Top-10 games I want to like but can’t

MarioisMissingTaste is subjective and whatever anyone likes gaming wise (or anything else for that matter) is no-one else’s business. Still, there are titles out there which are universally recognised as “the best” and anyone can make arguments for or against. The term “over-rated” gives me the heeby-jebies and even though my lists often tend to fly in the face of public opinion, I didn’t wanna do a list that was geometrically opposed to it just for the sake of it.

Instead, I thought it would be interesting to point out games, which I actually want to like, but simply can’t because of some crippling weakness or stupid design choices that kill the enjoyment for me very quickly. For this list I’m picking games both which are crippled by dumb choices and games that are “good” from a strictly objective point of view but which I can’t really enjoy.

If there is such a thing as an honourable mention for this kind of a list it probably goes to Mario is Missing, the “edutainment” title from Software Workshops. I really wanted to like this game since it was the first major title to star Luigi as the lead. Unfortunately, the game’s entertainment factor is seriously hampered by the childish lack of challenge and the education module which is shoe-horned into the game. However, Mario is Missing is a moot point of a title to bring up since if you want a game starring Luigi you can now go for Luigi’s Mansion or New Super Luigi U.

But anyway, let’s get on with the list.

BanjoTooie10. Banjo-Tooie

To be fair, Banjo-Kazooie is a smidge over-rated as a 3D platformer. I think the early levels are a lot of fun (especially to the intense nostalgia-factor involved) but what kills the game eventually for me is the ridiculous Jiggy collecting and as a result I’ve never been able to complete the game (despite making it about 95% of the way through). Regardless and for the parts of it that I genuinely enjoy, I can at least say I like the game without twitching too badly (but I’ll still pick Donkey Kong 64 over it any day of the week).

Banjo-Tooie was the game that was supposed to be bigger and better. Well, it was certainly bigger. Way bigger. So big in fact that the levels come pre-installed with teleportation pads to help you skip to the parts you wanted to get to. However, the levels were just too generic and similar to the first game, there was just a lot added elements to the controls which started to make playing the game feel over-whelming. The new characters, barring Humba Wumba, weren’t very interesting. Plus, the levels were huge, confusing and the game still had way too much collecting which just started to become frustrating.

So no, no matter how many times I come back to this game, I just can’t enjoy it because of all the unnecessary bullshit in it. But I sort of want to like it, because I like Banjo-Kazooie and I even have a lot of appreciation for Donkey Kong 64 – two games which are very similar. Yet, when you consider my favourite Rare game for the N64 is Conker’s Bad Fur Day, a game which dispensed with the collect-a-thon element and focused on comedy and screwy story-telling, it’s not too surprising why the innocuous antics of this dumb-titled platformer fail to impress me.

9. Fallout + Fallout 2

Fallout1and2bYou recall from my Top-10 Xbox 360 games list that I really loved Fallout 3 and it was a game that I played a lot when I first got the system. However, I was on the fence about whether or not I was going to enjoy it because of my prior experiences with the post-apocalyptic RPG series. Fallout was a series I got into from researching it and I really liked the idea of the post-apocalyptic adventure with a retro-esque feel (a nuclear wasteland which is the product of a nuclear war fought in the 50’s). That and the dark story-line with twisted characters (such as The Master) really made me intrigued.

Fallout’s problem though is two-fold and this is something that people who actually like the game will also warn you about. The gameplay is really ungainly with an over-abundance of controls. There’s a real lack of clear direction and assistance and it’s really easy to get yourself killed off by accident by taking a wrong turn in the wasteland or by miss-clicking. Plus, you have a time-limit to contend with and without a lot of trial and error, you stand no chance of actually clearing the game. The second game does a better job of explaining your goals, but its problem is that it resembles the first game just a smidge too much which made it feel like more of the same.

It’s a real shame because there’s a great ambiance, some interesting characters and features, not to mention an epic opening narration by Ron Perlman – because playing the game just isn’t a lot of fun. By comparison, Fallout 3 stream-lined the gameplay and also handled the presentation well. With these two elements combined, it’s no surprise why I like that game so much by comparison. I can respect these games as stand-out titles in the RPG genre, I just can’t personally get into them.

teenage mutant ninja turtles NES8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

No surprises here, I was a TMNT fan growing up and although I never actually played Konami’s first Turtles-title on the NES (although I vaguely remember a friend playing the Amiga-port), it’s understandable that I would want the NES iteration to be good. It’s a shame therefore that the first TMNT title is widely considered one of the worst NES games out there.

TMNT’s problems are multi-fold as you should probably already know. Terrible stage-design, confusing enemies and, at times, brutal difficulty. Yet you can clearly tell that Konami was super ambitious. They tried to include a feeling of an epic adventure with the map-view, you do get to go head-to-head with classic TMNT characters and I can definitely appreciate all the different styles of gameplay they tried to include. The graphics and music aren’t even that bad for a fairly early NES title.

Unfortunately, another running trend with Konami games on the NES in the late ’80s was that the company’s high-flung concepts simply didn’t pan out. TMNT is no exception and its various elements simply didn’t gel well enough into a solid gaming experience. What makes it all the more unfortunate is my favourite feature of the game which was the ability to switch between the Turtles on the fly. Sure, TMNT4: Turtles in Time more than makes up for this game’s failings, but for all the promise this game had, it’s a shame how it failed to deliver.

KingofFighters947. King of Fighters -94

SNK and Capcom used to go head-to-head in the fighting game market in the mid ’90s. To their credit, SNK and their Neo-Geo arcade and console platform had some solid titles to their name. King of Fighters was the original cross-over fighter title, combining all of SNK’s popular fighting game series like Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting as well as some other SNK originals.

The idea behind it would seem solid enough, this game had graphics and audio ahead of its time and I have to admit, a pretty memorable roster. Plus, it’s a game which includes a novel idea of having three characters you get to use one after the other in a team-battle against your opponents. There’s also an element of strategy where you get to pick which of the characters goes first.

All in all, sounds awesome? What’s the deal then, you may ask. Two words: SNK Syndrome. SNK’s titles were notorious for their “token taker” quality which was intentional since the games came out in arcades and on the Neo-Geo consoles at the same time. The game’s arcade mode is ruthlessly difficult and you only have a limited about of credits with no possibility of gaining more. Plus, the roster is anything but balanced with a few characters being almost unplayable.

There’s a lot of small design flaws that just make me dislike the game. It’s a great game, but I just can’t get into it.

Zelda2AdventureofLink6. Zelda 2: Adventure of Link

As a huge Zelda-fan, I lament that I have a bit of a hard time to get into the pre-Ocarina of Time instalments of the series (I did play A Link to the Past before OoT, I still prefer Ocarina). As far as the original Zelda and A Link to the Past are concerned, I have no real hatred of either game and I really think those games are awesome in their own right. However, when I played Zelda 2 for the first time on an emulator in the early 2000s (I never played either of the NES Zeldas on the actual console) I fell in love and had my heart crushed by this game.

Zelda 2 attempted to branch out from the straight-lined action-adventure formula of the first game by becoming a full-fledged RPG with an over-world filled with NPCs and by turning the action-sequences, such as the dungeons, into a side-view more common with NES games. This was something I really loved because it was something I was more familiar with and to be fair, the side-view gameplay was very energetic and well-done.

But you can probably already guess what my problem with the game is. Quite simple, it commits several cardinal sins of the RPG genre. Most notorious of all being the level-grinding which is frustrating and even more annoying than in most other RPGs because of the wonky way in which the save game works (the game doesn’t save all your stats unless they’re all on the same level). Add to this the first Zelda’s cryptic nature and you can see why I ended up losing heart with this game. It’s a shame considering the game has such awesome music, locations and gameplay. And to be fair, not everything introduced in this instalment was abandoned by the sequels, it’s just one of those games I can’t say I whole-heartedly love even though it has so much greatness in it.

supermetroid5. Super Metroid

I have always had a fascination for the Metroid series, stemming largely from my past as a huge Captain N fan. In my emulation days, I tried to get acquainted with Metroid and Super Metroid but it really took me until the third game in the Prime-series to really appreciate the series. As stated before, the first and third Prime-games as well as Other M are my favourite instalments of the series, but clearly the sci-fi series had already a huge following before the 3D era, explaining Samus’ return after a near-total absence on the Nintendo 64.

Super Metroid has a lot of cool things in it. Probably one of the best soundtracks on the SNES, great atmosphere (just like all titles before and after) and unlike the NES Metroid, this one actually came with a map. It even had some light story-telling, although like all other Metroid games, it didn’t really hold a candle to Other M. But for its time it was easily the biggest and most expansive title of the series.

However, the scavenger hunt nature of the old school Metroids has always bugged me immensely. It’s even a huge problem with the first Prime-game which I actually enjoy quite a bit. Unlike Super Metroid though, Prime 1 has the advantage of being 3D which makes looking for the solution out of your situation much easier. With Super Metroid, you have to know exactly where to go and what to do or you’re doomed to getting stuck and that’s just frustrating. I’ve just never enjoyed the MetroidVania style of gameplay which is the reason I can’t really say I love Super Metroid.

TheLastNinja4. The Last Ninja

I’ve had more than a slightly uneven reaction to the games I’ve played for the Commodore-64. In fact, C-64 probably classifies as an entire gaming platform I would want to like but can’t. Part of the reason is that there are some titles for it which seem so awesome and unique, but when you actually play them they appear clunky, unrefined and sometimes just flat-out broken.

The Last Ninja is a particularly sad example of this. It has great music, pretty solid graphics for the Commodore-64 and a really nuanced gameplay you don’t see often. It’s an action-adventure game where you must traverse a large area, fighting other ninjas and looking for passage ways out of an area. It would seem like a fairly straight-forward concept for a system as primitive as the C-64, but sadly it too has a problem with its cryptic nature.

There’s a lot of groping around in the dark with Super Metroid and so too there is in The Last Ninja. The difference is, with the Last Ninja your biggest enemy are the clunky controls. You never move quite in the direction you would want to, parts of the game require annoying precision and it all turns this into a title which I would want to enjoy due to its admittedly succesful recreation of the Ninja aesthetic, but which I can’t because of its lacklustre execution. The only thing that does exactly what it needs to do is the seppuku-button.

Castlevania 2 Simon's Quest3. Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest

Another late ’80s Konami title with a lot of promise and a high-flung concept which was probably conceived the wrong way. This game shares a lot of elements with TMNT and Zelda 2 on this list in regards to it being a title I would really want to love. Not the least because the first Castlevania is one of my favourite NES games. With Simon’s Quest, Konami abandoned the straight-forward platforming gameplay to allow you to explore the whole of Transylvania, seeking Dracula’s body-parts to remove a curse placed upon Simon. It was a truly creative idea and a sequel that could have been awesome had it been done properly.

Unfortunately, your progress is hampered by half-assed gameplay and difficulty (like TMNT) and by the game’s cryptic nature (like Zelda 2). As a result, the game becomes an incoherent mess that doesn’t work quite the way you would hope. It’s truly a shame because you can tell Konami put a lot of effort into it. The enemy variety is much better than the first game, the locales are interesting as are the bosses, the concept would be perfect and the soundtrack is widely recognised as one of the best in the whole series. There’s even multiple endings depending on how fast you beat the game.

Were it not for all the crippling problems the game has it could actually be one of the stand-out titles of the NES. Now, it’s sadly considered one of the worst.

Crazy Taxi2. Crazy Taxi

Driving games generally aren’t my thing, but I really wanted to give Crazy Taxi a try when it was released for the XBLA a few years ago. I always enjoy zany and over-the-top games which involve driving (Mario Kart, F-Zero, GTA etc.) and so I thought that a game where you have to race across town to deliver passengers to their destination would be a pretty fun experience.

I wont say much about the graphics or gameplay, because the game is obviously a product of its day and generally I get really annoyed when people complain about the look of old games. Instead, what I will say is that Crazy Taxi does an exceptionally poor job of hiding its arcade origins as a game. Some games can’t really disguise it anyway (like fighting games) but what always frustrates me about Crazy Taxi is how I’m never able to play it for longer than 15 minutes. In the normal game-mode your play-time is related to how fast you get customers to their location but even in altered game-modes, you’ll spend, at most, 10 minutes behind the wheel.

I’ve never seen a more obvious way of shortening the gameplay time in order to suck coins from players and that’s what pisses me off about Crazy Taxi. There’s a lot of potential here and the game could offer so much more even for a zany driving game. I like the music, characters and general attitude, but the gameplay experience is sorely lacking.

800px-Mayhem_cover1. Mayhem in Monsterland

And finally we return to the Commodore-64. Mayhem in Monsterland was at one time one of the lowest rated games I reviewed and, make no mistake, it certainly deserved its poor rating. Mayhem is probably one of the single most infuriating platformers I’ve ever played and its annoyance is the product of a lot of things.

The gameplay is a bit jumpy, though one has to keep in mind that the C-64 only had a joystick with a single button. Enemy respawn rates are incredibly annoying. The colour-scheme ranges from depressing to seizure inducing, the soundtrack ranges from okay to ear-shattering. However, the gameplay is surprisingly nuanced, where you have to explore the level thoroughly before you can unlock the exit. Therefore there’s a level of effort in the design which honestly should make Mayhem a pretty decent title.

Plus, it’s a platformer – my favourite type of game. The fact that the character is a shameless rip-off of Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t even honestly bother me that much. I think Mayhem is adorable and I could have honestly played more Mayhem titles provided there were any. Sadly, this is it – one game and it’s one plagued by terrible design choices. Regrettably, because underneath there’s actually a pretty decent little platformer.