In general, we think you've got pretty good taste in games. You've made massive successes of stellar franchises like Ratchet & Clank, The Elder Scrolls and Katamari Damacy. You tend to like the things we like, and that's part of why we enjoy writing for you and telling you about all the cool games we think you'll get excited about playing.
Sometimes, though, you ignore our advice, which breaks our hearts a little. It's bad enough when you do it by passing up kickass experiences like Okami or Psychonauts, but nothing - nothing - pisses us off quite like seeing you make huge commercial hits out of awful games. It's part of our job to help steer your money toward the good stuff, so when we see games like 50 Cent: Bulletproof achieving double-mega-platinum status, it feels like a personal failure on our parts. And it's enough to make us wonder if you're even paying attention to what we say at all.
To illustrate what we mean, we've pulled together 10 of the worst games to ever achieve mass-market success, complete with sales figures and average scores from other outlets* to show that these aren't just our opinions. We'll show you what the publishers said, what reviewers said and then look at why you believed them over us. And maybe, just maybe, we can help you avoid these things in the future.
10. Spider-Man 3
2007 | Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PC
Copies sold in US: More than 300,000 (after one month)
Average score: 58%
It's rare that you can tell a game is going to suck the first time you see it, but from the moment we laid eyes on Spider-Man 3, we somehow knew it had no soul. Maybe it was the game's shiny version of Manhattan, which looked suspiciously like a bunch of high-definition textures had been slapped onto the buildings from 2004's Spider-Man 2. Or maybe it was the stiff-looking combat, the shoddy "cineractive" minigames or the excited overemphasis on Spidey's black suit and its mysterious powers of anger. But whatever the case, a game that lets you swing through New York again as Spider-Man can't possibly be bad, right? That's what we thought, anyway.
The company line: "This is Spider-Man like you’ve never seen him before. BOLDER. Feel the rush of protecting New York as the heroic Spider-Man, plus feel the thrill of becoming the more aggressive Black-Suited Spider-Man - unleashing your powers while struggling against the darkness that threatens to tear your world apart."
What the critics said: While a few critics were quick to praise Spider-Man 3, most gave the game scores that ranged from mediocre to terrible. GamesRadar's own rabid Spider-Man fan, Brett Elston, started his review by saying, "You know a game is bad when people stop what they're doing just to watch it suck." He wasn't exaggerating, either. Whether it was the Williamsburg Bridge just sort of ending mid-span or the New Goblin patiently looking for the door in a fence he could easily have flown over, we really did gather around his desk to watch every time new flaws were discovered. They were that spectacular.
Other reviewers took issue with the game's herky-jerky animation and uneven visuals (GameSpy's Gabe Graziani called them "some of the worst next-gen graphics you have ever seen"), or complained that the game was riddled with bugs and didn't offer much that wasn't already in Spider-Man 2. Whatever their myriad problems with the game, most agreed on one thing: Spider-Man 3 is a disappointingly lame entry in a series that distinguished itself early on as one of the best film-to-game adaptations ever.
Why you bought it anyway: If you're any kind of Spidey fan, you were never not going to buy this, especially not after the ridiculous levels of free-roaming fun offered by Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man. Unfortunately, that's a big part of the problem; publisher Activision knew it wouldn't have to go to any extraordinary lengths to get your money, and so it didn't.
What went wrong? Our leading theory is that the game's design document consists entirely of "Take Spider-Man 2 and make it suck," followed by a crude flipbook animation of the lead designer rolling around naked on a bed of money and cackling obscenely. And while that seems unlikely, it's not hard to believe, considering that Spider-Man 3 feels less like a rushed product and more like a deliberately half-assed cash-in. The next-gen versions are essentially 2004's Spider-Man 2 with new missions, shinier graphics and sloppy, tacked-on quicktime sequences, and the whole experience feels like it was cynically slapped together without much effort or love. The PS2 and Wii versions, meanwhile, are little more than insulting afterthoughts - which doesn't seem to be hurting their sales any.
Most infuriatingly positive quote: Game Informer delivered the most embarrassingly fawning praise for the game to date, saying, "Spider-Man 3’s greatest strength isn’t how accurately it captures the essence of this hero; it’s the game’s ability to keep you in a state of wonder." We think it's more like a state of wondering. As in wondering what else you could have spent that $60 on.
* Average scores for each game are based on Metacritic average scores for all relevant platforms. In the interest of full disclosure, Metacritic is also where we found most of the quotes for this article.