Those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s remember when video games were the new hotness. Everyone wanted an NES or a Sega Genesis, and we were all so enthralled with the magic of pressing buttons that nobody even cared how bad the dialogue was.
And often, it was bad. Many games were made in Japan first. The translation wasn’t always a top priority. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Early translations were sometimes “literally done by a “programmer with a phrasebook.” The end result? Some hilariously bad video game translations!
With that in mind, here’s a look back at 8 of the funniest crimes against translation from the video game industry:
Ikari Warriors: Take Good Rest
The end of Nintendo’s famously difficult game Ikari Warriors had an unexpected reward for the lucky few who were dedicated and skilled enough t0 beat the game: an epic translation fail.
The closing message reads: “You have accomplished the mission.” (So far so good.)
“You are the very prevailer that protect right and justice.” (Thanks . . . I think.)
I would express my sincere. Thanks to You. Take a good rest!
Bad Video Game Translations: A Winner is You!
Nintendo’s Pro Wresting was first released in 1986. It was the number one video game in the US for 2 months. And this is how it ends.
This is one of the best-known video game translation errors. According to The Superhero Satellite, “This popular screw up has been loving[ly] placed in plenty of other games intentionally.”
Bad Video Game Translations: All Your Base Are Belong To Us
This translation fail turned legendary Internet meme comes from the European version of the introduction to the popular arcade game Zero Wing.
This game also included gems like “Somebody set up us the bomb” and “You have no chance to survive to make your time.” But the line “All your base belongs to us” is the most famous -it’s been turned into songs, T-shirts and much more.
Bad Video Game Translations: “I am Error.”
This is often cited as one of the most famous mistranslations in gaming history: A character in The Adventure of Link announces “I am Error” when you first meet him. That can’t be right, can it?
According to Legends of Localization, his name really WAS Error:
Apparently the designers decided to call one guy “Error” and one guy “Bug”, but that thematic connection was lost in the translation. The mistake came about because “bug” is phonetically written in Japanese as “bagu”, but apparently the translator didn’t pick up on the “error” and “bug” connection and left it as “bagu”.
Bad Video Game Translations: You spoony bard!
In of the most memorable moments of Final Fantasy IV (released in the US as Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo), one main character calls the man who ran off with his daughter “You spoony bard!”
What exactly is a “spoony bard”, anyway? According to Know Your Meme:
Theories abound about the use of the insult, Some point to Nintendo America’s penchant to censor anything that might offend it’s audience, which is apparent by changing the magic spell “Holy” into the neutral term “White”. There is evidence to suggest this as in the original script, Tellah uses “Kisama,” the harshest word for “You” in the Japanese language, and that the tone of “Kisama” is akin to “You son of a b**” or “You bastard”, as seen from the Final Fantasy Wiki:
It could also have been intentional: “spoony” is an archaic word for having a sentimental crush on someone. Sort of like “moonstruck” without the poetry.
Either way, this unusual translation choice went down in video game history and attained legendary status.
Bad Video Game Translations: Welcome to die!
In the 1992 arcade version of X-Men, Magneto’s big, bad villain speech consists of these 4 words: “X-Men, Welcome to die!”
Did he mean to say “welcome to death?” Is he inviting them to die? You’d expect a supervillain like Magneto to be a bit more articulate.
Bad Video Game Translations: Ghostbusters for NES
“Conglaturation !!! You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!”
Is the ending to the 1988 NES version of Ghostbusters the worst video game translation ever? You decide. It’s pretty bad.
Bad Video Game Translations: Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
And if you have the impression that bad videogame translations are a thing of the past, think again. Studios take video game localization much more seriously these days. That said, some stinkers still slip through the cracks.
For example, consider Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment for the Playstation Vita. Released in 2014, Destructoid called it “the true Engrish World Champion.” Sample lines include “Would not be doing the other thing else and focus on attacking be better?” and “Maybe the change in environment is being good stimulation.”
This shows the importance of using qualified translators. We like to pick on Google Translate, but this time, it was all human error. According to Destructoid,
“I went to a couple of sections with bad translation, listened to what the voice actors said in Japanese, and put that into Google Translate hoping it would spit out something better than what’s in the game. That would be funny, but even this game is miles ahead of where Google Translate is at right now. “
Whether it’s a video game, a commercial, a website, or a sign, when people interact with your business in their language, they expect the words to make sense. That’s not such an unreasonable expectation, is it?
At K International, our team of translators can help you put your best foot forward, no matter where you’re doing business. Don’t let shoddy translation define your brand- contact us today!
1 thought on “8 Hilariously Bad Video Game Translations”
These translation goofs are a good thing sometimes. They give us a look into these other languages, and thus other cultures.