A little quirkiness in a video game is often a good thing. After all, the repetition of wiping out hundreds of clone-like enemies or exploring levels that are eerily similar to ones you've just wandered through can wear down even the most dedicated of players.
But sometimes, developers charge happily into the land of absolute insanity, letting their freak flags fly as they stretch their creative muscles to keep us on our toes. In an even more surprising reality, sometimes those gigantic leaps of faith are actually a heck of a lot of fun -- though sometimes, of course, they stink.
From grumpy, sentient fish to communist alien invaders, gaming's past is littered with weird games. Here are 10 that are certainly make the short list.
Tentacles: Enter the Dolphin
Windows Phone/iOS, 2012
First launched on Windows Phones, this bizarre mobile game recently made its way to the App store. How to describe it? The title is actually spot-on: You play a multi-tentacled organism named Lemmy traveling through the heart, colon, and other vital organs of a dolphin/human hybrid scientist. You lose health by running into spikes and other hazards. You regenerate it by ripping out (and eating) the eyes of other microorganisms.
Disgusting? You bet, but it's also not too shabby...for a game about exploring the inside of a dolphin, that is.
Sega Dreamcast, 2000
The short-lived Sega Dreamcast did a lot of things differently, but this virtual pet simulator narrated by Leonard Nimoy was its high point of insanity.
Rather than caring for a dog or cat, you tended to a human-faced fish, who eventually evolved into a human-faced frog-like creature. How? By talking to it using a special Dreamcast microphone (which wasn't exactly state of the art), although the grumpy little beast usually rewarded your efforts with derision and snarky comments. He also had a heckuva memory, remembering odd tidbits of your past conversations. Creepy, creepy, creepy.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
The Nintendo Entertainment System was a breeding ground for odd games. This one, though, has gathered a cult following of sorts in recent years.
You play Sir Cucumber, a knight charged by the late King Broccoli to conquer the deceptive Minister Pumpkin, who has kidnapped Princess Tomato and stolen the Turnip Emblem. You're aided in this quest by Percy, a baby persimmon, who helps you defeat the evil Farmies as you make your way to the Zucchini Mountains. Sounds tasty.
The muscle-bound misfits who star in this absurd Namco game just want to keep gobbling down their protein powder, but pesky thieves keep stealing it. Luckily, the thieves crash through walls in their haste to escape. Your job, should you be odd enough to accept it, is to match their poses and chase them down city streets, through pharmacies and into outer space. While it wins huge points for sheer weird muscle mass, it gets sand kicked in its face for its awful, shallow gameplay.
The TurboGrafx-16 might not go down as one of the greatest consoles of all time, but it boasts one of the oddest (and grossest) games.
The story starts with a young boy being sucked into a toilet, undoubtedly setting sibling potty training back by several months in some real-world homes. From there, Toilet Kids lives up to its title by morphing into a scrolling top-down shooter, where the hero shoots enemies with — what else — his poop.
Xbox 360/PS3, 2010
This 2010 title shows what happens when you push a teddy bear too far.
When Naughty's not invited to Daddles' birthday party, he makes a gift anyway as a gesture of kindness. He's laughed at by other bears, though, sending him into a homicidal rage. It sounded, initially, like a fun twist on the action genre, but the game was eviscerated by critics, who made the developers of Naughty Bear a bunch of sad pandas by giving it a not-so-nice Metacritic score of 43.
The tagline for this 2011 game pretty much says it all: "Loving Father. Caring Husband. Secret Octopus."
It's a puzzle/adventure title developed by a team of students at DePaul University. You play as an octopus, posing as a human, who must collect items in order to build a mannequin to avoid a dinner with your wife. Sounds easy enough — but remember, you have no bone structure, because you're an octopus. A sequel, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, is coming out next year.
Communist Mutants from Space
Atari 2600, 1982
While the Atari 2600 software library generally didn't have in-game stories that were too deep, the boxes they came in often helped set the tone.
Imagine what players of this 1982 title must have thought. Playing off Cold War fears, the Space Invaders-like title warned players that aliens from the communist planet of Rooskee (no, really!) were invading democratic planets, whose inhabitants were converted into "Communist Mutants." As if that weren't enough, there was an evil overlord who had gone mad due to irradiated vodka.
Playstation 2, 2004
This puzzle/action game doesn't raise a lot of eyebrows today, but when it was first introduced in 2004, no one knew quite what to make of it. Rolling a giant sticky ball around a room to rebuild the stars? A binge-drinking King of All Cosmos? A 5cm tall hero? It was like nothing we had ever seen. The weirdness continued in a series of sequels, most recently Touch My Katamari for the PlayStation Vita, which saw the king in a fit of depression.
Playstation 2, 2002
It isn't easy being a mosquito. You're tiny and fragile, for starters, plus if you don't fill up with lots of yummy human blood, you'll never survive the winter.
Or at least that's the goal of Mister Mosquito, a Playstation 2 game in which players darted about as a bloodsucking bug trying to feast on a delicious Japanese family. Surprisingly, it's less disgusting than it sounds, featuring gameplay quirky enough to warrant halfway decent reviews -- and a LOT of itchy bumps.