2023 has been a year full of stellar new games, but no year is ever left unmarred by astoundingly bad releases, and this year has been no different either. From massive AAA titles that have failed to live up to expectations to smaller releases that were so bad, they pretty much forced everyone to sit up and take notice, the last several months have seen a number of games that have stood out purely on the back of how bad they’ve been. Here, we’re going to talk about 15 such games, starting with the best of the worst, and counting down to the absolute bottom of the barrel.
#15. NBA 2K24
NBA 2K24, like the vast majority of its predecessors over recent years, is an incredibly frustrating game. On one hand, there’s no denying that purely as a basketball simulator, it’s a high-quality product with a solid, mechanically tight, and addictive gameplay loop, while there’s no shortage of content on offer either. And yet, in spite of those strengths, the series continues to descend deeper and deeper into the microtransactions hole, and those issues are still as prevalent in this year’s game as they have been in recent years (if not more so).
#14. CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3
If ever there was a year to prove that the annual release cycle model cannot be perpetually sustainable for the Call of Duty franchise, this was it. What started out as DLC for Modern Warfare 2 got turned into a full-fledged new premium release, and the results in the so-called Modern Warfare 3 were disastrous. The single player campaign is as unremarkable as it is short, the multiplayer component feels like a letdown due to its selection of maps comprising only remasters of older maps, and though the open world Zombies experience is an interesting one, it, too, can get a bit repetitive.
Systemic Reaction’s open world roguelike is not without its merits, and from its combat to its Scandinavian setting to some interesting enemies to fight, it does have a few things going for it. Ultimately, however, it buckles under the collective weight of its many flaws. Its open world is vast, but feels lifeless and dreary, and doesn’t really offer much in the way of engaging content, while it also has issues with its loot mechanics, repetitive quests, a lack of quality-of-life features, and a general (and significant) lack of polish, among other things.
#12. ED-0: ZOMBIE UPRISING
Ed-0: Zombie Uprising certainly has some interesting ideas on paper, and in terms of its atmosphere and its blending of a zombie apocalypse with a roguelike experience, it does deserve some credit, even if it’s on a conceptual level. Playing the actual game itself, however, tends to be an excruciating experience. Extreme jank, clunky controls, terrible visuals, and a repetitive central loop are its biggest issues, but certainly not the only ones.
#11. CRIME BOSS: ROCKAY CITY
Crime Boss: Rockay City tried its best to build up hype by touting AAA production values, a star studded Hollywood cast, and the promise of thrilling co-op heists. Ultimately, however, it’s disappointing how broken and vapid it turned out to be. Whether it’s its overall structure you’re looking at or the moment-to-moment gameplay, the game feels bland at best and sloppy at worst. Neither its single player offerings nor the co-op content it packs are ever able to rise above mediocrity- and even that’s being generous.
#10. NASCAR ARCADE RUSH
There’s certainly a lot of appeal to the idea of a NASCAR game that takes the license and, instead of a racing sim, combines it with a Mario Kart-style arcade racing experience, but NASCAR Arcade Rush spectacularly fails to make good on that promise. Though passingly enjoyable on a superficial level and in very short bursts, thanks to its lack of content and an overall lack of depth across the board, there’s very little here that will keep you engaged in any meaningful way.
#9. QUANTUM ERROR
2023 was a good year for horror games, though we did also end up playing quite a few shockingly bad ones. Quantum Error is one of the best (or worst, as the case may be) examples of that. Its promise of a cosmic horror experience that takes inspiration from survival horror classics is certainly an intriguing one, but from its bland combat and unengaging story to its dated design and a litany of technical issues, the game has too many significant errors (pardon the pun) that collectively outweigh its strengths by quite a margin.
#8. CRICKET 24
Cricket fans have become used to not having much to fall back on in the video games space, but one would have hoped that at least in a World Cup year, we’d get a half-decent game. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. There’s some fun to be had in Cricket 24 for fans of the sport thanks to a solid (if unremarkable) core foundation, but on top of feeling like a shockingly minimal upgrade over Big Ant Studios’ last cricket title, it also feels like a decidedly hollow and rough experience.
#7. OVERPASS 2
When the original Overpass launched in 2020, it was one of the worst games of its year, so expectations from Overpass 2 weren’t exactly high. Sadly, however, it follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by offering up a shockingly sloppy and unenjoyable experience. There isn’t much content on offer, the moment-to-moment driving controls tend to land somewhere between mildly annoying and downright frustrating, and there’s a distinct lack of polish that pervades the entire experience.
#6. GREYHILL INCIDENT
A survival horror game where you’re fighting aliens instead of zombies or monsters sounds like an excellent idea on paper, but Greyhill Incident does nothing of note with that premise. Plodding combat, horribly stilted controls, shockingly bad writing, incohesive storytelling- you think of a game-breaking issue, and Greyhill Incident has probably got it. We’re all for cutting some slack when a game is clearly a lower-budget indie effort, but the faults here are just too many and too significant to overlook.
#5. FLASHBACK 2
The original Flashback, which released all the way back in 1992, isn’t the biggest or most prominent game by any means, but it’s a cult classic that holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Flashback 2, however, is a transparent attempt to leverage that love for the first game to make you buy something that deserves none of your time. From game-breaking technical issues to horribly plain and dull combat, from baffling design decisions to awful combat, Flashback 2 is riddled with unforgivable issues from top to bottom.
#4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: GOLLUM
Daedalic Entertainment has a history of developing solid (if unremarkable) stealth games, so the idea of a Lord of the Rings stealth title by the studio where you play as Gollum was an interesting one. The end result? Not so much. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum quickly became an industry-wide laughing stock upon its launch earlier in the year, and bombed so horribly both critically and commercially that Daedalic ended up shutting down all internal development on future projects. That should tell you something about just how bad Gollum was, in case you haven’t played it yourself (and you shouldn’t).
#3. STRAY SOULS
We’ve mentioned a couple of pretty awful 2023 horror games in this list, but neither of them can compare to the unbelievable depths of incompetence that Stray Souls consistently embraces. It’s nothing short of an incoherent mess, and all of its stark issues are made all the more frustrating by the fact that it actually shows some signs of promise in its prologue. Beyond that point, however, it consistently remains a broken, convoluted, messy, unenjoyable experience, with little to no highlights to speak of.
#2. THE WALKING DEAD: DESTINIES
The Walking Dead has had horrible luck with video games, but never has it sunk to such low depths. The Walking Dead: Destinies certainly had an intriguing premise with its promise of letting players change the TV show’s events through their own actions, but not only does that come to nothing, the rest of the game is also embarrassingly low-quality across the board. Its visuals would have looked outdated even two decades ago, its stealth and combat mechanics (when they work) are mind-numbingly shallow, its pitiful attempts at storytelling are stilted and awkward- and those are just its most prominent issues.
#1. SKULL ISLAND: RISE OF KONG
If, for some reason, you’ve developed nostalgia for the era of gaming that used to be characterized by hastily put together licensed cash grabs, you’ll absolutely love Skull Island: Rise of Kongs. You cannot be told how bad this game is- you have to play it for yourself. And we would recommend that you don’t because it’s an absolute and utter failure in every way possible, whether you’re talking about what passes for its attempt at storytelling, its dated visuals, its broken gameplay mechanics, its bland mission design, or any number of its many issues.