It is an overused saying, but – the bigger they are, the harder they fall. And none have fallen quite so far as these franchises. These franchises used to be the ones who broke rules, set trends, and who all the game developers wanted to mimic. Some franchises have narrowly avoided this list, like Tomb Raider, with the upcoming and very well-anticipated reboot, along with Devil May Cry, which was on its way to this location because the developer of the game clearly lost their vision. But the games on this list fell so far, so fast, and it truly is a pity, because they could have had a very bright future, if only in the hands of more ambitious developers. This list is paying homage to the franchises many of us grew up with, and ended up being hurt by, or just completely forgot.
10. Banjo Kazooie
This was a franchise that didn’t even get a chance to truly grow its own identity before it fell apart. Anybody who grew up with the N64 knows about this game. Banjo Kazooie was a Very peculiar puzzle platformer, and it was loads of fun. With strange characters, strange locales that you couldn’t help but want to explore, and a very odd story, its biggest hook was how strange it was, and it was a good gimmick to have. Then it’s only game in the HD era came along – Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. And this game was awful! The new look, the new direction that robbed this franchise of so much of what made it unique. Now, a lot of these kinds of games suffered in the HD generation. It’s like developers thought that they had to make every game a wondrous visual marvel. Unfortunately, they never learned that that isn’t the case, and this franchise died before it even had a chance to spread its wings. The absurd does have a place in the HD generation, and it kills me that so many franchises never realized that.
9. Star Fox
I know that I’m going to catch some heat for this, but let’s all be honest – this franchise has gotten more than a little stale. Star Fox 64 was one of the best flight combat simulator games there is. It had a lot of different and interesting places, different kinds of vehicle combat, cool missions and a unique system that allowed players to find alternate paths through the game, including one with a true ending. It was a great game, that gave so many gamers hours of enjoyment going through each path, and finding the clever ways to other paths. You also got to replay to better your kill count and score. This game was so much fun. Then, Star Fox Adventures came out of the Gamecube, and this was an uninteresting and uninspired bore. They tried to go back to formula with Star Fox Assault, and while it wasn’t as much of a waste as its predecessor, it was far too short, and there were no branching paths or neat discoveries to make. The franchise saw nothing in the Wii, and hopefully it can bounce back with the Wii U. If not, this could be the end of Fox’s time in the limelight.
8. Resident Evil
I don’t think that any franchise has fallen as hard or as fast as Resident Evil. The only reason it isn’t higher on this list is because I don’t hate 5 and 6 as much as some people do. But I do recognize how it is failing. Resident Evil 4 brought it back from the brink of being on this list a lot sooner. That game showed that Resident Evil could hold its ground in the new age, and very well too. It spawned the over-the-shoulder view system. This was a trend-setter game for tons of games that would follow. But then Resident Evil 5 came along, and it threw a wrench in the gears of all the potential the series had been given back. With almost no horror elements, this was most certainly an action game. And while it was a stylish action game, it wasn’t Resident Evil, and the fans knew it. Divisions grew among the fans, and things were looking to get ugly. Resident Evil 6 has continued the division of the fans. Now, it should be noted that this is not a bad game. Neither was 5. But they are not survival horror games. They are action games. Ironically, the closest that 6 came to feeling like a survival horror game was with the Ada Wong story. This franchise needs help, and unfortunately, doesn’t look to be getting any. Which is a real shame.
7. Earthworm Jim
Anybody who remembers the Sega Genesis knows this franchise. The stylish design and the odd weapons, bosses, controls and worlds just made this franchise what it was. It was another of the absurd platformers, and it took advantage of every minute of it. The backgrounds were hand-drawn, and they looked amazing. Sadly, this franchise died a VERY quick death in the growth of 3D games, much like the franchise at the top of this list. The biggest tragedy of all is that Earthworm Jim should be surviving, and very well, too. In the HD generation, what they could do with the environments and platforming is just awesome, and it kills me that they haven’t brought this franchise back from the grave. Rayman was able to get an awesome new game that brought its franchise back from the grave, and so should this one. Hopefully, we see more of this worm and his power suit again.
6. Splinter Cell
Now, I don’t know how many of you know this, but I LOVE me some stealth games. For real, the stealth genre is another one that hasn’t gotten its fair share of love in a very long time. Granted, there are games that excel at it, like Batman: Arkham City or Mark of the Ninja, but this franchise used to mark the high point in stealth gaming. You had to use the main character’s acrobatic skill to stick to the shadows, stalk patrols and get in close for the kill. It was loads of fun, and then the most recent sequel has come out. Conviction was an action game. And the game that is coming up next is even moreso. Not to mention that the main character isn’t played by Michael Ironside, which was one of the reasons that we thought that Fischer was so cool. This is another franchise that has gone the route of Resident Evil and become an action series, which is a real shame, because the stealth aspects in previous games were among the best that have ever been. Sadly, it is looking more and more like this franchise won’t go back to its very clever roots.
5. Prince of Persia
This is a franchise that I think lost its way. Part of that is due to how popular it became. Sands of Time is one of the best puzzle games that has ever been made. Warrior Within was a bit of a stumble, but not much. The Two Thrones was also a bit of a stumble, but still very fun. However, the reimagined game Prince of Persia, and the god-awful film made from the original game totally botched the image of what this game stood for – deep combat, clever puzzles, and using powers to your advantage. The worst offense was in the reboot, where it was almost impossible to die. There was no incentive to think strategically about your actions, because you were pretty sure that you were going to come back. Not to mention the REALLY bad sequel-bait ending that this game had. But this franchise has stared down this abyss before, and come out swinging, so who knows what the future has in store for the Prince.
This series, to me, is a lot like M. Night Shyamalan’s career. It was built up so far, so fast, that people didn’t stop to think about if the praise we were giving it was earned or not. Fable was an awesome game. The idea of morality in a game was new, fun, and it made trying new things and replays so much more interesting. That’s not to say that this game didn’t have its problems. The final boss battle was kind of sad. But, aside from that, it was a very solid game, with a unique style and finesse. Fable II definitely was a step backwards. The magic was over-powered. The navigation system was kind of annoying. The final boss battle was non-existent, and totally anti-climactic. But, all that aside, it was also a solid game. We were underwhelmed, but we still did like the final product. Then came Fable III. This game was a disaster. It was an uncooked dough that had the potential to be something amazing. So many players were sold on the idea of fighting against a corrupt king, taking over his nation, and leading it. That does have a lot of potential. And the game looks amazing. But that’s where the good things end. The rest of this game was such a complete mess that it has driven more than one nail into this series’s coffin. Fable is dying, fast. Just like Shyamalan’s career.
3. Silent Hill
Much like Resident Evil, this is a franchise that fell very hard, very fast. The original 3 Silent Hill games were all survival horror masterpieces with a dark and foreboding world, stories that were thematically and narratively dense and characters who were being tortured by their own subconscious’s. Then the series hit a hiccup with Silent Hill 4, which stressed really awkward combat along with painstakingly brutal inventory management. There were a string of lackluster spinoff games, and then came Silent Hill 5. The boring plot, unimaginative environments and awful controls doomed this game. Downpour was hoping to bring it back, but it only made the problems worse. This franchise used to be the metric that other survival horror games stood up to. Now, it’s a sad reminder of the fact that the survival horror genre is on life support. The only thing that players fear about the next games is that they are going to be worse than the last.
2. Final Fantasy
Square Enix really needs to get their shit together with this franchise, or it will soon be dead. Once the undisputed King of RPG games, Final Fantasy was the chief contender all the way up to XII. Some argue that XII was the first step in the wrong direction, and there is an argument to be made, but that game still had its moments, and it wasn’t nearly the catastrophe that XIII was. XIII burned fans with completely linear gameplay, a story that never seemed to be going anywhere, and having these incredibly beautiful environments that we couldn’t explore. After that, there was XIV, which was a massive commercial failure. XIII-2 was a complete dud, and it has come to light that ANOTHER sequel to XIII is being made, which is so obviously a cash-in. Meanwhile, the game that all the franchise lovers are waiting for, Versus XIII, has heard hardly anything about it, with Square swearing up and down that it isn’t vaporware or cancelled. This franchise needs help, and it is going to fall apart if, as I said above, Square Enix doesn’t get their shit together.
But of all the franchises on this list, none has fallen farther or faster than this one -
1. Sonic the Hedgehog
I grew up with this character. I loved these games. Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles were among my favorite games growing up. For so long, Sonic lead the charge against the Nintendo powerhouse. Sonic games were almost as popular as Mario games. But, like Earthworm Jim, he did NOT transition well into 3D. Some of the games in this lineup have been so bad that they are amazing. Sonic the Hedgehog of 2006 takes the cake, with the main character falling in love with a human, and spending a large portion of the game talking to people. It was not only boring, it was hilariously bad, with a story that was so forced and contrived that it made the rest of us cringe. That’s not to say that all Sonic games in 3D have been bad. Sonic Generations was a step in the right direction, combining the best of both worlds (2D and 3D). But some of the games associated with this character are beyond jokes. From all the pointless racing games, the Sonic vs. Mario games, and by far the absolute worst – Sonic Free Riders. This is a character who has fallen so hard from grace, and it amazes me how loyal his fans can still be. We were all swindled, guys. Let’s accept it.
Until next time, a quote,
“The higher a video game franchise climbs, the farther it has to fall.” -GT Countdown