When thinking of the “top ten most overhyped games ever” list, I realized that one list alone was simply not going to cut the mustard. Basically there is a problem with lumping modern games in with older ones, due to the advent of the internet. Some almost mundane games seem to get a shedload of over-hype, which the most successful game “back in the day” would even hope to get. The internet has, in a way, made us far more susceptible to developer, fan, publisher, or media hype.
Remember, just because a game is on this list does not mean it is a bad game or “over-rated” but that it was over-hyped to an unrealistic volume long before release. In many ways, this sheer overexposure to a game can ruin the game due to bad reviews, or unfair expectations, and in other cases, as you will see, some games were overhyped for no real reason alone.
10. Dragonball GT: Final Bout – (PS1)
The culprit: Fan Over-hype upon re-release
In 1997, the majority of Dragonball Z, a popular Japanese fighting anime, had not even hit American airwaves, nor was it really all that popular on the grand scheme of things. Bandai, for whatever reason, decided to go ahead and release a game that sat in the chronology of the series, almost 5 years before it really should have. The game bombed, and was universally forgotten by everyone except for huge Dragonball fans. Fast forward a few years, and Dragonball Z is the poster boy of Cartoon Network’s Toonami Block, raking in fat cash and selling all means of merchandise. Suddenly this once obscure game was getting talked up by the fans for its extreme rarity alone.
Not only could you find out from Dragonball enthusiasts that it “was the best fighting game ever made” but it was also “worth however much you can find it for”. The latter was a ridiculous statement as you could get the game for the measly sum of over one-hundred fifty dollars in U.S. cash alone, on Ebay and any other secondary market. The scalpers drove this game to such levels of hype that it was once again released, and everyone with 20 bucks in their pockets could find out the truth: Dragonball GT: final Bout was a mediocre fighter, and was broken in many ways on the gameplay front. Sorry Vegeta, this game’s power level was not over 9000.
9. Final Fantasy 8 – (PS1)
The culprit: Relentless ad campaign
9-9-99, a date that will be burnt in my head for a while. Not only was this day the launch of Sega’s Dreamcast, but the release for a game that I was inanely hyped for, that game was Final Fantasy 8. After the shocking western success of Final Fantasy 7, Squaresoft knew they had struck gold with Playstation owners. After a few years it was once again time to roll the hype train, a prominent activity of any Final Fantasy game. First a few screenshots popped up, then Official Playstation magazine distributed demo disks that showed a video trailer, then the crown jewel. A small upstart game called Brave Fencer Musashi was packaged with a playable demo of Final Fantasy 8, and many simply bought the game just to play the demo.
Poor lonely Musashi aside, the hype train kept rolling and rolling until fans of the series were left in a feverous state. Final Fantasy 8 was one of the few games back then that Walmart hyped up, and created a preorder campaign, almost a year before the release. Once the date hit, Final Fantasy 8 blew sales expectations out the window and racked up monstrous initial sales. While a commercial success, many felt the title to be a step above Final Fantasy VII in many ways including graphics, but a step back in a few ways such as storytelling and some gameplay. To this day, many are divided as to whether Final Fantasy 8 was good or not, and one can only assume that the games hype factor was partly to blame. Fans wanting either another game with Cloud or one that played similar, were grossly disappointed.
8. Super Mario bros. 3 - (NES)
The culprit: Feature film as commercial
Movie theaters are a great way to promote a product. Whether it be product placement campaigns or actual commercial before a movie, we have seen many studios go for thisd demographic. But it takes real balls to try and make a movie out of a sommercial, that’s where the movie Wizard steps in. Just prior to Super Mario Bros 3’s North American release, Universal Studios decided to bury the hatchet with a long standing feud they were having with Nintendo because of the game Donkey Kong. The movie “The Wizard” was created as a showpiece (a.k.a commercial) for Universal Studios and Nintendo games such as Ninja Gaiden and the as of yet unreleased Super Mario Bros 3. Just like the classic film “the Last Starfighter”, Wizard glamorizes video games and showcases what would eventually usher in competitive gaming.
As the back of the DVD box states: "the story follows a boy named Corey Woods (Fred Savage) that realizes his emotionally troubled kid brother is a video game prodigy, the two run away together to enter the ultimate video game competition in California. But getting there is half the battle: With their parents, older brother (Christian Slater) and a bounty hunter in pursuit and new friend Haley along for the ride, the boys set their sights on the big tournament, where they hope to haul in the $50,000 prize."
7. Pac-Man - (Atari 2600)
The culprit: home version was inferior to arcade
Based on a popularity that had not been rivaled at the time, Pac-man was a sure bet to rake some cash in for Atari. It was at this time that Pac-man was so popular that there was tacky pop song about Pac-man addiction and arcades were being filled by people trying to break high scores. Not trying to avoid money Atari, tried to make a home version for its Atari 2600 that had all of the chills and thrills of the original; problem was the 2600 was not an arcade machine. Due to memory limitations, and a short development time, Pac-Man 2600, turned out to be the “Sam’s Choice cola” to the arcades “Pepsi”, a game of inferior quality.
While the port sold 7 million copies and is the best-selling Atari 2600 title, it was critically panned. Critics focused on the game play and audio-visual difference from the arcade version. Initially, the port boosted the video game industry's presence in retail, but has since been cited as a contributing factor to the North American video game crash of 1983. Supposedly Atari even made 12 million units of the game anticipating insane profits, that really did not happen.
6. Battlecruiser: 3000AD - (PC)
The culprit: One-man hype machine
Battlecruiser: 3000AD is one of the many victims of a process in which a creator or visionary behind a game starts to hype the game up himself, for no real reason at all. Enter Derek Smart, popular game developer of the Battlecruiser franchise. The hype began in 1992 as ads began popping up in PC magazines saying: "The last thing you'll ever desire". Derek Smart then took it upon himself to hype the game up in interviews whenever he could. In one such interview he claimed that Battlecruiser 3000AD used a neural network to perform artificial intelligence tasks in the game. However, this claim has been criticized as highly improbable by other games designers. In one article in a computer games magazine, Keith Zabalaoui, former NASA programmer and one of the designers of the Close Combat series of strategy games, was quoted as saying,
"I have a hard time believing it's in there... the concept of training [neural nets] to do the complex tasks required in a game is inconceivable. It's mumbo jumbo. I guarantee you that if there's a neural net that does anything in this game this man would be in the Computer Science Hall of fame.”
When the game finally released in 1997, after numerous slowdowns, many found it not only buggy, but incomplete in many areas. Suddenly the claims by Smart had an adverse effect on the game, as many started flamewars, and trolling campaigns on various websites to sabotage the game. Smart has released several patches for the game, and rests the game problems solely on the publisher Take-Two, saying that: “they have messed the game up in some way”
5. Mortal Kombat - (Multi)
The culprit: Media Craze
Mortal Kombat is a testament that the media can hype things up much more than videogame companies can. What started as a small arcade fighting game, soon turned into a mass market franchise containing movies, TV, and books. Personally I don’t think It would have gotten that big, had it not been form media hype and public outcry. Seemingly, right after the games genesis people began to scapegoat the game for any misdeed that occurred supposedly in its name. Now the media had a new poster child for the fall of western civilization: Mortal Kombat.
Take this one notable court case for example:
"On November 22, 1997, thirteen-year-old Noah Wilson died when his friend Yancy stabbed him in the chest with a kitchen knife. The mother of Noah, Andrea Wilson, alleges that her son was stabbed to death because of his obsession with the Midway game Mortal Kombat. She alleges that Yancy S. was so obsessed with the game, that the child thought he was actually the character Cyrax." (from wikipedia)
While this was from one of the later games, these court cases populated the newspapers for years. As with musical artists like Eminem and Insane Clown Posse, their popularity only went up after people began to boycott the product, and harp on its influence.
4. Shenmue – (DC)
The culprit: a niche game touted as mainstream
Shenmue did a lot of amazing things for gaming, including the creation of Quick Time Events (QTEs) and was one of the first games to really bring items usually found in role playing games, and sim games to the mainstream. Problem was that for all of the innovation, Shenmue still targeted the smaller niche gamer, but was hyped for the wrong audience. After release many critics loved the game, but other said the game was self-indulgent and pretentious. According to Wikipedia "the game, which cost an unprecedented $70 million to make," was never going to recoup the cost to create the game, and is seen as a critical masterpiece but a failure in terms of sales despite efforts from Sega and the gaming media.
3. Daikatana – (PC)
The culprit: One-man hype machine part 2
This picture pretty much speaks for itself (from an ad campaign):
John Romero, much like Derek Smart, lost a lot of face for overhyping a first person shooter by the name of Daikatana. While an ambitious project, Daikatana turned out to be an extremely outdated game and full of bugs. One of the most notable bugs in the game is the fact that Enemies in the game typically marched straight towards the player regardless of the player's location, often resulting in enemies getting stuck behind simple barriers, with no attempt to avoid structures or move around objects. The game was criticized for looking outdated in 1997, when it was originally supposed to release, and looked even worse in 2000, when it finally released. The main problem for Romero was that he was seen as a video game prodigy, and nothing he could do was bad in many eyes, that is until Daikatana came out.
2. Black and White – (PC)
The culprit: One-man hype machine part 3
Black and White was one of those games, that was so undeniably ambitious and daring, that you could tell it would cause a critical rift on many fronts. Black and White was a “God game” that allowed the player to explore duality and make choices for the sake of good or evil, a gaming concept seen numerous time today. The Game was created by Peter Molyneux, who unfortunately has gained a small reputation for overstating what his games bring to the table. When Black and White came out it was riding a wave of critical anticipation and hype so large that it won all sorts of awards including a few very prestigious ones for game development. Then the critics began to realize that they were starting to be duped on a few of the games promises, and began to place the game on “overrated” lists and such. Molyneux then began to go on interviews and state things like "Black and White was going to a 5 game series that will keep going forever", and that "Black and White 2 was going to be the greatest game ever made."
Unfortunately for Molyneux, this trend seems to continue from this point on.
1. E.T. extra terrestrial - (Atari 2600)
The culprit: greed
As stated before in the Pac-man entry, the Atari 2600 was starting to really push gamers and a landslide of “shovelware games” were starting to over-saturate the market. After the surprise success of the film E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Atari knew that a good amount of money would be probable, if they could make a movie based on the property. Due to the success of an Indiana Jones game and a Star wars game, licensed movie tie-ins were becoming a huge cash cow for Atari. Due to a licensing dispute, the actual production of E.T. was delayed until some six weeks before the projected release. The developers did the best that they could with the short time given, but E.T. The Extraterrestrial was universally panned for being boring and uninspired.
The real problem was that Atari simply produced too many cartridges, and this was one contributing factor the the video games crash of the 1980’s. In hopes of high sales figures, Atari demanded its retailers place orders in advance for the entire year. At that time, Atari had dominated the software and hardware market, and was routinely unable to fill orders. At first, retailers responded by placing orders for more supplies than they actually expected to sell, but gradually, as new competitors began to enter the market, Atari started receiving an increasing number of order cancellations, for which the company was not prepared.
People like Steven Spielberg himself didn’t help by throwing around Buzzwords like “certifiable genius” when speaking of the game, and its developers.
This glut of unwanted cartridges led to one of the biggest flops of all time, and the eventual burial of millions of said games in a New Mexico landfill.
That’s it folks, keep your eyes open for part 2 of this list where we look at modern overhyped games.