Video Games Localization and Translation Errors

The video game production is worth billions. Nowadays, more than 50% of the revenue made by this trade comes from worldwide markets. Although most video games are developed in Japanese, the new global market demands that video game developers translate their products into English languages. Global audiences can enjoy video games – if they’re translated and localized by professional international translation services to fit the requirements of each market.

Game developers have come to understand the value of game translation and professional localization of text, sounds, graphics, and symbols.

All your bases

But this wasn’t always the case. Several games didn’t use international translation services into their international releases – resulting in some significant bloopers. Bad video game translations can be funny, frustrating, and fascinating all at the same time. Localization doesn’t always receive the attention it justifies from video game developers and publicists, but it’s something you can’t afford to ignore in today’s market.

Gaming is one of the few genuinely global industries filled with passionate followers who care about their favorite titles, which merely means providing localization isn’t sufficient. You have to nail it. Poor localization can make your games costlier to produce, damage sales and create all sorts of bad press. We see workshops large and small making the same errors time and again.

Here is seven video game translation bloopers:

1. All your base belongs to us

Maybe the most quotable bad game translation of all time, “all your base belongs to us” has grown legendary amongst gamers and non-gamers alike. This is a game translation from Zero Wing. The original order meant something like “with the help of the Federation Government forces, we have got all of your bases.” Without professional international translation services, the sentence got lost in translation.

2. Your fists of evil are about to meet my wall of niceness

This is another video game translation treasure that gets from Fatal Fury Special. Again, it’s grammatically accurate, but not a perfect fit for this rough-and-tumble video play sub-genre. This character’s statement that he is a “steel wall of niceness” doesn’t work as intimidating, pre-fight bluster.

fists of evil

3. Destroy the mother brain the mechanical life vein

At the starting of the Metroid video game, published in North America in 1987, players were recognized 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 ultimately becomes clear through gameplay, this translation of the original Japanese text has some significant errors. What is a mechanical life vein anyway?

4. You make me so flustered

Video game translators require to be conscious of the genre’s rules. The translated line from Fatal Fury Special, a 1993 fighting game translated from the Japanese original, doesn’t seem to have any significant grammatical mistakes. Though, the translation isn’t suitable for this video game genre. The character Big Bear speaks the sentence after he is beaten in a fight. Would an intimidating, experienced brawler use dictionary like “flustered”? We don’t think so. This is why experience with the language and its nuances is essential for accurate game translation. A technically correct translation that doesn’t hold a game’s tone separates the player from the play of the gaming world.

5. Conglaturation!!!…

This translation mistake appears upon the end of the US version of the Ghostbusters video game published for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game, formerly in Japanese, was based on the hit movie Ghostbusters. The complete screen in English reads: “…You have finished a great game and proved the fairness of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!” Fittingly, Bill Murray, star of the movie on which the game is based, would later feature in Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation.


6. Somebody set up us the bomb

Often called as the most poorly translated video game, the Japanese Sega game Zero Wing, for the Sega 32X, is still offensive today for its embarrassing but memorable game translations. Although the side-scrolling arcade game was developed in 1998, its translations are still recognizable more than ten years later because of their odd mistake. The above sentence, if well translated, might read something like: “An unknown assailant has planted an explosive device.”

7. The truck have started to move!

The first base of the popular series, Metal Gear, was developed in Japan in 1987 and localized for American fans when produced on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in June of 1988. But the game translation, highlighting several basic grammatical mistakes, left lots to be wanted. Although they’re simply decoded, the translation of this traditional game often gives you laughing for the crazy reasons. Other translation ‘highlights’ in this game: “Contact missing our Grey Fox” and “I feel asleep!”

Professional international video game translation and localization services enhance the action and improve the player’s experience. Make sure your game is recognized for great gameplay – not for bad translation.