Five highly-rated games that I couldn’t get into

I recently saw a video on TikTok of all places where a player was talking about their list of games that, for one reason or another, they had tried but didn’t like or couldn’t get the hang of. I’ve lost the video now and can’t find it to credit the person, unfortunately – so if you somehow see this please don’t think I’m stealing your idea! But I liked the concept, so today I wanted to talk for a few minutes about five highly-rated games that I just couldn’t get into.

A note before we start: these games are, according to most reviews, thoroughly enjoyable. The fact that I’m personally not interested in them, or couldn’t get to grips with them, is not meant as an attack. Chances are you’ll find some or all of these games to be great – and that’s okay! All of this is just the subjective opinion of one person. While I will try to explain what it was that put me off or what I didn’t like about each of these titles, I recognise that all of them are held in high regard. The fact that I didn’t enjoy them or couldn’t get stuck into them is a personal thing and nothing more!

It’s someone who isn’t enjoying a game!

The first games console I owned in the early 1990s was a Super Nintendo, and even back then I remember struggling with some particularly challenging titles. Gaming has not always been accessible to everyone – and I’m not the most skilled player in the world by any stretch. There were also games on the SNES that I tried out but didn’t like or wasn’t interested in, as there were on every subsequent console I owned, too! At least in those days it was easier to re-sell or trade in a game that I didn’t like!

As gaming has evolved, it’s become easier than ever to get started with playing games – and there are more titles more easily accessible on more platforms than ever before. But despite the ubiquity of gaming today, and the myriad titles in every imaginable genre, not every game is going to be right for every player!

So without further ado, let’s jump into my list.

Number 1:
Star Trek Online
2010

Promo art for Star Trek Online.

I’m a huge Star Trek fan and have been for more than thirty years. At a time when the Star Trek franchise had stepped out of its prime timeline to make the reboot film trilogy, Star Trek Online came along and promised to return to that setting and take a look at events after The Next Generation era, around the turn of the 25th Century.

This is exactly the time period that I was (and still am) most interested to see explored, so Star Trek Online should have been perfect for me! The game has also brought on board many Star Trek actors, both series regulars and guest-stars, to voice versions of their beloved characters. Storylines would take players to different eras of Star Trek’s history thanks to missions that travelled through time, and almost every Star Trek race was present – with several major factions being fully playable, too.

Several Star Trek Online characters.

I tried Star Trek Online shortly after it launched, and I even paid for some of its in-game currency and cosmetic items like uniforms. But despite sinking somewhere in the region of 35 hours into the game, I just couldn’t find a way to enjoy it, and I quickly felt that I was playing it more out of obligation and hope rather than for any real sense of fun.

I just can’t get on with online multiplayer games for the most part. In titles like Fall Guys I can have fun, and I’ve played some racing games online too, but in a game with a story where I want to get immersed in a fictional world and enjoy interacting with characters, seeing hundreds of other players cutting about just rips me right out of it. There can’t be 16,000 “one and only heroes” who are all the best hope for saving the galaxy… that just doesn’t make sense. So for me, Star Trek Online’s genuinely interesting stories and missions clashed in a fundamental, irreconcilable way with its gameplay.

Number 2:
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
2018

Box art for Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

I followed the development of Kingdom Come: Deliverance for a while, and in 2018 it was definitely one of the titles I was most interested to try out. I’m a history buff (it was the subject I read at university) and the idea of stepping into a realistic recreation of the high medieval period was genuinely exciting. Kingdom Come: Deliverance seemed to be offering a unique experience; an action/role-playing game but without the fantasy elements that are often present in the genre.

I like to think that I gave Kingdom Come: Deliverance a fair shake when I was able to eventually get the game for myself. But to my disappointment, I found it punishingly difficult to the point that it was basically unplayable. One day we’ll need to have a longer conversation about difficulty in games, because this is a big topic, but for now suffice to say that Kingdom Come: Deliverance didn’t respect me or my time.

A fistfight is part of why I called it quits…

By denying players the option to freely save their game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance forced me to replay long sections with no good reason. And with no way to turn down the difficulty, I found myself dying over and over even in what was supposed to be the introductory area. Combine those two things together and I was already having an incredibly frustrating time. I put Kingdom Come: Deliverance down and simply never went back to it.

Difficulty settings are accessibility features, opening up games to disabled players and players with different abilities. Moreover, they’re commonplace and not that hard to implement – there’s no technical reason why a modern game can’t offer a way to change the difficulty for players who want or need an easier experience. I don’t have the time or energy to spend hours and hours practising one aspect of one game, and I don’t really have the ability or skillset, either. Kingdom Come: Deliverance was basically denied to me as a result – and that’s unfortunate, because I genuinely wanted to play it.

Number 3:
Marvel’s Spider-Man
2018

Swinging through New York City!

Although I’m not the world’s biggest fan of comic books and their cinematic adaptations, Marvel has been unavoidable over the past few years. I wouldn’t have normally sought out a superhero title, but Spider-Man is widely considered a masterpiece; one of the best open-world adventures certainly of the last generation. So I thought I’d give it a shot.

Perhaps it’s because I have no real investment in the world of Marvel or its characters, but I found that I just couldn’t get into Spider-Man’s story. Several hours into my playthrough I’d done a handful of story missions and spent a bit of time enjoying the scenery – the game’s recreation of New York City really is a sight to see, and one of the most interesting and vertical cityscapes ever brought into the gaming realm. But despite a great setting, the game’s version of New York seemed to be filled with bog-standard open-world busywork and little else; most encounters consisted of beating up a handful of nondescript thugs and bad guys.

Promo screenshot of Marvel’s Spider-Man.

At first I thought I was going to have a hard time with the web-swinging mechanic that’s a big part of how Spider-Man traverses the open world, but after a little while – and more than a few false starts and mistakes – I think I more or less got the hang of it. Swinging is pretty forgiving, and at least in the denser parts of the city, there’s no shortage of things to grab hold of. It’s certainly an unusual way to navigate a game world!

The game’s story included a number of Marvel villains and characters whose names were familiar to me, but I feel that without that investment in either the films or comic books, I just wasn’t particularly interested to see where the story and its characters went. I didn’t actively choose to stop playing Spider-Man – the game is actually still installed on my PC at time of writing – but I put it down one day and just… didn’t pick it back up. I found other things to watch and play instead, and I feel no pressing need to return to Spider-Man and see its story continue.

Number 4:
Elden Ring
2022

Many publications picked Elden Ring as their game of the year, and it’s considered by a lot of folks to be one of the best open-world games and one of the best “Souls-like” games of all-time. But as I said above when discussing Kingdom Come: Deliverance, it’s that punishing difficulty that I found to be offputting.

FromSoftware – developers of both Elden Ring and the Dark Souls series – use this kind of excessive, punishing difficulty as a selling point in their games and have for years, but I’m not on board with it at all. Granted I’m not the world’s best gamer, and that’s probably part of it, but I also see this style of gameplay being used to cover up game mechanics and design elements that aren’t great, and especially to pad out the runtime of a game that would ordinarily be a lot shorter. Think about it: the combination of very difficult combat encounters and a checkpoint system that can mean having to replay entire chunks of the game over and over clearly adds to the runtime of titles like Elden Ring.

A familiar sight to anyone who’s played a “Souls-like” game!

This is much more of a subjective thing, but I felt that, despite having decent graphics, Elden Ring actually looked pretty bland. A colour palette that was swamped by brown, khaki, green, and grey tones just didn’t impress me, and the game had a pretty drab and even depressing look to it as a result. Maybe there was a reason for that, but it didn’t exactly leave a good impression.

At the end of the day, I’d have given Elden Ring a shot if the game offered difficulty and accessibility options. There’s absolutely no technical reason why every game in 2023 shouldn’t be able to do this – and while it’s a choice the developers made, and will presumably continue to make in future titles, it’s one that is intentionally cutting off millions of potential players. I knew from the second it was announced that Elden Ring wouldn’t be for me because I knew that the company developing it would ensure it would be a game I would find inaccessible. And that’s kind of sad, especially if it really is as good and as immersive as people have said.

Number 5:
Grand Theft Auto V (Online)
2013

Promo art for the game’s online mode.

I played through Grand Theft Auto V’s single-player campaign and I had a decent enough time with it. The open world is great – or at least it was by the standards of games a decade ago; it’s definitely showing its age by now! But the game’s online mode was, for the same kinds of reasons that we’ve already discussed, just something I couldn’t get into.

Grand Theft Auto V also feels remarkably pay-to-win for a game that costs money up-front, and probably deserves more blame than it gets for normalising in-game microtransactions and pay-to-win elements in online multiplayer games that we’ve seen explode in the decade since it was released. Other titles such as Fortnite and Overwatch definitely contributed to this as well, and the less said about the FIFA series or Battlefront II the better… but Grand Theft Auto V was doing the pay-to-win thing before any of them.

Racing is one of a number of activities players can partake in online.

By 2023 I had expected to see the Grand Theft Auto series move on, releasing a new game. And no, the awful “remaster” of the Grand Theft Auto III trilogy doesn’t count! Obviously this wasn’t an issue in 2013 or 2014, but as Grand Theft Auto V was ported to more and more platforms, including the latest generation of home consoles, there’s a growing sense that Rockstar is milking it dry, and is unwilling to let it go. Development time and resources than could – and I would argue should – have been allocated to the next game in the series have been taken up by creating new missions and microtransactions for Grand Theft Auto V. That’s great for folks who are still playing – but some of us are ready for a new game!

At the end of the day, when Grand Theft Auto V became the highest-grossing entertainment product of all-time, I guess it’s understandable that Rockstar would struggle to let it go. But on the other hand, with all the money it’s made them, there’s more than enough to spend on developing a new game! We know that Grand Theft Auto VI is being worked on, at least, but it’s taking an awfully long time.

So that’s it!

Did I just lose my “gamer” credentials?

Those are five highly-rated games that, for the reasons discussed above, I just couldn’t get into. If one or more of your favourites made the list, well… just keep in mind it’s only the opinion of one person! We’re all allowed our own preferences, and while I tried to explain what it was that made these titles unappealing or offputting to me, it’s all subjective. I recognise that these games are all bestsellers and held in high esteem by many players… they just weren’t right for me.

We’re lucky that gaming has grown to such a point where there are so many different choices available to players. These games aren’t my cup of tea… but there are many that I’ve enjoyed over the years – and many more coming up that I hope to enjoy in the months and years ahead! Whether you want to play a quiet, casual game for a spot of relaxation or punish yourself with an impossibly difficult title, there really is something for everyone. And I think that’s fantastic!

So I hope this was a bit of fun – and please try not to take it too seriously, especially if I made criticisms of one of your favourite titles!

All titles discussed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The worst things about modern video games

The first home console I owned – after saving up my hard-earned pocket money and pestering my parents for ages – was a Super Nintendo. Gaming has changed a lot since then, and while many of those changes have been fantastic and introduced us to new genres, not every change has been for the better! In this list I’m going to cover some of my biggest pet peeves with video games in 2021.

As always, this list is entirely subjective. If I criticise something you like, or exclude something you hate, just keep in mind that this is only one person’s opinion. Gaming is a huge hobby that includes many people with many different perspectives. If yours and mine don’t align, that’s okay!

Number 1: No difficulty options.

Some people play video games because they love the challenge of a punishingly-difficult title, and the reward of finally overcoming an impossible level after hours of perseverance. I am not one of those people! In most cases, I play video games for escapism and entertainment – I want to see a story unfold or just switch off from other aspects of my life for a while. Excessive difficulty is frustrating and offputting for me.

As someone with health issues, I would argue that difficulty settings are a form of accessibility. Some people don’t have the ability to hit keys or buttons in rapid succession, and in some titles the lack of a difficulty setting – particularly if the game is not well-balanced – can mean those games are unavailable to folks with disabilities.

While many games are too difficult, the reverse can also be true. Some titles are just too easy for some people – I’m almost never in that category, but still! Games that have no difficulty settings where the base game is incredibly easy can be unenjoyable for some folks, particularly if the challenge was what got them interested in the first place.

In 2021, most games have difficulty options as a standard feature. Difficulty settings have been part of games going back decades, and in my opinion there’s no technical reason why they shouldn’t be included. There’s also not really a “creative” reason, either. Some developers talk in grandiose terms about their “vision” for a title being the reason why they didn’t implement difficulty options, but as I’ve said before – the inclusion of an easier (or harder) mode does not impact the game at all. It only impacts those who choose to turn it on, and considering how easy it is to implement, I find it incredibly annoying when a game is deliberately shipped without any difficulty options.

Number 2: Excessive difficulty as a game’s only selling point.

While we’re on the subject of difficulty, another pet peeve of mine is games whose entire identity is based on their difficulty (or perceived difficulty). Think about this for a moment: would Dark Souls – an otherwise bland, uninspired hack-and-slash game – still be talked about ten years after its release were it not for its reputation as impossibly difficult? How many late 2000s or early ’10s hack-and-slash games have dropped out of the cultural conversation? The only thing keeping Dark Souls there is its difficulty.

A challenge is all well and good, and I don’t begrudge players who seek that out. But for me, a game has to offer something more than that. If there’s a story worth telling under the difficult gameplay I’m impressed. If the difficult, punishing gameplay is all there is, then that’s boring!

Difficulty can also be used by developers as cover for a short or uninteresting game. Forcing players to replay long sections over and over and over can massively pad out a game’s runtime, and if that’s a concern then cranking the difficulty to ridiculous levels – and offering no way to turn it down – can turn a short game into a long one artificially.

I’m all for games that offer replay value, but being forced to replay the same level or checkpoint – or battle the same boss over and over – purely because of how frustratingly hard the developers chose to make things simply isn’t fun for me.

Number 3: Ridiculous file sizes.

Hey Call of Duty? Your crappy multiplayer mode does not need to be 200 gigabytes. Nor does any game, for that matter. It’s great that modern technology allows developers to create realistic-looking worlds, but some studios are far better than others when it comes to making the best use of space! Some modern games do need to be large to incorporate everything, but even so there’s “large” and then there’s “too large.”

For a lot of folks this is an issue for two main reasons: data caps and download speeds. On my current connection I’m lucky to get a download speed of 7 Mbps, and downloading huge game files can quite literally take several days – days in which doing anything else online would be impossibly slow! But I’m fortunate compared to some people, because I’m not limited in the amount of data I can download by my ISP.

In many parts of the world, and on cheaper broadband connections, data caps are very much still a thing. Large game files can take up an entire months’ worth of data – or even more in some cases – making games with huge files totally inaccessible to a large number of people.

This one doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon, though. In fact, we’re likely to see file sizes continue to get larger as games push for higher resolutions, larger environments, and more detail.

Number 4: Empty open worlds.

Let’s call this one “the Fallout 76 problem.” Open worlds became a trend in gaming at some point in the last decade, such that many franchises pursued this style even when it didn’t suit their gameplay. Read the marketing material of many modern titles and you’ll see bragging about the size of the game world: 50km2, 100km2, 1,000km2, and so on. But many of these open worlds are just empty and boring, with much of the map taken up with vast expanses of nothing.

It is simply not much fun to have to travel across a boring environment – or even a decently pretty one – for ages just to get to the next mission or part of the story. Level design used to be concise and clever; modern open worlds, especially those which brag about their size, tend to be too large, with too little going on.

The reason why Fallout 76 just encapsulates this for me is twofold. Firstly, Bethesda droned on and on in the weeks before the game’s release that the world they’d created was the “biggest ever!” And secondly, the game had literally zero non-player characters. That huge open world was populated by a handful of other players, non-sentient monsters, and nothing else. It was one of the worst games of the last few years as a result.

Open worlds can work well in games that are suited for that style of gameplay. But too many studios have been pushed into creating an open world simply to fit in with a current trend, and those open worlds tend to just flat-out suck because of it. Even when developers have tried to throw players a bone by adding in collect-a-thons, those get boring fast.

Number 5: Pixel graphics as a selling point.

There are some great modern games that use a deliberately 8-bit look. But for every modern classic there are fifty shades of shit; games that think pixel graphics and the word “retro” are cover for creating a mediocre or just plain bad title.

It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when the idea of using a deliberately “old-school” aesthetic would have been laughed at. The first few console generations were all about improvements, and I’m old enough to remember when 3D was a huge deal. It seemed like nobody would ever want to go back to playing a SNES game after trying the Nintendo 64, and while there are still plenty of gamers who love the retro feel, I’m generally not one of them.

That isn’t to say that realistic graphics should be the only thing a game strives for. And this point works for modern graphics or visual styles in general – bragging about how detailed the graphics are, or how unique a title’s art style is, means nothing if the game itself is shit. But it likewise works for pixel-graphics games – an outdated art style does not compensate for or cover up a fundamentally flawed, unenjoyable experience.

Games with pixel graphics can be good, and many titles have surprised me by how good they are. I’ve written before about how Minecraft surprised me by being so much more than I expected, and that’s one example. But I guess what I’d say is this: if your game looks like it should have been released in 1991, you’ve got more of an uphill battle to win me over – or even convince me to try it in the first place – than you would if your game looked new.

Number 6: Unnecessary remakes.

We called one of the entries above “the Fallout 76 problem,” so let’s call this one “the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition problem.” In short, games from even ten or fifteen years ago still look pretty good and play well. There’s far less of a difference between games from 2011 and 2021 than there was between games from 1991 and 2001 – the pace of technological change, at least in gaming, has slowed.

“Updating” or “remaking” a game from ten years ago serves no real purpose, and in the case of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition I’ve struggled at times to tell which version of the game is the new one when looking at pre-release marketing material. There’s no compelling reason to remake games that aren’t very old. Re-release them or give them a renewed marketing push if you want to drum up sales or draw attention to a series, but don’t bill your minor upgrade as a “remake.”

There are some games that have benefitted hugely from being remade. I’d point to Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil 2 as two great examples. But those games were both over twenty years old at the time they were remade, and having been released in the PlayStation 1 era, both saw massive upgrades such that they were truly worthy of the “remake” label.

I’ve put together two lists of games that I’d love to see remade, but when I did so I deliberately excluded titles from the last two console generations. Those games, as I said at the time, are too recent to see any substantial benefits from a remake. In another decade or so, assuming sufficient technological progress has been made, we can talk about remaking PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 games – but not now!

Number 7: Fake “remakes.”

On a related note to the point above, if a title is billed as a “remake,” I expect to see substantial changes and improvements. If all that’s happened is a developer has run an old title through an upscaler and added widescreen support, that’s not a remake!

A lot of titles that acquire the “HD” suffix seem to suffer from this problem. Shenmue I & II on PC contained a number of bugs and glitches – some of which existed in the Dreamcast version! When Sega decided to “remake” these two amazing games, they couldn’t even be bothered to patch out bugs that were over fifteen years old. That has to be some of the sloppiest, laziest work I’ve ever seen.

There are other examples of this, where a project may have started out with good intentions but was scaled back and scaled back some more to the point that it ended up being little more than an upscaled re-release. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning springs to mind as an example from just last year.

Remakes are an opportunity to go back to the drawing board, fix issues, update a title, and bring it into the modern world. Too many “remakes” fail to address issues with the original version of the game. We could even point to Mass Effect: Legendary Edition’s refusal to address criticism of the ending of Mass Effect 3 as yet another example of a missed opportunity.

Number 8: The “release now, fix later” business model.

This isn’t the first time I’ve criticised the “release now, fix later” approach taken by too many modern games – and it likely won’t be the last! Also known as “live services,” games that go down this route almost always underperform and draw criticism, and they absolutely deserve it. The addition of internet connectivity to home consoles has meant that games companies have taken a “good enough” approach to games, releasing them before they’re ready with the intention to patch out bugs, add more content, and so on at a later time.

Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most recent and most egregious examples of this phenomenon, being released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in a state so appallingly bad that many considered it “unplayable.” But there are hundreds of other examples going back to the early part of the last decade. Fortunately, out of all the entries on this list, this is the one that shows at least some signs of going away!

The fundamental flaw in this approach, of course, is that games with potential end up having launches that are mediocre at best, and when they naturally underperform due to bad reviews and word-of-mouth, companies panic! Planned updates are scrapped to avoid pumping more money into a failed product, and a game that could have been decent ends up being forgotten.

For every No Man’s Sky that manages to claw its way to success, there are a dozen Anthems or Mass Effect: Andromedas which fail. Time will tell if Cyberpunk 2077 can rebuild itself and its reputation, but its an uphill struggle – and a totally unnecessary one; a self-inflicted wound. If publishers would just wait and delay clearly-unfinished games instead of forcing them to meet arbitrary deadlines, gaming would be a much more enjoyable hobby. Remember, everyone: NO PRE-ORDERS!

Number 9: Forcing games to be multiplayer and/or scrapping single-player modes.

Some games are built from the ground up with multiplayer in mind – but many others are not, and have multiplayer modes tacked on for no reason. The Last Of Us had an unnecessary multiplayer mode, as did Mass Effect 3. Did you even know that, or notice those modes when you booted up those story-focused games?

Some games and even whole genres are just not well-suited to multiplayer. And others that are still have the potential to see single-player stories too. Many gamers associate the first-person shooter genre with multiplayer, and it’s true that multiplayer games work well in the first-person shooter space. But so do single-player titles, and aside from 2016’s Doom and the newer Wolfenstein titles, I can’t think of many new single-player first-person shooters, or even shooters with single-player modes that felt anything other than tacked-on.

Anthem is one of the biggest failures of the last few years, despite BioWare wanting it to be the video game equivalent of Bob Dylan. But if Anthem hadn’t been multiplayer and had instead maintained BioWare’s usual single-player focus, who knows what it could have been. There was potential in its Iron Man-esque flying suits, but that potential was wasted on a mediocre-at-best multiplayer shooter.

I started playing games before the internet, when “multiplayer” meant buying a second controller and plugging it into the console’s only other available port! So I know I’m biased because of that. But just a few short years ago it felt as though there were many more single-player titles, and fewer games that felt as though multiplayer modes had been artificially forced in. In the wake of huge financial successes such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fortnite, and the like, publishers see multiplayer as a cash cow – but I wish they didn’t!

Number 10: Early access.

How many times have you been excited to see that a game you’ve been waiting for is finally available to buy… only to see the two most awful words in the entire gaming lexicon: “Early Access?” Early access billed itself as a way for indie developers to get feedback on their games before going ahead with a full release, and I want to be clear on this point: I don’t begrudge indie games using it for that purpose. Indies get a pass!

But recently there’s been a trend for huge game studios to use early access as free labour; a cheap replacement for paying the wages of a quality assurance department. When I worked for a large games company in the past, I knew a number of QA testers, and the job is not an easy one. It certainly isn’t one that studios should be pushing off onto players, yet that’s exactly what a number of them have been doing. Early access, if it exists at all, should be a way for small studios to hone and polish their game, and maybe add fan-requested extras, not for big companies to save money on testers.

Then there are the perpetual early access games. You know the ones: they entered early access in 2015 and are still there today. Platforms like Steam which offer early access need to set time limits, because unfortunately some games are just taking the piss. If your game has been out since 2015, then it’s out. It’s not in early access, you’ve released it.

Unlike most of the entries on this list, early access started out with genuinely good intentions. When used appropriately by indie developers, it’s fine and I don’t have any issue with it. But big companies should know better, and games that enter early access and never leave should be booted out!

Bonus: Online harassment.

Though this problem afflicts the entire internet regardless of where you go, it’s significant in the gaming realm. Developers, publishers, even individual employees of games studios can find themselves subjected to campaigns of online harassment by so-called “fans” who’ve decided to take issue with something in a recent title.

Let’s be clear: there is never any excuse for this. No game, no matter how bad it is, is worth harassing someone over. It’s possible to criticise games and their companies in a constructive way, or at least in a way that doesn’t get personal. There’s never any need to go after a developer personally, and especially not to send someone death threats.

We’ve seen this happen when games are delayed. We’ve seen it happen when games release too early in a broken state. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, we’ve seen both. Toxic people will always find a reason to be toxic, unfortunately, and in many ways the anonymity of the internet has brought out the worst in human nature.

No developer or anyone who works in the games industry deserves to be threatened or harassed. It’s awful, it needs to stop, and the petty, toxic people who engage in this scummy activity do not deserve to be called “fans.”

So that’s it. Ten of my pet peeves with modern gaming.

This was a rant, but it was just for fun so I hope you don’t mind! There are some truly annoying things – and some truly annoying people – involved in gaming in 2021, and as much fun as playing games can be, it can be a frustrating experience as well. Some of these things are fads – short-term trends that will evaporate as the industry moves on. But others, like the move away from single-player games toward ongoing multiplayer experiences, seem like they’re here to stay.

Gaming has changed an awful lot since I first picked up a control pad. And it will continue to evolve and adapt – the games industry may be unrecognisable in fifteen or twenty years’ time! We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for positive changes to come.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. Some stock images courtesy of pixabay. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten of the best games… that I’ve never played!

After Star Trek, gaming and the games industry is probably the subject I write about most here on the website. I used to work in the games industry as regular readers will recall, and I’ve enjoyed the hobby for decades – though I spend less time playing these days for a number of reasons. However, with decades of gaming under my belt, and time spent on the inside, I like to think I can write about the subject from a unique perspective and perhaps even with some degree of authority. So let’s completely ruin that by looking at some of the biggest games and game franchises that I’ve never even played!

The entries on this list are games (and franchises) that I’ve heard almost universal praise for; these titles are undeniably good. However, for a variety of reasons I simply haven’t got around to playing them, or they seemed like “not my thing” so I never gave them a try. I’ll make an attempt to justify myself… but I’m sure you’ll agree that this seriously harms my “gamer” pedigree! There shouldn’t be any major spoilers because these are games I haven’t played, but we will be discussing some details. If there’s a title you want to avoid even the slightest chance of spoilers for, it may be safer to skip that entry and move on to the next.

Here comes the disclaimer: just because I’m not interested in these titles or haven’t played them doesn’t mean I’m saying that they’re bad. Look at the title of this list! These games are generally held in very high regard, so if one of your favourites is here and I’m being negative about it, please try not to take it personally. Our experiences are all subjective; we all enjoy different things. And that’s great!

So without further ado, let’s look at the list!

Number 1: The Pokémon series (1996-present)

When I was still at school in the late ’90s, Pokémon cards became a short-lived craze among some of the younger kids. I considered myself “too grown-up” for a silly card game like that, which was a pretty typical attitude among my teenage friends at the time! I did, however, receive a pack of the cards as a gift at one point – and promptly gave them away to someone I knew who was collecting them.

I also didn’t own a Game Boy at the time – though in those days they were available to rent! Do you remember going to a rental shop and literally checking out a whole console? But because I didn’t own a Game Boy – and could afford to rent one so infrequently – I never got around to trying out the first entry in the series. Since then, there have been eighteen mainline Pokémon games across eight “generations” that have come out on six systems, and a number of spin-off titles too, including Pokémon Go, which seemed to take the world by storm in 2016.

And I’ve managed to avoid playing any of them! Japanese-style RPGs aren’t my favourite kind of games usually – particularly due to their style of combat – and combined with Pokémon’s youthful style and seemingly ever-growing list of critters, it’s something that’s never seemed like “my thing”. The increasing number of creatures in particular feels a little daunting at this point, and the series has developed a lore over the course of almost a quarter of a century that spans not only the games but a long-running animated series as well. At this point, even if I were interested in the series, I wouldn’t know where to start!

Number 2: Practically every arcade game!

I grew up in a rural community, and none of the small towns in this part of the world had arcades, not even during the height of their popularity in the ’80s. The closest I got was a small “penny arcade” in a seaside town which had a couple of video games alongside claw machines, slot machines, and pool tables. On the odd occasion that I’d get to go to bigger cities in my youth, visiting a video arcade was never a high priority.

As such, I’ve only ever played a handful of arcade games, and even then not many times and not for very long. The one I can remember playing most is 1994’s Sega Rally Championship, which I was fortunate enough to play a few times when I lived overseas. But I missed out on the arcade experience that many gamers of my generation had, and I’ve never played the arcade version of titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Out Run, the Star Wars arcade titles, or Space Harrier. The closest I got to playing Space Harrier in an arcade was in Shenmue on the Dreamcast! Though this entry might seem like kind of a cheat for this list since I have technically played many of these games when they were ported to consoles or via emulators, the experience isn’t the same.

Because of my health, I’m no longer in a position where I can travel very far, nor would I be able to really use an arcade machine for any length of time (unless I could do so from a seated position). So unfortunately it looks like I’ll never really be able to have that arcade experience.

Number 3: Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)

So far we’ve looked at games I wasn’t interested in and games that were generally unavailable to me. Red Dead Redemption 2 is in neither of these categories. I could have played it upon its 2018 release on PlayStation 4, or after its 2019 PC release on my computer, yet despite being interested in its historical setting, I simply haven’t got around to doing so – at least, not yet.

As a history buff, a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 should be exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. It ticks almost all of the boxes for things I’d enjoy – a single-player game with a detailed story, an open world with lots to do, and a fun historical setting. American history is one of my favourite fields of study (despite not being American), so there’s really no excuse for not playing this game, right? The only real drawback is that it’s a sequel (technically a prequel, despite the somewhat confusing numbering) and I’m not usually someone who likes to jump into a series that’s already in progress.

I’ve been interested in Red Dead Redemption 2 since it was released, for all of the reasons listed above, yet I just haven’t got around to picking up a copy yet. I think if I’d seen it discounted I might’ve, but on Steam during the recent summer sale event it was only 20% off, which still left it priced at over £40. I don’t have a huge budget for games, so that’s definitely one reason why I haven’t picked it up yet. Unlike some of the other entries on this list, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game I absolutely plan to get around to playing… one of these days!

Number 4: The Dark Souls series (2011-2016)

This entry could really be expanded to encompass a number of other titles besides the three main Dark Souls games which fall into that new pseudo-genre inspired by the series. “Souls-like” games are notorious for their high difficulty, and the three Dark Souls games pioneered and epitomise that. I respect people who play games for the challenge, and I’m sure it must be very rewarding to finally overcome a difficult level or boss after numerous attempts. However, I’m not that kind of gamer!

If you read my playthrough of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you’ll recall I played on the easiest difficulty setting. I usually do this where possible, because in single-player titles I’m more interested in an engaging story than a challenge. The Dark Souls series deliberately doesn’t offer lower difficulty options, which is an artistic decision that I respect; I’m not going to argue that the game should go out of its way to accommodate players like myself. However, it means that it’s a series I have no interest in playing.

I’m not the world’s best gamer. Completing Jedi: Fallen Order and The Last of Us Part II on their lowest difficulty settings have been two of my big gaming accomplishments of 2020, and perhaps the most challenging games I’ve played have been rounds of Fall Guys! But I’m not really someone who seeks out a challenge. I don’t have the skill to be a top-tier gamer, nor the patience to play one game over and over and over again to “git gud”. If Dark Souls seemed like it had a genuinely interesting story underneath the difficulty, perhaps I’d be willing to try. But everything I’ve seen from the series looks like an incredibly generic fantasy world with hack-and-slash gameplay, so I don’t think I’ll be convinced to give it a try any time soon.

Number 5: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (2016) and Fortnite Battle Royale (2017)

I’m not really into competitive online gaming, at least not unless a title offers something genuinely different. Fall Guys, which I mentioned above, does fall into that category, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite really don’t. Both titles are in the action/shooter genre, and if I wanted to play a game like that I could choose from myriad single-player offline titles.

However, in both cases I have a great respect for what the games bring to the table. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds didn’t exactly create the battle royale genre, but it certainly elevated and refined it, and Fortnite is a phenomenon that the gaming world hadn’t seen since Minecraft. Both titles brought millions of new people into gaming as a hobby and helped the medium grow to the point where it’s wholly mainstream. I’ve touched on this topic before, but when I was younger, gaming wasn’t exactly a niche but it was certainly a nerdy, geeky hobby to be associated with, shunned by adults and self-proclaimed cool kids. The rise of titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite – and their ubiquity on practically every platform from consoles to phones – has meant the video gaming hobby has expanded far more than I would have ever thought possible a few years ago.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll be tempted to try either of these games any time soon.

Number 6: World of Warcraft (2004)

Earlier, I criticised the Dark Souls series for feeling very generic and uninteresting in its fantasy setting. The same simply cannot be said of World of Warcraft, the title which arguably defined the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) genre. It has a rich lore and a deeply detailed, painstakingly crafted world, all of which has been built up over more than fifteen years with updates, patches, and expansions massively improving the game in that time.

From my perspective, World of Warcraft falls down simply because of its online nature. I just don’t enjoy playing with other people in this kind of always-online environment, and I find that interacting with other people is immersion-breaking. In a fantasy world, I need that sense of immersion to enjoy myself and have a good time, and as I said in the previous entry on this list, there are many single-player titles which offer something similar.

The longest I’ve ever stuck with an MMORPG was Star Trek Online, which attracted me for obvious reasons! However, even being set in my favourite fictional galaxy and having some enjoyable story missions couldn’t overcome the issues I have with this kind of game, and after struggling on with it for a while, I eventually stopped playing.

Number 7: The Final Fantasy series (1987-present)

As I mentioned when talking about Pokémon, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Japanese-style roleplaying games. The combat in particular is something I find offputting, not because it’s bad but there’s something about its slower, turn-based nature that I tend to feel doesn’t gel with an action-oriented title. The Final Fantasy games have always had this style of gameplay, which is one reason I’ve never been all that interested.

The second major reason why I’ve never jumped in is that the Final Fantasy series is complicated. There are sixteen “main” games (counting Final Fantasy XIV twice as it has an online and offline version), as well as dozens of other titles (perhaps as many as fifty if you consider mobile games and spin-offs). There are also films and other associated media, making the series quite daunting to get started with. While I gather many of the games are semi-standalone titles, there is a lot of background and lore that connects them and keeps the series intact. Maybe that’s a bad reason not to jump in, but coupled with the style of gameplay being something I generally don’t enjoy, it’s enough to be offputting.

Though I have owned several of the consoles that Final Fantasy titles released on – like the SNES – many of the most well-received entries in the series are or were PlayStation exclusives. As someone who didn’t own a PlayStation until the dying days of the PlayStation 3 (which I bought so I could play The Last of Us) I didn’t have access to most of the games released between the mid-90s and the mid-2000s.

Number 8: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

The SNES was the first home console that I owned, but for many of the same reasons given above regarding my general dislike for Japanese-style RPGs, I didn’t play the only Zelda title released on that system: A Link to the Past. Nor did I play the Zelda titles on the Nintendo 64, Wii, DS, 3DS, or any other Nintendo console I’ve owned in the years since. I wouldn’t say I’ve deliberately shunned the Zelda series; it’s more a case of having other priorities and putting my money elsewhere.

I must be practically the only Nintendo Switch owner to have not played Breath of the Wild, as the game has been one of the system’s best-selling titles since it launched in 2017. Though I have been tempted to pick up a copy, especially if I could find it pre-owned or at a discount, I simply haven’t got around to it yet, as I’ve had other games I’m more interested in playing.

Number 9: Super Mario Galaxy (2007) and Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)

Ever since I received Super Mario 64 for Christmas in 1997, I’ve been a huge fan of Mario’s 3D adventures. I was even lucky enough to play through Super Mario Sunshine on a friend’s GameCube as I didn’t own the console for myself. Yet I skipped the two 3D Mario titles that were released on the Wii.

The Wii had one of the best Mario titles ever in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and I had great fun playing that game. But the two Mario Galaxy titles didn’t hold much appeal, mostly due to the level design, which consists of a number of spherical planets and asteroids to navigate. I found those environments looked incredibly confusing, and the Wii’s motion controls seemed like they would make that worse. With so many other titles to play on the Wii, which was a fantastic console that had a great library of games, I kept putting off playing Super Mario Galaxy. When a sequel came out I put that to the back of the queue as well, and I’ve just not got around to picking up either game.

I think I still have my Wii in the attic, so perhaps one day I need to get it out, dust it off, and finally pick up one or both of these games. In 2018 I had a great time with Super Mario Odyssey, so it’s clear that my enjoyment of 3D Mario titles hasn’t waned at all!

Number 10: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

A couple of years ago I set out to play the famed Witcher series. Not wanting to begin with the third entry, I started with the first game – but I had a hard time getting into it and haven’t picked it up since. It wasn’t the world, the lore, or the story that I found offputting, but rather the mouse-and-keyboard controls. I’m so used to playing most action/adventure titles with a control pad these days that it was a bit of a jolt, and I’m surprised that a game from as recently as 2007 didn’t have any controller support on PC!

As a result, I didn’t get into the series and haven’t got to its incredibly popular and critically-acclaimed third entry yet. The Witcher 3 is many people’s pick for game of the decade or game of the generation, and I’m very interested to try it for myself. I own the game and both its expansions, so I will one day get around to playing it – once I’ve completed the first two titles!

The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings are supposed to take around 40 hours each to complete, so it may be a while before I finally get to this acclaimed game, but unlike some of the other entries on this list, it’s one I hope to play one day.

So that’s it. Ten great games and franchises that, for a variety of reasons, I’ve never played. Sorry if your favourite made the list, but remember that this is all one person’s opinion, and I’m in no way trying to argue that these games are bad. Some of them just aren’t my thing. If you love them or are passionate about them, great! Diversity takes many forms, including the titles we enjoy in the entertainment space. It would be a very dull world indeed if we all enjoyed the same things!

Hopefully this list has been a little bit of fun. If you’re new to the website, I write lists and articles on gaming and related topics often, so I hope you’ll check back for more in future. Until next time!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. Arcade machine photo courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.