All Your Bad Translation Books Are Belong to Us!


A new Legends of Localization book is out: This be book bad translation, video games! It’s a little bit different from our past projects – it’s a much slimmer, breezier book that looks at a single topic about game translation rather than the full translation of an entire game. As you might imagine, the book is about bad video game translations, but it’s a bit more than you might expect at first:

”This be book bad translation, video games!” chronicles the history of the phenomenon of poor Japanese-to-English video game translation from the 1970s until today. It also explains the root causes of bad translations, how translation practices have changed over the years as the industry matured (starting from the no-budget affairs in the early days and leading up to the machine translations found in the mobile market today), and specific patterns that are found in bad translations. The unusual title of the book itself is the result of modern machine translation.

If this sounds up your alley, you can get the book from Fangamer here. It’s currently only in physical form only – I don’t think there are any concrete plans for digital versions at the moment. As always, if you ask in the “comments” section on the order form you can get a signed copy (although it may take a day or two extra to ship).

Making the Book

Originally, this book about bad video game translations was meant to be a simple side book that we would work on in the background while we focused on the big books. We started working on it late last year, after our EarthBound book finally released. I soon realized that it was going to be a LOT more work than we expected – there’s been almost no organized research about this topic before now, and what’s out there is mostly a hundred “Top 10 bad game translations of all time” pages that recycle the same screenshots. That made the work more exciting in a weird way, since it felt like I was digging for gold that had barely been uncovered so far. In the end, I spent roughtly twice as much time on this little book than I did on the Zelda book!

The decision to do a broad, single-topic book like this stemmed from the fact that it’s hard to convince non-fans and non-gamers that the Zelda and EarthBound books aren’t JUST for Zelda and EarthBound fans. Especially with the EarthBound book – I wrote everything to be accessible and entertaining for readers who’d never even heard of the game before. It’s a tough hurdle to overcome, so we thought maybe a “breezier”, single-topic book with broader appeal might be a good gateway book. The reaction to the book’s release has been a million times better than I ever expected, so I’m glad we went through with it!

For fun, here are a bunch of photos and random screenshots from the project:

What’s Next

I’m currently working on another smaller book about that 100% machine-translated video game experiment I did last year. I’ve only finished a chapter of it so far but I already feel it’s going to be one of the funniest things I ever work on in my life. It’ll likely be a full-color softcover book with several hundred pages. Our goal is to have it out before the end of November.

As always, I have many other things in the works too. You can keep up with them over on our new dev blog.

Other Stuff

I’ve been working on some cool, secret stuff recently (no it’s not Mother 3 related). I can’t say much yet, but a bunch of things came together out of the blue for me and every once in a while I have to make sure I’m not dreaming. For now, all I can say is that none of this – these books, these projects, these fun times – would be possible without fans’ support, whether through buying our books or just sharing the site with friends. So for the 122nd time, thanks!

If you liked this, check out This be book bad translation, video games!, my book dedicated to game translation disasters from the 1970s until today!
  1. “I’ve been working on some cool, secret stuff recently (no it’s not Mother 3 related)”

    Hmm…sounds suspiciously Mother 3 related if you ask me…

    1. they’re onto us, cheese it!!

  2. My copy of this book arrived just yesterday. It was a fun read. Thanks for being awesome and putting this together.

  3. Is there any chance you’ll run out of books soon? Debating whether to grab one now or wait until the holidays. Looks like a super interesting read though – can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    1. I don’t have info like that on hand personally but I do know that they ordered a good amount for the first run so there’ll be a lot around for a while unless something crazy happens, like if Oprah mentions us or something 😛 Fangamer’s usually good about keeping my stuff in stock so I wouldn’t worry.

  4. I’m very excited for your machine translation book, especially if it uses Final Fantasy IV as a backbone! I hope you get a chance to really dig into the linguistics/grammar and explain how such disastrous mistranslations occur. I have an English degree and I’m learning Korean right now; I really love seeing how many different ways there are to use (and misuse) language.

  5. Awesome stuff! I feel like the worst fan ever since I haven’t actually bought the new book yet, but It’s been a *super* busy, super spendy time for me. Looking forward to it, though! Also looking forward to the machine translation book; if you could talk Fangamer into doing a hardcover also, I’d be all for that — I always prefer my books in hardcover, personally. I will gladly buy the paperback if that’s all there is, of course, so it’s no dealbreaker.

    I reviewed both the Zelda and Earthbound books (for different pubs, even), and in both cases emphasized the appeal of the book beyond the game’s fanbase; sadly, though, the other demographic they appeal to is “people who are interested in video game localization in general,” which is pretty niche too.