#3. Darkened Skye, the Skittles Game
Darkened Skye follows the adventures of a young sorceress named Skye as she wanders the land collecting magic Skittles to do battle with the villainous Lord Necroth and restore the Great Rainbow, because for some inexplicable reason a roomful of adults decided that this was a bulletproof investment of both time and money that would guarantee their continued employment for years to come.
Loosely based on Skittles' "Taste the Rainbow" ad campaign, the game has players sprint around fighting monsters and gathering up different-colored Skittles while a gargoyle delivers painfully unfunny observations. A Skittle meter displays how much Skittle energy you have for each color of the candy, which determines what kind of magic you can perform. But here's the best part: Notice that it's impossible to tell from the game's title that it has any connection to Skittles, and that Skittles neither are mentioned nor appear anywhere on the cover.
"Ah, finally a game I can buy that has nothing to do with corporate interference."
Yes, despite the embarrassingly ridiculous "candy magic" system, the makers of Darkened Skye deliberately tried to minimize the presence of Skittles in the game. While this is admittedly a good rule of thumb for game design in general, it maybe wasn't the best plan for the only game in history created for the explicit purpose of advertising Skittles. Seriously, check it out:
Oh, wait, we see it now. There's a Ski- no. No, there isn't.
What the hell does any of that have to do with fruit-flavored candy? We combed the Internet for some Skittle-laden screenshots, and this is the best we could come up with:
Now that's a fucking Skittle.
The only way you'd be able to tell that this was anything other than a generic bargain-bin game would be if you happened to read the small print on the back and noticed the Skittles trademark, which, given the candy's absence from any of the art or descriptions, would probably just confuse you into placing it gently back down for the rest of eternity:
Bottom left. That's all you get.
Despite being produced in a direct partnership with M&M/Mars specifically to promote the Skittles brand, Darkened Skye somehow managed to be worse at selling Skittles than it is at being a game (and it is a terrible, terrible game).
#2. Chase the Chuck Wagon by Purina Dog Chow
In case you thought product tie-in advergames were a new invention of a crass and commercialized gaming culture, let's go old school. Chase the Chuck Wagon blazed onto video game consoles back in the early 1980s to place joyously eager players in the role of a dog that chased a miniature covered wagon, which was the basis for a series of pet food commercials that were made when half of the Marx brothers were still alive.
Without a doubt, the first thought that tore screaming through your mind after watching that clip was why in the hell is this not a video game? Indeed, being able to experience that dog's undeniably exciting pursuit of the Indian in the Cupboard's Oregon Trail-mobile as it claymations its way across the dining room floor would be at the very top of every child's Christmas list. Luckily, Purina (owner of the Chuck Wagon brand) produced Chase the Chuck Wagon for the Atari 2600 in 1983, to the delight of an entire nation.
"No, it'll be fine. These mindless fucking idiots will buy absolutely anything in video game form."
The game itself was technically free, but to get it, you had to buy an assload of Chuck Wagon and mail Purina the proof-of-purchase tab on each box. However, contrary to the advertising campaign that birthed it and the one and only promise made by the game's title, you don't actually chase any chuck wagons. The chuck wagon in question just sits there at the top of the screen like a Life Alert subscriber waiting for the ambulance to show up. Your job as the player is to move a vaguely dog-shaped block through the most terrible maze ever drawn by non-blind human beings to reach the chuck wagon, avoiding dog catchers that will detonate your canine body with a single touch.
The exact way they do it in real life.
There are also random bones and things that phase through the walls like poltergeists to try and throw you off the chase (though we must once again point out that it isn't much of a "chase" when the object of your pursuit is stationary). Make it through all that, and you're rewarded with another fucking maze. At least the dog in the ad got to eat something after his hero's trial. The game should be called Find the Chuck Wagon (and Don't Explode), which admittedly would've made an amazing commercial.
#1. King Games by Burger King
Burger King released three different Xbox 360 games featuring their glazed-face King mascot that you could buy for an extra $4 with any value meal. Surprisingly, the games caught on and managed to sell as many copies as Gears of War the year they were released, because apparently people couldn't get enough of the mute hijinks of a faux-plastic monarch who looked like he escaped from a Primus video.
Sneak King has you guide the King on a Solid Snake series of missions, hiding in bushes and trash cans scattered throughout suburbia with the ultimate goal of ambushing people with delicious Burger King menu items, all while trying to ignore the fact that commanding a flamboyantly dressed bearded man as he spies on an entire neighborhood blurs the line between food ninja and sexual predator to the point of non-distinction.
"Time to slip somebody a Whopper."
You actually get more points for waiting until the last possible moment to present the food to your targets before they pass out from hunger, which is a bizarre device to begin with but is made even worse by the fact that the game is meant to be promoting a restaurant. This seems to suggest that only people teetering on the maddening brink of starvation would be happy to see the King and his terrible food.
"Hey, you didn't have to eat a dead raccoon! High-five!"
The other Burger King games inexplicably took the main concepts of Mario Kart (item-based car battles and straightforward racing) and split them into two different games -- Big Bumpin' and PocketBike Racing, respectively. Burger King used the rest of its mascot roster (which admittedly isn't a very deep bench) to fill out the cast of playable racers in both games, along with the baffling addition of Brooke Burke, because what the hell do you care, you got this game with a chicken sandwich at 1 o'clock in the morning.
A thousand years from now, this is all that will remain of our culture.
For more regrettable video games, check out The 20 Worst NES Games of All Time and The 7 Dumbest Video Game Innovations That Actually Exist.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Reasons It's Time to Stop Taking the NRA Seriously.