Everyone usually does a top 10 BEST games of the year, but what about the worst games? As someone that has played a mountain of games this year, I definitely had enough material to work with for this list, so here are my top 10 WORST games of 2020. As usual, do note that this is a personal list and you might end up disagreeing with it, but that’s what makes these kinds of lists fun. And this time, I put the games in order, but before I begin the actual list, let’s go through a few honorable mentions (or would that be dishonorable? I don’t know).
Honorable Mention 1: Iron Harvest
On the surface, Iron Harvest sounds great. It’s a Company of Heroes-style game with a steampunk mech theme to it. As a fan of such strategy games, I was excited going into it, only to then be disappointed when I found that the aesthetic is really all there is to it. The gameplay was incredibly slow, clunky, and lacked depth, nowhere near the quality we got with some of the better strategy games released this year. And to top it off, it had some bad AI to match. A disappointment for sure, but not quite enough to place in the top 10.
Honorable Mention 2: FAIRY TAIL
I can say similar things about FAIRY TAIL. This JRPG comes from a really good studio, the one behind the excellent Atelier series, yet somehow, they did the opposite of what they usually do. Here we got a JRPG with some fun combat and actually decent storytelling, but otherwise boring and even outright lazy game design. From the mountain of fetch quests to the wildly fluctuating and oftentimes random difficulty scaling, there’s a lot wrong here. Couple that with a subpar PC port, and you get a game that left me wondering what could have been.
Honorable Mention 3: Onee Chanbara Origin
As my first crack at the series, I was excited to try out Onee Chanbara ORIGIN, given that it was a remake of the first two games and therefore a good starting place. However, while the combat was nice, the rest of the game was not. It’s a repetitive mess where you’re fighting the same enemies in the same areas over and over for the entire four hours that it lasts. And this is one of those games that has a $75 USD deluxe edition and 96 different DLC to it, so you can kinda already see the market they’re aiming for here. Unfortunate, as this comes at the cost of actually good game design.
10. Amnesia: Rebirth
To sum this one up: disappointment. Given that the first is considered a classic, I was expecting more here. Instead, what we got was a horror game that constantly shoots itself in the foot. Whether that be throwing in some pointless puzzles to pad the length, killing immersion with a constantly talking protagonist, or telling the story through massive blocks of text instead of – you know, the environment – it’s just not a good horror game. Really, it’s kinda all over the place, but the ultimate takeaway was just disappointment.
Here we have a case of excellent graphics, but bad gameplay. Windbound is a very good-looking game, with some Breath of the Wild-style graphics, but it unfortunately pairs that with the mess that is its gameplay. It’s the kind of game where it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. A survival game? A story game? Maybe exploration, crafting, and sailing? It is all of these at once, but lacks the depth in any of them to make a fun overall package. Barebones combat, tacked-on survival mechanics, the core loop just doesn’t do it, earning itself a spot on my list.
8. Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
Out of all of the games on this list, I would have to say that this is by far the most disappointing. I say that because I am a massive fan of disaster movies and having a video game with that very theme was 100% something I could get behind. Unfortunately though, while I did get a game with a disaster theme, that game was made up of some of the most boring core gameplay I’ve seen all year. Most of the game is just you wandering around waiting to trigger the next bit of dialogue to advance the story, at which point you’ll be wandering around again trying to find the next trigger and so on. Sometimes you’ll get the occasional quest, but most of them are just “talk to this NPC and then talk to this NPC”. I love story-based games, but the story here is just not enough to carry such mindless gameplay.
This game is a bit different from the others on the list, as the core gameplay is not really that bad. What is bad is that it takes that core gameplay and recycles it over and over, placing you on the same maps, with the same enemies in the exact same location, with nothing to break up the monotony. And this is all coupled with an overall design philosophy that encourages grinding out these levels repeatedly just so you can tackle the next boss and grind some more levels. It’s a game purposely designed to consume your time like this in place of actually offering some variety. Sure, it looks cool, but underneath that is just a grindy mess.
6. Necromunda: Underhive Wars
Warhammer games are always hit-or-miss, with most unfortunately leaning towards “miss”. Necromunda was the latest to continue that trend, offering a completely broken experience on launch that is still not entirely fixed even today. At first glance, it looked to be a cool tactical RPG, but that is until you realize just how slow the game is, how bad the AI is, and how buggy everything is. AI constantly getting stuck in place, running in circles, or otherwise just making the most dumb moves possible and you are forced to watch every single AI turn, which can take upwards of several minutes. It was a pretty painful experience up until the game straight-up wiped my save, so I can’t really say I feel bad giving it a spot on my list.
5. Kandagawa Jet Girls
Kandagawa Jet Girls takes Mario Kart, gives it some jet skis, and then slaps anime girls on top of it. Not a bad idea at all, that is until you realize that this is yet another game that sells itself on the anime girls instead of actually being a good game. The racing itself is at least somewhat decent, but the AI is laughable, enough so that I literally finished the entirety of the game in first place without breaking a sweat. Considering that half of the game is blasting enemies with water guns, the AI kinda makes it hard to even experience that half of the game and the fact that there is no difficulty setting doesn’t help either. So you would think, “okay, maybe there’s something more to the game,” but nope, it’s really just that campaign and a free race mode, nowhere near the substance necessary to charge such a premium price.
4. CODE SHIFTER
The award for most deceptive game this year would have to go to CODE SHIFTER. I say that because it’s your everyday generic, unimpressive action-platformer that tries to draw in an audience by featuring characters from actually good series like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and River City. Well, I will admit that it got me. I played the game because of those characters and it did not take long to realize that I had been duped into playing what was essentially an action-platformer with the quality of a student game. Boring platforming, repetitive combat, there’s just nothing to really like here outside of the character cameos and it was honestly kinda painful to play through.
3. Azur Lane: Crosswave
We have not one, but TWO games in this list featuring anime girls skating around on water. Whereas Kandagawa Jet Girls had some decent racing mechanics dragged down by its AI and lack of substance, Azur Lane: Crosswave doesn’t have anything to really bring it up outside of its excellent character designs. The gameplay is literally just you circling enemies and shooting them until they are all gone. You pretty much just press the same buttons over and over and activate abilities off of cooldown, that’s the entirety of the gameplay. No different mission types, no real enemy variety, just circling and shooting and even more circling and shooting.
That’s before you realize that the bulk of the game is actually a visual novel, which is definitely not a bad thing, but when that visual novel stuff is just pointless character banter and fanservice, it does become a bit unbearable. And when it does try to tell a story, it’s the most generic and predictable thing imaginable, cementing itself as one of the most boring games I played all year.
2. LUNA: The Shadow Dust
Yet another game with really good art that just lacks the gameplay to back it up. It’s a point and click game full of puzzles you need to solve to progress and that is where the problems start appearing. These puzzles not only lack any sort of depth but are designed to be as tedious as possible. Most of the time, all you have to do is memorize a short pattern and apply it somewhere else, but in the process of doing so, you’re subjected to overly long animations, drawn out cutscenes, and really just anything to extend the length of the game – a game that is already short at two and a half hours. A puzzle that I have the solution to and would take maybe seconds to solve somehow ends up taking several minutes, it’s just painful at that point. Goes to show that good art and story cannot make up for poor game design.
1. Those Who Remain
This was probably the only game this year where I actually struggled to come up with anything positive to say about it. Those Who Remain is honestly one of the worst horror games I have ever played, maybe even the worst. It has it all: tedious gameplay that checks all the wrong boxes, tacked-on chase scenes that don’t serve any purpose, forced stealth sections with the evil big bad wondering around, and some absolutely abysmal puzzle design that feel more like chores than gameplay. Slap onto that an utterly generic storyline and some wildly inconsistent graphics and you have quite the package. Those Who Remain is a testament to why the horror genre gets such a bad rap these days and I would not wish the experience on anyone.
And that’s the end of my list. Again, I expect many to disagree with it, but that’s what makes such lists fun. I’m planning on closing out the year with my top 10 BEST games of 2020 (which might actually be harder to make than this list), so do look forward to that.