Shack Chat: What's your favorite poorly-reviewed game?

The Shacknews staff reflects on their favorite games that were poorly received by critics.

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Reviews are a big contributor to the conversation surrounding new video game releases. The scores given, and the issues listed for games are always a point of discussion/debate, and often influence how people view a project. However, we’ve all got games that we love that were either poorly reviewed or just flat out panned upon release. So, let’s shine some light on those games.

Question: What’s your favorite poorly-reviewed game?


Star Fox: Assault - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Ace Pilot

I'm a huge fan of Star Fox, but Fox McCloud hasn't had the best games. Heck, even the recently unearthed Star Fox 2 got brutally panned. But he's had some pretty epic space operas and one of his best stories has been in Star Fox: Assault. It was the story of a parasitic alien race enveloping the entire galaxy, consuming anything it can find. It was taking out friendly allies like Prince Tricky's Dinosaur World and it even swallowed up General Pepper! The stakes for a Star Fox story never felt higher. They were so high that Fox and Wolf O'Donnell even called a tentative truce to take on the common threat.

So why was this so badly reviewed? There was so much on-foot combat and it suuuuucked. On paper, the idea that Fox could switch from his Arwing, to the Landmaster, to on-foot combat in a single stage was a really cool one. Having large stages to explore was a really cool idea. Unfortunately, with the clunky movement and poor camera, the execution turned out poor.

Still, that story alone and the big emotional moments that came out of it (try not to shed a tear when Peppy took one for the team) make this my favorite Star Fox game. It reviewed terribly, but I love it in spite of that. Sadly, it was very much all downhill from here for Star Fox, but that's a story for another day.


Watch Dogs - Donovan Erskine, DedSec operative since day one

Watch Dogs was a game I actually hadn’t heard much about until it launched. I ended up buying it a couple days after its release with some credits I had received from an Xbox gift card. I absolutely loved it. Blasted through the campaign and then almost 100 percented it (those damn drinking minigames were just too hard). I was so surprised to discover that it’s widely regarded as a “meh” game at best.

Again, maybe it’s because I had no hype for it and had little expectations. I know the driving is a major criticism, I guess I also just have a high tolerance for crappy driving in games. I thought the hacking was super fun, and unlike anything I’d done in a game before. Using it to cause chaos in traffic, or get the police off of my trail by exploding steam pipes and raising barriers.

Watch Dogs also has an incredible online PvP mode titled “Invasion.” In this mode, one player would join another’s world and attempt to hack them. The other player would be tasked with finding that player and killing them before the download could complete. It was an incredibly tense game of cat and mouse that I have always felt was massively underrated.

For me, Watch Dogs was exactly what its elevator pitch said it was - a modern day Assassin’s Creed.


No Man’s Sky - Blake Morse, Co-EIC

While the game has improved vastly over the years, when it first launched No Man’s Sky was critically panned for not living up to its hype. It was just kind of empty space and planets that more often than not didn’t have much going for them and it was exactly what I needed when it launched. You see, I was going through a pretty bad break-up at the time and feeling pretty down about a lot of things. David Bowie had also just passed away a few months prior to the game’s launch. Being able to switch off my brain and just sort of float through space mining rocks while listening to Space Oddity actually helped me cope with both the loss of one of my heroes and take comfort in my isolation. I mean, I can’t be the only person who has wanted to leave everything behind and take off in a spaceship to explore the cosmos after a conscious uncoupling, right? At any rate, No Man’s Sky was just what the doctor ordered and I’ll always be grateful for the help it provided me during a trying time in my life.


Battlefield Hardline - Chris Jarrard, Has better opinions than fellow staffers

Currently sitting at a 71 score on Metacritic, Battlefield Hardline took a bit of a drubbing from critics and players alike when it first launched. All of these people are clowns. Developed by Visceral Games (who later this same year fixed Battlefield 4), Hardline pitted the cops versus the crooks against the typical Battlefield franchise action. It still has the best single-player campaign in the series (admittedly, not a high bar to cross) and it was different enough from the mainline games to warrant its existence. Jumping into a sedan with three friends and fishtailing it out of a seedy motel parking lot while multiple police cruisers and a helicopter give chase will never get old. Hearing the in-game radio blast Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold while this happened was icing on the cake.


Shadowrun (2007) - Sam Chandler, Didn’t deserve the hate

There’s nothing a fanbase hates more than their precious little IP being used in a manner that doesn’t suit them. So it should come as no surprise that fans of the pen-and-paper RPG Shadowrun spat the dummy when Shadowrun released in 2007 as a first-person shooter. The game took the classic Counter-Striker formula and smashed it together with a cyberpunk/fantasy setting, and it ruled. This game received aggressively average reviews, sitting at a 67 on metacritic, but it was ahead of its time and undervalued.

Sure, there were problems with the fact you needed Windows Vista to play it on PC, and had to subscribe to Xbox Live - those are glaring faults. But outside of that, the game launched with more maps than Valorant, offered incredible customization and build options, and was a solid experience.

If this game released now, under a different name and with a lower price, it’s one that could very well compete with the other tactical shooters currently on the market. Seriously, I could talk about Shadowrun (2007) a hell of a lot more.


Ghost Recon Breakpoint - Bill Lavoy, Co-EIC

This one is tough because I’m apparently very good at primarily playing games that have good review scores. I’m also not in love with Ghost Recon Breakpoint, but I played it for the Shacknews review, and I went back when AI teammates were patched in. I still find myself wanting to hop in to get that spec ops fix, and I probably will again down the line. Breakpoint is my kind of game, it’s just not a very good one.


Final Fantasy 14 - TJ Denzer, stayed with it

You wouldn’t know this from how well Final Fantasy 14 is doing nowadays, but there was a time when that game was almost universally panned by critics and media. It took years of work and fixing and some very dedicated players to lift it out of the ashes and give it new life. Yes, this might be considered a cop-out because Final Fantasy 14 is a success story nowadays and the one MMO many folks would argue is even close to competing with World of Warcraft anymore, but I’d still say it counts.

Take Final Fantasy 14 on PS3, for instance. When it first came out, it was a mess. The game was grindy as all get out, had some of the worst user interface I’ve ever seen, and just controlled like trash. It was so bad that in 2011, the CEO of Square Enix issued an apology for it at the Tokyo Game Show, claiming it had greatly damaged the Final Fantasy brand as a whole.

Naoki Yoshida deserves massive credit for taking over on Final Fantasy 14 and giving it new life with A Realm Reborn. Since he’s poured his heart and soul into it, Final Fantasy 14 has turned around with a greatly improved system top to bottom, expansions that are awesome, and ways for new players to skip ahead of what they missed to be on track with those already playing. Even still, a 5.5 User Score on the game’s PS3 Metacritic is grim reminder of where it came from and how much had to be done to make it what it is today.


Shaq Fu-Steve Tyminski - Stevetendo show host/all around cool guy

Video games are interesting in that some games get good reviews when they shouldn’t and some games get bad reviews when in actuality they’re not so bad. That asks the question of “what is my favorite poorly received game?” This got me thinking but I think I have to settle on Shaq Fu for the SNES as my favorite “bad game.” When the game came out I was a big Basketball fan and my dad and I would watch the Bulls all the time. Things were much simpler in 1994. However the idea of Shaq being in a fighting game still sounds crazy and by how it was received, everyone agreed that it was a crazy idea. However, I still find it interesting to think about Shaq Fu. My friend who had the game was the only person I have ever known to own Shaq Fu. This is the friend who has all kinds of weird stuff and you expected him to have something like Shaq Fu. The game also had a commercial that my brother and I still think about to this day so when a game, no matter how good or bad it is, gets you to remember childhood memories, then it's good in my mind.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES) - Bryan Lefler has heroes in a half-shell

This topic was much harder than I anticipated as I struggled to think of a truly qualifying game. As the years wane and freetime grows shorter, I find myself only purchasing and playing games or franchises that I know will give me a solid return on my investment and are usually on the safer side of mainstream acceptance. As a child, however, I played anything and everything I could get into my Nintendo, Super Nintendo, or Game Gear. It’s tough to look up period-correct reviews for most of the terrible titles that I loved back then, but I know of one that was universally disliked by the Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat fans that represented basically all of the FGC at that time, and that is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.

This was a fairly straightforward SF2 clone made by Konami who still held the rights to produce TMNT video games in 1993. As a kid and rabid fanatic for anything Turtles related, I had played and loved every beat ‘em up and even the much maligned NES adventure game featuring the fighting foursome. When I received TMNT: Tournament Fighters as a gift at the age of 9 or 10, I was ecstatic to have a fighting game that, to me, played as well as Street Fighter 2, with gorgeous sprite work, catchy music, and familiar characters. Little did I understand at that time that this clone of perhaps the most important fighting game of all time was perhaps the most unbalanced high profile copycat to date.

The character balance and sluggish control bring this game down quite a few notches below the arcade classics it is trying to emulate, with the SNES version being the only port that feels merely adequate. The game also saw a release on the Genesis with even poorer visuals and music, with sacrificed input due to the three-button controller. There was even an NES port of the game that serves as quite an oddity as being one of the few two-player fighting games available for the console. Time hasn’t been kind to the now almost forgotten Turtles fighting game spin-off, but I loved it back then and I’ll always have fun going back to it.


Those are our favorite poorly reviewed games. We know you’ve got some yourself, so let us know in the Chatty replies!

From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 28, 2021 1:45 PM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What's your favorite poorly-reviewed game?

    • reply
      May 28, 2021 1:55 PM

      Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

      I love the ambience and world, as weird as that is to say for an 8-bit game

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      May 28, 2021 1:57 PM

      GET EVEN

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      May 28, 2021 2:00 PM

      Days Gone

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      May 28, 2021 5:13 PM

      Alpha Protocol

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        May 28, 2021 5:15 PM

        Easy choice

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        May 28, 2021 7:32 PM

        Super fun broken game.

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        May 29, 2021 7:44 AM

        Still worth playing? I've installed it a few times but I always end up getting distracted by something else after the first hour or so.

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      May 28, 2021 5:20 PM

      Darkest of Days

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      May 28, 2021 5:51 PM

      Far Cry 2

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      May 28, 2021 6:07 PM

      Zelda breath of the wild

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      May 28, 2021 6:50 PM

      Does Factorio counts? I haven’t seen many reviews of it beside the community ones.

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      May 28, 2021 6:54 PM

      Recently? Layers of Fear 2, by a mile.

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        May 28, 2021 7:08 PM

        Never heard of it

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          May 28, 2021 7:37 PM

          It’s Ok. It would’ve gone over your head. :p

          It definitely wins for most drastically polarized reviews, lol.

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      May 28, 2021 7:12 PM

      What has the Shack vetted as bad that's good?

      • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
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        May 29, 2021 7:24 AM

        Mass Effect 1 :)

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          May 29, 2021 8:27 AM

          One of the few games that I "beat" upon release. Back when I had a top tier PC.

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      May 28, 2021 7:14 PM

      Maybe God Hand? Difficult question

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        May 28, 2021 7:35 PM

        There were so many great games that got dragged in the reviews just for being too “weird” and low budget. Almost killed the entire horror genre for a moment like that.

        I looked through a bunch of favorites and God Hand was not actually the lowest scorer, which surprised me. Rule of Rose gets that dubious honor, at least for the ones I checked. At least they’ve all gotten the appreciation they’re worth by now.

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          May 28, 2021 7:43 PM

          I feel like Dark Souls and difficult indies around the same period might have opened up more peoples' mind palaces. Things were super conservative in the 2000s. If you were reasonably within bounds with games like Halo, Gears, CoD, or Half Life, then you were fine. Get too weird or difficult then good luck.

          Seems like people got way more tolerance for weird mechanics and games actually pushing back with difficulty in the last decade. I think it might be why there's more tolerance, enthusiasm, and even anticipation and for a "difficult" series like SMT compared to fifteen years ago when it was more of a cult thing.

          Things always progress and change so I suppose it was bound to happen, but its still interesting.

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            May 28, 2021 8:14 PM

            Some of it was mainstream intolerance for B budget games at that point. Games with everything except awesome graphics like God Hand got thoroughly pissed on, as did any game with more old fashioned mechanics, like all the horror games and JRPGs.

            Personally, I credit the proliferation of indie games that finally brought people, especially reviewers, back towards accepting low budget games that have jank. But Dark Souls blowing up was the other side of that same coin, as well as the Wii and DS, keeping the B game alive on the console end.

            THANKFULLY.

            I’m still wondering how things will shake out in this new gen, where indies are now at least AA on consoles and A on PC , B is mostly random fodder imitating better games and the new underground is reaching entirely new levels of weird, crazy and jank, nearly unplayable but interesting.

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      May 28, 2021 7:29 PM

      Assassin’s Creed 1 got mixed reviews and I loved that game.

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      May 28, 2021 8:08 PM

      Dante's Inferno? Ark?

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        May 28, 2021 8:28 PM

        Dante’s Inferno could have been so good. The spots where you can tell they didn’t water down Wayne Barlowe’s vision are fantastic.

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      May 28, 2021 10:37 PM

      Too Human

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        June 1, 2021 9:05 PM

        Yooooooo! Too Human is one of my top picks for "needs another attempt". So much wasted potential!

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      May 28, 2021 10:50 PM

      Probably Fallout 76, at least recently.

      Honorable mentions: The first Assassin's Creed and the first Watch Dogs, Too Human, Saints Row 2 (it was better than GTA 4 and nobody can tell me otherwise!)

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      May 28, 2021 11:02 PM

      Motherfuckin Dark Souls 2.

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      May 29, 2021 2:12 AM

      ITT: Critically successful games that people love

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      May 29, 2021 2:39 AM

      Looking at Metacritic scores, here's a few games sorted in descending order that I had a blast with despite getting either shunned by the critics or straight raked over the coals

      61 - Alien Resurrection (PS1) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation/alien-resurrection
      56 - Samurai Warriors 3 (Wii) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/samurai-warriors-3
      53 - Game of Thrones (PS3) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-3/game-of-thrones
      50 - Baroque (Wii) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/baroque
      50 - Minority Report: Everybody Runs (PS2/Xbox/GC) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-2/minority-report-everybody-runs
      49 - RTX Red Rock (PS2) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-2/rtx-red-rock
      48 - ChoroQ (PS2) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-2/choroq
      46 - GTi Club Supermini Fiesta (Wii) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/gti-club-supermini-festa!
      45 - Swashbucklers: Blue vs Grey (PS2/PC) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-2/swashbucklers-blue-vs-grey
      43 - Crus'n Exotica (N64) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/nintendo-64/cruisn-exotica
      37 - Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes (PS1) - https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation/duke-nukem-land-of-the-babes

      Alien Resurrection has gone on to be recognized as being ridiculously ahead of its time and better appreciated these days, though the same can't be said for the likes of Minority Report...which it basically the best Die Hard Arcade game ever. RTX Red Rock and Game of Thrones were both flawed games that managed to rise above the faults...GoT did a great job of expanding the universe of S1/Book 1, while RTX Red Rock was penned by Hal Barwood and carried a lot of the same classic Lucasarts adventure vibe laced throughout its ill advised foray into third person action. ChoroQ was destroyed in reviews that mostly criticized the opening hour of gameplay without exploring beyond it. I have no idea why GTi Club was hated on, but it's a wonderful conversion of the arcade racer and it's a damn shame the game has been delisted from PSN. Swashbucklers is basically a Sid Meier's Pirates clone set in the American Civil War but with a healthy dose of homoerotic beefcake thirst traps and some very liberal abuse of Vault Boy artwork from Fallout. Crusn Exotica is the only Crusn game worth playing on N64 (it's fun!) and Duke Nukem Time to Kill & Land of the Babes are troubled, but enjoyable Tomb Raider clones/satires/parodies/whatever,.

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      May 29, 2021 3:41 AM

      Watch Dogs for me as well!

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      May 29, 2021 6:27 AM

      Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

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      May 29, 2021 6:51 AM

      Too Human. I think people were overly critical due to Silicon Knights being the developer.

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
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      May 29, 2021 7:24 AM

      Mass Effect 1

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        May 31, 2021 7:37 PM

        "poorly reviewed". Mate, ME1 sits at a 91% on metacritic. What are you on about.

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      May 29, 2021 9:57 AM

      Trespasser

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