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This Is Why Shaq Fu Became A Cult Classic

Some video games become cult classics because they're better than their reputation. Others become cult classics because they're so awful that they're fascinating. Given how much time and money go into making video games, it's a shock when a true stinker reaches the market. Didn't anyone making the game realize how bad it was?


Shaq Fu is definitely the second kind of cult classic. It wasn't exactly uncommon for basketball players to star in their own video games in the 1990's. Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and even Scottie Pippen each got their own games. Shaquille O'Neal's Shaq Fu could have been yet another mediocre basketball video game, but it tried to be so much more. 

Shaq Fu was released in 1994 on Sega Genesis and SNES. Today, it routinely makes lists of the worst games of all time. Here's how one of the 90's most notorious video game flops became a cult classic. 

The wrong game at the right time

A lot of Shaq Fu's notoriety comes from the fact that it's a 2D fighting game starring a basketball player. According to an old issue of Mean Machines Sega magazine, Shaq Fu did actually start out as a basketball game. But since Shaq was a fan of fighting games like Mortal Kombat, which were popular, Shaq Fu evolved into a martial arts game.


While some reviewers at the time tried to see the good in Shaq Fu, many others questioned why the game existed at all. Without Shaq, it was a run-of-the-mill fighting game, and later reviewers have tried to argue that the game itself isn't that bad. But Shaq's participation turned it into a fiasco. 

The 1990's were full of non-actors attempting to cross over to other forms of entertainment, and nobody embodies that better than Shaq. The basketball star released four albums between 1993 and 1998, and although they did attain some commercial success, that may have been due to his fame and not his rapping abilities. He also tried to be an actor, starring in the critically-loathed Kazaam and Steel. Shaq-Fu was received a reception similar to those projects.


Shaq Fu: The Redemption?

If any game didn't deserve a sequel, it was Shaq Fu. But ironic nostalgia is a powerful force in the video game industry. In 2014, Shaq raised $450,000 on Indiegogo to finance the next chapter in the Shaq Fu saga. In a statement, Shaq admitted that the last Shaq Fu game was a dud, but that the next one would be worthwhile. "I'll admit it, Shaq Fu was a horrible game," he said. "I'm a huge fan of video games and want to have my name associated with a Shaq Fu game that I'm proud of and would like to play,"


Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn came out in 2018. Did Shaq and his team learn the lessons from their first debacle and turn in a decent fighting game? Nope. Unlike its predecessor, which at least received some good notices, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn was universally panned by critics. At this point, cult classic status would be an improvement.