For a lot of dedicated gamers, finding a job in the gaming industry is the ultimate life goal. After all, that’s what we’re always taught: find your passion in life, work hard at it, make it a career. It’s only natural to want to work in a field that means so much to you.
The trouble is, though, for the uninitiated, this can sometimes equate to "being paid to play games." This is almost certainly not how it’s going to pan out for you. Not when you look at the sort of realistic options you’ll have available to you. Does game design itself seem appealing? Sure, it can be, but you’ve got to factor in the long, unhealthy hours and constant deadline strain. Games journalism is another route you can take, and it certainly has its perks, but one of the big issues you’re contending with here is… well, the backlash.
Gamers, as we know, can be rabidly committed to their favourite franchises. They don’t take kindly to developers changing too much about them, but can become equally irate if things get too samey around here. When journalists and reviewers say something they disagree with, that’s a super-egregious crime too.
It’s a darn difficult thing, writing a review. With that in mind, let’s check out some of the games that were grossly overrated by critics, right alongside some that just didn’t get the kudos they deserved. There are going to be some controversial choices in here, on both sides of the spectrum, so watch out. If you feel strongly about Ryse: Son Of Rome, Super Mario Odyssey, No Man’s Sky, or Final Fantasy XV, for instance, you might not like what you read here. Or you might. You’ve been warned.
25 BORING: Dragon Age II - A Bad Case Of Sequelitis
Aren’t opinions a wonderful thing? I’ve always marvelled at the super-usefulness of Amazon user reviews. You read one, and it’s given the product a glowing, five-star report. You read the very next one, and it’s trashed the product into oblivion and given it a single star. Thanks, guys, that was informative. I’ll use the Force or something to guide my purchasing decision, shall I?
Oftentimes, the minority decision has the loudest voice. Dragon Age II, a game that flip-flopped on so many things the original had done well (combat begin dramatically different, for one thing), was so widely derided that Kotaku released a feature titled Not Everyone Hates Dragon Age II, You Know about how different tastes could be in 2012.
24 UNDERRATED: Beyond Good And Evil - All The Good, With Just A Little Of The Evil
Now, we all know that Ubisoft have been a bit of a mixed bag, both as a developer and a publisher. That’s true of any big company that’s been in the business for some time, of course, but they have been some real doozies where Ubi in particular are concerned.
UbiArt have brought us some fantastic, low-key experiences like the beautiful RPG Child of Light, and the studio at large has been responsible for unique experiences like For Honor (you’d better believe that one’s coming up later in this rundown). When you combine the words Ubisoft, fantastic, and unique and throw them into a gaming blender, what do you get? Beyond Good and Evil, that’s what. Hurrying on and pretending that awful metaphor never happened, this 2003 multi-platform adventure game was grievously slept on. Fortunately, a sequel’s inbound now.
23 BORING: Final Fantasy VII - *Insert ‘Mummy’s Boy’ Snark Here*
Oh, yes indeedy-oh, friends. I’m going there. I’m going right there, and I’m dragging you along for the ride. It’s like I’m the designated driver, and I’m stopping at the McDonald’s drive-thru whether you like it or not. I make the rules here.
Now, sure, I’m a fan of Final Fantasy VII. I absolutely am. It was one of the first games I played on the first console that I ever purchased for myself, and I’ve been replaying it annually for a couple of decades now. Despite all of this, it certainly isn’t beyond reproach. Its visuals were questionable back then and downright hilarious now, the story goes to some shonky places, Cloud is a less-than-intriguing ‘hero’ for much of it… in the context of where the series had been up to that point and where it would soon be going, I can absolutely see how some would consider the game overrated.
22 UNDERRATED: Mirror’s Edge - Let’s Get Edgy
I didn’t plan this so that snarky puns about edginess would follow immediately after talk of Cloud Strife, but let’s pretend I did. That’ll make me look good. Why, yes, I do deserve a raise, thanks for noticing.
Never mind all of that, though. What’s really important here is that Mirror’s Edge just didn’t get the attention it deserved.
This 2008 PS3/Xbox 360 title is an action platformer set in a dystopian future, where everybody is under heavy surveillance. You play as Faith Connors, a ‘runner’ (messenger who must parkour their way around the environment while avoiding detection), a truly creative experience defined by its first-person perspective and lack of a heads-up display.
21 BORING: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag - Avast, Landlubbers!
This is another inherent issue of games development. Are you trying to release a new IP in an already-crowded genre? Good luck catching players’ attention with it. Are you dropping a new entry in an established and much-loved series? It had better be darn perfect, or the internet will rain a bajillion tons of hatred, fury and bile down upon you.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was a critical and commercial success, but some long-time fans were less than impressed. Black Flag took its pirate-y emphasis and ran with it, arguably to the over-emphasis of the spangly new naval combat and the detriment of the sort of gameplay the series is known for.
20 UNDERRATED: Sega Superstars Tennis - Much More Super Than You Might Think
There’s something about these big crossover games, isn’t there? By their very nature, they attract fans of all sorts of franchises. Take something like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, an absolute barnstorming success that Switch owners all over the world are sinking their free time into as we speak.
Then there was PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which was perfectly serviceable but just didn’t have the impact or impetus of a Smash entry. The same’s true of Sega Superstars Tennis. The big names are a little thin on the ground here (after the Sonic characters are used up, naturally), but what fan service they could pull off was done very well. Crucially, so was the core tennis; this 2008 multi-platform title offered a surprisingly deep and tactical take on the sport.
19 BORING: Madden NFL 09 - Wait, Which Year Is It Again?
You’re absolutely right, friends. I totally hear you, it’s definitely unfair to single out any one franchise for dropping annual retreads on us. Everyone from Call of Duty to FIFA Soccer is guilty of that. That’s the way it has to be with sports games sometimes, what with changing rosters and such. It’s just… well, I think ArsTechnica said it best in their Madden 09 review:
“The Madden franchise has gained a bad reputation for having each new edition roll out little more than new roster updates and incremental graphical improvements. Enter Madden 2009, the twentieth-anniversary edition, and another yearly installment purported to be a "true evolution."”
18 UNDERRATED: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle - One Fight You’ll Want To Join
Although Nintendo Switch is performing excellently just now, it hasn’t been a casual coast to sales success. When the system first launched, it didn’t have a big system-seller to its name (other than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which isn’t system exclusive).
Many waited for the launch of big-ticket items like Super Mario Odyssey before diving in, and quite rightly too. In the interim, though, Mario appeared in another great game you may not have picked up: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. At first glance, it looks like nothing more than another silly party game. The rabbids do have a track record for that sort of thing, after all. Like many others, I was pleasantly surprised by Kingdom Battle. More than that, I was truly impressed.
17 BORING: Final Fantasy XV - This Is Not The Final Fantasy You’re Looking For
Now, this one, I’m totally conflicted about. I just don’t quite know how I feel about Final Fantasy XV. I played it to completion and enjoyed myself along the way, but still. As for where I think this one stands in the pantheon of Final Fantasy games, I could not tell you. At all.
It’s a game that many loved, and many hated. It did good things, bad things, big ones, small ones, some as big as your head, and everyone has their own unique reasons for feeling the way they do. The story in particular was a point of contention, with matters of length and pacing often coming into that.
16 UNDERRATED: MadWorld - Now That’s What I Call A Game!
You know what the snarking snarksters of snark like to say about Nintendo. That their games are ‘for children,’ they’re super-family-friendly at all times, even the darn clouds and hills in their games have happy smiling faces… you know, the usual.
In MadWorld, you take the role of Jack Cayman, a man with a chainsaw arm who’s competing in a gameshow straight out of the Saw movies. MadWorld became a cult classic for its just-do-not-care attitude, monochrome presentation, and inventive ways of dispatching your foes. PlatinumGames’ many fans know that their beat ‘em up/hack and slash chops are second to none, and they won’t want to miss MadWorld if they haven’t experienced it.
15 BORING: Guitar Hero Live - Going Through The Motions
We’re all familiar with the Guitar Hero franchise. The venerable music em up has been doing the rounds since the original launched back in 2005. Music rhythm games may not be the big deal they once were, but it’s one of those titles that you can always trot out at parties and get a good result.
Guitar Hero Live was the most recent instalment, launching in 2015. In terms of content and the controller (which allowed for more realistic play), critics considered it a winner, but lots of players were less enthused. The package was quite expensive, after all, and the flagship mode was very microtransaction-heavy.
14 UNDERRATED: Viva Piñata: Trouble In Paradise - I Hear The Weather’s Great There This Time Of Year
It’s a curious thing, but video games seem to have a way of making the most mundane task fun. When done right, anyway. Super-serious simulation games are incredible absorbing for some, even those who wouldn’t even consider ever doing to real-world version of the task they’re simulating.
Viva Piñata is, for all intents and purposes, a yard work sim. It rose to became so much more than that, though, thanks to its adorable toon-tastic nature.
When the 2006 original became a huge deal, Microsoft and Rare rinsed it for all it was worth, leading some to become a little disheartened. It’s a shame, because this meant missing out on the later Viva Piñata: Trouble In Paradise, the excellent Xbox 360 sequel.
13 BORING: Super Mario Odyssey - Many, Many Moons
That’s right, friends. This is the point that society has come to. I’m calling the much-beloved Super Mario Odyssey ‘boring.’ I’m not doing this lightly, you understand. I’ve always been a follower of the series, and Odyssey was the game that convinced me to jump on board with the Switch. It’s since become one of my favourite consoles of all time, and I regret absolutely nothing.
I found Odyssey a complete blast to play, too. The trouble was, as a lot of other players have found, it’s an enormous moon-grind to unlock some of the postgame content. There’s a huge amount of moons to acquire, but this means that a lot of them are just feeble ‘pound the ground somewhere to get it’ unlocks.
12 UNDERRATED: Prey - The Review Score Debacle To Rule Them All
So, yes. As we’ve established, game reviews are a tricksy business. You can’t please everybody, and there’ll always be those who think you scored a game too high or too low. They’ll want to make darn sure that you know they feel this way, too.
As Forbes reports, there was one particular review that really sparked controversy: IGN’s rating of Prey. The PC version of the game sported a devastating, save-game-affecting bug, which saw the reviewer slap a 4/10 review score on Prey. This first-person survival horror otherwise fared rather well with critics, and the whole thing led many to question the validity of review scores.
11 BORING: Resistance 2 - Try And Resist
Now, here’s something I can appreciate. I always like a game that has the chutzpah to be upfront about what it’s offering. No styling, no needless fake-out, no promises to deliver something you can’t. Resistance: Fall of Man and its sequel Resistance 2, were about one thing and one thing one: shooting. Shooting a lot. Shooting some more.
The original Resistance was a very successful PS3 launch title. It centres around the exploits of one Nathan Hale, a soldier in an alternate history 1951, who must protect mankind from an alien invasion.
The sequel continued this tale, and fared well with critics, though some players found the action slower and less intuitive (particularly without a weapon wheel).
10 UNDERRATED: Ryse: Son Of Rome - You’ll Be Glad-ius You Tried It Out
Prior to the Xbox One’s launch, Microsoft had been bandying about a lot of big talk about the system’s specs. It would bring you dazzling new heights of visual fidelity, they promised, so impressive that you—may—tinkle a little on seeing it in action.
That’s not exactly how the commercials went, granted, but it’s pretty well the gist. Naturally, with all of these boasts, they’d need to be able to deliver some beautiful games, and launch title Ryse: Son of Rome was certainly that. This Roman-themed hack and slash was all about style, attracting a fair amount of criticism for its repetitive gameplay. Its ‘flow’ system (the way you switch from opponent to opponent) is still interesting for genre fans, however, and it’s quite a spectacle.
9 BORING: For Honor - When You Were *So* Close To Being Great
In the gaming industry, a great an original idea tends to mean just one thing: pretenders. Imitators. In the wake of Mario Kart’s success, for instance, everyone from Crash Bandicoot to the Crazy freaking Frog was starring in their own kart racer.
If there’s one thing For Honor certainly does have on its side, it’s a compelling and unique concept. This sort of PvP swordplay hasn’t really been done in games before, and the faction system encourages a sense of togetherness and competitiveness.
The issue is, sadly, Ubisoft have not been treating the game well since its February 2017 release. They’ve been supplying a good amount of new content, but the balancing between the playable characters and the shonky matchmaking make the game a real chore to play.
8 BORING: Marvel’s Spider-Man - Does Whatever A Spider Can… Over And Over And Over
Now, I’m not out to be Captain Snarky here. It’s easy to pick on something popular in an effort to look cool and super-edgy, but as we all know, no game is infallible.
Marvel’s Spider Man was one of my favourite games of the year, and there’s no understating what a great job Insomniac did with their first shot at the license. It feels darn good just zipping around New York City. Sometimes, though, that’s at the expense of the main missions themselves, which can feel awfully samey at times.
The famous free-roaming, too, doesn’t offer anything that similar titles haven’t already (in terms of the collectibles and such).
7 UNDERRATED: Lost Odyssey - It’s Time This One Was Found
Lost Odyssey is an RPG with a darn impressive pedigree behind it. the mere fact that Nobuo Uemtasu (of Final Fantasy fame) composed the score is enough to instantly grab any genre fan’s attention. Throw in the fact that the plot was devised by Final Fantasy overlord Hironobu Sakaguchi, and a darn good time’s about to be had by all.
This 2008 Xbox 360 exclusive followed that classic RPG trope: the confused amnesiac, battling to find his way in the world as he comes to terms with who he is and (of course) saves the day along the way.
Around the world, the game was no sales slouch, but it’s still largely forgotten today.
6 BORING: Dark Souls - Prepare To… You Know What
That’s right. Lots of people have said lots of things about Dark Souls, and many of them have been the same darn thing. You know how it goes. The series has become synonymous with difficulty in video games, the last bastion of the no tutorials, no hand-holding spirit of the games of yore. As a result, it’s sometimes seen as a tedious slog, too. How many newcomers to Bloodborne, say, kept getting squished into soggy little flecks of spam by a boss battle?
The trudge back to the boss room, the grind for more blood echoes (Bloodborne lets you purchase healing items, remember)… it’s either git gud or grind tryin,’ as 50 Cent once (almost) said.
5 BORING: Resident Evil 6 - True Evil Walks Among Us
As a long-time Resident Evil fan, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to become of the series. I’ll admit, Resident Evil 4 is one of my favourite games of all time, but it was also the one that started us along this path of gunplay galore. It’s like a darn Arnold Schwarzenegger movie around here.
Resident Evil 6 was, to date, the pinnacle of that. It was praised as quite an accomplished and good-looking shooter, but it’s all the more generic for it. Leon’s campaign offered flashes of that Resident Evil magic of yore, but this just wasn’t the game I was looking for.
4 BORING: New Super Mario Bros. - Just How New Are We Talking?
As I say, I consider the Switch’s Super Mario Odyssey to be an excellent game overall. It’s just that the backend really drags, with all those filler moons. It’s like when you’re at the movie theater, not entirely convinced by the movie you’re watching. You finish your popcorn with a good 45 minutes to go, then realize that the popcorn was all you were really invested in here.
I have a similar sort of experience with the New Super Mario Bros. games. I’m barrelling along the stages having a great time, until the realization that each game is all too similar to the last kicks in.
3 UNDERRATED: No Man’s Sky - Is It Time To Head Back Out Into Space?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. There are few more painful feelings in all of gaming than when you get sucked into all of the hype and then thoroughly disappointed. The much-ballyhooed No Man’s Sky did this to many of us when it launched, failing to put its money where its mouth was.
It was rough, yes. Feeling were hurt, bitter messages left on comment sections. Regardless, though, the team are gradually bringing No Man’s Sky back up to speed. The big update that dropped in late October brought a dramatic upgrade in underwater exploration, among many other things. Perhaps it’s time we gave the game another shot?
2 BORING: Batman - Arkham Knight- Night Night, Knight
To hear a lot of players and critics tell it, Rocksteady’s Arkham games are some of the greatest superhero games ever made (no, I know Batman doesn’t technically have any superpowers, but we don’t have time to open that can of worms right now).
They did repair a lot of the damage done to our psyches by the diabolically dire Superman 64 and its ilk, there’s no denying that.
Batman: Arkham Knight arrived in 2015, the fourth title in the Arkham series. It’s a solid instalment, granted, but I can’t help but think it’s a little underrated. Were Bruce’s cheeks solidly wedged in that Batmobile for the entire game, or something?
1 BORING: Watch Dogs - It’s (Not) A Hacker’s Life For Me
Watch Dogs is another game that has that For Honor-ish vibe to it. Right from the first reveal and the early hype-infused trailers, it was clear that this one was going to be something special. At least, it had the potential to be something special.
Watch Dogs, for all intents and purposes, is Grand Theft Auto with hacking. From the gameplay we saw in the trailers, it looked like a go anywhere, do anything sort of affair, which it does try its darndest to achieve. The trouble is, the main missions and the side quests were a little samey and uninteresting.