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The Worst Game In American History

Updated on July 14, 2012
Don't Let The Clever Box Art Fool You.
Don't Let The Clever Box Art Fool You. | Source

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Have you ever played a game that was so terrible, it caused you to spontaneously burst into flames? Okay... maybe not, but surely you've encountered a game that you wanted to toss over a cliff, or maybe even into the gaping hole of oblivion. Any such game would most likely make a "worst games" list; but there is one game in particular that takes the cake: "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" for the Atari 2600. It is perhaps the worst game in American history. Its disappointment to massive hype, horrible and repetitive game play, and negative impact on the video game industry itself, are the reasons that it sits at the top of our "Worst Games In American History" list.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (the game) was based on Stephen Spielberg's popular, and successful blockbuster film by the same name. The movie was so grand in fact, that it grossed nearly eight-hundred million dollars. When rumors surfaced about the making of this game, the hype was through the roof. Many people highly anticipated it, due to the overwhelming success of the movie. Unfortunately, the game didn't live up to the hype. This is most likely because the game was only allowed five weeks to two months for development, due to Spielberg wanting it released in time for Christmas Holiday sales.

The Holes

The game plot begins with E.T. being dropped off by a U.F.O. to explore planet earth, possibly to bring back soil and vegetation samples (as was the case in the movie), but quickly that mission turns sour as E.T’s mother ship hastily leaves due to unexpected problems, leaving E.T behind. Soon E.T is on a survival mission to "go home." In order to "go home," the player must control E.T., and venture about in a pixilated forest, tediously falling into, and exploring dreadfully repetitive holes; in order to gather three pieces of a contact device, that will eventually be used to contact E.T.'s ship. There is a detective who will steal contact device pieces when encountering E.T. outside of a hole, and a timer; if the timer runs out before the player gets all three pieces, then a game over will result.

The element of strategic, and story driven plot progression is close to absent. This bland gameplay is consistent throughout the game. Also, It's frustrating to fall into a hole, not find a phone piece, and spend around five seconds floating out, only to carelessly fall right back in, and this can happen repeatedly. To make matters worse, the victory scene is brief, and E.T. is simply standing outside of Elliot's house, like some kind of estranged stalker. In fact, the game over sequence is more exciting than actually winning the game. At least when you get a game over, you witness E.T. fall down, turn white (presumably due to sickness), and Elliot carries him to the house--something that most players look forward to, after falling into a few grueling, and endlessly repetitive holes anyway.

"Fun Facts" about E.T for the Atari 2600
The game can be beaten in roughly 2 to 5 minutes.
It had around $125 million in production costs.
It led to the videogame crisis of 1983.
It was one of the first video games based on a movie.
The discarded games came from Atari's plant in El Paso
Spielberg originally wanted a "Pac-Man" styled game, but game designer Warshaw created his own vision instead.
Warshaw insisted that he made a good game, given the time he had to work with.
The unsold copies of E.T. were dumped into a New Mexico Landfill, crushed and cemented over to prevent scavenging.


The E.T. game actually caused the ultimate demise of the Atari Empire, since its sales did not make up for its losses. Even after earning 25 million dollars in sales, Atari ultimately lost about one-hundred million dollars due to the game being critically massacred, by players who criticized its terrible gameplay and graphics. In addition, many of these players returned the game. The fall of Atari led to the video game industry crisis of 1983.

There is one scene in E.T. the movie, where E.T. sticks his finger out, and says "Ouch" in response to Elliot. Yes "Ouch" indeed, maybe E.T. knew what was coming for the video game industry in 1983? Unfortunately, his magic touch destroyed it, rather than having saved it. The most criticized aspect of this game, is the gameplay which forces E.T. to repetitively descend into, and ascend out of holes. We find this quite ironic, as a landfill hole is exactly where the unsold copies of this game were buried. Yes, they were put to rest--the time had come. We are just hoping he doesn't ascend from the hole; zombie E.T. may be too much to handle!

Gertie Has A Reason to Scream & So Do Owners of This Game

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial Atari 2600 Game Play

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    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      This hub has been nominated and aside from the poll mentioned above, you can also read the Hubnuggets Team adventure and vote here too:

    • videogameviking profile image

      videogameviking 5 years ago from California

      True, any subjective topic is competitive. I have also played some pretty terrible games, this one at the top of the list, lol. Thank you for taking the time to comment on the hub :)

      This Hub has been nominated for a possible HubNuggets Award: If you enjoyed this article, be sure to vote in the poll here:


    • profile image

      icountthetimes 5 years ago

      I'd imagine that the task of "awarding" the title of the worst game is probably just as competitive as for the best. I've played some pretty dire games in my time! :).

    • videogameviking profile image

      videogameviking 5 years ago from California

      Yes, we can only hope that the video game industry learned its lesson from this event.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh yes! I've read about this before!! It was interesting to read a bit more on the game's background. It is fascinating to consider just how much this one game shaped the industry at the time.

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Oh dear no - this game is so bad that the AVGN (Angry Video Game Nerd) is basing a film on his review of this! While some movie games like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws were awful on Atari, there's little that can rival E.T

      Thanks for th review though!

      PS: There were ET p*rn flicks around this time too, be sure to see the reviews on The Cinema Snob's site hehe. Don't worry - everything's black boxed ^_^

    • videogameviking profile image

      videogameviking 5 years ago from California

      I'm glad you enjoyed the article! I played the game as a child too, and thought the problems it caused the video game industry were interesting and should be shared.

    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 5 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      Oh my god, I hated that game as a kid. I spent about an hour going into the holes, trying to get back out, only to fall in again. It was awful. Truly the worst game of all time. I would have loved, as a kid, to see that landfill blown up with explosives. I've never heard the details surrounding the game, though. Thanks.

    • videogameviking profile image

      videogameviking 5 years ago from California

      It probably could, game play wise. They were both made by the same guy! lol.

    • Ole Number One profile image

      Tim Hyde 5 years ago from Louisiana

      I think this could rival the ET game.