Games That Secretly Suck: PaRappa the Rapper

PaRappa the Rapper is a beloved classic of the PlayStation era—but it secretly just sucks.

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This article contains some strong language

It is very difficult to disguise garbage as something worthwhile. That is, unless a bunch of experts gather together and proclaim that the old boot covered in tomato sauce is actually art that symbolizes the eternal struggle between man and tightly closed condiment jars. And thus, with the public being fairly trusting of those with credentials, absolute rubbish is now free to sneak itself into the homes of perfectly good, hardworking people, and collapse in a drunken mess in their bathtub. Games are similar, and when review scores are high enough, people rush out and purchase a game that is better used as a coaster than an actual source of entertainment. But no longer. It is my oath to you to warn you and protect you from bad games that somehow have gotten the reputation of being good. From now on, you no longer need fear…games that secretly suck.

keshabathtub“Uh…I can’t get your bathtub to flush.”

To kick off my witch hunt, I’m going to start with a game that desperately tried to ruin my childhood: PaRappa the Rapper. I’ll try to give you a summary of the story in the game, but if I break off mid-sentence, it’s because my fingers became too embarrassed at what they were typing, balled themselves up into fists, and began smashing the keyboard in protest. You play as Parappa, a dog that looks like he’s about eight and has dreams of becoming a rapper and wooing a flower by the name of Sunny Funny. While you would assume Parappa should at least aim for someone in his species (or that at least doesn’t die during the first snowfall), Sunny is a biped that looks more like a little girl with some sort of disfiguring facial disease than an actual flower. Unfortunately, another dog by the name of Joe Chin also seems smitten. He serves as the antagonist of the game, and looks like he’s twenty-six and has enough money to make all of Parappa’s attempts at wooing Sunny seem quaint by comparison. Parappa encounters a variety of obstacles in his efforts to woo Sunny and he must overcome each of them.

By believing in himself.

And rapping.

And if that summary seems like one of the dumbest things you’ve ever heard, rest assured you’re not alone. But hold on, let me back up a bit. Remember when I said that Parappa and Sunny both look like they’re little kids? And Joe Chin looks like he’s twenty-six? While the developers of the game might not have seen anything wrong with this, both myself and the FBI probably have a decidedly different take on the matter. Sunny seems mostly uninterested in him, but he is obviously up to something more devious, and you have to watch throughout the entire game while he makes sweet treats for Sunny and tries to lure her inside of his car, shown here.



Note that Joe is like three feet taller than Parappa in those two shots, so either he is much older or Parappa is a dwarf. But, I mean, it could be worse; his car at least has windows, and—


…oh wait, he’s driving a giant red penis. Great. I’m not completely sure what that is, but it looks like parts of Clifford the big red dog have been repurposed as an automobile. I’m assuming the rap where Parappa mourns finding Sunny’s freshly plucked body at the bottom of the lake was just cut from the final version of the game, because I can see no other way that this could logically end. You think somewhere along the way, someone on the development staff might have suggested they at least make Parappa’s rival in love at least look roughly around his age, but whoever did this was most likely kicked off the programming team and out of the white windowless van they were most likely using as an office.

White_vanPictured: Programming staff work area. (Not shown: women, dignity)


Normally, a story this bad would leave me rushing to get to the gameplay segments, but in an effort to make things consistent, these were terribly done as well. The game features a total of six songs, which would be the equivalent of a musical stopping about halfway through the first act because they ran out of ideas. The songs are all original and typically relate to some fairly mundane task like taking your driving test or waiting in line to go to the bathroom (because whenever I need to take a nice bowel movement, I feel the urge to rap).

One of the main problems with all of the songs is that they feature a teacher whose lyrics you follow and ape back at them after they rap it. Songs don’t sound good when someone is just aping back lyrics, something most of us learned after we passed the age that Row, Row, Row Your Boat had any appeal. Parappa’s disjointed voice doesn’t help, as he’s cued to rap only when you press the corresponding buttons. However, even if you do everything right Parappa still sounds like a robot that just had some pretty severe surgery and is on some sort of unusually strong medication. He delivers the lines like William Shatner, where all of the pauses seem unnatural. And even if these things were fixed, it doesn’t help the fact that the songs themselves are just awful. Here are some actual lyrics from one of the songs:

I am a chicken/

From the kitchen/

And I ain’t kidding/

Although nothing is written

You might notice that none of those lines rhyme. You might also notice that none of those lines make any sense. Which is pretty embarrassing, considering if you aren’t going to make your lines rhyme, you have no excuse if they turn out incoherent.

In terms of actual gameplay, there is a bar that scrolls along at the top and indicates when you are supposed to press the corresponding button. This concept seems simple enough, but PaRappa the Rapper takes an innovative approach to the idea by making the prompts correspond to absolutely nothing. Press everything like you’re told, exactly as shown, and you’re almost certain to fail a song. It would be like taking a test, getting all the questions right, but still failing because your teacher had taken points off for not answering the invisible pretend questions that were all in their head.

teachergradingLooks like they forgot to carry the glorble to the flaffy-dilly. C-minus.

Now, I’ve actually heard several defenders of the game point out that you need to press the buttons in time with the rhythm and ignore the bar, which is better for a rhythm game. And I would point out that this is incredibly dumb, because then they should have either abandoned the bar or—and I might be asking for too much here—fix the stupid bar so that the prompts correspond to when you’re supposed to press it in the first place. Guitar Hero doesn’t force you to strum when there is no prompt or take off points just because it feels like it, and that’s because Guitar Hero is a good game.

The rotten cherry on this sundae of garbage is that at times I have the feeling it is being deliberately annoying. During the loading screens, the game utilizes some of the most annoying sound effects to ever be featured in a videogame. Well, technically it’s just one sound effect repeated endlessly, and it most closely resembles the noises you’d hear if someone mistook a duck for a bagpipe and tried to play it. Additionally, the ranking and scoring system is not really explained, and if I was being generous I would describe it as arbitrary. You might be doing fine for most of the song, consistently getting “good” rankings, and one mistake will send you down to poor and cause you to fail the level. Going up a rank seems much more difficult to do than going down one, and the frustration is compounded by the arbitrary nature of the button presses.

So, there you have it: PaRappa the Rapper is one of the worst games you can find for your PSP or Playstation. It is a rhythm game that didn’t bother to align the button presses with the rhythm—and punishes you for it. It is a musical game that doesn’t have any worthwhile songs in it. For musical or rhythm games, these are pretty huge problems. Those alone would be enough to sink it, but combine it with an awful, cheesy story featuring bland and obnoxious characters, and cram it so full of other annoyances and I just can’t fathom how this game was ever as well received as it once was. There are a couple catchy parts in a couple of songs, and I guess if that is all you’re looking for and want to waste $30, then PaRappa the Rapper might be right up your alley…which is perfect, because down some dark, grimy alley in a trash bin full of medical waste is exactly where this game deserves to be.

17 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 1017 votes, average: 5.82 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)

About the Contributor

From 2010 to 2017

Nikola has a tiny, baby beard. It is an embarrassment to the rest of the staff at GameCola, who work weekends as lumberjacks. Follow him on Twitter @NikolaSuprak for the most up to the moment details on Phoenix Wright shipping.


  1. Thank God that someone besides me has the balls to rail on this crap game. It has a Meta score of 92 and might well be the biggest piece of crap “rhythm” game ever made.
    It’s the perfect example of people claiming a game is good because critics who were paid to say it is good, said it was good.

  2. I agree with most of your points, especially when you talk about the annoying problem of the gameplay. But, IMO the game gets such a high score because it created a whole new concept of videogames by the time it was released. The game failed in a lot of the features itself introduced, but overall it represented a funny and memorable game. I don’t like it because of the “deep” storyline, nor the memorable gameplay. I like it because it reminds me of my childhood and the nice challenge it represented back then.

  3. Oh come on, you just don’t have a sense of humor. The lyrics make me laugh. In the “so bad, it’s good” sense. I’m certain that this was the intention. And the whole storyline is a parody of popular media. The superhero Chin who is only good at posing boring everyone to death? That’s a good one.

    You’re implying that this game is sexist, but you also dislike that Parappa isn’t going for his own species, but if he was, you’d say it was racist. There’s no pleasing you really.

    On the technical side, you’re comparing it with a game which was released a decade later, and noting that Parappa is deficient. Oh well, what a surprise. Besides, Guitar Hero is absolutely unimaginative, not something you can say about Parappa or Space Channel 5 for example.

    Space Channel 5 did what you ask and did away with the rhythm bar, and people were complaining about that – in some longer phrases, it’s really hard to remember the timing! And the stupid lyrics did add something to Parappa.

    1. C’mon, man. Your “so bad, it’s good” mentality is blinding you from the fact that the devs were just really, really, really bad at coming up with lyrics. The storyline is cheesy and really horribly written; probably by a 6-year-old. And everyone loves “Chin” in the game, so how is it relevant to popular media?

      The writer never said or implied anything about the game being sexist. They DID imply that Chin turned out to be a pedo without the devs realising it, and that it’s weird that an animal has a plant for a girlfriend. Also unless this whole game is a complicated allegory for political issues, racism doesn’t apply to this. It should be fine if a dog is attracted to another dog.

      The writer here is saying that games like Guitar Hero did what Parappa didn’t, and made the gameplay work in at least a remotely sensible way. This game COULD have done that even if it was 10 years earlier.

      Speaking of 10 years, I know it’s been a long time since you posted this (2014 lol) but I really thought your opinion here was garbage.

  4. I personally enjoy it.
    We need to remember that this is a 90’s game and you are comparing it to modern games.

    Also, if this game was so bad, why is it still going now? PaRappa was so popular in Japan that him and Crash were the faces of PS, it received its own 2 season Anime, Comic book series, A second Game, Was working with big brands such as Lipton and McDonalds, A Themed Cafe, A whole new Anime that is still airing and heaps more! The 1st game is what triggered all of this and this all happened from it’s release to now.

  5. You are getting getting on a e rated game from 1996 how it this trash if it 2 games a spin-off merchandise a 2 Animes a concert an award received a 92 metacritic a gigantic fanbase a remaster and a port an playable character and PlayStation all-star partnered with major companies being the face of Sony o along with crash bandicoot and multiple commercials so maybe you just need to get your facts straight and and umm maybe get your playing skills up if you complain about it being hard 😂😂😂

  6. You are a pathetic person for hating this game that was from 1996. It’s just sad. I hate you for this stupid game hating review, so everything on what you said is invalid. Go play awful modern games like a pathetic modern only game lover that you are. Idiot. Why bother playing games that are good. Maybe you haven’t played this game or maybe you just hate games like a dumbass?

    1. hi son please get off the internet and help me change your bed sheets you wet them again. you are grounded for repeat bed wetting so no more internet for you mister

      1. XDDDDDDDDDDDDD I love this comment

        “Why bother playing games that are good”

        …when you can play a game about a dog in love with a sunflower who raps to get rid of a pedo

  7. as a parappa fan this is probably the funniest article ive ever read, idk why u were so pissed when writing this but i genuinely thought you were joking at first 😭😭

  8. So you hate a dope game /
    It’s a shame you think it’s lame /
    But PaRappa won’t miss you /
    It’s just a clear skill issue!

    1. Many comments are filled with hate,
      But this one is pretty great.
      From us in the GameCola staff:
      Thank you for making us laugh!

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