The 10 Worst Game Mechanics (and the Games That Get Them Right)

The 10 Worst Game Mechanics (and the Games That Get Them Right) 

Everyone has a gaming pet peeve. Maybe it’s forced stealth sequences where failure requires you to both restart the level and throw your controller across the room in frustration. Or maybe it’s empty morality systems with no gray area between saint and Satan. Or maybe it’s the ever-dreaded Quick Time Events. Whatever they may be, there are so many games guilty of leaning on broken mechanics, it’s a wonder we haven’t all stopped playing games and taken up a less stressful hobby. Like basket weaving, maybe. 

The thing is, for every 10 games that blow it with a particular game mechanic, there’s a least one that nails it. There’s one designer who sees the nugget of good at the center of the garbage sandwich most other developers are satisfied with. We wanted to highlight some of those games so you could see it’s not all bad. Here are our top 10 worst game mechanics — and the games that get them right. 

 

1 – Backtracking

There are few things more satisfying than making progress in a difficult game. Each step we take forward is progress toward our goal of finally conquering it. But sometimes, in an effort to pad out a game’s length, developers will send you right back through content you’ve already beaten. Role-playing games are often guilty of this. In the otherwise brilliant Bravely Default for 3DS, you are forced to replay the same content over, and over, and over, and over, just to get the true ending. It’s mind-boggling that an idea as bad as that made it out of the boardroom. 

Some games, however, take backtracking and make it integral. Not only integral but fun. Take Chrono Trigger, for example. The main story is pretty much a straight (if actually twisting and convoluted) journey through time, but once you’ve beaten it, you earn the ability to replay, keeping all your items and stats, and earn one of several different endings. Depending on when you choose to fight the last boss, you’re rewarded with a unique conclusion to the story.  

Even better, the Zero Escape series, specifically Virtue’s Last Reward, turns backtracking into a compelling narrative device. It’s hard to sum up Zero Escape in a nutshell, but the concept of the game sees your consciousness traveling through parallel timelines. There are times in this first-person puzzler where you’ll encounter a riddle you simply don’t have enough information to solve. Using the game’s built-in timeline tree, filled with branching paths, you can leap to another timeline where things have played out differently, find the information you needed in the original timeline, then leap back and solve the puzzle. 

Zero Escape Virtue's Last Reward

Chrono Trigger may be much-beloved and well-known, but the Zero Escape series is grossly underrated. Check it out, especially now that the first two games have been packaged together and remastered on PS4. 

 

2 – Overly Long Tutorials

When we sit down to play a game, usually it’s because we want to play the game. Crazy, I know. But some game developers don’t trust us to figure it out, so they dole out bits and pieces of how-to information as we go, making it feel like we’ve never left the tutorial stage.

Top 10 Last Generation Final Fantasy XII

The worst offender in recent memory is Final Fantasy XIII. Maybe you tried it and bounced off it because, fifteen hours in, you still hadn’t felt grabbed by it. “Wait!” your RPG-obsessed friend (possibly me) says. “It doesn’t start getting good until 20 hours in!” While this is true, it’s evidence that Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t open up fully until then. It’s holding your hand for 20 hours, teaching you bits and pieces of its admittedly complex battle system, before finally taking the training wheels off. There’s got to be a better way. 

Breath of the Wild No Rules

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild might just be that better way. You’re dropped into Hyrule, given a few introductory tasks (that you can tackle in any order), and then… you’re free. The game trusts you to use what you’ve learned and go about your business however you choose. There are even mechanics the game spends zero time telling you about — you simply learn about them through experience. (For example, did you know you can use metal weapons to conduct electricity? Makes solving those electrical current puzzles much easier.) 

More games need to adopt Zelda’s newfound trust in its players’ intelligence. 

  • smashbrolink

    Here’s one the list didn’t touch upon that I feel deserves a mention: Breakable weapons.

    There are very VERY few examples of this system being done right, let alone in a way that doesn’t result in the player throwing their controller every time one of their best finds goes down the drain, never to be seen again.

    Breath of the Wild, again like with the second bit, takes the idea of breakable weapons, and removes the frustration factor of never getting anything similar again; everything you find, with the exception of reforgable champion weapons, can be found out there in the wild, in the hands of your enemies.

    So no matter how many of those 101+ Lynel Crushers you go through, you can rest assure that, with enough hunting, you WILL eventually find an exact copy of your favorite precious murder instrument.
    Not only does this solve the biggest problem of a disposable weaponry system, it also encourages two of the game’s biggest systems; combat and exploration.

    When you’re constantly in need of new weaponry, there’s always going to be a constant reason to go into those camps filled with monsters, even if you’ve cleared them out once before the respawn event, in order to see what they’re hauling around to attack you with this time that you can jump in and take from them after their defeat.

    Even better is that, if you aren’t a fan of a prolonged fight, have all the drop items from them that you need, and just want the gear, the game gives you that option as well; a single electric attack, of any sort, will forcibly purge any gear held from the hands of your foes, allowing you to snatch-and-run at your leisure.
    The only foes this does not work with are the Lynels, which are meant to be fought and defeated to claim their rewards and are so tough that elemental arrows do not show secondary effects upon them, the Gerudo desert-dwelling Moldolga, which have their loot stored in treasure chests in their stomach, which only pop up after they’re killed, and the Stalnox, which has its weapons buried in its bones.
    Even the giant fleshy contemporary of the Stalnox, the Hinox, can be raided of its loot early, simply by cutting their necklaces before they can awaken and stand up.

    In BotW, weaponry is everywhere. Quite literally to the point where you’ll run across something new that’s great, and realize that you have so many other good things that it makes it difficult to choose whether to ditch or keep certain ones.
    But since they’ll all break eventually anyways, a bit of spare room for that new find is usually only a battle or two away.

    More games with breakable gear could, and should, learn a thing or three from how BotW does it.

    • J.j. Barrington

      And that’s how we know you’re just a Nintendo fanboy. It’s almost universally agreed that the breakable weapons in BotW are beyond annoying.

      Pretty sad, monkeyman.

      • smashbrolink

        I’m not even going to bother dignifying that childish insult with a retort, kid.

        I’ve given plenty of good reasons behind why the breakable weapons work in BotW where in other games it would fail, and if I wanted to I could go in-depth into why it doesn’t work elsewhere, due to weapon stat variations, exact-copy-acquisition chances, etc, but you’re obviously not one of those kinds of gamers who has the patience to listen and reason through such a thing, because you’ve already arbitrarily decided, with no obvious thought into it, that it’s a horrible thing that ruins BotW.
        I have doubts that you’ve even played it.

        Take a seat until you’re willing to talk shop in an intelligent manner.
        Until then, I’m done with you.

        • J.j. Barrington

          You’ve given reasons; that’s a different matter from them being GOOD reasons. Hint: they’re not good.

          “removes the frustration factor of never getting anything similar again”

          And adds the frustration of a weapon you really like breaking while you use it, and having to go find another one.

          “When you’re constantly in need of new weaponry…”

          Then it becomes more of a chore. It might be necessary, but that doesn’t increase the fun. Not for everybody, anyway.

          “a single electric attack, of any sort,”

          Which negates your previously stated “bonus” of the game giving you reasons to go back and clear out places you’ve cleared out already.

          ” you’ll run across something new that’s great, and realize that you have so many other good things that it makes it difficult to choose”

          Except it’s going to break soon, so its value is inherently diminished. It’s also a little stupid that you can just get weapons from everything. I mean, you’d think that if there were some forge out there pumping out weapons at such a ridiculous pace, Link would at least be able to strengthen or repair what he’s got.

          “you’ve already arbitrarily decided, with no real thought into it, that it’s a horrible thing that ruins BotW.”

          There was no arbitrary decision made. You want to label it that way because it makes you feel better.

          “Take a seat until you’re willing to talk shop in a reasonable manner.”

          It’s hard to speak reasonably with a fanboy like yourself. You don’t think in a reasonable fashion, so why would you expect people to reason with you?

          • smashbrolink

            “You’ve given reasons; that’s a different matter from them being GOOD reasons. Hint: they’re not good.”

            They’re better reasons than you’ve given prior to this [which was effectively nothing, on top of falling back on calling someone a fanboy because you can’t argue worth shit], and certainly better than what you’ve just tried to give, so -1 for you.

            “And adds the frustration of a weapon you really like breaking while you use it, and having to go find another one.”

            Which isn’t a frustration, because they’re literally everywhere, as are ones similar to them. And enemy encampments + spawn points for rare weapons are not few and far between; some enemy camps are literally less than 4 minutes apart.
            If that distance is frustrating to you, you shouldn’t be playing an exploration-based game.

            “Then it becomes more of a chore. It might be necessary, but that doesn’t increase the fun. Not for everybody, anyway.”

            Sure, not for everybody, but given the number of people who love the way the game works FAR OUTWEIGHS the number of haters, I’d say that point is pretty much moot.
            And again, if finding new gear, via exploring and fighting, is a chore to you, you’re not suited to playing exploration-based open-world games.

            “Which negates your previously stated “bonus” of the game giving you reasons to go back and clear out places you’ve cleared out already.”

            Are you aware of what an “option” is?
            It doesn’t negate it, it gives you a secondary choice.
            Most of the people I know, who have played through a significant portion of the game, don’t just hit and run; they fight and use those weapons they’ve found because it’s fun to do so.
            The secondary option of snatch and run is just there for people with no patience for open-world exploration games that give them the chance to fight through these things.

            “Except it’s going to break soon, so its value is inherently diminished. It’s also a little stupid that you can just get weapons from everything. I mean, you’d think that if there were some forge out there pumping out weapons at such a ridiculous pace, Link would at least be able to strengthen or repair what he’s got.”

            Its value lies in allowing you to survive up to the next encounter, and as it’s a disposable commodity to begin with, no, it doesn’t have diminished value.
            Your first Durability+ Royal Sword is going to be just as valuable as the next one; they let you fight and survive and continue to explore as you wish.
            It works for the game, and that’s not a bad thing.
            If anything, more people have had issues/complaints with the Champion Weapons, which, as you’ve been whining for, are repairable.
            No one bothers with them, though, precisely because it’s a waste of time and resources when you can just do what’s normal in this game; fight, explore, and gain new weaponry from your foes.
            That’s not stupid, it’s GOOD. It WORKS, and works WELL.

            “There was no arbitrary decision made. You want to label it that way because it makes you feel better.”
            Wrong.
            I label it that way because you talk about it that way.
            Cause and effect. Learn it.

            “It’s hard to speak reasonably with a fanboy like yourself. You don’t think in a reasonable fashion, so why would you expect people to reason with you?”
            And again, I’ve made reasonable points.
            You, have not.
            You’ve instead just fallen back on insulting the systems, and attacking anyone who actually understands how well they work out through significant amounts of gameplay time, as nothing more than a fanboy.
            And then you go out on a limb to call ME unreasonable?
            Talk to a mirror; you’d make more sense that way compared to directing such words towards me.

            Again, take a seat. You’ve contributed nothing while irritating everyone.
            We’re done here.

          • J.j. Barrington

            Everyone’s not irritated. In fact, there’s a grand total of one person that has agreed with you, whether here or on N4G; meanwhile, everyone else here agrees with me, and others have voiced the same sentiment on N4G.

            But I guess everyone that doesn’t praise Nintendo unfailingly is a fanboy in your eyes… even though your actions definitely show you to be the fanboy in this situation.

            Have fun with that.

          • smashbrolink

            Yeah, nice try, but guess what? N4G is a heavily-Sony-centric site, and a large group of people there already have it out for me simply because I make statements that they don’t like to hear.

            Which is ironic, considering I’ve had plenty of praise for Sony in the past, and NEVER hang around the Sony section specifically to bash any positive report that pops up there. [I actually own a PS2 and PS3, and plan on owning a PS4 around the time KHIII and the Secret of Mana remake release, which puts me squarely in range of being a Sony Fan]

            Unlike so many of those that disagree with my words, who INTENTIONALLY hang out in the Switch section just to bash on positive articles, and those who comment in them, at ANY opportunity.
            Are you one of those?
            I wouldn’t be surprised.

            Further, none of those on N4G have come out with a single good rebuttle for ANY of my points, much less you.
            Your mob mentality, where upvotes indicate truth, doesn’t make me wrong; it just means, as I said, that you can’t argue, and now shows that you need to fall back on your buddies to make you feel better.XD
            And just FYI, I’ve also put down a list of issues I’ve had with BotW, which means I’ve never called it flawless like an ACTUAL fanboy would, so calling me a fanboy is just hypocritically burying your own head further into the riverbed of denial.

            Have fun swimming up out of that.
            We’re done here.

          • J.j. Barrington

            Yep, that’s the excuse I expected. Couldn’t possibly be that you’re a fanboy; no, it’s that everybody else is out to get you and precious Nintendo. lmao.

          • smashbrolink

            Twisting words instead of listening to reason is your modus operandi at this point.
            Again; I’ve been with Sony since the PS2 era right alongside Nintendo.
            But you?
            Hanging around Nintendo pages to bash it and its fans.
            LIKE A SONY FANBOY WITH WEDGED KNICKERS.

            Sit your hypocritical self down, kid.
            You couldn’t debate my points properly and fell back on childish insults the moment you lost.
            That, more than anything, proves who’s the actual fanboy here.
            YOU.

          • J.j. Barrington

            Hanging around? Hardly.

            Funny you talk about twisting words and people assuming things, but you made assumptions because of one comment; on the other hand, I’ve seen thousands of yours.

            Nothing wrong with Nintendo or it fans… but it fanboys, like you, are a different matter entirely.

          • J.j. Barrington

            lol, was so busy laughing at your blind bias I didn’t even realize: you’re so blind you just tried to make this a Nintendo article.

            It’s not.

            You’ve tried to make it into one, and you’ve tried to make anybody who disagrees with your ridiculous opinion a fanboy out to get Nintendo, but that’s all in your head, you poor deluded man. This was about gaming mechanics in general- which I didn’t completely read because of the multiple pages- and we’re currently discussing you fanatically defending a mechanic that only sounds worse the more you defend it.

            So yeah, you’re a fanboy. Try harder.

    • Danny DeMent

      So a mechanic that FORCES you into combat even if you don’t want to engage is… a mechanic done right?

      Bro, nothing about either Stamina OR Weapon Break in BotW is “right”.

      • smashbrolink

        Did you not even read the bit about lightning weapons?
        And if you’re not going to fight in a Zelda game, you’re going to lose, so actually your statement makes little sense.
        I mean sure, you could wear the stealth outfit, eat stealth food, and just literally avoid combat 99% of the time, but that’s not a very fun way to play Zelda.
        So no, I disagree with you, and I feel that those who think weapon breakage was done wrong, haven’t given it a thorough evaluation, let alone stamina which is so easy to replenish and manage that it’s basically a none-issue.

    • Brad Lawrence

      Going to agree with you. The breakable weapons were annoying initially, but I began to appreciate it later for how crucial it was to the experience. I would have liked a touch more durability, but other than that, I thought it was a great feature. The stamina wheel was also fantastic in this game, especially when you had to choose between more hearts and stamina.

  • J.j. Barrington

    Not going through 5 pages for this. Sorry.

  • sazse007

    I really dont enjoy crafting, either.

  • Brad Lawrence

    One I don’t appreciate is respawning enemies. Kill all the enemies in a room, leave, and come back immediately, All the enemies are back. One game that did this right is the Pikmin series. The enemies come back, but only 2-3 in game days. If you work fast, you can avoid the respawn.