Within the greater gaming community, there exists a subculture of people obsessed with bootleg games. That is games that infringe on copyrights in one way or another. Sometimes it’s a “so bad it’s good” thing, but in a few rare cases, a bootleg game is genuinely entertaining. Here’s a list of the best ten.
10Final Fantasy VII (Famicom)
This Chinese de-make of the PlayStation classic manages to reproduce the original game with a few omissions, notably in the available equipment and side-quests. Developed to capitalize on the Advent Children movie, the game is unique among unauthorized ports in that it maintains a high level of quality throughout, even with the strict hardware limitations of the Famicom. That said, the value is in the technical achievement more than the gameplay, which becomes quite difficult at times.
A long-loved tradition of bootleg games is to take one well-known character and haphazardly smash them into another intellectual property. Though not the only bootleg to crossover Sonic and Mario, Somari is perhaps the most famous.
It’s a decent representation of the original Sonic the Hedgehog (missing only one zone) but the real charm lies in the poor physics programming, often leading to Mario getting stuck inexplicably on the top of loops or coming to a dead stop as he’s about to jump.
8Pokemon Sapphire Version (GameBoy Color)
Released under a slew of names, Pokemon Sapphire Version isn’t a de-make of the GBA title. Rather it’s a strategy RPG set in the first two generations of Pokemon games.
A mixture of original and ripped assets, the engine itself is unlike the usual Pokemon platformer bootleg, though not without programming bugs. It’s also in (broken) English, making it easily accessible for the curious.
7Bio Hazard (Famicom)
This one’s odd because it’s a de-make of a port of an unreleased Resident Evil title, in this case, Resident Evil Gaiden. It captures a lot of the original Resident Evil narrative, going so far as to recreate cut scenes from the PlayStation original, but suffers in the audio department: the sound and music are annoying. That said, it does have a cool feature: interactivity with the light gun during battles.
6Kart Fighter (Famicom)
Released sometime between 1993 and 1994, this game made the logical choice of taking the characters from Mario Kart and having them fight Street Fighter style. Most of the characters play the same and the move list is severely limited, but it still manages to be fun. The developer, Hummer Team, was notorious for reusing engines and assets, and thus elements of this game show up in other games.
5Hong Kong 97 (Super Famicom)
This bootleg isn’t a rip-off or port of another game, it’s just an unauthorized release. It’s mostly original (images are ripped from all over the place, though mostly in the form of .jpeg files) and a simple shoot-em-up.
The plot involves a relative of Bruce Lee going into Hong Kong to karate Chinese communist soldiers to death. That sounds tame, but the craziness is difficult to describe, from the graphic game over screen to the absurd difficulty of the game itself (one hit ends the game instantly).
4Super Smash L (PC)
SSL is a fan game, taking it outside the realms of bootleg for some. Still, it’s an attempt at porting the original Super Smash Bros. to the GameBoy, albeit with a different roster. Though it runs on PC and Mac it sticks to the GameBoy motif, from the visuals and sounds to the controls, relying on just the arrow, Z, and X keys.
3World Heroes 2 (Famicom)
Predating the crossover fighting game by a few years, World Heroes 2 is a hodgepodge of intellectual properties fighting for dominance in the world of copyright infringement.
The bulk of the roster is pulled from Street Fighter and Fatal Fury, but there are a few holdouts including Super Mario, Leonardo from TMNT, Goku, and Final Fight’s Haggar. In a weird point of consistency, the music selection is pulled from the same games as the characters.
2Dragon Fighter (Famicom)
The major difference between Dragon Fighter and World Heroes 2 is that Dragon Fighter pulls its characters from Sega Genesis fighting games, many of them coming from the Mortal Kombat franchise and Justice League: Task Force.
It’s much more difficult than World Heroes 2, largely because of an overly defensive AI, but edges out its sort-of counterpart by having a wider range of moves. That said, both suffer from programming bugs, though Dragon Fighter’s are more on the audio-visual end of things.
1Pokemon Diamond And Jade (GameBoy Color)
This is perhaps the most devastatingly lazy bootleg on the list. It’s a butchered version of the first generation of Telefang games, games which are themselves in the style of Pokemon in the first place. But the attempt to actually pass these off as Pokemon games ends with the box art and shoddy title screen.
Somehow during the translation process, the pirates managed to butcher the game in such a way that it can become nearly unplayable, and several of the original’s unique functions will not only do anything in-game, but they’ll actually crash the game.
The translation itself is a thing of beauty and worth checking out on its own, but if you’re looking to actually get through this game prepare for lots of frustration. Depending on how you play it, it won’t even load save files.