The internet is fond of reducing all video games to being either awesome or terrible. However, there are a relatively small percentage of games that are truly and objectively bad. There are some people out there who might have a fondness for Metacritic's worst games of all time, but they're undeniably for a niche audience at best.
On a gamer-to-gamer basis, a game might not click for a variety of reasons, some of which are difficult to define. When a game reaches the status of being among the worst of all time, there's little ambiguity. Generally, the games seem unfinished, lack the basic elements of an enjoyable gameplay experience, and feel as though they were thrown together by developers who had no passion for the project and/or were forced to work on it under rushed, limiting conditions. There are plenty of times when a developer had all the chances in the world to pull a project together and simply failed to do so, by nobody's fault but their own.
UPDATE: 2022/11/18 23:55 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS
With the next-generation systems allowing developers to make some great video games, there are still those that fall short. In 2022, there have been some games that received bad reviews, but none came close to landing on the Metacritic worst games of all time list. The game considered the worst of the year at Metacritic was The House of the Dead remake, and it still managed to break 50 on the ratings scale. That seems like an award-winning score compared to the Metacritic worst games of all time, the ones that never even hit a 25 on the scale of 1 to 100, the worst of the worst in the video gaming world.
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25 Gravity Games Bike: Street Vert Dirt (2002) - 24%
The title of this game is a mouthful, and it feels like it's missing some commas or something. Which is fitting, since the game itself is missing plenty, too - little things like polish, playability, and fun.
Developers seem to have forgotten that there was a reason Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was such a revelation. Games like this aren't easy to get right, and are bad far more often than they are good. Sadly, even in a post-THPS world where there was a clear template to follow, most still didn't even come close to getting it right. Eventually, neither did the later Tony Hawk games.
24 Postal III (2011) - 24%
It's always tricky for people to genuinely criticize a game series like Postal, which was specifically created to rail against political correctness and conventionally good taste. Bashing a Postal game must mean a person just doesn't "get it," or is too sensitive and easily offended to enjoy something subversive.
Of course, there are plenty of games that wade into such waters but still manage to actually be good games. Grand Theft Auto, Dead or Alive, MadWorld, and Bayonetta are all proof of that. No, people bash Postal-- and especially the long-delayed and ultimately still not really finished third installment-- because they fail to actually be genuinely good or functionally interesting games underneath all the crassness.
23 Game Party Champions (2012) - 24%
One of the unfortunate side effects of the Wii being such a huge seller and catching on among the "casual" crowd is that a lot of cheap Nintendo party game collections were shoveled onto it in hopes of being snatched up by the unsuspecting family members who didn't know any better. Many of them sold well, which guaranteed that more of them were made.
Some of this carried over onto the Wii U, the result of which is one of the absolute worst of this already largely-bad genre: Game Party Champions. Even with a small collection of games available for the system, no Wii U owner should ever touch this title.
22 NBA Unrivaled (2009) - 24%
Tecmo was an early pioneer of fast-paced sports games that were just enough like their originals sport to satisfy purists but were fun and light enough for anyone to play. With that kind of history, they seemed like a good company to attempt a modern take on NBA Jam, which they tried in 2010 with NBA Unrivaled.
They also failed miserably. Unrivaled is just a joyless, half-hearted mess that would've been bad enough on its own, but also released the same year as EA's own NBA Jam reboot-- which wasn't perfect, but did what Unrivaled was trying to do only much, much better.
21 Terrawars: New York Invasion (2006) - 24%
For some of these games, the screenshots speak for themselves. In this case, the above image from the 2006 FPS Terrawars: New York Invasion looks kind of the way movies in the early '90s thought virtual reality was going to look. That is to say: it's ugly, blocky, and almost completely devoid of any finer detail.
Graphics aren't everything, but gameplay is, and Terrawars falls on its face there, too. That it was built on the engine that powered the excellent No One Lives Forever 2 but manages to play even worse than it looks is both an insult to N.O.L.A. and FPS games in general.
20 Pulse Racer (2003) - 24%
Even just within the critics blurbs on the Metacritic page for 2003 original Xbox game Pulse Racer, three different outlets proclaim the game to be among the worst games of all time for the system. That's saying something, because the Xbox was also home to Kabuki Warriors.
Gamers knew just from Pulse Racer's cover art to stay far away, with a generic-looking man and car that a person scrolls past even if it were a 100% free iOS game. Things only get worse when a gamer pops the disc in and is treated to one of the blandest, most boring games in a genre made for fun.
19 Fighter Within (2013) - 23%
Fighter Within was an Xbox One launch game that had the bright idea of being a Kinect-controlled fighting game, back when Microsoft was still trying to force Kinect on gamers.
There is one-- and only one-- positive thing to say about the otherwise nonredeemable Fighter Within. It helped to reinforce that Kinect just wasn't as responsive as originally promised, even the Xbox One version, and that people were done waiting for it to fulfill a promise it was never going to. It took a few years, but the Kinect line was finally put out of its misery in 2017. It was an easy choice for the Metacritic worst games of all time.
18 FlatOut 3: Chaos & Destruction (2011) - 23%
The earlier FlatOut games weren't spectacular, but they were still fun and scratched a certain itch for demolition derby-style racing games that few other games did at the time. They earned enough fans that there have been four core installments (plus spinoffs) thus far-- though it's a miracle a FlatOut 4 happened after the head-on collision that was FlatOut 3.
The lone digital-only FlatOut game, Chaos & Destruction also wasn't developed by the team that handled most of the other installments, and it shows. The worst thing about FlatOut 3 was that the collision detection was completely broken, which is kind of a deal-breaker for a game all about smashing cars into each other.
17 Homie Rollerz (2008) - 23%
Surprising as it may be, this game doesn't handle the depiction of the culture it represents in a remotely tasteful or respectful manner. However, sad as this is to say, that doesn't always necessarily make for a bad game. People don't always like to admit this, but gaming history is full of games that gamers play and enjoy because they are good, even as they turn a blind eye to how offensive parts of them are.
Luckily, DS racing and car customization game Homie Rollerz isn't a game anyone has to worry about putting their conscience aside to play, as it somehow manages to be even worse than they'd expect from its bad title.
16 Charlie's Angels (2003) - 23%
The 2000s Charlie's Angels movies ended up being a lot more fun than anyone expected. A movie all about three women kicking a bunch of people in the face should've made for a slam dunk of a video game.
Except it wasn't. The 2003 Charlie's Angels video game, which was based on both films, couldn't make a relatively can't-miss concept work even a little. Sure, the Angels look something like the actress they're based on, but the graphics are so bad that there's no even enjoying it on that level.
15 Rambo: The Video Game (2014) - 23%
The 2008 Rambo reboot/sequel knew exactly what it wanted to be and did that very well. With the nuanced, character-driven story of First Blood long since abandoned, this is John Rambo at his most gleefully self-parodying, celebrating the long-forgotten excess of mindless 1980s action flicks.
While only based on the previous three Rambo films, the 2014 Rambo: The Video Game could've only existed in a world where the movie had already revived the franchise. Nonetheless, this unfathomably bad shooter isn't worth any Rambo fan's energy.
14 Fast & Furious: Showdown (2013) - 22%
Fair or not, by the time there started to be games officially based on the Fast & Furious movie franchise, Need for Speed had already nailed the whole vibe of tuner/street racing culture in a way that was going to be hard to follow. Sure enough, none of the actual F&F games came close.
While none of them are great, Showdown is an absolute embarrassment. Even though it canonically takes place between two of the movies, fans are just better off not knowing what happened between Fast Five and rather than finding out through this painful racing game.
13 Drake Of The 99 Dragons (2003) - 22%
Remember the Drake of the 99 Dragons comic books and animated television series? No? That's because they never happened. All plans to turn the property into a major multimedia franchise were abandoned after the lead product, the 2003 Xbox game, was a complete creative and commercial failure.
Some critics reluctantly praised Drake's cartoony art style, but that was typically only briefly mentioned among a list of complaints that exceed the game's promised number of dragons. That said, it was mostly just the idea of Drake's graphics that elicited compliments, as in practice the game was still an unappealing, stuttery mess.
12 Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma (2015) - 21%
It's not very often that a game is so bad that its developer not only publicly apologizes for it, stops selling it, and immediately cancels already-in-place sequel plans, but also offers refunds to everyone who has already purchased it. All of that is exactly what happened (via Game Spot) with the disappointing title Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma.
Developer Versus Evil's general manager didn't mince words, saying flat out, "The game was a failure." He also admitted that it wasn't even a matter of a game that was full of bugs and glitches, instead admitting, "people just didn't like it." Unfortunately, doing all of that still doesn't erase the reviews making it one of the Metacritic worst games of all time.
11 Infestation: Survivor Stories (aka The War Z) (2012) - 20%
Going by the awkward-sounding The War Z until inevitable trademark problems due to its similarity to World War Z, the not-much-better-titled Infestation: Survivor Stories was a zombie-based online multiplayer survival horror game that was plagued with various problems throughout its development and open alpha phase.
When the game was finally released, it was slammed for bad design, ugly graphics, and some particularly questionable micro-transaction practices. When the servers finally shut down in December 2016, four years after launch, nobody but the few people still actually playing it noticed or cared.
10 Deal Or No Deal (2007) - 20%
While game shows are generally perfect for adapting into video games. Deal or No Deal is not. It's slow-paced and involves a lot of filler of Howie Mandel talking to the contestant, the contestant talking to his family, and Howie talking to the banker. The actual "action" in a typical episode of Deal or No Deal only lasts about 90 seconds.
This translates into an incredibly dull video game. Not that video games based on game shows typically involve winning real prizes anyway, but the stakes are 99% of what makes the show interesting to watch-- in the absence of that, players are just left with a game of random chance with no payoff.
9 Alone in the Dark: Illumination (2015) - 19%
The original Alone in the Dark was groundbreaking when it was released way back in 1992, setting much of the template that Resident Evil would eventually follow (and get far more credit for). Subsequent sequels followed in 1993 and 1994, and were mostly more of the same-- but in a good way.
After that, the series took a long break until its 2001 resurrection, and it has never really been all that noteworthy since. In fact, the three "modern" AotD games have gotten progressively worse, with 2015's PC-exclusive Illumination being the worst thing that happened to the franchise since the Tara Reid/Christian Slater movie adaptation.
8 SPOGS Racing (2008) - 18%
Overall, WiiWare was a botched attempt by Nintendo to add a digital storefront to the Wii once it became obvious it needed one. Nintendo did little to promote the service, and it did an even worse job of organizing it in any kind of sensible way. There was great stuff on there-- people just had to actually find it somehow.
Still, when WiiWare shut down, it was a tragedy, as dozens upon dozens of titles exclusive to the service simply disappeared. To look on the bright side, it'll also mean a lot of bad games went away too, like WiiWare's absolute worst game: gyroscopic racer SPOGS Racing.
7 Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons (2013) - 17%
Why is it so difficult to get a Double Dragon game right? Beyond the first two installments, there have been a few halfway-decent games among a bunch of bad ones. Things have been even worse for DD in the last decade, with only Neon being a bright spot in a lot of darkness.
To be the absolute worst Double Dragon game takes some next-level awfulness, and Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons lowers to the occasion. That it is a loose remake of the best game in the franchise makes the abject failure of this game on every level even more embarrassing as one of the Metacritic worst games of all time.
6 Vroom In The Night Sky (2017) - 17%
This game has the word "vroom" in its title, and there's not much else to say about it. Chances are, Vroom in the Night Sky is a game the fewest number of people have heard of. It was part of the first batch of indie games for the Nintendo Switch. It might have seemed like gamers were long past the days of the rushed, half-finished launch window games, but Vroom in the Night Sky proved that that tradition is alive and well.
Among the blurbs from reviews of the game making it one of the Metacritic worst games of all time, fans will find Vroom called "insulting," "an absolute travesty," and "completely unappealing."