If you’ve followed our previous gaming features, you may have noticed that we’re a pretty positive bunch. We tend to fawn over the games we love or fantasise about the games we want, and just last week, we even went to bat for the best games with unfair reputations.
But to misquote a wise man from that list’s number one entry ‘life isn’t all sugar and rainbows’, and there’s more than a fair share of major titles that have received widespread acclaim but left us wondering what the heck all the fuss is about.
So in order to restore balance to the universe, it’s only fair to air those frustrations; to create a Yin to last week’s list’s Yang. Now, that’s not to say that these games are bad per se (except for one, but that will become clear soon enough), they’re just a little… overrated.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (2013)
Yes, we know it's sacrilege to criticise any Legend of Zelda title, so before doing so it must be stated that much of this game is solid, it has charm coming out of its pointy ears and the original iteration of Wind Waker is pretty elderly so it's understandable that it doesn't have some of the convenient mechanics that we've become accustomed to.
With that out of the way – boy, did this game just want to make things as awkward as possible!
Most glaringly for a game centred around freedom and exploration, it made getting around a chore. Sailing the ocean was fine and dandy, until you want to change direction that is. Then if you wanted to move at more than a snail's pace, you'd need to stop, get the Wind Waker baton out and enter the series of inputs necessary to change wind direction before you could go on your merry way.
Then there's the dungeons! Rife with poorly explained or awkward to exercise mechanics and NPC escorts that cause more trouble than the bosses – even Gandhi would think about rage quitting before the final act.
Final Fantasy XII (2006)
The aforementioned list of great games with unfair reputations had a notable Final Fantasy presence, so it's only fair to take aim at an undeservedly acclaimed entry here.
The story in FF12 felt like an early draft of Final Fantasy IX (2000), the cast looked like rejected designs from Final Fantasy X (2001) and the action based combat felt like a solid first attempt that could use more refining before being featured in a mainline Final Fantasy title.
At the time of release it didn't seem to be all that beloved, it just sort of came and went without much impact. Yet, as time has gone by its following has grown to the point where it was given an expanded re-release in the guise of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (2017) and is often listed as one of the series' best. We just don't get it.
Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
GTA IV holds a Metacritic score of 98 out of 100. This places it as one of the top three highest rated games of all time, and tells readers that it's better than every other Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption release. Does anybody believe this is correct? Honestly, please let us know in the comments if you do because if so, then you, my friend, are a rarer find than Bigfoot.
GTA IV showcased a more grounded story compared to other entries in the series (such was the trend at the time), but here it just didn't work. Characters ranged from irritating to forgettable, and the bleak, drained appearance of Liberty City took away from the over the top and unrealistic activities at the heart of any Grand Theft Auto title.
It's hard to understand why this game is ranked higher than any other major Rockstar release in the last fifteen years, because from where we're standing, it's the worst.
Persona 5 (2017)
We won't dwell too long here as we've already examined this game's shortcomings in depth in a previous article, but to list just a few points, some characters are intensely unlikeable, dialogue is repeated so much that it feels like an attempt to pad out the game's run time and the story is so similar to that of its predecessor that anyone who's played Persona 4 (2008) will get a feeling of deja vu.
Persona 5's stylish presentation and excellent soundtrack afforded this game higher critical acclaim than it deserved, so it just feels like a case of style over substance. Speaking of which...
Or as it could be known 'Hold 'up' for three hours (four if you're playing on PS4 due to numerous crashes forcing you to start levels from the beginning)'. Though admittedly, Journey is a much catchier title.
This isn't a criticism of games that are termed 'walking simulators' or 'interactive experiences'. They can be great when they provide an intriguing setting with a gripping story to unravel, but Journey just doesn't.
Take nothing away from the award winning visuals and score, they are exceptional. The problem is that this game requires so little of the player.
Video games can engage not only the senses, but the mind like no other medium, immersing the player in the action with success fully dependent on that person's skill. When most of the game consists of showing you an open plain with a distant goal and telling you to essentially hold forward until you get there, it soon breaks that immersion and turns the experience into something that's almost passive.
If Journey held your attention throughout and you enjoyed the experience, that's great, but for those of us who grew weary of the minimalistic gameplay a short while in, that took a lot away from the experience, reducing it to little more than a few hours of bright colours and pretty music.
The Last of Us (2013)
We adore Naughty Dog and pretty much anything they've developed, but any claim that The Last of Us is 'a masterpiece' or 'the best game ever' is ludicrous. From a cinematic point of view, it's excellent but as a video game there are two major stumbling points: the gameplay and the story.
Let's start with the less contentious one – the gameplay. Even some of the game's most ardent supporters will concede that the stealth action sequences were nothing more than 'just fine' and as for the puzzle segments, they rarely felt all that engaging, they usually just felt like an inconvenience the player had to tolerate to find out what happens next.
These puzzles largely consisted of protagonist Joel trying to help non-swimmer Ellie cross bodies of water, but you have to wonder why these puzzles even exist at all. Seeing as the pair couldn't seem to go ten minutes without encountering a flooded area and knowing the journey would take the better part of a year, why didn't Joel teach Ellie to swim at the beginning? They could have reached their destination in half the time!
As for the story, it was interesting enough but it was just nothing new. By the time it released, the zombie apocalypse setting (mushroom-headed zombies or otherwise) had been done to death, shambled back to life and was heading back to the grave.
More importantly, the grizzled middle-aged man paired with a young woman who develop a father-daughter bond over the course of a perilous journey scenario had been done, and done much better at that – Lee and Clementine, Booker and Elizabeth, Trip and Monkey – all more endearing relationships in better stories in better games.
Dark Souls (2011)
Every other game on this list has obvious qualities so it's at least understandable that they would be regarded so highly. Dark Souls on the other hand, is a riddle. Perhaps breaking it down will help pinpoint its appeal:
Gameplay: Absolutely not, the combat is clunky and any non-boss encounter is tedious and repetitive - the whole thing plays like shovelware.
Setting: Nope, anyone delving into the first few hours is met with a bland, drab medieval fantasy setting, so it's hard to imagine that hooks too many players.
Story: Sorry, but no. While committed fans will tell you that if you look into descriptions of items and clues found throughout the game, you'll find some interesting background to the world, that just doesn't cut it. No new player should be expected to power through a mind-numbingly tedious game offering almost no clear story, then have to carry out research afterwards to try to drain anything of interest from this world.
Timing, perhaps? It released at a time when AAA titles had become increasingly easy, so was it just refreshing to have something that “doesn't hold your hand”? Do people endure rather than enjoy it so that they can wear that badge of honour and say they've finished Dark Souls? Possibly, but there are plenty of titles out there that are notoriously difficult while also remaining fun to play, so why did this series garner such a unique reputation?
This one's going to have remain a mystery.