We made it. After a tumultuous 11 months of really high highs (the games) and really low lows (the layoffs), we’re finally rounding out the last month of 2023. Good riddance. And to really underscore that goodbye, we here at Kotaku thought it’d be fitting to take a look back at what felt like the longest year yet to compile some of the most buggy, broken, and busted games to drop in 2023.
2023 was long, but it also was packed with games that were memorable for their characters, gameplay, narrative, worldbuilding, sound design, and more. Some of the games here have those glowing qualities as well but, at least at launch, they were as noteworthy for being glitchy AF as anything else. Some have been made more playable with patches and updates, while others may remain forever busted. And in their own wonky way, they all contributed to what made 2023 an unforgettable year.
Enough with the preamble. Here are 12 of 2023’s most busted games.
Mundfish’s Bioshock-inspired first-person shooter Atomic Heart was one of the buggiest releases of early 2023. Players reported an assortment of problems with the game, like characters getting stuck in the environment, file saves completely breaking, weapons not loading in, and more. On top of that, there were a couple of game-breaking bugs that barred folks from progressing, sometimes even past the game’s intro. It’s much more stable now after several patches addressed its issues, but Atomic Heart was atomically broken at launch.
Crime Boss: Rockay City
Crime Boss: Rockay City has lots of impressive and wacky star power attached to it, as well as copious bugs and glitches that have plagued it since it came out. A first-person shooter that weaves roguelike elements into its single-player campaign, developer Ingame Studios’ B-movie crime saga was riddled with problems. From interactable objects suddenly becoming un-interactable to glitches that miraculously removed clothes to gun sounds endlessly repeating even when not firing, Rockay City’s launch was…rocky. Subsequent patches and updates seem to have stabilized things, but maybe next time, let’s try to spend a little bit more time working with quality assurance teams before release.
Forza Motorsport, a reboot of the titular franchise, was not quite ready for the race track when it was released in October. Turn 10 Studios’ latest racing sim had a plethora of problems at launch. Some players reported freezes during matchmaking, after practice, and while changing maps. Other fans claimed that previously fixed bugs, like one that somehow resets player progress, came back. And framerates dipped exponentially, especially on PC, right as races were getting sweaty and tense. It just wasn’t a particularly great time, especially for Forza diehards.
Mortal Kombat 1 (On Switch)
Come on, y’all knew this was going to be here. It’s a modern-day Mortal Kombat game on the Nintendo Switch, the oldest of the current-gen systems. So of course, the optimization of NetherRealm Studios’ latest fighter on the handheld hybrid was a big question mark. When it came out on September 8, though, that question was answered. It was bad. Like, really bad. Animations and cutscenes took forever to load. Framerates dipped on the regular. Textures were nonexistent, making character models look like wax figures. And because performance was so shoddy, you’d drop a combo and wouldn’t know if it was your fault or the game’s. It’s such an obvious downgrade from the PlayStation and Xbox versions that you shouldn’t even bother playing Mortal Kombat 1 here.
You never want to get busted when you rob a bank, but unfortunately, the robbers of Payday 3 were busted…with bugs. OK, the joke didn’t land. However, the point still stands. Developer Starbreeze Studios’ first-person mugging simulator was shot plenty of times by glitches and issues at launch, particularly around its always-online matchmaking which caused game crashes and server disconnects. The studio immediately apologized, promising to fix matchmaking in October. Various updates have come out since then that’ve addressed the game’s copious issues, making it possible to finish some heists with little to no glitches.
Arkane is primarily known and beloved for immersive sims like the Dishonored series and Prey. This year, it did something quite different with the co-op multiplayer-focused vampire shooter Redfall, and sadly, it didn’t pan out too well. Don’t get me wrong, the things that the developer does best—storytelling, worldbuilding, environmental design, cool abilities—work here, and smashing that stuff into an online environment could’ve been a recipe for thrilling vampire-slaying shenanigans. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been. Characters would sometimes run in place despite no controller input, framerates would plummet when performing executions, enemies would just stand still in combat, bullets would do no damage, audio would randomly cut out—Redfall was a mess. The team is still patching the game so, maybe in time, it’ll be worth checking out.
Skull Island: Rise of Kong
The Nintendo Switch’s eShop has been a breeding ground for some serious hellspawn lately, like that rip-off The Last of Us clone that was so bad it got pulled from sale and saw Sony step in to erase its existence just one month later. Skull Island: Rise of Kong from developer IguanaBee is just as bad and buggy, and no one’s stopping it. From the titular ape getting stuck in walls to character animations locking up to environmental assets disappearing, Rise of Kong was a fundamentally broken mess of a game that needed a few more years of work, not just one. Because this is the result of a single year’s worth of development time.
I feel like you can’t have a busted/broken/buggy games list without a Bethesda game, should the opportunity arise. And oof, was Starfield all three of those adjectives. Everyone’s experience is different and valid, but I’ve encountered a sizable amount of issues in my hundreds of hours with the space-exploring role-playing game. There was the usual stuff. You know, quests bugging out so you can’t complete them or partner AI breaking during fights, causing them to just casually stand around in the midst of gunfire. There was also silly stuff, too, like asteroids and cities and forests following players across the cosmos. Then there was the frustrating stuff that included the game crashing at least once every 45 minutes or so during every other four-to-five hour session of mine. Starfield had me reaching for the stars to find the patience because despite cooking in the oven for about eight years, it still needed more time to bake.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a cool game. It takes what its 2019 processor Jedi: Fallen Order did and expands upon it with new abilities, saber styles, and worlds. What wasn’t cool, though, was how buggy it was when it came out. Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars-based Metroidvania Soulslike was plagued by issues, including frequent framerate dips and buggy character models. Things were particularly bad on PC, where dropped frames were so egregious and so frequent that Jedi: Survivor might as well have been a stop-motion animation. The developers eventually ironed out those issues, making the game much more playable, so you shouldn’t encounter too many bugs if you were to play now—and you should. But Jedi: Survivor was a mess just a handful of months ago.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
Here’s another obvious entry for the list. Daedalic Entertainment’s narrative-adventure game about the gangly Stoor hobbit Gollum was terrible. (I would know, I reviewed it.) It’s easily in the running for 2023’s worst game, alongside some other contenders that appear here. But aside from being a bad game, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum was also a buggy one. Button presses wouldn’t register, causing Gollum to meet an unceremonious death during chase sequences or platforming sections. Framerates would dip and skip, resulting in stuttering. Lighting and textures would flicker at random like Gollum took place in Mordor’s grimmest night club. Gollum was infested with detrimental glitches. It was so bad that the studio closed its development arm, which is a bummer. Real people shouldn’t be impacted by the results of allegedly incompetent leadership.
The Last of Us Part I (On PC)
Sony’s PC ports tend to work pretty well when they finally leave the company’s cobalt tower, but I don’t know if anyone was prepared for just how broken Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part I launch would be when it debuted on Steam. The PC port of the blockbuster post-apocalyptic zombie survival game was in terrible shape, with character models dripping in sweat, visually oppressive colors that seem like the worst acid trip ever, and NPCs freezing in place. Suffice to say, the TLOU Part I Steam release had us in tears. You need to only watch this bug compilation and you, too, will be reduced to a puddle.
The Walking Dead: Destinies
It’s a different developer, but the publisher is the same. GameMill Entertainment, the company behind Skull Island: Rise of Kong developer IguanaBee, had its hand in yet another buggy and broken mess of a game this year. This time, it’s The Walking Dead: Destinies, an action-adventure game that lets you change the outcome of pivotal moments within the popular apocalyptic horror show. But you know what, Destinies was a horror show of its own, one absolutely riddled with glitches. Killed-off characters would remain in the hub area like their death was a YouTube prank. Enemies would get stuck in or glitch through walls. Hard crashes were a regular occurrence. There was even a game-breaking issue that blocked players from beating it. It’s bad, but maybe not surprising when folks from the Rise of Kong studio told The Verge that GameMill routinely hires small teams to make games in very little time and with little clarity or support. Publishers, give developers more time to make games.
That’s always the real takeaway with a list like this: developers just need more time to make games, period. While it’s fun to mock buggy games, laughing hysterically at the many (mostly absurd, occasionally game-breaking) glitches, no one on a development team goes in intending to make a shitty game. It’s often the byproduct of mandated deadlines and strenuous workspaces, something the industry really must change if it hopes to attract and keep talent.
That said, 2023 was the year of some godawful releases, maybe more so than last year or the year before it. Will 2024 bring us even more buggy games? Probably. And when it does, we’ll be right here to chronicle them all. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (if you celebrate). Enjoy some games.
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