Japan has always played an important role in the video game industry. Ever since video gaming began, Japan has been at the forefront of development. Consoles such as the NES helped revitalize an ailing market while companies like Nintendo and Sega dominated the ’80s and ’90s. Many of the best and most popular franchises launched from Japan. These include classics such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Metal Gear Solid.
However, that doesn’t mean that every game created in Japan is destined to be a hit. The experimental nature of development in Japan means that studios often release weird or downright bizarre games. Unfortunately, a lot of them never see an international launch, meaning only Japanese players ever get to play them. Here are the top 10 most bizarre Japanese games you’ll never get to play.
Ai Cho Aniki
Translated as Super Big Brother, Ai Cho Aniki is a series of Japanese games that have been around since 1992. The franchise is primarily made up of side-scrolling shoot ’em ups. What really makes them stand out, though, is the surreal and wacky imagery.
Levels usually involve a mashup of colors and shapes, with angelic beings shooting everything from lasers to hammers at you. Strangest of all is the fact that practically every character appears to be almost fully naked. It is intentionally camp and tacky and part of a genre known as Baka-ge, literally meaning idiot games.
Takeshi no Chōsenjō
Right from the very outset, it is clear that Takeshi no Chōsenjō is no ordinary game. It actively warns players that they will not be able to finish it using conventional gaming skills. At first glance, it may appear to be little more than an ordinary side-scrolling adventure game from the ’80s.
Dig a little deeper though and it becomes clear this is just a plain strange experience. To advance the wacky plot, players have to get divorced, beat up random shopkeepers, and feud with gangsters. It also involves singing karaoke and shooting down UFOs as well as allowing you to punch anyone you meet.
Cho Chabudai Gaeshi
Cho Chabudai Gaeshi, otherwise known as Super Dinner Table Flipping, is a 2009 arcade game exclusive to Japan. As the name suggests, the title involves playing having to flip a table over. They do this using a peripheral sticking out from the cabinet meant to simulate a dining table. As different scenarios appear on screen, those playing have to pound their fists and then flip it over with all their might. The more objects from the table that end up on the floor, the more points players get.
Toilet Kids is precisely the type of game that you would expect a toddler to come up with. Released in 1992, it’s a top-down shoot ’em up that was only available on the obscure PC Engine. Players travel around a world full of enemies made from poop and other nasty materials. Basically, anything that you would usually find in a toilet will probably be somewhere in the game.
All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.
There are a few Mario games that never made it to Western audiences. Sometimes it is because they were deemed too hard and in other cases, they might have had inappropriate content. In the case of All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros., the answer is that the game is just very weird.
The game is a reskin of the original title, featuring characters from a long-running radio show instead of the traditional enemies. It would be downright confusing for those outside of Japan. But even avid listeners would be lost as the characters are from a radio show with no visual content.
Devil World is essentially a clone of Pac-Man that Nintendo released for the NES in 1987. The major difference between it and its inspiration is the heavy religious imagery throughout the title. One of Shigeru Miyamoto’s first ever console games, players navigate through mazes to reach objects such as crosses and Bibles. A longstanding policy at Nintendo of America to avoid religious themes meant it never released in North America.
Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic
Although almost nobody outside of Japan will have played Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, many will actually be familiar with it. That’s because this was the game that Nintendo chose to reskin for Super Mario Bros. 2 internationally. While Japan got a difficult sequel now known as The Lost Levels, Western audiences received a modified version of this game. It features surreal imagery and unique gameplay, allowing players to throw objects and other players. The game also featured characters from Fuji TV’s Yumo Kojo series.
Released in 2008, Captain Rainbow is one of the more recent titles in this list, as Japan now produces fewer games exclusive to that market. The story involves a former superhero who must travel to a mysterious island to regain his popularity. Along the way, he meets other classic Nintendo heroes who have fallen on hard times. With a wacky sense of style, bizarre plot, and constant stream of vulgar humor, it is an unbelievable experience. Unfortunately, it has never been available outside of Japan.
LSD: Dream Emulator
Few games will ever manage to capture the sheer mind-bending oddness that is LSD: Dream Emulator. Anyone playing the game will immediately notice the psychedelic approach to the game’s visuals. Released in 1998, there’s no real goal or gameplay, with players just exploring various dreamscapes. Hiroko Nishikawa’s dream diary inspired all of the environments and objects. Touching items will lead to another randomly-generated area, filled with ever more eccentric and bizarre landscapes. Many consider LSD: Dream Emulator to be more surrealist art than an actual video game.
Custom Robo is a gaming franchise developed by NOISE. While a few titles such as the Nintendo DS exclusive Custom Robo Arena have come to Western audiences, most have been exclusive to Japan. Each sees players designing and customizing their own fighting robots. Appealing to those who like playing with action figures, it was a distinctly Japanese franchise that featured bright colors and fast electronic music.
Which bizarre game do you wish you could play? Share your thoughts in the comments below!