The Most Controversial Video Games of 2021

Them’s Fightin’ Words

Gamers are passionate about their hobby. The internet is passionate about…everything. Put those two things together, and you get a lot of heated opinions. A game could cure cancer or reverse global warming, and a vocal segment would complain about its level design. Let’s face it, the internet loves controversial games.

The games on our list aren’t bad. In fact, many of them scored highly. Nor are these games disappointing. Well, some folks think they are. What they are is controversial. They generated a lot of discussion and disagreement. In some cases, the developers listened and made changes. In other cases, the controversial games are what they are, love them or hate them.

So, in totally arbitrary order, here are six games that a lot of folks got pretty worked up about.

Returnal 6gb update save feature


There was a lot of pressure on Returnal to be the first big PS5 system seller of 2021. Developer Housemarque delivered a sci-fi themed roguelite with Soulslike combat. It had strong production values. It was pretty uncompromising, at least for a mainstream, triple-A title. Returnal had some bugs, too, but they eventually got patched out.

Patched or not, the biggest gripe about Returnal was about its mid-level save-game mechanic. There wasn’t one. Death anywhere resulted in a level restart back from the beginning. The procedurally generated elements didn’t help. While fans of roguelikes are used to this mechanic, casual action gamers are not. They complained, and loudly. The result is that Returnal now has a mid-level save system, but whether that improves the game, or takes away a core concept is open to debate.

Diablo II: Resurrected

Diablo II is one of the most beloved and influential action RPGs of all time. The twenty-one year old game imprinted its mechanics on generations of hack-and-slash looters. Blizzard and Vicarious visions joined forces for Diablo II Resurrected, which gave the aging game a graphical facelift. Unfortunately, that was about all it did. Many of the game’s more annoying aspects remained. Diablo II’s character balancing was still off, movement wasn’t smooth, and inventory was still a pain. Resurrected lived in neverland, not quite a remake, but slightly more than a re-skin.

The controversy here is that for many gamers, the bigger problem was with Blizzard and its parent company. Mired in lawsuits and stories of workplace violations, power players in the gaming industry — and consumers — are calling Blizzard to task. Many gamers feel that it’s wrong to support the company by buying its products. Others sympathize with the creatives stuck in the middle. There is almost no way for Diablo II Resurrected not to receive some collateral damage.

Deathloop Deluxe Edition


Arkane’s Deathloop is a first-person shooter from the studio that made the Dishonored games. Deathloop is a stylish action game set in an alternative 1960s. It was critical hit, but many players were less pleased. Gamers were confused by Deathloop’s systems. They thought enemy low-level enemy AI was too easy. The invasion mechanic was weird and didn’t work well.

The developers listened. Recent patches and updates have made enemies more difficult. AI invasions are tougher. Other quality of life changes have made Deathloop easier to play, without changing the core game. This raises a question, though. Are the consumers always right? Bugs aside, should the developer stick to its vision?


Aliens: Fireteam Elite

There is a lot of argument about Aliens: Fireteam Elite. It’s a third-person action game set in the popular Alien universe. It’s a Left 4 Dead clone, but in space and with aliens. Although it can be played solo, it was built for co-op play. In fact, without a couple of friends tagging along, the game is a dull slog. Even with buddies, the action is repetitive. Although it does a pretty good job of honoring the Alien franchise, level design is not very interesting.

So, where’s the controversy? It just sounds like a bad game. In this case, the disagreement is about the single-player campaign. It simply doesn’t work without other humans. And yet, the developer pretends that it does. The AI companions are ineffective. A roguelike mechanic punishes the player for failure, too. Aliens: Fireteam Elite should have been a multiplayer-only game.

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Battlefield 2042

A compilation of new ideas and missing favorites, Battlefield 2042 is the poster child for controversial. Of all the games on our list, it might represent the most divided opinions.

Fans of a long-running franchise like Battlefield generally hate changes. They especially hate changes that are not backed by solid mechanics. Battlefield 2042 introduced a lot of new things like wingsuits, grappling hooks and a weird sort of hero class called Specialists. The additions ranged from just ok to game-breakingly bad.

The list of what’s missing is even longer. There’s no server browser, no stats page, no in game voice chat. Additionally, there’s no way to create a squad, and movement options are limited. Plus, there’s no campaign. At all. Season pass content is MIA until 2022.

What is there is beset by an immense number of tech issues and bugs. Just a sampling includes rubberbanding, spawn issues, and problems causing players to become stuck in world geometry. The developers note “rare instances that can cause severe flickering of our lighting systems, which has the potential to trigger those with photosensitive conditions.”

Despite the haters hating on the game, some players enjoy the near-future setting. They like the typical Battlefield chaos and action. The random tornados are exciting, and playing the Specialist seems to be a hit with some. If Battlefield 2042 is not an outright failure, it is certainly a very qualified success.

new world 1.1 update pastor walsh

New World

While the order of controversial games on this list is arbitrary, New World has to be at the top of the list. Or the bottom. Either way, Amazon Game’s flagship MMORPG has made the news almost daily. Usually, not in a good way.

The problems started on day one, with some massive queues and wait times. That’s often the case with new MMOs, but Amazon seemed unprepared. Some players were shocked when running the game at high graphical settings bricked their very expensive GPUs. The game had bugs, and almost immediately, players began to exploit them. Some players used in-game chat to crash unsuspecting players’ operating systems. The issues went on and on.

Despite other MMORPGs having problems with player-driven economies, New World has no vendor NPCs. In addition to the usual exploits and bugs that players have taken advantage of to dupe items, there are bigger problems. Currently, New World’s in-game economy is in free fall. Instead of inflation, the opposite is happening. Players are hoarding coin. They are bartering with each other instead of spending money with player vendors. Money is worth less and less.

While there is some fun to be had in New World, more and more the game seems like a collection of bad ideas. Amazon Games is having a hard time fixing the leaks on a ship continuing to take on water.

Honorable Mentions

What did we miss on our controversial games list? We didn’t talk about Outriders, which started out very rough, but continues to grow its base. Should Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy be on our list? Some people loved the writing and story, other’s missed the movie likenesses. Let us know!