As an avid video game fan, it is very difficult not to spend my free time reading game news, watching game previews and reviews and generally searching out any and all game-related information so that I’m at least somewhat knowledgeable on current and upcoming releases and the buzz surrounding them.
When there is an upcoming game that piques my interest, I usually make the mistake of finding out too much about the game. I give in and get wrapped up in the hype surrounding the game and more often than not this leads to disappointment when the game is actually released.
In my opinion, the majority of hyped games fall short of expectations and that leads me to wonder if that is my problem or the game? It’s not the game’s fault that I had these preconceived expectations for it. Hyped games are at a genuine disadvantage to their under-hyped counterparts. This is pretty obvious as the more marketers and publishers tell you how great it’s going to be, the greater you expect it to be whereas if you encounter a relatively unknown game you will obviously not have these expectations and will be more open-minded about the gameplay, story and characters.
Creating hype and buzz around a game will create a level of familiarity with the characters and the story before you’ve even touched it. You’ll start filling your mind with your own imagined character back-stories and anticipating what plot twists you may encounter. No video game designer can ever compete with that. Familiarity will sell games, but betraying expectations will cause a backlash.
From a publisher’s perspective, hype sells games and that’s all they care about. From a gamer’s perspective hype is a spoiler. Although it is difficult to do most of the time, I prefer to know less about a game and be surprised with what it has in store for me. I’d rather not know what “Rosebud” is before watching Citizen Kane.
Anyway, here are some games that stuck out in my mind that met the expectations of the hype surrounding them, some games that didn’t and some games that I knew little or nothing about that blew me away:
Some games that managed to live up to the hype:
Ocarina of Time: Surrounded by massive hype as the much beloved Zelda franchise made the controversial leap into the third dimension. A flawless transition from 2d to 3d provided gamers with what many still proclaim as the best video game ever made.
Mass Effect 2: Took an already great game and made it better. Better graphics, tighter controls, supported with tons of DLC. This game had a lot to live up to, but it definitely delivered.
Mario 64: A beloved franchise goes from 2d side-scrolling to 3d platformer. Although it has been over a decade since its release, Mario 64 is still the bar against which all other 3d platformers are judged.
Halo: I didn’t want to buy into the hype on this one. I was a die-hard PS2 fan at the time and didn’t want to admit that it was going to be necessary to fork out the money for another system. It was.
Uncharted: Early in the life of the PS3, Naughty Dog was already boasting they’d test the beefy machine’s limits and provide us all with a game that demonstrated what the PS3 was capable of. What we got was a beautiful game with lush environments, great production value and excellent gameplay and the introduction of the half-tuck.
Metal Gear Solid: Arguably the most hyped game of 1998, Metal Gear Solid gave PSOne gamers a grown-up action game in which introduced many of us to new “stealth” gameplay mechanics. Whether or not you understand the story is irrelevant, it was full of interesting characters and the game looked and played great.
Gears of War: One of the first games to deliver full campaign online co-op. And it worked. Well. Also, aside from being mostly brown and gray, the game is gorgeous and controls like dream.
Super Mario World: Sega beat Nintendo into the 16-bit generation. Super Mario World showed the world why the Super Nintendo was worth the wait.
Games that did not live up to the hype:
GTA IV: Beautiful game. Huge, open sandbox gameplay, great story. How did this game underachieve? Lack of variety in gameplay. I got tired of getting in my car, chasing someone down to kill them. Perhaps this changed with the addition of Lost and the Damned and Ballad ofGay Tony, but by then I’d alreadt lost interest.
Brute Force: Promised top notch AI and 4-man squad based tactical action. Simply didn’t deliver.
Final Fantasy 8: The jump from Final Fantasy 6 to Final Fantasy 7 blew everyone away. How do you follow up the best-selling, most beloved Final Fantasy game of all time? It’s impossible, but a convoluted love story and heavy reliance on time-consuming, unskippable summons during battles didn’t cut it.
Lair: Was supposed to legitimize Sony’s incorporation of the “six-axis” control scheme, unfortunately, it did just the opposite.
Halo 3: Not necessarily a bad game, just didn’t really bring anything new to the table as far as the campaign mode goes. Multiplayer modes got the most innovation and in my opinion, that’s unfortunate. I had high hopes for this one and it just felt like it was missing something.
Mario Sunshine: Like Halo 3, this in my opinion was a very good game but the FLUDD controls were sometimes frustratingly difficult and the camera system left much to be desired. It just felt like the game wasn’t complete.
ET: Having never played this and not experiencing the hype first hand, I had reservations about including it, but its failure is so legendary that to not include it would possibly invalidate any of my other opinions.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Really this game didn’t look much (if any) better than Super Smash Bros. Melee, and most prefer the gameplay of Melee over Brawl. The adventure mode is a neat distraction, but the laughably bad online play of this game makes it a disappointment in my book.
Little hyped games that blew me away:
You’ll probably notice that most of these games were released in the early 90’s. That’s no coincidence, that was a period of time in which I played more video games than any other period of my life, I also did not have internet access or video game magazine subscriptions so I was unaffected by hype. Any game I played was relatively unknown and so when I found something good, it really had impact.
Toejam and Earl: Great co-op gameplay was something that you didn’t see much of on the Genesis. Toejam and Earl was labeled a commercial failure due to poor initial sales, but word of mouth made it a classic.
Sam ‘n Max Hit the Road: I had no idea who Sam or Max were when I stumbled upon this gem. This was back when point and click adventures were king and Lucas Arts used to make decent games. Sam ‘n Max is a hilarious game with a great story, great animation and tons of Star Wars references.
Guardian Heroes: Most of the Saturn library was relatively unknown to me considering my late purchase of the console. Guardian Heroes was a smoothly animated beat ’em up with tons of unlockables and a choose-your-own-adventure storyline that increased replayability.
Legend of the Mystical Ninja Quirky and humorous, great co-op action. Just a fun game all around.
Suikoden: I had no idea what this game was or how to pronounce the name when I found it on the shelf, but it turned out to be one of my all time favorite RPG’s.
Gunstar Heroes: This game was the Sega Genesis’ answer to Contra III. Fast paced, side-scrolling shooter with customizable weapons. Add in the fact that you can throw your partner at the enemies and you’ve got yourself a classic!
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: When other Castlevania games were failing to make the jump to 3d, SotN stayed true to the 2d classics, added an amazing soundtrack and RPG elements. Amazing game.
Earth Bound: It was hard to justify spending $80 on a game I’d never heard of just because it had a big box and an interesting look. Luckily, it was worth it.