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Games of the Year 2023: The Bad

Some of the most anticipated games of this console generation turned out to be absolute stinkers in my eyes.

1. Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!

The original Pocket Card Jockey was released a decade ago for the Nintendo 3DS and I have heard numerous people rant about what a great game it is. This year a remake, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!, was released for iOS via Apple Arcade so I finally got a chance to play it.

I have no idea why anyone likes this game. I played it for several hours and effectively didn't make any progress. If I was lucky I would climb from rank E to C before being forced to retire and repeat everything over again. I legitimately have no idea how I progress to the higher ranks or even what the benefit is when you are forced to retire and start again. It would be like in Hades if whenever you died you just went back to the beginning having gained no new weapons or abilities.

I am sure there are people yelling at the screen, wanting to tell me all the elite Pocket Card Jockey strats but here is the thing. If the game doesn't tell me then I don't give a fuck. This is a mobile game that I play in short bursts. I am not going to theorycraft the best way to genetically engineer a superior horse. I want to have fun for 10-20 minutes in a way that makes me want to return. Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! made me want to put my phone through a fucking wall.

2. Final Fantasy XVI

I am utterly flabbergasted by the positive reviews that Final Fantasy XVI received. By any measurement it is a bad video game.

As a hack and slash it is absolutely outclassed by Devil May Cry or Elden Ring or God of War. Any game where there is actual strategy to the combat. In Final Fantasy 16 you simply mash the melee attack button. Whenever an ability comes off cooldown you immediately activate it to do a little bit more damage and then return to button mashing. After the first few hours I dreaded engaging in any combat as it simply existed to waste my time.

As a Final Fantasy game it falls hilariously short. The only way Final Fantasy 16 can actually be considered a Final Fantasy game is because it uses the same names for monsters and spells. Otherwise, every single thing that you'd associate with Final Fantasy is missing. There is no story. There is no worldbuilding. There is no exploration. You're running around a bland sandbox button mashing your way through the diatribes of comic book villains whose motivations are beyond nonsensical. Then at the end "god" randomly shows up and you punch him to death. At this point Resident Evil games provide more through provoking stories.

But for me the cardinal sin of Final Fantasy 16 is that I did not care about a single character. I am actually struggling to remember the name of any of the characters. Only "Clive" comes to mind and that's because he is effectively the only playable character in the game. When someone reminisces about Final Fantasy 6, 7, 9, 10, or 12 they are immediately going to talk about the story and the party. About interactions between characters and the challenges they overcame. I cannot remember anything significant or poignant that Clive said to any other character. I only remember him screaming about how life wasn't fair like an annoying sh┼Źnen manga protagonist.

If you were considering playing Final Fantasy 16, stop and play any of these games instead:

It really is sad to see how far Square Enix has fallen. The Final Fantasy series is getting run into the ground by people who have absolutely no idea as to what makes it special.

3. Starfield

When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released it felt like we were playing a game from the future. The world was so vast and felt alive in a way that I did not think possible. It was one of the first video games where I did not want to use any fast travel mechanics because I was curious as to what I would stumble upon while traversing the world. And more often than not I was rewarded for this behaviour.

In Starfield there is actually so little to do while you are travelling that loading screens are a core part of the gameplay.

I don't like to do this for my Game of the Year articles but I'm just going to refer you to my September 2020 monthly retrospective because I went on an insane rant and do not want to repeat myself here.

What I think is going to be the funniest thing about Starfield is how poorly it will age. It took 8+ years to develop and in 2025 we're going to see the release of Grand Theft Auto 6 which will have been in development for less time and by all accounts looks amazing. We all thought Starfield was going to be this game that ushered in a new way of thinking about video games, and it is so out of date that it's barely going to be remembered at all.

I'd bet dollars to donuts that after the release of GTA6 and other next-gen games such as Witcher 4 (powered by Unreal Engine 5) we're going to see Bethesda go into all out panic mode. Their Gamebryo engine just does not work any more and they are not going to be able to release The Elder Scrolls 6 using it. Unless they want it to be the last game they ever release.

4. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Elden Ring has completely ruined all other FromSoftware games for me. I really could not give a fuck about the "git gud" mentality that permeated those games. If something is too difficult for me I love being able to take a break and just wander somewhere else.

Unfortunately that is not possible in Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon as there is a very strict, linear set of missions that you absolutely must do. If you get to one where a boss kicks your ass your only options are to "git gud" or grind older missions for more money so you can buy more parts, and try again.

While Armored Core 6 is not necessarily a bad game I think it is going to be more frustrating then fun for the majority of gamers. There is a reason why Elden Ring was such a smash hit that sold tens of millions of copies, more than double either of their previous two games (Sekiro and Dark Soul 3). The ability to choose what you get fucked by unsurprisingly makes a game a lot more fun.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

To temper the anger that I am about to reap, I want to start off saying that I played over 100 hours of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and beat the game having achieved a 50.24% completion percentage. Everything you are about to read comes from a person who basically forfeited two months of his life to this game.

In my mind Tears of the Kingdom is essentially DLC for Breath of the Wild and I don't say that to be malicious or insulting. Nintendo spent years working on the world of Breath of the Wild so I completely understand why they decided to build on-top of it. They added some interesting new abilities have and made a couple quality of life improvements but at the core this is just more Breath of the Wild. And to be very clear I understand why there are tens of millions people who are super excited about that.

But that is why I have the exact same complaints about Tears of the Kingdom that I had about Breath of the Wild: this is not a Legend of Zelda game. Even Eiji Aonuma, the producer of modern Zelda games, has said that linear games are a thing of the past. After Tears of the Kingdom I am finally ready to accept that sad fact and realize that this franchise has been passed onto another generation.