Here we are, Part 2, hopefully in a more reasonable timeframe. I’m continuing counting down my top ten most overrated games of all time and listing antidote games that do what the overrated games are doing, but better. Let’s get right into it!
Number 5: Metroid
Told you more Nintendo games were coming. Now there’s no way to deny how important the original Metroid is, it expanded what a platformer could be with its non-linear, interconnected world and myriad of upgrades that were needed to progress in the game. But damn it, that doesn’t mean we have to pretend it aged well. Metroid laid a great foundation, but the house is absolutely not up to code. The endless stretches of identical looking rooms with no map make navigating the game a nightmare, the control is too clunky for the game’s high difficulty level and starting at the first room of the game with 30 health (out of a possible 800 by the end of the game) are crippling flaws. I’ll give it a pass on the password issue, since the original disk-based version had saving. There are plenty of NES games that are much more playable today, to say nothing of later games using the Metroid formula. This hasn’t stopped people from acting like the original Metroid is the timeless classic that later games in the series are, and that’s why I’m putting it on this list. It deserves appreciation and respect, but you don’t have to pretend none of its flaws exist just because it came first.
Instead You Should Play: Super Metroid
Here it is, the game you remembered the original Metroid as. Super Metroid takes the formula from the original game and fixes everything wrong with it. A fun to explore world with a map, excellent controls, a balanced difficulty level, worldwide saving. Plus great new abilities that the game uses to their fullest, great boss fights, and one of the most iconic emotional moments in gaming. Super Metroid is everything the first game wanted to be, the seeds of potential that the first one planted sprouted and produced one of the best series in all of gaming. There’s even a remake of the original Metroid using the elements from Super Metroid, which I considered for this position, but using a remake didn’t feel right. But whatever your preference is in that area, there are Metroids out there that will give you exactly what you remember from the original game and require much less nostalgia filtering.
Number 4: Secret of Mana
Yeah, this is what I was talking about when I mentioned those supposed action-RPGs that may as well be turn-based. In the 90s, any RPG that wasn’t literally turn-based would be labeled a Zelda-style game, and that’s what I went into Secret of Mana expecting. Yeah, that’s not what I got. My sword needing to recharge after every swing and magic attacks freezing everything on the screen while they connect (and this includes bosses freezing you to get in their unavoidable attacks) was not my idea of Zelda. But genre preference isn’t my only reason for putting Secret of Mana on here. You have a three-person party in the game, with the option of co-op play. But if you don’t have two friends you can summon to your side whenever you want to play, you’re going to have to deal with the AI, and dear God. Now, I understand that a hyper-competent companion AI in a SNES game wasn’t a realistic request, but my issue is that the game puts the responsibility on you for the AI characters dying. And this is one of those RPGs where bringing a party member back from the dead is a huge pain in the ass early in the game. You can swap which character you control, but there will always be two vulnerable, AI-controlled characters during fights if you’re in single-player. Oh, and you not only have to individually level up several different types of elemental spells, the game sucker punches you by basically requiring you to have maxed out several elements to beat one of the last bosses. The grinding I endured when I got there… never again. Secret of Mana simply does not deserve the praise it gets, there are so many better RPGs on SNES. But for the antidote, I decided to go with the three-person party theme…
Instead You Should Play: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
There are a lot of great things about this game, but for the purpose of being an antidote to Secret of Mana, I’m going to focus on the combat. Like Secret of Mana, Ys VIII is an action-RPG where you have three party members fighting at once, which you can freely switch between at any time with the other two being AI-controlled (there’s no co-op option, but that allows for the single player mode to be better balanced). However, the CPU-controlled characters have greatly increased defense and can’t be knocked out while the computer is controlling them, because the game isn’t a complete asshole. And the combat, it’s night and day. Fast action game-style combat where every attack is avoidable, you can combo enemies, link in special moves, dodge and parry, even activate something like Bayonetta’s “Witch Time” mechanic. This is what an action-RPG should be, and modern action-JRPGs thankfully seem to be adopting this style as a whole. The fourth generation was a golden age for many genres, but action-RPGs are doing much better in the present.
Number 3: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
I’m still in a dream, and I want to wake up and get the Metal Gear I loved back. I’m not talking about the universally acknowledged monstrosity that modern Konami has turned Metal Gear into, I’ve felt this way ever since Metal Gear Solid 3 was first released. After loving the first two console Metal Gear Solid games and the Game Boy Color one for their fast-paced stealth gameplay and insane stories, Metal Gear Solid 3 messed everything up and the series never recovered, although MGS3 remained the low point until Konami really went demonic. The story was much simpler than the previous games with a one-dimensional main villain, zero dimensional bosses, and far fewer plot twists with the one the game presented as its biggest being insultingly obvious. But the gameplay was worse. Fast-paced stealth? Yeah, screw that, now we have to tip toe up behind enemies to avoid alerting them and worry about our supplies so that we can micromanage camouflage and recovering health, with long load times for the menu we constantly need, of course. And we lose the radar from the earlier games while at the same time getting much more open environments that the overhead camera is absolutely not suited for. I just want the old Metal Gear back.
Instead You Should Play: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Well, this should have been pretty easy to guess after what I wrote above. Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, and one of the most unfairly bashed in its heyday. Raiden not being Snake doesn’t change that the gameplay of the Metal Gear series, which is at its peak in MGS2, with fast paced stealth that still gives you real options (as opposed to “do you want to use the camouflage that the game demands on this specific texture or be handicapped?” in a certain later game). The story doesn’t give a shit about realism, and that’s exactly how it should be, and it doesn’t hinder it at all when it wants to be philosophical. The fact that this game never got a faithful sequel saddens me to this day, and I can only hope that by some miracle Death’s Stranding turns out to play like this (not like we have any gameplay information to prove it won’t). Easily the best game of 2001, and the fact that people nitpicked it to death while giving a pass to… never mind, we’ll get to that in a bit.
Number 2: The Legend of Zelda
I’ve had this issue in articles before, the Zelda and Metroid series parallel each other so well in their early days that it’s hard to think of unique things to say about one after covering the other. The original Zelda is an incredibly important game that laid the foundation for an incredible series, but the house is nowhere near up to code and if you go into that basement known as the second quest, you’re as good as dead. The original Zelda has barely any puzzles, control that is too stiff for the level of difficulty, obnoxiously scarce resources, and cheap “do something in a random place with no indication” roadblocks that try to pass themselves off as puzzles. It not holding your hand does not make up for all of this, it does not even come close. When I first played this game (with the very much needed help of a guide) I assumed that I was just bad at it since I was still fairly inexperienced with adventure games. When I came back to it years later, I realized that it was actually just not well designed. This led to some pretty strong feelings towards it, and it was actually my pick for the most overrated game of all time for a good number of years, before a certain game (I feel like I’m trying to hide Wily or Sigma being the final boss of a game by refusing to name it) took that spot.
Instead You Should Play: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I was originally going to put A Link to the Past in this spot, but I decided to try something different (if you want the ALttP writeup, go to the Super Metroid one and replace every mention of Metroid with Zelda). For all my issues with Breath of the Wild, there’s no way to deny that it completely annihilates the original Zelda at everything the latter game is praised for. More freedom, more non-linearity, way more open world to explore. This game was clearly made to please the people who loved the original Legend of Zelda, and while there are some parts that weren’t done as well (the original Zelda had way more dungeons and I don’t remember your sword breaking) it unquestionably obliterates the original game in pretty much category that gets it so much praise. Now just please fix the weapon durability and lack of dungeons so I can feel confident in the future of my second favorite series.
Number 1: Mega Man X
Well, what can I say? People change. After a while you have to come to terms with what the games you played as a kid were really like, even if it means having an unpopular opinion. Yes, there was a time when I thought the control, level design, boss fights, secrets, and aesthetics in this game were enough to earn it all the praise it absorbs, but after REALLY taking a long look at it, you realize… you’re not buying this, are you?
The Real Number 1: Grand Theft Auto III
Yeah, I know, this was a really, really obvious pick. I’ve actually called this my pick for the most overrated game of all time in previous articles. But I am not going to pretend I have a different pick just to surprise people… not for longer than it takes to set up a joke, anyway. Well, I think this is where I should lay it all on the line and tear into Grand Theft Auto III as much as I can and try to thoroughly explain why I hate this game so much.
Basically, the game has a similar decent structure but completely unsafe building issue to the original Metroid and Zelda. But this game isn’t from the 80s, it’s from 2001 and it’s not the first game in its series. Yes, it was the first 3D one, but many of its issues are unrelated to that (although some certainly are). The game not only has an appalling lack of checkpoints, it is actually designed so that even the meager checkpoint you do get is worthless. Die during a mission? You wake up at the hospital and have to drive back to the mission. Except you lost pretty much everything (all your weapons and money), so what you really have to do is load your save, which may be even farther away, since there are only three save points in the entire game. And you’ll have to drive to one after every mission, so even more pointless trekking back and forth. A Retry option would have made this game so much better, but nope, you’re going to spend exponentially more time driving to missions than actually playing them. Also, there’s no full map. Yes, you get a mini-map to guide you to missions, but I hope you never have to visit a gun store or Pay ‘n’ Spray after the one time the game points out the location of a single one to you. You’re also treated to the worst lock-on system I have ever seen in a game. Winning a firefight is nearly impossible, you’ll be quickly shot to death while the camera has a seizure and all of your bullets miss. The driving controls aren’t as bad, but they’re still lacking considering how easy it is to get caught on objects or get flipped over. And let’s talk about the hidden packages. They are the codifier for the worst type of collectable in all of gaming, tiny objects that could be hidden ANYWHERE in an open game world. And they aren’t even confined to masochistic 100% runs in GTAIII, if you want simple quality of life features like being able to restore health at save points, you’re going to need several of them.
Now, some people dismiss these issues by saying you’re really supposed to ignore the missions and enjoy causing chaos with no other objective. I have two responses to that. One, if a game puts in the amount of content and effort into its story mode that Grand Theft Auto III did, and it turns out the game is at its most fun when you ignore it, that is an abject failure on the developer’s part. Two, even this is held back by the awful controls and ultra-strict penalties for dying. And you’re going to need to find a lot of those hidden packages if you want good chaos tools without playing the story. I get it, being able to kill any character in a 3D game was mind-blowing at the time, but that doesn’t change that GTAIII is a genuinely bad game. Innovation can’t replace quality, at least not in the long term, and while the sequels to GTAIII fixed some of my many issues with it, several others remained for no reason. I genuinely think the lack of demand for Grand Theft Auto to fix its issues held the series and genre back for years. It took until Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008 for the gaming community (not reviewers, they still worshipped it) to finally say that the sandbox emperor had no clothes. Not that anyone admitted that about the prior GTA games. Thankfully, the sun was about finally rise and eliminate the shadow GTAIII cast on its genre…
Instead You Should Play: Saints Row 2
Yep, this was also pretty predictable if you’ve read my past articles. But like my pick for most overrated game of all time, just because it’s predictable doesn’t mean Saints Row 2 hasn’t earned its spot. Saints Row 2 is incredibly similar to the PlayStation 2 Grand Theft Auto games, in most circumstances a game so similar would be a shameless rip-off. But Saints Row 2 had the radical, groundbreaking idea of making the gameplay style good. Almost every single issue I mentioned about GTAIII is fixed. Solid control in every area, checkpoints, a fully functional map, the hidden package equivalents are still there but at least the gameplay doesn’t depend on them in any way. This means you can enjoy the over-the-top story, massive gameplay variety, content packed quest, and all the senseless chaos you want without crippling flaws holding you back at every turn. Saints Row 2 is what Grand Theft Auto always should have been, and between it and the backlash against Grand Theft Auto IV, the genre finally evolved into what it had the potential to be. Saints Row 2 is not only an antidote to Grand Theft Auto III, it cleansed its entire genre of GTAIII’s illness. It earns the number one spot on its list as much as GTAIII earned its number one spot.
So, there you finally have it, my ranked picks for the top ten most overrated games of all time and the antidotes to their flaws. I’m very relieved to finally be finished, see you next time for an article that hasn’t been hanging over me for almost two years.