4. LEGO Star Wars
Why it should have sucked: Here, it’s not so much an example of “why it should have sucked” as it is “why would we ever think it would be good?” This was the first game in Traveler’s Tales LEGO series, and they were going after the holiest of holy nerd franchises: Star Wars. We really, really wanted to tell TT to get off our lawns, but we remained somewhat open, even if we couldn’t think of a single reason why the game would be anything less than an affront to all things geek. Oh, and it was based on Episodes 1-3. Yeck.
Why it didn’t: What fools we were! The developers knew exactly what they were doing here, making the gameplay simple enough to be enjoyed with those who don’t typically play games, but still fun and complex enough to appease the hardcore gamers that usually wouldn’t be interested in a “kid’s game.” Better yet, the muted cutscenes were downright hilarious, making the somewhat ludicrous events of Episodes 1-3 worth watching again. Not only was LEGO Star Wars a good game, but it worked as a proof-in-concept title that convinced us that every single game should be LEGO-ized, from Harry Potter to Batman.
3. Dark Void Zero
Why it should have sucked: The closer Dark Void came to release, the more obvious it was that the next-gen flight shooter wasn’t going to be as good as we had hoped. Because of this, we had very low expectations for Dark Void Zero, which seemed like a joke at the time. Capcom positioned it as a “lost NES game” and even got Late Show host Jimmy Fallon involved, trying to perpetuate this myth. Usually, when a developer needs to jump through hoops to promote their game, it doesn’t mean good things. Also, it was one of the earlier DSi releases, which automatically cast suspicion that it was Capcom trying to throw something on the unproven platform to take advantage of the lack of competition.
Why it didn’t: Dark Void Zero starts off by asking players to blow the dust off the NES cartridge, earning some meta points off the bat. Once the game started it was actually a surprisingly fun, nostalgic shooter. The developers nailed the nostalgia level, making it feel like an unreleased game from the 1980s. Not only did it end up being better than we expected—but it bested the “real” game, Dark Void, by most all reviewers. This might be one of the only times that a spin-off joke game ended up being more fun than the big-budget title, but we’re not complaining.
2. Just Cause 2
Why it should have sucked: Just Cause was a mess. It came out early in the Xbox 360’s life and tried its best to be a stunt-driven version of the Grand Theft Auto series. While it succeeded at having some cool stunts, the uninspired gameplay and lack of interesting combat completely crippled it. That’s why the sequel, Just Cause 2, felt completely without merit. The series had so few fans it felt like a sequel, no matter what it did, couldn’t even begin to win back those who had already turned their back on this mediocre franchise.
Why it didn’t: What a difference a few years can make. Just Cause 2 is absolutely colossal, dropping players into a massive island and giving them free reign to blow apart buildings and wreak havoc. Most of the fun comes with the game’s grappling hook, which is the Portal Gun of Just Cause 2. Rico can attach it to just about anything, and then attach the other end to something else. While riding on the top of a car speeding away at 120MPH we could shoot the car and then shoot the ground behind it, watching it flip through the air and smash into the ground. We could even shoot an enemy and attach him to a propane tank, sending him flying through the air with a well-placed bullet. It was a playground of destruction, filled with fun stuff to do and unlimited replayability.
1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Why it should have sucked: When it came out there were only a few good super hero games released—and none of them starred Batman. Playing as a dark, brooding protagonist without super powers, and without the ability to kill enemies, just doesn’t sound as fun as smashing apart buildings as The Hulk or swinging through a New York skyline as Spider-Man. It was hard to think of any reason that a game based entirely in a giant prison would be fun, especially considering the developer’s only other game was Urban Chaos: Riot Response, an unmemorable game that arrived to lukewarm reviews.
Why it didn’t: Arkham Asylum is the absolute definition of a pleasant surprise. Unrestrained by any movie to reference or pre-established story to follow, Arkham proved that the best way to approach a franchise is to let the protagonist do what the protagonist is best at. In Batman’s case, it means we explored the innards of Arkham Asylum as the world’s greatest detective, using his assortment of gadgets to take down rooms full of enemies without being seen. It has fantastic presentation (fueled by the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill), a stellar story, and some of the most satisfying gameplay around. Saying that Arkham exceeded our expectations is selling it short. Even in a year that included the released of Uncharted 2, Arkham Asylum still nabbed Games Radar’s Game of the Year Award, and it’s a decision we stand by completely.
Sep 5, 2011
The Top 7... Games that should have sucked [2007 Edition]
How could something so wrong go so right?
The Top 7... Games you either love or hate
If you’re in the middle, you’re in the crossfire
The Top 7... Worst games of 2011 (so far)
Early contenders for early bargain-bin retirement