They can’t all be winners. That’s an unfortunate truth that goes for video games as much as for anything else. Even the best franchises sometimes stumble. Even the most reliable series produce the occasional clunker.
The video game franchises mentioned below are full of fantastic games, but the highlighted titles are those series’ low points. Some of the series bounced back afterward. Others haven’t had the chance yet.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
Metacritic score: 32
Metacritic user score: 1.5
How the mighty have fallen. The first four Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games are some of the best skating games ever made. Each one layered interesting new dimensions onto a solid core of great skating gameplay. But after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 came out in 2002, Activision ditched the Pro Skater label, and the quality of the games went downhill.
Then out of nowhere in 2015, Activision announced a new installment in the beloved Pro Skater franchise, and promised to deliver the kind of streamlined skating game players crave. Unfortunately, the game failed to deliver on that promise. While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 isn’t as bad as you might have heard, it’s still not good, and nowhere near as brilliant as the other games in the Pro Skater series. Will there ever be another great Tony Hawk game? Maybe, but this isn’t it.
2. Call of Duty: Ghosts
Metacritic score: 73
Metacritic user score: 2.6
The Call of Duty series became a top-tier, blockbuster series with 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. That game was a revelation, bringing the action out of the stale World War II setting of the previous games and introducing modern backdrops and combat gear. Activision has been on a roll ever since, with excellent games from Black Ops to Advanced Warfare. But one installment — 2013’s Ghosts — scored noticeably lower than the rest.
The problem is that the game is bland. The campaign is boring, and there’s no gameplay hook to set it apart from the other entries in the series. Granted, it’s tough to keep coming up with fun twists in annualized franchises, but that’s what Activision signed up for when it decided to launch new installments each November. Thankfully, it looks like Black Ops III will continue pushing the series forward. If you skipped Ghost, you didn’t miss much.
3. Batman: Arkham Origins
Metacritic score: 74
Metacritic user score: 7.5
Games based on licensed properties don’t have the greatest track record of quality, so most Batman fans didn’t expect much when they popped Batman: Arkham Asylum in their machines in 2009. What they found was a beautiful game filled with smart puzzles, interesting characters, and one of the most satisfying combat systems in video game history. Simply put, the game made players feel like Batman.
Warner Bros. got a different studio to develop the 2012 installment Batman: Arkham Origins, and the results — while not awful — were less than fans had come to expect. Billed as a prequel, the game failed to offer anything new to the series, instead relying on what had come before. The result was a predictable, uninspired rehash fans could skip without missing anything valuable.
4. Resident Evil 6
Metacritic score: 67
Metacritic user score: 5.0
Ironically, Resident Evil’s problems began with Resident Evil 4, a game many consider to be among the best titles ever made. The one complaint some diehard fans of the franchise had with the fourth installment was that it had too much action. Which would be fine in most games, but the defining characteristics of the survival horror genre are suspense, tension, and limited ammo. Resident Evil 4 delivered on most of those qualities, but it sure had a lot of shooting in it.
Resident Evil 5 continued the trend toward action, and Resident Evil 6 embraced it wholeheartedly — to the extent that it came off like a bad Michael Bay movie. Capcom still hasn’t announced a followup, but it has been going back and remaking the series’ early entries. With luck, Capcom will find what made the series special, and be able to inject that into Resident Evil 7, whenever it comes out.
5. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Metacritic score: 66
Metacritic user score: 6.0
While the reputation of Final Fantasy XIII has taken somewhat of a hit in recent years, it was pretty well received when it came out in 2010. So was its direct sequel, Final Fantasy XIII–2. It was the third game in the sub-series that players weren’t thrilled to play.
Set 500 years after its predecessor, Lightning Returns has a mediocre story, with the titular character waking from a slumber to save the world 13 days before it will end. While the combat is solid, the game is chock full of fetch quests and other annoying little tasks that quickly become tedious. It’s a shame, because Final Fantasy games are usually excellent.