The Worst Video Game Ever?

Being crowned the title of worst anything ever sucks. Having created the worst video game that it had to be buried in the dessert because of its failure would not have been easy for the creators of the game ET, The Extra-Terrestrial.

Magazine advert for ET the video game

It was July of 1982 and the biggest tech company at the time, Atari, decided to buy the video game rights to Speilberg’s, ET movie which had just debuted in June of 1982 and was a huge success. Costing Atari a large sum of $21 million dollars, the game was meant to be an “adventure game in which the player had to help ET phone home by collecting components to make an inter-planetary telephone. The player would have to dodge government agents and scientists to complete the mission” (Hooper 2016). Although it seems like a decent concept for the game, it had a few major downfalls that made it the worst video game ever.

The Major Downfalls

Designing a game with the technology 1982, needed a minimum of 6-8 months but Atari demanded the programmer, Howard Scott Warshaw that the game needed to be created in 5 weeks. After 5 long and stressful weeks the game was completed. “‘Wow, I did it!'” (Hooper 2016).

Sadly after $5 million was spent on advertising, the largest amount at the time ever to be spent on advertising a video game and 4 million initial copies being made, issues began to appear. Players complained that they would get stuck in areas of the game they didn’t know how to get out of and critics complained about the visuals, plot and gameplay.

It’s awesome to be credited with single-handedly bringing down a billion-dollar industry with eight kilobytes of code. 

Howard Scott Warshaw

With the rise of computer games, the ET game only sold 1.5 million units of the 4 million causing Atari a loss of $310 million. In 1983 Atari had buried copies of the ET game along with copies of all its games in the New Mexico Dessert which was finally excavated in 2014. Was it because they wanted to keep copies hidden? Or were they ashamed of what was created?

Interested in what the game looked like? Click the link below to see how the game was played!


Hooper, R 2016, The man who made ‘the worst video game in history’, BBC News, BBC News, viewed 12 August 2021, <;.

Total Failure: The World’s Worst Video Game 2017,, viewed 12 August 2021, <;.

Wikipedia Contributors 2021, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (video game), Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, viewed 12 August 2021, <;.

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