Even the most successful old-school video games don’t often make sense on a conceptual level. One of the most successful games of all time, remember, is about a fat plumber rescuing a human ruler of sentient mushrooms from a dragon who rules over turtles. Oh, and that same plumber gets superpowers from non-sentient mushrooms and flowers forged from fire.
Some games, however, are so weird they couldn’t possibly have found an audience beyond the morbidly curious. In the search for something, anything that might work, developers created strikeouts like the following:
12. Zombie Nation (NES, 1990)
On its own, the idea of a samurai hunting down zombies is pretty normal, for games anyway. But Zombie Nation cranked up the wackiness to 11 by letting you play not as the whole samurai, but just his head.
Yep, in this game you control the floating head of an ancient Japanese samurai, as you travel to the US to kill an alien who turned the country’s citizens into zombies. You fly around the screen and shoot down enemies with eye lasers and…vomit? The samurai head literally spews mysterious goop out of his mouth that kills the bad guys, and while it may not actually be vomit, it sure looks the part.
At its heart, Zombie Nation is basically an auto-scrolling space-shooter, like R-Type or Gradius. But the utter weirdness of its premise, like how your “spaceship” is the severed head of a long-dead Japanese warrior, puts this game into a twisted category all its own.