Ever since the dawn of man people have figured out that if you make something successful, and then make some similar to that first thing that it will also make millions of dollars. This is the basic premise behind all movie and video game franchises, and it has been happening since the beginning of both forms of entertainment. Sometimes it works great (Star Wars IV-VI) and sometimes it's a complete disaster (Star Wars I-III); because of this fact we decided to go back and pick what we believed to be the top 10 overrated game franchises of all time. Now this doesn't mean all the games in the chosen franchise were junk (maybe just half of the 8 games reminded us of feces), but for one reason (level design) or another (review scores) the franchise made our dreaded list. No fan-boy platform is safe and literally every virtual rock will be overturned. This top 10 is listed in no particular order and is just one person's opinion, numbered ten to one randomly, no severity towards how much they are overrated.
10. Final Fantasy: This one sits at the top of the list mostly because they are pretty solid games, but it’s got very little in the way of franchise continuity. Lately we’ve seen a couple spin-off games that brought in existing characters, but Dissidia was arguably the Smash Bros. of the FF series. The games generally fail in one of the most crucial aspects that underlie the role-playing genre: choice. Even though in most games with a morality system you’re railroaded towards the same quests and plotlines, you can find different ways to do it. In FF games the choices usually boil down to whether or not you want to take the time to get every hidden item. Throw in the often-changing interfaces and the only things keeping any sense of continuity are Cid and his airships.
9. Madden: Sports games generally don’t change. There might be some improvements to graphics or sounds, but the gameplay is essentially a simulator. After you’ve reached a certain level of realism there’s little more to do. So now they just upgrade the look and change some jerseys around. Adding a more complex system with some RPG flavor could breathe life back into these sorts of games, allowing you to create from whole cloth a team of unique players whose stats you could tweak to suit your preferred playing style, but it’s hard to tell if that would catch on. Somehow I imagine that the people already buying these games despite their minute differences wouldn’t be interested and the hardcore min/maxing junkies would be too busy playing something else.
8. Pokémon: Gotta catch em all! Again! And again! Minor upgrades in graphics and more complicated systems like breeding can’t compensate for the fact that you’re playing the same game over and over again. Choosing from a menu of actions in a more or less rock-paper-scissors combat format doesn’t display much innovation. Instead of making the combat more complicated or giving you some sort of direct control over your Pokémon they just add in more of the strange creatures and other minor features. Ultimately the series reeks of the cash grabbing that many accuse gaming companies of. Sure, the games do offer a large amount of playing time for your dollar if you really want to fill your pokedex, but it lacks many improvements.
7. Call of Duty/Medal of Honor: I’m not including the Modern Warfare titles in this, just the endless repetition of World War II based games. My first storming of Omaha Beach was exciting. My heart was racing, sweat beaded out on my forehead with every snap-hiss of machine gun fire. Despite the fact that Nazis are one of the most viscerally satisfying, guilt-free enemies to be pitted against it gets tiresome mowing down fascists with a Thompson. The war went on for years, but in many places that was generally long periods of watching and waiting followed by action, which was often taking place in unremarkable forests or fields. The games were good for a time, but with no new material to draw from, anything that has to pump out more content will become stagnant. Even the tightest controls can’t make up for repetitive level design.
6. Resident Evil: Zombies are great, but these days you’re not even shooting zombies anymore. What started off as an exercise in fear has turned into another shooter with some creepy-looking monsters. Sure, they’re re-releasing some of the old classics, but they’re not holding up well under modern eyes. The series has generally abandoned what made it great, situations where ammo was running short and hordes were closing in. There are definitely some moments that make you jump in the newest titles, but that white-hot panic is quickly buried under a mountain of lead. It’s fallen prey to the same misconception that ruins many horror movies, the idea that slick designs can accomplish what you want them to do. Sure, writhing masses of tentacles and bizarre worm-men are pretty disgusting to look at, but they’re not intrinsically frightening.
5. God of War: It’s certainly not the first game of its kind, slashing your way through hordes of enemies in a more or less linear fashion with the occasional platforming or puzzle sequences. Where this game excelled was in the boss battles. It features huge, often multi-level affairs with Kratos doing all kinds of brutal things to mythological beasts in quick-time events. Yet this is generally the only bright point to the series. It’s solidly made but can get repetitive quite quickly outside of the boss battles. Even then it ceases to be a ‘wow’ and more a ‘oh hey that’s kinda cool’ after you’ve seen the Spartan eviscerate another creature from Greek Mythology.
4. Dragonball Z: This suffers from the same syndrome as WWII games. You’ve got a few stories with a limited cast of characters. There’s no space for innovation because then you’d betray the holy DBZ canon, because after all the only people buying these games are the ones who think it’s actually a good story. There have been a few attempts to mix things up with RPGs, but for the most part it’s just battle after battle with improbable-haired heroes and multicolored villains. The idea of flying around, brawling at super-human speeds and blasting balls of energy at your foes is probably great the first time you do, but when paired with uninspired storylines and relatively bland character designs you’re not looking at gaming gold.
3. Halo: Log into a Halo 3 match online and check out your competitors’ information. You’ll find that a staggering percentage of players haven’t even bothered to finish the campaign. It’s frustrating when you find a great single player game that lacks a fleshed-out multiplayer option, but the opposite is equally sorrowing. In many ways the single player campaign of Halo has been weak all along, plagued by confusing, labyrinthine levels and few sign posts, combined with some hefty clichés. The storyline throughout the whole series was fairly common to science fiction. I would go so far as to say that it was almost completely derivative. Larry Niven imagined the Halo itself in his Ringworld series; the parasitic aliens have been done many times including in John Carpenter’s The Thing.
2. Grand Theft Auto: This series suffers from many of the issues others on the list have had. Each game begins in a different city with a completely different set of characters, most of whom are based on some sort of stereotype or cliché. The gameplay remains largely unchanged since the release of Grand Theft Auto 3, the first 3-D incarnation of the series. Sure they’ve tacked on flying and some have featured RPG-esque leveling but for the most part it’s a combination of car theft and shooting. The plots aren’t anything to write home about either. Every time someone mentions rumors of a Grand Theft Auto movie I cringe. You can find better characters and storylines in nearly any story that deals with the seedy underbelly of city life. Perhaps the best feature of a Grand Theft Auto game is that every time a new one is set to be released it helps take the heat off other developers.
1. Guitar Hero/Rock Band: Hailed as a great party game, unless you’ve shelled out the incredible amounts of cash it takes to buy a broad range of songs you’re going to run out of crowd pleasers pretty quickly. It might be great if you’ve got a whole cadre of gamer friends swapping instruments and taking turns, but for the non-gamer it’s good for a few minutes before they’re eyeing the plastic guitars with disdain and suggesting a game of Cranium instead. It’s a game that is ultimately better enjoyed in a friend’s living room rather than your own. It’s a big investment, especially when you consider that the basic package gets you only a handful of songs, most of which you’ll probably not care for and buying tracks from your favorite bands gets expensive quickly. It’s a style of self-perpetuating game play if you’re not doing it with a crowd. Generally the only reason to play it is to get better at it, there’s no storyline and no intrinsic benefit to playing.