Join Screen Critics as we check out the 10 videogame outings that did a great job of killing momentum for their chosen franchises.
Sometimes video games need to change with the times. A fresh coat of paint, a new direction or just the ability to free itself from years worth of lore. Yet sometimes developers and publishers lose sight of what makes a great series good in the first place. Instead the desire to chase trends and bring in more fans means that video game fans aren’t given what they want. These are the games that annoyed us because they tried to change what gamers loved, killing the franchise’s momentum in the process.
10. SimCity (2013)
SimCity was widely regarded as the king of city builders. From its humble beginnings in the late 1980’s, the series found a devoted fanbase that fell in love with the games quirky nature. To this day SimCity 4 is widely held up as the pinnacle of the series, managing to blend all aspects of the series and developing a dedicated following in the process.
For almost a decade EA remained tight-lipped over the future of the franchise. Refusing to discuss it as The Sims continued to move from strength to strength. Then in 2012 things finally happened – EA announced a new iteration of the franchise; one that would bring in multiplayer and region-wide game play. It sounded too good to be true for fans of the series – and thus it turned out to be.
SimCity was a car crash from the word go. The games always-online component leading to a number of launch issues that left gamers unable to access the game. The decision to tie the entire experience to the multiplayer component meant that gamers couldn’t take it offline; and because so many people were trying to get online at once – the game simply buckled under the load.
It took weeks for Maxis and EA to get on top of the issue – but the damage had already been done. The games horrendous PR meant that no one wanted to be anywhere near it. EA shuttered Maxis in 2015 – with Sim City receiving one expansion pack before this closure. There’s been no discussion over the future of the franchise, effectively killing it.
9. Dungeon Keeper (2014)
The Dungeon Keeper franchise was one of Bullfrog Studio’s more beloved franchises. Capturing the early PC market with a strong focus on its humor and quirkiness – the series managed to spawn two sequels that are all fondly.
EA’s decision to revive the franchise had fans excited – sure it was heading for mobiles but done right the game would flourish there. Sadly for fans – EA had made the decision to hallow out the series and turn it into a cheap cash grab. A game littered with micro-transactions and poorly optimized mechanics – the game resembled very little of the original series sense of mischief. Fans poured scorn over the game quickly; giving it the cold shoulder for being such an abomination.
This was the worst fears of videogame fans confirmed. A series used purely to shill microtransactions. For their efforts, EA ended up killing the franchise.
8. Medal of Honor (2010)
The Medal of Honor series came to huge prominence during the PlayStation 2 era – where it spearheaded the World War 2 first person shooter crowd. Yet as time passed the series found itself on the back foot, overtaken by Call of Duty which had moved to the modern era.
Clearly excited by that game’s success, EA decided to revamp its classic franchise as a modern shooter. Medal of Honor was refocused and brought to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2010 – with a huge marketing campaign pushing it as the Call of Duty killer.
Sadly what gamers got was a broken, boring and largely forgettable outing, Medal of Honor just wasn’t fun anymore and the modern focus felt too much like an attempt to ride the coattails of Modern Warfare’s success. Fans hated it, critics more so and the game sold poorly in the end. EA shuttered the franchise; not returning in the intervening years to give the franchise another shot.
7. Turok (2008)
Back on the Nintendo 64 – Turok Dinosaur Hunter provided a nice antidote the systems more family friendly offerings. Here was a first person shooter that relished in the absurdity of its source material and gamers couldn’t get enough. The game went on to spawn six sequels across multiple platforms – not bad for a series about shooting dinosaurs
The Propeganda Games remake however was a complete betrayal of the series that fans had come to love. Out went the over the top weapons and in came a more realistic focus. The game tried to stuff in stealth mechanics that didn’t work while the combat was dull. Perhaps worst of all – the game tried to take a serious tone that left gamers baffled by the overall direction of the series – something obviously shared since this game didn’t receive any sequels. Turok was never a AAA-franchise, but this reboot ended up killing any momentum for the franchise.
6. Shadowrun (2007)
Shadowrun was a niche RPG that appeared back on the SNES. While it didn’t sell well originally, it found a passionate fan base that fell in love with the RPG elements and continued to support the franchise in the hope of a sequel. In 2007 their prayers were answered – FASA picking up the task of bringing the franchise into the modern era of video games.
Sadly for fans what they got was a cyberpunk re-imagining that turned the much-loved RPG into a third person with online focus. It didn’t go down well gamers or reviewers, who hated the games direction and the multiplayer focus. Shortly after the game release, FASA was folded and less than year after launch – the games servers were taken offline.
There have been whispers of a Shadowrun reboot somewhere down the line, but we’d advise against repeating this franchise killing monstrosity.
5. Conker: Live and Reloaded (2005)
After Microsoft purchased Rare – all of the companies IP’s went with Rare to their new home. This meant treasured classics such as Banjo, Perfect Dark and Conker were now under the Microsoft mothership. Many gamers were apprehensive over the fate of these franchises – fears that would ultimately prove founded in the remake for Conkers.
Taking the much loved Conkers Bad Fur Day from the N64 – this reboot attempted to repeat the same light hearted frolics gamers enjoyed in the N64 version. Sadly for them, Microsoft were even harder on the game than Nintendo. The censorship ran deep as entire parts of the game were removed or edited so heavily they weren’t fun to play through anymore. The remake showed that even the most explicit titles weren’t safe under Microsoft – with gamers choosing to forget the game as quickly as it arrived.
It’s fairly telling that it didn’t make it onto Rare’s Replay Collection – a celebration of the companies legacy.
4. Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
Perfect Dark found itself a strong following on the original Nintendo 64 – becoming the unofficial sequel to Goldeneye that many fans wanted. The anticipation of more to come was something that excited gamers and with rumors of a sequel heading for the Nintendo Gamecube – it was what gamers wanted to hear – then Microsoft acquired the studio.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Rare surprised many in the early 2000’s, and with two launch titles set for the Xbox 360 launch period – there was hope that Perfect Dark could find a new home on Microsoft’s new console. Sadly for gamers it turned out that the developers didn’t recreate the magic – pushing Perfect Dark out in a state that many considered less than appropriate for the series. The levels were bland, the action stilted and while the multiplayer was great for what it was; it was hard to get over the feeling that the game was missing a lot that made the series so loved in the first place.
It’s fair to say that 2014’s Thief wasn’t the greatest of ideas for the franchise. Taking a much loved but long forgotten series and rebooting it into an awkward offering was never going to end well.
Thief is an interesting game, as it tries to have its cake and eat it. It wants to keep fans of the franchise happy; nodding to the established lore and building a world with intrigue. On the other, the core mechanics are hugely watered down; with linear pathways and limited abilities for gamers to play with. While the original Thief titles encouraged exploration – 2014’s Thief pushes gamers down linear pathways and awkward chokepoints.
This isn’t the Thief game fans wanted – nor deserved. It only served in killing the franchise.
2. Bomberman Act Zero (2006)
When you think of Bomberman, gritty realism probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The series has always had a tongue in cheek approach to gaming that endeared it as a multiplayer favorite among gamers.
Yet the 2006 reboot attempted to eject all this in favor of a gritty, realistic story about a dystopian war zone. The game plays like garbage, repeating the same set-pieces over and over in a desperate attempt to seem fun. The maps were dull, the game play sluggish and overall – Act Zero proved a healthy reminder to gamers that sometimes realistic doesn’t make a game better.
The worst thing about Act Zero is that it strangled the series potential. It effectively left Bomberman on the sidelines, killing any hope of him making a grand return.
1. Sonic The Hedgehog (2006)
What was originally supposed to be the 15th anniversary celebration of Sonic’s franchise turned out to be the undoing of much of the series momentum – crashing the series and ultimately setting in course a decade of mixed fortunes. Up to this stage, fans had quietly accepted the 3D direction of the series – believing that Sonic Team would eventually get it right. But all that changed with one franchise busting release – the momentum killing Sonic The Hedgehog.
Sonic 2006 however arrived in a horrendously broken state. Lumbered with tedious overworlds and more story than was necessary; the game frustrated with long load times and poorly thought out stages that didn’t inspire gamers at all. The tipping point for most however was the infamous Sonic kiss – where our favorite blue hedgehog kissed the new human character Princess Elise. The series had avoided such silliness up to this stage; now it was clear that the developers were running out of good ideas.
The reaction to the game was so negative; Sega was forced to scrap planned sequels and eject much of the lore established to keep fans happy. It’s legacy was one of killing momentum for Sonic, confirming that the franchise was in the depths of its worst run of titles.