10. Call of Duty
Few game series have ever more perfectly embodied the word “overrated” like Call of Duty. With every new release, you find any negative coverage of the game is swamped by fans reminding us that Call of Duty is the best thing ever despite essentially being as far from the cutting edge of the first-person shooter as you can get. Weirdly, it’s become almost its own subgenre of shooters, kind of like how you go to the bookstore and there is just this wall of Tom Clancy novels. It’s not bad per se. The games are solid quality, but they just don’t do much to advance gaming as a whole or shooters as a genre.
And speaking of beloved shooters…
This time I’m just talking about the first game, not the series as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bioshock. It’s the reason I re-entered the then-current generation of systems. However, most of the Big Ideas that Bioshock attempts to tackle through its story aren’t really examined in any meaningful way, and its combat mechanic doesn’t really stand out among its brethren. It’s a beautiful game with a rich mythology, but there’s a lot more style than substance in it. Ultimately, the game was about a very juvenile concept of choice that asked no hard questions, and it failed to deliver the ending with any punch thanks to a lackluster final boss.
8. Final Fantasy VII
If you want to say VII changed the series forever, you’ll get no argument from me, but the game itself isn’t even the best original PlayStation Final Fantasy let alone the acme of the entire franchise. I’ll let its rather mundane third act slide because Final Fantasys tend to go off the rails storywise near the end, but harder to justify was the Materia system and the annoying sameness it gave every character. There really wasn’t a reason ever to have a party that wasn’t the three long-range fighters, which made actually playing the bulk of the game kind of boring. Cloud Strife would also usher in the era of broody soldiers of fortune as main protagonists, and that got really old really fast.
7. Mortal Kombat (2011)
The one nice thing I will say about the 2009 reboot of Mortal Kombat is that anyone considering rebooting any franchise in any medium should watch the game’s story mode because it has never been done better. Other than that, though, it’s a really mediocre fighting game that reset the series back to square one not only narratively but mechanically. Its single selling point was “look, a new current-generation system Mortal Kombat,” and it used that technology to have bloodier blood and more insulting outfits for its female characters than ever. It did lead to Mortal Kombat X, though, and that game fixed much of the sexism, introduced a brilliant new story and managed to innovate fighting through its clever variations system. Much improved.
Any list of iconic adventure games is going to include Myst, and frankly I wonder why anyone ever talks about it in an age when Firewatch and Dear Esther are a thing. Visually lovely and innovative at the time, it’s not a title that has aged well. Its level design is pretty garbage, and most of its puzzle mechanics are so pretentiously done as to be almost nonsensical. It also failed spectacularly at world building, sticking mostly with abstract concepts that rarely revealed any deeper emotion. It was a good first start at something, but the game could have said so much more.