I have thought for a long time whether I should do a follow-up list to my last top 10 where I talked about my top favorite games from series I don’t like, and was unsure if it would be met with hate or enjoyment. Then I realized you are going to meet both no matter what you write, and since I am talking about my personal favorite series, it is really my way of being critical towards my own taste.
The following rules apply to this list:
- The series must include more than three games, as dealing with trilogies makes it hard to call it a fulfilling franchise. If there are extra side-games besides the numbered titles, then it is ok.
- These are series I have a high fondness for, or at least enjoy more than average.
- I must be familiar with the series as a whole as well, so despite how much I hate Mass Effect: Andromeda, I luckily stopped playing it before I went mad, so I can’t talk about it now.
- No licensed games, as it will be hard to determine clearly where a series begins or ends, like with Spiderman.
- Finally, this is my list. This is just my opinion and not something to take seriously. If you love any of these titles, remember that the series is close to my heart as a whole, and we all have one odd title that we can’t enjoy despite how lonely we are in that opinion.
If you read on, I take it that we are on good terms. At least for now.
#12 Caesar 1
I put this title so low because the first Caesar is not a bad game. Rather, it is just a product of its time, with the sequels being way better at clarifying your mistakes and teaching you how to actually become a good governor, making it hard to go back to this title even for historical value. It is clunky, uncomfortable to use the mouse on, not beginner friendly, and you are going to need a lot of patience for only a decent payout. The series would get stronger with its second game and while the third one had its charm, I became more fond of the fourth installment’s mechanics. Either way, there are three upgraded sequels to choose from, and I am at least happy for the first game’s introduction as a contender against SimCity with its aesthetics, and new mechanics like a military-aspect. However, this is rather the literal groundwork for better titles to come.
#11 Saints Row
Other times, the enjoyment is lost despite how hard you try to overlook the flaws. The first Saints Row is a title I wanted truly to enjoy as there is so much nice groundwork here. The side activities are entertaining, the shooting is not bad, and I do like the story, even if it is more down to earth. However, the controls are uncomfortable and awkward, the lack of checkpoints means a lot of backtracking, and the uneven difficulty does not help. Not to mention, when there is a second game that fixes all of these problems and is tons more fun to play than any GTA-title, I honestly have a hard time even thinking about the first entry. I do, however, hope it will get a remake as it should be experienced, but not in its original form.
#10 Super Mario Odyssey
I know many people were happy with a return to form, as Odyssey is rather similar in concept to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine due to its focus on exploring an area, rather than the more linear and focussed platforming found in Galaxy-titles and Super Mario 3D World. However, I never got Odyssey’s praise. Indeed, you are taken to interesting locations and I love the idea they went with using coins for costumes, but the actual worlds’ designs were just barren areas with small landmarks. I could really only recommend this to those who are new to the whole concept of gaming, as the platforming is shallow and not interesting, with the exception of the few linear stages. the idea of taking over an enemy’s soul is just Kirby with a Mario-twist, and most of them don’t even add diversity to the platforming.
In fact, most moons to gather, which are the main collectibles, are won through context-sensitive moments or by doing the most redundant or uninspired tasks you could think of. It all feels lackluster and not something I would recommend to either veterans or newcomers, as Mario has had plenty of better titles under his belt, and even Kirby games can offer more despite their simpler approach. I would actually be more happy with another New Super Mario Bros. title instead, and that should say a lot.
#9 Haunted Castle
Castlevania is a series that has had its ups and downs, yet I still find myself coming back to most of the titles and I love the series as a whole even with its clear blemishes. However, while I do notice some effort in every title they have released, the only one I can say is just made for stealing cash, is the dreaded Haunted Castle. It is just money-sucking garbage that punishes you for every fault by taking down your HP bar significantly with any hit and provides unfair checkpoints. There are luckily re-releases that are way cheaper than what it would have cost to play in the original arcade, but it does not excuse the unfair enemy-placement, uncomfortable controls, and uninteresting level-design. Only the boss-fights are somewhat entertaining, but the struggle is just not worth it. Let the horrible night be cursed for all eternity for what I care, as I am not saving my bride in this title.
#8 Phantasy Star II
Yes, I actually liked the third title better. Phantasy Star 2 is everything I sadly hate about J-RPG in one bowl, similar to how Dragon Age is everything I hate about Western RPG. This entry has overblown character-design, forced exposition, lackluster characters, a vague sense of direction, and a huge amount of grinding involved. It makes the whole package just another dull J-RPG, which is odd as the other entries stand stronger. The first one is an interesting classic that pushes the Master System to its limit, had a unique style, and is one of the finest games I have ever played. The third was a slow drag, but had a cool story and an interesting direction, and the fourth one was a fantastic update to every element of the traditional RPG-world, with a grand story and entertaining combat-system. Phantasy Star 2, however, is just slow and underwhelming. It is really like a failed D&D session set in a sci-fi Japanese inspired world. How is this so dull?
#7 Broken Sword 3 – The Sleeping Dragon
The step to 3D was hard for many franchises, but those within the adventure-genre might have suffered the most from this. The shift to a new dimension was a troublesome time, but I always believed every series could have a chance, as there have been some lucky occasions, like Rayman 2 and The Legend of Zelda. Sadly, Broken Sword 3 was probably the worst one to make this jump within the adventure game genre, in my opinion. It had just a terrible story that tried so hard to be dark, an uneven style, awkward visuals and dialogue, and the game had nothing to offer in its mechanics. The puzzles are on a level that a toddler could figure out, and I remember the awkward platforming-segments and the terrible QTE more than anything else. I know the developers put a lot of effort and money into this title, but it is no wonder they suffered a massive loss. At least the fourth one was better and we did get The Longest Journey which showed that a 3D Point&Click could work.
#6 Mario Golf (N64)
I have an odd fascination for Golf-games, and of course, I have my love set for the Mario Golf-titles. That is except for the first one. It is not because it is light on content or the lack of multiplayer-games as it offers both in good quantity, but it can completely frustrate me when a shot does not work due to uneven physics that can break a perfect stream. That is the only problem I really have with this title, but this affects all the other modes and any form of replay-value it could have had, as you will be simply frustrated in those moments where the swings are far off. This holds especially true for a golfer, as they need to be calm and the moment frustration sets in, you’d better run. That is why it is more uncomfortable than even an unfair NES game, as it can be a marvel how much a sadist the developer is. A “so bad, it is entertaining” kind of vibe if you will. Mario Golf for the N64, however, is rather a big middle finger given to you at random.
#5 Sly 2: Band of Thieves
While the first Sly Cooper was a fun and linear platformer, the games onward took on being actual stealth-games with bigger areas to visit and explore. While I thought the third and fourth game did this tremendously with diverse areas to visit and fun characters to control, the second game was just a pain to get through. The extra characters felt like forced context-sensitive additions, areas were big with nothing interesting to do in them (except for a couple of the worlds) and there was an uneven build in difficulty and quality. I definitely found some enjoyment with this title, such as the jump it took from the first game, characters are more fleshed out and intriguing, and the story is engaging. Sadly, playing it is just a slog and I already asked before the halfway point: when does this game end? It felt like my money was stolen.
#4 Wario: Master of Disguise
I don’t really know what happened here, but Master of Disguise is probably one of the worst titles I have had ever the unfortunate pleasure to experience. It is a barebones Metroidvania with clunky touch-controls forced on the player, annoying areas to backtrack in, context-sensitive moments all over the place, underdeveloped ideas, and topped by a forced story and dull presentation. I don’t mind that Wario Land shifted focus from a sidescroller with more focus on puzzles to a Metroidvania with costumes as a gimmick, but I honestly have nothing positive to say here or even interesting elements that my review will not cover. There are plenty of better Metroidvania for the same system and better Wario Land titles in general. Master of Disguise is just like a nasty fart joke.
#3 Kingdom Hearts Union χ
This is a mobile game that is canon and can just bugger off. Kingdom Hearts is really a love it or hate it concept, but I honestly love the mix of Disney and Final Fantasy, with combat that evolved with each installment. While I am not at all fond of Re:Coded or Kingdom Hearts 3, I can at least say good things about them, either about Re:Coded’s combat or KH3’s experience as just a trip through Disney worlds. Sadly, Union χ is just the pinnacle of cheap cash-grabs. Kingdom Hearts has indeed been a mess, especially with its story, but it has always had heart put into it, or at least come with something worthy of being called effort. Not this title, however. Union χ is everything I dislike about free phone-titles: shallow gameplay, poor flash-animated presentation, reused soundtrack, and tons of ways to scheme you out of your money so you won’t have to grind. It has no heart, soul, or value.
#2 Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
After the great trilogy that just got better with each entry from my point of view, I was excited for what the fourth game would provide, despite that I felt Nathan Drake had already had a good run. Sadly, I would witness the series take on a grimdark tone, and instead of the original team at Naughty Dog who made Uncharted, I would get the team behind The Last of Us and it shows how forced this whole setup is. I could complain about the forced context-sensitive climbing with no danger attached, the dull shooting where you can’t throw grenades anymore, context-sensitive fighting, spacious and boring open areas, and the underutilized grappling-hook, but what has always been the focus of the Uncharted-series, is its story.
Everything here feels forced by the worst writers from Hollywood. A forced return to old treasure hunting, a brother is suddenly coming back, odd flashbacks that are as cliché as cheddar, and results that I just don’t care about anymore. There are some decent moments, but everything is the absolute worst of what a Hollywood project is mocked for these days. There is a fun multiplayer component, but that is all I can praise this entry for and it is not enough to be worth getting through. There are some uncharted territories best left forgotten.
#1 The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
This is going to piss many readers off, so please let me explain. The Legend of Zelda is a series that is so dear to me, I even have it inked on my body, and I love all the titles in the series, with only a few exceptions outside of the unholy triforce. Those being Phantom Hourglass, Breath of the Wild, and the number one of this list. All of these have problems, with Phantom Hourglass being underwhelming with an annoying temple to backtrack through, while Breath of the Wild is like a remake of the first entry with some cool puzzles, dull temples, a flawed weapon idea, and a dull story in a barren world. However, both are still at least solid and not something I want to tackle now.
Majora’s Mask, however, I always disliked playing through, even the wonderful remake for the 3DS. I do enjoy the surreal take on this world, as it fits the lighter tone earlier games took on, I do like the smaller stories you experience to make this world feel alive, and I love the presentation, even if it used Ocarina Of Time’s characters. However, I hated the fetch-quests in this game, I hate two of the four temples, and this game can only be entertaining and worthwhile if you do the sidequests. If you skip those that aren’t essential, you can beat this game quickly and only witness 30% of it, which makes the experience feel shallow. Do them all, and it is a sadly a mix of touching moments and tedious activities. I do even like the idea of masks, but plenty of them are only for quests, making them feel context-sensitive, and while many do praise the world you are becoming a part of, it is not enough sadly.
It is not the worst game of this list, but for my part, it is the low-point. Surrealism and a darker tone, can’t always carry a game when actually playing it is a chore. Especially when you have to play the waiting-game.
So, was there any reason to make this list? Probably not, but it is a fun way to show what kind of reviewer I am, what uncommon opinions I have, and possibly areas where we are similar and you might not feel alone on. This is not a list to harp on titles you might enjoy, cause if you do, I am incredibly happy for you and I do at least love the other titles in the series.
Though I feel it is about time my friend tackled a top ten as well, as we are quite the odd review-duo. Casper, would you please elaborate on your top nostalgic titles that you can’t enjoy anymore?