A bad translations is these.
Laughing at bad translations in video games has been a time honored tradition among gamers for decades.
In truth, when I started compiling this list, I wanted to showcase “great” bad translations from movies, anime, and any other applicable media as well. And while there are truly hilarious examples of all of these, there were so many notable examples of bad translations in video games that I could barely choose just ten. The ubiquity of bad translations in gaming can be explained a myriad of ways, but no matter the reason, I’ll be forever grateful to all the unintentional laughs they have brought into our lives.
If you too are a fan of the “so bad it’s good” brand of humor, here are ten games that will tickle your funny bone.
10: Zero Wing
Zero Wing is the king of bad translations in gaming. In fact, it might be the father of internet memes as we know them. Practically every line of dialogue in this game is perfectly awkward and nonsensical, culminating in the iconic “All your base are belong to us.”
To be fair, this one belongs near the top of this list. But since almost all of us know it belongs here, it’s at number 10 to get it out of the way. Now you can enjoy the rest of the list accompanied by vintage internet classics like the iconic All Your Base Remix and Zero Wing Rhapsody.
9: Breath of Fire II
Breath of Fire II is an great SNES RPG that, while maybe a little rough around the edges, mostly stands the test of time. The same cannot be said of its absolute train wreck of an English translation.
It’s more than just amazingly awkward phrasing and funny grammar mistakes. We’re talking moments of straight up text gibberish. Breath of Fire II‘s localization is so bad that fans literally retranslated the whole thing so people could finally enjoy its surprisingly compelling storyline. Yes, this is a rare case where a game needed to be translated from English into English.
8: The Legend of Zelda
Okay, look, I know we all love the “It’s dangerous to go alone” line. Probably half of us have a T-shirt from Hot Topic that proves our adoration of it. But let’s be real here, The Legend of Zelda has a legendarily vague and silly localization.
Seriously, what kid in the 80s and 90s could possibly understand what “EASTMOST PENNINSULA IS THE SECRET” means!? Even the Zelda Wiki hasn’t reached a clear consensus on its meaning to this day. If it weren’t for magazines like Nintendo Power, who’s to say if any of us would have figured out how to beat The Legend of Zelda? But at least we can all agree on one thing: Dodongo dislikes smoke.
7: Mega Man X6
Mega Man X6 is… uhh… let’s just say it isn’t giving any of the best games in the Classic Mega Man series a run for their zenny. I know my #1 choice in my list was a bit controversial, but come on, even I’m not that much of a monster.
But regardless of the game’s quality, this translation is beautiful in its awfulness. On top of silly errors that are all worth a chuckle, you get tons of gems like “I hid myself while I tried to repair myself” and “you must be busy dying so many times.” This is another case of a game that fans have felt the need to retranslate, but honestly, I think X6’s dialogue might be its best feature.
6: Ghostbusters (NES)
Looking at the ending screen of the NES Ghostbusters is like staring into the abyss. Once you see it, you just can’t look away.
To be fair, this English text was technically in the Japanese version. But still, just on a sheer conceptual level, this ending is incredible. They literally congratulate themselves on their game (sorry, “conglaturate”), and then talk about proving (or prooving) justice in a game about fighting ghosts. Yes, thank you Ghostbusters, I’m glad we can establish that the problem with ghosts is their poor understanding of justice, and not the fact that they’re freaking ghosts.
5: Magician Lord
The funniest part about Magician Lord is that it seems fine at first. The somewhat wordy intro has some amusing phrasing, but overall, it’s standard fare for its time.
But something amazing happens when you play the game.
Before each boss battle, the game’s main antagonist (and “giant evil” according to the intro) Gal Agiese appears to taunt you. And each of these sequences are absolute nonsense. We get 10/10 insults like “What imprudence, you human being!” and “Come on, nice guy! But your life is mine very soon.” These sequences are made all the better by being unenthusiastically voice acted too. Magician Lord might be a fine game, but Gal Agiese makes it unforgettable.
This is another game that “technically” makes it on this list. Download is a Japan only shooter for the PC Engine (or Turbo Graphix in America) with a lot of story sequences in Japanese. However, its various game over screens are all in English, and… oh boy.
Because I need to keep this blog PG, I unfortunately can’t show you screenshots of the game wantonly throwing around more profanties than Shadow the Hedgehog in an R-rated fanfic. Yes, the little English that is here is already total nonsense, but seeing F-words used borderline incorrectly with reckless abandon elevates Download to a whole other level. I would have loved to see what the actual story written in English would have looked like.
3: Vroom In The Night Sky
If you thought bad translations were a thing of the past, then I am beyond excited to show you Vroom In The Night Sky.
Yes, this is an actual Nintendo Switch game about a magical girl riding a motorcycle and flying through rings. While a game that’s functionally identical to Superman 64 would already draw chuckles from the gaming community, Vroom in the Night Sky has an English script so broken that it could be considered art. Even when you aren’t looking at rampant spelling and grammar errors, every conversation sounds like a group of people spouting thoughts without any regard to what the previous person said. For example: “Are not you scared of high?” “It’s too late now.”
As a cherry on top, Vroom in the Night Sky was retranslated to fix its notorious English localization. But in a truly hilarious twist of fate, the new translation actually makes some of the lines worse. But if a hilariously broken script can’t hold your interest, I’d recommend playing one of these magical girl games instead.
2: Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal
I wanted to take a hard line about not including bootlegs or fan translations on this list, but there are few English scripts as hilariously broken as this Vietnamese bootleg of Pokémon Crystal. It’s speculated that this game was an English translation of the bootleg Chinese version of the game, which itself was already translated from the Japanese version of the game. Needless to say, it shows.
I can’t even pick my favorite quote to cite here. You got Pokémon being called “Elfs,” profanities that make Download seem tame, and deadpan translations like Lake of Rage turning into “Angry Lake.” Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal is truly a shining example of how to make a classic Pokémon game so much worse, yet somehow so much better.
1: Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment (PS Vita)
Would you believe it if I told you that there was an officially sanctioned translation of a game based on one of the biggest anime franchises at the time that, at its worse, approaches Vietnamese Crystal levels of comedy gold? Because Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is one of the most hilariously awful localizations the industry has ever seen.
There are so many unintentionally suggestive and terrible lines here that I’m not fully convinced Hollow Fragment‘s translation wasn’t written by an elaborate troll. For starters, the word “penetration” is used so liberally in the script that it loads the entire game with double entendres. Then you get utterly broken syntax and spelling errors like “That means, if this world cleared. Here is no any problem right?” Even if parts of the script read okay, the entire thing feels like a machine translation gone terribly, terribly wrong. And clearly, whatever person was editing the script didn’t have the time nor experience to even attempt to make sense of this incredible word salad.
For what it’s worth, Hollow Fragment did get an entirely new English localization when it was rereleased on the PS4 and PC. But the fact that a game based on a popular anime franchise could ship with such a broken script shows that English translation isn’t nearly as easy as it looks. So if there’s a localization company you like that consistently puts out high quality translations of foreign media, you might want to send them a quick thank you for their work. Otherwise, we’d still be trying to figure out the meaning behind lines like “MASTER USING IT AND YOU CAN HAVE THIS.”