Well, I’ve done it now. I’ve reached 150 game reviews: one for every Pokémon in the original two games! When I reached 100 game reviews, I celebrated by ranking them all from worst to best, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do here. All of this time, I’ve been ranking the games between that milestone and this one, leaving me with 51 places. Why 51? It’s because I revised my BioShock: Infinite review. With fewer entries overall, I’m going to split this post into four segments. The games with failing grades go first. After that, the games with middling grades will be discussed. In part three, I’ll talk about the games that received either a 7/10 or an 8/10. Finally, the concluding part will have me talk about every 9/10 I’ve awarded so far. I’ve finished doing that, I’ll reveal the full list, so you can see how they fare against the original 100 games I’ve discussed. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
51. Nerves of Steel
Before I reveal the full ranking list, I’ll just say this right now: Nerves of Steel did not supplant the NES edition of Dragon’s Lair for the dubious title of the worst game I’ve ever played. It is, however, the single most incompetently coded game I’ve ever played. In most games with bad coding, I can at least see what caused the game to crash and do my best to avoid making the mistake in the future – even if said mistake isn’t on me. I couldn’t do this with Nerves of Steel; attempting to play it was complete pandemonium. I had to save every other minute because I was justifiably afraid that it would crash at any moment for no reason. Then again, it wouldn’t matter if Rainmaker Software had someone of John Carmack’s caliber on their team because even if Nerves of Steel didn’t crash every five minutes, it’s still an exceptionally bland game with horrible level design, terrible visuals, doors that are actually walls with no collision detection, and stupefyingly idiotic AI. It really says something about a game that operating on a jingoistic premise is by far the least bad thing about it. With Rainmaker Software having created two of the worst PC games in existence, it’s highly fitting that they faded away shortly thereafter; they clearly didn’t have what it takes to remain in the business.
50. Ninjabread Man
Ninjabread Man may rank higher than Nerves of Steel, but that’s mostly by virtue of having been stable from start to finish. DDI has no reason to celebrate, for Ninjabread Man is definitely one of the laziest games I’ve ever played. It has patently terrible controls and level design. Even if you were willing overlook these faults, you’ll realize the game wouldn’t even last you an afternoon. DDI was aided by the fact that the Wii was relatively inexpensive to develop for; had they pulled this stunt off in a later generation or on its competing consoles, they would have faced insolvency much sooner.
49. Anubis II
Anubis II is slightly better than Ninjabread Man by virtue of having most of the ingredients required to make a game (it has an actual boss fight, for one), but it fails in the exact same way. In fact, they’re pretty much the same game. I could follow DDI’s example by copying the above paragraph and pasting it here, but I won’t.
48. Ride to Hell: Retribution
Ride to Hell: Retribution is one of those games that cynical enthusiasts like to point towards when making a case that games are getting worse. However, as you may have noticed by its relatively high position compared to the other 1/10 games I’ve reviewed, I can safely say it’s far from the worst I’ve played. While it certainly has its share of frustrating moments, I actually found myself laughing at how incompetently made it was – especially when I was able to resolve most conflicts by kicking opponents to death while their buddies just stared in awe at my flawless tactics. It is in my bottom ten now, but as I play more terrible games, it will more than likely be pushed out. Meanwhile, Nerves of Steel is probably going to remain in my bottom ten for a long, long time. In summation, the worst 2010s game I’ve played still has nothing on the worst the eighties or nineties had to offer, and I feel that’s highly fitting. I’m certainly aware that bad games are still being made, but I have to say that Ride to Hell: Retribution can be used as an unconventional indication of the overall increasing quality of games given that it’s not as bad as the above three entries. Not only that, but in the eighties and nineties, people had a realistic chance of actually purchasing these games for full price. Ride to Hell: Retribution had no chance to do so, being slammed by every critic imaginable upon release, and with the internet at the average enthusiast’s disposal, it was rendered completely harmless.
Now don’t think this means I’m actually defending Ride to Hell: Retribution. While standout critical personalities may have exaggerated how bad this game is, the truth of the matter is that the exaggeration is only slightly off the mark. It really deserves its reputation as one of the worst games of the 2010s. They say beauty is only skin deep, but actually playing Ride to Hell: Retribution reveals that the gameplay is as bad as the visuals are ugly. This isn’t even getting into the rather embarrassing degrees of chauvinism on display.
I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of bad works can be traced to the era that spawned them. Nerves of Steel was something that could only have been released in the wake of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom whereas Ninjabread Man and Anubis II required one of the three consoles of the seventh generation to be significantly easier to develop for than the other two. Meanwhile, I like to see Ride to Hell: Retribution as a dark reflection of the AAA scene in the mid-2010s. It was an era in which AAA video game protagonists wouldn’t have felt out of place in the Dark Age of Comic Books. In addition to openly laughing at players for having hope, it made the entire industry feel woefully behind the times – even as their work received universal acclaim and were being used proof that games truly are art. Every single one of those problems can be found in Ride to Hell: Retribution, so while critics and fans alike laugh at this game, I find it highly fitting that it was released in the same year as The Last of Us and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
47. Bokosuka Wars
I really don’t like ranking Bokosuka Wars this low because it really was an inventive game for its time. It was a real-time strategy game long before the genre’s name was even coined. That being said, while it was a great game back in 1984, attempting to play it now would result in immense frustration. It was a valent effort, but it doesn’t change the fact that the game relies too heavily on luck to be any fun to play. It’s entirely possible to do well for ninety percent of your playthrough only to lose in the final corridor because the dice roll wasn’t in your favor. Coupled with it being exceptionally difficult to navigate your brigade, and you will not have a good time playing this game.
A lot of people familiar with both games like to compare Haze with Spec Ops: The Line. It makes perfect sense; from a thematic standpoint, the games do have quite a lot in common in how they’re brutal deconstructions of the shooter genre. However, they’re also similar in that they’re not in a position to criticize, being significantly worse than a straight example of the genre they sought to deconstruct. Spec Ops: The Line is such an odious, openly scornful game that I briefly considered posting an upset by ranking Haze higher than it, but then common sense kicked in. It would be impossible, in light of the obnoxious writing and gameplay that is horribly balanced at the best of times, to expect people to enjoy Haze in a non-ironic fashion. It’s a lot like Metroid: Other M in that it was made by a group of people who should have known better; they were the team behind Golden Eye, Perfect Dark, and TimeSplitters. It’s quite unfortunate that, unlike the case with Metroid: Other M and how its creator eventually redeemed himself, Haze sounded the company’s death knell.
45. Call of Duty: Ghosts
Call of Duty: Ghosts is also like Metroid: Other M in that, if one were to examine the gameplay by itself, they would be justified in giving it a higher score than the 2/10 I awarded it. However, this is a case where the scenario dragged down the quality of the game to utterly unsalvageable levels. On top of its blatant jingoism regarding a plot involving all of South America invading the United States, it really does revel in the worst excesses of the early-to-mid 2010s AAA scene with a thoroughly unlikable cast of sociopaths on top of featuring a story that doesn’t realize it’s in a game. It even manages to fail to provide jingoistic members with the kind of experience to scratch that metaphorical itch by pitting players against a villain who can seemingly bend the laws of reality to his will. Rorke, the villain of Call of Duty: Ghosts is generally considered the worst antagonist in the series, and it’s plain to see why. Mary Sues may not make for good protagonists, but they don’t make for enjoyable antagonists either.
44. Sonic Heroes
In every decade in which I have been gaming, I have, without fail, run into a game I was really looking forward to playing only for it to be complete disappointment when I finally got my hands on it. In the nineties, it was Yoshi’s Story while in the 2010s, it was The Last of Us. In between those games was Sonic Heroes. Between these three big disappointments, Sonic Heroes is the only one that well and truly deserves to be on this tier. Yoshi’s Story and The Last of Us are competently made games that made egregious enough errors to sink the overall qualities of the respective experiences to this tier whereas Sonic Heroes is just a straight-up bad game.
While Sonic Heroes certainly has its fair share of defenders, I have little doubt that it was by far the worst platforming Sonic game at the time. With the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog providing a worse experience three years later, it may not have been the series’ low point for long, but that doesn’t retroactively make it a classic game worth experiencing. Completing Sonic Heroes is like being told you have to complete the game on every difficulty level to proceed; it’s not as though the teams go through entirely different stages like in Sonic Adventure 2. Needless to say, this gets repetitive very fast, exacerbated by you having to fight the controls every step of the way.
43. King’s Quest II: Romancing the Stones
I think it’s interesting how King’s Quest II ended up near Sonic Heroes on this list because the two games offer distinct flavors of frustration. Whereas fifty percent of Sonic Heroes is spent falling into bottomless pits, fifty percent of a blind player’s run of King’s Quest II is going to be spent wondering what to do and where to go…
It’s also a major step down from its predecessor with a world design that consists of several empty screens and random encounters that are either legitimate threats or completely harmless depending on whether or not you took the necessary precautions. It’s a fitting metaphor for the entire experience. When you have no idea what to do, you’ll just wander aimlessly whereas if you do know what to do, you’ll be taken aback by how short the game truly is. At the end of the day, it’s better than Sonic Heroes because its controls are a bit more polished, though it’s not a significant margin.
42. Beyond: Two Souls
In the final days of the seventh console generation, Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us went head-to-head against each other. This was partially due to a character from the latter bearing a passing resemblance to Beyond: Two Souls lead actress Ellen Page and partially due to both games attempting to elevate the medium’s storytelling standards. Though The Last of Us was the clear winner and is, admittedly, the better game of the two, I personally feel it to be a Pyrrhic victory. Both games are openly cynical products from a time in which the medium suffered from serious self-esteem issues. Games around this time weren’t taken seriously if they embraced their identity; they had to become films to have any chance of being considered legitimate cultural cornerstones. Beyond: Two Souls, like The Last of Us, distances itself from the unique properties of the medium, and it’s a weak effort for it. Granted, it’s entirely possible for a game to take this approach and still turn out well, but it’s always going to be in spite of doing that rather than because of it.
41. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
In case you’re wondering, no, Tri Force Heroes is not ranked higher than The Last of Us. I couldn’t, in good conscience, insinuate that the Zelda franchise’s clear low point is the superior effort. Having ranked the entire series from worst to best, I’ve talked about this game at length quite often. In regards to this list, I have to say that it’s a better effort than Beyond: Two Souls for a simple reason: it really is a game. Beyond: Two Souls strikes me as a work that tries to have its cake and eat it whereas Tri Force Heroes doesn’t have any problems with what it is. Instead, it has problems with what it tries to do. It tries to be a cooperative Zelda game and doesn’t do nearly as good as a job at it as Four Swords or Four Swords Adventures. It also features a premise so insipid that it really is the series’ answer to Yoshi’s Story. While vaguely resembling fun in multiplayer sessions, single-player sessions are often chaotic messes that don’t do the franchise justice. At all.