Every year, Tom’s Guide rounds up the best games we played, and the best games you might have missed. But there’s a dark side to our “game of the year” stories, too: the most disappointing game. For every Elden Ring or God of War Ragnarök, there’s a game that meant well, but came up short — or a game that just flat-out didn’t work.
The Tom’s Guide staff has combed through the 2022 gaming library and picked out some high-profile titles that come with at least a few caveats. Some of these games are still worth checking out, if you know what you’re getting into; others, you’ll want to avoid entirely. In either case, there are much, much better games that you could play over the holidays.
Calling Babylon’s Fall “disappointing” is actually a bit misleading — it’s just plain bad. While some games have a fantastic core concept, let down by a shoddy execution, there was almost nothing in Babylon’s Fall that seemed appealing. The game started off on the wrong foot by charging a full $60 to play, then inundating players with expensive microtransactions as soon as they logged in. But underneath the predatory battle pass, there was nothing but repetitive gameplay, a baffling story, an underdeveloped setting and outdated graphics. In fact, we couldn’t even experience the game properly, as there were never enough players to find full battle parties.
Soon, Babylon’s Fall will go offline for good, which is probably for the best. Players have every right to expect better games from developer Platinum and publisher Square Enix. But someday, it will be fascinating to learn what went wrong behind the scenes. — Marshall Honorof
The Callisto Protocol
During my 10-hour playthrough of The Callisto Protocol, my emotions ran the gamut from blinding frustration at its clunky gameplay to audible hysterics at some of the truly baffling design decisions — who thought forcing the player to fight the same tedious mini-boss four times in a row was a good idea? But my ultimate feeling towards The Callisto Protocol is one of immense disappointment.
This survival horror game appeared to have everything going for it. Directed by Glen Schofield, the creator of Dead Space, and pitched as a spiritual sequel to that long-dormant franchise, The Callisto Protocol looked set to redefine the genre. Instead, the game falls apart due to a bizarre focus on cumbersome melee combat, bland enemy design, an underwritten story and a final chapter that is borderline insulting in its shameless desire to set up a sequel.
At least The Callisto Protocol looks stunning on next-gen hardware, but that can’t make up for just how horrible it is to actually play. Fingers crossed next year’s Dead Space Remake can wash away the bitter taste of this monstrous failure. — Rory Mellon
Diablo Immortal is a perfect example of a disappointing game. It’s not bad, by any reasonable definition. There’s solid core gameplay, a straightforward story and decent production values, particularly for a mobile game. But there’s something decidedly opportunistic about the whole thing. The game inundates you with convoluted microtransactions at every turn, forcing free players to grind endlessly before they get to the fun parts. There’s a distinct sense that Diablo Immortal exists to make Blizzard an endless stream of money rather than to delight players.
To its credit, Diablo Immortal’s core gameplay loop is satisfying, and as far as free-to-play mobile titles go, it feels pretty close to a “real” game. But this is the second year in a row that a Diablo game has wound up on the Tom’s Guide “most disappointing games” list, and we hope that Diablo 4 won’t follow suit next year. — Marshall Honorof
Mario Strikers: Battle League
Prior to the release of Mario Strikers: Battle League I expressed concerns that Nintendo would follow the pattern of previous Mario sports games on Switch and release a threadbare game seriously lacking in content. Unfortunately, my prediction proved to be very accurate as at launch Mario Strikers: Battle League seriously struggled to justify its $60 price tag.
Granted, Nintendo has fleshed the game out with a trio of somewhat sizable updates since then. But while these have included new characters, gear and cosmetic stadium designs, none of them have addressed the fundamental lack of modes. What’s the point of expanding the roster of playable characters when there is no proper single-player career mode? Even the multiplayer suffers greatly because of the Switch’s unreliable online servers. Sure, it’s possible to have some fun with Mario Strikers: Battle League, but its staying power barely lasts beyond a single afternoon, much less a whole season. — Rory Mellon
They say that the ones you love hurt you the most, and that’s definitely true with Overwatch 2. Having played the original since release day I was very excited about the October launch of this free-to-play sequel — particularly given the lack of new content for years building up to it. I had visions of a whole new roster of characters joining all of our existing favorites (and Symmetra) but instead, we got 3 new characters and a handful of maps. What has Blizzard been doing for all this time?
Add in a scuffed launch, stingy battle pass and expensive skins and you have a recipe for disappointment. Will I continue to play? Yes because it remains the only game where you can play as a hamster in a Droideka-style mech. Did I expect more? Absolutely. — Andy Sansom
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are not bad games, exactly, but they have serious flaws that make them a disappointment when compared to the idea of what they could be. A fully open-world Pokémon game where you could take on gyms in any order with updated 3D graphics, smooth animations, and a draw distance of more than 10 feet doesn’t sound like a particularly difficult bar to clear.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet may, in theory, let you challenge gyms out of order, but as the pokémon of each gym leader has a pre-set level, you can easily end up in a completely imbalanced challenge. The graphics are more vibrant than Pokémon Legends Arceus, but otherwise seem just as rough, and the animations and draw distances are stilted and myopic. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are still playable games, and they’re still wildly enjoyable, but they could be so much more. — Madeline Ricchiuto
Can a game be disappointing if you already expected it to be mediocre? I was a big fan of the Saints Row franchise — particularly because it was an even more over-the-top version of Grand Theft Auto. When I heard this rebooted Saints Row would reign in the excesses of the past and purposely be inoffensive, I set my expectations low. It was somehow worse than expected.
So what’s wrong with Saints Row? Almost everything. The main cast consists of social media-obsessed Gen-Zers who are as vapid and soulless as the technology they’re addicted to. If there was a game award for most forgettable cast, this would win. Then we have the equally bland open world. I’m sorry but a desert environment doesn’t excuse the lack of meaningful activities to partake in. I’d say something about the story, but I forgot it the instant the credits rolled.
Saints Row is so bad that even writing about it is frustrating me. Suffice it to say that you should skip this one — even if it’s on sale. — Tony Polanco
Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong
I am a big fan of the Vampire: The Masquerade IP, so I had a lot of excitement for the latest video game in the franchise, Swansong. It promised some slick vampiric detective action working to solve a crime. I didn’t let the graphics in the early promotional material put me off, thinking things would clean up in the final release (especially on PC). I was wrong.
Swansong is one of the stiffest-looking games I’ve seen since Mass Effect Andromeda. The characters have no fluidity to their motions and the facial models look like early alpha material. OK, I thought, maybe the writing makes up for the underwhelming visual presentation. Nope.
The dialogue is clunky and awkward, which disappointed me because the story has some merit. But the game just wasn’t fun to play. Vampire RPGs are so rare, so Swansong had the potential to fill a void. Unfortunately, it landed flat on its face instead. — Jordan Palmer