Caroline Berg
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A common complaint in RPGs is if the game master is railroading the party. Are there any games that fall into this trap? What games do you think are the worst for being "on rails" when they were not advertised as such.

Many times I'm alright with the linear nature of video games, where you progress from A to B without being able to deviate to say, C or D (without getting to B at all). However, there are certain games that are really too restricting - or perhaps I should say feel too restricting. Where it feels like you should be able to do so much more than you can.

I know there have been games that really bothered me in the past, but this morning I just can't think of any... maybe I'll remember later in the day.

So, what games are the worst offenders for being "on rails" with extremely linear gameplay?

For all the past VGG QOTD Goodness, look here: VGG QOTD Master List.
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Agent J
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Portal and Portal 2. It bugged me how on rails they were. If you've played, you know what I mean. Not the numbered puzzles.

I mean, yeah, it's a puzzle game, but it could have been more of an exploration game, too.
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Seth Brown
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ArcaniA: Gothic 4 was heavily lambasted for being on rails. I wouldn't say it's the WORST ever RPG for this, but certainly it FEELS ridiculously linear and on rails especially as it come in a series that up until that point were of the most open-world RPGs you could find.
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Andres F. Pabon L.
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I usually don't mind "on rails" games. In fact, with my limited gaming time, they're usually the only ones I can actually finish. Hence, I usually don't really notice that.

However, in Spec Ops: The Line was really noticeable. So much, that even I stopped playing after 3 or 4 hours. They tell me the storyline is awesome, so I might go back to it some day, but it's just the very definition of an "on rails" game.
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David Hicks
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Worst rail game ever? Heavy Fire: Afghanistan

Best? Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
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Michelle
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My husband feels like story oriented video games are "on rails" and too limiting, and I can't say I disagree with him. Even if you have the illusion of freedom with multiple options, you're still following along a path the creator intended, and often it's an obvious good or evil choice. Oftentimes I wish I could do something different than take a side between those two characters/factions, "trust" the clearly evil person, or destroy that evil person/object forever. I get really tired of those simple scenarios.
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Steve Duff
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I guess this is an epithet now, but not to me. I like a game that focuses me in.
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Tyler
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Pretty much all train simulators. shake
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Andy
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Pretty much all of Valve's single player games are guilty of this.. although I have no problem with that.

It did bug me how on-rails the main story of Fallout 3 was, having previously played Fallout: New Vegas, where you could side with different factions.
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Dycle Argen
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I remember it bugging me the most in the Legend of Spyro series, especially in Dawn of the Dragon. The games play like they should be more adventure-like with an exploration component. However, once a "level" was cleared, there was NO returning to it, making the game too linear.
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Phil
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Every Call of Duty game? Currently I am playing CoD: Ghosts and everything cool gets done by a NPC... No exploration, nothing. And most of the time one of those NPCs is in front of you and telling you which button to press. The game is closer to any of the japanese visual novels/dating sims than a real shooter. A shame, really.
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Alvin C
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I don't mind on rails - it can be a more tightly controlled experience and story can be revealed with the pacing the creator intended. The trick is to make the rails invisible.

I think where it falls short is when it feels like you should have more freedom, but don't. The only Call of Duty game I've played is Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare but that felt like a theme park ride where I could shoot occasionally. It did have some great scenes though.
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Simon Woodward
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Amy
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manukajoe wrote:

This is the first game that came to mind as well. It likely isn't the worst offender in this regard, but the reason I stopped playing it was because the game is very linear. At the time I attributed part of this to recently having played a lot of Western RPGs with open worlds. But it is interesting to see someone else post it.
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Adam
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Rail shooters, though if they're done well enough, it doesn't matter. I love me some The House of the Dead.
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Simon Woodward
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Renwmn wrote:
manukajoe wrote:

This is the first game that came to mind as well. It likely isn't the worst offender in this regard, but the reason I stopped playing it was because the game is very linear. At the time I attributed part of this to recently having played a lot of Western RPGs with open worlds. But it is interesting to see someone else post it.

I'm just playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which has the opposite problem, it's open world and the story is so loosely tied together (by the quest system) that the whole thing feels kind of diluted and unfocused. It contrasts with Xenoblade Chronicles, which is also kind of open world, but the areas are strung together like a rope of pearls, giving a sense of progression. Each area is quite large and explorable, plus you're not tied to following the main quests, you're free to pursue side quests until you're ready to push forward.
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Most console games suffer from this, many shooters' SP campaigns, especially Call of Duty's...

It's annoying but sometimes necessary, too, sadly.
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Simon Lundström
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Now that you ask, I realize that I am so rarely bothered by "on rails"-ness, that I can't come up with a single game.

Usually, when a game advertises to be the other opposite – "you can do what you want" – then I look the other way.

Last thing I noticed was Fatal Frame for the WiiU. It's very on rails, but it didn't bother me the least.

Edit: To clarify, the very reason I started playing Final Fantasy, was the extreme linearity of Final Fantasy IV. I really, really loved it and still vastly prefer that over "start with character creation screen".

Edit 2: Oh, one comes to mind. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater I expected the game to be like the previous two, that you could walk around, avoiding guards and such. Instead, I got a "clear each screen at a time" type arcade game. That stunk.
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M@tthijs
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As above, I don't mind rails, when they're somehow hidden.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare made that error on a few occasions, as did Medal of Honor (2010)

I really liked the rails in Portal, as it gave you even more the "trapped mouse" feel, looking to escape the lunacy. Not certain if you were breaking free or just lured into this 'escape route'.
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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Zimeon wrote:
Now that you ask, I realize that I am so rarely bothered by "on rails"-ness, that I can't come up with a single game.

Usually, when a game advertises to be the other opposite – "you can do what you want" – then I look the other way.

Last thing I noticed was Fatal Frame for the WiiU. It's very on rails, but it didn't bother me the least.

Edit: To clarify, the very reason I started playing Final Fantasy, was the extreme linearity of Final Fantasy IV. I really, really loved it and still vastly prefer that over "start with character creation screen".

Edit 2: Oh, one comes to mind. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater I expected the game to be like the previous two, that you could walk around, avoiding guards and such. Instead, I got a "clear each screen at a time" type arcade game. That stunk.

I was so unhappy with MGS3 that I went and bought MGS2.
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David Hicks
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I now realize I read the question wrong. I was thinking you meant rail shooters. For the record.
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Frank Kiss
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Just finished COD Ghosts ... it is probably the most "on the rails" of the recent ones ...and the SP campaign narrative is a muddled mess to boot.
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Jennifer Hanses
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I noticed this topic got resurrected from the graveyard, and I have one that tops anything else I have ever played, and that includes classic games that only have one solution.

And that game is..... Telltale's Game of Thrones. This one is worse because it keeps claiming that it's not on rails and that you CAN play politics. But you can't. You're just screwed no matter what you do. It's a miserable experience to play through and try to get anywhere.

Give me King's Quest or Quest for Glory any day. At least they don't pretend they're not on rails.
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Jennifer Hanses
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Jythier wrote:
Portal and Portal 2. It bugged me how on rails they were. If you've played, you know what I mean. Not the numbered puzzles.

I mean, yeah, it's a puzzle game, but it could have been more of an exploration game, too.

I don't find those problematic at all. There's a really clear reason for the rails in the first halves: You're a prisoner/rat in a maze. It makes sense structurally that there are no deviations. For the times when you're "free range," they had to have some restrictions otherwise the nature of the portal gun would have left most players wondering how to complete the tasks. There was talk in a play through by the developers over how they had to be careful how to position the lights in the "free range" bits so that players would have clues on how to reach their objectives.
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