Ah the Holiday season, a time when people ‘round the world come together in harmony to pretend to care about peace and love while secretly lusting after the years' newest shiniest consumer goods. Unfortunately for us gamers, people who grew up when a cup-and-ball was considered cutting edge fun are all too often the ones tasked with acquiring our digital entertainment.
So, as we did last year, here's a guide to the crappy games that are going to be left in your stockings by well-meaning parents, grandparents and random uncles. Start practicing masking your disappointment now kids.
Category 1 - Lousy Games Based on Licenses You Like
While most older folks live in a fairly airtight cultural bubble, even your grandma who spends all her time watching Murder She Wrote reruns is at least vaguely aware of Harry Potter, the new Star Trek movies and that gal who murders kids with the bow. The kids today seem to like this stuff, so surely they’d like a video game based on them, right?
Of course what a non-gamer doesn’t realize is that the development of your average licensed game is handled with more or less the same level of time and tender loving care you use to clean your cat’s litter box. Here's the fossilized turds to expect...
Lumps of Coal to Expect: Aliens: Colonial Marines, Star Trek, Adventure Time: Explore The Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW!
Category 2 - Lousy Games Based on Licenses You Liked When You Were Nine
Hey, if you get some of the games from the previous category, at least you know your family is keeping up with what your into. They could instead just assume you're still into the same stuff you were into when you were in Grade 3, which is fine if they want to buy you DuckTales Remastered, but a bit insulting otherwise.
Lumps of Coal to Expect: Power Rangers Megaforce, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Category 3 - “Helpful” Recommendations of Store Employees
Every year certain titles are hyped by frothing publicists and game executives as the next great step in human evolution. They’ll blow your mind, turn your DNA inside out and leave you quivering in a puddle of your own bodily fluids. Roughly half the time when these games finally come out they’re actually, well…kind of lousy.
This leaves game stores in a bit of a bind. They now have approximately 500 copies of a game which have to be cleared out somehow and suddenly all store employees see when your grandmother timidly steps across the threshold of the GameStop is a flashing blue-haired target.
Lumps of Coal to Expect: Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, Dead Island: Riptide, Lost Planet 3, Dark
Category 4 - Bad Games from Franchises That Delivered in the Past
Now we don’t want to paint our elders as complete gift purchasing incompetents. Sometimes out of sheer dumb luck, or because you made sure the name of the game you wanted was printed in 3-inch tall, bright red letters on your Christmas list, they will actually get the right game, and when they do, oh boy, they remember it.
Sure they may eventually forget inconsequential things like which order their pants and underwear go on, but they won’t forget that how well that copy of Sonic 3 went over 15-years ago. As a result that smarmy blue varmint will continue to haunt your Christmas stocking until you personally hunt down and eliminate every last member of Sonic team. Er, not that we’d ever advocate anything like that.
Lumps of Coal to Expect: Mario & Sonic At The 2014 Winter Olympics, SimCity, Sonic Lost World, Gears of War: Judgment
Category 5 - Bad Games in Good Games’ Clothing
For every title on the shelves that’s actually worth playing, there are another couple games trying desperately to piggyback on that good game’s success, and we can’t blame them. Making decent games is like, hard work and stuff. It's easier to just make your game look like a good game. Slap the words "The Walking Dead" on the game, or make the cover look as Bioshock-ey or Call of Duty-ish as possible. Or if you're Nintendo, just cram Pikachu on there.
Lumps of Coal to Expect: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, Face Noir, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2
Category 6 - Games Based on Things Old People Like
From time to time we all make the mistake of buying gifts based on what we’d like to get, rather than accounting for the recipient’s tastes (I suggest your return that UFC's Bloodiest Knockouts DVD you bought your girlfriend now). It’s a particularly common problem amongst older game shoppers whose eyes often seem to be magnetically attracted to the most boring s--t on the rack.
Lumps of Coal to Expect: Super Black Bass 3D, Farming Simulator 2013, Cross-Stitch Apocalypse
Category 7 - The Last Next-Gen Games Left On The Shelf
Let's say you asked for an Xbox One or PS4 for Christmas. Well, if your older relatives actually manage to get their hands on one, there's a good chance they'll turn around and find a lack of actual Xbox One or Playstation 4 games on the shelf. But hey, any games on these amazing new consoles have to be good! They're just that powerful and revolutionary, right? Right?
Lumps of Coal to Expect: Fighter Within, NBA Live 14, Knack
Category 8 - A Game With A Car On The Front
Most of the above categories assume that the shopper has at least some vague notion of what to buy. A naïve, ill-informed notion, but hey, at least it’s something. But what if you don’t even have that? Buy something with a car on the front, because come on, you're a guy right? All guys like cars! Wait, you're not? Eh, girls like cars too! God-dammit, stop making your loved ones think about your gifts and just play your s--tty racing game.
Lumps of Coal to Expect: Fast & Furious: Showdown, WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship, Shiny Thing Goes Vroom 6
Now that we've discussed this year's digital dumps, how 'bout you check out our ongoing countdown of the year's best?