and it’s not fun” without going into any elaboration. As I said, it’s just Sean using these games as a base for his stand up routine. The humor is still surprisingly solid given that Sean is an actual comedian and thus knows how to be funny, but behind that is an immensely shallow critique that holds no value to someone who actually wants to learn about these games. I am sure that Sean did write actual reviews but we are sticking to the countdown article here.
It could also be entirely possible that executive meddling at EGM in regards to selections also played a role but it’s not like it matters now. So I’ve made my point about why this popular piece of gaming culture is actually kinda shit, but it does make me think a bit. I can barely go a few months without looking back on some of my older work and going “ughhh what was I thinking?”
So there is the question of “what brought this article on?” Well, the answer is that I am currently working on a review of Deadly Towers myself when I noticed that it wasn’t just his number one entry I took issue with. Even with my case being made, I do find that this article was of far greater quality than the vast majority of game journalism today. I just wonder if someone’s going to take a look at my writing in 18 years and react similarly.
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