The gaming industry can be one heckola of a tough place to work at times. Hours and conditions can be questionable, leaks and dataminers can mess with you at any moment, ‘fan’ backlash can be utterly brutal…
It’s no picnic around here. And even if it is, it’s one of those picnics where you’ve inadvertently set your blanket out on top of an ants nest, and thousands of the little buggers are swarming all over your baked goods and picking them apparent in relentless, snarky fashion.
The internet is not the friendliest place at the best of times, as we all know. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the comment section of the Barney the Dinosaur Super-Cutesy Family-Friendly Fun Forums, there are going to be beefs flying around. That’s just how it is. Gamers, as a general rule, are some of the worst culprits for this sort of thing.
When the community is disappointed, they’re sure as heck going to let you know about it. In the case of some of the titles on this rundown, the developers deserved everything they got. When you’re working on a big license, a AAA title or both, you’ve got to watch where you step.
Let’s not be Debbie downers, though. As often as a game lets us all the way down and bungles its potential, another comes along that knocks it right out of the park. Today, friends, we’re going to take a look at some abysmal failures and some glorious triumphs. Strap yourselves in and let’s get started.
30 DISAPPOINTING: Star Wars Battlefront II — Would You Like Some Pay-To-Win With That?
As you’ll remember, in the approach to the Xbox One launch, Microsoft revealed some policies that… well, they didn’t sit too well with the community. They later flip-flopped on some of them, but it was a little too late to repair the PR damage done.
Star Wars Battlefront II had a similar experience. EA’s loot box shenanigans were incredibly controversial, and while they reversed the situation in time, Battlefront II’s sales and momentum suffered as a result.
Aside from that, it isn’t a straight-up bad game per se. it just suffers from insubstantial single-player offerings and a style-over-substance approach.
29 DISAPPOINTING: Duke Nukem Forever — How Long Will This One Leave A Stain On The Duke’s Record? Forever
For me, no character embodies the spirit of the nineties better than Duke Nukem. It was a simpler, brasher, attitude-ier time, and that’s what the Duke was all about. He became quite a popular hero over his career, but then Duke Nukem Forever happened.
Or, more specifically, we were told it would happen. Then we waited for it to happen. Then we waited some more. Then it finally did happen, and it sucked.
This unfortunate title finally released in 2011, after an incredible fifteen years in development purgatory. Once we got our hands on the final product, it proved to be simplistic and rife with performance issues.
28 LIVED UP: Bloodborne — It’s Bleak In Yharnam, But We Love It
When the current generation consoles first landed, they didn’t have much to offer in the way of hop-right-on-board-day-one exclusives. PS4, in particular, has been on fire this year (with Marvel’s Spider-Man and God of War among others), but we sure took our sweet time to get that momentum going.
What was the first big exclusive for Sony’s system? For my money, that would have to be Bloodborne, Miyazaki’s excellent spiritual successor to the Dark Souls series. This Lovecraftian romp presented a more aggressive and visceral action RPG experience, and won the franchise legions of new fans in the process.
27 DISAPPOINTING: E.T The Extra-Terrestrial — The Least-Fitting Homage Ever
Of course, E.T The Extra-Terrestrial needs no introduction. The adorable little guy starred in one of the most iconic and successful movies in history. That theme tune, the glow-y fingered phoning home, cycling through the sky… what’s not to like?
Sadly, precious little of this translated into the video game adaption, which launched on the Atari 2600 the same year as the movie was released (1982).
The developer was given less than six weeks to code the game, in order for its release to coincide with the holiday season, which did not bode well.
True enough, despite the great success of the movie, this one’s generally agreed to be one of the worst games of all time.
26 DISAPPOINTING: Mario Tennis Aces — It Isn’t Quite ‘Aces’
Nintendo Switch owners are set to have a pretty darn busy holiday season, with Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to keep them occupied. It’s good to finish the year on a high note, because it’s been quite a slow one for the hybrid handheld.
One of the highlights of the summer was Mario Tennis Aces, an entry that offered some nice polish to the core gameplay (the new energy and racket damage systems make things much more strategic) but very little beyond that.
It’s very barebones in terms of play modes, and even the options within the modes that it does have.
25 LIVED UP: Marvel’s Spider-Man — Does Whatever A Spider Can
Now, of course, disappointment, living up to the hype and all the rest of it are difficult things to pin down. Some titles are critically flushed down Satan’s underworld sewer system but you, the player, totally dig them. It’s all about opinions.
There’s no denying that Marvel’s Spider-Man was hyped out the wazzoo prior to its release, but did it prove to be worthy of all of that in the end? I’d say so. It got a resounding yes from a lot of reviewers and players, myself included.
There’s room for improvement, as always, but the scope of Insomniac’s achievement in their first attempt with such a beloved license is impressive.
24 DISAPPOINTING: Street Fighter V — Dude, Where’s My Game?
What, you haven’t seen that movie? It’s like Dude, Where’s My Car?, only with Capcom pushing Street Fighter straight through their game-o-matic before realising that they forgot to put the game juice in there.
Put another way, holy heckola was Street Fighter V a disappointment on launch. It first arrived in February 2016, and was every bit as barren and barebones as Mario Tennis Aces. There wasn’t even an obligatory arcade mode of any description. It’s been patched up since, true enough, but the ability to do that after the fact should never really be an excuse.
23 DISAPPOINTING: Assassin’s Creed Unity — They Sure Had To Try And Unify The Fans After This One
As was the case with our previous entry, Street Fighter V, Assassin’s Creed Unity isn’t a fundamentally bad game as such. You don’t have to be bad to have a super disappointing launch, though, and the eighth installment of the much-loved Assassin’s Creed franchise certainly had that.
What went so wrong here? As many a disgruntled Ubisoft fan will tell you, Unity launched in November 2014, and was absolutely riddled with bugs and technical problems.
As Kotaku reports, the situation was so bad that Ubisoft were forced to issue an apology and offer free DLC to compensate.
22 LIVED UP: Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee — You Know, I Think I’ll Go After All
We’ve already spoken about the big one-two punch that Nintendo Switch has to offer this holiday season. While Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was a sure-fire hit from the start, there were a lot of mixed opinions flying around about Pokémon- Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee.
Many dedicated fans opted to sit this one out, outraged by its removal of series staples like held items and breeding. It’s not a real Pokémon game, that was the rallying cry.
There’s no doubt that there’s some truth to this, but critics and players who have given the title a chance have been utterly charmed by it. If you’re nostalgic for the days of nineties Pokémania, or there’s a child in your life you want to experience Kanto with, you owe it to yourself/them to check it out.
If you’re torn on which version to buy, hopefully, our guide will steer you right.
21 DISAPPOINTMENT: Umbrella Corps — Do *Not* Stand Under This Umbrella-Ella-Ella
In this bad old world of ours, we should know better than to be optimistic. To dare to dream. To actually have a little hope that, you know, maybe Umbrella Corps won’t be a foul-smelling pile of brown unfortunate-ness.
We should have. Alarm bells start ringing as soon as you notice that the words Resident Evil are missing from the cover, after all. There it was, though. I was intrigued by this tactical shooter spin-off, and was super-saddened to see how generic and uninspired the end product proved to be.
It does have a hilarious crawling animation that’s as darn fast as walking, though, so it’s got that going for it.
20 DISAPPOINTING: Mass Effect: Andromeda — Had The Wrong Kind Of Effect
The travesty that was Umbrella Corps was one thing, but it’s always super-sad to see a main series entry go so wrong. Mass Effect: Andromeda was all set to be a huge deal, with the success of the original trilogy, but then it just couldn’t fill those shoes.
Development was a messy situation, having been handed to a new studio whose members changed constantly throughout. This led to a finished product that was lacking in cohesion and vision. It was a bit of a mess technically, too.
It was a product of its time, with the new open-world focus, but wasn’t a patch on other things the genre was achieving at the time.
19 LIVED UP: Red Dead Redemption 2 — Biggest. Game. Ever
Let’s be real here. You’ve heard enough about Red Dead Redemption 2 lately. The brilliant darn game is everywhere. You’re probably still knee-deep in it, upgrading weapons, completing sidequests and discovering hilarious disappearing horse glitches.
It’s just that good. The whole open-world thing has been delivering games of ever-increasing size and scope, but Red Dead Redemption 2 is probably the pinnacle of that so far.
It’s simply a stunning achievement from Rockstar.
Again, it’s not perfect, as no game ever will be, but it certainly is an experience like no other.
18 DISAPPOINTING: Metal Gear Survive — It Didn’t Survive For Long
Ah, Metal Gear Survive. This one was always going to have a bad time, being the first Metal Gear title since 1990 (Snake’s Revenge) not to have Kojima at the helm. Much like Umbrella Corps, it was an interesting-sounding series sideline shooter. Much like Umbrella Corps, it got a very mixed reception.
While Survive’s core gameplay is satisfying and rewarding, it’s trapped in an unfortunate quagmire of microtransactions, and it released at a time when nothing Konami did could have been received well. It’s an unfortune situation, but that’s the way things are around here sometimes.
17 DISAPPOINTING: No Man’s Sky — Can They Turn This Ship Around?
Yep. You’re totally right, friends. I hear you. Back in 2016, it was easy to snark on No Man’s Sky. The game’s situation has dramatically improved since then, but terrible first impressions are very difficult to recover from.
When No Man’s Sky first launched in August 2016, it was a victim of its own hype and ambition. This vast survival sim based around space exploration boasted that it offered 18 quintillion possible planets to explore.
Big as the playground was, gameplay was super limited on launch, and developer Hello Games refused to acknowledge the fact that many much-hyped elements of gameplay (base building, for one) were missing.
In short, the No Man’s Sky we originally got was not the one we were promised.
16 LIVED UP: Portal 2 — You Call That A Sequel? *THIS* Is A Sequel
Game development, as I say, is one darn difficult business. Even if you do manage to pull it off against all odds and release a product that gamers around the world just love, what happens next? That’s right. There’s often the pressure for a follow-up.
Sequels are an even more difficult business. You’ve got to remain true to the original, but not too true. Nobody wants a rehash. Sometimes, just sometimes, they pull this off, and a fantastic sequel like Terminator 2: Judgment Day is born.
Portal 2 is another example, a stellar title that took the original’s teleport-between-portals-to-solve-puzzles to brilliant new heights. It’s often regarded as one of the best games of all time, and quite rightly so.
15 DISAPPOINTING: Rage — Sometimes, There *Was* Rage
Here’s another entry that’s going to be controversial. For me, 2011’s Rage has always been a difficult one to pin down.
When it’s at its best, throwing us directly into the visceral action-tastic FPS shooting that developer Id Software do so well, it’s a riot. Nothing more, nothing less, just like the recent Doom reboot.
Sadly, I always felt that the team diluted that a little by throwing in the driving segments and other bits. I think The Daily Telegraph (of all outlets) said it best:
“It should have been an id game. Instead it occupies this weird halfway-house between Borderlands, MotorStorm and Doom, not quite an RPG, not quite a racer and not quite an FPS."
If next year’s upcoming sequel is a little more focused, I’ll be all over it.
14 DISAPPOINTING: Final Fantasy XIII — Unlucky Thirteen?
Like any long-running franchise, Final Fantasy hasn’t always had a easy ride. We’ve seen a total of fifteen main-series entries, some of which have been a little more controversial than others. It all depends on who you ask.
Final Fantasy XIII, for one, is still the subject of much debate. At the time, it was a beautiful and awe-inspiring technical achievement, but on the other hand… well, there were cutscenes every eight seconds to prove it to you. The decision to make the bulk of the game so linear wasn’t such a popular one, overall.
As though acknowledging this, Square-Enix several tie-in titles based in the same universe, trying to do it justice.
13 LIVED UP: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain — A Very Solid Swansong
See what I did there? Solid swansong? Excellent stuff. Why, yes, I do deserve a raise, thanks for noticing.
We’re getting off topic, though. The important thing is, as surely as Metal Gear Survive was going to attract ire, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was going to be lavished with attention. This would be the last Metal Gear title that Kojima would be personally involved with (snafus with Konami occurred throughout), after all.
This 2015 release honed the series’s stealth mechanics to such a sharp point, your mama would tell you off for running with a copy. It tackled some bold and controversial themes, too, and is regarded as one of the best games of recent years.
12 DISAPPOINTING: Aliens: Colonial Marines — They’re Coming Outta The Goshdarn Walls!
Now, this one really hurt. Aliens: Colonial Marines was billed as game that would do the iconic sci-fi franchise justice. It would be faithful to Aliens, tense, thrilling and an all-round good time. All of these things were drummed into our heads in the runup to release, and the game sold pretty darn well as a result.
Sadly, it all ended up a bit of a mess. Development took around six years, with work outsourced to other companies. In the end, while the multiplayer was relatively solid, the enemy AI was hilariously bad and it was technical problems-amundo.
11 DISAPPOINTING: For Honor — The Honourable Thing Would Have Been To Fix It
For Honor is another title that I can’t quite place. I’m totally conflicted here. On the one hand, in terms of concept and gameplay, Ubisoft’s new IP brings something genuinely unique and different to the fore. Very few games offer PvP gameplay of this sort. It’s certainly got a USP.
Having said that, this action/fighter has been plagued by issues since it first appeared in February 14. The shonky matchmaking, the character balance that Ubisoft just doesn’t seem to have a handle on…
they’re continuing to support the game (a huge update featuring a whole new faction arrived just a couple of weeks back), but whether they’ll actually make the changes it needs is another question entirely.
10 LIVED UP: Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy — It’s Crash, Jim, And Just As We Know Him
As we know, gaming is all about a couple of things at the moment. Battle royales, open worlds and remasters.
The latter might seem like the easiest route to go, but it’s also a minefield. When you remaster classic titles like the Crash Bandicoot games, you’ve got to do something meaningful with them, but you can’t change too much.
Of all the many remakes, remasters and such we’ve seen of late, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy knocked this out of the park. As with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, it’s plain that a lot of respect and care for the original games went into the making of the collection, and that’s such an important thing for the fans.
9 DISAPPOINTING: Evolve — How Cool Could This Have Been?
This was a super unfortunate situation too. If any game’s ever had a winning idea, Evolve did. Essentially, it’s a multiplayer Monster Hunter sort of setup, only one of you is playing the monster. How could you say no to that?
Where Friday the 13th: The Game pulled that idea off rather well, Evolve just didn’t catch on. Rather, it sold well, but players soon drifted away at the sight of all the DLC and such. It became a free to play game, briefly, but its servers were shut down in September.
A sad loss of a fantastic idea.
8 DISAPPOINTING: 1-2-Switch — Switch-ed Off
As everyone in the entire darn world remembers, the Wii came packaged with an excellent little piece of software called Wii Sports. It was hardly a content-rich affair, but as a tech demo for the system, it was just perfect. Veteran gamers and grandmas alike joined together to perform ludicrously unnecessary swinging motions in Wii Sports tennis. It was a magical time.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and the closest equivalent the Switch can offer is 1-2-Switch. It’s fun enough, and solid as minigame compilations go (some of the things the Joy-Cons can do here are darn impressive), but there’s just not enough here to warrant its price.
7 LIVED UP: God Of War — Kratos Returns In Style
God of War is a curious one. As I say, gaming has been all about open world or online multiplayer experiences for some time now, but nobody told Kratos. This fantastic reboot of the super-violent PlayStation franchise isn’t any of those things.
There’s still room for a finely-crafted single-player experience around here (just ask Marvel’s Spider-Man), and God of War completely nailed that too.
it looks fantastic, the combat is brutal and solid, and it even tells an engrossing and heartfelt story in amongst all the action. What more could you ask for? A real Game of the Year contender, despite the stiff competition.
6 DISAPPOINTING: Sea Of Thieves — Lost At Sea
The console-exclusive Sea of Thieves also boasted a excellent concept. I don’t know about you, friends, but forming a pirate crew with friends online and roaming and pillaging our way around the high seas sounds like an essential gaming experience to me. With the lack of big Xbox One exclusives, it was even more tempting than usual.
Sadly, Sea of Thieves was sorely lacking in content when it first arrived. The wide, open seas were a little too wide and open, and I was having a worse time in the ocean than Leonardo DiCaprio. Updates have bolstered that since, but is it too late to bring disheartened players back?
5 DISAPPOINTING: The Order: 1886 — This Isn’t What I Ordered
So, what are we looking at here? The Order: 1886 is an action adventure title centring around the Knights of the Round Table. As the mythical group (well, Galahad), you’re blasting away vampires, werewolves and the like to keep the world safe.
A dark fantasy Men in Black experience, starring the Knights of the Round Table? How could this possibly have gone wrong?
Well, sadly, it did. The game was criminally short, and the whole cover-based shooting thing started to wear thin after a while. It was another sad case of style over substance.
4 LIVED UP: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — Bigger And Better
You never quite forget the first time you see a beloved video game series transition to 3D. The likes of Super Mario 64, Metal Gear Solid and The legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time may look primitive today, but still. That first time you panned around the courtyard of Peach’s castle? That was life-changing stuff right there, even if it was blocky as heckola.
Grand Theft Auto III was the series’ first venture into 3D, but it was San Andreas in 2004 that really demonstrated what the series could achieve in open world gameplay.
A huge, immersive, unforgettable world, and generally agreed to be one of the best games of all time.
3 DISAPPOINTING: Shadow The Hedgehog — Shadow The Edge-Hog
It’s hard to know how to feel about Shadow the Hedgehog (the character, not the game). I suppose it’s kind of neat to have a dark, anti-hero version of a popular protagonist. After all, every comic book character ever can’t be wrong.
You’ve got to be careful how far you push that concept, though. Shadow the Hedgehog (the game, not the character, try to keep up) went way too far with the whole edgiest edgelord in edgetown thing, making Shadow a John Woo-style double-pistols brandisher. The game rammed adult themes down our throats for the sake of it in the desperate effort to be cool.
It wound up looking like Bob Hope when he dressed as the Fonz.
2 DISAPPOINTING: Paper Mario: Sticker Star — A little One-Dimensional
The Paper Mario series is known for a few things. Its unique and adorable art style, for one. Its snappy, snarky and often downright brilliant humour. The writing generally.
These elements have been in place since the first Paper Mario outing for the N64. 2012’s Paper Mario: Sticker Star retained all of these, but ruined it all by adding some truly odd mechanics to mix. Battles that don’t grant EXP and cost your precious stickers? This totally goes against the golden rule of RPGs: those constant darn random battles and encounters have to mean something.
While we’re on that, what’s all the backtracking about?
1 LIVED UP : Resident Evil 7 — True Evil Has Arrived
Again, yes, this is going to be a controversial choice. Opinions are totally mixed about Resident Evil 7, and the way it shook up the familiar formula. Some didn’t care for it at all, while others consider it a great step in the right direction; from a series that had gone so badly astray.
As for myself, I’m a huge horror fan, and I don’t scare easily. I’ve got to say, though, that the tension in this one left me feeling genuinely unnerved at times. That DLC minigame where you and your opponent have your hands in those little cage dealies? That’s some creepy stuff, in the most brilliant of ways.