Hilarious & Legendary Video Game Translation Mistakes: How to Avoid Them in Your Video Game

When developing a video game, there are many aspects that can really set your product apart from others, one of these things is NOT bad translations. While there have been some cases where hilarious localization mistakes have helped some games reach iconic status, being remembered for how bad your game’s translation was is not ideal. Luckily video game translation mistakes are easily avoidable, so make sure to stick till the end to see how. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some hilarious translation fails.

“This Guy Are Sick”: Final Fantasy VII

“This guy are sick” from Final Fantasy VII is a bonafide classic when it comes to video game translation fails. Released by Square in 1997 the game was a massive success globally, but not without its fair share of translation issues, of which this phrase is the most notorious. This video game translation mistake likely resulted from the pressure to quickly translate huge amounts of text under tight deadlines, which was, unfortunately, a very common theme back in the day. 

This translation fail became a source of amusement highlighting the quirky nature of game translations at the time and has since been celebrated in memes and in the gaming culture. However it also sparked a broader conversation about the importance of high quality video game localization.

“I feel asleep!” Metal Gear Solid

The infamous “I feel asleep!” mistake from the original Metal Gear (1987) for the NES is one of the classic examples of video game translation fails. This error occurs early in the game when the player encounters a sleeping enemy guard. The correct phrase was intended to be “I fell asleep,” which would make sense contextually. However, the mistranslation to “I feel asleep!” turned it into a humorous and memorable example of video game translation mistakes. 

Same as the “This guy are sick” mistake, it is very likely that this error was a result of rushed and inadequate localization. Back then, localization teams were smaller, and translators sometimes had to work with limited context for the text they were translating, leading to errors in syntax and semantics.

“All your base are belong to us”

The line “All your base are belong to us” originates from a poor English translation of the Japanese video game Zero Wing. This iconic video game translation mistake appears in the opening cutscene, what a great start! The actual line in the game should have been “All your base are now under our control,” which makes much more sense. Due to the poor translation, the line became an unintentional meme and is often cited as an example of hilarious translation mistakes in video games.

The meme gained popularity in the early 2000s, particularly on internet forums and in online gaming communities. It has since become a part of internet culture and is often referenced humorously in various contexts, including memes, videos, and even merchandise.

Honorable Mentions

While the translation fails highlighted above have become legendary in the gaming community, there are several other games that deserve a spot in the hall of fame of video game translation mistakes.

Resident Evil

The original Resident Evil for Playstation became an instant classic, however, not without awkward and quirky lines. Even if they can’t be fully considered as translation mistakes, the most notable lines in questions were “You were almost a Jill sandwich” and “Master of Unlocking”.

Ghostbuster

Ghostbuster is on a whole other level when it comes to nonsensical and perplexing text. Whether it was trying to understand instructions or to make sense of the dialogue, the game’s poor translation added an extra level of challenge, though it also gave players some hilarious translation mistakes.

Chrono Trigger

Regarded as one of the greatest role-playing games of all time, Chrono Trigger gave fans one of the most grammatically questionable lines in the history of video games. The line “You spoony bard!” has earned a special place in the hearts of Chrono Trigger fans.

Risks of  Video Game Translation Mistakes

While the translation fails we just went over became iconic and still make a lot of us chuckle, we also have to understand that video game translation mistakes or overall bad translations can have a negative impact not only on the game itself but also on the company.

Communication issues

One of the most obvious risks of translation mistakes in video games is the risk of communication problems between players and the game. Video game translation mistakes can cause confusion and ambiguity, leaving players unable to follow storyline, instructions etc. leaving players frustrated.

Damage to Brand Reputation

One thing is to have video game translation mistakes in old, classic games, when the global market was relatively a new thing and many developers and publishers struggled with localization, but today, with all the knowledge that there is on languages and markets, and with how relatively easy it is to work with localization companies, a game filled with translation mistakes would not be so welcomed by today’s players and could hurt your reputation

Legal and Regulatory Issues 

Translation mistakes can also result in legal and regulatory issues for game developers and publishers. In some cases, mistranslations may violate consumer protection laws or content rating standards, exposing the company to potential fines, lawsuits, or other sanctions. Failure to comply with legal and regulatory requirements can damage the company’s reputation and result in significant financial and legal consequences.

How to Avoid Video Game Translation Mistakes

Avoiding video game translation mistakes and the risks associated with them, is actually pretty simple. Make sure to follow these steps.

Invest in Professional Localization Services

Work with experienced localization agencies or translators who are native speakers of the target language and have expertise in gaming terminology and culture. Click here to contact us!

Plan Ahead

Localization takes some time, start the process early in the development cycle to allow sufficient time for translation, testing, and revisions. Rushed translations are more likely to result in errors and oversights.

Provide Context 

Give translators access to contextually relevant information, such as character backgrounds, plot summaries, and gameplay mechanics, to ensure accurate and coherent translations. All this information can be given through a localization kit!

Conduct Quality Assurance Testing

Thoroughly test localized versions of the game to identify and correct any translation errors, grammatical issues, or inaccuracies before release. The translation may have caused some issues or bugs, testing ensures that the final product is fine tuned.

Conclusion

Though some can be hilarious, video game translation mistakes can significantly hurt player immersion, which is one of the main reasons we play video games. Imagine playing a video game where all you do is struggle to understand text, dialogues and instructions because they are translated horribly. Seems frustrating right? Not to mention the risk of getting your game banned in certain markets because of a couple of translation mistakes.

Thankfully it is something that can be easily avoided with some precaution, for example choosing professional localization providers and investing time and attention into the process.

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What are some classic examples of translation mistakes in video games?

Examples include "This guy are sick" from Final Fantasy VII, "I feel asleep!" from the original Metal Gear, and "All your base are belong to us" from Zero Wing.

Why do translation mistakes happen in video games?

Translation mistakes often occur due to the pressure of tight deadlines, the need to quickly translate large volumes of text, and limited access to comprehensive context. Historically, smaller localization teams and less emphasis on accurate translation contributed to these errors.

How can translation mistakes affect a video game?

Poor translations can lead to communication issues, causing player confusion and frustration due to ambiguous or incorrect instructions and storyline elements. They can also damage a game's reputation, affect the immersive experience, and potentially lead to legal issues if they violate local regulations or consumer protection laws.