Video games can be enjoyed by global audiences — if they’re translated and localized to fit the needs of each market.
Game developers have come to recognize the value of game translation and professional localization of text, graphics, sounds and symbols.
But this wasn’t always the case. Many early games didn’t incorporate professional translation into their international release — resulting in some major bloopers.
We’ve compiled seven infamous video game translation bloopers. Which is your favorite?
7) “The truck have started to move.”
The first installation of the popular series, Metal Gear, was released in Japan in 1987 and localized for American audiences when released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in June of 1988. But the game translation, featuring many basic grammatical errors, left a lot to be desired.
Although they’re easily decoded, the translation of this classic stealth game often leaves you laughing for the wrong reasons. Other translation ‘highlights’ in this game: “Contact missing our Grey Fox” and “I feel asleep!”
6) “Somebody set up us the bomb.”
Often cited as the most poorly translated video game, the Japanese Sega game Zero Wing, for the Sega 32X, is still infamous today for its awkward but memorable game translations.
Although the side-scrolling arcade game was released in 1998, its translations are still recognizable more than 10 years later because of their laughable inaccuracy. The above sentence, if properly translated, might read something like: “An unknown assailant has planted an explosive device.”
This translation error appears upon completion of the US version of the Ghostbusters video game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The game, originally in Japanese, was based on the hit film Ghostbusters. The complete screen in English reads: “…You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!”
Fittingly, Bill Murray, star of the film on which the game is based, would later feature in Sofia Coppola’s film Lost In Translation.
4) “You make me so flustered.”
Video game translators need to be aware of the genre’s conventions.
The translated text from Fatal Fury Special, a 1993 fighting game translated from the Japanese original, doesn’t seem to have any major grammatical problems.
However, the translation isn’t appropriate for this video game genre. The sentence is spoken by the character Big Bear after he is defeated in a fight. Would an intimidating, seasoned brawler use vocabulary like “flustered”? We don’t think so.
This is why familiarity with language and its nuances is necessary for accurate game translation. Technically correct translation that doesn’t retain a game’s tone removes the player from the drama of the gaming world.
3) “Destroy the mother brain the mechanical life vein.”
At the beginning of the Metroid video game, released in North America in 1987, players were greeted with this translation of their mission: “Defeat the Metroid of the Planet Zebeth and destroy the mother brain the mechanical life vein.”
While the mission eventually becomes clear through gameplay, this translation of the original Japanese text has some major flaws. What is a mechanical life vein anyway?
2) “Your fists of evil are about to meet my steel wall of niceness.”
This is another video game translation gem that comes from Fatal Fury Special.
Again, it’s grammatically correct, but not an ideal fit for this rough-and-tumble video game sub-genre. This character’s declaration that he is a “steel wall of niceness” doesn’t quite work as intimidating, pre-fight bravado.
1) “All your base are belong to us.”
Perhaps the most quotable bad game translation of all time, “all your base are belong to us” has become legendary among gamers and non-gamers alike.
This is another game translation from Zero Wing. The original sentence meant something like “with the help of the Federation Government forces, we have taken all of your bases.” Without professional translation experts, the sentence got lost in translation.
Professional video game translation and localization enhances the action and improves the player’s experience. Make sure your game is remembered for great gameplay — not game translation bloopers!