Title screens are the splash pages of video games. They serve no useful purpose but developers still put them there, possibly to be sure the people playing their games are capable of doing things like “hitting start” before they move on to more difficult tasks, such as “hitting another button” or “hitting two buttons at a time in a particular sequence”. In that sense I guess you could look at the title screen as a sort of idiot filter: if you aren’t able to hit “start” you are likely retarded and should try to get a job washing dishes at McDonald’s or being President of the United States (this joke brought to you by The Daily Show, copyright 2006 Comedy Central). WELCOME TO THE HOUSE OF MADDEN ALLOW ME TO EAT YOU I MEAN SEAT YOU

That said, current-generation gamers are spoiled by the good title screens they’re given. Please don’t think I say that in some condescending, elitist tone – “old school” gamers are among the foulest, most reprehensible people on the planet today. I would hang out with a recently paroled child molester before I would ever waste my time with a bunch of people whose favorite topic of conversation is “hey, remember Mario?” You know those shirts with old game characters on them and belts with buckles that look like NES controllers? Think of them as little yellow stars. Eventually someone’s going to round all those people up and turn them into candles and soap. Then, at least, their legacy can be “kept my genitals clean” instead of “took pride in playing video games older than they were”.

Even if today’s title screens aren’t perfect they’re a ton better than some of the crap we’ve been handed in the past. Back then things were easier. Put more than three colors on the screen at once and people were content to sit there and stare until their eyes bled. Today people expect things. Things like “motion” and “artwork that doesn’t look like a leprechaun taking a leak on a copy of MSPaint.”

So, with the help of the SA Forums, I have compiled a number of the worst title screens of all times. Well, really, the forums compiled the list and I stole some of them and then made fun of them. Whatever. I’m getting paid to do this, bitches!

Dennis Miller: That’s News to Me (3DO)

Really I think it’s a shame that we had to wait until the 3DO era to get a Dennis Miller video game. I’m not entirely sure what this game’s about, but I’m envisioning a Karaoke Revoultion-type game where you listen to Miller give a performance. When he was about to say “fuck” a little sliding bar would appear at the bottom of the screen and you’d have to hit the A button just right to make sure he put the perfect spin on the word. If you screwed up you’d be shipped over to Monday Night Football, at which point the game would turn into a racing minigame where you would have to avoid mobs of angry rednecks while shouting out five-syllable words to let your fans know how fucking smart you were.

But even without Miller’s smarmy mug staring offscreen (possibly at an HBO van driving away with money flying out the windows), “That’s News to Me” manages to be pretty goddamn condescending. Apparently a few of the game’s testers struggled with the concept of “pressing the A button” so the developers thought it would be helpful to add a help screen, accessed by pressing the B button. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the implication that someone incapable of pressing a button marked “A” would drop $6,000 on a 3DO and the four games that came out for it. But don’t you think that maybe, just possibly, if someone was vexed by pressing the A button they wouldn’t have much more luck pressing the B button? Is there some rare form of autism that makes people unable to recognize the letter A? If so, couldn’t they just have the title screen say “Press B to start” or “Press one of the eight billion unnamed buttons on the 3DO controller to start”? That makes a little more sense to me, but then again, I’m no Dennis Miller. Fuck.

Mission: Impossible (N64)

Looking at this it’s pretty hard to find a reason the N64 didn’t fail miserably. For its time the system had amazing graphics, so what did the makers of “Mission: Impossible” decide to do with all that raw processing power? Create the most unsettling facial expression the CPU could muster. I'm talking horror here, people, and not for Ian McClellan or whatever the fuck the Mission: Impossible's guy name was. I'm talking about us. I can't get up at night and take a piss without worrying about that thing peeking at me through a window or a mirror like that one "Friday the 13th" sequel.

I’m to ask you a question now, and I want you to think long and hard about it before you answer. What the fuck is he looking at? We will probably never know because god, in his infinite wisdom, has not seen fit to create something that warrants such an expression. I could walk in on a bunch of lepers gang-banging my grandmother until her vagina looked like like a quiver full of pus-covered arrows and I still couldn’t muster a look as horrifying as that. What could he possibly see that would give him such a bemused, yet at the same time horrified, look? I don’t know but it’s probably something funny and scary. Maybe a clown getting his head smashed in with a hammer or Al Sharpton getting drunk and taking a piss on Rosa Parks’ grave.

Shove It! The Warehouse Game (Genesis)

Right from the get-go this game lets you know it doesn’t give a shit about you, your problems, or what kind of pussy faggot game you want to play. It’s busting its ass at the warehouse day-in-day-out to keep you fed and the last thing it wants to hear when it gets home is about how pushing boxes is boring and how you didn’t pay the heat bill last month so it’s cold and the baby has pneumonia. You’d better get this game a beer and a TV dinner, because if it has to repeat itself again it’s gonna have to dislodge itself from the system and teach you a lesson. And you know what happened last time it taught you a lesson – it’s hard to tell your sister you walked into a door when your jaw’s wired shut.

No, baby, it’s sorry. It didn’t mean that. Times are hard down at the warehouse. That prick Mr. Terry’s about to fire it because it spends its time leaning on that casket those goddamn worthless spics on the night crew vandalized. And it’s sad, baby. It loves you but it can’t stop thinking about its first wife, the businesswoman with the pretty high-waist power suit and the convertible. She always said she’d let it drive the convertible for itself when it got its license back, but baby, it never learned to read real good and it ain’t got nowhere to go. It’s just a blue-collar game trying to scratch by in a harsh ol’ world, sweetie-pie. It wouldn’t never hurt you on purpose. Now just snuggle up next to it and watch America’s Most Wanted with it, baby. Its brother’s about to be on there and he says he’s got an agent and shit. This is the big break, baby. Pretty soon that baby’s neck won’t be blue and it can have all the medicine it wants. Just waitin’ on that one big break, baby girl. You’ll see.

Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (SNES)

Judging by the title screen this game could have had several different names. For example, they could have called it “Ken Griffey Jr. Kisses the Stove” (thanks BobServo) or “Ken Griffey Jr. Eats a Beehive”. My personal recommendation, “Ken Griffey Jr. is a horrible, blank-eyed, wax-faced monster standing in front of what appears to be the world’s largest big screen television”, wouldn’t go over well, just because it’s a long title and there probably wouldn’t be enough room to fit both it and Griffey’s lips on the screen at the same time.

In reality I can’t help but think this is some horrible racist joke on the part of Nintendo. Even a person who had never seen a black man (they exist, check Connecticut) would know that Griffey is a primadonna and probably would not like looking like a huge walking stereotype. And this is plus the fact that he’s standing in front a large, earthen vagina, which, given the screen’s racist undertones, probably belongs to a chubby white woman. Either that or Nintendo’s lead portrait artist only drew people when they smashed their faces up against a window. Who knows?

Judge Dredd (Arcade)

This title screen raises a number of interesting questions:

  • Which Midway employee managed to trick his senile grandmother into wearing that helmet long enough to take a picture of her?
  • Why, after taking said picture, did Midway think using a high-resolution shot of the woman chewing her gums would be a good marketing strategy?
  • Could they have at least wiped the drool off her wrinkled old face before putting said picture on the title screen?
  • If the old woman stuck her head out of a speeding convertible would the drag caused by the bottom half of her face be enough to send the car airborne?

While I will say the picture in question has fairly high definition, the last thing I want to see with crystal clarity is the frowning mug of a confused old woman wearing a plastic helmet. Her chin looks like a roadmap and the layer of snot covering both her and her costume is enough to make me sick to my stomach. Then again, we are dealing with Midway, a company whose motto should be “We Tried (Not Really)”. When your best idea is “duuuude, what if the robot-man ripped people’s hearts out” you’ll take whatever you can get, even if “whatever” smells like an odd mixture of perfume, human waste, and dried prunes.

Mo Hawk & Headphone Jack (SNES)

Can you tell me what the fuck is going on in that picture? Can you? Do you think that you can explain to me why someone thought the story of a nude, punk-rocking Chia Pet and his Walkman would ever make a good game? If so, sit there and let me call the police, since you’re obviously one of the game’s makers and you’ve somehow managed to evade your lethal injection sentencing for over a decade.

Honestly, there are a lot of ways to describe what’s going on in this picture. Maybe a clown threw up all over the place, then threw a ball of Play-Doh on it and sprinkled grass over everything to make it smell better. Maybe an impressionist painter went insane after being haunted by visions of a nude, faceless man with no genitals and attitude to spare. Maybe the fine folks at T-HQ thought “casual day” meant “chug antifreeze at work day”. However it went I’m pretty sure this game spawned a new legal defense for child molesters: the “at least I wasn’t a programmer at T-HQ” strategy.

Werewolf: The Last Warrior (NES)

Oh, come on. Come on. Either the people making this had a great sense of humor in the 1980’s or they’re currently making a game about flag-waving satyrs pulling survivors out of 9/11 wreckage. I know this isn’t a title screen, but Jesus. Who in his right mind would think this is a good thing to have in a video game? Who would think, even for a second, that a flag-waving werewolf would instill some sort of patriotism in gamers? Who would say “welp, someone just spent three hours beating this game, better reward them with a four-color portrait of a man-wolf waving a terribly disproportioned flag atop a mountain of shadow people”?

I mean, honestly. I thought people only made shit like this ironically. I’ve seen airbrushed jean jackets classier than, than... this. That’s fucking offensive, man. I don’t get all teary-eyed over my country, but seeing some anthropomorphic bodybuilder with a hole in his crotch wave my symobol of freedom around like a roll of decorative toilet paper? That makes me want to kick someone’s ass in. And for christ’s sake, why did they feel the need to draw a large, hairy tumor up above his left knee? This is too much, man. I’m going to go listen to “Proud to be an American” and forget I ever saw that shit.

Sgt. Slaughter’s Mat Wars (Commodore 64)

Say what you want about the C64 but that thing could render some fucking chest hair. Case in point: “Sgt. Slaughter’s Mat Wars”, a title that proved gameplay ain’t shit unless there’s a burly man in aviator glasses beckoning you to come play. And that man in aviator glasses damn well better be using his free hand to stretch his large, black left nipple to ridiculous proportions, or it’s right back to the drawing board with you.

But besides old Sarge and his unnatural love of nipple play, there are the men in back, who I have taken to calling “Ted the Executioner” and “Grunting Man with Neon Chest Hair and Battle Axe”. I’m the first to admit I haven’t watched wrestling since I was a kid, but last time I checked people weren’t allowed to use Medieval weaponry in the ring, whether or not their chest hair looked like a clown wig. On top of that Ted the Executioner seems to be flanked by flying insects. While I’m sure wrestlers aren’t the best-smelling guys in the world, I personally wouldn’t want to be put in a stretch hold by a man being trailed by a 100-level entomology course.

College Slam (PlayStation)

This title screen is proof positive that the ESRB rating system is ineffective. You really want to keep kids away from violent video games? Just put some horrifying mascot like this one on the title screen. Hell, “College Slam” isn’t even a violent video game and I know for a fact its logo worked – my little brother used to be terrified of it. He wouldn’t even go in the living room when I was playing PlayStation for fear that I’d turn the game on just to scare him. Not many people can claim they made a five-year-old piss his pants by chasing him around the house with a basketball they found in the garage, but by god I can.

Sadly enough “College Slam” isn’t really about a blind, violent basketball and his crippling eating disorder. At no point in the game does the ball take a life of its own and run around the court, terrorizing players and crowd members with its gigantic maw and pointy little ferret teeth. Instead, it was just an “NBA Jam” clone with awesome powerups, such as the ability to turn into a tornado or become invisible. And if you don’t think turning into an invisible tornado would help a player score for his team, you obviously don’t have much of an understanding of basketball or sports in general. With innovation like that it’s too bad Acclaim went under a few years ago – now my dream of seeing an angry, misguided football sink its chompers into a goalpost (or Tom Brady’s neck) will never be realized. God damn you, Acclaim. God damn you.

Maybe now some of you fags with your XBox 360s and games with characters that have more than three frames of animation may understand just how lucky you are. A lot of people like to talk about “gaming roots,” but to get the roots you have to plant the seeds. And you know what they plant seeds in, right? Pig shit. I’m not sure where this analogy’s going but this article’s over. Someone cue my werewolf.

– Evan "Pantsfish" Wade

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