Great concepts, bad games

It's a sad truth indeed that some terrible games in the past have actually had seriously solid ideas. A good idea does not automatically mean a good game, as demonstrated countless times by an industry that, more often than not, produces the very best products when creativity is all but bankrupt. A real shame, but that's the truth of the matter.

Budget constraints, technological problems, or a simple case of being too ambitious for one's own good can all have an effect on a title, meaning that no matter how deep your narrative, unique your gimmicks, or breathtaking your vision, concept alone cannot save a game. With that wretched fact in mind, let's take a look at some examples of absolutely killer concepts that went wrong somewhere along the line and ended up as bad videogames.

Fragile Dreams

Fragile Dreams is an amazing experience. Engaging, isolating and even tear jerking, Fragile Dream's post-apocalyptic world and perpetually depressing story make for a hauntingly beautiful videogame. Unfortunately, its insistent backtracking, inconvenient menu system, and mediocre combat mean that Fragile Dream frustrates and exhausts more than it evokes and engrosses.

It's a real tragedy, because Fragile Dreams has one of the saddest, most charming narratives you could hope to get from the medium. It also stands out as one of the more original titles on the Wii. Sadly, Fragile Dreams' gameplay treads on all the amazing accomplishments of the story, meaning that very few will consider wasting their precious time on it. The worst part is, anybody who skips this game is justified, even if they are missing out on a game that, at times, manages to be an introspective stroke of inspiration.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Call of Cthulhu is a shame. So much promise, so much amazing atmosphere, yet such an awful, dreadful excuse for a game. There's no denying that this dark and grisly first-person horror tale has heart and a strong sense of character, but it's a frustrating mess of bugs and glitches, not to mention that it throws all the horror out of the window once it puts a gun in your hand and becomes a shooter.

This game has been installed, deleted, and re-installed on my computer at least half a dozen times, because its oppressive mood and Lovecraft-flavored story demands forgiveness. Then there is, of course, the famous "chase" sequence in which the player escapes a murderous mob of demented villagers in what could be the most thrilling, intense, terrifying event a videogame has ever thrown at somebody. Still, the bugs, rubbish stealth sections, and overall garbage gameplay manages to wear out Call of Cthulhu's welcome in the end. It could have been fantastic, but it was not.

Rise of the Robots

Wait, what? Yes, it sounds mad, but go with it for a second. Despite how atrocious we all know Rise of the Robots to be, it was still a pretty badass idea. A fighting game featuring giant (and very cool looking) robots that smash the shit out of each other! That's surely a fantastic concept by anybody's standards.

Unfortunately, the game itself was total drek. Despite trying to cash in on the fighting game craze of the mid ‘90s, Rise of the Robots' frustrating controls and bizarre playable character options (one player always had to be ECO35-2 while the other controlled a completely imbalanced enemy droid) led to it being torn apart by critics. The ludicrous controls and dull movesets did little to help its cause.


  • MyStupidUserNameWontWork - November 13, 2011 7:21 a.m.

    Can I just give a shoutout to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men it is one of the most non-stop games that ever played every level is a full pelt run to the next level... I'm actually going to liken it to one of those old side scrollers like metal slug. but the story elements do exsactly what they need to, the give you an interesting story that includes a character driven storyline though Kane (one of the coolest guys in gaming)while never intruding on gameplay. So unlike FF series which relyed on hours of cutscenes, the diologue for this game takes place in that normally empty period between when the shooting stops and the next door to get to the next level. One of the most important thinks for me was the feel, the entire game is shot over the shoulder in a gritty blair which/Cloverfield style low-fi hand held camera an effect that dosen't interfere in gameplay at all (suprisingly). Oh and if you played the first K+L dont be obligated to finish that piece of crap, that game did suck all of the way though and it bears no relation to the story in number two so no need to play it. Most improtantly K+L a flop game that most of you can find in you local Game traders bargin bin for the better side of $20 so you have no excuse not to go out and give this game a try.
  • yonderTheGreat - February 14, 2011 10:23 a.m.

    "insipid minigames, dodgy combat that lacks essentials like a targeting system, and a whole host of inexcusably lazy backtracking, fetchquests and repetition that permeates the experience" In other words, it's a Squeenix game.
  • Smeggs - December 20, 2010 10:58 p.m.

    Infalible Scribblenauts Strategy: 1. Summon Cthulhu. 2. Drag and drop him on the other side of the map until all enemies are dead. 3. Summon Wings/Pegasus or a submarine or w/e you need to summon to reach the other side of the map. 4. Drag Cthulhu to tash can. 5. Grab Starite. It's kinda ironic how Call of Cthulhu comes right after Scribblenauts. Also even if Nier is supposedly that bad I still have to rent it to see for myself. If it's Square Enix then it can't be complete garbage. even the worst Final Fantasy games had their shining moments.
  • doczoidberg - September 13, 2010 8:40 p.m.

    You are so right about Fragile Dreams.... I just finished it, and it's a darn shame that the gameplay was so clunky. Fragile Dreams was almost brilliant.
  • CH3BURASHKA - September 13, 2010 8:33 a.m.

    I think that good story is worth trudging through bad gameplay for. All you gots to do is put on some music during the grind, and turn it down for the story. I'll be going back to play Fragile Dreams and Nier based on this.
  • sethcruz - September 12, 2010 3:46 p.m.

    Tom Clancy Endwar was a intresting idea, too bad its full of so many glitches and bugs that it falls through the crack of the floor.
  • FauxFurry - September 12, 2010 3:09 p.m.

    @GermanMafia94-The game you're looking for to compare Area 51 to is FarCry,a game which begins with a normal man surrounded by highly trained mercenaries on an isolated tropical island but ends with him as a genetically altered super soldiers tearing them apart with the greatest of ease with his claws and shrugging off machine gun rounds with his heightened endurance and accelerated cellular regeneration. @gamingfreak-Nier was more of a game that caused more of a split between critics than anything,not some universally loathed title. Take this game critcs review,for example. Can't get more positive than that! Still,this list could use more JRPG,a sub-genre that is chock full of games with great stories or concepts but fall down on their big eyed,pointy nosed faces trying to run with those concepts while hefting about great big pointy objects. reCAPTC: storede Review I'm going to have to use that new randomly generated adjective in a sentence ASAP! That was a storede article,Sterling! I mean it!
  • philipshaw - September 12, 2010 12:32 p.m.

    Great article,I would have to add Dark Void which is such a average game but the idea of vertical combat and switching between flight and on the ground combat should have been so much better
  • AuthorityFigure - September 12, 2010 1:56 a.m.

    Anyone with any mid-term memory would never have expected Scribblenaughts to be all that great - it is just too ambitious for a single studio to make. It needs a community.
  • farsided - September 11, 2010 10:13 p.m.

    yeah...APB should have been listed as the number one "awesome concept, terrible game". It had everything needed to be great, amazing customization, freedom of design, and strategic, yet frantic pvp. Everyone I told about it was immediately fascinated the second they heard "cops and robbers mmo by one of the founders of GTA". Yet when the beta hit, EVERYONE wised up fast. I went back to all the people who I'd hyped the game to, and told them to ignore it. And what happened? The game tanked so bad RTW almost shut down. If that doesn't define great concept, bad game, I don't know what does.
  • lovinmyps3 - September 11, 2010 9:55 p.m.

    I enjoyed Kane & Lynch despite it's flaws. I didn't hold on to it, but I didn't think it was absolutely awful. And I remember enjoying Area 51, but that's about it. It was a good rental.
  • Helios - September 11, 2010 5:38 p.m.

    I have Area 51 for PC, and it isn't that bad. It's actually pretty fun. However, I was kind of hoping Iron Storm would be on this list, and Too Human.
  • vigilant - September 11, 2010 5:20 p.m.

    Very Disapointed in the fact you didn't add Naughty Bear on here. I'd have rather bought ET the game, because at least that had collectors value. Naughty Bear was an absoloute disgrace.
  • NearNRiver - September 11, 2010 4:50 p.m.

    I think Mirror's Edge could have been on this list, even though the game din't Suck, it defiantly wasn't half what it could have, and should have, been.
  • jollyroger50 - September 11, 2010 10:38 a.m.

    area 51 was nowhere near as bad as area 51:blacksite
  • 2cute2Bcruel - September 11, 2010 6:14 a.m.

    Oh, boy. I have to agree about Scribblenauts. On top of its frustrating puzzles, I think that I may have bought it under false pretenses. I heard "Scribblenauts" and my brain interpreted "Sketchnauts".
  • jmcgrotty - September 11, 2010 6:12 a.m.

    You forgot FPS'es, as a group.
  • quincytheodore - September 11, 2010 5:03 a.m.

    I can't agree with you more on Nier. The game that could have been. It's like the story writer and OST composer tried so hard to make the game work, but gameplay and graph department were sabotaging them. Poor shame.
  • elpurplemonkey - September 11, 2010 4:38 a.m.

    I actually played Area 51. It was extremely ok, just ok- nothing more, nothing less. Very interesting article, I checked out the chase scene in Call of Cthulhu, it makes it look like the game was very, very good.
  • garnsr - September 11, 2010 4:35 a.m.

    These are the games that we hear about so much in previews, praised for months, then they come out and get a 6 or 7. It's not hard to understand why, with all the people and technology and everything that goes into a modern game, but it's disappointing when something you've been really into for a while just fizzles out.

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