They can’t all be winners. That’s an unfortunate truth that goes for video games as much as for anything else. Even the best franchises sometimes stumble. Even the most reliable series produce the occasional clunker (fortunately not falling so low as to land on our list of the worst games of all time). And now and then a super hyped up game fails to deliver in a big way.
The video game franchises mentioned below are full of fantastic games, but the highlighted titles are those series’ low points. Some of the series bounced back afterward. Others haven’t had the chance yet. And in the case of non-franchise games, there may be no chance for redemption.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Metacritic score: 33
Metacritic user score: 1.6
How the mighty have fallen. The first four Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games are some of the best skating games ever made. Each one layered interesting new dimensions onto a solid core of great skating gameplay. But after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 came out in 2002, Activision ditched the Pro Skater label, and the quality of the games went downhill.
Then out of nowhere in 2015, Activision announced a new installment in the beloved Pro Skater franchise, and promised to deliver the kind of streamlined skating game players crave. Unfortunately, the game failed to deliver on that promise. While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 isn’t as bad as you might have heard, it’s still not good, and nowhere near as brilliant as the other games in the Pro Skater series. Will there ever be another great Tony Hawk game? Maybe, but this isn’t it.
2. Call of Duty: Ghosts
Metacritic score: 73
Metacritic user score: 2.6
The Call of Duty series became a top-tier, blockbuster series with 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. That game was a revelation, bringing the action out of the stale World War II setting of the previous games and introducing modern backdrops and combat gear. Activision has been on a roll ever since, with excellent games from Black Ops to Advanced Warfare. But one installment — 2013’s Ghosts — scored noticeably lower than the rest.
The problem is that the game is bland. The campaign is boring, and there’s no gameplay hook to set it apart from the other entries in the series. Granted, it’s tough to keep coming up with fun twists in annualized franchises, but that’s what Activision signed up for when it decided to launch new installments each November. Thankfully, it looks like Black Ops III will continue pushing the series forward. If you skipped Ghost, you didn’t miss much.
3. Batman: Arkham Origins
Metacritic score: 74
Metacritic user score: 7.5
Games based on licensed properties don’t have the greatest track record of quality, so most Batman fans didn’t expect much when they popped Batman: Arkham Asylum in their machines in 2009. What they found was a beautiful game filled with smart puzzles, interesting characters, and one of the most satisfying combat systems in video game history. Simply put, the game made players feel like Batman.
Warner Bros. got a different studio to develop the 2012 installment Batman: Arkham Origins, and the results — while not awful — were less than fans had come to expect. Billed as a prequel, the game failed to offer anything new to the series, instead relying on what had come before. The result was a predictable, uninspired rehash fans could skip without missing anything valuable.
4. Resident Evil 6
Metacritic score: 67
Metacritic user score: 5.0
Ironically, Resident Evil’s problems began with Resident Evil 4, a game many consider to be among the best titles ever made. The one complaint some diehard fans of the franchise had with the fourth installment was that it had too much action. Which would be fine in most games, but the defining characteristics of the survival horror genre are suspense, tension, and limited ammo. Resident Evil 4 delivered on most of those qualities, but it sure had a lot of shooting in it.
Resident Evil 5 continued the trend toward action, and Resident Evil 6 embraced it wholeheartedly — to the extent that it came off like a bad Michael Bay movie. Capcom still hasn’t announced a followup, but it has been going back and remaking the series’ early entries. With luck, Capcom will find what made the series special, and be able to inject that into Resident Evil 7, whenever it comes out.
5. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Metacritic score: 66
Metacritic user score: 6.0
While the reputation of Final Fantasy XIII has taken somewhat of a hit in recent years, it was pretty well received when it came out in 2010. So was its direct sequel, Final Fantasy XIII–2. It was the third game in the sub-series that players weren’t thrilled to play.
Set 500 years after its predecessor, Lightning Returns has a mediocre story, with the titular character waking from a slumber to save the world 13 days before it will end. While the combat is solid, the game is chock full of fetch quests and other annoying little tasks that quickly become tedious. It’s a shame, because Final Fantasy games are usually excellent.
6. Battlefield Hardline
Metacritic score: 71
Metacritic user score: 3.8
Like winter in the Midwest, every year we seem to see a Battlefield game coming to market. And sometimes, in both cases, there aren’t the proper warning signs that the upcoming one is going to be a doozy. There was a lot to potentially be excited about by Battlefield Hardline, like it’s shift from the military to the police, and its inclusion of new game modes and gadgets befitting the new theme. The problem is that Visceral Games didn’t do such a great job making it all work, particularly the widely panned single-player campaign — let’s face it, a cops job is not the same as a soldiers.
7. No Man’s Sky
Metacritic score: 60
Metacritic user score: 2.8
From it’s first appearance at E3 to it’s eventual release much later than originally suggested, No Man’s Sky was the new IP with perhaps the biggest hype snowball, rolling down a mountain that made it larger and larger. At release, that snowball smashed into reality. First players had to slog through bugs and technical problems that constantly crashed the game, and many who strove on found the game tedious and bland — in a full universe of near infinite possibility, you’d think there’d be more to do than find, mine, and gather resources in order to upgrade your ability to find, mine, and gather resources.
8. Pokemon GO
Metacritic score: 67
Metacritic user score: 5.4
Niantic and The Pokemon Company did a great job of making Pokemon GO look like it was going to be the reality we all dreamed of when we were little kiddies playing Red or Blue. We wanted real Pokemon to be hiding around every corner. We wanted to battle our pokemon everywhere we went, and train at gyms, and rumble with Team Rocket. Niantic and The Pokemon Company did not do a great job of making the game anything like that though.
Instead, Pokemon that floated, superimposed on our phone screen, that we could chuck a dozen pokeballs at in the hopes that one will catch it based on pure luck, because we can’t weaken them through battle. We can’t bond with our Pokemon through our struggles. We can’t make them (much) more powerful than when we first catch them, and we’ll have no qualm trading away the first few pokemon we catch — basically a mortal sin in the original games. There’s really just a lot wrong with Pokemon GO.
9. Watch Dogs
Metacritic score: 77
Metacritic user score: 4.7
Ubisoft is the force behind a lot of major games that get everyone excited. Watch Dogs did just that and became one of the best-selling new IP video games ever when it launched. All through the marketing cycle, it presented an impressive, almost real world, with beautiful graphics and NPCs that had interesting lives worth hacking into to take a peek at.
The game turned out to be more of an Assassin’s Creed clone with a generally unlikable and flat protagonist. It also featured a lot of chore-like missions, a far less interesting world, and clearly downgraded graphics. To make matters even worse, there was a clear hamstringing of visuals for PC players, with some features locked. Perhaps Ubisoft thought that if it couldn’t be pretty on consoles, then it couldn’t be pretty on PC either. Of course, it made so much money Ubisoft could justify making a Watch Dogs 2.
Additional writing by Mark Knapp.