Chances are, if you’re reading this, you enjoy video games. In fact, if you’re reading what counts as enthusiast press, you probably love them. Same here: video games can provide incredibly diverse gameplay experiences, and everyone has a handful of games that they can always go back to. For me, it’s GTA V, Hotline Miami, and Europa Universalis IV. They are, to use a cliche, my desert island games, experiences that I can go back to again and again to relax with. I think we’ve all also been swindled out of our hard-earned cash from time to time too, however. You follow a game from its announcement, anticipating it more and more each day, before you get your hands on it and…ah. It’s a stinker, a waste of cash. Whether that’s because it’s a buggy mess, plainly not fun, or ugly as all get out, you feel like you’ve been cheated. I can think of a couple of games that have done this to me, including a couple on this list.
Whether you’ve been angered by terrible launch titles, infuriated by a game whose development is apparently a study in apathy, or been appalled by a rushed release, I hope this article provides some catharsis. From infamously terrible games to games that could have been so much better than they were, if only more work, more time, or more cash had gone into it, you’ll find them all here. Whether a disappointment from the 90s still stings today, or the wound is just a few years old, this article will give you an outlet. Enjoy!
15. Superman 64’s Eye-Gouging Graphics
Superman 64 has gone down in history as one of the worst games of all time. The only advantage it has over E.T the Extra-Terrestrial is that copies weren’t literally sent to landfill. So what makes it so bad? Well, the graphics look as though they could bring on some kind of extreme nervous shock. You fly through blocky, unpleasantly neon-shaded environments with all the grace of a dazed sparrow. You’re tasked with completing astonishingly dull missions, including one that tasks you with flying through rings for a whole ten minutes of your time. The appalling view distance (handwaved away as Lex Luthor deploying “Kryptonite fog”) means you can only see a few feet in front of you at any time. On top of that, the game doesn’t even serve up its disappointing fare well — you must compete with a dazzling array of bugs, including an often-fatal final level.
14. Best Left Unwatched
Watch Dogs or Watch_Dogs if you want to be a leet haxxor, was an adequately competent game, but there was one part of it that was a massive let down — the graphics. When it got announced at E3 in 2012, the game looked absolutely stunning: a truly open world like we’d never seen before, with unparalleled interactivity. The gameplay ended up badly compromised, but perhaps not as noticeably as the graphics. The end result looked nowhere as good as the trailer, which Ubisoft explained away as being due to the announcement being displayed on a powerful PC. In an excellent dissection of the released game, Digital Foundry, went to town on it, finding that effects such as volumetric fog and lighting saw themselves being considerably lessened in the final release, with flatter, duller graphics the order of the day.
13. A Crowdfunding Campaign’s Less-Than-Mighty Result
Mighty No. 9 was nothing it should have been. The result of a crowdfunding campaign that earned more than most people do during their entire working life, this spiritual sequel to Megaman turned out painfully mediocre. The gameplay was lackluster at best, with none of Megaman’s strategic progression. Instead, the game could frankly be done in any order you want, with the result feeling far more like a loose scattering of disconnected levels than anything coherent. The level design is cliche at best, platforming your way through them feels like a callback to the imprecise jump puzzles of the original Half-Life, and the graphics look like they came from a hot PS2 release around 2004. A waste of money for everyone involved, and a reminder that sometimes a dead franchise is best left buried.
12. Less Fun Than An Alien Colonoscopy
Another supreme turd that crushed any original hopes you had for it. Also announced in 2008, Aliens: Colonial Marines got delayed numerous times thanks to internal rumblings at Gearbox, before finally shambling out into the critical sunlight in 2013. And what a reaction it had. The game desperately tries to eke enthusiasm out of nostalgia for the original films, but that doesn’t work. The locations are so bloody dull, they end up providing more existential horror than the Xenomorphs themselves. Combine this with glitches aplenty, which leave enemies skittering madly, shooty-shooty bang-bang combat that is less innovative, more, essentially, 3D Space Invaders, and an insultingly token effort at collectibles, and you’re left with a barely sentient mess of a video game. It can, at least, provide comedy, and there are plenty of let’s play’s worth checking out, but beyond that, it was dead on arrival.
11. Skittery Zombies, Badly Rendered
Bless the Resident Evil franchise, it’s been through a lot. From the all-time high point of Resident Evil 4 to the unfortunately middle-of-the-road RE5, and the boredom of RE6, nothing quite matches Umbrella Corps for a lack of care and quality. The graphics look last-gen in the extreme, the combat is as bland as unseasoned brains, enemies are bullet sponges that explode into piles of meaty slop, and movement and collision detection are simply atrocious. Controls are extremely shaky, which almost doesn’t matter, given the terrible movement and the fact that moving around prone at all times is actually a kind of effective strategy. It’s no fun, badly made, unpleasant to look at, and feels like barely any effort actually went into its production. Avoid at all costs, go play RE7 instead.
10. An Extraordinarily Disappointing Launch Title
Launch titles are usually pretty disappointing: developers haven’t had enough time to get used to the new hardware, but in Perfect Dark Zero’s case, it was extra disappointing. PDZ was a follow up to the hugely popular and stylish shooter Perfect Dark, with many fans thinking Joanna Dark’s second outing would be as awesome as the first. Instead, what did we get? Terrible AI, uninspired missions, graphics that made the characters either weirdly shiny or extraordinarily flat, and a story that was empty and extremely dull compared to the original. While Viva Pinata saved some of Rare’s street cred, this was their first game that showed a lot of the creative spark that drove them in the N64 era was gone for good. This was the first game I owned on the 360, and I’m just glad it only went up from here.
9. The Oblivion Killer That Never was
Do you remember the game Two Worlds? It was an attempt to capitalize on the Oblivion fever gripping consoles in the mid-00s, promising an even better experience, with a fluid stat system, a huge map, and hours upon hours of content. The end product…well, if you’ve not heard of it, you can guess how it turned out. The content and map were there, but the game suffered from a biblical plague of bugs, cliched dialogue, eye-poppingly bad textures, a crippled engine and an extraordinarily low framerate. Would sir or madam care to partner these faults with a plot that is barely there at best, appears to have been brainstormed with the middle phase of “???”, and two endings that are both equally knackered? No? Then don’t play this confused mess of a video game.
8. The Stumbling Dead
Based on AMC’s hugely successful series, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct could and should have been good. Instead, it’s best left to rot. It had some neat ideas, with a focus on stealthing your way around, rather than slicing and dicing Dead Rising style, but the gameplay brings it all crashing back down to Earth. You move around a map collecting gas and car parts, so you can, uh, move around a map. The zombies’ AI is even worse than you could expect and varies wildly, while the combat itself is made up of dull, canned animations and floaty, dull knife-fighting that feels less Dead Island and more Cooking Mama. A lack of varied zombie models is just the tip of the iceberg that is the game’s graphical issues, with the core problem being ugly modeling and textures flatter than Kansas. Avoid at all costs.
7. Should Have Stuck With Dave Mirra
What can be said about BMX [adult version] that hasn’t already been said? I’m even going to avoid discussing how embarrassing the very idea is, because that should be obvious to everyone. Instead, let’s just take a look at the game. So first of all, graphically, the allegedly titillating character models look like they could have quite easily come from a PS1 game. The gameplay suffered from a range of bugs that could also be found in the Dave Mirra series. If, by some outrageous lack of comprehension, you couldn’t guess what kind of game this was, the cutscenes shove terrible double entendres, that sound like they were phoned in by a very tired Rockstar developer, down your throat. Erection and spunk jokes all round, but pretty much nothing of substance. Developers, please, let’s never do this again.
6. Lichdom’s Not So Wizard Optimizations
Lichdom: Battlemage isn’t an incredible game on PC, I’ll be honest, but that doesn’t mean the port should be as shoddy as this. Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry tested it and found it to be the worst performing console game they’ve ever looked at. The framerate averaged at 15fps, dropping to 10fps occasionally, accompanied by this terrible digital symphony of stutter and massive amounts of tearing. The game eventually got patched into a playable state, but two months after release, leaving players who wanted to get their magic throwing on in the doldrums for far too long. The patched Xbox One version performs relatively well thanks to a framerate lock, but the PS4 version lacks this, leaving it moving at wildly varying speeds like bad stop-motion animation. From 60fps down to the mid-20s. If you want to play this game, the message is clear: do it on PC.
5. A Real Bust
The original Leisure Suit Larry games, are, shall we say, of the time. Looking back at them now, they appear very creepy, outright misogynist, and largely unfunny. However, they occupy a special place in the heart of some gamers, particularly with those for whom the games represented their introduction to adventure games. In Box Office Bust, well, nothing worked, and not even the pinkest rose-tinted glasses could make you think otherwise. The story is…Christ, I can’t even be bothered to explain it. The innuendo is limp, with all jokes feeling like they were written by a 12-year-old and his buddies in a snickering attempt at adult humor. The graphics are atrocious, its animations make Morrowind’s look sophisticated, and the attempts at sexiness are ridiculously embarrassing. Larry Laffer is dead and buried under the Playboy Mansion. Leave his corpse alone.
4. Less Of A Boom, More Of A Damp Squib
You’ve got to feel for Sonic fans. I understand their plight, Sonic was the first console game I ever played, and I loved it. Sonic Boom: Rise Of Lyric, like almost all modern Sonic games, is unforgivable. You’d hope they’d have learned from Shadow the Hedgehog’s combat, but no, they’ve not, recycling dull fight after dull fight. Any sense of speed that you might be able to eke out from the running sequences (sequences! Think of that!) is hampered by a framerate that’s jerkier than a Romero zombie. There’s no excuse for that either, because the game could hardly be called impressive looking. You yo heave ho like the Volga Boatmen on a camera that stubbornly refuses to obey your commands. Then there are the 2.5D sections that while somewhat competent, do nothing but refresh your memory of what better Sonic games were like.
3. A Ride To Hell, But Not As They Intended
Now this one is personal. I have a strong love for media about the 1960s and about biker culture, so when Ride To Hell got announced back in 2008, I was so excited. What did we get? A linear game that has gone down in history as one of the worst of all time. On the rare occasions where everything works as intended, the script sounds like it was written by a high schooler who’s just watched Easy Rider for the first time, graphics are worse than most PS2 games, and it’s also profoundly sexist. The combat, the meat and potatoes of the game, takes Arkham-style combat and beats it into uncontrollable hamburger, with a rage mechanic who’s only use, as far as I can tell, is the humour derived from a crash shot on our Jack Black-looking biker dude’s face as he mumbles “RAAARGH”. Nothing we wanted. Everything we didn’t need.
2. Took Forever, Not Worth The Wait
If any game can truly don the mantle of vaporware legend, it has to be Duke Nukem Forever. This game was so substantially disappointing, such a massive waste of 14 years, that I feel sorry for the developers who put so much time into its extensive redesigns and rebuilds. The meagre choice of weaponry, limiting Duke to two weapons at a time, left the combat feeling neither modern or classic, loading times were long enough to develop your own (better) video game in, and its weak attempts at satire leave most Duke fans feeling strangely hollow. The game also looks terrible on consoles, and serviceable at best on PC. It ends up feeling even more dated than you’d expect for a game that started production in 1997. Take The Hive for example: what kind of gamer are the disembodied wall breasts supposed to appeal to? What is this game’s purpose?
1. No Man’s Sky Proving No Man’s Favorite
If you want to talk about gaming disappointments of the decade, nothing competes with No Man’s Sky. It wasn’t that the game was anything like the worst game ever, but it was mind-numbingly lackluster, which is, honestly, worse. There’s not even humor to be derived from how bad it is. Instead, you fly around conspicuously dull and empty planets, with the variety of planets you can find exhausted after just a few hours of play. The same goes for the animals, that look like they were designed out of Lego and felt, which both ran out after a handful of creations, not even touching on the lack of multiplayer. Beyond all that, it’s also just technically inept. The divisive graphics tear like a telephone book in the hands of a strongman, and textures pop in with an almost audible creak.
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