It’s a cruel world we live in – many of our favourite games aren’t developed by English-speaking development teams and writers, meaning that not only do we have to wait a little longer than others to play the translated versions, but we also occasionally encounter some very…unique phrasings. For those of you who grew up in the 80s and 90s, this is probably an all too familiar thing.
Back then it was all about the flashes, the pixelated explosions and the joy of mashing buttons just a little faster and better than our friends – nobody really cared about the dialogues. This was in part because they sucked. Before video games went ‘mainstream’ money for the devs was usually tight, so there was no budget for a translator or even another writer to be hired – the translations would be done by whoever was around.
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This could include Tanaka the developer and his phrasebook – in fact, that is often how it went. While at the time we couldn’t appreciate the rare beauty that was these translation fails, we can now – for some of these games, they may just have been the best thing about them. And no, that isn’t us hating the games – these mishaps are just really great.
1. Ikari Warriors
This game was famously difficult. Released for the NES, the game was known for being frustrating, and a grind before grinding was a thing. Well, if you were among the lucky few skilled enough to have reached the end of the game (we know you probably weren’t. Don’t worry, we didn’t finish it either.), you got a congratulations message.
It started off well enough – “You have accomplished the mission.” Then it quickly unravels. “You are the very prevailer that protect right and justice.” Thanks for that, we think. And then, ”I would express my sincere. Thanks to You. Take good rest!”
2. Pro Wrestling 1986
Yet another Nintendo game (you’d think they of all companies have the funds to hire a translator or proofreader) with a translation fail. This one was in fact so iconic that it became an Easter Egg in other games – placed there in loving reference to the original.
What is it? Well, when you beat this game, you’d be praised with the phrase ‘A winner is you!’ Now, there is a chance that we misunderstood this and it actually isn’t a mistake at all – after all, if more than one person wins, there is more than one winner, making us one among many. Ok, that’s probably not it, but it’s a possibility.
3. Zero Wing
Perhaps the most legendary of all translation mistakes ever came to us by way of this arcade game. The European version of it featured what is easily the most well-known mistake of all times; All your base are belong to us.
Although that is what it is most known for, the game actually sported several more of these gems: Somebody set up us the bomb – this one too is fondly remembered and occasionally used as a reference in other games – and another good one: You have no chance to survive make your time. To be honest, we don’t even understand what the last one wants to tell us – other than that it’s a threat and we may be late for something.
4. The Adventure of Link
Now, errors aren’t exactly something you’ll want to encounter in your games. Before day one patches and such, fatal errors could cut your gaming fun real short, real quick. This game took a much cuter approach – although probably not intentionally.
Errors can take all sorts of shapes, and few of them are funny – this one is. Of course, this error isn’t an error at all – no, in the game you meet a guy that introduces himself with ‘I am Error’. This is actually a mistranslation of a joke made between developers – there was also a guy called Bug.
5. Final Fantasy IV (in the US FF II)
Nintendo America is well known for censoring and changing absolutely anything that could even remotely be considered offensive – to the point whether they changed the magic spell Holy to White. While that is impressive in and of itself, that isn’t the issue here – some Japanese phrases don’t translate well – especially insults or insulting ways of speaking.
Because of that, we got what can only be described as the best insult of all time – You spoony bard! This is what our main characters calls the man who runs off with his daughter. In this scenario we’d have a few choice words for this fellow too, but neither spoony nor bard would feature – which really is a pity if you think about it.
6. X-Men 1992
This arcade game featured Magneto – now that he’s been played by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender, it’s no surprise that he has become an absolute fan favourite for the masses…in actuality though, he should have earned cult status much sooner.
Specifically, in the year 1992, when he made the best death threat ever seen: ‘X-Men, welcome to die!’ We can only imagine that said X-Men had to try very hard not to burst into giggles at his brave declaration. Honestly, supervillains are supposed to be super-articulate, aren’t they? You can do better Magneto!
7. Ghostbusters 1988
Whether you liked the new Ghostbusters movie or not, the franchise itself has been loved by many for a long time – despite, shall we say, certain hiccups. What do we mean? In the 1988 NES game, we got an interesting congratulations message if we beat the game.
Specifically, it praised us as follows: “Conglaturation !!! You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!”
Grammar mistakes are usually funnier than spelling mistakes, but in this example it’s a close call – it’s pretty hard to argue with Conglaturation!
8. Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
Newer games tend to be much better when it comes to translated content. Now that the English market is one of the biggest for games, it’s no surprise that devs are more heavily invested in their localisations…usually. This rare gem form 2014 didn’t get the memo.
It’s pretty bad. So bad in fact, that Destructoid called it ‘the true Engrish World Champion’. That’s quite the accomplishment – with sentences like “Would not doing other thing else and focus on attacking be better?” and “Maybe the change in environment is being good stimulation.” it’s well-deserved though.