Q&AmeCola: Worst Game in a Series

Even the best videogame family trees have an embarrassing branch or two.

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Everybody has a member of their family they’re not particularly proud of. The joyless aunt, the obnoxious cousin, the uncle you probably don’t want to leave your kids alone with. Videogames are no exceptions. Even the best videogame family trees have an embarrassing branch or two.

This month’s question was submitted by Diana, and it is:

What is the worst game in an otherwise good series?


There was a time when you’d say “Tony Hawk,” and you’d be happy about it. With each new game in the series, things were added. Nothing was taken away, though. By the time we got to Project 8, the engine was a riddled mess. And the character models looked really diseased. The difficulty wasn’t fair, not in the slightest. It had very unforgiving missions and the game felt tied together with string—not nailed shut or tight like it should be.

After a game as “OK” as American Wasteland, I was not expecting the series to continue heading backwards. It wasn’t a disappointment, not really—I mean, well, you know, I rarely buy games at full price. But even for what I paid, Project 8 thoroughly rubbed me the wrong way. The PSP version did stay truer to the Tony Hawk roots, but it still didn’t deliver where it should’ve.


(Matt is a staff reviewer and news blogger.)


The Wii is notorious for shoving motion controls in your face where they’re not needed, and this game is a prime example. Trying to execute a Sub-Zero freeze move, or Scorpion’s harpoon move, is nearly impossible. If you’re a button masher on a classic fighting game, you’ll usually pull off a move at some point, but with this Wii game, you’ll probably end up killing yourself. If you’re actually trying to learn the moveset, you’ll just end up smashing your head into a wall until you pass out (and no, I’m not talking about some botched fatality move, which I imagine is virtually impossible given the long button combos required for the classic MK games). Also, this game was a port of the Xbox and PS2 versions, which actually had online multiplayer, but the Wii version lacked it for some reason.

But is this game as bad as MK Mythologies: Sub Zero? Let’s hear your thoughts.


(Mark is a reviewer and the author of “What the Crap?”)


The weakest “link” in one of my favorite series? Are we talking about The Legend of Zelda? Well, now we are!

It’s not that I hate Twilight Princess, but it’s the game in the series that I like the least; it promised so much, but then it became one of the Wii’s launch titles, and its difficulty was dumbed down in order to incorporate the console’s rubbish motion-functionality.

I could forgive most of that, if the story was good enough to compensate for it, but it wasn’t. Do you remember all those blocky, polygonal characters of Ocarina of Time? Well, those mean A LOT more to me than the insipid, boring and one-dimensional characters in Twilight Princess (except for Midna; I love Midna!)

No other Zelda game had ever been a launch title for a Nintendo console, and considering how much was left unpolished in this one (even series director Eiji Aonuma regrets not being able to do everything he had envisioned), we can easily see why this game failed to meet its huge expectations.


(Daniel is the author of “Don’t Be That Guy.”)


The obvious route here is to whine about some Mega Man or Metroid or Space Quest game, but I do that all the time. Instead, allow me to wax apathetic about the oft-forgotten Contract J.A.C.K., an interquel padding the space between No One Lives Forever—one of my favorite games of all time—and No One Lives Forever 2.

Whereas NOLF and NOLF 2 star sassy sixties superspy Cate Archer, Contract J.A.C.K. puts you in the generic boots of a contract killer on the side of the bad guys. Cate’s adventures exude a fun, groovy, sometimes serious vibe and feature gameplay that’s heavy on stealth but peppered with puzzles and action; heroic villain John Jack’s exploits are largely the same, assuming you close your eyes and imagine you’re playing NOLF instead. At best, Contract J.A.C.K. plays like an early beta of NOLF 2, before anyone decided on a female protagonist and added puzzles, stealth, and fun. At worst, Contract J.A.C.K. plays like a tech demo of NOLF 2 designed by someone with a very poor concept of the length of a demo.

It’s not that Contract J.A.C.K. is a bad game; it’s just obnoxious to spell with all those periods after the letters. More importantly, though, it’s a pale imitation of NOLF 2 that rehashes most of the levels, but completely loses sight of the fact that there’s more to a NOLF game than mindless shooting. A forgettable plot, unmemorable dialogue, prosaic weapons, and some seemingly forced vulgarities (watch out, kiddos; you’re in for a “grown-up” game!) are hardly selling points. Once again, it’s not bad, but it’s overwhelmingly weak; given that it supposedly links together NOLF and NOLF 2 (which it does, barely), I’d say I’m awesome at answering this question.

Contract JACK

(Nathaniel is a reviewer; author of “Flash Flood,” “The Archive Dive,” and the “Sprite Flicker” webcomic; creator of fine videos and DM for the D&D podcast.)


My least favorite Professor Layton game is the new one for the 3DS. I literally had to force myself to keep playing, once I saw the horrible 3D models which replaced the previous graphics.

Professor Block Ears and the Mystery of the Fired Graphics Producer is available in stores now.

(Michael is a reviewer, creator of “Inside the Guide,” fiction author, and purveyor of fine videos.)


Oh, that’s an easy one! Final Fantasy XIII. Absolutely gorgeous with fabulous music, but the characters were all pretty unlikeable and irritating. With the exception of Sazh, I still hated them all by the end of the first disc, so I traded it in for Microsoft Points, which let me buy Bastion and From Dust, which were by far a better investment in time and cost.


(Kate is the author and illustrator of “The Gates of Life.”)


I can only assume the employees of Square-Enix after making Final Fantasy: The Sprits Within must have all said “Oh, holy shit, that was way more fun than making videogames. We absolutely must find a way to do that all the time instead of all this tedious videogame business.” So they finished up Final Fantasy X-2, the last FF game worth playing (yes, I know it was the Spice World of Final Fantasy, but damn it, it was pretty fun) and started slowly making their games into movies. More and more control was taken from the player until we got to FFXIII, where you control only one character, sidequests are minimal, and exploration is just about nil. So I’m stuck walking a straight path for 30 hours just waiting for the next cutscene to trigger when all I want to do is go ride chocobo and say hi to the nearest cactuar because I think cactuar are cute. Sure, the characters in the cutscenes are empty, unlikable husks and the story is a torrent of incomprehensible garbage—but man, those cutscenes are pretty. When I’m sitting here, hating all the characters, damning them for destroying one of my favorite franchises with their awful gameplay and disjointed story, it’s like I’m sitting here wishing death upon real people. That’s how good it looks.


(Christian is the creator of “Top of the Heap,” “Power Gloves & Tinfoil Hats,” the video series “Speak American,” and also some other stuff.)

Have a question you’d like answered in a future Q&AmeCola? Ask in the comments, and your question just might make the next edition.

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About the Contributor


    1. I usually leave it uncredited if the question is mine, since I use my power as grand overlord of the Q&A and insert my own questions for the sake of topicality pretty often.
      The fact that this one was credited to me and not GameCola Staff, however, was just me being dopey and forgetting to change it.

  1. As one of the 3 and 2/5 people who played, and enjoyed the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy despite its many design flaws, it pains me deeply to hear that people consider it worse than a certain title that was meant as a plain and pure insult to western culture as a whole. Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, which is so linear and free from challenge that you don’t need to touch the controller to beat the game. It can literally finish itself. XIII’s biggest downfall is that it physically cannot be one game. The story might be convoluted but it is consistent. Time travel might be ridiculous, but it’s not even the first time it’s been used as a convenient excuse to reuse map space. Look at Crono Trigger for that. The point of it all is to see unlikable people change into actual heroes through mistakes and poor choices. Truth be told, Sazh is kind of bland. He actually gets less interesting as the games wear on. XIII is definitely not my favourite entry, but I won’t throw it under the bus just to be one of the cool kids.
    All that aside, it’s a shameless cash grab, and incoherent mess,and I love it. Death to the giant. Finish FF15 and let it die.

    1. Whoa whoa whoa. Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest says on the box that it is an “entry-level role-playing adventure.” Criticizing it for its simplicity is like criticizing Sesame Street for lacking long story arcs and deep character development.

      If anything’s going to be a pure insult to Western culture, it should be receiving watered-down versions of Japanese games, such as Final Fantasy II Difficult So We Toned It Down IV Americans. If Mystic Quest isn’t as fun as the other games in the series, that’s one thing, but it’s not inherently bad because of the rationale behind its development and the successful execution of its concept.

      I’m also not sure that it’s fair to say that Chrono Trigger uses time travel as a convenient excuse to reuse map space. Part of the reason time travel is interesting is because you can see both the similarities and differences of a specific location over time. Back to the Future would not be Back to the Future if Marty McFly ended up in a different city every time he hopped in the DeLorean. Besides, it’s HOW you reuse that map space that counts, and Chrono Trigger does an excellent job of switching up every detail of its reused locations, at least in a small way. I can’t speak for FFXIII, though.

      Of the ones I’ve played, I would peg FFII (Dawn of Souls version; haven’t seen the Famicom version) as the worst. So much aimless wandering on the overworld, so many places where you can accidentally cross into Excessively More Powerful Monster regions, such predictable gain/loss of party members to the point where you can’t get attached to anyone, odd character progression that doesn’t work as elegantly as it could, and an overarching story that’s neither basic nor involved enough to be all that memorable.

      1. Note to self, don’t write long winded comments at 4am just because a thing ‘needs to be said’
        Fair assessment though, I don’t mean to say that Mystic Quest is bad just because of its insulting origin. It actually has fantastic a fantastic soundtrack, and despite its simplicity some of my close friends treasure it.
        I just think XIII as a whole gets an overly bad rap because of the vastly different mechanics it uses in trying to tell its story.
        What do I objectively consider the worst though, that’s a tough question. Picking from main line games based on gameplay, plot, and character development (design included) I have to say V is my least favourite. At very least, I didn’t appreciate my initial playthrough. The game felt clumsy and disjointed, like there was 3 separate world maps and you couldn’t ever return to the previous one to explore if you moved on too soon. All 6 party members seem generic and somewhat faceless. I love the job system though, and having hidden paths on virtually every map was extremely satisfying, even when those paths didn’t lead to anything worthwhile.
        I feel it’s worth noting that Mystic Quest is what we got instead of the initial release of FFV, and that sucks, but it doesn’t really change my opinion of either game. They’re both subpar to the rest of the series. Has anyone seen the anime based on FFV though? It’s so very… Wacky.

        1. What!? 4 AM is the best time to comment! Someday I’ll play XIII; until then, I’ve got maybe 20 minutes of watching someone else play under my belt (please parse that sentence in the most harmless way possible), so I’ve only got surface impressions.

          I can get behind FFV being the objective worst, though I like it more than some. At least in the GBA remake, the encounter rate is excessively high, and the story is extremely cookie-cutter. The job system is the single best thing the game has going for it, but even that can backfire if you go into certain battles with the wrong layout. Also, the music feels like the leftovers that didn’t make the cut for FFIV.

          Didn’t realize there was an anime!

          1. Why yes, Dr. Hoo ver, Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals. I believe it’s a 4 episode OVA set Roughly in the FFV universe. There are so many liberties taken in the writing that it’s basically an entirely different story. It’s worth a watch just to see what could have been. #LinalysHindquarters

    2. How does Chrono Trigger reuse map space in different time periods? Yes, the overworld looks similar in 600 AD and 1000 AD, but all the explored areas are not repeated, even simple areas such as Guardia Forest are not present in both time periods. Even the towns that exist in both, such as Truce Village, have completely different home interiors. I’ve never thought that areas were reused in Chrono Trigger and I simply don’t see the argument.

      The only area that persist across time periods is the Sun Keep, but it’s a basic cave. Of course, the sun “always shines there”, which is impossible in a solar system, but that’s a whole other barrel of monkeys.

      Chrono Cross, on the other hand, reuses some areas, but offer enough differences to make it seem like an alternate dimension. Since they’re two dimensions in the same period, similar looking locations are reasonable.

      Final Fantasy Mystic Quest does blow, but I’ve never played an FF beyond FFX, so I can’t make a judgement call there.

      1. From a development perspective, it is common practice to reuse assets from other areas to save time and space. Not a lot of games actively try to justify doing this, but Crono Trigger did. Granted the Crono Trigger team did probably the best job covering their tracks of any development team, but it’s still there.

        You’re entirely right though, Chrono Cross is by far the worse offender, and much more relevant to my argument.

        What FFXIII-2 does, is have you re visit areas in ‘different time periods’. A lot of them look very much the same with only a few areas blocked off or opened up. This mechanic isn’t at all present in FFXIII or Lightning Returns, however, so making all three games into one functioning piece of interactive literature is clunky and Frankenstienish at best.

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