There are a lot of video games that compete, whether they like it or not, for the title of Worst Video Game Ever. From games that just can’t be finished due to glitches (like Cheetahmen II), to games that just aren’t at all enjoyable (like E.T. The Extraterrestrial), or just things that are delayed and disappointing at the same time, like Armikrog. Everyone has a most-hated game. But if you really, really want to get into truly dark territory, you need to dive deep into those weird little systems and bootleg carts that are stuffed with low-effort shovelware. The devils are in the ugly, ugly details.
There are dozens of weird little handheld game systems out there, and because they’re so cheap and makeshift, even two copies of the exact same system might be crammed full of different games. It’s on the FC Pocket, aka the Coolbaby RS-20, that Animal Contest festers. It is the worst game ever.
Nice Code is the company that seems to be responsible for about 75% of all terrible plug-and-play bootleg game systems, and contrary to the company’s name, the code is not very nice. Even though their approach to games is scattershot at best, they do have something that kind of functions as a unifying mascot : a red ball-like creature named Nature Clan that stars in games like Sky Dreamer. And even then, he’s just a palette-swapped Lolo.
Charming pointlessness of a mascot who’s just a red ball aside, Nice Code is also responsible for Animal Contest. Guess what this game is about. Just guess. You’ll never guess.
The rules are simple: there are no rules. Life is a meaningless, grey void. Human bodies are just meat. All the stars are dead. Watch.
The mechanics are even simpler than you can imagine: hit a button. That’s it. When you press a button, your animal appears on one of these three presentation platforms, ready for harsh judgment. At the same time, your opponent’s animal also appears. How do you know who wins? Whoever has the bigger animal. That animal wins the contest, and both animals are kept by the player with the bigger, and thus superior, animal. There will be no debate.
Further mechanics are like the card game War. When the animals match, the tie breaker goes to a second animal. And then a third. If all three sets of animals match, you have seven days to live.
At the end of a round, your animals are sucked back into the back void behind the curtains and probably turned into concession food at this circus of the damned. When you win all of the animals, you win the match. When you lose all of your animals… you go on to the next match. Even if you win, you lose. Imagine if Pokemon as conceptualized by a demon-possessed, but exceptionally simple-minded child. The only thing it’s missing is DLC where you can buy even bigger and better animals; a giraffe, a whale, a Cthulhu, a Galactus, a reason to go outside.
Of course, there are no strategic elements. You cannot choose the animal you send into the arena to live or die based only on its species, and not its inherent qualities or abilities; press a button, and the animal appears. Either it wins or it doesn’t. The entire game is a random number generator where the odds are more or less 50/50. Can you ever win or lose? One YouTube video set this on autoplay for four hours; the levels progress whether you win or lose.
The experience is made even better by a churning, nauseas soundtrack that’s just slightly offkey and meandering, like the musical equivalent of the Yellow Wallpaper. And if you don’t know what that is, go read a book.
Is this even a game? By the strictest definition of the word, a game is “a form of play” that can involve “skill, strength, or luck”. Animal Contest is all about luck, but is it even a form of play? It is a form of activity that functions as recreation… it’s just an incredibly poor choice to make. Quite possibly the very worst choice you can make when it comes to video games. It’s kind of beautiful to find the very most of something, even if that ‘most’ is ‘worst’.
For now, Animal Contest is the worst video game ever.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.