Bad Video Game Translations and the Cost of Poor Localization

April 22, 2024
Bad Video Game Translations and the Cost of Poor Localization

The video gaming industry is a global powerhouse. It engages with millions of players across various cultures and languages. As developers strive to reach broader audiences, the importance of high-quality localization—adapting game content to different languages and cultures—cannot be overstated.

However, the gaming history is riddled with instances of bad video game translations that have disrupted the gamer's experience. We will delve into the consequences of poor translation and localization, highlight notorious bad localization examples, and offer insights into avoiding these costly errors.

Poor Video Game Translation Effects

For many, bad video game translations can plague a company's reputation for several years. But besides negatively affecting your branding, there are other outcomes from a poorly localized or translated video game. We will explore each of them below:   

Confusion and Frustration

Bad video game translations can significantly confuse players, particularly when dialogue or instructional text is poorly translated. These inaccuracies make it challenging for players to grasp essential game mechanics or follow the narrative, potentially stopping their progress and undermining the overall gaming experience.

This barrier to understanding can lead to heightened frustration and dissatisfaction, consequently diminishing the joy and engagement derived from the game. These negative experiences can dissuade players from continuing with the game, affecting their long-term engagement and potentially deterring them from future purchases from the same developers.

Loss of Immersion

Video games serve as digital narratives, offering players a portal into diverse and engaging worlds. The gamer's immersion into the video game's plot heavily relies on coherent storytelling and authentic dialogue.

However, when the video game's translation results in an awkward or poor usage of the target language, it can shatter your player's 'suspension of disbelief' and make it harder for them to connect to the game. It leads to lower satisfaction and engagement from the players.

Because of this, maintaining linguistic accuracy and cultural relevance in translations is crucial to preserving the integrity and immersive quality of video games.

Bad Reviews and Reputation Damage

Reviews are everything nowadays. If your game has bad video game translations, the players can quickly post negative reviews, which can immediately affect your game's reception and sales.

Furthermore, companies that consistently release games with subpar localization can suffer long-lasting damage to their reputation, which can be both expensive and time-consuming to rectify. The rapid dissemination of user feedback and critiques underscores the importance of high-quality localization in maintaining a positive brand image and market viability.

Missed Revenue

The financial repercussions of bad video game translations can be severe. Inadequate localization can alienate players, causing the game to fail to capture a broader audience. In turn, this directly impacts your sales.

Markets that have the potential to significantly contribute to a game's worldwide success might instead become liabilities, leading to substantial revenue losses. Therefore, investing in high-quality localization transcends merely avoiding embarrassment. It is crucial to create a comprehensive localization strategy to ensure financial stability and success on a global scale.

Learn how you can create a stellar game localization strategy by clicking here.

10 Unforgettable Bad Localization Examples

You might be wondering: What is an example of bad localization in video games?" Well, poor translation and localization in video games have occurred over the years much to the frustration and amusement of gamers everywhere.

To further emphasize how essential it is to do localization tests to prevent poor localization and translations in your video games, we have listed below some bad localization examples: 

"All Your Base Are Belong To Us" - Zero Wing

This phrase, originally intended to convey a message of conquest and threat from an antagonist in the game, became notoriously famous due to its garbled syntax. The line was supposed to signal the beginning of a dire conflict, setting the tone for the game's narrative.

Instead, its awkward translation turned it into a source of humor, sparking countless memes and parodies that continue to circulate on the internet. This example remains a quintessential case of how translation mishaps can eclipse a game's intended atmosphere and narrative, making it memorable for reasons unintended by its creators.

"I Feel Asleep!" - Metal Gear

In this stealth-action game, where tension and atmosphere are pivotal, a guard's notification about another guard falling asleep was translated to "I feel asleep!" instead of the intended "I fell asleep."

This mistranslation dissolved the game's tense environment, replacing suspense with confusion and amusement. It highlights the delicate balance in game localization where a single word can significantly alter the context and impact of a scenario.

"A Winner Is You" - Pro Wrestling

This phrase was meant to congratulate the player on a match victory, yet the awkward grammar transformed a triumphant moment into a comedic one.

The phrase "A Winner Is You" has since become emblematic of poor video game translation, often used to denote any humorous or subpar translation in other contexts. This misstep demonstrates how crucial the quality of translation is in maintaining the emotional tone intended by the game developers.

"You Spoony Bard!" - Final Fantasy IV

What was meant to be a serious insult in a dramatic confrontation was bizarrely translated as "You spoony bard!" in English.

The archaic and nonsensical adjective "spoony" baffled English-speaking players, turning a tense moment into a source of unintentional humor. This phrase has been embraced by the community, enduring as a beloved meme and a stark reminder of how cultural nuances can get lost in translation.

"Conglaturation!!!" - Ghostbusters

At the end of Ghostbusters, players are greeted with the word, "Conglaturation!!!", a glaring typo in what was meant to be "Congratulations!" But I wonder why no one is talking about the awkward phrases after it. For example: “And proved the justice of our culture.”

What does that even mean?

The errors at the end of the game dampened the player’s achievement. It also became a notorious example of why game developers should conduct thorough proofreading and quality control in game development to preserve the final impact on the player.

"I Am Error" - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Another bad video game translation that’s immortalized on YouTube. In this instance, a character meant to introduce himself with his unusual name "Error" confused players due to the direct association of the word with a mistake or problem in computing terms. This translation choice led to widespread jokes and speculation about whether it was an actual error in the game code, highlighting how certain words carry unintended connotations that can disrupt player experience.

"Welcome To Die!" - X-Men: The Arcade Game

We all know Magneto isn’t a native English speaker since he grew up in Germany. But this line made his character funny instead of a villain we should take seriously. The fact it’s said out loud, makes it all the more hilarious.

The phrase "Welcome to die!" illustrates the challenge of translating phrases while maintaining their original tone and intent, crucial for preserving the game's atmosphere.

"This Guy Are Sick" - Final Fantasy VII

During a critical and emotional point in the game, a grammatical mistake in "This guy are sick" instead of "This guy is sick" detracted from the seriousness of the scene. Errors like this can pull players out of the moment, reducing their emotional engagement with the story and characters. 

"Revelaitons" - Resident Evil: Revelations

The misspelling of "Revelations" as "Revelaitons" on the game’s cover not only embarrassed the creators but also became a notable collector's item due to its rarity. This typo points to the broader consequences of localization errors, affecting even the marketing materials and overall brand perception.

"Let's Attack Aggressively" - Contra 3: The Alien Wars

Meant to rally players into action, the redundant phrase "Let's attack aggressively" instead elicited chuckles due to its tautological nature. It failed to capture the original meaning of the source text when it was translated into English. It highlights the importance of localization teams understanding both the original and target languages to keep the game's dynamics intact.

How to Avoid Bad Video Game Translation?

To prevent these errors, developers must invest in skilled translators who understand both the source language and the cultural context of the target audience. Employing native-speaking game translators and conducting thorough playtests across different regions can help identify and rectify potential translation issues.

Furthermore, understanding that translation is not just a word-for-word exchange but also involves conveying the correct tone and intent is crucial in maintaining the game's integrity across languages.


The impact of localization on a video game's success cannot be overstated. It affects not only player’s satisfaction by making the gaming experience resonate with them but it can affect your brand’s reputation for years.

As the gaming industry continues to expand globally, the focus on high-quality localization is paramount. By learning from past mistakes and investing in comprehensive localization strategies, game developers and companies can enhance player experience.

Interested in partnering up with a game localization expert?

Tomedes' global customer success team is available 24/7 to provide game localization services anytime and anywhere. Just get in touch with us and we'll respond right away. 

By Clarriza Heruela

Clarriza Mae Heruela graduated from the University of the Philippines Mindanao with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, majoring in Creative Writing. Her experience from growing up in a multilingually diverse household has influenced her career and writing style. She is still exploring her writing path and is always on the lookout for interesting topics that pique her interest.



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