Video games go through a cycle. They’re first conceive and approved for development. Then they hire a team, they build a skeleton of the world, they have the characters, animations, cutscenes, basic plot, voice acting, etc… and after a while they need the marketing to happen. After all, the best game in the world is nothing if no one knows about it. The best way to do this is to hype it up. Hype is a perfectly normal part of the development cycle. Skyrim was hyped, and it delivered. Mass Effect had a great deal of hype, and again (with the exception of the third game whose ending bombed big time) also had a great deal of draw.
But then there is the inevitable flop. Not some obscure flop like some cheaply made budget game you buy at a dollar store (don’t laugh, that actually happened to me) that never tried to build a hype because no one cared about it in the first place. I’m talking about major league games by well-known developers who can create, and have created, great games in the past. The hype is understandable. We know their reputation. So when their games end up crashing and burning, or just come off as a big disappointment, it is a major let down. We’re going to discuss 15 such examples here for your amusement.
15. Daikatana (2000)
Daikatana is a classic example of what NOT to do when developing a game. While it came out in 2000 (an eternity away in video games, and well out of public consciousness in most cases), it is STILL an industry punchline after all these years. John Romero is a highly talented video game developer, who made classics like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, all of which are still highly celebrated today (Wolfenstein still has games being made in the series). So when he said he was going to make a game that involved time travel and awesome fighting with an intelligent sidekick that would make people forget Navi from Ocarina of Time, nerds from all over the world had a massive nerdgasm all over their screens and needed to be rushed to hospital to handle the sheer weight of awesomeness.
But… it just wasn’t to be. The game itself was buggy as all hell and the execution of the game was just terrible. It was also unbelievably delayed… it was scheduled for Christmas 1997, but was 3 years late. While nerds can wait a long time, the sheer disappointment with the massive hype only made the ultimate fall even harder. I remember this, because I was there at the time. I’m an old gamer who remembers playing Daikatana for 15 minutes then giving up because I had no idea what to make of it… This isn’t even half of it, but it is a top 15 list and not a top 1 list…
14. Duke Nukem Forever (2011)
Duke Nukem is the ultimate 90s action video game hero. When he started out as a side-scrolling character in the early 90s, he immediately captured my imagination as a reckless, badass, smartass individual who basically took every single 80s and early 90s action hero tropes and distilled them into one huge array of awesomeness. The 1996 first person shooter that everyone knows and loves is such an homage to badassery that despite the game’s age, it’s still extremely playable and extremely fun. So when they said they were coming out with a sequel, gamers all over the world raised a glass of Mountain Dew to celebrate.
But then something really weird happened… the game itself was delayed. Not like Daikatana delayed. I’m talking the game had delay after delay and change of studio after change of studio. No one knew WHAT was going on other than it was in development hell for longer than any other game in existence. So it when it finally got released in 2011, many fans finally had closure to their decades long ordeal. The game itself definitely SHOWS its age. Many of the gameplay mechanics would have fit in amazingly in late 90s first person shooters, and maybe up to 2002 even. But not 2011. The jokes also show the game’s age. The references to older sci-fi films that would have been easily remembered in 1998 don’t ring a bell so easily in 2011. They even had a South Park reference with the ‘step 1: get something, step 2: ????, Step 3: profit’. While that joke is a classic and people today would get it, it just doesn’t jive as well.
13. Spore (2008)
Spore is Will Wright’s baby. Will Wright is another genius and legend among video game developers. He is the mind behind the classics like SimCity, The Sims, and Civilization. These series are still ongoing and while the newest iterations are highly advanced, even the older ones still have extremely loyal followings. He basically is the sim god of the sim universe.
So when Spore was announced, one that was promised to be the ultimate Sim game out there, one that would simulate evolution from a microlevel to a major lifeform and then civilization and the heroics you can perform in that civilization, all in an organic manner, gamers everywhere were blown away. The end result was… excruciatingly lackluster. The minigames that comprised the stages of life were really cheap, simplistic, and feel like boring steps rather than actual scientific ways of how evolution happened. The final stage of the game was the only thing worth playing (the space exploration stage) but even then, it was remarkably boring after a while. Spore was just a big bore.
12. No Man’s Sky (2016)
This game promised to be another massively massive amazing world. Imagine an entire universe that you can explore and build stuff in? It isn’t the first of its kind. In the 1980s there was Elite, a game made in 1984 that had over 2000 star systems that you could explore, all with random names. This was done using procedural generation which allowed this to happen without destroying or overloading your computer. No Man’s Sky aimed to take that to an even greater level. Gone are 2000 planets… but now you have 18 quintillion planets to explore (that’s 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets if you want the raw number). This is more planets than you have seconds to live. So you would think that with that much stuff to explore you could, in theory, play the game from cradle to grave and never fully finish this game.
But here’s the thing about the universe we live in… it’s mostly empty space, which is also what this game is. It’s extremely boring and even with the massive freedom the game provided, it still failed to deliver on so many levels. Many gamers felt lied to about the features of the game and just what it promised. No Man’s Sky should have been No Man’s Waste Of Time.
11. Battleborn (2016)
Battleborn was intended to come out as one of the big draws of 2016’s gaming releases. Near Overwatch’s release date, another game that’s destined to be a classic. The only problem was that it was not Overwatch, it was not of the same caliber, and it was not of the same anything. Yet it was hyped along with it as if it was a companion game or something.
10. The Division (2016)
Another 2016 game that was overhyped and then failed to deliver. Behind it was Tom Clancy, famed military fiction writer who has never served a day in the military. It was also a foray into a third-person, post-apocalyptic shooter that promised an open world with destructive environment that the player was free to explore and destroy.
The end result was just lackluster. Not a bad game in any way, shape or form, but it just didn’t have the punch that people expected out of a Tom Clancy game like the Rainbow Six series. Not a bad game, just didn’t live up to the hype. One of the many in 2016 that fell prey to this, unfortunately.
9. Mafia III (2016)
Mafia was a Grand Theft Auto clone that took place in the prohibition era, and it was an awesome game due to its settings, story, and characters. Mafia II continued that with a Post-WW2 setting and had an equally great plot and gameplay. So it isn’t surprising that Mafia III was hyped up to no end. Surely it couldn’t fail as badly as the rest on this list, right?
But alas, the repetitive gameplay and the technical glitches really destroyed the experience, in addition to the limited set of graphics that meant that the players normally met the exact same character so many times that no amount of 60s hippie goodness could possibly make up for it.
8. Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)
Aliens: Colonial Marines should have maybe been called Aliens: Colossal Marine Failure. It was supposed to be a sequel in the illustrious series of games. But what happened in the end is that it not only failed to live up to the hype of its own release, but also as an utter failure to all other Alien games out there. It was considered so bad that it easily squeezed into the list of worst video games ever released. Beyond the typical problems of technical difficulties that are so abundant on this list, the AI was utterly terrible, and the story really pathetic. Despite being a 2013 game, the game’s graphics were seen as being highly subpar.
7. BattleCruiser 3000AD (1996)
Remember how Duke Nukem Forever’s story started in the 90s? And Daikatana also was scheduled for a 1997 release and ended up coming out in 2000? Well that was a long time ago… you know what was the big overhyped bomb before that? Well then, let me tell you about BattleCruiser 3000AD. It was originally announced in 1992 in gaming magazines and promised a huge amount of freedom to a player who could commandeer a battlecruiser in outer space and go about doing what they please. They also promised a complex neural network AI that would be extremely challenging and highly unpredictable in how it operated and learned from you and got smarter as time passed by.
So what was the deal? Firstly… the game really didn’t deliver. Secondly, even tech geniuses balked at the idea of a neural network being used in a video game, especially in the 90s (this is a very complex piece of computing and if you actually managed to pull it off, you’d go down in computing history as a genius). The marketing was also insane in the way it did it. They even have scantily clad women with game boxes in their hands as an advertising trick. The game’s main director Derek Smart was also notoriously vocal on usenet (an early internet forum back in the 90s) and frequently got into heated arguments with fans who either didn’t like the game or thought he was being ridiculous in the promotion. All of these added up to one colossal flop.
6. Homefront: The Revolution (2016)
Homefront provided players with a solid game full of awesome gameplay, a nice plot, and generally speaking, a nice experience. It wasn’t anything super special, but it was nothing to fart at anyway. The sequel tried to build on that by promising a whole lot and even higher experiences. Fans were pretty excited for this sequel until it completely failed. It was beyond mediocre to begin with, and the technical issues that plagued it only made things a lot harder. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that technical problems CAN completely destroy a game that would be otherwise passable or even good. Ultima 9 was an utter butchery of its series, but what really made it unbearable was the bugs that nearly made it impossible to play. Remember that when making your game.
5. Dead Island (2011)
Dead Island made some of the best game trailers of all time. It seriously gave a lot of gamers goosebumps with its music, its doomed family plot, its cinematography, its engaging game play. In a market that has its fair share of mediocre zombie games, at least this game won’t be your typical run-of-the-mill zombie shooter, amirite?
Well it isn’t. No… it actually turned out to be a below average zombie game. No exploration of a zombie-infested world, just a silly little game that is marred with Australian accents, and an array of technical problems that would make you WISH for a zombie apocalypse.
4. Fable (2004)
Fable is an unusual type of flop. The game itself never quite over hyped itself to a major degree. There was no talk of a huge story, or of intriguing characters, or gameplay that has dragon slaying galore or any such stuff. What it promised was the little things. The tiny details in fantasy universes. The idea that you could have real time grass growth, and acorns that can grow into mighty oaks and other really cool stuff like that.
Not only did it fail to deliver any of those things, the game itself was considered to be one of the laziest games ever made. It was not a bad game by any stretch, but it failed to deliver the living world that it claimed to be.
3. SimCity (2013)
Spore wasn’t the only flop on Will Wright’s career (but to be honest, it’s still a pretty stellar career regardless). After that bore of a space sim, there was SimCity 2013. It had been 9 years since SimCity 4 (still an awesome game), but SimCity 2013 had one major flaw… it was an online only game. When you try to pull something like that off, you need to make sure your servers are perpetually working properly. That didn’t happen. In fact they crashed so many times it made you think the machines were starting an uprising within the game to destroy virtual cities before they moved onto the real deal.
Lots of network outages and crashes led to loss of data. Building a city is hard work. If you spent 5 or 10 hours building a city in SimCity and it was suddenly destroyed, you’d be pretty ticked off. These things resulted in it being considered a major flop
2. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Sonic the Hedgehog is a beloved franchise of a blue hedgehog that is super fast and loves to eat chili dogs. Oh and he fights bad guys, too. Specifically some egg-headed villain who wants to turn the entire world into a robotic version of itself so he can have a G-rated terminator movie or something. The 2006 game was supposed to be the 15th anniversary of the series, which had captured the hearts and minds of many gamers and children of all ages around the world. The hype was huge, as you’d expect, so as to set up a titanic level crash, except without Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On”.
The game was a disaster on so many levels that it is not only considered the worst Sonic game ever, but among the worst games ever made. Bad controls, bad story, and lots of bugs only made this one a giant flop.
1. Mass Effect Andromeda (2017)
Mass Effect as a series was among the best developed sci-fi universes out there. The characters are stellar, the story is stellar, and the setting is rich and detailed and drags you in like a prison guard to showers (OK that was weird). With the exception of the ending of the third game, the series is right up there with Wing Commander, only even better. So when Mass Effect: Andromeda was supposed to be the shining light that redeemed that ending. The memes online showed the sheer amount of nerdy hyperventilation in pure excitement at the game’s release.
But… it crashed. It crashed big time. Bioware barely play tested the game and its technical bugs were astounding, including the single most brazen example of uncanny valley effect on people’s faces you’ve ever seen. It turned off fans so much most of them just turned away from the game and even the entire series. Bioware has even gone so far as to put the series aside for now, maybe even permanently. Hey at least we got Mass Effect II…
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