They’re popular games, so they must be good, right? Except, here’s the thing: these fan favourites are actually a little bit shit.
Chances are that if you’ve played games, you’ve played at least some of these. These are the shit games (both board and video) that have achieved fame and commercial success far beyond their actual quality, were over hyped at the time of release, and have been looked back on through rose-tinted glasses ever since.
We love them, you love them. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hate them, too.
Cards Against Humanity
It seems like everyone has fond memories of the first time they played Cards Against Humanity. The simple mix-and-match punchline delivery gameplay, the joyful randomness, the way it embraces being “a game for horrible people.”
You probably remember your second game fondly too. Maybe your third. Not your fourth. You’ve seen the card that says “Pac-Man uncontrollably guzzling cum” too many times.
Turns out humour flourishes when it’s unexpected – a point which will seem abundantly clear when your friend’s drunk mum sits down to play for the first time and finds everything hilarious, while you can barely bring yourself to force a smile.
It began as a mod for ARMA II and was eventually developed into a standalone game, but never came close to delivering the experience the fans were hoping for. An open-world multiplayer-only zombie-shooter survival game sounded like a great concept back in 2012, but turned out to be unapproachable to the droves of players who showed up to try it out.
Both the mod and the standalone game were (and are still) riddled with bugs that make it difficult to play at best, and tremendously frustrating at worst. In a game about gathering loot and surviving, each death meant starting again, and the loss of hours of invested time.
Worse, the game did nothing to encourage pro-social behaviours. In a scenario where killing other players on sight is a dominant strategy, it was inevitable that the game would become populated by a handful of dedicated, hardcore players. In turn, it became extremely hostile to newcomers.
DayZ wades waist deep in this list of shit games.
Hey, you liked Halo, right? Of course you did! Well, what if your ol’ pals Bungie brought you a shiny new futuristic shooter to play on your shiny new consoles with a cool new single/multiplayer hybrid system? You’ll buy that, right?
Hoo boy, did people buy it. Activision boasted that Destiny made $325 million USD in the first five days after its launch, making it the most financially successful launch of a new franchise ever.
But, oh wait, it was a mess. The solid core of shooter gameplay was marred by a vague, patched-together plot that even the voice acting of Peter Dinklage could not save. Add to that its manipulative Skinner box levelling system and its many bugs (Loot Caves, anyone?) and you get a game that has been remembered far, far too fondly.
I know, I know – stop attacking your childhood. I get it, it was my childhood too. 10-year-old me thought that GoldenEye 007 was just about the pinnacle of first-person-shooter potential. It’s rightfully considered one of the forerunners of the genre, and defined multiplayer gaming for a generation.
Have you ever tried to revisit it, though? If you do, you’ll likely find yourself struggling with its cumbersome controls that share the same stick for both movement and aiming, and squinting against the atrocious frame rate to see which distant pixel is shooting at you.
Believe me, some games are best enjoyed when looked at through the safety of rose-tinted nostalgia glasses.
Some shit games are so shit that they’re barely games at all. In Snakes and Ladders, for instance, players don’t actually make choices. They roll dice, the tokens land where they may, and the winner is determined by sheer chance.
Mario Party falls into the same category, thanks to the sheer amount of random chance at play that makes any player interaction virtually meaningless. Make the best strategic decisions? Dominate every mini game? Doesn’t matter – the gods of shit games will swoop in at the finish line, steal your stars, and award them to whoever they have taken a shine to in that particular moment.
Here’s what you do instead. Give each of your friends a coin, and see who can flip heads the most times. You’ll have saved yourself money and about four hours of frustration.
Sure, it’s low-hanging fruit, but the fact remains that there’s a copy of Monopoly in the games closet of every holiday house you’ve ever visited. Not a lot of people realise that the Monopoly we play today was originally designed to be a shit game.
Originally called The Landlord’s Game, the early 1900s equivalent of the classic board game had two sets of rules – one set where wealth was shared and a win-state was reached cooperatively, and one set where players competed for dominance by establishing a monopoly and bankrupting all others. The intention was to model the misery and evil that resulted from capitalistic greed, but guess which one people found to be more fun?
From a design perspective, Monopoly has the same problem as the social structure it was built to criticise. Whoever gains the initial advantage has the resources to increase their lead until they win. Fun for that person, maybe, but not for everyone else.
PUBG was one of the first major players in the battle royale genre, and has proven to be hugely successful, with over 70 million copies sold on PC and billions in earnings coming from players using mobile devices. Shame, then, that’s it’s such a mess.
Solid gun play has conventionally been marred by some awful netcode and hit registration issues. As the game grew in popularity, so did its appeal to hackers, ensuring that the majority of the winner-takes-all games would be won by the whoever had the best aimbot. That is, if the human players haven’t been replaced by swarms of idling bots.
PUBG’s developers’ inability to deal with the game’s flaws left a huge opening that less shit games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone have been only too happy to fill.
Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan is something of a touchstone in nerd culture. It’s not as ubiquitous as games like Scrabble or Monopoly, so it’s just niche enough to feel like it has escaped the mainstream. Nerds think Settlers of Catan is cool.
The problem is the design of the game itself. Catan has much the same problem as Monopoly – the early advantage is just too meaningful, and there are no effective mechanics to help struggling players stage a comeback.
Getting your pieces established in a good opening position and gathering some lucky resources means that whichever player is lucky enough to win the start of the game will almost certainly become completely unstoppable. At that point, why keep playing?
Oh look, it’s everyone’s favourite DLC delivery tool, The Sims. This series is wildly, absurdly popular, with a reported 200 million sales throughout the franchise’s history. If you haven’t played it yourself, chances are you know someone who loves it.
As for how it plays, The Sims seems to serve better as a design-your-own-dream-house tool than it does an actual game. Once you get into the part where you’re controlling characters, you’ll find that there’s a massive variety of things to do – all of which are incredibly boring. Watch your Sim eat, sleep, work, repeat. Watch them say “Walla bag dipso blah!” to their neighbour, repeat.
Gee, if only there were more things to do. Oh look, a new DLC package! And this one lets you be a wizard!
World of Warcraft
Without doubt the best known and most notorious MMORPG to ever exist, World of Warcraft has had its hooks in over 100 million players worldwide and grossed billions upon billions in revenue.
The thing is, the game itself isn’t actually that fun. People sink literal years of played time into World of Warcraft, often with next to no enjoyment. If you were to replace the other players with bots who filled their roles, you’d suddenly find that there’s no reason to gather those ten gnoll pelts or deliver that message to the chieftain.
Which brings us to the end of the list. If you find yourself in need of some comfort, why not try doing what these games failed to, and Don’t Shit your Pants.