2016 was one of the best years for gaming in some time, with tons of fantastic AAA and indie releases. But at the same time, many terrible games slipped through the gates on Xbox One. And as with 2015, most of these stinkers were indies. Buyer beware!
Albedo: Eyes from Space
Albedo comes from developers Z4G0 and Ivan Venturi Productions (makers of such games as Albedo and… that's it) and publisher Merge Games. It's basically a first-person adventure game with a heavy emphasis on puzzles, designed by someone who has apparently never played videogames before.
Albedo has a fun 60s sci-fi theme, but its execution widely misses the mark. The game starts out with the stupidly-named and very poorly voiced John T. Longy, a night watchman at a research facility, drunkenly falling asleep on the job while an accident occurs. Long T. Johnny awakens, confused, in a storage room beset by a monster. These monsters are unlikable and must be avoided at all costs.
The whole game involves solving puzzles via manipulation of the environment and puzzles, but the user interface for interacting with objects and inventory couldn't be any worse. It takes way too many button presses to do anything, making the often convoluted puzzles even more painful. Luckily, the Achievements only take 3-4 hours with guides, so it might still be worth the $13.99 if you can tolerate the clunkiness.
Ben-Hur is a free game from our old friends at Krome Studios (makers of Full House Poker) and AOL, of all publishers, based on the 2016 movie remake that literally no one wanted. And being a rushed-to-market licensed title, the game had little hope of being good.
The game begins with a highly skippable video from the movie, and then you're thrust into a series of three chariot races. The object is to eliminate the other five racers by whipping or bashing them into walls. You have to mash the A button the entire time to accelerate. Crash or run out of health and you die.
That's the whole game. Three races in the same environment, clunky controls, and Xbox 360-era graphics. On the plus side, you can get the full 1,000 Gamerscore in 1-2 hours. But one Achievement requires a lot of dying and restarting races, which might not be worth the bother.
Cartoon Network Battle Crashers
Licensed games are a risky proposition from a quality standpoint. Every now and then you get a true gem (see Transformers: Devastation), but most of the time they tend towards the bottom of the barrel. Cartoon Network Battle Crashers from French developer Magic Pockets and GameMill Entertainment is the absolute bottom of the barrel.
The intro depicts Uncle Grandpa, an absurdist character who can hop between universes, accidentally tearing holes in the realities of several other Cartoon Network characters. Soon, he is joined by Jake and Finn from Adventure Time, Mordecai and Rigby from Regular Show, and Steven Universe, Clarence, Gumball, the latter three titular characters in their own shows.
Battle Crashers is a Castle Crashers clone, but without the fun or creativity. The combat and level design are completely boring, even with 4-player local co-op. Only the first player gets Achievements, and they're grindy. None of the characters have voices or theme music, and what few NPCs from their shows appear simply stand motionless and relay tutorial information when you speak to them. Nobody, not fans of beat 'em ups, Cartoon Network, or Achievements, will get much out of this one.
Cel Damage HD
Cel Damage is an original Xbox game from way back in 2001 that was bought and resurrected as Cel Damage HD by Finish Line Games. HD came to PlayStation platforms in 2014, finally arriving on Xbox One in 2016. Although it's one of the better games in this roundup, it's still not very good.
The basic premise is that six (lame and generic) cartoon characters battle it out via car combat – sort of like Mario Kart, but much worse. Players can compete solo or in split-screen across three modes: checkpoint races, capture the flag, and deathmatch.
Besides the unappealing characters, Cel Damage is an ugly game. It might be running in HD, but the graphics show no obvious signs of improvement from the old Xbox days. The level design is bad and many of the weapons stink. But Cel Damage HD's Achievements are very easy and take less than three hours, so it's still worth a buy at $8.99 for the Gamerscore.
Back in 2015, Wales Interactive gave us Infinity Runner, one of the worst games of the year. Their follow-up, Coffin Dodgers, was actually developed by the more capable Milky Tea Studios. But like Cel Damage, it's still a pretty lame Mario Kart-style racer.
The premise is both terrible and inspired. Death threatens to kill a group of senior citizens, but he'll let the winner of a series of races off the hook. The losers of each race literally die and participate in subsequent races as zombies.
Coffin Dodgers looks a lot nicer than Cel Damage, though it suffers from a poor frame rate. But every race is the same thing, so the campaign gets repetitive quickly. The combat and music are terrible, too. But you can get all the Achievements in 3.5 hours or so, making this $11.99 a good buy for the Achievement crowd.
Horse Racing 2016
From the aptly named Yash Future Tech Solutions comes Horse Racing 2016. Like 2015's terrible matador game Toro, horse racing is such a niche activity that you're never going to get a proper big budget game about it. But can a game that looks this cheap be any good?
Horse Racing challenges players to complete ten seasons of five races each, for a total of 50 races. These include solo time trials, short sprints, longer races, and unfair hurdles races that involve jumping. Success is overly reliant on an annoying starting minigame in which you have to press A at just the right time for a speed boost. Botch it, and you'll need to just restart the race.
Graphics aren't everything, but Horse Racing looks particularly cheap, like a PlayStation 2 launch title. Instead of using the Start/Menu button to pause, this one uses the B button for absolutely no reason. Horse Racing's Achievements are easy, which is good, because otherwise nobody but crazy horse lovers would dare pay $12.99 for a game this rough.
In 2015, Spanish developer RecoTech subjected the world to a terrible 3D action-platformer called Yasai Ninja. The next year, Yasai Ninja received a sequel called Kyurinaga's Revenge. Perhaps they left the old name off to distance the two games, but Revenge isn't much better than its predecessor.
The story revolves around anthropomorphic vegetables who are also samurai and ninja, for some reason. Our protagonists are an onion and broccoli who met in the first game. This one is a 2.5D action platformer, with lots of hazards to dodge and collectibles to find. Annoying "battle stages" break up the platforming. These play like a painfully slow rhythm game and really kill the game's pace.
Like Yasai Ninja, Kyurinaga's Revenge supports 2-player local co-op. If playing solo, you'll switch between characters at will. Co-op is a bust, unfortunately. If either player dies, you both die, so it's actually better to play solo. Although this sequel is a bit better than the original, it's still ugly, unpolished, and overpriced at $19.99.
What happens when someone who doesn't know anything about game design tries to combine a first-person shooter with PSOne-style visuals? You get Lovely Planet from QuickTequilla and (the usually much more reliable) TinyBuild. At $9.99, it costs about 15 dollars too much.
Admittedly, Lovely Planet has a charming pastel-colored art style that evokes colorful Japanese games from the 90s like Jumping Flash and Katamari Damacy. Everything is incredibly simplistic, to the point that NPCs and enemies are just cubes with faces. The music is cheerful, but gets annoying fast. The goal is basically to reach the end of each short level as soon as possible.
Early on, an obnoxious mechanic comes in that ruins the whole game. Many levels have falling apples that must be shot before they hit the ground. Fail to shoot these apples and you'll die instantly. The concept is utterly stupid and unforgiving, seemingly designed around mouse-based reaction times rather than a controller's. Don't even buy this one for the Achievements; they're tough.
Monster Jam: Crush It!
Monster Jam is a real-world motorsports event involving monster trucks. Since 2002, it has also been a budget videogame series. I haven't played past games, but 2016's Monster Jam: Crush It from Team6 and GameMill is embarrassingly bad for a $19.99 game.
Crush It! offers three basic game modes. Stadium Races are a handful of short checkpoint races that are over before you know it. Stadium Freestyle asks players to complete stunts to earn points, but the mode is so completely broken that the only way to earn high scores is by driving into walls over and over (see video).
The Hill Climb mode itself offers three variations and lots of levels, making up the meat of the game. Hill Climbs use an awkward isometric perspective, but their simple gameplay works better than Races and Freestyle. Crush It! looks dated and amateurish, but wouldn't you know it? The Achievements only take about 3.5 hours. Grab it if your Gamerscore needs a boost.
MX vs ATV Supercross Encore
MX vs ATV Supercross Encore from Big Bang Entertainment and Nordic Games is a mildly enhanced version of a 2014 Xbox 360 racing game. Like Monster Jam, it's based on a real-life motorsport that nobody cares about. This one has a lot more content and UI polish, but that can't save the terrible gameplay.
Encore includes plenty of tracks, vehicles, and riders. The Career sports over eight campaigns, each with numerous races to win. There are five different race types, some pitting bikes against ATVs. Online and split-screen multiplayer. So what's the problem?
Put simply, MX vs ATV's handling is absolutely awful. This is a game that needs good, simple arcade controls and steering. Instead, the vehicles are terribly fidgety and swerve all over the tracks like crazy. Thus the racing just isn't fun like it should be. Factor in grindy Achievements and an annoying abundance of paid DLC, and Encore is less than compelling at $29.99.
Soda Drinker Pro
It almost feels wrong to include Soda Drinker Pro in this list. Unlike the other games which are bad by accident and circumstance, Soda Drinker is bad on purpose. Developer Will Brierly and Showrunner Productions developed it as an elaborate joke, one that includes porting the game to unique platforms and selling custom soda bottles at conventions.
Soda Drinker is really two games in one. The main game involves waking around poorly rendered environments at a horribly slow pace and drinking your soda to complete the level. This mode has tons of unique music and voice samples to keep you going as you slurp soda for Achievements.
As a special surprise, walking into the house in level 2 sends you into Vivian Clark, a super bizarre collection of non-soda minigames. It's not unlike how Glittermitten Grove on Steam includes Frog Fractions 2 as a secret bonus. The difference is those games are actually good, whereas Soda Drinker Pro's only value comes from its humor and Achievements. At least it only costs $4.99, making it a cheap joke.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan
Platinum Games has a spotty track record. Despite some great games like Bayonetta and Transformers: Devastation, they've also cranked out disappointments like The Legend of Korra – and usually for Activision. If Mutants in Manhattan had been as good as Transformers, there'd be reason to celebrate. Sadly, the game was rushed to launch in a barely-finished state in time for the second Michael Bay Turtles movie.
Mutants uses a weird art style for the Turtles, but otherwise the story scenes are very well done. The gameplay is obviously undercooked, though. Most levels involve running around sparse open environments, completing random objectives until you're allowed to move on and fight the boss. Bosses have way too much life, making them boring to fight. The inventory system is totally useless and the leveling and upgrade systems aren't much better. No local multiplayer, although it at least has online play.
Activision has severely mishandled the Ninja Turtles license since they got it, producing mostly terrible Xbox 360 games before Mutant in Manhattans. This one had the chance to be great, if only Platinum had another month or two to polish it up. Due to poor sales, Activision chose not to renew the license and Mutants was delisted from digital storefronts. If you're a very patient Turtles fan, you can still grab the physical version on Amazon for under fifty bucks.
Only games I actually played were included on this list. I did my best to try every poorly received Xbox One game released in 2016, but I didn't get to try a few games of questionable reputation:
- Alekhine's Gun
- Blast 'em Bunnies
- Carmageddon: Max Damage
- Homefront: The Revolution
- Lichdom: Battlemage
I played and consider the following games bad. But a surprising number of gamers inexplicably love them, so they get a pass:
- Farming Simulator 17
- Professional Farmer 2017
Games are art, so no game can be objectively bad. Some of the games on this list have their fans, in fact. It's always sad when a team of people work hard on a game, only for the final product not to work out as hoped. That doesn't mean that every amateur developer needs to clog digital storefronts with games that nobody could possibly like, either.
Quality control is a challenge that Xbox One and other platforms with digital storefronts will continue to face in the years ahead. In the meantime, we can have a bit of fun at the expensive of truly bad games and try to learn lessons from them. Look on the bright side. These games aren't great, but on the whole they're probably a bit better than the Worst Xbox One Games of 2015!
Have you suffered through any of the games in our roundup? Did we miss any 2016 releases that deserve to be on the Worst list?
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