AAA video games are the equivalent of blockbuster movies. They get developed by big-name studios and have a considerable amount of revenue put into their production. These are also titles that most gamers have definitely heard of, as they are marketed widely, via not only trailers but promotional merchandise as well.
In the last decade or so, we have had many such video games being released in various genres including RPG, MMOs, FPS, and more. However, not all such productions are fated to prosper and some are destined to fail.
The list below highlights a handful of both, showcasing five times where AAA video games managed to meet the hype they had created, and five times when such games were mere disappointments at launch.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion.
5 AAA video games that delivered on the hype
1) Elden Ring
Over the course of 2021, there was much hype for Elden Ring, especially since its E3 2019 announcement trailer. FromSoftware hadn’t yet stumbled with its games, but the news that this new outing would be an open-world setting raised a few eyebrows in concern.
Many fans of the Soulsborne series had come to appreciate the intricately-designed levels of the previous games and were worried that the open world element would rob the game of those details.
Similar uneasiness aside, many players were simply awaiting the game’s release, as it had been a while FromSoftware had released anything similar to the Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
While Elden Ring got delayed once, its release in February 2022, broke all previous FromSoftware records. With raving critics' scores and players' praise alike, this new video game in the Soulslike genre was given an almost reverential status. Elden Ring broke new ground while also keeping its core values intact.
2) Rise of the Tomb Raider
In 2013, the Tomb Raider franchise was in much need of a reboot, not having had a new game out since 2008. And developer Square Enix delivered with their reboot that was released later that year. Simply titled Tomb Raider, it was the reimagintion of the origin tale of hero Lara Croft.
After the success of the game, a sequel was announced in E3 2014, which gave rise to a lot of anticipation as fans waited for Lara’s return. The first video game had been praised for a lot of things, including its story and gameplay and so the sequel had a lot to live up to.
And live up it did, delivering an equally if not better campaign, better visuals and continuing the journey of the protagonist from the last video game in a natural and organic way. This Lara Croft soon came into her own of living up to the tomb raiding talent from the older games.
3) Batman: Arkham Knight
Rocksteady was not a well-known studio before the release of the first Arkham video game, Batman: Arkham Asylum. But after the impressive story, an immersive gameplay experience, and making the coolest-looking yet most enjoyable combat system in the industry, the developer gained quite a large popularity.
After the second video game in the series, Batman: Arkham City, the developer announced work on the third and final game called Arkham Knight. During its announcement, it was revealed that the game would be set in actual Gotham City and would also allow players to drive around in the Batmobile for the first time. As such, hype was pretty high for this game.
When the game finally launched in June 2015, aside from a few performance issues on PC, the game managed to give the fans a satisfying ending to the trilogy. The game was praised for its story, characters, combat, graphics, puzzles and pretty much all of its aspects.
Aside from some jabs at the Batmobile controls, the game was an overall fun and enjoyable run that has stood the test of time. As Rocksteady has moved on to a new Suicide Squad game, the Arkham series will be sorely missed.
4) Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar Games is well known for its games, with GTA being a common household name for even casual gamers. However, in terms of quality story-telling, it is actually Red Dead Redemption that can claim that title. It tells the story of John Marston, an ex-outlaw trying to live out his days peacefully, at least until his past catches up with him. RDR’s campaign had players in tears by the end.
So when a sequel was announced for the first RDR video game, many fans were delighted to return to Rockstar’s world of the wild west. Anticipation was high as tidbits of information had started trickling in regarding the setting and protagonist of the next game, which was set to be a prequel, set before the events of the first game.
As is well known by now, Red Dead Redemption 2 went down as one of the best video games ever. It delivers honest-to-goodness award worthy performances and a story so well done, that it had players in tears yet again. It is also filled with humorous, as well as serious side content.
RDR2 has a diverse and open-world setting, and its combat is as fun and enjoyable as it can get. The game has been hailed Rockstar’s best outing till date.
5) God of War
God of War was a very enjoyable video game franchise even before its reboot, albeit lacking subtlety in its story. However, after 2013’s God of War: Ascension, developer Santa Monica Studios decided it was time for a reboot and change what God of War was all about. The news came in 2014, by creative director Cory Barlog himself.
This new direction had fans concerned, who were happy with the God of War franchise as it had hack and slash games with spectacular boss fights and spectacular plotlines.
A gameplay demo was revealed at E3 2016 which gave audiences a new look at Kratos, sporting a full beard, as a father teaching his son how to hunt. While being a reboot of the gameplay and mechanics, it was still a sequel to the previous games, with their story having ended and Kratos moving north to start a new life.
While a few doubts persisted, upon the game’s launch, all of these were squashed. The game delivered what was probably the most heartfelt story in the series ever, with performance and voice acting rivalling that of RDR2.
The game also introduced a single-take camera perspective, wherein (barring player deaths) the entire game was told in a single take. God of War 2018 went on to win many awards and a sequel is due to arrive in late 2022.
5 AAA video games that disappointed at launch
1) Cyberpunk 2077
Back in early 2020, the hype for Cyberpunk was at its prime. CD Projeckt Red’s highly anticipated first-person action adventure was supposed to be the turning point for games, as had been the case with the Witcher 3 back in 2015. Announced all the way back in 2012, this video game had a difficult time in development.
Marketing for the game, however, prospered unlike anything else, with the developers even getting celebrity Keanu Reeves to feature in the game, as well as the marketing campaign. So, people couldn’t wait to see what the game was going to be like. However, after an initial release date of April, 2020, it was delayed three times, finally launching on December 6, 2020.
And as most people in the industry knew by now, launch day was a disaster for CD Projeckt Red. The game reported bugs across all platforms it was released in, with low-end PCs, PS4, and Xbox One taking the brunt of these. On these platforms, the game was basically unplayable. Reception for the video game was so bad that it hasn’t been able to move out of that shadow completely, even to this day.
2) Battlefield 2042
EA and DICE’s Battlefield series had a strong player base during its early days. However, the release of Battlefield 2042 was such a big hit to the franchise that many now believe that the series is all but dead. BF 2042 is a first-person shooter video game that takes place in a futuristic setting, with a focus on multiplayer and online co-op.
This video game’s pre-launch period itself was a difficult one, as the news that there would be no dedicated singleplayer campaign was met with quite a lot of backlash. The move from battle royale to a large-scale team deathmatch mode had a lot of fans questioning the game’s purported quality as well.
Upon launch, Battlefield 2042 did not satisfy a majority of the community as it was considered a buggy mess that was almost unplayable. Many of these bugs were present during beta testing, but were left unattended.
The game also lacked many features from previous games, which are now considered to be standard in the online FPS genre. All of this combined saw Battlefield 2042 lose about 97% of its players in just a couple of months after launch.
3) Marvel’s Avengers
Developed by Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix, Marvel’s Avengers was set to be the new kind of game that was going to revitalize the superhero game genre, especially after the success of PlayStation's Spider-Man. Being a live-service model of content, the video game was supposed to be a one-time buy for players, with all future content set to be added free of charge.
After the game launched, it was a different story. The main campaign was lackluster and too short, not considered worth the price of admission by the players.
The four-player co-op multiplayer modes were initially fun, but players quickly lost interest. Most of these missions were exactly the same, with many people bringing up the issue of the game lacking diversity.
Additionally, all playable characters were mostly bland and similar to each other. Combat was mostly equivalent to button mashing, with certain combos here and there. Nothing came close to the combat system of earlier games, let alone the Spider-Man titles. As a result, its player base quickly dropped and reportedly cost Square Enix quite a loss in the long run.
4) Mass Effect Andromeda
When it comes to large-scale storytelling, intricate world-building, and generally favorable combat, BioWare’s Mass Effect is one the video game series that jumps to players' minds. After the conclusion of the story of Commander Shepard in ME3, fans were eager to see more of the universe in future installments.
Mass Effect Andromeda was announced in 2015, development for which had seemingly been going on since 2012, right after the end of the original trilogy. It was made clear from the get-go that the story would not involve Commander Shepard in any way. This was met with some criticism, but fans were still looking forward to a new game set in the series.
When it launched in March 2017, the reception was mixed at best. While the gameplay element was praised, everything else was met with scrutiny and criticism.
For a Mass Effect game, the story fell short of its predecessors, with players heavily disappointed with the lack of new concept. The open-world setting, while sounding good on paper, did not deliver. All of this went on to make Mass Effect Andromeda the most disliked game in the series.
Developer Gearbox Software became associated with good gunplay and FPS elements after their success in the Borderlands series. With three games in the bag, they moved on from Borderlands in the following year after Borderlands 3, into the looter-shooter genre with Godfall.
The video game was first revealed at the Game Awards 2019, which showed off the gameplay, re-identifying the title as a ‘slasher-shooter’ due its implementation of melee weapons rather than guns.
Its emphasis was going be on a combat experience like no other, with different types of weapons and skills involved. All of this was reportedly going to set it up to be something new and innovative in a world of repeated gameplay elements.
However, upon launch, such hopes were dashed. Godfall received middling reviews with players bringing up issues with its bland story and claustrophobic levels. Combat was a mixed bag, and while some seemed to enjoy it, many found it unintuitive and lacking nuance.
Overall, Godfall felt very basic and soon slipped out of the minds of most people, becoming yet another forgettable game.