8 Games With Completely Broken Releases

There have been games with broken releases before 2014. Here's just a few games that played host to some horrible bugs.

Article by Mike Williams, .

With the launch of Assassin's Creed Unity and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, some are lamenting the state of major releases. Unity has a number of performance issues and Halo: The Master Chief Collection is missing certain map playlists and features some matchmaking bugs. Players are wondering when companies were fine with releasing broken games?

The answer? For a long time now.

Some of our favorite games launched with a host of glitches and problems, but we still love them. Broken games happen, glitches exist, bugs abound. If you want to relive the nightmares, there's an entire list of game-breaking bugs over at TVTropes. We should not accept it when it happens, but to insist that it's a recent problem is being disingenous.

So let's skip down memory lane and revisit some of the buggiest, most broken game releases of the past. I'm actually skipping games with server problems because that's so commonplace that this list would be nothing but MMOs and Diablo III.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

This game was intended to be the triumpant return of a once-beloved mascot, like a number of games before and after its release. Unfortunately, the 2006 release of Sonic the Hedgehog was horrible. Boring gameplay, a horrible camera bad voice acting, painful loading times, and a host of insane bugs. Hardcore Sonic fans look at Sonic 2006 like parents finding out their child is a serial killer.

If you played the game, you probably remember falling through cliff or wall. Or perhaps floating aimlessly into space? Sonic and company disappear, reappear, and teleport; sometimes you'll just die for no damn reason. What did Sega want you to do at that last death? I'm not sure they knew either.

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 was last year's "do developers just release broken games now" title. EA DICE's massive AAA first-person shooter was a beautiful game, when it ran well. I'm not a big modern military FPS fan, but I still enjoyed Battlefield 4's single-player and multiplayer on PlayStation 4. Of course, during the course of my review, the game crashed and corrupted my save twice.

In addition to the aforementioned PS4 crashes and game save corruption, the PC version also crashed desktop frequently due to issues with DirectX. Playing with Nvidia cards - the way it's meant to be played - meant that you could expect sound looping and flickering graphics. AMD cards? Red screen of death. And multiplayer was a big problem, which is odd considering that's why many players bought Battlefield 4 in the first place. To this day, Battlefield 4 players are still complaining that the game is broken, despite EA heavily promoting the next title in the franchise, Battlefield: Hardline.

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is the title that proves that you can release a glitchy, buggy game that people will still love. Skyrim was full of random glitches, with teleporting NPCs, physics problems, disappearing and floating models, and the occasional broken AI.

All that is before you get to the game-breaking bug on Skyrim for PlayStation 3. System memory issues meant that some players could drop 50+ hours into the title and find the game's framerate dropping to nearly zero. The issue would even carry over into a new save! Bethesda released a number of patches to fix the issue, each with varying results, but many were surprised such a release headed out the door at all.

Fallout: New Vegas

Another title using Bethesda's game engine, Fallout: New Vegas was plagued with similar bugs. Citizens of New Vegas would disappear or clip through the landscape. Sometimes, they'd become invinicble, preventing you from finishing certain quests. Add in the broken AI and occasional stuck animation loops and you have a game where fans actually look forward to finding new bugs.

On Xbox 360, the auto-save feature had to be turned off to prevent it from corrupting your save. On PC, sometimes the game just froze for no reason. On PlayStation 3, sometimes your field of vision would just go blurry. Forever. New Vegas, like Fallout 3 before it, was a cornucopia of new and interesting ways to lose valuable game time. (Yes, I still love both games.)

Ultima IX: Ascension

At the time of its release, Ultima IX was considered to be the conclusion of the fan-favorite RPG series. It went big, opting for full 3D graphics at a time when not every player had the rig to run such a game. Ultima IX had an open-world to explore and hours of quests and side-quests to complete. Unfortunately, there were problems. Here, this is better said in someone else's words.

"Though this review has been waxing lyrical on the excellent play aspects of Ultima IX, it is with great sadness that the great game design, excellent production values, and fantastic gameplay is so thoroughly sabotaged by the largest collection of fatal bugs that PC gaming has seen in a major release since Battlecruiser 3000 AD," said one review at the time.

"Beyond that, save games get corrupted, crashes are routine, the AI performs erratically, quest specific bugs often halt your progress, and some nasty memory-leaks make the game run slower the longer you play it. A RPG is supposed to be the sort of game you become engrossed in for hours. Here, it's a miracle if you can play for 15 minutes and be able to save your game before the onslaught of the blue error-screen-of-death."

This was back in 1999, folks.

Battlecruiser 3000 AD

Let's roll right along into the title mentioned in the last entry: Battlecruiser 3000 AD. This PC game was in development for nearly a decade, with creator Derek Smart promising the best space simulation game ever. The rights jumped between four different companies before Take-Two Interactive finally published it in 1996.

The game was completely unplayable at launch and even the features that worked fell far below what Smart had originally promised. Constant crashes were the norm, functions existed in-game that did nothing, the campaign couldn't progress past the second mission, and the manual was absolutely no help in understanding the game. The developer later improved Battlecruiser 3000 AD with version 2.0, but even that wasn't enough to fix the mess.

Two Worlds

Two Worlds from developer Reality Pump and publisher SouthPeak Interactive is another one of those "promise heaven, deliver hell" titles. Like the Elder Scrolls games, Two Worlds tried to sell players on a high-fantasy game where you could explore an open-world and craft your unique character. Reality Pump actually delivered on part of that promise, but the rest of the game simply didn't work.

Some quests were outright broken. Occasionally, you'd be fighting an enemy and your attacks would just miss. Like the rest of the ambitious RPGs on this list, NPCs operated in a different reality: they would walk through walls and disappear at random. The most game-breaking bug involved quest items that would randomly vanish from your inventory. They were just gone, as were your hopes of completing the game. Its sequel had similar issues, but the first game had it worse.

Red Dead Redemption

Here's yet another well loved title with a host of bugs and issues. Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption remains one of the best Western games ever released, but it had issues when it first launched. Players can find themselves stuck in certain buildings or teleported to a completely different location. NPCs and objects do the same. Some models would mysteriously switch, leading to people flying like birds, cougars turning into men, or having Marston's horse replaced with a lady.

Even beyond those open-world glitches, Red Dead Redemption's multiplayer was completely borked. You couldn't connect to online games, there was heavy lag, other player models would be missing, some NPCs were headless, and auto-aim would occasionally not work. Rockstar tried a host of fixes, but eventually they just gave up and walked away.

There is a point to this trip down memory lane. As our games have gotten more complex, the number of bugs and glitches that persist past Q&A have grown. The bigger the game, the more interesting the glitches you'll run into.

Does this mean you should just accept them? No. It's still a product you paid for. When players find glitches, bugs, or missing features, developers should attempt to fix them. Game performance should always be at the top of developer's mind. But things do go wrong and it's not worth utterly crucifying developers over, unless the bugs in question are egregious in nature. Even in that case, a civil group of concerned players is better than a cynical or angry mob. Strive to be that civil group of concerned players.

And developers, let's beef up that quality assurance, eh? (Not that this is all on Q&A.) Save yourself some of the eventual hassle while you're in development.

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Comments 24

  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #1 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    Also worth mentioning is Gran Turismo 2. That was the first major "modern era" release I can recall people getting genuinely angry about — there was some sort of issue where you couldn't get 100% completion in the game.

    And of course, back in the mists of time, there was Impossible Mission, which had a bug that prevented people from finishing the game, period. I believe the beloved Jet Set Willy also had a nasty game breaker up in one of the attic rooms. And the crazy glitches in FFVI that would either (1) load your party down with thousands of rare items or (2) erase your save data.

    Basically, games are complicated and will always have bugs. In theory, digital distribution and patching allow devs to fix things as players discover them. Lately it seems more like patching gives developers an out to release clearly unfinished games and fix them later. Games like Unity anger people because it's clear the release date trumped QA concerns.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #2 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Jet Set Willy came up in my search, but I didn't know enough about the game to write about it.
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  • Avatar for Thad #3 Thad 3 years ago
    I just hit a fun one in Red Dead Redemption the other day. I wandered into a random duel in Blackwater, and then continued with a Stranger quest that also involved having a duel. Clearly, some variables were not reset between the two duels; the second duel never happened, it just jumped straight to a result saying I had killed my opponent. Which I hadn't; he was still standing right there in front of me and wouldn't move or react to me. (I didn't try just shooting him on the street because it had been awhile since my last save and I was worried that might not advance the quest correctly and might make it impossible to complete.)

    So I went and did some other stuff for awhile and when I came back the guy was dead. He'd never actually moved into the dueling spot, he was just lying there dead in the spot where he'd been standing before the duel was supposed to start.

    Fortunately, everything worked fine after that, I was able to complete the quest, and no horses turned into ladies.
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  • Avatar for Pokedalt #4 Pokedalt 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish While not completely broken, Eternal Darkness for GameCube has an annoying glitch that can make you restart the game. Near the end of one of the chapters there's a room that, if you leave it after a cutscene plays showing the door opening, when you return the door will be closed. Granted, its ability to screw over is a bit hit-or-miss depending on how diligently you saved, but the mere potential is a bit unfortunate.
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  • Avatar for docexe #5 docexe 3 years ago
    “Basically, games are complicated and will always have bugs. In theory, digital distribution and patching allow devs to fix things as players discover them. Lately it seems more like patching gives developers an out to release clearly unfinished games and fix them later. Games like Unity anger people because it's clear the release date trumped QA concerns.”

    The problem is that AAA games have become so ridiculously expensive that companies now prioritize the shipping date above all, as otherwise the bottom line suffers and the investors give them hell. That, coupled with the fact that every game platform is now connected to the internet, means that the philosophy of “patch it later” has become widespread. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s systemic of the industry, so it seems unlikely things will improve.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #6 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago


    There. Now we've done it!

    "Does this mean you should just accept them? No. It's still a product you paid for. When players find glitches, bugs, or missing features, developers should attempt to fix them. Game performance should always be at the top of developer's mind. But things do go wrong and it's not worth utterly crucifying developers over, unless the bugs in question are egregious in nature. Even in that case, a civil group of concerned players is better than a cynical or angry mob. Strive to be that civil group of concerned players."

    Ehhh. I'm cool on this one outside of game-breakers. It could just end up making a financial act of selling and purchasing games more of a zero sum war than it's already turned into.

    That, and I'm also growing wary of the reliance of patching, especially that which aren't important or needed, and more especially still data being patched out.
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  • Avatar for boxofficepoison #7 boxofficepoison 3 years ago
    I was also kind of curious if Battlecruise 3000 AD and Ultima 9 have been modded/patched to a level where they are playable without the game crashing bugs. I was always curious about both those games back in the day but the one star reviews in CGW were enough to scare me away.
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  • Avatar for Rosewood #8 Rosewood 3 years ago
    The only true glitch I came across in Skyrim was the one where your pack mule/adventuring partners' carrying capacity bleeds away to literally nothing.

    I wasn't immune to some of its... peculiarities, though.

    Like at the the very beginning of the game, when I first got to Whiterun, and while I was talking to the Jarl, some NPC walked into the scene and started talking over him.

    And then there was part of the Companions questline where they and my character were to go pay tribute at a tomb. Ater the spiel initiating the quest, the Companions headed off, presumably to the tomb, and I decided it'd be nice to join the procession, so I followed them. My noble intentions were thwarted when it became apparent that the train had gotten stuck in a loop running around a mountain.

    In a game otherwise full of Super-Serious Business, the absurd found moments are some of my favorite memories.

    Speaking of NPC and physics weirdness, poor Lydia (one of my favorite articles from around the time Skyrim had first come out):
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  • Avatar for hal9k #9 hal9k 3 years ago
    There should be no tolerance for game-breakers, but I think the more minor stuff is understandable, especially in something complex. Maybe the little glitches even add a little spice to the experience - Red Dead sounds all the better for cougarmen (reminds me of MST3k) and horseladies.

    My favorite glitch was in Baldur's Gate 2. Like Bethesda, I think Bioware's been known to have these issues - somewhat understandably, due to the scale and complexity of some of their games. Anyway, I played as a female and married Anomen. But then I got the feeling that Jaheira was coming on to me. Somehow I married both a male and a female character, it was reflected all the way through into the ending text, and I think I even got an extra sidequest out of it. Accidental polygamy is the best kind.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #10 VotesForCows 3 years ago
    I write code as part of my job. It's several orders of magnitude simpler than video game code, and its just inevitable that it behaves in ways you don't expect. It'll only get worse as games get more complex, because there are too many variables and too many different game states to fully test.

    So basically I don't mind bugs as long as they get fixed. It was awful back in the old days, when you'd hit something in a game and just be stuck forever.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #11 Monkey-Tamer 3 years ago
    Borderlands the Pre Sequel just had one for the second playthrough on PC that wouldn't allow you to advance. Thankfully it was fixed with an update.
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  • Avatar for Dastuun #12 Dastuun 3 years ago
    Ohh dear. Daggerfall.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #13 KaiserWarrior 3 years ago
    There is a substantial difference between a glitch that triggers under certain, semi-rare circumstances or at random (those that comprise most of this list), and "The multiplayer for this multiplayer-oriented game straight up doesn't work", which is what's going on with the MCC. There's a difference between "This game has a memory leak that causes it to perform worse after you've been playing it for 50-someodd hours" and "This game performs like garbage right out of the box, within 5 minutes of starting it up", which is what's going on with Unity.

    Also note that, while there are some examples from the mists of time on this list? The vast overwhelming majority of them are post-2006, firmly in the "Modern Era" (PS3/X360+) of video games.

    Yes, quality has been decreasing. Yes, it will continue to decrease as long as people keep making excuses for shoddy workmanship. Please stop tolerating laziness and/or contempt for customers.
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  • Avatar for Breadbitten #14 Breadbitten 3 years ago
    "Rockstar tried a host of fixes, but eventually they just gave up and walked away."

    That's queer. I could've sworn my experience with the game's multiplayer component (a full year after release) was one of the smoothest I'd ever experienced...when there were players around, that is.
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  • Avatar for Frosty840 #15 Frosty840 3 years ago
    @KaiserWarrior The thing is, you can't just claim "quality has been decreasing". Games have gotten vastly more numerous and more complicated, and there are more copies of each of them out there.
    What might statistically be a rare issue that only occurs under specific circumstances could easily be missed or be unreproducible in testing. Fast forward to the day where you release that game to 500,000 sales and you might have two thousand people affected by the bug.
    That would be 0.4% of players. QA coverage on that level really isn't very feasible for rare, "make choice A in quest 13, and choice B in (unrelated) quest 435, and it inappropriately sets flag C, which makes the game crash" bugs.
    Quality isn't dropping so much as the feasibility of QA coverage is dropping.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #16 pdubb 3 years ago
    I know you say no MMOs because of server issues but EVE online did have an expansion that on release corrupted your boot.ini file causing your entire operating system to crap out.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #17 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @pdubb That's... wow.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #18 pdubb 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams this was their official response. Jesus this was 7 years ago, where has the time gone. And I was wrong it straight up deleted the boot.ini. Serves me right for giving CCP the benefit of a doubt. November 2014 by pdubb
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  • Avatar for mganai #19 mganai 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish The Impossible Mission bug was only in a couple ports according to Wikipedia. Half-nitpicking, half-me beating the thing way back in the day (C64 version).
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  • Avatar for AlltheNeSWorldCups #20 AlltheNeSWorldCups 3 years ago
    @Thad Impressive killed him dead where he stood and you werent even trying ive been pretty lucky avoiding major bugs in most games but a minor annoyance was 1 for KOTOR 2 where the game sometime wouldnt start i just had to keep opening it till it did minor but irritating especially when i was close to finishing it
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  • Avatar for Andy1975 #21 Andy1975 3 years ago
    IMO the all-time champ of busted releases is the Pool of Radiance remake that got into stores with a bug that would wipe your hard drive if you uninstalled it, among other problems. Whoops!
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  • Avatar for swamp-attack-hack #22 swamp-attack-hack 3 years ago
    swamp attack is the interesting game to enjoy and if you are looking for the swamp attack than just click the website.Edited 2 times. Last edited February 2015 by swamp-attack-hack
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  • Avatar for JackMccan #23 JackMccan 2 years ago
    Bethesda fo4 is glitched as a 3 legged goat !
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  • Avatar for jasoncatlett #24 jasoncatlett A year ago
    The funny thing is that most of the current and last generation of gaming bugs have been found, For me at least during normal gameplay. This only leads me to believe that game company's are in Fact NOT Hiring game testers or even allowing for an open Beta. Yet having and open beta just before release and calling it pre-release.

    There is just a ridiculous amount of bugs in current and last gen games. Many of them in AAA Titles that are game breaking, Crashing games, Corrupting saves, Falling through the world, or Just plain not being able to find what the Marker says should be there. (finding out thru the internet that the thing your supposed to find is half way across the game world when the quest marker etc.. points to a completely wrong spot.)

    I can fully understand if I went out of my way to jump here or duck there or shoot random npc etc... Then the game glitches ... BUT if I'm following the campaign and killing or collecting a quest requirement then hell no the game SHOULD not glitch.

    This seems like a very basic understanding of business for me. You want you're "groceries to be fresh, Not rotten. While maintaining some semblance of your general merchandise."
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