You may or may not remember these peculiar games, but for a brief and bizarre moment, they made their way to a store shelf near you. Some were heavy-handedly made for educational purposes and promptly sucked the fun out of the room. Others are still for sale. And for a special few, it’s impossible to say where the creators’ heads were at.

To be fair, you never know which concepts are going to resonate with the masses. One of the most popular video games in history involves a plumber who befriends dinosaurs, stomps mushrooms, and fights turtles. Another one of our most beloved (and famously divisive) board games revolves around buying up property… and that’s about it. The lesson is, don’t knock a weird game until you’ve played it!

With all of that said, some of these are a hard pass. Going in, creators may not have known what people would be into, but it’s abundantly clear why these premises were doomed to fail, even if only in retrospect.

Here are 9 undeniably odd games to come out of the 70s, 80s, and 80s. The question is, are you game?

Séance (1972)

Have you ever wanted to commune with the dead and go to an estate sale at the same time? Milton Bradley’s Séance once made those morbid dreams possible. Each player places a bid on “dead Uncle Everett’s possessions.” He’s left his estate to a parrot in a top hot, aka the auctioneer. That’s so Uncle Everett.

Seance board game commercial
Youtube/TableTopIsland/Milton Bradley

The highest bidder is able to communicate with the dearly departed (through a real record player) and receive further instructions. And that’s not all. Once you turn the record over, you find out the actual value of everything. I bet you’re wondering what happens next in this game made for people 7 & up. Well, the player who held onto the most money after estate taxes wins the game, of course!

This spooky, kooky, and tax-oriented children’s game is a cult classic of sorts these days. On eBay, Séance is currently being sold for around $600.

Town Dump (1977)

On the surface, Town Dump was designed to educate children on the misuse of garbage. How fun, right? From the minds of Milton Bradley, this board game wasn’t totally successful at its alleged goal, and that’s largely due to its contradictory premise.

Town Dump board game box
Youtube/ Captain Unusual/Milton Bradley

Two players would wind up their miniature bulldozers and push trash out of their path. Unfortunately, they weren’t actually cleaning up the mess. One of the main goals of this game was to clear waste from your area by pushing it into your rival’s property. One person’s trash is another person’s…. trash?

Designed for children between 3 and 8, Town Dump unwittingly sent the message that discarded trash is A-okay when you make it someone else’s problem. As you might’ve guessed, the parents weren’t too pleased.

Smokers Wild (1978)

Targeted at older kids, Smokers Wild started out with the best of intentions, more or less. The tagline read, “This game will convince you not to smoke.” That’s quite a claim. However, the tactics employed were… questionable.

Each player had to pick a high-stress profession (Doctor, Undertaker, you name it), then gather money and try to avoid becoming addicted to cigarettes. Naturally, that proved easier said than done.

board game table top
Youtube/Neozaz/The Avalon Hill Game Co.

The more a player smokes in the game, the faster they “advance” on the Life-O-Metre. And yes, it functions how you think it does. Once your time runs out, and you die from smoking too much, you are eliminated from the game. In the end, it wasn’t the worst attempt at putting kids off smoking.

Some say the anti-smoking message was just ahead of its time. Regardless, this one didn’t do very well. Perhaps it’s just better not to base a child’s game around cigarette smoking at all. Just a thought.

Capital Punishment (1981)

This game was notably controversial, especially since it was marketed for children. Still, Hammerhead Enterprises made Capital Punishment happen in the 80s. Reportedly (and not so mysteriously), the now-banned game was designed to make a “political point.” Again, how fun.

In this politically driven board game, each player rolls the dice in a corrupt judicial system. The goal is to incarcerate all four of your ‘criminals’ (a murderer, a rapist, an arsonist, and a kidnapper, to be exact). You’ll either sentence them to life imprisonment, death row, or the electric chair. And that’s not all you have the power to do.

Capital Punishment board game
Youtube/Torture Vision/Hammerhead Enterprises

In this early 80s flop, you can use your ‘liberals’ to snag and spring criminals from the opposing players, removing them from the “Path of Justice” and putting them “back on the street.” Players were also encouraged to turn their opponent’s ‘Innocent Citizens’ into ‘Victims’ of violent crimes.

The innocent victims always went to “heaven,” but that does not redeem the true crimes of this unsettling game.

Sneak ‘n Peek (1982)

In the early days of gaming, developers still weren’t sure what a video game should look like. So, they sometimes turned real-life games into computerized versions just to see what would happen. That’s how Sneak ‘n Peek came to be, the virtual version of Hide ‘n Seek.

Sneak 'n Peek video game
Youtube/Action Games TV/Wickstead Design Associates

Playing hide and seek in video game form doesn’t sound all that bad, but yeah, it might be a bit anti-climactic. The most unusual (and poorly thought out) aspect of this two-player game is that it trusts Player 2 to leave the room while Player 1 “hides” somewhere in the game. Player 2 returns and tries to find Player 1 as quickly as possible.

In Sneak ‘n Peek, the fun of real Hide ‘n Seek is all but lost. On top of that, there are no obstacles along the way and no surprises anywhere to be found. It’s just plain old hide and seek, except on the computer.

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Chubby Cherub (1986)

Do not let Chubby Cherub fool you. This flying angel baby might look like Cupid, but he doesn’t do any of the cool stuff Cupid can do. This video game protagonist has no arrows and makes no one fall in love. However, the game he stars in does come with its own set of puzzling details.

Nintendo Complete/Youtube

A dozen of this unlikely hero’s closest friends have been kidnapped by burglars. Chubby Cherub must fly from one end of the place to the next and save them all. When he loses energy on his quest, this hungry little hero practically unhinges his jaw to eat food floating in the air. As you might’ve guessed, it’s a sight that can’t be unseen.

Oh yeah, be sure to watch out for barking dogs that spit the letter B at you! They’re adorable but deadly.

Zombie Nation (1990)

In the video game realm, the idea of a samurai hero in a world polluted by zombies isn’t that far-fetched. However, Zombie Nation went out of its way to make sure things took oddly dark turns. For one thing, instead of opting for an entire samurai to fight the bad guys, they just went with his severed head.

Zombie Nation video game
Youtube/Nintendo Complete/KAZe/Meldac

Players control the floating head of an ancient Japanese samurai to save the day. While traveling to the US to capture the alien responsible for the zombie outbreak, you must shoot down enemies with your laser beam eyes and/or a deadly liquid substance I can only describe as magical barf. Whatever it is, that stuff spews from the samurai’s head and destroys all enemies in a flash.

Once you’ve accepted that your “spaceship” is the puking, severed head of a ghostly Japanese warrior, everything else that happens starts to feel strangely normal… but it really isn’t.

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Lester The Unlikely (1994)

Who doesn’t root for the underdog? In this forgotten game, you have to play as one. But perhaps they should’ve made the leading character more likable.

Typically, the beauty of underdog narratives is that they become the hero when you least expect it, and it doesn’t take forever. Unfortunately, you might be stranded on this dangerous desert island for a little too long if you’re relying on Lester.

Youtube/WorldofLongplays/Super Nintendo

“Your quest to help him escape is hindered by how unbelievably cowardly he is. Everything scares Lester, to the point where he’ll run away from an enemy even if you’re trying to get him to fight,” per Goliath.

If you stick it out, however, you’ll eventually be rewarded with a new and improved Lester. When it’s all played and done, the unlikely hero of this game can progress and grow, but getting to that point can be a weirdly annoying challenge.

Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon (1994)

In 1994, anti-smoking games were given another shot. Only this time, the brainchild was birthed in video game form. Looking back, Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon wasn’t all that silly or unsuccessful, but it was completely strange.

In this tale as old as time, a tobacco salesman is dying, and it’s your job to save him. But how? Well, you must shrink down to the size of a cell and enter the salesman’s body. It’s giving The Magic School Bus and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids vibes all in one, is it not? Now that I think about it, the late 80s and 90s were a big time for shrinking people. But I digress.

Rex Ronan video game
Youtube/Nintendo Complete/Sculptured Software

Once you’re inside the salesman’s body, you must remove the damage he’s done, including cancer. You can also enter his brain and “remove” the nicotine addiction… with a microscopic gun. Just don’t let the tobacco company catch you! They’ll send tiny, heartless robots to destroy him from the inside out. Yikes.

This health-conscious game does its best to keep things fun yet educational. Along the way, Ronan shares anti-smoking facts and serious messages with the players, just in case you’re having too much fun.

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