Screen Critics chooses the games that disappointed most from otherwsie great series. What titles disappointed you most of all?
Video game sequels are a hard task. Not only do developers have to better their previous entry, they have to find a way to bring yet more fans on board. A good sequel can cement a series place in gaming history – a terrible one can sink it without trace. This list is a glance back at those titles which arrived with the highest of hopes, but crashed under the weight of expectation. These are the missteps that drove their series over the edge, in some cases to places they never came back from.
10. Zelda II: Adventures of Link
After the original Legend of Zelda tore up the rule book on the NES, gamers couldn’t wait to get their next fix of Hyrule action. To this end, Nintendo delivered a sequel in the form of Adventures of Link – a sequel that continued the epic saga and gave gamers more Legend of Zelda, at least that’s what they thought.
Fans were heavily split over the inclusion of more RPG elements. A leveling up system as well as a side-scrolling dungeon segments felt more akin to other game series of the time. Part of the problem was how terribly thought out some of these inclusions were, with dungeons being littered with obtuse puzzles terribly placed (and sometimes invisible) enemies. It wasn’t the sequel gamers anticipated and the reaction was one of muted applause. The game wasn’t terrible, but it certainly disappointed a good number of gamers.
Time’s been relatively kind to the game, with it finding more fans as the years pass. Yet it’s probably very telling that to this day, the series hasn’t returned to the mechanics that made this game so unique. As for the game’s legacy, A Link To Past was hugely received when it landed on SNES a few years later. Adventures of Link is largely left out of the conversation when it comes to best Legend of Zelda titles.
9. Dragon Age II
Bioware’s sequel to the hugely popular Dragon Age couldn’t have been more anticipated. The Mass Effect developer was on a roll and after the original game Dragon Age: Origins crafted a world of intrigue and fun – taking the best of the genre and delivering the kind of epic that made fans want to come back for more. More of the same great game play, more strong storytelling and just more of the same!
Yet somehow Bioware really dropped the ball. Ejecting a lot of the open-ended experience that made the original so fun, the sequel was a more directed and focused effort. It recycled environments, created obvious hub worlds and swung way too heavily towards action orientated gameplay over the RPG style that fans loved.
It’s just not that good in the grand scheme of things; something that Bioware took note of and corrected in their third outing.
The Driver series was a huge hit on the original PlayStation. It managed to beat Grand Theft Auto to the open world party by a good number of years – Driver 2 in particular delivering a revolution when it touched down.
Sadly when the third outing arrived on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, things weren’t quite as well received. The game was lambasted for its terrible on-foot segments, awkward controls and fairly terrible story. Perhaps though its Atari’s attempts to buy positive reviews from websites and magazines that ultimately shows how terribly the game was received. It was quite the scandal in the mid-2000’s and highlighted just how terribly the game had been received by reviewers.
7. Fable III
The Fable series is something of an enigma. In theory any of the games could be landed on this list and not look out-of-place; such is the disappointment that fans have felt about the series over the years. Yet for me personally, it was Fable III where the series irreversibly drove off the cliff edge.
Fable II had its flaws, but at its core was a solid game with some whimsical charm. Fable III sought to get rid of as much of this as possible, throwing in a story that tried to feel epic but ultimately felt even more disjointed. The moral system used to try and give weight to your decision was poorly implemented while a lot of the mechanics that made the previous game feel exciting were missing entirely. Fable III was a mess and probably set the series back a good number of years – something to this day it hasn’t recovered from.
6. Resident Evil 6
Some may see this as cheating, but the reality is that you could choose Resident Evil 5 and put it in this slot. While that game at least had the excuse of trying to incorporate new ideas (The co-op wasn’t that bad, let’s be honest) Resident Evil 6 however is arguably the point where the series irrefutable dove head first off a cliff.
While there’s plenty of campaigns and call backs to keep long-time fans happy, the game struggles to make any of it coherent. Everything feels too-action orientated; removed from the series heart and soul. Instead the campaigns feel bland, dull and stuffed to the gills with set-pieces that lack the Resident Evil charm. Too much of this game feels like a different series entirely; and that’s not a good thing for fans.
5. Dead Space 3
Ultimately Dead Space found success and fame through its intense focus on horror and tight quarter combat. The feeling of isolation as the narrative pulls you through a weave of horror and gore was enough to make the game excel. EA announced that they’d be releasing a third game in the highly successful series; fans couldn’t wait to see what came next.
What EA decided however was that the series lacked an action focus. Stripping out some of the more extreme features of the series. The focus instead was on co-op and ease of access; with micro transactions making an unwelcome inlay into the series. Fans weren’t impressed at all and the game suffered in sales; something that’s likely caused the series to go into an extended hibernation.
4. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
When Prince of Persia turned up in the early 2000’s, the reboot captured the attention of gamers far and wide. It was a reboot done right, bringing attention and critical praise to a series that hadn’t been enjoying it since the early DOS days. So a sequel with more of the same time-travelling mechanics and fun game play was certainty. Or so gamers thought.
The sequel went in an awkward direction – turning the entire mood of the game from upbeat and cheery to gothic and dark. It was a bold change in direction; but one that fans didn’t enjoy for the most part. The game ditched a number of mechanics in the pursuit of this new style; creating an awkward disconnect for fans of the original game. Add in a bizarre thumping soundtrack and it’s easy to see why gamers weren’t overly impressed.
It derailed the series momentum; something it struggled to get over.
3. The Force Unleashed 2
The original Force Unleashed garnered huge praise for its grounded story and hugely enjoyable game play. One of the things fans really liked though was the fact that it told a complete story – there wasn’t much left to do. Yet the financial success of the original meant a sequel was an inevitability and so The Force Unleashed 2 arrived to huge expectation.
Without the refinement or the care to attention, the sequel fell flat. It’s story felt drawn out and pointless, a sense of hurried attempt to cash in on the popularity of the original game. The game didn’t sell nearly as well; putting the Force Unleashed line of games on the shelf; where it’s remained since. There are fewer grand examples of what a terrible sequel can do to a promising series than this game.
2. Steel Battalion
If you’ve never heard of Steel Battalion, you may have heard of its legacy. Back on the original Xbox this was the game that had a controller larger than many small nations. The thing was insanely enormous, immersing gamers like very few games had before. Yet the cost of this kept many gamers from ever investing; meaning the game wasn’t as big a hit as Capcom had hoped for. Then came along Kinect – and Capcom saw its chance to bring the series back.
The result was one of the worst games on the Xbox 360. An almost uncontrollable mess that delivered nothing short of an abomination. The Kinect wasn’t able to read precise controls, meaning the game was an unguided mess. To add insult to injury, pretty much every trailer released for the game showed a wildly different experience, with Kinect easily able to determine what gamers were trying to do.
For fans of the series who’d been holding out; it was the worst kind of insult and has probably killed the series.
Thief found a huge fan base back in the late 1990’s by revolutionizing the sneak-em-up genre. Here was a game that not only forced gamers to think about the environment, but how they used that to attain their target. It was this marriage of features that garnered the series such a loyal and dedicated fan base. Subsequent sequels have added to the series; but after 2003, the series seemingly went silent. That was until the Thief franchise got a reboot in 2014.
While technically not a sequel, it might as well be for storied fans of the series who saw all the hallmarks of the series much loved characters in this game. yet for all this attention – the game played like anything but a Thief game. Linear, overly commanding and just not fun for the gamer to experience; the new Thief title certainly looked the part. Yet it’s this awkward abandonment of the features that made the series such a hugely enjoyable prospect in the first place that truly hurts the game.