One thing that separates video games from other art forms is that they have “gameplay.” Gameplay refers to the general feeling of playing a game. Is it easy to control, or difficult? Does your character move how you expect them to? Do you feel frustrated when playing the game because you can’t get it to do what you want?
These questions usually boil down to how well the game controls. Ideally, you don’t notice the controls as you play, and the character onscreen acts exactly as you’d hope. Unfortunately, not all games work like that. Here are five games with varying forms of bad controls.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
I love this game to death — seriously, it’s an all-time favorite — but I love it in spite of the controls. It took Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima and company roughly two decades to nail down the fantastic stealth-action controls they put in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Prior to that, each game was something of a struggle to play.
The controls in the third installment are probably the worst, but that’s because of its ambition. You can do all kinds of things in this game, but the developers didn’t do a good job of deciding which buttons should be assigned to all those actions. The result is a control scheme that’s so unlike other games that it’s tough to wrap your mind around.
However, if you power though and force yourself to learn the controls, you’ll discover one of the great classics of that or any other console generation. It just takes a lot of unnecessary dedication to get there.
2. I Am Bread
Most games with bad controls have them on accident. I Am Bread is a game that was designed with bad controls in mind. It’s part of whole new genre of games in which the primary challenge is fighting the bizarre control schemes. I’m talking about games like QWOP, Octodad, and Surgeon Simulator.
In I Am Bread, you play as a piece of bread (naturally) and you have to move your clumsy self from point A to point B. You control the corners of the bread as you try to maneuver it, say, from a kitchen table into a toaster on the counter.
Not only is the bread hard to control, but you can’t let it touch dirty surfaces for long. The result is equal parts hilarious and frustrating. It’s a good one to check out next time you’re hanging out with your buddies and you want a good laugh.
3. Tomb Raider
Most console video games prior to the launch of the 32-bit era (think the original PlayStation) were two-dimensional. Whether you viewed the action from the side or from a top-down perspective, you could generally only move in only four directions: up, down, left, and right. Then came the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64, and games entered a whole new dimension. Now you could move through three-dimensional space, which introduced a whole new set of challenges for developers to solve.
The original Tomb Raider, which hit PlayStation One in 1996, was a showpiece for the platform. It contained some of the most realistic-looking graphics ever seen (aside from the heroine’s curiously pointy bosom). But no matter how impressive the game was, calling it tough to control is an understatement.
Like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider features “tank controls,” which means pressing up always moves the character forward, no matter which way she’s facing. To put it bluntly, tank controls are awful, especially in stressful situations, like when you need to make a risky jump, or when you’re being attacked by a tiger — something that’s been known to happen to Lara.
Thankfully, developers have figured out better ways to control characters in 3D worlds, so later installments of the franchise control much better.
4. Prince of Persia
This game came out in 1989, well into the age of side-scrolling platformers. So it’s surprising that what should be a tightly controlling game of castle exploration and trap avoidance is such a janky mess.
The problem? The game’s graphics were made through “rotoscoping,” meaning the animations are based on videos of real people performing the actions your character can do. That resulted in animation that’s much smoother than other games of the era, but it’s also slower and stiffer. Timing your jumps is virtually impossible until you’ve missed enough jumps to get used to it.
That said, Prince of Persia was popular enough to have spawned a series that has continued to stay relevant over the decades. That’s not bad for a game that controls like hot garbage.
5. Kid Icarus: Uprising
The Nintendo 3DS is a fantastic handheld video game system. The only thing it’s missing is a second analog stick. That doesn’t matter in most 3DS games, because most developers don’t bring games to the system if they need a second stick.
So it was baffling when Nintendo released a new Kid Icarus game that definitely should have had a second analog stick. To work around the missing hardware feature, this game actually comes with a stand to set your 3DS on while you use an awkward claw grip to control the action.
The workaround is inadequate. After the game was released, tons of players took to social media to complain about the controls. Many players said the game caused them actual pain in their hands and wrists. Although the game offers a few alternate control options, none of them are very good — which begs the question of why it was released on the platform in the first place.
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