by Jed Pressgrove
2015 has been a banner year for bad games. Even though one could easily riff on the top 20 (or more) worst games of 2015, this list is limited to 10 and two dishonorable mentions for the sake of brevity and good cheer. (For more reading, check out 2014’s top 10 worst games.)
1. Game of Thrones
This HBO show wannabe provides the strongest argument yet against the televisionization of video games. It’s downright insulting how Telltale’s episodic player-choice hogwash continues to lead to poorly drawn fantasy with “shocking” gore. Game of Thrones wants to manipulate you by torturing likable characters and barely attempts to disguise this old trick as cynical commentary on political history. Even if you can excuse the further debasement of pop culture, good luck trying to find good design in Telltale’s action sequences. Press this button at this time to dodge left. Press this button at this time to dodge right. Press the power button now to make yourself happy.
Pregnancy is the worst Telltale-inspired game yet, outdoing its idiot cousins Life Is Strange and Until Dawn. Unlike last year’s stellar Choice: Texas, developer Locomotivah fails to convincingly illustrate the psychological and sociological challenges that can come with unexpected pregnancy. Beginning with rape and ending with toothless political commentary, Pregnancy is wasted labor.
3. The Beginner’s Guide
With The Beginner’s Guide, developer Davey Wreden expects players to have more respect for him than he does for them. Maybe Wreden’s condescending style could be occasionally forgotten if he had one decent point to make. The passive-aggressive saga of Wreden the narrator and Coda the friend doesn’t say anything genuine about art, the audience, or criticism. Admittedly, The Beginner’s Guide could have been a halfway entertaining toilet read as an article in an indie-gamer tabloid.
4. The Old Man Club
Has developer Michael Kolotch ever read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (snarky online summaries don’t count)? The question must be explored after playing this homophobic, racist, and anti-spiritual joke. Leave it to the alternative press to praise this bogus men-hating adaptation.
Misanthropy and trial-and-error design make an irritating couple. Developer Edmund McMillen skates around the issue of injustice just so he can say he made a new game. Perhaps Fingered could be tolerable if the jokes were impressive for a 13-year-old or if McMillen could see the irony in his own bigotry.
One might say Undertale’s pacifism/genocide/neutrality oversimplification could be a lesson for kids, but we wouldn’t want younger generations to think meta-nonsense should be celebrated or tolerated. Desperate fans argue one must “complete” this role-playing/shooter bastardization more than once to get the point. Nope. The evasive heart avatar would have lacked kinetic vitality in the 1980s, when classics like Xevious, 1941, and Blazing Lazers took dodging enemy attacks to new heights, and moral consequences mean nothing when you’re dealing with beyond-stupid monsters and the dullest protagonist in recent video-game history. Prayer in Undertale is only a culturally hollow means to jump one of developer Toby Fox’s tongue-through-cheek hurdles. Prayer in Earthbound, Fox’s main influence, showed what faith can mean to people all over the world — what it can mean to us. Undertale might seem good if I forgot decades of history.
7. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Dennaton Games continues its non-commentary on violence with this long-winded sequel. Perhaps we’re supposed to ignore the phoned-in Cold War politics in the fragmented story, but how can you ignore that Hotline Miami 2 even lacks the juvenile charm of 1995’s Loaded? Despite its inclusion of high scores, this pile of crap favors gore-ridden surrealism over arcade populism. Play Gain Ground instead.
8. Her Story
Given the appeal to found-footage movies and wronged-male horror, one wonders why Sam Barlow didn’t go with his basest instinct and call his game The Blair Bitch Project. Her Story is addictive with its Google and YouTube evocations, but playing with a contemporary interface under the pretense of a 1990s setting is silly in hindsight. Lady-psycho and insane-twin cliches say nothing about the human condition.
Director Hidetaka Miyazaki doesn’t make video-game blood rise above its predictable pornography. You’ll see claims that Bloodborne expands on H.P. Lovecraft’s stories (Sunless Sea actually resembles the author’s work), but this pathetic Dark Souls sequel has more in common with Castlevania, superficially evoking horror to give its methodical action some edge. While director Hitoshi Akamatsu peaked with Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Miyazaki turns into a hack with the shiny, flat-looking Bloodborne.
10. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Developer The Chinese Room desperately wants to comment on what binds humanity together but forgets the little things that make people alive and unique. This oversight means Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture misrepresents religion and science, not to mention simple signs of existence. On top of that, The Chinese Room cares too much about the “walking simulator” insult directed at similar first-person games and unintentionally parodies artsy-fartsiness with a sprint button that results in what could not be reasonably called a sprint.
Life Is Strange
Let’s place aside Life Is Strange’s allegiance to player-choice marketing and pick-who-dies banality. We’re left with the walking cliche of a sweet bookish girl who meets preposterous people during a series of preposterous events to make white liberals feel mushy and superior.
Through bad writing, bad voice acting, or a combination of both, Tale of Tales’ Sunset has inspired me to share another list.
Top 5 Unintentionally Hilarious Lines in Sunset
1. “Burning plants to inhale them. It’s kind of gross. But kind of mystical as well.”
2. “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. Kennedy said that. Just before they killed him.”
3. “The bath is a hole in the ground. Like a grave.”
4. “Ortega has more books than furniture.”
5. “The demons are gathering at the table, and the angels are nowhere to be found.”