Top 10 WTF Moments In Retro Video Games

Modern games have achieved a fair measure of renown for their bugs, glitches, and outright brokenness, with every instance immortally archived within the bowels of YouTube for the enjoyment of millions. Even before people had troubles logging in to their favorite new online game, though, retro video games had their share of WTF moments too. The following are ten of my choices, in no particular order, of moments in retro gaming that make you go “WTF?!”

One important note: There are spoilers ahead. Some say that retro games should be exempt from spoiler warnings and all their in-game information be treated as common knowledge; but, in case you are the type of person who holds the endings of 8-bit cartridges in high regard and does not want any gameplay revelations from the Zelda canon, you may want to avert your eyes elsewhere.



Meeting Tingle

Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64)

So here you are, young hero of Hyrule, thrust into a mysterious alternate dimensional world, wandering about town as you try to make sense of a distorted reality threatened by the oncoming apocalypse of a falling moon wielded by a powerful demonic being, and who do you meet? Tingle, the fairy-obsessed 35-year-old man. Even if you want to avoid the guy, because maybe he makes you feel awkward, you have to interact with him if you want to buy the maps.


Ending Sequence

Super Mario Bros 2 (NES)

Seriously? Even if its supposed necessity is partially explained by the oddity of its Japanese source material, the fact remains: “It was all just a dream” is a lazy, bad, unfulfilled, lame way to end a story in any medium, with video games being no exception. Keep in mind, millions of people had a chance to witness this ending in an era before Internet spoilers but with Mario fandom intact. In other words, in all likelihood, there were probably hundreds of thousands of people that had no idea such a cop-out ending sequence was coming.


That Barrel In Carnival Night Zone Act 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Sega Genesis)

The subject of online tutorials and who-knows-how-many Google searches, this infamous contraption has caused the time-limit deaths of many gamers worldwide. While knowing the trick to it makes it much easier, the maddening aspect of the Barrel is how close you can get to escaping it by simply jumping up and down, thus causing stubborn players to keep trying, over and over, thinking there is a glimmer of hope before inevitably dying when the timer runs out. Next to the word “frustration” in the Retro Gaming Dictionary is a photo of That Darn Barrel.


The Licker

Resident Evil 2 (PS1)

Even if the Resident Evil series of games from Capcom have become more action-oriented and less reliant on atmosphere and jump scares, some of its classic moments still stand the test of time as true WTF masterpieces. To set the scene: In Resident Evil 2, you are immediately pushed into tense survival mode, needing to navigate your way through the wrecked streets of Raccoon City. Soon enough, however, you reach the police station, which seems like a bastion of security and probably a cause for sighs of relief. Within its warm, cozy confines can surely be found allies, ammo, and other help; but so, too, is found this disturbing monstrosity, suddenly dropping down from the ceiling and revealing itself in dramatic, poop-your-pants fashion.



Custer’s Revenge (Atari 2600)

You control the historical figure General Custer in an attempt to move from one side of the screen to the other, while avoiding arrows, in order to have non-consensual sex with a bound Native American girl. If this your idea of good fun, you have my permission to go drink a cup of sand. The rest of us will just sit back and say “WTF?!”


Animated Cutscenes

Legend of Zelda: Wand of Gamelon (CD-i)

There is a twisted tale behind the ill-fated CD-i video game console, one shrouded in industry intrigue, and with flourishes that touch the fortunes of both Nintendo and Sony as well as Phillips. The point is that, due to the twisted nature of the relationships of the companies involved, the CD-i had a few Legend of Zelda games on it, all of which were regrettable and unfortunate. Wand of Gamelon is often especially singled out for its putrid nature, and perhaps notably so because the animated cutscenes are… gruesomely terrible.


Firing Range Glitch

Perfect Dark (N64)

Perfect Dark is one of my all-time favorite first-person shooter video games. I firmly believe it is superior to Goldeneye, especially for its vastly improved multiplayer that not only utilizes A.I. opponents, but does so with an incredible amount of sophisticated customization. Platitudes aside, players can visit the firing range of the Carrington Institute to practice their gunplay with different weapons. But if you wedge the sliding door open with a hovering crate you can get from elsewhere in the building, you can force the door to never shut. This means that, once you get a weapon, you can shoot the attendants waiting outside the range chamber. This is done to an especially gruesome effect with the throwing knives, since they not only remain stuck in their victims, but even cause noticeable blood stains at their entry points. Crossbow bolts are fun, too, as they stick out all askew at awkward angles, sticking far out of the body. WTF.


Ending Sequence

Rambo (NES)

Remember that scene, in the movie, when Rambo confronts the bad guy, and Rambo starts throwing around Chinese characters and turns the bad guy into a frog? … W. T. F.


The Wedding

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)

The situation, even at face value alone, is just straight-up bizarre: Booster, a middling villain, has kidnapped Princess Toadstool and, after much goings-on, has forced her into a farcical wedding in the town of Marrymore and their chapel. With an item-finding quest, such legendary quotes as “Are you leaking, my dear?” (which Booster asks of a crying Princess), and a humorous boss fight with the cake itself, the wedding is an over-the-top absurdity in a game that already made it obvious that it never took itself too seriously. Not only is the entire scene remarkably bizarre, but it culminates with what could probably be considered a big WTF moment of its own: Bowser, Mario’s long-time nemesis, joining his party to assist in a common cause.


Eggplant Wizardry

Kid Icarus (NES)

Kid Icarus is certainly a classic video game, but getting turned into an eggplant is truly weird. What the eff?!


Those are my picks. How about yours? What WTF moments do you remember from retro video games?