Top 10 Worst Rewards in Video Games – IGN
From Skyrim to Pokemon, even the best games can have the worst rewards.
Many games features collectibles, secret endings, or unlockable power weapons as a reward for completing a campaign or demonstrating mastery of a game’s mechanics. Some, like Nacht Der Untoten surpass all expectations and give players a whole new reason to keep players. Others…well they can’t all be winners can they? These are the worst rewards in video game history.
The mission statement of the Pokemon games and series as a whole is “Gotta catch em all!” And while we concede that any reward would feel trivial in the context of such a lofty and overbearing goal, Game Freak certainly could have done better than this. A reward screen with two sentences of compulsory text. A diploma is a diploma, but something about this one just feels insignificant and obligatory, like countless trainers have come before you, and innumerable others will be awarded this unfeeling accolade long after you’re dead. The fleeting nature of this completion screen doesn’t help either. If you were so inclined to capture this moment forever you could of course print out the diploma on the Gameboy printer and carry it around with you wherever you went… that is until you mistake thin paper for a receipt and throw it in the trash where it belongs.
The world of Skyrim is filled with eldritch dungeons and ancient mysteries, but no objects are more arbitrarily distributed and cruelly scattered than the Stones of Barenzaih. Tracking down all twenty-four requires venturing to virtually every corner of the map, pledging allegiance to multiple guilds and vanquishing more than a few high level foes. Which makes the reward for all this trouble perplexing. When the gems have been socketed into the crown of Barenziah you’ll be blessed with the Prowler’s Profit a passive effect, increasing your chances at finding additional gems from chests and other loot stashes. The problem with this apparently useful effect is that it isn’t achievable by normal means until late into the game, at which point money is much less of an issue, and most of the chests that would benefit from the Prowler’s Profit have already been opened.
Mix a lethargic lizard with competent platforming, and add a twisted sense of humor and you’ve got Gex, the 1995 flagship title for the seldom-mentioned Panasonic 3DO. Each of Gex’s eclectic levels are capped off with a bonus round, perfect completion of each will result in the ability to play the game a second time in what’s called Planet X. Defeat the final boss of Planet X and you’ll be treated to a twenty minute gauntlet of verbal abuse accented by the agonizing glow of television static. Expect such gems as “Do you have a life or just play games all day? Just think what you could have done today instead…You could have found a cure for cancer…You could have cut a hit grunge album…” Thanks Gex.
Rewarding players for completing a narrative campaign in a multiplayer focused RPG like Destiny can be a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, give players too powerful an item and it diminishes the treasures that await them in the ensuing end-game content, on the other, too weak a weapon simply feels like a slap in the face. And in the original Destiny, that slap in the face took the form of the Strangers Rifle, which was hilariously underpowered relative to the player’s probable light level at the time of campaign completion. But this minor mistake was rectified in a later patch, and the once rare quality Stranger Rifle is now a legendary.
Don’t get us wrong: the journey that is collecting all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 is one of the all-time greatest in video games. It takes incredible skill to conquer Mario’s first 3D adventure, so you’d expect that the reward would fit the accomplishment. And at first, the prospect of a cannon opening up that can blast you onto the roof of Princess Peach’s Castle is rife with potential. Better yet, once you get up there, you’re greeted by your old pal Yoshi! Does that mean we get to ride the dino across the entirety of the Mushroom Kingdom? No. It doesn’t. All that happens is Yoshi delivers a dumb message and gives you 100 lives, which are literally useless considering that we’ve already done everything in the game. But let’s not forget about the sparkles.
From New Age Retro Hippies to sentient piles of vomit, EarthBound is chock full of some of the weirdest things video games. But perhaps none are stranger than the tiny cottage nestled along the western coast of Onett, mostly because it’s the only piece of property in the game you can actually buy. The $7500 price tag is insanely steep when you first stumble upon it early on in your adventure, so one would assume that some amazing treasure, killer weapon, or crazy-powerful boss resides inside. But once you finally fork over the cash, you realize that the place is in complete shambles, with the entire back wall missing. All you get is a strange magazine and a photo-op to perfectly capture your shame and disappointment.
When it comes to rewards for monumental achievements the line between terrible and brilliant is often blurred. Since Breath of the Wild’s release Korok seeds have become synonymous with the unrelenting and tedious task of gathering all 900. In the short-term, collecting the seeds are immediately rewarding, turning in one seed in to Hestu means one permanently expanded portion of Link’s inventory with exponentially increasing costs. But if for some reason the player becomes obsessed enough to track down all 900, the reward is satirical gold: a literal piece of crap. While initially baffling, the idea of this boisterous, blissfully innocent korok forking over a handful of his golden experiment is too endearing an act to hold a grudge.
Featured in the ending cutscene of Shadow of the Colossus, the Secret Garden near the top of the Shrine of Worship appeared to be a promising end-game goal. The woman Wander fought so hard for ends up there along with his beloved horse, Agro, after all. To survive the treacherous climb up the wall, players must complete a staggering four playthroughs and collect an enormity of lizards to max out Wander’s stamina. But players who ascend to the Secret Garden are met with only a grove of fruit trees. Though not as desirable as a secret ending, it seems a fine consolation prize, as fruit in the Forbidden Lands permanently increase Wander’s max health… but these fruit permanently and significantly decrease Wander’s health bar instead. To make things worse, players are forced to consume all the fruit in the secret garden to achieve the Cornucopia Trophy in the PS3 version. Shadow of the Colossus director Fumito Ueda provides a legitimate explanation for the rotten reward: “The fruit in the ancient land was set to get you closer to a non-human existence. The (secret garden’s) fruit was set to return you to a human one.” While a nice narrative motive, gameplay-wise a permanent decrease in HP for so much effort feels like a slap in the face.
Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube? This ponderous prospect and the pedigree behind its proposal amassed an audience of tens of thousands of players. After tapping at billions of cubes with a plethora of premium items the grand prize was finally unearthed. What was inside, was promised by the acclaimed developer of Fable: Peter Molyneux, to be amazing and life changing. A truly spectacular prize. The prize was in fact as incredible as Peter Molyneux himself. Winner Bryan Henderson was promised fame in the form of digital godhood, fortune in the form a revenue share, and the ability to intrinsically affect the rules by which 22 Cans’ next multiplayer game Godus was played. But Bryan as of June 23rd 2017 hasn’t received a thing, in a quote from Molyneux “in terms of pure profit, actually Godus has not quite even broken even.” Whether Bryan’s revenue share will begin after that happens is unclear, but with no multiplayer in sight and Molyneux moved onto other projects the prospects don’t look good.
The original Everquest was a formative time for the MMO audience, the line between impossible and very difficult was open to interpretation. Invincible and indomitable, lore super heavyweight Kerafyrm the Sleeper was designed to destroy those that awakened him and rampage across the virtual world of Norrath, advancing the server to the next stage of it’s storyline. But long after other servers had tried and failed to defeat the Sleeper, the warring factions of a PVP realm called Rallos Zek banded together and did the unthinkable. Four hours of tedious but terrifying combat resulted in the supposedly unbeatable Kerafyrm clinging onto life with a quarter of his HP. This was not Sony Online Entertainment’s design, and as such a server GM despawned the boss before it could be killed. The Everquest player-base was furious, rather than relinquishing control of its narrative SOE had undone countless hours of player effort. Under intense criticism, the developers respawned the beast which finally met its end at the hands of hundreds of skilled players, heralding the worst reward in video game history… absolutely nothing. The unkillable super boss didn’t drop any loot.
These were our picks for the 10 worst rewards in games. What’s your (least) favorite?