The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of We Got This Covered and its staff
Video games have been a great storytelling medium since the days of the NES. Though boasting minimalist graphics, programmers were able to circumvent those limitations through memorable gameplay and fun writing. Dragon Quest, The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Ultima, Gargoyle’s Quest, Mother, Secret of Mana, and Terranigma were all amazing narrative games from this era of bit graphics.
However, the advent of polygon models and easier game engines has enabled developers to create visceral experiences that seemingly last a lifetime. Programmers are now capable of creating worlds that were impossible before, giving their writing team more creative freedom in terms of what stories they want to tell. The Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham, Uncharted, Witcher and Metal Gear Solid series erupted and have established themselves during this time as not only wholly video games, but also phenomenal pieces of storytelling.
Unfortunately, sometimes fans exaggerate just how amazing a game they’ve just played really is. The truth is, the subjective experience can blind people to the objective reality of the game. At its best, this can cause a title to develop a sour reputation in the future, but at its worst, it can lead to individuals actually getting death threats, as was the case with Hello Games and No Man’s Sky.
Whether it’s nostalgia, bandwagoning, or simply sunk-cost apologetics, here are seven examples of popular video games that we believe to not be that great.
1) Life Is Strange
Life is Strange took everyone by surprise in 2015, being that it was not only an indie title, but one that relied more on story interaction than actual gameplay. Yet, with likable characters, an interesting mystery and a nice pastel art style, it ended up earning rave reviews, and enough fan support to warrant two sequels.
But, Life is Strange was also the victim of numerous problems that have been seemingly overlooked. First was the evident budget cuts, which resulted in all player choices not having any impact on the rushed binary finale. Second was developer Dontnod opting to throw out the interesting mythology that had been hinted at in early episodes in favor of a resolution that didn’t answer big questions like why the storm was coming and why it was tied to the protagonist Max.
Finally, of course, there was the lingo, which rang more like an attempt to sound hip than someone actually speaking the language of millennials.
2) Kingdom Hearts
The concept of Kingdom Hearts was something of a revolutionary idea: merge the Final Fantasy series with Walt Disney’s classic characters for a fun adventure. Seems like the perfect recipe, right?
Unfortunately, the resulting game was nowhere near as exciting as this premise. To start with, the story, which should have been the strongest element given the scope of Final Fantasy and Walt Disney films, was a confusing mishmash of cliches: take every single Disney villain and have them team-up for the sake of acquiring world domination.
To add insult to injury, the gameplay was downright terrible. An awkward control scheme forced players to hold the controller at a weird angle, the auto-targeting was bipolar, the camera needing constant manual attention, and the combat was essentially just button mashing bullet sponge enemies with weak AI partners. Talk about a missed opportunity!
3) Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 is widely regarded as the best entry in the Mass Effect series, and it’s genuinely baffling as to why that is.
It was the first game in the franchise to be produced by BioWare under its acquisition by EA, and the result shows in the opening event. While admittedly breathtaking to witness the Normandy and Shepard being destroyed, it’s also annoying to realize that this was, for all intents and purposes, a method at soft rebooting the game from its predecessor.
This is evidenced through several changes: most of your team is replaced with new members, Cerberus is changed from an obscure terrorist organization responsible for the sole survivor backstory to a paramilitary organization capable of funding intergalactic expeditions, and all RPG mechanics from the first game are thrown out in favor of generic action tropes.
Simply put, this was nothing but a disappointing follow-up to the revered Mass Effect.
4) The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
You cannot mention an Elder Scrolls game these days without it being compared to the third entry, Morrowind. This open-world RPG was a major influence on a large generation of gamers, as it not only provided players with an inconceivably expansive open world, but also filled it with quests to complete and enemies to kill.
Unfortunately, no one seems willing to admit that the game as a whole was just lackluster. Yes, there were lots of quests, but the vast majority of them can be tied down to two formulas: either go to X area and kill X enemy, or go to X area and retrieve X items. It gets very boring, and the lack of a solid story makes completing them more of a chore.
The gameplay itself is fine, but the lack of caps on skills like alchemy and enchanting ensures that the game will be unbalanced for anyone who chooses not to focus on these crafts. People always complain that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had too much hand holding, but we’d argue that allowing players to create one-hit KO potions was much worse.
5) The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Following up the iconic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a tough task for anyone. After all, here was a game that not only sold a bunch, but ended up becoming a cultural touchstone for the industry as a whole.
Its sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, does do a lot of interesting things to make the title stand out from its predecessor, such as the time traveling mechanic, but not everything is a hit. For starters, with only two years to create the game, a lot of assets like character models are reused, and in some cases outright replicated in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
There’s also this idea that the game’s hub of Termina is a parallel world to Hyrule, but this theory is never expanded upon. Nor do any of the characters like the Skull Kid or the Moon have their backstories fleshed out: they’re simply there to cause trouble for Link, compared to Ganon from previous The Legend of Zelda entries who had deeper motivations.
On top of this, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask embraces a linear perspective when it comes to time travel, meaning Link is literally traveling back to the past whenever he plays the Song of Time. This is perfectly fine, but it also means that a lot of the emotional weight given to sidequests like Anju and Kafei is lost as Link will always be able to save them, no matter how dire things get.
Very cool stuff, but not quite consistent.
6) Fallout 3
Fallout 3 brought the troubled franchise back into the spotlight in 2008. Utilizing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s Gamebyro engine, it was basically a type of Elder Scrolls game merely set in a retro-futuristic time. And though this does make for some fun combat scenarios, utilizing the very sweet V.A.T.S. system, it also paves the way for some frustrations with the world as a whole.
For starters, why do cars explode with a mushroom cloud explosion if fuel is a valued commodity in this area? And, why is the town of Megaton built around an atomic bomb when the whole world was devastated by nuclear weaponry? It would be like a town ravaged by lava building itself around a giant volcano. That there’s a cult that worships the bomb is something that could be construed as a satirical commentary on the nature of zealotry, but for the game’s purpose it serves to simply be a church for the player to donate to in order to ward off their evil karma, which brings us to our next point: the morality system is nonsensical.
Granted, this was a giant criticism of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but the fact that Bethesda chose to ignore the critiques in favor of implementing the same thing into Fallout 3 without any changes is mind-boggling. Set off the aforementioned warhead and destroy the entire village? Don’t worry, a couple thousand bottlecaps to the nearest church will let you off the hook. It makes no sense whatsoever, and only hurts the game in the long run.
Then comes the grand insipid finale, where the player is forced to kill themselves in order to purify the land’s water supply. This, in spite of the fact that you’re given a partner immune to radiation. While Bethesda did admittedly amend this with a patch, it just goes to show how little planning was actually done for some of Fallout 3’s integral story moments.
7) Assassin’s Creed III
Assassin’s Creed III was a prime example of wasted potential. What should have been the satisfying conclusion to a chapter in the long running Assassin’s Creed franchise was instead turned into an unbearable experience that somehow got rave reviews from critics.
As anyone may remember, the bugs for Assassin’s Creed III were notorious, with many of them either limiting the player’s ability to enjoy the world or outright breaking the game entirely. The story was a timeskip-riddled cluster, jumping rapidly from Haytham Kenway’s departure to the Americas to Connor’s birth and the burning of his village to Connor’s sudden mastery of all things assassin. What could have been a potentially powerful story was tossed aside in favor of a narrative that seemed more interested in retelling the American Revolution than actually being its own game.
Seriously, having Connor actually command troops during battles? The only thing more un-assassin like would be commanding ships….