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5 Console and Handheld Games That Launched in a Broken State

Updated on July 13, 2015

One of the most prevalent criticisms of the PC platform is that the ability to patch after release has resulted in many developers being lazy, choosing to release buggy and unoptimized games just because they have the option to patch them afterwards. It’s a harsh but not necessarily inaccurate criticism – there really is a huge number of PC games that were broken upon launch and people who want a plug and play experience are better off on consoles and handheld.

However, that doesn’t mean that consoles and handheld devs are entirely innocent of releasing broken games. Even in the days when consoles weren’t just standardized PCs in a small box, game devs still released broken games – and we’re not talking about broken in the sense of being badly designed (i.e. Superman on the Nintendo 64) but actual games with code that do things neither the programmers nor the players expect or want. Here are some of the more notable examples:

#1 Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest (Super Nintendo)

The Donkey Kong Country franchise is one of the crown jewels of Nintendo’s commercially successful 16 bit console, the SNES. The game brought quasi-3D visuals that rival 32-bit competitors to an otherwise 2D-oriented hardware. The first game was massively successful and the 2nd one, Diddy Kong’s Quest, took advantage of the momentum by providing minor improvements in both content and gameplay.

However, the game contains glitches that only become apparent once you get far enough into the game.

Why is It Broken?

The most infamous of the glitch is the Castle Crush glitch, which occurs when players enter Castle Crush with Diddy Kong as the lead character. When the player picks up the first DK barrel, holds it against a wall and proceeds to drop and pick it up again, the barrel will break but Diddy will still act like he’s holding it. Beyond that, the games code gets all wonky and various glitches happen – including Diddy transforming into various things like a miscolored Klubba, a deformed set of pixels, and even a solid black sprite. Any further attempts to move afterwards could result in the game crashing.

The glitch is so severe that they not only necessitate a reset, but can also erase or corrupt the save data.

#2 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3, Xbox 360)

Skyrim is the fifth installment in Bethesda’s massively popular Elder Scrolls franchise, boasting of a large sprawling world and visuals that were state of the art at the time even without mods. It was released for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC and was widely received by gamers and critics alike.

Bethesda has a track record for releasing games that had the odd bug here and there, and they are mostly excused due to the scope and complexity of their games, not to mention the fact that the bugs were non-game breaking. Skyrim was the exception, because while it includes the expected graphical glitches, it also had nasty bugs that could ruin a player’s progress.

Why is It Broken

When Skyrim was launched, the game was plagued with a huge number of technical issues that include texture downscaling when run from the hard drive, various crashes, stuttering framerate, and the Playstation 3 version even had a random bug that introduced stutters when the save files exceeded 6 MB, which prevented many players from playing for extended periods of time (and some were even led to believe that their consoles were breaking down.)

#3 Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)

Mario Kart DS is the first 3D polygonal iteration of Nintendo’s popular kart racing game on a handheld (the Mario Kart on the Gameboy Advance is 2D sprite-based.) and is generally regarded as one of the best installments of the series, but since it lends itself well to short and quick playthroughs, many gamers missed out on the fact that the game had a lot of nasty gameplay-breaking bugs.

Its addition to this list is noteworthy because Nintendo games are generally regarded as a shining example of quality control, particularly with regard to first party titles. Mario Kart DS proves that no company is really perfect.

What Makes It Broken

The game is full of various collision-detection and visual glitches (enough to fill a single wiki page), but there are a few that qualify as game breaking: the Luigi Mansion Freeze Glitch, which happens on the stairs in front of the entrance of the mansion in the Luigi’s Mansion track. All you need to do is drift in place (by holding down the A and B buttons) and try to turn, which results in the game freezing, requiring a restart.

#4 WWE 2k15 (Xbox One)

The latest in 2K Games’ series of videogames based on the World Wrestling Entertainment license, WWE 2k15 is an odd addition to this list. While the series is not exactly as widely loved as, say, the Mario franchise, most of the complaints are usually with content and not the state of the code. The 2k wrestling games are usually solidly coded and ported since the PS2 and Wii days.

What Makes It Broken

WWE 2k15 is the first game in the series with a flaw that can prevent normal play. On the Xbox One, the game launched with a bug in the MyCareer mode that could see players wasting a lot of time creating complex CAWs (Create-A-Wrestler) only to lose everything when the game decides to crash back to the Xbox One dashboard, without saving any progress.

#5 Pokemon X/Y (Nintendo 3DS)

Pokemon X and Y is one of the most successful iterations of the mega popular (and lucrative) Pokemon franchise and the with 13.85 million copies sold, it is also set to become one of the best selling games on the Nintendo 3DS.

The game is praised for the significant improvements in both the visuals and the gameplay compared to its predecessors, but contrary to Nintendo’s reputation for quality control, the game came out with a rather nasty gamebreaking bug.

What Makes It Broken

There are specific areas in Luminose City where saving the game will cause the handheld to freeze. The bug is dangerous because it doesn’t just force players to restart their handhelds, because it can also permanently corrupt their savegame, effectively ruining hours of progress.

These five are only the tip of the iceberg, especially if you count all the bugged console and handheld games that are still playable and given free passes by the fans. The main takeaway is that neither platform nor a game’s complexity can be blamed entirely (though both of them are factors). Rather, the buck stops with the developers and publishers themselves, as it is their job to make sure that consumers get products that at least works well enough to be completed without requiring any day one patches.

Any other examples of handheld and console games broken on launch? Feel free to sound off on the comments below.

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