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The Worst Games Of 2017

Nobody sets out to make a bad game. Video games—even shoddy ones—take a lot of time, energy, and money to create. Who wants to waste all that on a substandard product?

But things don't always go according to plan, especially in the high-pressure world of video game development. All it takes is one rushed deadline, one unforeseen technical hurdle, or one poor decision to tank an otherwise promising game. Even in a year bursting with great games—and 2017 is absolutely one of those—a few duds are bound to sneak through. Sorry, developers. We know you tried. Better luck next time!

Mass Effect: Andromeda

No other game in 2017 crumbled under the weight of fans' expectations quite like Mass Effect: Andromeda. After Mass Effect 3 wrapped up Commander Shepard's saga with one of the most divisive endings in video game history, the Mass Effect faithful looked to Andromeda to restore the franchise to its previous glory.

During production, representatives from BioWare, Mass Effect's developer, said all the right things. Andromeda would give players more freedom to explore than any previous game in the series, with a new open-world design and plenty of sidequests. The storytelling would be sharp and focused, incorporating the lessons BioWare learned after Mass Effect 3's poor reception. A new galaxy and new lead character wiped the slate clean, giving newcomers a perfect entry point into the franchise.

And then, the game arrived. Oh, sure, the combat—which is more action-heavy than ever—earned positive marks, but bugs and glitches ran rampant. Critics and players found fault with Andromeda's facial animations, which plunged its characters deep into the off-putting uncanny valley. Many criticized Mass Effect: Andromeda for being "boring," and wrote off its world-expanding side quests as filler. Thanks to Andromeda's weak reception, BioWare and Electronic Arts scuttled plans for future expansions and decided to put the entire Mass Effect franchise on hiatus.

From design and technical standpoints, you'll play worse games than Mass Effect: Andromeda in 2017. But you won't play anything more disappointing. It should've been the triumphant return of video gaming's best and most compelling space opera, and it isn't. Not even close.

Yooka-Laylee

Nostalgia alone isn't enough to make a good game. If you need proof, look at Yooka-Laylee. In the lead-up to its release—and during its record-breaking crowdfunding campaign—the people behind the game assured backers and fans that it would be just like the 3D platformers of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation eras.

Yooka-Laylee's development team was made up of former Rare employees, including some who were directly responsible for games like Donkey Kong Country and Yooka-Laylee's most obvious inspiration, Banjo-Kazooie. Like the latter title, Yooka-Laylee promised to immerse players in colorful, playground-like worlds where they could explore and collect as many trinkets as they could find. The title song recalls Donkey Kong 64's hokey "DK Rap," and was written by the same guy. Yooka-Laylee even contains a character named Rextro Sixtyfourus, who lets players enjoy a few retro-themed arcade games. Yooka-Laylee's ties to the past couldn't be more obvious. They're pretty much the whole point.

But once Yooka-Laylee launched, players quickly realized that it didn't just capture the old Nintendo 64 games' strengths. It preserved all of the 3D platformers' weaknesses, too. The unwieldy camera—a staple of mid-'90s platformers—received well-deserved scorn from reviewers. So did the stereotypical levels, vague puzzles, and tedious gameplay cycle. Explore a level, fight an uninspired boss, hunt down some hard-to-find collectibles, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Games like Banjo-Kazooie might've been revolutionary at the time, but over 20 years later, they're showing their age. There's still lots of life left in the 3D platformer genre—hello, Super Mario Odyssey—but you won't find it by looking to the past. You expect more from your games these days. Yooka-Laylee is more like a time capsule than a reinvention: for nostalgia hounds, it can be fun to look at, but it probably should've stayed buried.

1-2-Switch

It's easy to see why Nintendo made 1-2-Switch. Roughly a decade ago, Wii Sports single-handedly (well, double-handedly, if you're playing "Boxing") transformed the Wii console from a one-off novelty into one of the most popular pieces of technology ever made. In hindsight, Wii Sports might've been the only game on the Wii that used the console's signature motion controls to their full potential. At the time, however, Wii Sports' simple pick-up-and-swing gameplay felt like the future of video games, and helped Nintendo move over 100 million Wii consoles.

Naturally, Nintendo tried again when it released the Switch. Like Wii Sports, 1-2-Switch is a collection of minigames designed to show off the Switch's brand new hardware, and as a tech demo, it does its job. As a game, however, it has problems. While Wii Sports came with the Wii for free, 1-2-Switch costs an extra $50. That might've been okay if the minigames were fun, but they aren't. While Wii Sports let players hit home runs or bowl strikes, 1-2-Switch mimics mundane activities like shaving, answering the telephone, rocking a baby to sleep, and guessing how many rocks are in a box. Wii Sports' "Tennis" has a lot of hidden depth. 1-2-Switch has players fight over who can milk a cow faster. 

Or, to put it another way, this is a minigame collection that contains a game called "Joy-Con Rotation." If that sounds like a fun time to you, pick it up. Everyone else? Feel free to pass this one buy.

Drawn to Death

Even if you don't know David Jaffe, you're probably familiar with his work. In the '90s, he designed Twisted Metal, Sony Interactive Studios' brutal take on demolition derbies. In the '00s, he created God of War, the PlayStation-exclusive franchise that pits players against the Greek gods and tasks them with a whole bunch of killing (with some puerile sex minigames thrown in for good measure). In 2004, Jaffe said that he wanted God of War to "make the player feel brutal, letting their inner beast free and just going nuts." That's basically Jaffe's entire design philosophy. His games are violent, unrepentantly macho, and utterly chaotic.

After a few years out of the limelight, Jaffe wanted the multiplayer shooter Drawn to Death to be his big return. It didn't work out that way. While its art style immediately got attention—everything is based on doodles from a (fictional) troubled teenager's notebook—the game underneath doesn't hold up. It's just too, well, Jaffe. Yes, Drawn to Death looks as cool as its trailers suggest, but the juvenile attitude doesn't pan out. It's not edgy, cool, or innovative. It's more like an older person trying to be edgy and cool and innovative, and failing miserably. This isn't a complaint about political incorrectness, either. Drawn to Death isn't offensive. It's just dumb.

Maybe if the shooting held up, one could overlook Drawn to Death's embarrassing presentation. It doesn't. Characters don't have any weight, and float through Drawn to Death's stylish maps. Critics note that it takes forever to kill opponents, making combat a slog, and that the weapons are ridiculously unbalanced. Drawn to Death is all style, no substance—and given that the style seems to be "irritating," it's hard to give this one a positive recommendation.

Friday the 13th: The Game

In 2014, developer IllFonic and publisher Gun Media revealed their newest project, a loving tribute to '80s slasher movies—particularly Friday the 13th—called Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp. A multiplayer survival horror game, it cast one player as a masked serial killer and the rest of the group as normal campers, who either had to stop the killer or escape before the slasher got them all.

Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp wasn't an official Friday the 13th spinoff—it was set at Camp Forest Green, not Camp Crystal Lake—but the premise captured the film's essence perfectly. Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham thought so too. In 2015, the Gun Media announced it had secured the Friday the 13th license, took the game to Kickstarter, and racked up the money it needed to make Friday the 13th: The Game a reality.

But while many stories have happy endings, Friday the 13th isn't one of them. When the game launched in summer 2017, it barely worked. See, a multiplayer game requires other people to play, and thanks to a larger-than-anticipated crowd of aspiring camp counselors, Friday the 13th's servers tanked. The game never quite recovered. Even when players could connect, they had problems. The game's inconsistent frame rate and other graphical glitches killed Friday the 13th's creepy atmosphere, the process for dispatching Jason is convoluted and never really explained, the maps grow old quickly, and the whole adventure feels repetitive after just a couple of matches. Friday the 13th: The Game still has a great premise. Ironically, it's the execution that falls short.

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Mega Battle

It's common wisdom among the gaming community that licensed games generally suck, but that isn't really true—at least, not anymore. Telltale's The Walking Dead, Rocksteady's Arkham series, and Monolith Productions' Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor prove that video games based on popular franchises can turn out just as well as ones based on original properties. Even middle-of-the-road media tie-ins, like 2015's Mad Max, aren't so bad. A good game requires passion, time, attention to detail, and a lot of hard work. The basic premise doesn't really matter.

While we're not privy to the inner workings of Bandai Namco Games, we're guessing the team behind Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Mega Battle didn't really have any of those things. Ostensibly, it's a throwback to well-regarded arcade beat-'em-ups like The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and X-Men. Given the franchise's '90s roots—Mega Battle is based on the original Power Rangers series, and not 2017's feature film reboot—that makes sense.

Unfortunately, the game never comes together. Like the throwbacks that inspired it, Mega Battle is filled with foes that follow distinct patterns, and memorizing how each enemy moves is the key to succeeding. But movement is stiff—you can't even move diagonally—and the timing is awkward, making brawling a chore. Arcade brawlers are best known for their raucous multiplayer modes, and yet Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Mega Battle doesn't have an online component. The one thing that could set it apart from its better-made peers, the kaiju-inspired Zord battles, is relegated to a series of quick-time events.

Power Rangers fans have had a rough go in 2017. Sadly, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Mega Battle won't make things better. Sorry, Rangers. You deserve better.

Double Dragon IV

If a sequel to a beloved video game franchise comes out and nobody knows about it, it doesn't bode well. Double Dragon IV arrived in January, 2017, and there's been barely a peep about it from the video game media. That's a bad sign, but there's a very good reason: according to the few people who actually reviewed it, it's a trainwreck.

Even the game's sole positive review damns Double Dragon IV with faint praise, noting that the game frequently doesn't launch attacks when you hit the appropriate button—which is sort of the main point of a brawler—that the platforming sections aren't well-executed, and that the whole escapade gets repetitive quickly. Other critics aren't nearly as kind. GameSpot notes that, while Double Dragon IV accurately mimics games that ran on old hardware, it also replicates all of the glitches, like screen-tearing and slowdowns, that came with that hardware. Attacks don't always connect when they should—if they fire at all.

Or, to offer another perspective: Double Dragon IV isn't actually the fourth Double Dragon game. In fact, Double Dragon V came out all the way back in 1994, although it was a Street Fighter II-style fighting game and not a side-scrolling brawler like other Double Dragon games. Meanwhile, Super Double Dragon is, technically, the fourth game in the Double Dragon series. That's the kind of effort that Arc System Works put into Double Dragon IV–it didn't even get the number right. As such, we can't say we're surprised by the results. Disappointed? Sure. But not surprised.

Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days

Believe it or not, but Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days marks the second time developers have tried to bring Quentin Tarantino's bloody feature film debut to video game consoles. In 2006, Volatile Games created a polygonal version of Tarantino's classic caper, fleshing out scenes from the movie—which takes place almost entirely in an empty warehouse—by adding some driving and action scenes based on the movie's offscreen heist. It wasn't memorable or particularly good, which is why you probably haven't heard of it.

Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days is a much more ambitious take on the property. Instead of a third-person shooter, it's a top-down gore-fest in the same vein as Jonatan Söderström's surreal, Tarantino-like Hotline Miami. But there's a big twist: in Bloody Days, players control more than one character. You'll enter the scene as one person and, once their tasks are done, rewind to the beginning of the level and take control of a second gangster. The first criminal does exactly what you told him to, while you can use the new character to change the action on the fly. That's an extremely clever way to translate Reservoir Dogs' fractured, non-linear narrative into a game. Or it would be, if it worked.

According to critics, the rewind system often produces unexpected results, contradicting its own rules and making gunfights more confusing than they need to be. It's frustrating, not fun. Otherwise, Reservoir Dogs is a standard, and highly repetitive, twin-stick shooter. It's also full of bugs, and has nothing to do with the movie other than the name and the blood. Developer Big Star Games secured the rights to the movie, but not the actors' likenesses or the film's soundtrack. It's been said before, but it bears repeating: a solid gimmick alone does not a good game make.

Troll and I

The Last Guardian this ain't. Just look at that trailer above. Troll and I desperately wants to be an epic, heartfelt adventure story about the bond between its two leads—the promotional video recalls E.T., The Last of Us, and Shadow of the Colossus. The gameplay itself divides responsibilities a la the indie tearjerker Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, making players switch between the troll and his friend, Otto, by pressing a button.

But creating a real emotional attachment between players and their characters is hard. It takes a lot of craft–and a working game. Troll and I has neither. It's not just the graphics, although the titular troll has a face only a mama troll could love (and even then, only if she's blindfolded and kinda drunk). It's the sloppy controls. It's the mind-numbing prologue, which starts the adventure on the wrong foot and never gives it time to recover. It's the repetitive, simple combat, the tedious "puzzles," and, most damningly, the slight and poorly told story. Troll and I gives you very little reason to care about its characters, robbing the game of any potential drama.

Don't bank on multiplayer saving this one, either. While Troll and I technically supports two-player co-op, it's no different from the regular campaign, except that instead of switching between two characters, you only control one. As a result, half the time you'll be standing around doing nothing while your friend performs their duties. Oh, and the game costs $50, too. Troll and I isn't worth a tenth of that, and should go down in history as one of 2017's worst games—if it's not forgotten entirely.

Vroom in the night sky

Yes, Vroom in the night sky is actually the name of a video game, wacky capitalization and all. No, it doesn't get any better. Developer Poisoft describes it as "a magical bike action game" in which "you become the Magical Girl Luna, ride a magical bike, fly around the night sky and collect Stardusts," and if that sounds like gibberish to you, you'd better buckle in. We're just getting started.

Vroom in the night sky wasn't developed by native English speakers. When you start, it asks "Are you the first time to play this game?" But the shoddy translation is just the beginning of Vroom's problems. Players are tasked with flying around eight levels on a magic bike, which uses gasoline—magic gasoline, of course, because everything in this game is "magical." Your overall goal is collecting Stardust, which you can use to buy new bikes. Occasionally, an enemy witch shows up and challenges you to a race, but it doesn't matter. Any Stardust she collects regenerates automatically, making the whole escapade pointless. The environments look like they're ripped from a shoddy Nintendo 64 game, while the controls are disastrous.

Even attempts to make Vroom in the night sky better failed miserably. After the game became internet-famous for its poor translation, Poisoft released an update that "improved" the script. Unfortunately, the new text doesn't make more sense, but is filled with misspellings. That's just the kind of game Vroom in the night sky is: a very, very bad one.

Hello Neighbor

If you grew up in a suburban neighborhood, you probably had one of those neighbors: the kind who rarely leaves the houses, who's kinda creepy, and hates kids for seemingly no reason. The grouchy neighbor is one of childhood's universal mysteries. Why are they so cranky, and what evil schemes are they concocting in that house of theirs?

Hello Neighbor promises to answer that question in the form of a stealth-horror game by making you play as a child who's set on sneaking into his neighbor's basement in order to uncover the secrets lurking inside. Of course, you're not technically welcome there, and as you sneak around, your neighbor's hunting you down. Getting caught doesn't just reset the scene, either. Allegedly, the neighbor's "advanced AI" learns your moves as you play. Sneak in through the window? You'll find a bear trap waiting there the next time. Enter through the front door? Watch out for security cameras on your return visit.

That's how it's supposed to work in theory, anyway. Unfortunately. Hello Neighbor's intriguing premise is undercut by poor design choices and shoddy programming at every turn. Many of Hello Neighbor's puzzles involve physics, but the physics system is fundamentally broken. The rules governing Hello Neighbor's sinister world seem random, and are never explained. It's easy to get stuck, and that "advanced AI" makes sure that you'll get caught so often that the game isn't even scary. It's just annoying. Hello Neighbor has a strong premise (and people tend like the cutscenes), but a good idea with lousy execution does not a good game make. Hello Neighbor proves it.

Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back

Look, almost every moderately notable video game franchise gets a sequel or a remake eventually, but did we really need more Bubsy in our lives? Accolade's sassy bobcat might've been a hit when he debuted in 1993—believe it or not, ol' Bubs won a couple of "Best New Character" awards back in the day. But to modern players, he's a joke. Today, Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind is regarded as a mediocre Sonic knock-off (back when Sonic was still, y'know, good). Bubsy 3D is often cited as one of the worst games of all time. The character feels like he was created by a marketing committee, full of early '90s 'tude, but lacking crucial components like a personality or a good game to back it up.

But Bubsy came back anyway. It went about as well as you'd expect. Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is dull, repetitive, and remarkably short. It won't last much longer than two hours, and while you play, you won't find anything worth remembering. Oh, sure, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back has bosses to beat, hazards to avoid, and collectibles to find, but there's nothing here that you haven't seen in countless other, better, platformers. Bubsy's got some new moves, but they don't always work, and he spends the entire game spouting catchphrases that expired sometime back in 1994. 

There's no reason to play this game unless you're a die-hard Bubsy fan—and if you are, well, The Woolies Strikes Back is the least of your problems.

Sonic Forces

It's been a long road for Sega's famous mascot, but things are finally starting to look up for the blue blur. Sonic's official Twitter feed is a self-aware mash-up of memes, surreal jokes, and good-natured jabs at Sonic's dedicated fan base. For Sonic Mania, Sega handed development duties to fans. The result was one of the best-received Sonic games in years.

Sonic Forces, 2017's 3D Sonic title, looked like it was going to be just as fan-friendly as the rest of the franchise. It features appearances from both "classic" and "modern" versions of the character (i.e. the chubby Sega Genesis version and the slimmer, hipper edition that appeared in Sonic Colors and Sonic Unleashed, respectively). The character-creation feature, which lets players craft their own woodland hero, was inspired by past decade's worth of hilarious and bizarre Sonic fan art. Post-release downloadable content referenced the most popular Sonic meme of all time. Ian Flynn, who wrote Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog for 11 years, wrote the Sonic Forces prequel comic.

Clearly, Sega's heart was in the right place, but without a really good game to back all of that fanservice up, it doesn't mean a thing. Sadly, Sonic Forces just didn't deliver. The game's 3D sections are shallow and largely automated. The 2D levels don't hold up when compared to Sonic Mania, which came out just a few months earlier. The "edgy" plot doesn't make much sense–and who really wants a serious Sonic story, anyway? Sonic's still on the way up, but by all indications, Sonic Forces is still one of many bumps he'll encounter along the way. Play Sonic Mania instead.

Road Rage

Most Genesis kids probably have fond memories of Road Rash, the motorcycle racing game in which beating your opponents to the finish line is less important than beating them with clubs, crowbars, and cattle prods. It's a good game, not to mention a successful one—over the years, Road Rash got five sequels, although the franchise hasn't been seen since 2000.

Road Rage isn't an official Road Rash title, but it's clearly inspired by the 16-bit vehicular slugest. As in Road Rage, players take to the streets on souped up motorbikes, pummelling bad guys as they rack up cash and fame. It's a formula that works just as well in 2017 as it did in 1991—or it would've, if developer Team 6 Studios had delivered a functional game.

According to critics, they did not. Even Road Rage's positive reviews advise players will to "ignore the dumb story, drab visuals, and lame soundtrack." The negative ones aren't as kind. Combat is repetitive and dull, and given that you and your enemies both go down in one hit, it's best to avoid confrontations if you can. The open world is lifeless and empty. Road Rage ships with a multiplayer mode, but good luck playing it—even at launch, there wasn't anyone to play with online. An open-world game based on cruising around town and causing mayhem is a great idea—that's why we have Grand Theft Auto, which has motorcycles, weapons, and actually works. Imagine that.

2Dark

Years before Resident Evil dropped players in a monster-filled mansion, Alone in the Dark was scaring the pants off of any player unlucky enough to find the game in their disk drives. With Alone in the Dark, French programmer Frédérick Raynal created a haunting game that used cutting-edge graphics to bring all kinds of terrors to life. It established the formula that survival horror games still use today, and is considered one of the very best games ever made.

Raynal didn't work on Alone in the Dark's numerous sequels, so you can understand why fans were excited when they learned that the developer was returning to his survival horror roots. Alone in the Dark is a classic, and there was no reason to think that 2Dark wouldn't be anything but more of the same. 2Dark's title cheekily implies that it's an unofficial sequel to Raynal's most famous work, and the premise—you've got to explore a town where children keep disappearing—seems like the perfect compliment to Alone in the Dark's Lovecraftian charms.

But just look at it. Something's not right, and it's not the monsters. Gloomywood, Raynal's development studio, calls 2Dark's visual style "gore cute," which is a nice way of saying that it's entirely wrong for the subject. Not that that matters, of course: the rest of the game is just as flawed. It's rare to see kids die on-screen, but 2Dark depicts grizzly child-murders in all of their deeply unsettling glory. The controls are fiddly and your character moves very slowly, making stealth and escort missions a chore. There's a lot of trial and error involved, which makes levels get old quickly. 

Worst of all, however, 2Dark simply isn't scary. Gross and tasteless, yes. Frightening, not so much. We've been waiting for Raynal's triumphant return to the genre he helped invent for a long time. After 2Dark, we're still waiting.