There have been quite a few gaming franchises over the years, all with different levels of success. Some, like Mario, have managed to keep things fresh with new and different gameplay features. Others, like Mass Effect or Uncharted, focused more on storytelling techniques, and crafted a complete character or world arc over the course of several games.
Below are 10 gaming series that, in my opinion, haven’t done any of those things — or at least haven’t done them well. It doesn’t make any of them necessarily bad games, but these are game series where I just don’t understand how or why they have the following that they do. Obviously, many of you will disagree with me, and that’s part of the point. Everyone has different tastes, and apparently these games just aren’t for me. It is worth analyzing the things we love, however. It’s possible to still enjoy things that aren’t of the highest quality, but that’s very different than convincing yourself that something bad is actually good.
This is going to get rough, as I’ll likely be going after one of your favorite gaming series, but I encourage you to do the same. Do you have issues with Mass Effect? Kingdom Hearts? Bioshock? Let me know in the comments below, but let’s keep this civil. And before you try and make an argument about the definition of “overrated” in this context, let me give you mine.
Overrate: to have a higher opinion of something than it deserves.
I don’t want to hear qualifiers like “this series isn’t overrated because one of the games didn’t review all that well” or “this series isn’t overrated because it hasn’t sold more than X amount of copies.” I’m saying these games aren’t as good as most people say they are. That’s it.
Obviously, everything that follows is MY OPINION, so don’t bother telling me that I’m wrong. Telling me that you disagree is something completely different, and that’s definitely allowed. Enjoy!
Batman: Arkham Series
The Batman series is a perfect example that overrated games aren’t necessarily bad games. I actually quite enjoyed Arkham Asylum — at least when it came to the story and setting. The combat is definitely well crafted, but it never really felt special or particularly interesting to me. And, after Asylum’s more intimate setting, Rocksteady followed one of the more recent development mistakes and thought that bigger had to mean better. Arkham City opened the world up considerably, but as a consequence, everything felt too empty and spread out. And the gliding mechanic didn’t do much to make traversing the city fun. That trend continued with Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight (though it’s worth noting that a different studio made Arkham Origins). Arkham Knight in particular just seemed to be the same game as City, only with a lame Batmo-tank thrown in. That was definitely not what I wanted from a Batman game.
The Battlefield series has had plenty of hits and misses. Bad Company 2 and 1942 were especially great. More recently, however, Battlefield 3 and 4 were plagued with broken launches, net code issues, balance problems, and glitches, ruining the otherwise fun experience. And Battlefield: Hardline was another case completely, wherein the game just wasn’t fun in the first place and felt more like a failed DLC or mod instead of a completely standalone game. EA and DICE certainly have their work cut out for them to bring back disenfranchised players like myself, and it’ll take more than new guns and maps to do so. Battlefield 1 could have been a nice reset for the series, but ended up feeling the same as its modern counterparts, only with a WWI paint job.
I’ll say this up front, I respect what the Halo series did with multiplayer back in the early days. It certainly wasn’t and isn’t for me — and it can be nearly impossible for new players to jump in and feel like they’re on equal footing — but it’s well made multiplayer. I’ve heard opinions that Halo 5’s more Call of Duty feel hasn’t won over long-standing fans, but without having played it myself, I can’t say. Multiplayer aside, and I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here, but I just do not understand why people like Halo’s single-player component. The graphics are decent (mostly due to the amazing skyboxes), but the environments and enemy types are incredibly bland and repetitive. And if you aren’t a reader of the many novelizations, the story can be completely nonsensical at times, filled with protagonists that have little to no personality. The shooting mechanics are sound, and playing with friends is as fun as it is in any other co-op game, but the normal gameplay loop is repetitive and boring. I’ve played every mainline title in the series, and I couldn’t tell you a single important story beat from any of the games. Something about an Arbiter? Flood zombie things? Cortana? That’s about all I’ve got.
Resident Evil Series
Resident Evil 4 is a pretty good game. That’s it, that’s all this series has to go on. Let’s be honest here, Resident Evil is famous for its completely archaic and completely not fun “tank controls” popularized in the early 2000s. Somehow, people have convinced themselves that the controls add challenge and intensity to the games, when in reality all it does it make them a chore to play. It’s telling that the Resident Evil HD Remaster allowed you to play with more traditional 3rd person controls, because thankfully Capcom was smart enough to realize that no one new to the series would stick around if they had to stop moving to aim. And let’s not even talk about the completely insane story of Resident Evil 6, and the series’ many failed spinoffs. Resident Evil 7 seems to be a step in the right direction, but I’ve also heard that it doesn’t even feel like a Resident Evil game anymore.
Metal Gear Solid Series
Speaking of games with nonsensical stories, Metal Gear Solid takes the cake in that category, — and then it adds a robot arm and a few clones for good measure. I understand that Hideo Kojima is an auteur, and people are intrigued and mystified by his insanity, but clearly allowing him to do whatever the hell he wants in a game leads to delays and blown budgets, as well as a fractious relationship with the publisher and fellow developers. Take George Lucas as another example. With studio oversight, he made one of the best film trilogies of all time. But when given unlimited time, resources, and power, he tainted the series forever with the prequels. Beyond the ludicrous story of Metal Gear, each game has been more ridiculous than the last. They’re all a hodge-podge of a million design ideas. In a normal design scenario, more than half of them would have been scrapped during pre-production. At times, the series is completely self-serious, and then ten minutes later you’re attaching a sheep to a balloon and depositing it back at your base for resources. While sometimes hilarious and inventive, more often than not, Metal Gear is dumb in the worst ways.
I can already hear you typing a furious rebuttal about how I’m an idiot and if I don’t like the Souls series, it’s because I suck at video games. So, take a breath, look up the word “fanboy,” and realize that your reaction is the entire point of this article. Now that we’re settled, let’s talk about Dark Souls (and Demon Souls, and by extension, Bloodborne). I’m not going to say they’re all bad games, I haven’t played them enough to know that one way or the other. But, I will say that they have plenty of bad mechanics — though Bloodborne is less guilty of this. Everything is the Souls series is intentionally esoteric. The combat, story, menus, and more are all left completely up to the player to figure out. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing — in fact, plenty of games, like Minecraft, have used the element of discovery well. But this series is known for its brutal and unforgiving difficulty, and when you die over and over because you can’t figure out how something works, and then discover that you’ve run into a wall in how you’ve developed your character so that the best way to move forward is to start the game over, that ceases to be fun and instead begs the question “Why did I pay $60 to just bang my head against the wall for 40 hours?”
I don’t think many people would argue that the recent Sonic offerings haven’t been terrible. But there are plenty of people that still say the early Sonic games — Sonic 2 in particular — were great. I’m here to set those people straight. There has never been a good Sonic game. You were just a kid and you’re looking back through rose-tinted glasses. I know this because I used to be like you. I remember breaking my Genesis out every day after school to play Sonic, and I remember loving it. But I bought the first three games on a Playstation sale a year or so ago, and I decided to give Sonic 2 a try. I almost broke my controller, I threw it so much. Unless you have every level memorized (which plenty of kids did back in the day), you’re just guessing where you have to go and crossing your fingers that you don’t run into an enemy because not even a freaking ninja has reflexes fast enough to avoid losing rings. Of all the series mentioned so far, this is the one I’m most hoping will just go away forever.
Every Sports Game Series Ever
Ok, I’m being purposefully hyperbolic here, but seriously, the biggest problem facing games like Madden, FIFA, NBA 2K, etc is iteration. Every year they release a new game with updated rosters, marginally improved graphics, and some new gimmick to hinge the gameplay around like “better cornerback defense” or “improved dribbling physics” and then they slap a $60 tag on it and people eat it up. And, in the case of moving the game across to the PS4 and Xbox One, features and game modes were even REMOVED from the games. And guess what? They still charged the same price. That is completely insane. I get it, the developers are on a very tight development cycle since they’re putting out a game every year, and you certainly can’t blame them because people buy it. So, I’ll just say vote with your wallets, people. Maybe someday they’ll stop charging you $60 for the same game, and instead, they’ll put out a $10 roster update every year, and a full release every three or so years. That way you’ll actually get some meaningful graphical and gameplay improvements.
Call of Duty Series
Call of Duty is the biggest punching bag in the industry, mostly because people love to hate things that are popular. While I will say that most of the hate is blind, plenty of the complaints against the series are justified. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare really brought first-person shooters to modernity. It had a contemporary single-player experience and awesome multiplayer with tons of customization options. It was something the genre had never seen before. But since then, the series has been rehashing the same multiplayer ideas with minor tweaks, and the campaign has become a cliched action afterthought with very little substance. Activision is even experimenting with the idea of selling the multiplayer portion by itself — that’s how invested they are in the single-player mode. Credit where credit is due, Black Ops 2 tried something new with branching storylines (though it was mostly unsuccessful), and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare added exo-suits for faster, more vertical gameplay, but that success depends on who you’re asking. Because of the three different development houses, the games are constantly keeping some ideas and changing others for seemingly no reason. Remember when Black Ops added dolphin diving, and then Modern Warfare 3 took it out? So stupid. Call of Duty needs to take a break, rethink their business model, and then come back with something completely fresh, or else the decline in sales will continue until no one cares about the series in five years. But hey, get the money while you can. That seems to be the structure Activision has operated under for years, so I doubt they’ll change anytime soon.
Assassin’s Creed Series
In my mind, this one wasn’t even close. Assassin’s Creed is far and away the most overrated gaming franchise out there. The decisions made by Ubisoft are baffling from a creative standpoint, but like Activision, they seem more content to strike while the money iron is hot rather than create something lasting like Nintendo has done with its many franchises. Assassin’s Creed 1, 2, and Black Flag have certainly been high points, but let’s examine them a little further, shall we? AC 1 had this completely new and unique method of traversing around a world, but the execution wasn’t entirely there. The game also suffered from terrible combat, an uninteresting protagonist, and a confusing modern day story. AC 2 upped the ante in that there was infinitely more to do, though the combat and traversal issues remained. The protagonist was engaging, at least, and it told a personal story that you could actually invest in (though the modern story still felt nonsensical and arbitrary). Black Flag had amazing ship combat that was improved upon from AC 3. However, that ship combat became repetitive in the late game, and while Edward’s story was fun, it lacked depth — and the modern first-person sections felt tacked on. And again, the execution of the traversal still wasn’t there, and the game suffered from poor combat and some terrible mission design that people had been complaining about for years.
Looking at the more poorly received entries, many of them included new game mechanics that felt unnecessary or poorly implemented, like co-op missions, multiplayer, and a tower defense style mini-game. Ubisoft was smart and took 2016 off from Assassin’s Creed, releasing Assassin’s Creed Origins after the break. That game was a departure and re-invention of the series in many ways, but the core of the game didn’t change much. If anything, they took away some of the fun — climbing things and learning about assassination victims were streamlined too much. There’s a great opportunity with Assassin’s Creed to explore exotic locales and interesting time periods, but that isn’t enough. And please, just give up on the modern day setting altogether.
So, what gaming franchises do you think are overrated? Let me know in the comments below!