Love ’em or hate ’em, these are the games that split opinion and cause fights. They’re the most divisive video games ever made.
Typically a game comes out and a general consensus quickly builds around it. For example, this year it’s pretty widely felt by gamers that Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are among the best games released in 2015, and that Evolve and The Order: 1886 were huge disappointments despite a lot of pre-release hype. There are outliers to these opinions, of course, but if you talk to most gamers who’ve actually played these games, that’s likely what you’re going to hear.
But every now and then a game comes along that’s so unique or does something so different from its predecessors that it pretty evenly splits its player base. Some people will swear it’s among the best games of all time, while others will think it’s an absolute piece of trash. These are the most divisive video games ever released.
#5 – Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
More than 15 years ago, Rare released two of the greatest 3D platformers of all time in Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie. Coming late in the N64’s life cycle, the games were a little heavy on collecting TONS of items but they still improved on pretty much everything Super Mario 64 did while also carving out their own identity distinctly rooted in British humor. Then, Microsoft purchased Rare in 2002 and proceeded to neglect all of the franchises the company spent years building up. But in 2008, Microsoft finally released a new Banjo game.
Nuts & Bolts has elements of the platforming that made the original games so popular, but its real focus is on building your own vehicles to make your way around levels and complete challenges. If you’re a more creative type, there’s dozens of hours of gameplay here making your dream cars, planes, and boats. But despite giving players freedom they could only dream of in other creation games like LittleBigPlanet, a lot of fans of the first two games stayed away from this one and to this day are still demanding a real “Banjo-Threeie” (which they’re finally sort of maybe getting with Yooka-Laylee). Maybe it was the change to a blockier (and frankly, uglier) art-style that turned a lot of them off.
#4 – Metroid: Other M
In 2010 Nintendo was still riding high on the success of the Wii and releasing new games in classic series like Punch-Out!!, Donkey Kong County, and Kirby that channeled the simpler origins of these franchises. These releases were largely successful, but Other M was a rare, massive misstep.
Although the Metroid Prime trilogy, and particularly Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii, were incredibly well received and are now considered among the best Metroid games ever made, a Metroid game that at least seemed to harken back to the even more glorious days of Super Metroid was tremendously appealing to longtime fans. Plus, with the involvement of Team Ninja in development, Other M was one of the best-looking games on the Wii.
But the involvement of Team Ninja also meant an odd emphasis on story, which often portrayed Samus as weak and bafflingly unwilling to use her more powerful weapons without permission from her commanding officer. To many fans, it betrayed the strong, independent, heroic character that had been built up over the franchise’s nearly 25 year history.
Beyond that, once the final game came out, many fans saw the controls as a forced step backwards after the popularity of the first-person view in the Prime trilogy. While critical reviews were generally positive, it’s hard to find many gamers who say it’s among the best in the franchise, and Nintendo seems unsure of how to proceed with the series next. The company hasn’t even hinted at a new proper Metroid game since Other M’s release, and the announcement of 3DS spin-off Metroid Prime: Federation Force was greeted with a petition for its cancellation.
#3 – Mass Effect 3
Over the course of about 120 hours, the Mass Effect trilogy told an epic story of traveling the galaxy to save all life in it from evil synthetic organisms. Throughout all three games, the storytelling was strong, the action was great, and the sense of role-playing was second-to-none. It built a brand-new fantasy galaxy that rivaled the likes of Star Wars or Star Trek, and had characters so compelling they inspired at times unseemly levels of devotion.
But what really upset people was the last few minutes of Mass Effect 3. See, Bioware promised that your choices would carry over across games and have a real impact on the finale. But in the end, no matter what your choices across the three games, the final ending to your personal story basically came down to one final decision in the last few minutes of gameplay, and all it did was change the color of an energy burst in the ending cinematic.
Backlash from fans was swift and severe to the point that Bioware had to release an extended ending via DLC that actually showed the effects of choices that you made. The new endings satisfied a lot of players, but has kept the game from eclipsing Mass Effect 2 in greatness in many fan’s eyes. A lot of fans still see it as a massive disappointment.
#2 – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Wind Waker was very much a victim of misplaced expectations. When Nintendo first unveiled the Gamecube in 2000, the company showed off a short and realistic (for the time) video of Link and Ganondorf in the midst of a heated sword fight. Fans went nuts for this and were eagerly anticipating their super realistic (for the time) Zelda game. But when the Wind Waker was finally unveiled in 2002, what they got instead was a cartoonish take on Zelda based on classic animated films. Fans went nuts, derisively referring to it as “Cel-da” and blasting Nintendo for making nothing but kiddie games.
But once the game came out, a lot of players were actually pretty happy with the finished product which features one of the better stories in the Zelda series. The sailing mechanic is still unique more than a decade later. And while few Zelda fans still criticize the game for its looks (which look truly stunning in the Wii U remake), some still criticize the game for being too easy and for an annoying fetch-quest near the end of the game. Few games are equally the focus of all-time great game discussions and unqualified derision, but Wind Waker somehow routinely finds its way into both conversations.
#1 – Deadly Premonition
The gaming world has never before seen, and may never again see, a game as divisive as Deadly Premonition. The original Xbox 360 release in 2010 received a 2/10 from IGN and a perfect score from Destructoid, which described it as “like watching two clowns eat each other. It’s perverse, it’s wrong, and yet it’s so f***ing funny.”
At its core, Deadly Premonition is a murder mystery. It aims high with a realistic, living world similar to Grand Theft Auto or Shenmue, but it’s clear that the developers didn’t quite have the expertise or budget to match those games. They did the best they could, and added in a poor man’s version of Resident Evil 4 combat. It sounds bad, and it sort of is, but then you spend a little bit of time watching Special Agent Francis York speaking with his imaginary friend Zach and meeting characters straight out of the Twin Peaks TV show, and suddenly the game becomes oddly charming. Or you’ll completely despise it. There’s really no in-between when it comes to Deadly Premonition.