Overrated can sound like a harsh word, so let’s clarify exactly what we mean here. We’re not saying any of these games are bad (unless we explicitly say any of these games are bad, which we probably will). We’re saying they’re really hyped up and we don’t agree with putting that much energy into them. They might be entertaining, but they’re not the pixelated miracles people have made them out to be. Here are the 8 most overrated video games we’ve ever played.
Grand Theft Auto Series
The Grand Theft Auto games are unlike the other ones on this list in that we completely respect the time and effort the developers put into the creation of the game. There’s so much going on in these games, especially the later entries, that it boggles the mind to even attempt to comprehend the time, care, attention, and method it would take to make it work. These games are impressive testaments to the real work that goes into making a modern video game.
At the same time, is a game like Grand Theft Auto really where you want to put all that effort? There’s so much going on that we can’t decide what to do, which is not just a quirk in our brains, it’s a real psychological condition. If you’re bombarded with dozens or hundreds or thousands of options, you’re far more likely to not pick anything at all.
That’s not what we want in a video game. We play them to visit new worlds, fight monsters, go on adventures, and otherwise see things we couldn’t see anywhere else. We don’t want choice to paralyze us, we want it to push us into new activity.
Why, in the name of all that anyone finds holy, do we continue to put up with low-res garbage? Because that’s what this deluge of low-res stuff is. It’s all garbage. We live in time when gaming is so technologically advanced and accessible, one man can remake The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in Unreal Engine 4 to the point of near photo realism. That’s a single man’s passion project and if you frame a scene right, you could fool people with into thinking they’re well-lit vacation photos.
And we’ll come clean for a second here. We have no idea what kind of effort it takes to make a video game. We can only conclude that a game’s visuals are an art style choice, not so much a technological limitation anymore. Which would then mean that low-res art styles are chosen just to appear cool. That is, there’s no goddamn reason beyond an inflated sense of self-importance. Yet people still get to yell at us about how “we just don’t get it, do we?”
There has to be some kind of chemical that makes people like stupid looking and sounding things. Maybe it’s a common corruption in cognitive processing. Whatever it is, it’s causing a deluge of shitty portmanteau pop culture. People think it’s awesome to shove two mediocre things or ideas together. They’d dissolve at the mere mention of a Star Wars movie set in the Booberry universe. Or they stick an actual wolverine in Wolverine’s X-Men costume and people lose their minds, as if it was a unique or fun idea.
Shovel Knight has to be one of the worst offenders. Yeah, we know it’s not exactly portmanteau, but it’s two things shoved together. Besides, every time we heard someone talk about this game, whether it was before, during, or after the release, all we heard about was how cool it was that this knight uses a shovel instead of a sword. There was no praise for gameplay, world-building, characters, or plot. It was about the goddamn shovel.
And it’s obvious that the game leans on that shovel heavily, because it’s mediocre otherwise. It’s just another low-res sidescroller in a market saturated with them. Everyone’s mom is teaching everyone else’s grandmother how to program low-res sidescrollers. But apparently because this one uses a shovel instead of a sword, its reception was the equivalent of finding an ancient Roman mosaic under a wigwam they buried in the ice next to non-fictional Captain America who was holding the cure for every cancer. Now we’re mashing things up. Disgusting.
Call of Duty (After World at War)
Classifying Call of Duty as an overrated franchise isn’t an unpopular opinion. You’ve probably heard something about it this week. You know all about its cookie-cutter gameplay, money grabbing marketing, and truly horrifying reputation. So what we want to do here is talk about wasted potential.
If you look at the first half of the franchise, up until World at War, what you’ll find is a series of well-written, thoughtful, reasonably historically accurate war simulators. The series went out of its way to communicate the psychological stress of warfare as best it could while still adhering to a T-rating. You had to assault Stalingrad without a rifle, slowly beat back the Germans in North Africa, land on beaches bristling with enemy machine guns, and fight headstone to headstone in the bloodiest battle of the European theater. By the end of the game, you felt like you had at least part of an idea of what it was like to fight in these wars. Hell, the dirty bombing alone in Modern Warfare left a pit in our stomach that’s still there.
But apparently when everyone talked about how epic the games were, Activision’s frat bro gland squirted extra hard and started pumping jingoistic messaging and dick-raising explosions into the game. When they drop skyscrapers and avalanches and Russian invasions on you, they do it with all the care of a cat pushing your water bottle off the table. It’s no longer about the toll of war, it’s about how cool it look when big thing go boom.
It’s a truly disappointing turn for what was once a solid, educational, respectable franchise. Especially since, at a time when everyone’s screaming about demographic representation in exactly these games, Call of Duty was one of the first to include extended storylines about African-American and Polish tankers and tribal resistance groups in North Africa. But we all weren’t writing thinkpieces then, so fuck it.
Assassin’s Creed (After Revelations)
Up to Revelations, the Assassin’s Creed franchise was a thoughtful sci-fi/historical conspiracy mashup where you unraveled the game’s story as you pieced together clues from the past to understand the present’s conflict. It was intriguing, well-constructed, and kept us engaged. Beyond story, the games played well. The fighting and free running controlled reasonably well and got the adrenaline pumping. The settings felt alive, with people everywhere and crowds and guards reacting to your actions to at least the level the technology of the time would let them.
Then Assassin’s Creed III made everyone shrug off combat damage like they were slightly weaker versions of Wolverine, to the point where you had to shred an enemy like cheese hor d’oeuvres just to get him to take a step back and collect himself. Plus controls went to shit for some reason. Each entry afterward took us farther from what we liked about the original and its sequel trilogy, yet kept getting decent reviews and making sales enough to tell Ubisoft to keep cranking them out. Today, the only part of the franchise worth watching is the cinematic trailers.
The latest release, Origins, lives up to the hype, but we don’t trust it. We’ve been burned enough by this franchise that its apologists and fanboys are going to have to work hard to bring us back. And the developer will have to work even harder.
Overwatch must be riding some kind of weird generational/cultural wave, because we could swear we’ve been playing a better version of this game for years. What we mean is, can we all please admit that Overwatch is a slightly tweaked Team Fortress 2? Please? It’s colorful, the characters are larger than life, the art style is fairly cartoony, there are a lot of weapons, and everyone fights over playing a limited number of classes. Thousand upon thousands of memes are produced using it, children insult each other with esoteric references from it, and it prematurely ages the people who don’t get it. What’s more, TF2 is free and the community seems more welcoming.
A lot of people have made a lot of jokes about how the entire Pokemon economy is based on kids and young adults enslaving wild animals and forcing them into cross-species dogfights. The animals might not be dying, but they’re still hacking, slashing, talking, burning, and drowning each other. It’s just hard to get behind.
Also, and we’re going to try and say this without being dicks about it, but aren’t we a little old for this? Not only do we not understand the game, but guys in their late teens, 20s, and 30s who get personally invested in each release make us a bit uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable enough to stop hanging out with them. Just uncomfortable enough to go conspicuously silent every time the conversation turns to whatever title is most recent. Which, again, is way too often.
That’s right, Kingdom Hearts flat out sucked and no one can tell us otherwise. You don’t get to advertise a game as a fun romp through the Disney animate universe, then force us to suffer through a four hour anime to get to it. Goofy, Donald Duck, Mulan, Gaston, or someone better be there from the beginning. Especially when the main character looks anime-tastic enough to make Final Fantasy characters dizzy.
More than the anime stuff, the beginning was just so boring. We can’t remember how long we played for, but we know it was longer than it deserved. We’ve had so many fights about this over the years that we’ve lost count, but know that our opinion here will never change. Kingdom Hearts was boring, not good, stupid, and didn’t deliver on its exciting promise. Don’t tell us about the future of the franchise. We’ve suffered enough.