That’s right, it’s that time of year again: the time when critics professional and amatuer start putting together their end of the year lists, which are ever so much fun to put together (I’ve been working on mine off and on for weeks). I’m stalling a bit for both games and books, as I’ve two books I want to finish and a few video games (I got eight new metroidvanias during Black Friday, though not all will qualify).
When it comes to these lists, I will be focusing on material that I have engaged with this year. For the best lists (games and books), I will actually be able to focus solely on games/books that were either first released in 2022, or had their first big sale in 2021 (this latter hits a handful of games I reviewed, including Metroid Prime, Eastward, and a few others). For this list, I’m going back to the rules I used last year to discuss things that were just disappointing in general, to give me a chance to talk about it.
Now, I use “disappointing” instead of just “worst” because I didn’t engage with much bad material in the past year. There were some genuinely bad games and books, but usually if that’s the case, I’m not going all the way through the material: nobody’s paying me to do this yet (though I am now a member of Amazon’s Vine program, so I’m hoping to at least get free stuff to review soon) [and there is going to be at least one bad game on here].
Without further adieu: the disappointments!
Remember how I just said these aren’t necessarily bad? Metroid Dread did a lot of things right: it looks gorgeous and plays smooth. But the straight up repeats of boss fights just started to grate on me. It wasn’t that the game was bad, but it had the lofty Metroid name to live up to, and I honestly felt like Super Metroid was just a better game, and that one is over thirty years old.
The Bad Guys
Hey look, another something that had so much potential but just wasted it. This could’ve been the next Zootopia, or something that cleverly riffs on heist movies. Instead it wallowed in juvenile humor and just disappointed me.
I never had a game actually delete my entire save file when I was in the last stages of playing it, until 8Doors. In some ways this represents every indie game like it I played throughout this year: playtest your games. Make it so that they don’t just glitch out on me.
And definitely make sure they don’t delete my save file as I’m entering into the last area of the game. I still haven’t gotten the desire up to replay this game, and I don’t know if I ever will.
This feels like another case of wasted potential. I think part of the problem is trying to combine “open world” with a traditional JRPG. But it also felt like they just didn’t try hard enough. One third of the characters couldn’t talk; several characters didn’t get plot development; and the level cap was just abysmally low. I don’t feel quite as much anger or hatred toward this as some of the others here; just a deep sense of disappointment.
Objectively, this is probably the worst game I played this year. It’s poorly made, with “humor” that feels thirty years out of date. the gameplay was stiff; it was falsely advertised as a metroidvania (it’s not), and the graphics are stiff. To top it off, the main character is one of the most unlikeable characters I’ve ever seen in a video game.
However, this was made by a small team, and it wasn’t a particularly expensive game. It feels a bit like punching down to talk about how bad it is. That doesn’t make it less bad and worthy of being on this list, but it does stop it from getting too much attention.
When I started this game, I was thinking this might be one of my new favorite Metroidvanias. The graphics are gorgeous, with the kind of spritework that’s so good that it looks almost like an illustration. The characters are well written, feeling very real and dynamic. As an even bigger surprise, everyone was voice acted, and done pretty well.
But the game just… got worse. It starts pretty strong. I hated the first boss, but that was a matter of properly upgrading. But bosses just got worse. even worse, there are just too many anti-player game choices here, like having a final boss that will kill you, then forcing you to do a run-back that’s something like seven screens. Or how about a boss fight that requires you to use a weak, pathetic robot instead of your character. It started great, then ends as one of the worst Metroidvanias I’ve ever played.
(Just wait, a full review of this is coming… soon)
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
The sound of whoomping crosses comes to me as I view this image. And this is an official Castlevania game. It’s just one with no originality, and a lot of poor gameplay decisions.
I honestly had forgotten about this one until I reviewed the older reviews. Then the sound of crosses came back, and I start to grip my head and whimper.
All I remember of this game is disappointment and frustration. Maybe it was the glitching (though 8Doors did that worse), or maybe it was that it failed to live up to its pretty interesting premise and graphics. I just know that it says something about the quality of metroidvania games released this year that five of them are on this list (and the only one on the top 10 is a holdover from late last year).
Nickelodeon All Star Brawl
Nickelodeon should have known better, really. The game’s stiff, the characters seem selected almost at random, and the voices had to be added as a DLC months after the game launched. This is a sad, sad disappointment, but it’s also one I sort of knew about going in, which means that I really shouldn’t be too upset about it.
Did convince my best friend and playing buddy to buy it with me though, so I feel a bit more hate toward this game than I would normally.
A game so bad that I rewrote the plot to show how someone who’s effectively an amateur could have done better. It was clunky, with weird gameplay moments (see the stupid shoot ’em up that suddenly hit two thirds of the way through the game), and it felt like they weren’t sure what they were doing.
All of which falls short to just laughing jovially at the old man racist and trying to make me feel sorry for him. Game writers, take note: do better.
I reviewed and played something like 50+ games this year, hitting nearly one a week with a few weeks hitting two. There were a few games that I played that I didn’t write a review for, either because there wasn’t enough to do it or I’m still getting around to it. Yet out of all those games, months after playing it, I still think of Nefarious when it comes to bad games.
I think the big issue here is that this has such a cool premise. The idea of playing a reoccurring video game villain is just so cool. Shame that awful controls plus poor level design plus a lack of willingness to truly do something with the premise just make this game so much worse than it could have been.