Although some decent games do poorly for no good reason, many titles are so headscratchingly bad that you have to wonder why the developer even bothered.
In the group of terribly bad games, there are the truly bad ones and then there are the big flops: those that have built an irredeemable amount of hype. Without further ado, here's our PC gaming hall of shame: games that weren't cancelled but should have been...
We're digging way back into PC gaming history with this one, all the way back to the days of DOS and Windows 3.1. Developed and published by Sierra On-Line, Outpost was highly anticipated by science fiction fans and was noteworthy for having a former NASA scientist among its main designers. But while gamers were ecstatic about the possibilities the space-based gameplay claimed to offer, the game just didn't live up to expectations.
Reviewers at the time were given access to an early beta with plenty of missing features, but scores were pretty generous nonetheless based on the promise that they'd be added by launch. They weren't. In fact, many of the features described in the game's own documentation and reviews did not exist in the game at all, and the ones that were patched in later were merely cosmetic and didn't affect gameplay. All that on top of the game's general bugginess and perceived mediocre gameplay earn this title a spot on our list.
Streets of SimCity (1997)
The strategy gurus at Maxis actually released a PC game called Streets of SimCity back in 1997 that had players driving around and blasting foes. The one novel aspect of the game is that it allowed players to race in actual cities created in SimCity 2000, but that's where the positives ended.
While it might have appealed to hardcore SimCity fans, the game had really bad controls and was poorly optimized and full of bugs (ran sluggishly on fast hardware of its time). It was evident Maxis tried to ride on the popularity of the franchise and compete with a stellar vehicle combat game like Interstate 76 or the popular Carmageddon.
Extreme Paintbrawl (1998)
On one hand, I want to give the developers of this game a pass since they threw the game together in two weeks. However, that was the developer's choice, and with that in mind, they should have never released this game for public consumption. Far too many gamers gave this title a shot out of morbid curiosity, and as you might expect, they were disappointed. Many fundamental features were missing -- not least of which was a functional AI -- it used an outdated graphics engine and the 'perfect' aim was not truly a feature, it broke the entire gameplay.
This first person shooter got off to a rocky start when an ad for the game rubbed many gamers the wrong way. Then it missed its release date (John Romero first intended to get the 24-level game done in 7 months -- first big mistake), and between its conception in 1997 and its release in 2000, the game's release date kept being moved, causing a great deal of annoyance for players looking to get their hands on it.
Daikatana stained the legacy of John Romero, co-founder of id Software and designer of gems like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. By the time Daikatana was released it was heavily criticized for its dated graphical engine, terrible save game mechanic, dull enemies (enemy AI was almost non-existent), and overall for being simply boring to play. Although Daikatana is not the worst game ever made by a long shot, it'd have been better left out of the history books.
Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing (2003)
Widely regarded as one of the worst video games ever made, the object of Big Rigs -- as explained on its packaging -- is to drive a big truck across the country carrying some illegal cargo with police in pursuit. Unfortunately, the game doesn't actually have any cargo or police, while other cars lacked AI and the game wasn't even smart enough to tell if you were crossing the finish line or starting the race.
Everything that could be wrong with a game was wrong with this one. Out of five courses you could pick, only four were playable while the fifth would simply crash the game. Even the most basic driving mechanics were off as you could throttle indefinitely in reverse and come to a full stop by simply releasing the reverse key.
American McGee's Bad Day LA (2006)
Intended as a political satire, this third-person action title actually had an interesting premise featuring a Hollywood agent turned homeless man after a series of natural and manmade disasters. Unfortunately, Bad Day LA failed to impress critics, receiving unanimously bad reviews upon release and being included on plenty of "worst game" lists since.
While the art style looked interesting, in-game visuals were poorly executed from a technical standpoint. The game's attempt at humor also fell flat -- unless witless and childish potty jokes are your thing -- and the actual gameplay mechanics left much to be desired.
"Halo 2 for Windows Vista" (2007)
Halo 2 on the PC wasn't really a bad game -- some might even consider it great -- but the fact that it was released almost three years after it debuted on the Xbox was an insult to any serious PC gamer. Worse still, Microsoft called it "Halo 2 for Windows Vista" as it was intentionally released to push sales of Vista (it only ran on Windows XP with a hack) and to promote the company's Game For Windows Live platform. The thing was, anyone who loved Halo would have already played it on the Xbox and by the time Halo 2 arrived on PC, plenty of other more sophisticated shooters had been released. Shame on you Microsoft.
Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (2009)
Leisure Suit Larry was never a particularly great video game franchise, but it wasn't terrible either. A lot of the attention it received and possibly deserved was because it pushed the envelope in a certain direction. Leisure Suit Larry titles were mostly basic adventure games with some very adult themes.
The older games had been pretty decent, but 2009's release "Box Office Bust" was simply atrocious. It received universally bad reviews, and with good reason. The gameplay was repetitive and the game wasn't even remotely funny -- one of the redeeming qualities of the previous entries. It seemed like the creators were attempting to cash in on what little legacy the franchise had, but all they did was tarnish it, perhaps beyond repair.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel (2011)
There are some really good games in the Call of Juarez series, but The Cartel isn't one of them. Although it fares better than most -- if not all -- other titles on this list from a gameplay perspective, the title was riddled with bugs and glitches. The change of setting from the frachise's traditional Wild West to modern times wasn't all that well received either. In fact, many accused The Cartel of being racist and insensitive towards real world issues, inaccurately addressing issues such as human trafficking and the drug wars in Mexico.
Graphics are subpar, characters are unlikeable and underdeveloped, the dialogue and voice acting are bad, and the campaign feels unpolished and repetitive. Its co-op mode would have been a rare bright spot if it weren't for the scant online community. To top it all off, Ubisoft required an Internet connection to start the game.
Postal 3 (2011)
The first and second Postal games were received with mixed reactions, not so much due to their gameplay but because of the over-the-top violence that characterized the franchise. However, the third and last game in the series really messed things up. Original developer Running with Scissors outsourced development of Postal 3 to Russian game company Akella. Upon release, the reception was pretty negative as the game was marred with bugs and graphical glitches. The open-ended world that gamers expected after Postal 2 was no longer there and fans of the series also protested the game's poor attempt at being offensive (again, like its predecessors). As a last resort, Running with Scissors tried to distance themselves from the title, pulling it from their online store.
As if the Postal franchise didn't have a bad enough track record (depending on who you ask, of course), it has been made into a terrible movie by director Uwe Boll.
Duke Nukem Forever (2011)
When it comes to epic PC gaming fails, Duke Nukem Forever is unmistakably the first title that comes to mind. After a widely successful ride during the mid to late 90's, Duke's last episode has unfortunately become one of the biggest jokes in the video game community. The game was in development for what felt like a lifetime (15 years to be exact), only to be released with some renewed momentum and end up as an utter disaster.
Duke Nukem Forever's aiming and shooting mechanics were poor, game progress was tedious, level design confusing, the quintessential Duke one-liners weren't funny, and its graphics looked as if they came from a lousy console port. The development of Duke Forever spanned multiple PC and console hardware generations. After a few years of things not working out, 3D Realms should have realized that something was wrong and given up.
The War Z (2012)
Not to be confused by DayZ, a pretty awesome mod for tactical shooter Arma 2 (and upcoming standalone title with the same name), "The War Z" tried to ride the aforementioned mod's popularity by using a similar name but eventually changed it to "Infestation: Survivor Stories" to avoid confusion. Originally released in December 2012 on Steam, the title was deemed broken and incomplete, promoting several key features on its promo page that weren't actually implemented. In spite of the fact The War Z was not free-to-play it tried to leverage microtransactions for purchasing items and respawning quicker after death.
According to Wikipedia, Sergey Titov is the executive producer of this game, who was also listed as a producer and developer for Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing (see the 2003 title above). That's not to say he's to blame for all of The War Z's controversy, but it's a big coincidence that he's been involved in two of what are considered some of the most atrocious game launches in PC history... draconian DRM titles aside, of course.
Gamers are a tough but forgiving crowd. A good game riddled with bugs can overcome a poor initial impression, especially when developers correct their mistakes publicly and promptly. But that's not the recurring theme here. Seriously, if you haven't played any of these games, consider yourself lucky.