Although it is difficult to know for certain the origins of "epic failure," it is believed to have begun with a 1998 Neo Geo arcade game called Blazing Star, according to Slate.com. One of its awkward Japanese-to-English translations included the phrase, "You fail it!"
"You fail it" became a popular way, on online message boards, to mock others' humiliation. Eventually, websites like Failblog were dedicated to memes of people and objects that "fail" in various ways, such as a handicapped ramp that leads to a set of stairs or a second-story door that opens out onto nothing. People started using the phrase "epic fail" to differentiate between minor failures and "epic" ones like a man accidentally destroying his fish tank while trying to film himself lifting weights.