The Top 10 Game Franchises That Have Died Horrible Deaths (And Need To Be Revived)
It happens. Time passes by and with age a franchise finds it hard to keep up with the new kid on the block. But many franchises still have vast amounts of untapped goodness that could be easily picked up by a young and adventurous studio, yet they find themselves dead in the alley. These are the top 10 game franchises that have died, but could very well be resuscitated in today’s modern world.
10. Jedi Knight
Originally a sequel to an early Doom-like shooter called Dark Forces, this Star Wars game captured everything that was cool about the original movies – lightsabers, force powers, blasters, and countless stormtroopers to kill however you want. The only thing it was really missing was a good in-space shoot-out with Tie Fighters, “Don’t get cocky kid”-style. The game’s clever will-you-be-good, will-you-be-bad mechanic made for a neat dual-ending toward the end of the game, without asking you “do you want to be on the light-side or the dark-side?”, like so many of today’s games do. Oh, and did I mention it had full-motion video cutscenes? FMV was usually terrible, but when its Star Wars, who the hell cares?
The sequels after the fact were pretty decent – Jedi Knight 2 in 2002 and Jedi Academy in 2003, but ultimately the series lost its way. A reboot with the original story, perhaps even starting from its Dark Forces roots would be stellar with the technology of, say, The Force Unleashed.
The real problem with Myst is that the mechanics and style of the original game (point-and-click adventure) were built for computers with very limited capabilities. These days you’d expect to actually walk around the bizarre islands of Myst, yet that would mean not having your gaze fixated on where it needs to be (well to be fair, L.A. Noire did it pretty well).
For me the extreme high-point of the series was Riven (The Sequel To Myst). This game was brutal on the meta-puzzle that encapsulated the ENTIRE GAME, but the experience was worth it. The characters were so well fleshed out, and to my untrained 10-year-old brain the live acting was pretty decent.
Later games in the series got worse, but not bad. There was an odd multiplayer attempt with Uru and things ended with Myst V in 2005. If Jonathan Blow is willing to try this formula out, I don’t see why this franchise can’t try to find a new world to visit yet-again.
8. Rise of Nations
At one point this game was on top of the world. Every critic was raving about this mash-up RTS. Combining the fast-paced action of Command and Conquer with the turn-based complexity of Civilization, this award-winning RTS was like Age of Empires on steroids.
The second and only other entry in the series, Rise of Legends, brought this venerable franchise to a swift death. Why? Probably because making Leonardo Da Vinci an entire race of people was kind of weird. We’ll leave it at that.
7. Tie Fighter
For whatever reason the “space combat simulator” genre was once on top. The big ones were Descent, Wing Commander and several Star Wars-branded titles, the first of which was X-Wing. Tie Fighter was released as a sequel of sorts to X-Wing, and for me it was the apex of the genre.
What struck me as ground-breaking at the time was the way the missions directly tied into the story. Nearly all missions featured secondary objectives which were completely optional, but would reveal key plot points, occasionally opening up different missions. Even better, the game occasionally featured “secret objectives” which would not be on the mission roster, but would be hinted at by a mysterious Sith figure. Completing these missions showed a completely different story arc that ran alongside the normal plot. This is the sort of thing we need in games today!
The series had several more odd iterations, such as X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter (really original) before falling into obscurity.
6. Prince of Persia
Sands of Time stands as one of my all-time favorite games. The combination of solid combat, skillful puzzles, innovative time manipulation mechanics and just straight-up charm made for one hell of a great game. Things began to get bizarre when the prince turned into kind of a punk and the story became almost completely indiscernible. However, this franchise probably has many more games in it, the developers just needed to stop messing with the formula so much. I also can’t think of another game that can pull off a commercial this amazing:
The last game in the series was a throwback to Sands of Time, tapping into what made the original game so great. Why this franchise makes the list is because the game before it was suppose to be a “reboot” of the franchise and after its release Ubisoft almost never talked about it again, like it was some sort of mistake. The new game seemed a little phoned-in anyway, but as I haven’t heard much about either the original or reboot, I feel like the developers have pretty much moved on to greener pastures.
Knock-offs are a staple of the gaming industry. Take a tried-and-true formula, slap a new coat of paint on it and call it yours and you’ve already made millions before the game is even released. Banjo-Kazooie is an unapologetic knock-off of Mario 64, but it does everything better. The humor, colors, level-design, characters and collectibles are so much more fleshed out than every Mario game I’ve ever played, yet our Italian plumber still is number 1.
Ultimately I think this is what killed the franchise. Mario had a huge following long before this cuddly bear and bird combo hit the scene and his fame only continued to grow. There was a proper sequel not long after the original – Banjo-Tooie, and pretty much nothing until Microsoft ultimately released for the Xbox 360 Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. While fun, Nuts and Bolts had nothing to do with the original game’s formula and only spelled more doom for the franchise.
While these are technically 2 different franchises/stories/universes, I always felt that Doom and Quake shared a similar thread. They both defined a genre in their hey-day and pushed the boundaries of technology while doing it. In many ways, I think today’s obsession in FPS games with the best possible graphics one can have may have a lot to do with how Doom and Quake first invented the mentality.
I honestly never had a personal relationship with either Doom or Quake, I never grew up with them and in fact my first real courting with one of the franchises was Quake 3: Arena. Doom 3 came out to much fanfare in the graphics-department, but quickly fell back into obscurity once the final product was released. Quake tried for one more go with Quake 4, but without the loving hands of id software it didn’t get much attention. I think there is still a lot of room for both of these franchises in a world still obsessed with the latest technology.
3. Rainbow Six
A one-of-a-kind shooter that puts tactics and realism before anything else may sound like the least-fun game ever. In a way, its not as fun as Halo, Battlefield or Call of Duty, but where it lacks in fun it makes up for in rewarding experiences. I think this is where the appeal for Dark Souls is, its the kind of game that scratches an itch, one that only a brutally hard game can.
Whether this franchise is still afloat is very questionable at this point. The amount of screens and leaks have been extremely rare since the series’ last iteration of Vegas 2. Whether that means it is in development hell or the publisher has an uncanny amount of will power I don’t know, but since it is pretty much dead in the water right now I’m including it. Get this baby resuscitated quick boys.
Not a ton of games do a great job of teaching you something useful about society while being more addictive than crack. SimCity belongs to the once-defunct, now resurrected genre of city-building simulation games. Zynga has in some strange ways revived the genre, but not in any way that would be recognizable to those of us who played countless hours of zone management (which makes me think, why hasn’t Maxis jumped on the facebook social game bandwagon?).
In a way, SimCity became victim to its own spawn – The Sims, which started as a sort of SimCity minigame concept and eventually eclipsed all of the original Sim games. Spore briefly brought back some watered-down concepts in the series, but ultimately this genre has been left for dead for too long. SimCity 4, the last iteration in the franchise, came out in 2003 and there’s been little to no mention of a new game since.
Interestingly, the recent rise of GOP nominee hopeful Herman Cain and his 999 plan put SimCity back in the spotlight. According to some, Cain based his plan on the game’s simplified tax system.
1. Mech Warrior
In a day and age where games that feature custom load-outs, unlockable gear, numerous classes, and semi-tactical shooting reign supreme, it startles me that Mech Warrior is nowhere to be seen. Once a popular franchise, the game struggled during its final iteration of Mech Warrior 4 to stay relevant and hasn’t been seen since.
Why? I think this is just a sign of a missed opportunity. The industry is now looking for the next big genre to eclipse the CoD-clone and a new Mech Warrior seems like it would be able to answer the call with a few tweaks here and there. Throw on a leveling system and don’t go for the cheesy 3rd-person view and I think you may have a winner.
Although I’ve listed 10 here, I know there’s many more, post a comment on a franchise you’d like to see come back!