10 Great Games That Critics Hated But Fans Loved

Urban Reign
Urban Reign

Look, you’ve probably seen the title and come into this with some preconceived notions about critics and how they can be wrong all the time, or whatever. We’re not here to fan any flames in that regard, but there’s definitely no denying that some games might have been undeservedly bashed by critics. The reasons why vary from game to game, but there’s a lot of diamonds out there in gaming that have been obscured by plenty of rough.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at some games that critics were mostly sour about, whereas the general public or a cult audience managed to find the game’s true value. Specifically, we’re focusing on games that gamers enjoyed in their launch state, instead of games that were only redeemed thanks to a developer’s hard work over years. Games like Warframe and No Man’s Sky weren’t well received at launch, but at this point, pretty much everyone agrees that both games are good now.

Anyway, here’s a whole bunch of brilliant games that critics weren’t keen on that actually slapped.


1. God Hand

God Hand
God Hand

Metacritic Score: 73
Platform(s): PS2

Probably the most famous example on this list, God Hand was the swansong for Clover Studio, the Capcom subsidiary responsible for some of the biggest cult classics on the PS2 and Gamecube. Both Viewtiful Joe and Okami were beloved by critics, but for some reason failed to achieve any real commercial success, which led Capcom to make the decision to shutter the studio after the release of God Hand in Japan and North America. The departures of key Clover talent like Atsushi Inaba, Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami also forced Capcom’s hand, to a degree.

Upon God Hand’s launch, the devilishly difficult beat ‘em up received almost the exact opposite treatment from critics than other Clover Studio games had, with the now infamous 3/10 review from IGN being the most famous example. While other reviews from critics were a bit more favorable, especially once the UK-based games media got hold of the game, God Hand was far from the critical darling that Okami was, with its intense difficulty and bizarre, kitsch aesthetic invoking a love or hate reaction in critics.

As for the gaming public, God Hand is still considered to be somewhat divisive, as the game can often demand too much from the player in terms of ability, but those who vibed with God Hand’s ridiculous nature found arguably the best beat ‘em up on PS2. What’s not to love about beating up a big demon lord named Elvis; something that’s barely scratching the surface on how ludicrous God Hand becomes? The reputation of God Hand turned around so much so quickly that even IGN featured the game on their best PS2 games list, cementing God Hand’s place as a whipper.


2. Deadly Premonition

Deadly Premonition
Deadly Premonition

Metacritic Score: 68
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch

Hindsight is 20:20, and in this instance, it’s hard to see any other destiny for Deadly Premonition to be a bit of a misunderstood and somewhat even maligned masterpiece. If you’re starting with Twin Peaks as your main inspiration, a show that’s famously not everyone, then you’re going to end up with a game that people are either going to love or hate. Or both, as the case happened to be with a lot of critics who had the unfortunate job of reviewing Deadly Premonition.

An ambitious game, Deadly Premonition blended survival horror with an open world, as NPCs and facilities in the town of Greenvale operated on a 24 hour cycle, meaning the player had to be in the right place at the right time of day to continue their investigation into the town’s murderer. Between the odd story, the janky gameplay and frankly bizarre characters and mechanics, Deadly Premonition caught a lot of flak when it launched, though some critics found joy in the game’s more eccentric tone.

As for the wider public, Deadly Premonition never really achieved enough success to be called more than just a cult hit, but those who fell in love with the game’s idiosyncratic nature fell hard. Perhaps the most telling repair that’s been done to Deadly Premonition’s reputation is the acceptance that most of what’s considered flaws by some are actually deliberate design choices, though DP’s redemption arc couldn’t save the sequel from being lambasted by pretty much everyone.


3. Alien: Isolation

Alien Isolation
Alien Isolation

Metacritic Score: 79
Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mobile

Are we stretching the conceit of this a little bit to include Alien: Isolation? Perhaps a little bit, as Alien: Isolation received plenty of acclaim when it launched in 2014. You could even argue that Isolation’s success and popularity with the broader gaming public, and most notably streamers, was responsible for the survival horror renaissance we’re currently experiencing right now, so the 79 on Metacritic almost feels like a crime.

In truth, it’s not about how many critics disliked Alien: Isolation originally launched, as plenty thought the game was fantastic. It’s more about “who”, as big outlets such as GameSpot, IGN and Polygon were a lot more scathing in their critique than others. Those who weren’t keen on the game found that Isolation’s campaign was too long, which is fair enough, while stating that Alien: Isolation also suffered from some uneven pacing.

Admittedly, those criticisms about Alien: Isolation’s length do have some weight to them, especially when you’re stuck fighting androids for a decent chunk of the game, but when the Xenomorph shows up on screen, that’s when the real magic of Isolation comes out. As an AI enemy driven to hunt down the player instead of just appearing as a series of scripted sequences, there’s a unique sense of terror that comes with dealing with the Xenomorph, and it’s the memories created by that Xenomorph which have stuck with players for a long time.


4. Terminator: Resistance

Terminator Resistance

Metacritic Score: 47
Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & S

While there are always notable exceptions to this rule, it’s generally guaranteed that a licensed video game based on an old action movie will be terrible. Yes, there are notable exceptions, with GoldenEye 007 possibly up for consideration as one of the best FPS games ever made, but when you’re up against competition like that, it’s kind of hard to get any actual groundswell for yourself. It’s probably why Terminator: Resistance met plenty of, well, resistance when it launched in 2019.

Developers Teyon hadn’t done themselves any favors before Terminator: Resistance, as their most notable launch before that was Rambo: The Video Game, an on-rails shooter that was about as fun as being that guy in Rambo: First Blood who takes a spike trap to the shins. Critics likely expected more of the same when Terminator: Resistance rolled around, and in truth, it’s not like Resistance is the best shooter in the world either, with critics panning the unoriginal gameplay design and “boring gameplay”.

What fans seemed to recognise though is that it’s not trying to be the best shooter ever made, Resistance is simply trying to be the best Terminator game ever. As bars go, being the best Terminator game is one you step over instead of jumping, but Resistance still knocked it out of the park by showing a clear love and appreciation for the source material. It’s this love for 80s action films that helped Teyon land the RoboCop license, which pretty much everyone agrees is a janky but loveable slaughterfest.


5. Nier


Metacritic Score: 67
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360

Saying that Nier is a game that critics hated in the year of our lord 2024 seems like blasphemy. When Nier: Automata launched, the gaming press were falling over themselves to heap praise on a game that was lauded as an all-time classic. They were right to do so, of course, as Nier: Automata is a certified banger, but when the original Nier launched on PS3 and Xbox 360, reviews weren’t as kind. Is it a better game than Automata? Not really, but it’s definitely a game that deserved to earn more than a 67 on Metacritic.

An action RPG that’s been redeemed with time, the original Nier was about as obscure as it got when it originally launched, considering that the whole series is a spin-off to one specific bad ending from the original Drakengard. Wrap your head around that one for a minute. While critics had plenty of great things to say about the story, which combined hard-hitting emotions with the usual Yoko Taro gimmick of multiple playthroughs that reveal new layers as you repeat the cycle, the gameplay wasn’t for everyone.

From the beginning, Nier has tried to blend character action-esque combat with bullet-hell shenanigans, and while Platinum perfected the execution with Automata, those ideas and mechanics can still be found within the original Nier, and they were good enough to launch Nier into cult classic status almost immediately. Of course, they were improved upon even further with the remaster Nier Replicant, but if you want to experience the original game for yourself, you can easily pick up an Xbox 360 copy and play it through backwards compatibility on Xbox One and Xbox Series X & S.


6. Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol
Alpha Protocol

Metacritic Score: 63
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

When thinking about Alpha Protocol, that one quote from Wreck-It Ralph comes to mind: “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad.” You have to walk a fine line in the gaming industry in order to become a game that reaches that elite echelon of “so bad it’s actually good”, but Alpha Protocol doesn’t so much walk that line as it does tap dance over it to the tune of Spanish Flea.

Obsidian’s attempt to create an RPG in a similar vein to games like Mass Effect and Deus Ex, only with an espionage plot instead, Alpha Protocol follows agent Michael Thornton as he travels around the world trying to stop terrorists using any means necessary. In a manner similar to those other RPGs, players were given full control over Thornton’s skills and dialogue options, with those choices leading to huge consequences down the line.

Alpha Protocol isn’t a good game by any stretch of the imagination, with the core gameplay being as messy and janky as it gets, but that’s fine, because it’s also unquestionably ambitious, silly and in some ways genius too. You just have to dig through a lot of flaws in order to get there, which ultimately leads to the game’s disparity between critical reception and player reception. When it’s your job to look at a game critically and take into account any flaws you find, of course you’re going to feel a bit more negative about a game like Alpha Protocol, while players are naturally more willing to forgive those flaws.


7. Urban Reign

Urban Reign
Urban Reign

Metacritic Score: 60
Platform(s): PS2

If you’ve seen any other retro content from us, you’re probably wondering if we’ll ever shut up about Urban Reign, that one PS2 beat ‘em up from Namco, and of course the answer is never. Urban Reign is sick and the more people who know about its gloriousness, the better. When people are still uploading combo videos nearly 20 years after the game’s launch, you know you’ve got something special. However, if you were reading reviews regularly during the mid-2000s, you probably would have been put off Urban Reign thanks to its less than ideal critical reception.

Sitting at just a 60 on Metacritic, Urban Reign seems like a story of failed potential. The Tekken developers deciding to make a 3D beat ‘em up in their off time sounds like a recipe for success, but with reception peaking at mediocre, Urban Reign was always destined to be overlooked. What’s more interesting though is that those reviews aren’t wrong either, as the majority spoke about how the game’s single-player mode becomes both repetitive and brutally hard after a while. 100 missions is about 50 too many for a game like this, while anyone who’s played Urban Reign to completion will definitely shudder at the mere mention of the name Golem.

While the single-player portion of Urban Reign isn’t anything to write home about, unless you’re writing to your therapist about Golem kicking your ass again, the core gameplay is what makes Urban Reign special. The inputs are incredibly simplistic, but there’s a robust array of systems and mechanics, including juggles, grapples, parries and tag team attacks, that make Urban Reign shine. Once you throw four player scraps into the mix, Urban Reign is arguably the best multiplayer game on PS2.


8. Days Gone

Days Gone
Days Gone

Metacritic Score: 70
Platform(s): PS4, PC

Did Days Gone receive negative reviews from critics just because the main character is called Deacon St. John? Because that’s fair enough, honestly, though saying Days Gone’s reception was negative isn’t the whole truth. With an average of 70 on Metacritic, it’s clear that there was some genuine love for Bend Studio’s open world zombie adventure, even if director John Garvin would have you believe that people hated the game because it wasn’t woke enough, or whatever. This, of course, comes from a guy who immediately pivoted into a Web3/NFT studio that’s still trying to sucker in whales in 2024. Womp womp.

The sad reality of the game’s director notwithstanding, Days Gone actually drew ire from some reviewers because they thought it didn’t really do anything that gamers hadn’t seen before. Open world zombie games were well-trodden ground at this point, with games like DayZ and State of Decay, meaning Days Gone didn’t seem quite like an original premise. Perhaps the more damning indictment of Days Gone though was the fact it was released about a year after God of War, while another open world PlayStation game, Death Stranding, released in the same year. For critics, Days Gone was the bad middle part of a PlayStation Studios sandwich.

Meanwhile, the general player base was much more forgiving to Days Gone, with the core gameplay loop and spectacle of the zombie (or Freaker) hordes becoming one of the biggest highlights. Credit where credit is due, Days Gone is probably the first game since Left 4 Dead that’s managed to make a zombie horde terrifying, so it’s no wonder the devs gave Deacon a bike for the majority of the game. Get me as far away from those Freakers as possible, thanks.


9. Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows

Spider Man web of shadows
Spider Man: Web of Shadows

Metacritic Score: 68
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360 (also available on PC, PSP, PS2, Wii)

Do you want to hear about a true miscarriage of justice? The PS2 version of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows has a better Metacritic rating than the PS3 and Xbox 360 version. Yes, the PS2 version, dubbed the Amazing Allies edition, which plays like the worst 2D beat ‘em up you’ve ever encountered and ends with a text box that just says “congrats, you’ve saved the city”, has a higher rating than a genuinely great open world adventure game. Sure, the difference is literally only a point, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Anyway, after Treyarch managed to revolutionize what it means to be a Spider-Man game with the release of Spider-Man 2, before bungling it entirely with the third game, the bulk of Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows’ development fell to Shaba Games, who tried to do things a bit differently. Web Of Shadows was still an open world action adventure game, of course, but Shaba introduced moral dilemmas and decent, mostly original story into the mix to create something new.

Reviewers at the time weren’t all that keen on Web Of Shadows, with a particularly scathing review from Eurogamer mentioning the ridiculously padded mission objectives and dodgy camera as some of Web Of Shadows’ biggest blunders. Like other games on this list, those faults are certainly present, but the public were far more kind to the bigger swings that Web Of Shadows took on the game’s combat and story. Compared to the Insomniac titles, Web Of Shadows almost feels like a character action game.


10. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers Of Sky

Metacritic Score: 54
Platform(s): Nintendo DS

Arguably the biggest difference between critic and fan reception on this list, reviewers really did not like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers Of Sky when it originally released. In fairness, they weren’t all that kind to Explorers Of Time or Explorers Of Darkness either, but Explorers Of Sky was supposed to be a definitive edition of those two sister games, adding new content and story beats to really flesh the game out, so why did it earn five points less on Metacritic?

Reviewers lambasted Explorers Of Sky as they felt that the game didn’t do enough to really improve on the flaws of the first game, besides adding some additional content, and with the core gameplay loop remaining pretty much the same in this version, Explorers Of Sky was raked over the coals by critics. With a 54 on Metacritic, you’d think this was a DS game you should avoid at all costs, but the general public would disagree.

While most of the over six million plus players who have enjoyed either Explorers Of Time, Darkness or Sky might have opinions on whether or not it’s the best game in the series, it’s almost universally agreed that Explorers boasts the best narrative. Sky in particular serves its purpose as the definitive edition of Explorers, thanks again to the reams of extra content, including new playable Pokemon and additional chapters, while arguing that Pokemon is repetitive is like getting mad at the sky for being blue. All you’re doing is taking turns fighting, right?

READ NEXT: 20 Best Rockstar Games of All Time

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.