For the past ten days, we've looked at a lot of games from the past year that we really, really liked. Whether or not they actually made our top 10 (here's looking at you, Undertale), 2015 was filled with strikingly good games.
But not all games can be winners. Not all games, for that matter, can be good. As a counterpoint to our best-of coverage, we're looking back at some of the year's most unfortunate releases. Based on a combination of Polygon's staff experiences, aggregated review scores and consumer response, we present to you our alphabetized, unranked list of the Worst Games of the Year.
If you're the kind of masochist who's into trying notably bad games, good luck even finding Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma. The PlayStation 4 and Windows PC release reviewed so poorly that its publisher, Versus Evil, publicly denounced it as a failure before pulling it from sale.
Not only did the company apologize for releasing a universally loathed game, but it also offered refunds to all customers. Planned as the first entry in a trilogy, Versus Evil also promised that it wouldn't be moving forward with any sequels based on customers' reactions.
Afro Samurai 2 is a rare case of a company doing right by consumers; while the anime adaptation stands out as broken and buggy, the story of its short lifespan has a proper ending.
This game earned the distinction of review aggregator Metacritic's lowest-ranked title of 2015. The PC game is the sixth release in the Alone in the Dark series, and easily stands as the long-running franchise's shoddiest entry. Players took to Steam to decry Illumination's boring gameplay, poor visuals and overall departure from the classic survival horror facets that Alone in the Dark fans had come to expect.
While Illumination's beta offered only a singleplayer mode to try out, those who checked out the full release found only co-op and multiplayer options in its place. The only thing scary about this sub-subpar title was just how uninspired it was, fans said after demanding Steam refunds en masse.
Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival/Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer
These Animal Crossing spinoffs might not be bad, per se — although amiibo Festival's Metacritic average is among the worst on the Wii U this year — but for longtime Animal Crossing fans, they represent two major disappointments.
2013's 3DS release Animal Crossing: New Leaf was embraced by longtime players and newcomers for offering innovation instead of just iteration. This year's pair of games, however, seemed to exist for one reason: to sell Nintendo's toys-to-life figures.
Contingent on the use of the figures is amiibo Festival, which plays like a dashed-off Mario Party clone with a friendly Animal Crossing veneer. Nintendo has been outspoken about its plan to better integrate the use of amiibo within its games, but hopefully that won't lead to an onslaught of obvious cash-ins like this one.
Happy Home Designer takes interior decoration, a well liked but minor part of the main series, and makes it the core of a repetitive gameplay experience. Oh, and it introduced amiibo cards to the world, adding one more way to fight over collectibles with other Nintendo fans while shelling out a ton of extra cash in the process.
It might be too early to say the developer has squandered the goodwill the series has worked hard to build up, but these spinoffs are a striking one-two punch of missed opportunity.
That platform designation is key here: The console version of the Dark Knight's latest jaunt landed a rare 10 out of 10 in our review. The PC release? Nowhere close. While we didn't review the PC release separately, it might have been because it was nigh unplayable.
Its performance was poor — we referred to it as "a mess" and "a train wreck" on separate occasions — with frequent framerate drops and crashes. Publisher Warner Bros. halted all purchases of the game in order to correct the issues. Although no re-release date was given at the time, it seemed like a fair move to consumers.
That is, until the game returned to Steam later. Many players continued to find fault with Batman: Arkham Knight upon its October "re-launch." While Rocksteady Studios and publisher WB Entertainment tried to make amends by giving away copies of previous Arkham series games and offering unconditional refunds, they failed to convince players that they'd made a broken game significantly less so. Players reported that the improved specs were a far cry from a truly enjoyable experience.
For Batman fans, Arkham Knight on console remains the only true option.
If you weren't aware that this game had made it to stores, you're forgiven; publisher Nintendo seemed to forget, too.
Designed by former Team Ninja lead Tomonobu Itagaki as the first release from his Valhalla Games Studio, this multiplayer brawler languished in development hell for years. First announced as a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 title in 2009, it ultimately found a home on Wii U, thanks to Nintendo. It re-revealed the game as part of its E3 2014 presentation — and that was the last time anyone saw the game for a long while.
Devil's Third finally reappeared this summer when Nintendo re-confirmed its existence. But despite the extra time spent making the game, Itagaki and co.'s efforts failed to make a sizable impact on quality. Devil's Third is unattractive and, by many players' estimations, decidedly not fun. The graphics are a reminder of its humble last-gen beginnings, and while the multiplayer campaign is a step above the bland singleplayer, even that's hardly a compliment.
A quiet early December launch came and went with little fanfare, with Nintendo offering next to no promotion of one of the Wii U's few holiday releases. It must be noted, however, that there might be a cult classic in the makings. Copies of the game are already fetching high prices on eBay, perhaps thanks to those excited by the idea of testing out a notable disaster for themselves (and the fact that it received a severely limited first-run print).
Funk of Titans
This Xbox One and PC game may be unfamiliar to most, and it's likely better that way. For our purposes, it warrants discussion due to its archaic, banal and borderline offensive portrayal of blackness. The game is inspired by blaxploitation films of the 1970s, with a little classical Greek mythology mixed in. These dissonant elements combine into a rhythm-centric platformer, which also features the previously unknown art of "funk-fu" as a gameplay mechanic.
What's really notable, and notably offensive, is how those features operate outside the inherent context of their generic inspiration. Blaxploitation is a widely studied genre, one that is difficult to grasp outside of its necessary cultural context. It can be seen as making a mockery of African-Americans, which was never the point; Funk of Titans misses that key component and turns its Greco-Afro-Roman-American characters into an object of mockery.
Paste Magazine's gaming section did a wonderful takedown of what's so off-putting about this otherwise forgettable game. It's worth a full read, but what it boils down to is a good game about blaxploitation-influenced characters is possible, and it doesn't look anything like Funk of Titans.
Plus, for a game about music, the music isn't even catchy, let alone good.
It's 2015. By now, gaming is no longer a niche interest. Sure, it might still sometimes be misunderstood, but the days of Jack Thompson are over.
Yet here comes a game that seeks to undo all the strides the industry has made toward getting away from the stigma of gaming as brutally violent handbooks for the degradation of civilization as we know it. Hatred is about just that: the hatred of other human beings, of yourself and, frankly, of video games, too.
Relishing in extreme violence for the hell of it, the game asks you to entertain the idea of killing massive amounts of people in the name of ... what? Fun? Because there's not much of that to be had here. As we found in our short time with the game, even playing Hatred without considering its broader implications is trying, because there's just not much enjoyable about it beyond its vulgar premise.
Hatred is nothing but a game reveling in its own crudeness, poking buttons for the sake of poking them and testing people's patience and tastes to serve its own interest. If you take issue with the stereotype of games as senseless violence simulators, avoid at all costs; if you just want to play a well-crafted shooter without regard to its overarching narrative, buyer beware: you have a plethora of better options.
You may know this game by another name, if you have the misfortune to know it at all. The open-world RPG attempted to stand out in that ever-expanding genre by boasting of its historically accurate pirate-themed setting. Instead, it was cited for being riddled with bugs, having blindingly terrible graphics and a cliched narrative.
The game's developer was so ashamed of its quality (or lack thereof) that it was pulled from the Steam marketplace, then re-released several months later. Not only did the team bring back a game players didn't want in the first place, making only minor adjustments to it, but it attempted to dupe those who rejected it a first time into giving it a second look by changing the title.
Raven's Cry was re-branded Vendetta — Curse of Raven's Cry, which is an even more meaningless name than the original. Players caught on immediately that this was the same pirate RPG they panned months prior. Raven's Cry proves that a bad game by any other name will play just as badly.
Rodea The Sky Soldier has a pedigree that in a better world would disqualify it from any worst-of list. Its developer, Prope, is headed up by Yuji Naka, otherwise known as the father of Sonic the Hedgehog. That's not to suggest that Sonic's record is unscathed, of course, but Naka is well-respected despite his biggest creation's occasional failings.
Unfortunately, Rodea is a big miss for Naka and his tiny studio. While its premise is ambitious — an action game set in the air — it fails to deliver due to weak visuals and the frustrating control scheme on current-gen platforms, namely the Wii U and 3DS. Naka himself advised players to avoid those platforms at all costs, and instead play the Wii version.
This isn't some older game that's been ported to new consoles, however. It's astounding that a new game in 2015 can be advertised as superior on the Wii, which Nintendo left behind several years ago. But thus is the strange odyssey of Rodea: The Sky Soldier.
Thankfully, the marginally superior Wii version is included with first pressings of the Wii U release, so players don't have to attempt to play the broken game. Regardless, this is still one of the more bizarre bad games of the year.
Some things need to be seen to be believed. Please watch the video below to truly understand all that is the fifth entry in the once-beloved Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise.
In case you need further explanation, we offer this: People really, really loved the first four Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games. The series' subsequent releases varied wildly in quality, with some indulging in odd peripherals and others simply being forgettable entries in the extreme sports genre. But with the return of the Pro Skater title, fans hoped it would also be a return to the gameplay they'd once enjoyed.
They say it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Here it's better to have not loved Pro Skater 5 for any reason. It is so broken, so garish and so grim that reformed Tony Hawk lovers rue the day they first laid eyes on the franchise. Sometimes, it's better to leave what's past in the past.