In gaming, much like in poker, one has to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. If you find you aren’t having a good time for any number of reasons—bad gameplay, vapid storyline, horrid controls, etc—then, for the love of all that is holy, stop playing.
Unfortunately, we don’t always heed that advice either, so today we will answer Michael Gray’s question:
What is the worst game you’ve played through to the end?
I had to do a little digging here, since generally I will stop playing a game if it’s that bad. But with Zelda, and its rich history, I felt compelled to finish the story to see what happened. But after awful fetch quests, including swimming for these stupid tadpole music notes, flying around with a bird with horrible, non-ergonomic controls, and other arduous tasks, I finally made it to the final boss. The final boss whose attack pattern is essentially the same as the early bokoblins, just much larger and stronger. Really? They couldn’t come up with something more unique, or, at least go to tried-and-true volleying of energy balls with the Master Sword?
Skyward Sword is a step up with sword play, but they really borked the controls for things that are typically IR-controlled, like the slingshot and bow, instead resorting to using MotionPlus for everything, requiring you to recenter the pointer every time. What the crap were they thinking? Oh, you thought Navi was annoying from Ocarina of Time? How about an overly mothering androgynous, robotic overseer that rattles off useless statistics and repeats every important plot point just as they happen. Oh, and let’s not forget about the annoying popup/announcement whenever you get a bug species for the first time on each playthrough. It’s just awful being in an action sequence to have it abruptly stop and give you a 30-second song and dance about the bug you just caught.
There are games that cause us to cry deep within our hearts, on an emotional level, perhaps. A character we loved was killed by a sword through the chest, or we discovered we’d been slaughtering the good guys and damning the world to total annihilation. These games make us cry for the good reasons, the reasons that remind us we are still human, and that there is a reason to live.
And then there are the games that make us cry because we no longer want to live anymore, having stared into the deep abyss that clawed up to claim our souls. For me, there can be only one game that is the “worst” I’ve played through until the end. And here it is. Even now, several years on, I can watch my past self swear, and cry, and yell, and moan, and quote Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and I still know exactly where he’s coming from. That hatred is still there.
The worst, ever.
Without a doubt, the worst game I’ve completed has got to be Disney’s Adventures in the Magic Kingdom for the NES. I played it waaaay back in the day, and even as a young gamer I knew it was awful. I mean, what kind of company makes a game that only has five levels? Five grueling, miserable levels based on rides? But the merciless difficulty of the game is what gives me lingering, burning hatred for the title. You have three lives, and you have to complete all five of the levels in one go, or you have to restart. That meant regathering all of the keys you’d already earned. Even worse, it meant you had to sit through all of the bland exposition at the beginning of the game: “Oh no! Goofy went on a joyride and lost the keys to the Magic Kingdom, and we need those keys to open the park and have a parade! Gather the keys so we can all party! Hurry! Mickey’s counting on you! We need a parade! The band is counting on you!”
Well, we had a limited collection of games, and I’d already given up on one game (Zelda II, the only Zelda title I’ve never been able to beat). So, I kept on. I needed to beat that game. I needed to earn those stupid keys. I wanted to see that damn parade, because if I had to deal with the fall-out of Goofy’s muck-up one more bloody time, then I deserved a damn parade. So, I eventually beat the game, and you know what? There was no parade. No, you get a quick animation of a door opening, Mickey telling you good job, and then a screen where your character blinks agitatedly while Mickey, Goofy, and Donald stare soullessly off into space. Twenty-odd years later, I’m still pretty bitter about it. Thank goodness Kingdom Hearts came along to make up for it.
The promise: An exciting, original action RPG revisionist documentary on Chopin, exploring a world he created in his mind in his final moments.
The reality: A 40-hour-long mess of painfully long and frequent cinematics littered with constant ham-fisted social commentary that is such feelsy, saccharine sweet, let’s-all-get-along bullshit that it would make John Lennon puke in his mouth, and to top it all off it ended up just being a vehicle for the same well-worn RPG clichés you’ve seen in every RPG for the past 25 years.
I finished the game, continually telling myself it was going to get better riiight after this cutscene while sobbing into my controller after every time I realized it wasn’t.
The correct answer to this question is, “any game from the Final Fantasy series,” but I’m going to go with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES, because everyone hates that game. The part I hated was the impossible jump, found in level three’s maze-in-a-maze. When you fail that jump, you lose a life and have to start the game over from the beginning again. Make no mistake: you will fail that jump. The game’s bad controls guarantee it.
I think part of the reason I hated the game so much was the fact that I couldn’t cheat my way to victory. The Game Genie codes for this game weren’t very useful. The best code is, “don’t take most damage,” and that doesn’t help very much, because it leaves you open to take damage at the most inconvenient times. Another code only works against the enemies found on level two, and you have to use that code every time you play the game, because level two is pretty much impossible otherwise.
After playing (and failing) this game for weeks as a kid, I eventually decided to play it for five hours straight, until I beat the game with sheer willpower and a GameFAQs guide. Once I was done, I imagine I broke the NES cartridge, because there was no way I would ever play the game again.
Mystery Legends: Sleepy Hollow. The game would always reset itself every time I tried to play. It took me at least four or five weeks to finally get through the entire game. Since it’s a hidden object game, the picture they give you to identify the object just does not seem to fit. The ending is also anticlimactic—you die, the end, thanks for playing, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
If I’m going off opinion alone, I’m going to say that the worst game I’ve played to completion would be Mega Man Star Force for the Nintendo DS. Oh, granted, I’ve played games that are technically inferior in terms of gameplay, graphics, sound, and all that jazz. But I’m giving Mega Man Star Force the wag of the finger primarily because I have never experienced such frustration and disgust towards a game’s protagonist before playing it, and never have I experienced it since.
Geo Stelar is, without a doubt, the most unappealing main character in a video game. Period. End of sentence. He spends the vast, vast majority of the game being a whiny emo child who is hiding from anything social because his father died a few years ago. Anytime you think his character is going to make progress and actually join with some people, his emotions get the best of him and he reverts back to a recluse. I was NOT motivated to help this brat at all. It’s pretty pathetic when you basically WANT to lose, just out of spite. Mega Man Star Force is a competent enough game (though it’s just a ripoff of Mega Man Battle Network), but thanks to Geo Stelar, it was a terrible journey.
There. I’ve just saved you two months of misery.
I’ve suffered through far more painful games than Dragon Warrior II, but the vilest adventure games and most atrocious platformers have nothing on a bad RPG—Mighty Bomb Jack and Space Quest: The Lost Chapter might keep you in tears for an evening, but only something like Dragon Warrior II can suck you in for the long haul, subject you to hours upon hours of suffering, and reveal in the last 20 minutes that you might not be physically capable of beating the game.
You start off as the Prince of Midenhall, a burly bruiser who has one character trait: hitting the “attack” button. No spells, no special powers, no crazy magic-casting equipment until the end of the game. Your quest: Assemble a party, then save the world. Surely it won’t be long until you find your first party member, and then the real gameplay can begin. Surely you won’t have to pass through Midenhall, Leftwyne, Cannock Castle, the Spring of Bravery, and the excessively large and empty overworld that separates them before returning to Cannock Castle some five hours later to find a character whose battle options are more than “Attack,” “Use Herb,” and “Die Trying to Run Away.” Surely your party members will work together with you to form a well-rounded team. Surely the Prince of Cannock is a jack-of-all-trades who can wear some armor, use some magic, and do some fighting, and not a poorly defended fool who annoys the monsters with piddly damage. Surely the Princess of Moonbrooke is a powerful sorceress, and not a worthless paper bag. Surely you’re not stuck babysitting these morons for 30, 40, 50 hours…however long it takes you to navigate a wrap-around map that’s 50% barren ocean, working off the vague directions of some random guy in a town you can’t remember how to get to, assuming he’d even remind you where to go if you talked to him a second time.
The path from the final save point to the final dungeon is a sandy, mountainous maze inhabited by the two most unforgivably frequent monsters in the game: Blizzards, which will wipe out your party on the first turn with their instant-death spells, and—I swear I am not making this up—Bullwongs, which will knock off a third of your party’s HP with their Explodet spell, and have so much HP of their own that they might as well be a boss fight. Either you’ll die before you get halfway across the desert, or you’ll be in such poor shape when you arrive that the only option left will be to present yourself to the nearest robot ninja archer and ask politely to be excused from this mortal coil. The rational course of action would be to level up until you’re more powerful than the monsters…but you reach a point when you simply stop leveling up. DWII has some ridiculous level cap of 35 for one of the characters, and something like 40 or 50 for the others. But thy strength is supposed to be that of many fearsome Hibabongos! That’s good enough to get to the final dungeon with half your MP and maybe all three party members intact…but then, you’ve only gotten to the final dungeon, not through it. Even with maxing out my levels, exercising the most expert tactics I could muster, and flagrant abuse of emulator savestates, it took me hours to finish off DWII. By then I’d had quite enough of Bullwongs exploding in my face.
It wasn’t superior battle strategy or thoughtful preparation that got me through Dragon Warrior II. It was pure luck and the persistence to keep reloading every time some ludicrously overpowered monster got to strike before my reliable-but-boring Prince of Midenhall, my wishy-washy Prince of Cantblock, and my usually dead Princess of 15% Hit Chance got a turn.