Games are, maybe, the most immersive and compelling experience any media, in general, can offer. However, many releases turn out to be more than a little disappointing. This can be for many reasons; not delivering what was promised, misleading marketing, wrong expectations, or simply that the game is not up to the standard expected by the eager hordes.
So, let’s take a look at some that rank among the most disappointing of them all. Of course, it’s important to make clear that classifying them as “disappointing” is subjective. Maybe some of these games are ones that you really like, and that’s ok too. So go ahead and take a look and let’s explore how they made it into this list.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – the Game (1982)
E.T. is often labeled not only as disappointing but as the worst game ever made. Way to set the bar low! Released by Atari following the massive hit that was Spielberg´s movie, Atari pushed hard resulting in an extremely short development window once they snagged the rights.
This ultimately doomed task fell to game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, who had to work and finish the game in only five weeks. Atari launched a massive campaign to promote the game and managed to sell about 1.5 million copies. But not long after, the game received a huge number of negative reviews.
Atari’s ambition and bad planning were its downfalls, which ultimately led to a big crash in the gaming industry in 1983. Still, this led to E.T. becoming something of an urban legend, making history for all the wrong reasons.
Mortal Kombat Mythologies (1997)
Back in the ’90s, Mortal Kombat was incredibly popular. After the success of MK3, Midway announced a new spinoff from the series based on everyone’s favourite ninja, Sub-Zero. It promised an action-adventure game with full-motion video cutscenes and epic history, aimed for next-gen consoles (PlayStation1, Nintendo 64).
However, the game turned out to be a platform focussed game, with poor controls, difficult/unforgiving gameplay, questionably low production values, and cringe-inducing performances in the cinematic cutscenes. It was the last MK game to use sprites, and even if the game expanded the lore, had a new concept, and interesting history, the main problem was its design and controls.
A weird mix of 2D platforms and controls in a semi 3D environment combined with RPG elements, and core gameplay punished players brutally for the flaws in the design. Luckily, the mixed but mostly mediocre reception was mitigated by the full 3D fighting game MK4 released only months later. One Midway would rather forget.
Just the announcement that John Romero, co-creator of the games that started the First Person Shooter genre [Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake], was going to release a new game was enough to blow hype and expectations to the sky.
At the beginning of development back in 1997, Daikatana was established as a full 3D game, with a big history through different time periods, action-packed with multiple levels, and more than 60 types of enemies.
But the most ambitious concept was advanced AI companions – a new tech back in the 90’s that was uncommon in mainstream games. The problem was Romero’s ambitions for the game were too grand. He changed the game engine after months of development, the project as a whole was unfocused, and many important devs left the studio. All of which lead to a three-year delay before release.
All this then culminated in a bizarre campaign under the slogan “John Romero’s About To Make You His Bitch”. But, once the game was finally released, it had inferior graphics, problems in the design, frustrating AI companions, and other problems. This sealed its fate as a disappointment for critics and players alike.
Final Fantasy XIV (2010)
Ok, sure. Nowadays, FF XIV is one the most successful MMORPG of all time. But that was not the case when the first version of the game was released back in 2010.
Square Enix wanted to make the next entry in the series a big multiplayer experience. Players were happy about this idea which resulted in expectations soaring, naturally. But the project was doomed from the beginning.
The development started with a game engine Square barely knew, designed with an over-complicated interface, and questionable, poorly implemented gameplay. First, a beta was released, full of bugs and server problems, but, even with those issues, the game launched. But the criticism and disappointment of players created a serious backlash. One that was just too negative for Square Enix to ignore.
In response to the feedback Square Enix turned to a new director for the game to try to fix it. Naoki Yoshida had a yet more radical idea; shut the whole thing down and make a new game from it. Servers went offline in a massive u-turn in 2012, and in 2013 FF XIV was relaunched as Realm Reborn. The rest is of course history, turning what was disappointment into one of the best MMORPG’s of all time.
Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)
When Gearbox Software announced a single/multiplayer co-op FPS game set in the Alien universe, it sounded like the best idea ever. It would be heavily inspired by the second Alien film directed by James Cameron and was going to be a big AAA game for the Alien franchise.
But no one was prepared for how disappointing the game turned out to be. Since the project was made public, it took six years to release – a long cycle that few high-quality AAA games get. Before release, Gearbox launched a massive marketing campaign that included a demo video that demonstrated what looked like an awesome Alien game.
Sadly, it was not to be. Once the game launched, players faced the truth. It had bugs (not the Alien kind), poor performance, technical issues, poorly implemented erratic AI, and had visuals and graphics looking nothing like the trailers whatsoever. Ultimately, this led to a lawsuit against Gearbox for false advertising. Game over, man. Game over.
No Man’s Sky (2016)
Back in 2013, PlayStation announced a new project. It was to be an ambitious game about space exploration, in a virtual universe where you could have space battles. It was also full of planets you could visit, containing flora and fauna that was all procedurally generated. A big promise to keep, with expectations to match.
The idea alone blew people’s minds and looked like a massive hit for PlayStation. It was to be developed by a small studio (Hello Games), under the leadership of Sean Murray. Murray gave numerous interviews over years of development, explaining all the glorious features the game would include.
Problem was that when the game did release, it did not contain the features promised. Not even close. Even if the game pushed technical barriers, it lacked all the content people were expecting, had significant gameplay issues, and was, well, just no fun to play. After this disappointing release, critics and players turned their collective backs on the game.
The good news, of course, is that Hello Games listened to the criticism, and kept hard at it, working to improve the game and add content. Through years of work post-release, No Man’s Sky is a delight to play and finally lives up to the initial hype. Hello Games has recovered its image and goodwill bestowed on them prior to its release. A great example of how, given time and enough lingering goodwill, developers can turn things around.
Mighty No.9 (2016)
Mega Man is, undoubtedly, one of the best titles from the classic era of gaming. It’s a franchise that has not seen a new release in years. So, when the original designer of Mega Man, Keiji Inafune, started a Kickstarter project in 2013 to make a spiritual successor of Mega Man, people were, understandably, excited.
The campaign was so successful that in only two days, the funding goal was already achieved, increasing to be over 400% of the original target. After some minor delays, the game was released three years later, but that’s where the good news ends. Once it was finally in people’s hands, the reviews came in droves, and they were far from favourable.
The Kickstarter backers reportedly received broken codes and mismatched rewards. Even if the visuals of the game were resemblant of the OG Mega Man, it received mixed to negative opinions. The game had terrible gameplay, a complete lack of the content promised, low-quality graphics, a disinteresting story, cringe-worthy voice acting, and technical performance problems. All this left backers and long-term fans of the franchise feeling let down by the final product.
Mass Effect Andromeda (2017)
Five years after the highly acclaimed Mass Effect trilogy, EA was set to release a new game to expand the franchise. Understandably, this soon became one of the most anticipated projects of the decade.
The problem was that many of the original creators, writers, and designers of the original ME were no longer at the company. This led to the development being handled by a new BioWare team, who, during the time of development, was plagued with a troubled production run.
Eventually, when it was released, fans were expecting another space opera like the original. Unfortunately, what they got was a game full of bugs, animation errors, bad writing, and technical problems. The most redeeming aspect of the game was its core gameplay and combat but this was buried under all the problems and sadly, the bad reputation the game quickly acquired.
Metal Gear Survive (2018)
Konami ended relations with the creator of Metal Gear Hideo Kojima after MGS5, leaving players uncertain if another MG game would see the light of day. Kojima moved on to new projects, so all was in the hands of the overall owners of MG, Konami.
Three years later and to the surprise of everyone, Konami announced a new MG game. But this was a far cry from the expectation of the fans hungry for a repeat in the series. MG Survive is a multiplayer action-adventure survival game with tower defence elements, that puts players against zombie-like creatures from another dimension. In other words, a complete departure from what MG is all about. Not that anyone really knows what MG is about, mind. Fewer zombies, more boxes, we suppose.
Critics and players felt so disappointed that the game received a huge negative response, mainly because Konami tried to push questionable microtransactions through the game, modelling many of its mechanics around monetization. Even if the game performed relatively well from a sales perspective, it was so generic and out of touch with MG that it soon faded into obscurity leaving the MG franchise in a much poorer state. Bad form.
Jump Force (2018)
Just the concept alone was the big selling point of this game. Imagine, if you will, all the coolest characters of the most popular animes, all together in a flashy 3D fighting multiplayer game. It was the dream of weebs the globe over, for players and anime fans alike.
It came to be following the 50th anniversary of Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump, the manga magazine that publish all these much-beloved characters. At release, the game was among the top-selling titles in Japan and the rest of the world.
However, it offered nothing new, nothing innovative gameplay-wise compared to many other existing fighting games, and faced three major problems. After launch, it received no additional content to keep the momentum and excitement of the game. Neither was it good enough to make it into the big leagues of competitive eSports. But the major issue came from the conception of the game itself, the licenses of all these characters were too expensive and too difficult to maintain. This led to the discontinuation of the game and the shutdown of servers coming in August 2022. Crash and burn.
Fallout 76 (2018)
The Fallout franchise is part of the foundations on which the current RPG gaming landscape is built. Such say it’s fandom, at least. So, when Bethesda and Todd Howard announced a new game, but as an open world online multiplayer experience, to many this sounded like the best god-damn thing since Skyrim‘s 400th release.
Promising the best gaming experience yet, made for the next-gen of gaming, and with big improvements adding 16x the detail, stakes were high. At release, it turned out Fallout 76 was nothing of the sort.
At launch, it suffered from a large number of bugs and glitches (par for the course). Visually the game did not look next-gen in the least. Bethesda focused too hard on monetization, even selling not only cosmetics but also items for game advantages and time savers.
Additionally, many modders took advantage of the questionable source code, and, at the same time, plagued the servers with cheating and other immersion breaking hacky bullsh*t. Later, Bethesda added a premium subscription service that alienated what few players remained.
But, adding to the disappointing state of the game, the whole project was plagued with controversy, like delivering a nylon bag instead of the canvas bag advertised in the premium edition. Then, a data breach leaked the personal information of users. A “Nuka Dark Rum”, marketed as a high-quality product, turned out to be a common brand in a bottle with a plastic cover. And the final nail in the coffin; a Fallout helmet recalled due to containing high levels of mould and posing a health risk. Lovely.
Nowadays, the game has clawed back a (fairly) decent active player base and improvements keep on coming. But, it still lives under the shadow of its disastrous launch and controversies, a lesson in how not to market a much-loved franchise here. Let’s hope Microsoft was watching.
Anthem is a perfect example of how the AAA videogame industry business is nowadays for many publishers; based on selling smoke, and overbuilding hype. The perfect disaster.
During E3 back in 2017, EA and Bioware presented a gameplay trailer that introduced Anthem to the world. It showed an online multiplayer action role-playing game with an exciting look into this alien world following numerous Iron-Man-esque armoured characters flying about, seamlessly engaging in combat. All the while surrounded by a beautiful world with jaw-dropping graphics and effects.
Later, of course, it was revealed that the game existed only in the minds of the EA execs. But nonetheless, even following this revelation, the hype train continued at full speed. Ultimately headed for a collision.
The game was released just two years later, and soon, people realized just how poorly executed the original concept was. With a tedious and repetitive gameplay loop, players were left with a frustrating game experience. Add to that bugs, five-minute-long loading screens, a general lack of polish, and many other technical flaws.
Despite the intentions of fixing the game, long terms plans for updates, all to try and recover goodwill, the image and performance of the game was deeply damaged. Development stopped in 2021 leaving this promising IP in limbo. Someone should probably just pull the plug.
Warcraft 3 Reforged (2020)
The original Warcraft III is considered a legendary, iconic, and genre-defining game. Released in 2002, it was an ambitious title with innovative concepts and one that is still played today. So, when eighteen years later Blizzard announced a remastered version, players all over the world received the news with open arms.
Blizzard promised updated gameplay, updated characters models, next-gen graphics and effects. Let’s be honest, by today’s standards, the original had, understandably, dated cinematics. The new Warcraft was released as an update of the classic game, so from there, players could only get access to the remastered version.
But once updated, players loyal to the original noticed a distinct lack of promised upgrades and, in their place, a general loss of features. Plus, it came with a significant increase in bugs, brand new server issues, and those “new” cinematics were inferior and low quality.
Ultimately, the whole experience left the game poorer for the update. The reaction from players was an overwhelming dislike for the new version, putting the remaster as (almost) the lowest-rated game of all time.
Marvel’s Avengers (2020)
At the peak of the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix presented a cinematic trailer as a teaser for a new Avengers game. Unsurprisingly, this pushed expectations to their limit from gamers and the public in general. We mean, you could play as Iron Man! How could it fail?
Close to release in 2020, the first proper gameplay trailers appeared. This was when the first questions surrounding the overall quality of the game started to emerge (along with some questionable character models and likenesses).
In fact, a major point of disappointment for most came from the attachment people had for the MCU Avengers proper. The game characters managed to look close enough to the stars of the cinematic world, whilst at the same time managing to look nothing like them at all. An interesting design choice, which managed to simultaneously put off gamers and non-gamers in equal measure.
The marketing of the game misled people too, presenting itself as an adaptation of the MCU Avengers. What made things worse was that the gameplay felt unsatisfying and repetitive, and many features were built around monetization and microtransactions. For players unwilling to spend money, the only choice was a long and boring grind.
Even if the title included the occasional tantalising lore-reveal for the Avengers, the game itself was average and uninspired, riddled with bugs, and technical issues adding to its inevitable abandonment. Even post-launch updates and expansions failed to regain players’ interest in the game. RIP.
Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)
Oh Cyberpunk, what might have been. This is truly a special, unique case. It demonstrates that no matter how well certain aspects of the game might be (or how much developers work to fix and improve something), screw up the launch and that bitter disappointment will leave a lingering taste that won’t clear.
But where did it all go wrong? The true origin of Cyberpunk’s bad reception lies in just how badly both hype and expectations were managed vs the reality of the game on launch. Back when CD Projekt Red first announced the game, people were almost blindly confident in this latest game from the studio. Remember how you felt when we got that first, fateful cinematic? Damn.
Unfortunately, instead of focusing on delivering a perfect, polished product, CDPR chose instead to focus on a big marketing campaign, putting the reality of Cyberpunk in a distant second place. We were all so invested in the project that the game was selling millions way before release. Pro-tip, kids; don’t pre-order.
Despite repeated delays to launch, appetite for Cyberpunk was insatiable, and CDPR only added more to the hype, ultimately caving to public pressure and releasing far too early. Predictably, the flaws and problems the game had at launch turned all that glorious hype into hate. This, in turn, led to players and critics alike becoming, perhaps, over judgmental about every little detail.
Now, no matter what, Cyberpunk 2077 will forever be synonymous with bad development, poor hype management, and bitter disappointment. Devs are still upgrading and updating the game, with more plans for the future, but the damage is done, and initial impressions are hard to change.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition (2021)
GTA games offer a unique game experience and every entry is a downright great game. At the same time, Rockstar was well known for high-quality products, and the announcement of a compilation of three of the most beloved GTA games together, in remastered form, for next-gen systems was a dream come true for many.
Rockstar posted a trailer showing many visual improvements and promising updated gameplay and systems. But the release itself was a long way from expectation. The remastered trilogy launched with noticeable and annoying technical problems, physics glitches, and erratic AI behaviour. Not what one expects from a remaster. Weird character models, textual errors, invisible surfaces, and questionable design choices all added up to one thing. A bad game. Or three, in this case.
A further issue was that Rockstar removed the original games from the stores, leaving gamers with no choice but to buy the remaster if they wanted to play those classic titles. Instead of an improved game, the trilogy felt more like a downgrade in a significant number of areas.
Rockstar has since apologized for the technical problems, admitting that the games, “did not launch in a state that meets our own standards of quality, or the standards our fans have come to expect”. Since its launch, new patches have been coming to fix and improve the game. But there’s no disputing the disappointment felt widespread on release. We expected the perfect nostalgia hit delivered in this tantalising GTA bundle. It did not deliver.
So there you have it, a revisit of some of the most disappointing games of all time, for us at least. As you may see each of these games have their own reasons to make them list-worthy. They are all, ultimately, disappointing.
But it serves to know more, and perhaps you have a different perspective? Do you agree with the games included here? Are we missing any games that you consider disappointing as well? Go ahead and tell us all about it in the comment section, and let’s hope for better in the future.
Credit Olly S
Make sure you stick with Any Button Gaming for the latest gaming news, reviews, and features uploaded daily.
Fancy being social? We’re on Facebook and Twitter. Or if videos are more your thing, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel? We have a number of Let’s Plays, Reviews, and Lists for your entertainment. Alternatively, we are live on Twitch most weeknights. Follow the link to find out more.
And if you want to show your allegiance to ABG, you’ll be happy to know we have our own merch! All proceeds go to help fund the site!