Launch titles are hugely important for video game consoles.
They help to create early momentum while showing off the very best a new console has to offer. Sadly in some cases, it isn’t so much a celebration of the new technology as a sad attempt to grab a quick buck.
Whether it be resurrecting much-loved franchises or shoving out the half-finished garbage; video game launch titles are very much hit and miss. Some are disappointing. Some are just bad.
With everyone getting excited about the upcoming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launches, I figured I’d take a stroll through memory lane and relive some of the absolute worst games that console owners had to endure.
- Game Party Champions (Wii U)
When Wii Sports came bundled with the Nintendo Wii, it marked a moment of brilliance from Nintendo.
Wii Sports was a wonderful collection of simple but fun titles that showcased the very best of the Wii’s console out the gate. Clearly, others looked on jealously, deciding to cash in when the successor to the Nintendo Wii hit the market in 2012. Enter Game Party Champions.
A sad collection of 8 mini-games bundled together, the collection reduced the excitement of Wii Sports to the Wii U’s tablet touchscreen. This resulted in tediously dull versions of table tennis, golf, air hockey, and more – with no attempt to inject any kind of excitement into proceedings.
Voiced along by some of the most still faced characters in all of video games, the game feels like it was ripped wholly from the PlayStation 2 generation.
- Genji: Days of the Blade (PlayStation 3)
When the PlayStation 3 launched back in 2006, it was already behind the Xbox 360’s early momentum. Therefore it was crucial for the system to get out the gate in the right fashion. Sadly for those who got lumbered with Genji: Days of the Blade this was anything but the start gamers wanted.
It’s easy to forget this title ever happened at all. It’s most telling contribution to the wider gaming community was the emergence of the “Giant Enemy Crabs” meme that hung over the early PlayStation 3 like a bad fart.
The game was a bland, action-orientated slog that did nothing to showcase the PlayStation 3’s potential. The story was a hash-job of poorly scripted dialogue, awkward cutscenes, and laughable poor action that did more to bore than to excite.
- Red Steel (Nintendo Wii)
If the point of launch games is to showcase the truly unique aspects of a console – the Red Steel missed the mark horrendously. The writing was on the wall way before the Nintendo Wii hit the market however, the game underwent a huge graphical downgrade in the months prior to release; alarming gamers to the unfolding disaster.
The game that arrived at launch was a glitchy, twitchy first-person mess that never really came together. The game exposed the Wiimote’s lack of 1:1 precision – making the entire concept of the game worthless.
The game was slow-paced, dull, and riddled with a poorly thought out story that neither intrigued nor offered up a compelling reason to slog on. Perhaps the most underwhelming feature; the graphics just looked bland. A complete abandon of the promised experience that wowed gamers at E3 not 10 months earlier.
Red Steel was quickly forgotten about, the franchise tainted and while a sequel did inevitably turn up – it was too late to turn things around. For those who’d bought into the promise of Wiimote controls it was a heart-wrenching realization that the tech just wasn’t there yet.
- Knack (PlayStation 4)
Knack was Sony’s attempt to hark back to the platforming heyday of the earlier PlayStation consoles.
Invoking some beautiful visuals and the kind of fun, frantic gameplay that appealed to hardcore platforming fans – the company seemed to be onto a winner when it pushed Knack hard during the pre-release window of the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, much like the creatures of Knack’s world, things fell apart very quickly.
The game was littered with bugs, issues, and glitches. The frame rate was abysmal while the combat was tedious and slow. Perhaps more disappointingly, the central premise was ruined thanks to the decision to surround Knack with some of the worst story I’ve seen in modern gaming.
Nothing really clicked for the game and with a price tag of £50 at launch, it was a pricey reminder that modern gaming wasn’t as forgiving to new IPs as Sony probably hoped. A sequel arrived later in the PS4’s life cycle but gamers were over it by that point.
- Fifa Road To World Cup 2006 (Xbox 360)
The Xbox 360 launched in late 2005 – a good 6 months before the Fifa World Cup in 2006. Yet for some reason, EA opted to forgo Fifa 2005 – a game that had come out on Xbox and PlayStation 2 just months earlier – in favor of Fifa Road To World Cup 2006.
The game stripped out everything gamers wanted in their Fifa experience. No club teams, No registered leagues. No career mode. No ability to switch players around. The game was effectively a glorified exhibition mode showcasing the next-gen EA engine. Was it any good? Christ no. The biggest offense is that it plays like the players are running through custard. Sure they look nice but that doesn’t make experiencing the gameplay any more worthwhile.
Perhaps most unforgivably, the games only noteworthy single-player mode ends abruptly before the showcase event. You do all the work to get to the World Cup only to be told that you qualified – then get kicked back to the main menu. Seriously EA, not cool.
- Night Trap (Sega CD Launch)
Part of the early crop of Sega CD games that tried desperately to make the FMV hype train a real thing; Night Trap collapses under the weight of its own awfulness.
With a difficulty spike that could be best described as torturous, the game demanded a trial-and-error approach that forced you into pin-point timing in order to complete objectives. The story isn’t very well conveyed and while the FMV scenes themselves are harmless; it’s very hard to keep up with the action that’s going on.
Part of the early crop of Sega CD games that tried desperately to make the FMV hype train a real thing; the game collapses under the weight of its own awfulness. With a difficulty spike that could be best described as torturous, the game demanded a trial-and-error approach that forced you into pin-point timing in order to complete objectives. The story isn’t very well conveyed and while the FMV scenes themselves are harmless; it’s very hard to keep up with the action that’s going on.
The game was doomed when controversy around it rose to extreme levels. The mainstream media took great enjoyment in scorning the game for its depiction of young women – effectively killing it in the water.
The game has seen a re-release on modern consoles, you can experience the awfulness in glorious modern vision.
- Donkey Kong Jr. Math (NES)
Despite launching with Donkey Kong Jr, Nintendo made the somewhat bizarre decision to tie one of their biggest franchises in with a calculator simulator.
It does exactly what it sounds like. The game tries to marry the traditional Donkey Kong gameplay with maths-based puzzles – an attempt that falls way short of the bar. The games interesting for all of 2 minutes – right around the time repetition and limitations kick in.
Perhaps the worst thing here was that unknowing parents could easily be misled into buying the game with consoles. Believing that it would be the same experience as the full game, I can imagine some poor kids were left bitterly disappointed with this game.
- Street Fighter: The Movie (PS1)
Suffering from the same awkward shoehorned fate as the Sega CD launch titles, early PlayStation games found themselves very much playing up their consoles unique features. Unfortunately for Street Fighter: The Movie – these features didn’t do much to save the game from the scrap head.
The shift from the games traditional cartoon design was a blatant attempt to try and capitalize on Mortal Kombat’s success – an instant turn off for hardcore fans.
Capcom’s bewildering decision to create a game based on the awful movie is compounded by the decision to eject everything that made Street Fighter in the first place. The precision jumps were replaced with awful pre-animated leaps that made gameplay unbearable.
Add in the fact that many of the voice actors dd a poor job of conveying their characters unique catchphrases and grunts – and you have a recipe for disaster that ultimately did little but disappoint those dedicated fans that ended up unwrapping this.
- Fighter Within (Xbox One)
The Xbox’s ill-fated peripheral was a required feature of the early Xbox One console – meaning gamers were subjected to some terrible games for the platform right from the Xbox One’s launch. Perhaps though none of these attempts were as tragically bad as Fighter Within – a game pushed out by Ubisoft in a poor attempt cash in on Kinects widespread availability.
Fighter Within wanted gamers to make 1:1 movements; meaning every punch and move should have been detected. The game had other ideas, however, ignoring the movements from Kinect and largely devolving fights into mindless punch-a-thons.
Things only got worse as the games “story” was laughably paper-thin – the characters annoying and ultimately nothing of interest to justify the high price tag associated with the game. A shocking arrival for a modern gaming console.
- Cybermorph (Jaguar)
Back in the era of early 3D gaming, the Atari Jaguar was an ill-fated attempt to capture the 64-bit console market long before it should have even been attempted. Perhaps this is showcased nowhere better than the consoles launch title Cybermorph – a game that feels as empty and tortured as the fate of the console it was tied too.
The game sees you piloting a craft around a 3D space to fight various enemies. The ambition of trying to achieve this on a 1992 console shouldn’t be overlooked, but quite simply it’s a disaster from start to finish. The draw distance is laughable. The sound effects are woeful. The combat is as unexciting as the single color textures that make up the games work. The controls are tank-like, forcing gamers to crash into everything in their path.
The game did nothing to showcase the potential of the Jaguar – perhaps worst of all confirmed that the console had arrived too early for 3D gaming to be truly viable on consoles. To those who ended up with Cybermorph as their launch title, I can’t help but feel sorry for them.