The history of video games is incredibly fascinating. From humble beginnings with 1958’s simple game of Tennis for Two, all the way up to current times with cinematic narratives and realistic graphics, there are many hundreds of games that are considered classic for one reason or another.
Many obtain the moniker due to their revolutionary innovations, while others get it for simply being timelessly fun. However, just like how the medium is becoming increasingly intertwined with the film industry, many of the supposed “classics” no longer hold up. Worse yet, some of these "revolutionary" games were far less innovative than perceived, but still managed to eclipse the true pioneers of their time due to their bloated praise.
Here, in our list of 15 Video Game “Classics” That Are Actually Terrible, we’re going to expose the flaws of some dearly-held “classics” whose fans will swear to until they’re blue in the face. Alas, many on this list have aged poorly, or were outdone by overlooked peers thanks to overblown hype.
While historically many of these still have tremendous significance and are a good deal are still fun, some of them have become obsolete as time has gone on, remaining worthwhile experiences for only the most hardcore of collectors.
15 Super Mario Land 2
Super Mario Land is an odd game in the already odd Mario series. It doesn’t take place in the Mushroom Kingdom, it has the plumber saving Princess Daisy instead of Peach, and the enemies are space aliens, Moai heads, and giant spiders.
The game is often criticized for having a strong reliance on momentum for its physics, another major departure from its predecessors. To ostracize it further, fans will say that Super Mario Land 2 is the far better choice between the duo. They are, of course, wrong.
Super Mario Land 2 may feature larger, more detailed sprites, but their soulless eyes are unsettling. The music is grating when compared to SML’s classic soundtrack, and the physics are far more floaty than anything in SML, leading to a level of imprecision that is severely worse than its predecessor. In short, it innovates nothing and takes multiple steps backwards (and to the side).
If anything, its only major strength is the continued trend of bizarre enemies and locales, along with Wario’s debut.
14 Twilight Princess
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is by no means a truly awful game. However, it is terribly boring, convoluted, and doesn’t do much to the move series forward, instead choosing to strictly follow the formula of Ocarina of Time to the detriment of the entire project.
It’s also one of the few Zelda games to have major flaws, specifically the mind-numbingly lengthy tutorial-esque opening where you partake in the joys of fetching a fish for a cat or herding cattle. Then there is the truly painful addition of Link forcibly turning into a wolf and then being tasked with bizarre fetch-quest diversions in this crippled form.
Sure, there’s a lot to love in the game, but it’s just more of the same. Thankfully, Breath of the Wild swooped in to shatter this formula and reinvent the series for the years to come.
13 Final Fantasy VII
The venerable Final Fantasy franchise is a stalwart classic of JRPGs. Few games have a legacy as legendary as this series, with its latest entry, XV, hauling in praise and sales like they are going out of style. However, ask any fan what they think the best entry is, and they’ll almost unanimously declare the seventh. Once again, they’re wrong.
Final Fantasy VII, for its time, was fairly impressive. It told an interesting tale with memorable characters and some stand-out music. The problem, though, is that it just doesn’t hold up in many regards.
Graphically, the game is hideous. It’s hard to take the solemn, soul-crushing tale of Sephiroth and Cloud seriously when they’re represented as chibi-styled polygons. Even mechanically the game fails to measure up to its lauded predecessor, Final Fantasy VI.
VII isn’t even the best one on the Playstation, where IX’s gameplay, plot, score, graphics, and characters usurp it at every turn. VII’s status as an all-time classic is a case of nostalgia-coated glasses of the highest prescription, almost certainly due to the fact that it was the first RPG of its style for many.
12 Shadows of the Empire
Shadows of the Empire was a multimedia, Expanded Universe project for Star Wars. Taking place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, fans were treated to an encounter with Prince Xizor of the criminal syndicate Black Sun through action figures, a book, a superb soundtrack, and this video game. Sadly, it’s this beloved game that fails to stand the test of time.
Ask fans of the game what it is that made them fall in love, and they’ll say that their minds were blown by the opening Hoth battle. This is reasonable, as there was nothing quite like it at the time. Alas, it’s but a small fraction of the game, the majority of which is an awkward third person shooter, something you won’t hear anyone praise.
Controlling the Han Solo-rip-off Dash Rendar, players are tasked with taking this sluggish brute through multiple locales, where shoddy gunplay, uneven difficulty, and poor level design will result in frustration while short loops of John Williams’ music repeat ad infinitum.
11 Uncharted 2
The Uncharted franchise, particularly its second entry, has garnered significant praise for its cinematic immersion. You feel fully immersed into the thrilling, action-adventure movie-styled world. Of course, its stellar graphics were also a major factor in its high ratings, as it remains impressive even now.
However, while the game certainly succeeds with its storytelling and immersion, how is its actual gameplay? Well, that’s the problem: its gameplay is nothing special. Uncharted 2 is practically a PS2-era third-person shooter, but with an incredibly slick coat of paint and a few more degrees of freedom. Oh, and climbing-- lots of climbing.
There’s also a lack of truly engaging puzzles, and the rinse-repeat of the formulaic gameplay wears thin unless you’re completely immersed in the story, which it seems like many people were and are.
Just because a game is exceptionally immersive doesn’t mean that its core gameplay mechanics should be bare bones. It’s a game, after all, not a movie. Thus, under that light, it’s an average third-person action game.
10 Tomb Raider
The original Tomb Raider was a system-seller for many with a PS1. An incredibly early 3D game, it was also immensely ambitious. Considering its place in history, Tomb Raider is an incredible achievement. However, if we take a step back from its historical context, it’s hard to recommend it to anyone other than connoisseurs.
Its worlds are still massive and the thrill of exploration remains constant, but its bogged down by its dreadfully-dated controls and camera.
Instead of being able to move in a truly three-dimensional manner like Mario 64, players were forced into a tank-like set-up where, somewhat like the early Prince of Persia titles, there is a significant delay in the execution of a command after the button press.
Still, the game’s legacy is a healthy one, with Lara Croft remaining an awesome character, and the most recent efforts of the series’ reboot being hugely successful.
9 Ace Combat 04
The Ace Combat series has reliably delivered thrilling faux-sim arcade fighter jet action to players ever since its first entry, Air Combat. However, similar to FFVII’s mainstream debut with the PS1, it didn’t gain major exposure until its fourth entry on the then-new PS2.
Ace Combat 04 delivers the same action that the series was known for, but now included a more involved story along with bells and whistles. To be clear, there is nothing truly wrong with AC04, but the level of praise it receives is mind-boggling, considering it has infinitely superior sequels on the PS2 that more-or-less make this entry obsolete.
The lauded storyline, while having an interestingly intimate feeling, is outdone and outmatched by AC5 and Zero, as is its music, being overwhelmed by its successors and their emotional motifs. Then there’s the gameplay and content, which is once again utterly blown away by what 5 and Zero brought to the table.
AC04 is still a generally fun experience, but it’s far from the high point of what it’s made out to be, or what this series was capable of.
The Elder Scrolls series has been going on for a long time, and has become an RPG standard. With so many high points in the series, it’s hard to believe that Skyrim has received the level of popularity that it has, considering that it’s an almost entirely watered-down installment.
The third entry, Morrowind, delivers a detailed RPG experience that, even within the first few minutes, outmatches and outpaces Skyrim. The sheer depth of the world in Morrowind trumps Skyrim’s landscapes and concepts, and the disparity grows even greater when considering atmosphere.
While Morrowind may lack the more fluid gameplay or satisfying Dragon Shouts of Skyrim, it excels in the actual role-playing. Then there's Daggerfall, the second installment, which contains a massively realized world that’s larger than the real-life Great Britain and a breadth of content that puts its modern kin to shame.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the enormous amount of glitches that pervade nearly every other step in Skyrim. While the game is content-laden, it’s inexcusable for it to be this riddled with issues when its predecessors run less sloppily (well, at leastmost of the time).
7 Mortal Kombat
Let’s get this out in the open right away: the original Mortal Kombat games are simplistic fighters with rigid, generally awful gameplay. This series should have been forgotten during the fighting frenzy of the '90s based on gameplay mechanics alone, but it had two things going for it: the “realistic” graphics and the immense gore.
As actual games, the early entries lack depth when compared to contemporaries like the seminal Street Fighter II. MK’s fighters are awkward to control, distances are strange to judge, and the overreliance on projectiles can be annoying.
However, again, it’s the ultra-controversial, ultra-violent fatalities that gave the original games an irrevocable place in history. The brutal finishing moves against the digitized actors delighted players and shocked old people.
To be fair, the series has evolved considerably as the years went on, even rivaling and overwhelming the rival Street Fighter games. It’s a franchise worth playing, but its opening entries, with their simplistic, choppy gameplay, are not the place to start.
Half-Life’s a storied franchise with the desire for a third entry so feverish that it has become legendary. While the game brought some truly revolutionary concepts to the table, most of its achievements seem to have been overblown, likely due to its aforementioned legendary status.
Even more strange, many of the Half-Life series' praises and perceived innovations were pioneered by earlier PC games. Fans will cite the story-telling as a strong point, which allows players to piece together clues and details picked up from NPCs, all while making fans feel as though the game takes place in a realistic world with believable characters and scenarios.
While some of that may be chalked up to personal taste, games like System Shock managed to do this before HL, and with far more nuance and success. The horrifying and ominous atmosphere, coupled with the bone-chilling audio-logs and threats from SHODAN made for a more memorable and effective experience. Even the original Unreal has an exceptionally immersive world, and it does so with far less story-telling.
While the gameplay in HL2 certainly has charms, like its interactive environments, the level of praise it gets is seemingly overblown, particularly when compared to what was possible in Deus Ex.
5 Super Mario Galaxy
The Super Mario franchise retains a reputation of polish ever since its inception. This has been rightfully earned and Super Mario Galaxy is no exception. Successfully taking the star-collecting to space, it was given a direct sequel that is sadly considered to be inferior to Galaxy, which is just not true.
Galaxy is great in terms of concept and aesthetic, but it’s surprisingly devoid of design variation. It creates interesting gameplay that is never fully fleshed out, its hubworld is comparatively boring against Delfino Plaza or Peach’s Castle, and even its stages feel a little lazy, going as far as to palette swap entire planets and claim they are “new.”
Enter Galaxy 2. The second installment stomps the first graphically, mechanically, musically, and even aesthetically. Here, the hubworld has essentially been done away with, and the gameplay is of a stage-by-stage basis.
Gameplay concepts are now fully fleshed out and pushed to their limits, levels are endlessly creative with stunning variety, compositions are brought to life with a larger orchestra, and the list goes on.
Galaxy isn’t a bad game, but its less-loved sequel beats it at nearly every turn, essentially rendering it obsolete.
4 Metal Gear Solid
That’s something that can never be taken away. This classic game tells a riveting tale, complete with a wonderfully quotable script, fun voice acting, and intriguing cutscenes. Again, this game has left a revolutionary footprint that is not easily matched. It’s a shame that the interactive portions of this adventure don’t live up to the storytelling.
Gameplay-wise, MGS is a mixed bag. The concept, carried over from its MSX predecessors, puts stealth at the forefront, with violence as a last resort. Unfortunately, the controls are touchy at best, and the inevitable gunplay is an absolute nightmare.
Although Snake still has a tendency to attach himself to a wall at the worst time, most things are ironed out in the sequels, particularly in the recent V.
While MGS will always be a seminal and revolutionary video game, its core gameplay has aged horrendously. If you can’t put up with that, give its remake, The Twin Snakes, a try, or the excellent Metal Gear Solid 3.
3 Crash Bandicoot
Crash Bandicoot was the mascot answer to Nintendo and Sega, and this orange-furred marsupial remains an incredibly lovable and iconic character. The game’s have a goofy, animated atmosphere, with exaggerated sets that feature funky, truly unique music and appealingly wacky gameplay and platforming.
Sadly, despite all that, the core gameplay of Crash’s debut does not hold a candle to its contemporaries, nor its sequels. Crash’s gameplay is weird to start. It’s technically 3D, but the stages are not open.
You’re typically running forward or towards the screen, with side-scrolling thrown in for good measure. Because of the lo-res of the PS1, camera angle, and the sometimes-cluttered set dressing, depth perception can cause frustrating deaths, especially when it comes to judging jumping or spinning distance.
While it remains an aesthetic triumph, its punishing gameplay holds it back. Thankfully, its sequels take the concepts it introduced and generally irons them out. If you really feel you need to give Crash’s first appearance a try, do so in the N. Sane Trilogy remaster, where quite a few of its problems are mercifully addressed.
2 Conker's Bad Fur Day
Conker's Bad Fur Day has hysterical writing, and its shock value is legitimately unmatched, even now. However, as a game from the legendary Rare, and one that released after Banjo-Kazooie, Tooie and Donkey Kong 64, its gameplay failures are unacceptable.
It includes broken difficulty, sloppy platforming, garish stage design, sluggish gun control, unfair enemy placement, savage fall damage, repetitious and meaningless tasks, miserable gimmicks, and a lack of a functioning camera (despite Rare crafting an excellent system years before for BK). The game tries to cover these faults up with its humor, hoping you'll just forget about its inexcusably disastrous game design.
Playing Conker is like nailing your fingers to a maggot-infested plank of wood in search of a few guffaws. It’s a soul-crushingly painful experience but, hey, at least you found a funny.
Considering that this is from the same developers who created some of the greatest 3D platformers of all time, which were filled to the brim with bizarre and varied objectives, makes the situation much worse.
Conker, despite having the greatest poop joke of all time, fails on a gameplay front and fails to measure up to its predecessors in any meaningful way despite its crude humor.
Halo is the mascot of console shooters. However, considering that it, as well as its sequels, brought almost nothing new to the table in terms of innovation-- and was essentially outgunned by FPS games nearly a decade before the franchise existed-- we have a problem.
The original's success is tied almost entirely with the bloated hype nearly each entry receives, despite the poorly told story and mediocre gameplay.
If Master Chief is supposed to be a super-soldier, why doesn’t it ever feel like that? You always seem weak, except for the few occasions of flipping a Warthog right side up. Even then, this super-soldier, who performs supernatural feats in cutscenes, can’t even dual wield rocket launchers, which is something that James Bond could back in 1997’s Goldeneye.
That’s the real problem with Halo. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark delivered visceral gameplay and in-depth objectives. Quake and Unreal crafted detailed worlds. Doom and Duke Nukem 3D pioneered fast-paced shootouts. They all did what Halo does, but infinitely better. Even Halo’s primary claim to fame, online multiplayer for consoles, was done with the Dreamcast and PS2.
In the end, Halo’s only true triumph is the ease in which children can curse you out on Xbox Live.
Do you disagree? Can you think of any other video game classics that are actually terrible? Sound off in the comments!
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