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The 10 cringiest games of all time – cringe-inducing dialogue and more

Lines that just make you squirm.

It may be tempting to think of cringe-inducing dialogue as a relatively recent addition to games. The ubiquity of voice-acting — some of it less-than-stellar — and the frequent attempts to mimic MCU-style quips and witticisms often fall flat for players. But the phenomenon is older than many might think, and in almost every generation of games there have been true exemplars of that hallowed art of cringe. Here are some of the most memorable listed in alphabetical order.

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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Image via Activision

Call of Duty runs quite the range of tones across the whole run of the series, from serious wartime epics, to somewhat more outlandish sci-fi-inspired settings. But across the whole spectrum of CoD titles, few can deny the peak moment of cringe from 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. In the game’s second mission, the player character attends a military funeral and, in keeping with the lust for quick-time events of the early 2010s, is instructed to “Press F to Pay Respects.” This clumsy handling of what was supposed to be a moving scene immediately inspired memes and the convention of spamming the letter F in stream chats when a player dies.

Custer’s Revenge

Image via American Multiple Industries

It’s hard to imagine a bundle of pixels inspiring a sense of embarrassment or awkwardness, but anyone who had the misfortune to play Custer’s Revenge on the Atari 2600 will relate to the feeling. The game sees players dodging arrows as an engorged General Custer, aiming to get to the end of the course to have his way with a Native American woman who’s tied to a pole. Without even a line of in-game dialogue, Custer’s Revenge managed to effortlessly vault over the line of propriety and good taste and is widely considered one of the worst games ever made.

Duke Nukem Forever

Image via 3D Realms

Duke Nukem Forever was almost vaporware, ready to be consigned to the scrap heap of history — and perhaps it would have been better if that had ultimately been its fate. Beyond just being a bad game that’s no fun to play, the writing, story, and characterization are all stuck in a tiresome mire of 90s edgelordery that, even in 2011, completely missed the mark with its intended audience. Between its rampant sexism, hollow scatological humor, and one-dimensional macho man protagonist, Duke Nukem Forever simply caused most people who played it to reel with embarrassment beyond anything else.

Final Fantasy X

In what is otherwise a great addition to the Final Fantasy series, there’s one moment in Final Fantasy X that has stood the test of time for players around the world as a cringe-inducing moment — the infamous scene in which Tidus laughs. It may sound innocent enough, but the moment is sufficiently notable to still have people talking about it over twenty years later. At a tragic and emotional moment in the story, hero Tidus gives a big, fake laugh that immediately rose to infamy. In context, the mechanical and unconvincing nature of the laugh makes a bit more sense, but the delivery nevertheless goes down as one of the most memorable moments in Final Fantasy, for all the wrong reasons.

Life is Strange

Image via Square Enix

Life is Strange is a series that is generally very well-loved, with the various entries reliably delivering solid and emotional stories that tend to resonate meaningfully with the audience. The first game, though, has one unfortunate sore point concerning otherwise-beloved secondary character Chloe. Throughout the course of the game, Chloe is very fond of using the word “hella.” Very, very fond. Even — or indeed, especially — in moments where it seems completely out of place, such as when her life is in immediate danger or, inexplicably, in place of the much more common exclamation of “hell yes.” Perhaps it’s just a Pacific Northwest thing, but the verbal tic drove many players to distraction.

Resident Evil

Image via Capcom

There are so very many memorable memes that come from the original Resident Evil’s hammy dialogue. Barry’s inspired comment that you were “almost a Jill sandwich” after narrowly escaping being crushed to death by a falling ceiling, or his assertion that “you, the master of unlocking” should take a lockpick to help you get around, have all gone down in gaming history as some of the most inexplicably charming moments of cringey delivery ever recorded. The more recent Resident Evil games have managed to move past most of the particularly dire bits of dialogue — though no Resi game is ever truly free of it — and so the original game retains the top spot as the cringiest in the series.

Shadow the Hedgehog

Image via Sega

Some time in the early 2000s, some brave soul at Sega dared to ask the most important question of our time — what if Sonic the Hedgehog had a gun? And thus was 2005’s Shadow the Hedgehog born, a game that sought to break free of the stranglehold of ideas like “gotta go fast” and “not being able to shoot enemies” and got exactly the reception it deserved. Plenty of Sonic games have some pretty dodgy voice acting and writing, but Shadow the Hedgehog also made the grievous miscalculation of trying to go dark and edgy with a series that, it cannot be overstated, mostly comprises colorful cartoon animal friends. The mood whiplash that ensued sent players reeling and cemented Shadow the Hedgehog as one of the worst games in the series — and that’s saying something.

Shenmue

Image via YS Net

The popularity of the Shenmue series is something that will never truly be understood. The epic journey of Ryo Hazuki’s hunt for the people who killed his father is undermined at every step by the sheer mundanity of much of the gameplay, not to mention stilted and awkward voice acting and animation. Yet its ravenously dedicated fanbase managed to successfully crowdfund a third instalment to the series nearly twenty years after the last entry. Perhaps for some, the cringe factor of a game is a sign of quality rather than something to be derided.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

Image via Sonic Team

In an effort to one-up the poorly-received Shadow the Hedgehog, the following year’s Sonic the Hedgehog somehow managed to up the ante in terms of cringe. The game itself was practically unplayable, with numerous glitches and bugs and loading times that dwarfed the length of some of the levels themselves. However, the true embarrassment was the game’s story, which many found confusing and needlessly dark, showing many lessons clearly left unlearned from Shadow the Hedgehog. The real kicker was the oft-memed plot nugget towards the end of the game that sees the human princess Elise kissing Sonic, a romantic arc that truly showed just how far off the rails the series had gone.

Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Link: The Faces of Evil

Image via Philips Interactive Media

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the ill-fated Philips CD-i player will feel a terrible shiver of recognition upon seeing a screenshot from one of the Nintendo spin-off games made for it. Hotel Mario was certainly a low point, but the real bottom of the barrel moment came with the release of the Legend of Zelda titles, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Link: The Faces of Evil. The games themselves were pretty bad, but the really nauseating element was the cutscenes, most of which look like they were designed in Microsoft Paint and feature unsettling, inhuman animation. The games have long since been declared non-canon, but the fandom still speaks of them in hushed tones, lest they become victim to a miasma of cringe.


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