Is Superman 64 Really The Worst Game of All Time?
In my previous article, I wrote about Super Mario 64, one of the best video games of all time. So now it’s time for one of the worst: Superman for the Nintendo 64. A harsh assessment? Perhaps, but this game taught me an important lesson that every gamer should learn: reviews don’t really matter.
At the time that Superman released, I was addicted to DC animated shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and The New Batman Adventures. I was honestly more of a Batman fan than Superman, but this game was the closest I could get to being a real-life superhero. Additionally, the game featured many of the same voice actors from the show, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me. I bought the game and popped the cartridge in, ready to become Superman.
You’re probably expecting me to rip the game apart and justify its reputation as one of the worst games of all time. Well, I hate to disappoint, but that’s not going to happen. The truth is that I enjoyed the game because I didn’t know better, and because I didn’t know the game had received terrible reviews. At the time, I only owned one console and a handful of games. In short, I was a “n00b”. I didn’t know that characters weren’t supposed to fly through walls or that the game’s physics were atrocious or that the graphics were monstrously bad. To me, the technical flaws of the game were part of the challenge. In fact, I didn’t just deal with the flaws, I used them to my advantage.
I remember being stuck on a particularly hard level that was also a timed mission. I kept dying at the same spot over and over until I realized that I could fly through the wall thanks to a glitch. So that’s exactly what I did. I flew through the wall, bypassed the enemies that were constantly killing me, and finished the level. I continued exploiting the game’s flaws in other levels, making lemonade out of lemons, and having way more fun than reviews would have you believe.
To be fair, there were also numerous times the game’s bugs and bad design did not play in my favor. It was ridiculously hard to use Superman’s powers (or so I remember), and boss fights were an absolute nightmare. Don’t even get me started on the flying mechanics (for those who have not played the game it’s akin to steering a cinder block through Jell-O). The game was objectively bad, and I’m not here to defend it. Rather, I’m defending my experience and making a point about the current gaming culture.
Too often, gamers allow their preconceptions and expectations to get the better of them. By the time a video game releases, countless trailers, gameplay videos, and previews serve to generate interest or as some call it, hype. Once reviews start pouring in, gamers inevitably flock to their favorite sites to check scores. Regardless of whether a score is high or low, debate will ensue, sometimes reaching mass hysteria. This maelstrom of opinions further shapes a person’s preconception of a game, whether for good or ill. If that preconception doesn’t match reality, there’s a problem.
While it’s impossible to have no expectations before playing a game, it’s a good idea to manage them. I have found two strategies that work great for me. First, I try to find reviewers that possess similar tastes to my own. Since reviews are inherently subjective, it’s best to find someone that thinks and plays the same way that you do. Second, I read reviews instead of skipping straight to the score. What did the reviewer like and what did they dislike? Are any of their concerns the same as my own? The more information I have, the more likely I’ll be happy with my purchase.
That being said, reviews can still be a double-edged sword. In the case of Starcraft 2, I had no previous interest in the series, but high scores convinced me to give it a try. I played it for about an hour before I realized that I don’t particularly enjoy strategy games. Likewise, there have been games that I’ve enjoyed immensely that received middling reviews (Yoshi’s Story comes to mind). Had I read the reviews before playing the game, they might have tarnished my experience or dissuaded me from purchasing it. Reviews should not be the only deciding factor in whether you purchase a game. More importantly, the only reviewer that truly matters is you.
Getting back to my original point, reviews don’t mean anything. A review simply helps to predict if people will enjoy a game, but inevitably opinions will vary. Put another way, one man’s 2 is another man’s 10 and vice versa. I’m glad I played Superman, because now I can say that I’ve played one of the worst-reviewed games of all time. What’s more, I had fun playing it.