Video games have changed so dramatically with another console generation passing by and an endless number of game releases. But while it’s important to celebrate the fanatastic achievements of games over the last decade, it’s also important to explore the failures: the games that broke our hearts, kicked us while we were down and laughed at our misery. These were the games that failed to live up to their potential, the ones that crashed and burned, and the ones that we wish had never been made. Welcome to our list of the most disappointing games of the decade.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
Sometimes, I lay awake at night and imagine a future where Scalebound actually released, and I weep at the thought. When this Xbox-exclusive title was announced in 2014, it looked absolutely phenomenal — a game that would be an instant console-mover for Xbox. It had dragons and magic and wide open worlds. It looked like a cross between Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter World, and the hype around the game was enormous.
While it failed to appear at E3 2015 after its initial announcement a year earlier, it did appear at Gamescom 2015, where a snippet of gameplay was shown, and a multiplayer mode was announced alongside it. Hype for the game grew in that time, and while a delay from 2016 to 2017 was a disappointment to fans, there was no real indication that anything was amiss. And then, in January of 2017, the shock announcement was made: Scalebound was cancelled. It seemed to come out of the blue, and that somehow made it worse. While numerous issues like hype, miscommunication and over-ambitiousness were blamed for the cancellation, in the end, it didn’t matter. The dreams of Scalebound were over, along with the hopes and dreams of its fans.
God bless Peter Molyneux — he sure is ambitious. For those unfamiliar with this lovely gentleman, Molyneux is a games developer and founder of the now-defuct developer Lionhead Studios. He’s become known for over-promising and under-delivering on his games, despite past successes with games like Fable and its sequel. In Godus, Molyneux promised the /”ultimate god game” with a “living world” and multiplayer functionality.
Godus was kickstarted to the tune of £526,563 ($1.01 million) in 2012, but what backers actually got was a far cry from the game’s original vision. The PC version was buggy and unfinished when it released, and the mobile version was a microtransaction-based adaptation that barely resembled the planned model. Godus, for all intents and purposes, was a massive failure.
"You know what Peter Molyneux's like," an ex-22Cans employee told me while trying to sum up the infamous designer's tendency to make enormous promises and then just kinda... forget about them. "You try to hold onto his words and they slip through your fingers."Read more
Mighty No. 9
Mighty No. 9 was another tale of Kickstarter failure, with backers raising $3,845,170 in 2017 for a game that earned the Kotaku review title: /”Mighty No. 9 Tries Really Hard, But No.” Mighty No. 9 was designed as a spiritual successor to the Mega Man series, and featured a similarly cute and robotic protagonist. Fans and backers had high hopes for the game, but all they got in return was disappointment.
Levels were basic and unexciting, characters were bland, the voice acting was atrocious and textures were poor at best. With poor combat, choppy graphics and an overall unfeeling of the game being unpolished, Mighty No. 9 was a complete mess when it released, marking it as one of the decade’s most disappointing titles.
We first heard of Fable Legends in 2013, when Lionhead Studios released a cinematic trailer for a co-op RPG set in the Fable universe. In the game, four heroes would join together to battle a single villain as they traversed the magical land of Albion. Fable Legends was delayed in 2015, with a newly announced release date of 2016. An open beta was planned for early 2016, but in March of that year, Microsoft announced not only the cancellation of Fable Legends, but also the closure of Lionhead Studios as a whole.
Fable Legends had great potential as a co-op action adventure game, and gameplay demos pre-cancellation looked promising. While longtime Fable fans lamented the lack of focus on a sequel, the experience still looked fun and gorgeous. There was even an ambitious art book released in the promotional lead up to the game. You can still purchase it, if you’d like to see what could have been.
The timeline of Kickstarter “success” Unsung Story has to be one of the weirdest, shadiest development cycles in modern gaming. Three years after company Playdek raised over $800,000 for the strategy-based RPG, they bailed entirely on the project, handing over the development reigns to another company — Little Orbit.
It was supposed to be a dream game for fans of strategy-role-playing games, but instead it became a disaster. Unsung Story, which crowdfunded over $US660,000 ($828,631) in 2014, is one of the biggest Kickstarter failures of all time. Let's zoom out and look at the whole debacle, shall we?Read more
Little Orbit CEO Matt Scott told Kotaku in 2017 that the company did not receive any of the money raised by the game’s Kickstarter, and the studio has posted regular updates on development over the course of this year. But whatever happened to the money fans paid for the original Kickstarter is a mystery.
Correction: The original version of this story mentioned that Little Orbit had started a second Kickstarter for Unsung Story, but this is not the case. We apologise for the error.
Star Wars: 1313 And Amy Hennig’s Cancelled Star Wars Title
Until Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order released in 2019, the Star Wars video games had had a rough go of it. Star Wars: 1313 was one of the more disappointing cancellations in video games history because the premise and early footage were so exciting. The game, developed by LucasArts before the studio’s closure, was designed to follow bounty hunter Boba Fett as he navigated the metropolis beneath planet Coruscant.
The game was revealed at E3 in 2012 and was set to be a cinematic, combat-heavy action adventure with full-body performance capture and next gen graphics. And then, Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise. And in 2013, LucasArts was shuttered, destroying any hopes that fans had for the game.
But Star Wars: 1313 wasn’t the only disappointment in Star Wars‘ recent video games history, because in early 2019, Amy Hennig’s untitled open world Star Wars adaptation was unceremoniously cancelled. Code-named ‘Ragtag’ the project was set to be an action adventure helmed by Hennig, who is most known for her work on Uncharted. Very little was actually known about this game, but even seeing the words “open world” and “Star Wars” together was enough to get everyone hyped. Unfortunately, the dream is now over.
Agents of Mayhem
Within three months of Agents of Mayhem‘s release, it was at EB Games for a mere $4. If that isn’t the mark of a true disappointment, I don’t know what is. Agents of Mayhem is an open world action game developed by Volition, the masterminds behind the Saints Row series. In fact, it’s even set in the same universe as Saints Row and spins out of a Saints Row alternate universe tale, but that didn’t stop the game from being a giant, undeniable disappointment.
This action-adventure featured players teaming up in agent trios to defeat the forces of evil organisation L.E.G.I.O.N. It’s a simple enough set-up, but one that’s accompanied by poor writing, bad humour, simple design and gameplay choices, and grinding repetition. Those looking for their next hit of insanity from the Saints Row universe were ultimately disappointed by this lacklustre entry in the extended franchise.
Now, admittedly, the inclusion of Darkspore on this list is a strange one, because the game isn’t necessarily disappointing because it was good or bad. It’s disappointing because we lost it completely in the span of five years. Darkspore released in 2011 as a spin-off of the Spore franchise, and was a sci-fi RPG where players could build deadly aliens and battle across alien worlds. Nothing remarkable here, but the important part is that Darkspore used a DRM scheme that required a constant connection to the internet.
In 2016, just five years after the game originally released, the online servers for Darkspore shut down. Because of its DRM-scheme, this meant that the entire game became unplayable. The entire game! Gone! And just five years after it first released. In 2019, the game remains unplayable. Darkspore was a disappointment not because it was a good game (it was just ‘fine’) but because it revealed just how harmful DRM can be for games and their consumers. The fact that this game was only allowed to exist for five years before the plug was pulled is a tragedy.
Duke Nukem Forever
Duke Nukem Forever was in development hell for 14 years, but when it finally did release, everyone wished it hadn’t. Being in development hell for so long meant that Duke Nukem Forever felt and played like a relic of the past — because that’s what it was.
It featured simplistic mechanics, extremely dated humour, poor writing and shoddy performance, making it almost instantly forgettable. To give you an idea of how dated it was, 2K Games launched a website called “Boob Tube” alongside the game that featured a game called Duke Nudem where players could shoot women to get them topless. For prizes, players would get topless wallpaper images of the women. Real classy-like. The game also featured a multiplayer mode that featured women being slapped into submission.
No other Duke Nukem game has been released since Forever, and the series is currently languishing in the pits of video game hell, where it belongs.
EA sure does have a weird history with DRM, and SimCity 2013 was another victim of its strange ambitions. To run the game and save, players were required to have an online connection that also forced multiplayer gameplay. This meant the initial launch was completely buggered by network issues, rendering the game broken for some. It took a full year for EA to implement an offline mode and allow players to save local files to their computer, a feature which should have been implemented from the beginning.
Beyond that, SimCity 2013 was just a bland game, and a poor follow-up for the iconic franchise, which has since become a microtransaction-filled mobile title. May the SimCity franchise find peace in the afterlife, because it sure won’t find any on Earth.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
If anything, Aliens: Colonial Marines was good value in the comedy department, because the ‘deadly’ aliens that populated the game world were as thick as several bricks. The AI was so bad that fans had to go in and fix it for an experience that was even remotely playable. And beyond the AI, the campaign was muddy and uninspiring,it wasn’t pretty to look at and even gameplay was a slog.
Fans expecting a solid and worthy adaptation of the classic Alien franchise were left sorely disappointed, with sources later telling Kotaku that Colonial Marines became a “hodgepodge” of assets as it was passed between studios. What had the potential to be terrifying romp ended up like a wet fart. Thankfully, Alien: Isolation came out the following year to erase all the bad memories of Colonial Marines.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Hey, remember this game? Yeah, me either. Mass Effect: Andromeda released in 2017, and promised to be an epic follow up to the critically-acclaimed Mass Effect trilogy. It was… not. While it featured solid combat, characters, and gorgeous worlds to explore, it was dogged by a variety of bugs and glitches that made it barely playable.
This included character models that were often stiff, unresponsive and unemotive, which made for particularly awkward sexual interactions. Soon after release, the internet was filled with compilations of bad facial animations, to the point where they became more important than the game itself. Mass Effect: Andromeda should have been a nuanced, well-developed follow-up to a series that has become a critically-acclaimed part of video game history. Instead, it became a meme.
Anthem promised to be the next big thing in games, with massive, showy trailers in the lead-up to its release. When the online RPG finally arrived in February of this year, it was just kind of there. It had bland combat, boring quests, unexciting level design and gameplay that required frequent grinding. While it still has its fans, the overall experience was definitively uninspiring. It was just OK, when it aimed to be so much more.
Anthem had solid ideas, if not the talent to match its ambitions. But it was bogged down by poor design, making it a disjointed and frustrating experience for players. It’s part of the reason why rumours are surfacing that BioWare is planning a total overhaul of Anthem‘s gameplay. Much like No Man’s Sky before it, Anthem could very well rise from the ashes in a new and brilliant form, but for now, we’re stuck with what we got — a tired and uninspired mess.
The best thing about video games is that there’s something out there for everyone. Not everyone will like every game, and someone out there is sure to like something you don’t.
Do you disagree with anything on our list? Want to make a case for Andromeda‘s ‘creative’ animation style? Or for Duke Nukem’s women-hating ways? Feel free to chat about it in the comments below!