It’s finally ending. The eight year console generation that brought us the Wii, The Xbox 360, and the Playstation 3, will officially be “last-gen” this November when the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are released to accompany the Wii U.
Before we get to the good, we have to take care of the bad. Instead of making a list of the worst games of the last eight years, I decided to make a list of the most overrated games and franchises. This was done mostly to combat some of the hyperbolic accolades levied by other websites that list the best of the generation.
A disclaimer: in order to make my “overrated” list, a game or franchise needs to reasonably make a “best of” list somewhere else on the internet. That means that all of these “overrated” games are, on some level, pretty damn good. In fact, there may even be some overlap on our own best of list that will be published later. Still, these games generally receive nauseating amounts of praise and a little bit of hating would do well to explain why maybe these games shouldn’t receive top honors in the generation awards. Here are, in no particular order, the most overrated games/franchises of this console generation.
Ah, Mario. Nintendo makes some quality first party games but in this generation more than any other, the veil has been lifted and it is now obvious just how much of this franchise’s success is derived from nostalgia. Mario Galaxy may have added some new perspectives on the platforming genre, but it somehow all managed to be less compelling than Mario 64. In a generation characterized by open worlds, side quests, branching story-lines, Hollywood acting, thought provoking writing, and online features, a game where you’re just supposed to be satisfied in simply finding new things to jump on seems a little shallow. I remember being uninterested in Galaxy about halfway through the game and I had this sad realization: I may have grown out of this type of game. If Mario doesn’t start breaking out of his shell a little more, I fear the whole industry may outgrow him.
Gears Of War
On the other end of the spectrum is the Gears of War franchise. This series represents everything that makes non-gamers hate the industry. Generic, humorously-musclebound, foul- mouthed army bros do weapon-based over-the-top violence toward equally generic alien enemies. This game also popularized a disturbing trend of this generation: using a powerful graphical engine to make everything look ugly. Everything in the game world is a stunning mix of brown and gray. The story is uninteresting, the characters are uninteresting, and the environments are uninteresting. The only reason why this series has had success is because its 3rd person shooter mechanics are solid and it created a strong online community. How many times can you chainsaw a ‘roided out dude before it gets old?
Call of Duty
When COD4: Modern Warfare came out early in the generation, it was a good game. The perk system that created customization and progression in a multiplier setting was revolutionary and came to define this generation of online gaming. But 3122 (approximately) sequels in just eight years starts to feel like a sham. Military shooters have always been somewhat dull, but the yearly releases with almost no discernible innovation reeked of laziness. You can call it World at War, Black Ops, or even claim that multiple studios make some of them, but they’re still all basically the same game. Sports games have yearly installments too, but if you put an eight year old sports title next to a current one, the old one would seem unplayable. It would be hard to tell the difference playing Black Ops 2 and the original Modern Warfare side by side.
Sports games are notorious for yearly installments with little alteration to the formula, save for roster updates. This generation brought about ubiquitous internet connections so things like roster updates could easily be done via online DLC, making the lack of innovation in yearly installments even more egregious. The wildly successful Madden franchise has to be the worst perpetrator of this sin. If that wasn’t bad enough, in this generation Madden has had a monopoly on the NFL licence, so EA didn’t have any real competition to push then to do anything better. Isn’t that illegal? Where’s the government intervention? Madden may sell like crazy, but it is the prime example of a sports series that rests on its laurels.
I am a fan of this franchise but like Madden and COD, it suffers from over-saturation. The original AC was good, but repetitive. AC II was phenomenal and Brotherhood was a good sequel. But by the time Revelations came out, things felt stale and the narrative started to lose its allure. ACIII was released to much acclaim, but it was full of glitches and the story was the worst in the series. This franchise was great this generation, but its too-soon release cycle and loss of its original mysterious puzzles made it seem like a franchise past its prime by the generation’s end. Hopefully ACIV can breathe new life into Assassin’s Creed as a bridge to the next generation.
God of War III and Ascension
I never understood the appeal of this series. It is an inane, hyper-violent beat em up with over the top voice acting and the occasional quick-time event. The clear a room to move on type of progression is repetitive and dated. This is a series that had its best days during the PS2 years. Some people live and die by GOW, and more power to you if you enjoy it, but I just don’t get it.
Grand Theft Auto is always a critical darling and there’s a lot to like about this early gen open-world crime drama. But the gameplay, after just a few missions, begins to feel all too familiar. Drive cars, shoot people, watch long cinematics, and do the same thing again. The actual mechanics of the shooting in the game are quite clunky, and after the solid story missions are finished there is little incentive to continue exploring the city. Sure you can kill some time seeing how many cops you can kill until you die, but overall, unless you’re hunting Easter eggs or pigeons, the open world feels barren after the story wraps. GTA is often the standard bearer for open worlds, but games like Arkham City, Fallout 3, and Far Cry 3 housed far more compelling open worlds in this generation.
The hype is a lie. The original Portal in The Orange Box was a nice little distraction to accompany all the Half Life 2 awesomeness and team Fortress madness from Valve. The game itself was an entertaining and novel puzzle game with some charming humor. Then it got meme status and they tried to make a full fledged sequel with multiplayer. Portal 2 may be great, but I never played it because I felt I got just enough of that type of gameplay from the original Portal and wasn’t interested in trying to play a full length game made entirely of those physics puzzles. Perhaps that’s my loss. But my real gripe with this series is that Valve spent the time to make Portal 2 when they should have been making a sequel to the real game in The Orange Box. Where’s Half Life 3!.
The Last of Us
Blasphemy! Let me explain myself. I will admit that The Last of Us is a great game. The level of pathos achieved in this game’s story is almost unrivaled. The journey of Joel and Ellie is compelling to its conclusion and they will go down in history as some of the most memorable characters in video game history.
But at the end of the day, the game is simply a slightly polished Uncharted game with zombies added in to the mix. Fighting the zombies (the gaming industry’s most ubiquitous excuse for having brain dead A.I) is often more tedious than fun. Clickers force you to not just crouch, but slowly crouch-walk toward them, with the penalty of a one hit death constantly hovering over you if you sneak too loudly. There really are only three or four different enemy types in this game and once you learn the “rules” for dealing with them, much of the fear factor of encountering them is lost. Truthfully only the dynamic cat and mouse games with the smarter AI human enemies make up the genuinely fun gameplay moments.
Awkward ladder and floating object puzzles are transparent game-padding and add nothing to the game or the story. Naughty Dog also needs to stop ripping things off. An early section of the game could be accurately titled “Reincarnated John Marsden and young Ellen Page take a trip through Ravenholm.”
These gripes notwithstanding, The Last of Us is a great game; probably 8.5 out of 10. But there are so many people are calling it the best game of this generation or even of all time. That’s crazier than trying to punch a bloater! The characters and story are amazing, but that is only one part of a game to consider.
There you have it, the games of this generation that are the most overrated. I’m sure you all disagree with at least one of my picks, so let me know in the comments. Think there are other well-received games that are more overrated from this passing gen? Let me know in the comments about that, as well. Just remember this is just my opinion and it doesn’t really matter, so try not to wet yourself in anger. Flame on…