It’s been a bad year for PC ports so far, but it’s easy to forget that PCs have never been the premier platform for game releases. There’s a storied history of terrible PC ports, and although we’re still seeing some big problems today, the games releasing now are a far cry from what we’ve seen in years past.
I figured it was a good time to look back at some of the worst PC ports we’ve seen. This isn’t an exhaustive list — there are dozens of games that have released broken on PC — but these are the worst offenders. In some areas, we’ve made a ton of progress, and in others, unfortunately not so much.
Let’s deal with Batman Arkham Knight first because it has become the poster child of bad PC ports since it released in 2015. That’s mainly due to the media frenzy the port caused, which forced the publisher to remove the game from digital storefronts for four months while it worked on fixes.
You can sum up the problems with the port as poor performance, but that doesn’t get at how disastrous this release was at launch. There was unavoidable stuttering and hitching, mainly due to how the game managed assets in memory. On lower-end systems, this could cause hitches that lasted several seconds during gameplay — and they were constant.
The PC hardware of today can overcome these problems, with much larger VRAM allocations to deal with issues. The situation with Arkham Knight is not dissimilar from what we see in PC ports today, where a console version developed for a unified memory architecture struggles to adapt the game with the split nature of memory on PCs.
After a four-month hiatus, Batman Arkham Knight showed back up on digital storefronts. Some issues were addressed, but even today, the game struggles with hitching and stuttering. The developer has formerly ended support for game, leaving it up to the community to fix the performance problems through a slew of mods. The game, in this state, is still available for sale today.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition usually isn’t far behind Arkham Knight when talking about bad PC ports, though its problems were a bit different. It didn’t launch with severe performance issues, but it was a marked downgrade over the console version of the game and carried a lot of caveats.
Most concerningly, the game was locked to an internal resolution of 1,024 x 720, regardless of what the resolution of your display was. It could not go higher. To make matters worse, the game was locked to 30 frames per second (fps). Attempts to unlock the frame rate without a dedicated mod would introduce major issues in gameplay.
That’s not all. The game suffered from audio bugs, on-screen elements using low-resolution textures, basically no keyboard and mouse support, Games for Windows Live integration, and no graphics options. The game was eventually delisted from Steam and replaced by Dark Souls Remastered. It still suffers some issues, mostly due to tying the frame rate to the speed of the game, though it’s not nearly as bad as the original release.
The most recent game here, The Last of Us Part 1 is an anomaly even among the string of bad PC ports we’ve seen this year. The biggest problem with the game is VRAM. Even at 1080p, the game can chew through 10GB of VRAM at its Ultra preset, forcing recent, powerful GPUs like the RTX 4060 Ti to deal with major stuttering issues or lower quality settings.
That’s with the version we have today, too. At launch, the situation was much worse. VRAM limitations would often cause the game to crash, and the process for precompiling shaders could takes hours (it should take no more than 10 minutes). Mouse acceleration also caused jittery movement if you weren’t using a controller, and a slew of bugs created some bizarre effects where hair would render several times or characters would suddenly become drenched in water during cutscenes. To make matters worse, developer Naughty Dog originally promised the game would be verified for the Steam Deck. At launch, the game struggled to maintain solid performance on even an RTX 4090.
At the time of writing, the game has received 10 updates since it launched, mostly focused on fixing long shader compilation times and the most severe crashes. The game is in a better spot, but it’s still remarkably broken. The most recent patch, released about a week before this article came out, fixed a crash for all Intel Arc graphics cards on boot. Yikes.
It seems, at least, that the developer is continuing to work on the game. We don’t have the hindsight with this one as we do with some of the other ports on this list, but hopefully the game becomes at least playable in the future.
Fallout: New Vegas isn’t a port, technically. It’s a PC version that was ported to console. This might be a controversial opinion because, outside of a wide range of bugs that are common among Bethesda’s Creation Engine, the PC version of Fallout: New Vegas has decent graphics options, solid performance, and no weird texture-streaming or related issues. It had problems at launch, but it was shortly patched after.
The problem? You can’t play the game today on a modern system. That’s hardly a problem that’s unique to Fallout: New Vegas, especially among 2010-era games, but most of Bethesda’s releases thrive on their longevity (cue some tired joke about Skyrim rereleases). If you buy Fallout: New Vegas today, you can’t just install and play the game.
Thankfully, there’s a mod that will patch the game to work on modern systems, and with it, it runs like a treat. It’s just such a shame that a game that is widely considered one of the best RPGs ever made is unplayable on PC without a mod.
I’m picking Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas here, but basically every GTA release short of Grand Theft Auto V has seen major issues on PC. For this one, and all of the PlayStation 2-era games, there are a few high-level issues. The games stretch the image at widescreen aspect ratios, and they’re locked to 25 fps. Even modding the game to unlock the frame rate isn’t possible, completely breaking physics, animation, and collision in the game.
San Andreas has some unique problems of its own, vastly downgraded compared to the original PS2 version. Reflections and lighting won’t render at certain points, the moon doesn’t have any phases, and pedestrians and cars on the street will either show up broken or not at all. There are also crashes with things as mundane as standing near an escalator, along with save corruption issues, where loading a save will start a new game and overwrite your original file.
The only way to get San Andreas working today is with some intense modding. Developer Rockstar eventually rereleased the game as part of the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy bundle, which carried its own list of problems at launch. It’s been patched into a better state, but if you’re hoping to play a classic GTA game today, it’s probably a good idea to play it on a PS2 instead.
The 2023 remake of Resident Evil 4 had some issues at launch, but they’re nowhere near as bad as the port we saw in 2007. The PC version didn’t use the original GameCube release of the game, instead opting for the PS2 version, which featured blurry textures and a low resolution for prerendered cutscenes. In short, they used the worse version of the game as a bedrock for the port.
Somehow, it got even worse on PC. The original lighting from the console versions wasn’t present, making everything look flat, and there was no support for keyboard and mouse whatsoever (hilariously, though, you could only close the game with a keyboard or mouse). Even worse, the game would show generic buttons in its many quick-time events, forcing players to guess or memorize which buttons were correct. As if the game wasn’t unplayable enough, it also suffered a variety of crashes that weren’t present on consoles.
A full seven years later, publisher Capcom outsourced a new version to a different developer. Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition is the only version you can buy today, and it fixes most of the major issues of the original PC port. It still has a few problems, but it’s at least playable.
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