Every once in a while, a game comes along that has everything: a great plot, excellent gameplay, exceptional graphics, incredible replay value – the works. And every once in a while, the company in charge of such a gem allocates so much money to the design, development and implementation of the game that the task of naming the game gets left to the graphic designer’s 4-year-old nephew.
We’re not talking about games with awesomely awful titles, like “Battletoads”. We’re talking about good games that, for whatever reason, just have truly terrible titles. Don’t get me wrong, these are really great games, and there are dozens of games with much worse titles than these (“Ninja Hamster”, “Wargasm” and “Irritating Stick” to name a few) – but these are games that manage to be simultaneously really good and really bizarrely named.
#10: Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
We’ll start out with Dirge of Cerberus, only because I may be the only person to consider it a “great” game. Let’s dissect the title: Dirge of Cerberus. What exactly is a ‘dirge’? According to Wikipedia, a dirge is ‘a somber song expressing mourning or grief, such as would be appropriate for performance at a funeral.’
So to start out, this is a game about a really sad, mournful song. Off to a great start, aren’t we? Just want I want, to pop in a game into my console and immediately get depressed. But what else do we know? Whatever this dirge is, it belongs to Cerberus. Cerberus, as you might know, is a three-headed demon dog that guards the gates of hell. If you’re a three-headed demon dog, what the heck do you have to be sad about? You have three vicious heads, and you get to eat anyone that tries to escape from hell. How awesome is that? But we must remember, in Dirge of Cerberus, Cerberus is also the name of one of Vincent’s guns.
So the title either means that the awesome demon dog guarding hell for some reason has something to whine about and is doing so quite lyrically, or that Vincent’s gun somehow grew a pair of vocal chords and a melodic ear and is mourning the deaths of all the faceless people it’s killed. Either way, what the heck?
But don’t let that stop you: Dirge of Cerberus is an underrated third-person shooter with a refreshingly innovative plot for the genre. Plus, Vincent’s a total badass, and Steve Blum is the greatest voiceover artist ever.
#9: Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
This title has two problems. First and most obviously, you need to pause to breathe just to say the entire title outloud – there ought to be an 10-syllable limit on game titles, and this one comes in at a resounding 13.
Not the longest we’ll see by a long shot, though. Secondly, and this is just a personal opinion, you don’t need to give a sub-title to the first game in a series. Sub-titles should be used to differentiate subsequent iterations in the series. However, for the sake of fairness, I have to say that while using foreign phrases as titles is often gimmicky, it actually serves a purpose in the case of Baten Kaitos. The literal translation – “the belly of the whale” – has plot significance, and the star theme (“Baten Kaitos” is the traditional Arabic name of a constellation) is used quite frequently throughout the game.
But don’t let that stop you: Baten Kaitos is the most gorgeous games on the GameCube and one of the most breathtaking ever, and its unique battle system, vibrant locales and fresh plot twists make for a one-of-a-kind gaming experience.
#8: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Bear with me for a second. With its immense popularity, its common consideration as one of – if not the – best game of all time, and its place in the most popular game series ever, the title has become so commonly read or spoken that the meaning is lost. But try to rewind with me all the way back to early 1998. The title’s been announced, and it’s been in development for years, but aside from a few short gameplay movies you don’t know much about the game.
Now, with that in mind, think about the title: “Ocarina of Time”. If you’re like I was, two questions crossed your mind: what the heck is an ocarina, and what does it have to do with the passage of time?
The release of one of the most epic games in video game history answered these questions and more, completely altering the knowledge of ocarinas for an entire generation: but examining the title alone, without any knowledge of the game, yields some very interesting questions.
But don’t let that stop you: Ocarina of Time is one of, if not the, most popular game of all time for a reason, and it’s one of only a select few games I believe every gamer of every age should play at some point in their lives.
#7: The World Ends With You
Now here’s an interesting one. Two games ago, I said that it’s a bit silly for the first game in a series to have a sub-title associated with it – sub-titles should be saved for sequels for extra differentiation. But in the case of The World Ends With You, the name of the game itself reads like it’s a sub-title.
The typical video game title is rooted in a noun: the LEGEND of Zelda, Final FANTASY, DIRGE of Cerberus. But in the case of The World Ends With You, they opt not for a noun phrase, but for an entire sentence. And not one of these you-understood sentences like “Kill All Humans!”, but a full-on, subject-and-predicate sentence.
But what really puts The World Ends With You over the edge is its oddly awkward acronym: TWEWY. Sounds like a Looney Tunes character.
But don’t let that stop you: with an incredible unique graphical style, an innovative active battle system and a twisting, anime-esque plot, The World Ends With You is one of the best portable gaming experiences there’s ever been.
#6: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
The game that inspired this list for me is Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. Not only does it fall into the trap we’ve seen before (and will see again) of having a title that requires a deep breath in the middle of it just to finish reading, but its subtitle is also simultaneously too vague and too wordy. How is that even possible? A ‘grimoire’, in case you are unaware, is a magical textbook. Not a chemistry book that flaps around and yells at you, but a textbook that teaches magic.
Fine, there’s magic in the game, that makes enough sense, though next time let’s leave the SAT vocab lesson out of it. But somehow this grimoire belongs to a rift. How can a rift own a book? And more importantly, what rift are they talking about? The game really only alludes to its existence, and overall it comes across more as a necessary plot device to facilitate the rest of the game rather than a truly integral part of the plot. A bit odd to include something like that in the actual title for the game itself.
But don’t let that stop you: Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a whole new and incredible twist on the classic Tactics formula, keeping enough the same to hold the same appeal while adding enough new features to keep everything fresh and interesting. It’s a surprising must-play.
#5: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
It’s tempting to chalk up the bizarre title of this game to simple Japanese use of an online translator to release an English title for their game. After all, we know that Japanese titles differ wildly from their typical American counterparts. But that’s what sets Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together apart – that is the actual Japanese title of the game.
Released in America under the truncated title Tactics Ogre, the official Japanese title was also in English and carried promises ogres defeating their enemies through the power of hugs. Sadly, that was not the case. I can only assume that the publishers meant something along the lines of “Let us stick together”, “…stand together” or “…unite together,” but the lesson is not to use online translators to name your game.
But don’t let that stop you: one of the first strategy games of its kind, it’s still a shining example of the appeal that tactical games still hold on us all.
#4: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
For those who frequent lists of worst video game names, this one will comes as no surprise – except for the fact that as a game, it’s actually surprisingly good. Boasting surprisingly good graphics and an extremely long character list, Princess Tomato was one of the strongest games of its click-and-choose genre. But none of that changes the fact that almost every character was named after a vegetable, including the game’s namesake.
Princess Tomato, living in a kingdom named Salad. What in the world? But it does beg an interesting question: the main female character of the Mario series is also named after an edible, varying between Princess Toadstool and Princess Peach. Why do those sound more normal? Is it because the game became more popular? If Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom reaches Mario Bros.-level popularity, would ‘Princess Tomato’ roll off our tongues as easily as ‘Princess Peach’? Alas, these are questions we will never know the answers to.
But don’t let that stop you: Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom is a fantastic relic of the older age of video games, and a truly nostalgic journey for anyone with a bit of time to kill.
#3: Elevator Action
One of my favorite games of all time has perhaps the most boring title of all time. ELEVATORS?! IN ACTION?! What could be better?! The problem with this game is, again, two-fold. First of all, the name they chose doesn’t refer to the game’s content in any useful way. Yes, there are elevators, and yes, they make up a key part of the gameplay. But maybe we should also allude to the fact that you play a spy armed with a pistol, and your goal is to sneak into building crawling with enemy spies, steal some documents and get out.
So not only is the game title rather unrepresentative of the actual goal of the game, but it’s also a really boring-sound title in itself. When I hear elevator action, I don’t think of spies – I think of a guy in a control room nomming on a jelly donut and sending elevators to their destinations. And that doesn’t strike me as exciting. “Shoot, there’s people waiting for elevators on both floors 2 AND 9, but the people on 2 want to go up while the people on 9 want to go down! What do we do what do we do?!?!” Yeah, no. Stick with the spies.
But don’t let that stop you: Elevator Action is one of the most surprisingly entertaining games from the NES era, yielding a perfect combination of strategic planning and reaction ability.
#2: Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam
In this Gundam game, you control a Gundam that has to Gundam-fight with other Gundams in order to save the Gundams that comprise the rest of the Gundam universe. Your Gundam is outfitted with Gundam weapons, Gundam armor, Gundam engines and Gundam fuel and is perfectly well-equipped with Gundam accessories to fight the other Gundams that other Gundam pilots fly to try to destroy your Gundam.
You can customize your Gundam with plenty of Gundam add-ons to build the most Gundamtastic Gundam of your imgundamation. Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam. Gundam. Oh, and Gundam Gundam. Gundam! Rule #1 of video game naming: If your title is 6 words long, three of them should not be the same darn word.
But don’t let that stop you: Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam Gundam. Gundam!
#1: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army
Remember the 10-syllable-or-less rule I suggested under Baten Kaitos? This title took that rule and ate its very soul. Ringing in at a resounding 23 syllables, this is the longest video game title I’ve ever found. Its sequel – Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon – rings in at the same 23, though the numeral makes it slightly more acceptable in my eyes.
But man, talk about needing to take a deep breath before speaking the title. Colons and hyphens are overused in video game titles as it is, but two in one title is taking it to a whole other level. What’s even more amusing is that while we’re used to seeing exorbitantly long titles for Japanese games, here the English title is even longer than its Japanese counterpart.
But don’t let that stop you: with impressively realistic graphics, an anime-style believably-supernatural plotline, and interesting ties to real-world events and legends, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army is… hmm. It seems I forgot what I was saying in the time it took me to type the game title. Darn.
There you have it – conclusive evidence that the naming rights to your video game should not be left to your 5-year-old nephew, your accountant, or anyone with a degree in English and a penchant for writing very long-winded essays. If you ever make a game, remember these simple rules. Rule #1: Don’t use any single word more than twice.
Rule #2: The first game in the series doesn’t need a sub-title. Rule #3: Your game name is a noun, not a sentence. Rule #4: 10 syllables or less. Rule #5: Don’t use the words ‘elevator’, ‘tomato’, ‘cling’ or ‘grimoire’ unless your game is really about mechanical engineering, salads, laundry day or the SAT. And Rule #6: unless your game gets HUGE, no one’s going to have any idea what that obscure instrument in the title is – so if you’re going to publish a game called “The Glockenspiel of Ages”, you better be dang sure it’s good.