Games that totally suck unless you install mods

In the old days, if a game sucked, you were stuck with it. Not any more. These days, when an internet connection is practically a requirement for any dedicated video game player, titles can be improved on a whim — and they are. Sometimes, publishers work overtime to salvage titles that aren't up to snuff at launch — No Man's Sky and The Division, we're looking your way — while other times, fans pick up the slack and breath new life into heavily flawed favorites.

We're not just talking about modernizing older classics that haven't aged well or community-made improvements for lackluster PC ports. We're talking about some of the worst games ever made. Straight out of the box, the following titles absolutely stink. With a few modifications helpfully provided by your fellow gamers, on the other hand, they're not just playable, they're actually fun. It takes a lot of work to transform a bad game into a good one, but these people have done it — and they've unearthed a few minor classics in the process.

If E.T.'s got you down in the dumps, this'll help

There are a lot of bad games out there, and earning the title of the absolute worst game of all time takes a lot of work. Well, E.T. managed to do it. Not only did Atari spend close to $21 million for the rights to Spielberg's 1982 tearjerker, but its sole designer only had five weeks to make the game. It's often cited as the reason why the entire North American console industry collapsed in 1983. Atari manufactured so many extra copies that the only way to get rid of them was to dump 'em all in a landfill and cover them with concrete.

So, yeah, E.T. is bad. Sadly, it didn't have to be. Sure, it's a complex and kind of weird game, especially if you didn't bother to read its manual. It's unfathomably hard, especially for a game based on a family film. When you play, you'll probably spend most of your time accidentally falling into holes.

Still, there's the skeleton of a good game hidden among all of that trash. By opening the E.T. ROM in a hex editor, you can apply some fan-made tweaks that make the game eminently playable. Now, you'll only fall in pits when you expect to. Heck, thanks to the mod, E.T. himself is even the right color. The fix comes too late to save Atari, but as far as E.T. itself is concerned? Better late than never.

Treat your Colonial Marines to a little Isolation

Most games don't suffer from one high-profile lawsuit, to say nothing of two, but Aliens: Colonial Marines isn't like most games. During production, the developer, Gearbox, allegedly funneled money and resources from Aliens to projects like Borderlands, effectively "stealing" from Sega, the game's publisher (Gearbox disputes those claims). The game was rushed to market and released it in an unfinished state. Post-launch, fans noticed that Aliens: Colonial Marines didn't look much like Sega's marketing materials, and a couple of them sued the publisher for false advertising, netting a cool $1.25 million in the settlement.

That's not just bad. That's historically terrible. While Colonial Marines is easy to ignore now, some fans weren't willing to let it go. Naturally, "Templar GFX's ACM Overhaul" makes Colonial Marines look more like the next-gen title that Sega promised, with improved textures, better shadows, permanent blood and acid stains, and much more, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. The mod improves weapon balance and beefs up the overall artificial intelligence.

Most crucially, however, the mod also makes the titular aliens as terrifying as they should be, upping their reaction time to make them smarter and implementing all kinds of tweaks to make them faster, more athletic, and deadlier. Or, to put it another way, Templar GFX's fix basically makes Colonial Marines feel more like Alien: Isolation. If you've played Isolation, then you know: that's a very, very good thing.

Give Mass Effect: Andromeda a much-needed facelift

Mass Effect: Andromeda should've been the beginning of an entirely new chapter of BioWare's beloved space opera. However, at launch, the game was marred by horrific animation, boring missions, clunky and tone-deaf writing, and all kinds of technical issues.

Instead of propelling Mass Effect to a brave new frontier, Andromeda ended up getting the whole franchise put into an indefinite time out, and there's little relief in sight — at least from official channels. Fans, on the other hand, are doing everything they can to make Andromeda the interstellar epic that BioWare promised. Modder NightWolf2503's "fixpack" won't do much for players who didn't care for Andromeda's story, but for other would-be space settlers, it's a godsend.

The mod clears up many of Andromeda's most irritating bugs and some of its smaller ones. It tweaks characters' voices to match their genders, restores some missing lines, and improves the game's crafting system. Most importantly, though, NightWolf2503's mod helps improve Andromeda's animation engine, making conversations more realistic and ensuring that characters' faces actually match the lines they're saying.

The Tomb Raider that could've been

Lara Croft is too iconic to kill off for good, but Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness certainly tried its best. Originally designed as a fresh start for a series that was growing increasingly stale, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness instead almost tanked the entire franchise. The game is notoriously difficult to control, uncharacteristically dark, and takes place in an urban setting — instead of, y'know, actual tombs — and fans reacted accordingly.

So did everyone else. Paramount blamed Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life's poor box office showing on Angel of Darkness' lackluster reception. Tomb Raider's co-creator Jeremy Heath-Smith resigned following the game's launch. In the aftermath, Tomb Raider's publisher Eidos took the franchise away from Core Design, the company that created the series, and handed it over to Crystal Dynamics, which ended up pushing Lara in an entirely different and brand new direction.

And yet, some Tomb Raider die-hards saw Angel of Darkness' potential, and they want to share it with the world. After all, things like branching dialogue trees, RPG-inspired progression systems, stealth-based action sequences, and multiple protagonists were all controversial ideas back in 2003, but they're commonplace now. That's why modders like Sasho648 work so hard to improve Angel of Darkness' controls and touch up its textures. As their results show, if Core Dynamics had received more time to perfect their vision, the game would be remembered as a triumph, not a tragedy. And Lara Croft might still be with Core.

No force on Earth can keep Sonic down

Two Sonic the Hedgehog games came out in 2017. One, the fan-made, retro-styled Sonic Mania was excellent. The other, Sonic Forces, was not. Sonic Forces tries to get the best out of every one of Sonic's incarnations by blending modern 3D platforming with old-school side-scrolling sequences and a whole bunch of fan service. Heck, Sonic Forces even lets you create your very own Sonic the Hedgehog character.

Unfortunately, Sonic Forces couldn't quite deliver on its potential. Classic Sonic didn't really move like he was supposed to and looked awfully out of place. Modern Sonic's boost is difficult to control, and the platforming physics are loose, which is a big problem considering that Sonic Forces is a platforming game. Oh, and the less said about those custom-made characters, the better.

Don't wait for Sega to fix things, either. The company's been struggling to get its mascot right for years, and we don't expect that to change any time soon. Thankfully, your fellow players are on it. If you really want to play Sonic Forces — we get it, nostalgia is a powerful thing —  make sure you install some of the fan-made mods first, particularly the ones that fix the physics and the controls. They won't transform Sonic Forces into an instant classic, but they'll make the whole experience a lot more tolerable.

Make Super Pitfall live up to its name

Pitfall! is a classic. Super Pitfall is not. The original Atari 2600 game more or less invented the side-scrolling platformer; without Pitfall Harry, Super Mario would be little more than a pipe dream. The Nintendo Entertainment System's Super Pitfall, on the other hand, is a garbled mess that mixes lackluster platforming with maddeningly vague goals (the special items that you need to collect in Super Pitfall's underground maze are invisible, for goodness' sake). Sprinkle a whole bunch of glitches on top, because every bad game needs some of those, and you wind up with one of the very worst NES games ever made.

Still, there are some good ideas lurking in Super Pitfall's subterranean depths. As Gamasutra notes, the core idea concept behind Super Pitfall — a side-scrolling sandbox that encourages open exploration — is a good one. Hardcore NES fans know it, too, which is why one decided to give Super Pitfall an extreme makeover for its 30th anniversary. The invisible objects, random death pits, and knock-off Mario graphics are gone, leaving a pretty solid Metroid-like platformer in its wake.

The 7th Saga, but only half as long

Chrono Trigger. Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI. Super Mario RPG. EarthBound. Secret of Mana. We could go on and on. Almost three decades after its debut, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System still has yet to be topped as far as Japanese role-playing game goodness is concerned.

You know which game you won't find listed among the SNES' classic JRPG titles, though? The 7th Saga, a middling RPG with a paper-thin storyline, a wildly unbalanced cast of characters, and a ridiculously steep difficulty curve. It's also an absolute grindfest. If you want to help the game's seven apprentices on their quest, you'll have to fight and fight and fight. That's fairly typical for this type of game, but The 7th Saga overdoes it. The game's battle system isn't particularly interesting, and all of those battles quickly turn The 7th Saga into a time-wasting slog.

That's why ROM hackers, including The 7th Saga Redux's Nati, have spent a fair amount of effort making the game more palatable. The 7th Saga actually has some interesting ideas, including a radar-like system that helps avoid random battles and multiple protagonists to choose from. With The 7th Saga Redux, you can actually appreciate them. If you've already delved into all of the other 16-bit dungeons available, The 7th Saga Redux will scratch that retro-RPG itch — and won't drive you crazy in the process.