As we bid farewell to 2019 and the last decade, everyone else seems to be fondly remembering the greatest in all things gaming. From the games to the streamers, to the esports and events, it’s nice to remember what went well. We should also remember the cautionary tales of the last decade, lest history repeats itself. With that in mind, I want to take a moment to look back and remember the worst of the worst. For your consideration, this is the worst video game of every year from 2010 to today.
2010 – Final Fantasy XIV
So let’s start by saying that this is not a criticism of FFXIV as a whole, but the 1.0 launch back in 2010. I have never in my life been so monumentally disappointed by a game launch as I was for this. Not only was it buggy. Not only was it impossible to log in and stay connected. And not only did it lag so badly you could barely play, but it was an awful game to boot. It was plodding, boring, and awkwardly paced. Thank goodness the 2.0 relaunch fixed a lot of it because 1.0 was an utter mess.
2011 – Duke Nukem Forever
I struggle with Duke Nukem Forever. Yes, it was bad. Yes, it was derivative and all-around a terrible game. But what did anyone honestly expect? The game was in development hell for over a decade. You can play through the game and literally point out what another shooter game was popular when they were designing each level. The best part of the game is the first twenty minutes, and that’s really not saying much. Duke Nukem was an artifact of the ’90s, a character who only worked in that era. While he’ll always hold a special place in my heart, it should have been Duke Nukem Never.
2012 – Game of Thrones
With Game of Thrones being such a big hit, you would think that a video game adaptation would be a hit! Yet, movies or TV shows to video games never quite work out. Game of Thrones tried to side-step this by having the plot happen adjacent to season one with a few supporting characters making appearances but the game ran its own story. Repetitive, unsatisfying combat, low-quality graphics, and long-loading screens turned people off quicker than they could get into a plot that actually wasn’t too bad. The game suffered a quiet, slow death which looking at how the HBO series ended may have been the better way to go.
2013 – Aliens: Colonial Marines
Movies turned video games seem to always be a bad idea, but Gearbox tried the same approach as Game of Thrones from the year prior. They set their game in the universe after the events of the 1986 Aliens movie. You’d think a studio like Gearbox would’ve had a hit on their hands, but due to other projects, they actually outsourced a lot of the work on this game. Over a six-year development period it launched to negative reception. Graphics were worse than tech and press demos, the gameplay was uninspired, it looked like Alien but felt nothing like it and had continuity issues. The only redeeming quality was the multiplayer, but even that wasn’t enough to save it. It needs to be noted that an eventual bug fix actually solved a lot of the problems of this game. But it didn’t save it from obscurity and a spot on our worst video game ever list.
2014 – Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
When you think “Sonic”, the first words that probably pop into your mind are the deep sword fighting combat mechanics, noticing that Knuckles has lots of human-like fingers, and art direction that looks like it crawled off the pages of the weirdest fan fiction you can find, right?
Then you are officially smarter than the people who greenlit the Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric game. When a company doesn’t send out review copies AND still have a journalistic embargo (to prevent from people reviewing the game early and cutting into sales figures), you know you’re in for a good time.
Step inside a time machine to witness a meeting with the developers:
Head of Development: We should have combat in this one.
Developer: Ok, how do you want us to implement the combat?
Head of Development: You press “Y”.
Developer: Ok, and what else?
Head of Development: That’s it, just press “Y”. Get on it.
My life feels like Sonic Boom some days. Just a big mess and I don’t know what’s going on.
2015 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Currently ranked the 8th worst PlayStation 4 game of all time, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 ended a regime. The biggest issue with the game that it was laden from top to bottom with numerous bugs making it a pain to even attempt to play. Fans also complained that the level designs were bland and boring compared to previous games. So how did the 5th and final entry in a beloved franchise crash so hard? The last few months of development were rushed due to the contract between Tony Hawk and Activision ending. Rushing game development is never the answer to success.
2016 – No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky was supposed to change the way we looked at the game and for some people, it did just that. One of the biggest crowdfunding successes at the time for games, it promises a lot to players…that it did not deliver on at the time. Today’s No Man Sky is a productive member of the gaming world, stays to himself, and works hard at his 9 to 5. We try not to think of the drunk and alcohol-fueled early 20s that nearly destroyed his life. Major bugs, missing key features and bland, boring, repetitive gameplay should have killed this game outright. Luckily, it got the help it needed and today people actually enjoy playing it. Or so I’m told.
2017 – Star Wars Battlefront 2
It’s not often that gamers speak loudly enough to effect substantive change in the industry. Battlefront 2 was one of those moments. A game that was supposed to right the wrongs of its predecessor only made matters worse. While its single-player mode was unsatisfying the worse offender was its loot boxes. Clearly emulating FIFA, progression in the PvP was tied to a pay-to-win mechanic. This allowed players who paid for the loot boxes to gain advantages over their opponents. The mechanic was so egregious it forced EA to change its unlock structure and swear off all micro-transactions for their following Star Wars games. BF2 serves as a model for how not to do loot boxes and it forever eroded the trust that fans had in EA to do Star Wars brand justice.
2018 – Metal Gear Survive
The Metal Gear series is a franchise that is revered with wonder as a true work of art built up over the years by master developer and auteur Hideo Kojima. Each game changed the way we look at video games and challenged us, players, and people. When he left Konami, he didn’t get to take it with him and what came next was Metal Gear Survive. This action-adventure survival game was multi-player with tower defense and stealth-mechanics where players were trapped in another dimension and attacked by crystal zombies. One of the key mechanics of the game was monitoring your oxygen level. Even for Metal Gear Solid, it was weird. Weird and terrible.
2019 – Anthem
Anthem should’ve been the phoenix that rose out of the ashes of Bioware’s recent failures. The world is in need of a good sci-fi action role-playing game. Bioware promises the type of narrative experience they had become known for in their Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises, they promised choices that matter and characters that would stay with you. Complete customization of your Iron Man-like suits and missions to play with friends that would have you exploring a vast and alien world. It launched at the end of February and none of that has been delivered. The good news is there’s talk of an Anthem 2.0 and if they expect anyone to pay for it, it should make Anthem’s release look like a walk in the park.
2020 (So far) – Resident Evil: Project Resistance
This one may have flown under the radar for many people. That’s because it’s technically not an individual release in the states. It came bundled with Resident Evil 3 Remake and thank goodness that it did. Because it was a dumpster fire. An asymmetrical multiplayer game set in the Resident Evil universe is theoretically a great idea. But poor frame-rate, awkward mechanics, and bad server connections torpedoed any chance this multiplayer had of succeeding.
I can’t bring myself to include it alongside Resident Evil 3 Remake, because RE3 Remake was really good. Like RE2 Remake, it recaptured the horror of the original while updating the game-play and graphics. Unsurprisingly, Capcom will now look to remake Resident Evil 4. Tread cautiously Capcom, you’re remaking what, for many, is the sacred cow of the Resident Evil franchise.
And there you have it. The worst video game of every year for the last 10, plus our leading candidate for this year. Remember, just as important as lauding the successes of the gaming industry is critiquing the failures. That’s how we learn and improve!
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Photo Credit: Bioware, Anthem