When I first discovered Monster Sniper Season 3, the self-declared "worst videogame of all time", I was immediately hooked on following its strange development. Once it actually became playable, I got a bit obsessed. Creator Carsen Rapp's TikToks about the game's ongoing progress are both brilliantly silly and also a little horrifying; he often looks baffled by his own work as he crams more and more diabolical ideas into his Frankenstein's monster of a platformer.
Recent additions include a horrific poison swamp maze, one of the most stressful underwater levels I've ever seen, and confusing captchas you have to solve to respawn when you inevitably die. That's on top of features like a rocket launcher that takes 30 seconds to reload, a cute dog that explodes into giant ants if you pet it, and a mechanic where you have to regularly type compliments into the game to prevent the protagonist losing the will to continue.
Rapp doesn't make games for a living—he's an enthusiastic amateur—but through this bizarre project he seems to have discovered a whole new way to get into the industry. "It's been a hobby thing since I was like 12," he says. "I got into web development instead of game development and I've kind of regretted that ever since, so this is me correcting that.
"I've tried and failed to make, over my lifetime, 50 games. Everyone who makes games has done the same thing. So I thought, okay, I'm just going to do the most fun part of making videogames, which is implementing cool new features, and not do any of the boring things, like polish the game, make it make sense, make it work correctly… no, it's just a bad game, and that's fine, because that's the most fun thing for me to make right now. Just keep, every two days, adding something new."
And, importantly, show that new thing to an ever-growing TikTok audience. The unique social media platform surfaces videos in users' feeds based on what it thinks they'll enjoy, not just who they follow, allowing creators to flourish quickly without an existing audience. "Where else can you upload a video and people will just see it? Nowhere!" says Rapp, who initially gained a thousand followers with just one video.
Now that the game is available to the public, it's getting thousands of plays too—and even a budding speedrun community. It taps into the same vein as the ever popular "masocore" genre, exemplified by games like I Wanna Be the Guy and Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy which take rely on players' stubbornness more than their need to be entertained.
"It's not a game anyone would play normally right?" says Rapp. "No one's going to sit down and play it just for fun. It's going to be something you play for content, or because you like really hard games, or you want to speedrun it. It's all the weird, fringe parts of playing a game, that's how you're going to approach this."
But it's only in watching others finally go hands-on with his creation that Rapp has come to appreciate quite how vicious the game really is. The irony of the project is that its greatest victim is Rapp himself—he's the one who has to actually play it over and over to test it, regularly wasting hours and thousands of attempts trying to beat his latest additions. All that practice, however, has given him plenty of chance to get used to its worst foibles.
"I had totally forgotten how bad the control scheme is," says Rapp. "I kind of realised a couple of days ago—I don't think more than two people have gotten past the first part of the second level, because of just how strange it is to even do a normal jump in this game."
When I add that one of the worst parts for me is the audio—the way the dreadful, out of tune flute soundtrack restarts every time you die profoundly adds to the pain—Rapp seems surprised anyone's even still listening to it.
"I've been watching tiktoks and the music's playing in the background. I'm like, 'people aren't muting their browser when they play the game?!' I haven't heard it in a month!"
And yet, enough people are happy to subject themselves to this digital torture to leave Rapp excited for the game's future. "My loftiest goal, the biggest one I have, would be for someone to speedrun it at Awesome Games Done Quick. That would be the best thing that's ever happened. Beyond that, I'm just seeing what happens."
There's something wonderful about seeing someone whose game design dreams have always gone unfulfilled suddenly finding their own unique joy and success in a project. Monster Sniper Season 3 is deliberately awful, but it's also a testament to Rapp's creativity and sense of humour. Energised by his sudden audience, he's already got stranger ideas brewing. ("I had this idea for a game where you can only play it once in each state. So if you lose you have to go to Missouri and play again…")
So I finish by asking: what advice would Rapp give to other aspiring and amateur developers hoping to find their own unique place in the hobby too?
"Just make anything and put it out. And make TikToks about it!" he says. "Whatever you make, it is a piece of art, and it is interesting because it came from a human. So just make something, make some content about it.
That's actually my number one piece of advice—I've seen so many people, peers of mine too in the game development Discords, they make a game, they put it out, no one plays it, and they're like 'Aw, dang it!'. No, that's just the first part; the second part is getting people to play the game. Make some content, talk about it for a long time, don't just give up. That's my advice."
That's advice Rapp lives by—follow him on TikTok and you'll be treated to multiple hilarious and/or distressing updates a week. For the braver among you, you can try the latest build for yourself on his itch.io page. Just… maybe mute the music.