Gamers can be a little zealous in expressing their love of their favorite titles sometimes. Part of that is left over from a time when gaming struggled to be seen as more than toys, but it’s mostly because, well, gaming can be a very large investment of time and energy and you want to know you got your money’s worth. The result is that some titles get way more love than they honestly deserve in the more sober light of days. Games in this category include…
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.
5. Resident Evil 1 - 3
During the original PlayStation era, the Resident Evil series was lauded as being a new breed of horror game after a time when things like Phantasmagoria were more typical (and terrible), and viewed through that lens, they deserve all their plaudits. Looking back, though, the games were not all they were cracked up to be. For starters, the fixed camera angles were okay for setting up jump scares but awful for actually playing the game, and even though the second and third installments did better, the voice acting never really rose above high-school drama. To say nothing of the fact that the games’ success spawned a horde of jump-scare imitators that continues to this day.
4. Sonic the Hedgehog
Sega’s mascot was an attempt to create a counterpart to Mario but with a cool ’90s attitude. As a marketing success story Sonic was great, but as a game it was more like some knockoff licensed side-scroller on the SNES. The game claimed to be about speed, but played as if it was based on inertia. Sonic was a weightier character than the plumber, and aside from a few carefully constructed areas, you actually couldn’t speed-run as you could with a good game of Super Mario Bros. There was far less precision to the experience, and Sega’s obsession with trying to make Sonic a fast character without ever really understanding how to make speed play work is one of the reasons the original game continues to spin off inferior sequels. The best speed run of Sonic will still never be as interesting as the best speed run of Mario 64.
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3. God of War
I recently replayed the original God of War thanks to a PlayStation Now membership, and the more I progress through it, the less fond I am of the series. For all that it’s a classic Greek mythology story with an impressive lead figure, the fighting in the game, which takes up most of your time, is truly inferior. Being swarmed by enemies and attempting to perform these elaborate fighting moves while they cancel you out with more simple maneuvers gets really annoying. Playing God of War is reminding yourself why the Batman Arkham games did so well in their combat mechanic. There’s a rhythm, and Kratos has none. Also, I used to be much more forgiving of the sexism, and now that I really pay attention to it, I’m thinking it really needed some restraint in that regard.
2. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
This is one of those classic games everyone says he or she loves, and I can promise you everyone is lying. Though the game is notable for its mixture of action and RPG elements back when that was still a new concept, the actual design of the game was nearly impossible to beat without a hint. I refuse to believe anyone actually figured out on his own how to get the whirlwind transport to work. To top it all off, the end boss fight against a resurrected Dracula is a complete letdown, since you can whip the count to death before he even finishes re-forming from the body parts you’ve gathered. This game tried for a complex narrative structure and ended up just being tedious.
Maybe it’s the Sony fanboy in me, but nothing has ever seemed more overhyped and underwhelming than Halo. For multiplayer, yes, the series is great, but as with Call of Duty, its single player campaigns are usually garbage. Its story is terribly unoriginal, its main protagonist is one-dimensional in an era when that should no longer be forgiven, its enemy AI has always been some of the least intelligent in first-person shooting history, some of the level designs are among the worst ever, and even for an epic space opera, its lore is confusing. Halo is literally Call of Duty with added space pretensions on top, and I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone gets excited. Well, I do understand. People get excited because we’ve been waiting closing in on a decade for a new entry in the Half-Life series, and sometimes you take what you get.