14 forgotten franchises we want back

Smuggler’s Run

Why we want it back: Smuggler’s Run has no modern equivalent. Car games now are all some variation on racing, tricks or combat, while Run was all about getting from point A to point B with your precious cargo intact. Make drops, avoid border patrol, careen over mountains, whatever you have to do to get the job done. The dead simple gameplay (you vs them) and enormous level maps made each level intensely exciting, with almost every chase ending in a vehicle-launching explosion.

Above: Big air, exaggerated physics and weird dance music made Run a distinct experience

How we’d like to see it return: As a hugely multiplayer cops vs robbers war zone. The more cars on the field the better, though obviously we’d still want some 8 on 8 rounds. This formula would absolutely kill on Xbox Live/PS3, and if all the matchmaking and modes were handled correctly (as in Bungie-level attention to detail) Rockstar could have yet another mega franchise on its hands. Midnight Club’s had its chance – let’s try something else.

Colony Wars

Why we want it back: Because there are next to no space combat games these days. Wing Commander (another potential for this list!) was the big PC hit for the genre, but Colony Wars brought the same epic space battles, reasonably gripping drama and top-end graphics to console gamers. The PS1 original was even narrated by James Earl Jones, adding extra gravitas to the laser-drenched sorties. This was so well received it earned two sequels and critical praise, so there’s no reason to think it couldn’t work again.

Above: With modern technology, battles next to glowing stars or other space phenomena would be awe inspiring. These looked great… in 1997

How we’d like to see it return: Had a chance to play Halo Reach? There’s a space combat level that captures about 10% of Colony Wars’ majesty. Take that idea and expand it into a full game, with better controls, more involved missions and a story worth remembering and you’d have a surefire hit. Multiplayer could come in too, but maybe it’d be best to focus on the single-player experience before splitting resources.

Panzer Dragoon

Why we want it back: Something about this world is irresistibly captivating. Granted, firing missiles off the back of a dragon is inherently cool, but the surrounding environments, from the foliage to the animals that scurry from place to place, suggest a fully realized world that we can’t quite see. Despite three amazing games for Saturn and one pretty good entry for Xbox, Sega has since left this brilliant concept alone. Can haz plox?

Above: Crude as it is, even the Saturn version retains some measure of splendor 

How we’d like to see it return: First we want an HD collection of the initial two (maybe three) games, just to get us pumped for the real deal. Then, once interest is back up (and we’re sure people would fall in love with this all over again), Sega could unleash a gorgeous, impossibly lush on-rails shooter that sets a new graphical standard for today’s consoles. With no open world to worry about, the entirety of the 360/PS3 could be devoted to the fly-by environments. Assuming this goes well, an RPG follow-up a la Panzer Dragoon Saga would be nice too.

Killer Instinct

Why we want it back: Fighting games are making a comeback, and while we don’t want the market to saturate itself with copycats and frivolous sequels again, we would be willing to spend some time with Rare’s c-c-c-c-combo-laden scrapper. Some derided its memorization-heavy “dial a combo” gameplay, but the reality is KI always demanded a level of skill, and the deafening presentation was so exuberant and over the top that we’d love to see it get a much deserved third entry.

Above: The escalation is simultaneously ridiculous and amazing

Above: Some Glacius-on-Orchid action

How we’d like to see it return: A 360/PS3/PC reinvention on par with SFIV, but with a much-needed update in character design. The dead eyed computer-generated models of the ‘90s won’t stand up today, so KI3 would probably need a drastic visual overhaul. But, definitely keep the screaming announcer (ULTRAAAA COMBOOOOOOO), and make sure there’s a typically strong Rare soundtrack and we’re there on day one.

RC Pro Am

Why we want it back: Have you played this game recently? It rules beyond belief, and somehow its combative quest for pole position still bests many contemporary demolition derbies featuring pick-ups and weaponry. In fact, we can even use RC Pro Am to accurately convey the last five years of quality combat racing games:

Even if you disregard the lesser known sequel, the Genesis version, and the misleadingly titled Super RC Pro Am for Game Boy, the isometric racer was in fact a bit of a genre back in the day. RPM, Rock n’ Roll Racing, Super Off-Road, Micro Machines… need we go on? Odds are you have some history with one. What made them special, and it’s something relatively simplistic, fun and fallen completely out of practice, is it adds Up and Down controls into the steering equation, unlike today, where all racers focus on your ability to nudge right or left. In short: Less like steering a car and more like aiming one. NOW, with that in mind, throw in a track strewn with collectibles, oil slicks, vehicle enhancements, and f***ing missiles, and you’ve got the glory that is RC Pro Am!

How we’d like to see it return: How’s your XBLA/PSN/Steam library looking these days? Sidescollers, 2D beat ‘em ups, twin stick shooters… Keeping the above sentiments in mind, with so many old school genres getting downloadable resurgences, why not whatever the hell you want to call the one RC Pro Am falls into?! And we defy you to think of a better control scheme than the one isometric racers never really got: The Analog stick.

Wizards & Warriors

Why we want it back: Another abandoned series from Rare (what are they doing over there?), W&W managed to crank out four games in the NES days and then disappeared completely. As with Shinobi, each new title altered the gameplay and general structure such that it was familiar yet fresh, mixing things up and taking chances in a way sequels today rarely do. There isn’t really an overarching reason why W&W needs to come back, other than it was a fun, clever set of games that never made it beyond the 8-bit days.

Above: However, Kuros could leap unnaturally high, which we’d happily trade for better swordplay

How we’d like to see it return: The original W&W games are apparently banned from Wii’s Virtual Console, so we’d have to settle for a 360 update that hopefully A) Doesn’t become some unnecessarily M-rated makeover and B) Manages to capture that ‘80s-era Rare magic. It’s not doing a whole lot these days, so Rare might as well try sifting through their heyday.

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  • Dabenguin - September 24, 2010 7:20 p.m.

    Hehe Battletoads
  • db1331 - September 24, 2010 7:32 p.m.

    Wow. I can't even tell you how many hours I spent playing so many of these games. Battletoads, Strider, Shinobi, Mutant League Hockey, and mainly Wizards and Warriors. Any remakes or reboots of those games would have my immediate attention. I would also be more than happy to play a new Aero the Acrobat or James Pond.
  • Wazzle - September 24, 2010 7:33 p.m.

    It seems all of my favorite old school games are on this list. I played the dicks out of pretty much all of these and would kill for a new one of any of them. Hurrrhhh Durrrrhhh toof poosie.
  • Tygerclaws - September 24, 2010 7:34 p.m.

    More Soul Reaver? A return to actual storytelling in games? Yes, please.
  • Triplzer0 - September 24, 2010 7:38 p.m.

    Yes please make an awesome Star Wars space sim. Battlefront II kinda did it, but I felt like it was missing something.
  • PanzerDSS - September 24, 2010 7:38 p.m.

    I was going to go apeshit if Panzer Dragoon wasn't on here. I think the ultimate lesson is: SEGA has no one making decisions or programming there anymore. They can't port, they can't develop, they can barely even keep up. They'd be better off being sold to a company who knows how to sell video games. It pains me to write that, but they are just so terrible at everything now.
  • Moondoggie1157 - September 24, 2010 7:55 p.m.

    I agree Panzer... I have always been a lover of sega, but lately they have been nothing but an embarrassment.
  • Clovin64 - September 24, 2010 8:08 p.m.

    Killer Instinct? That was my first beat em up ever! I think I was about 6 at the time. Riptor was my favourite because I loved dinosaurs when I was a wee lad. I would love a fully fledged remake for Soul Reaver on the PS3/360, and that opening movie still gives me chills. Also, Raziel is the sexiest man in games. Raziel FTW. Also, where the hell is Dino Crisis? Stick it on this list!
  • OriginalJonty - September 24, 2010 8:09 p.m.

    Excellent List. How about some Medievil?
  • garnsr - September 24, 2010 8:09 p.m.

    I always liked the NES Strider best. It was a cool action/adventure sort of game, like Bionic Commando or Simon's Quest, with a cool sword called a cypher. Good stuff.
  • GwaR - September 24, 2010 8:11 p.m.

    RC PRO AM! Whoa, this whole sentence = RPM, Rock n’ Roll Racing, Super Off-Road, Micro Machines. I loved them all and had all but forgotten about all of them until this article. I can't believe no one has done a modern update of these classics. They were universally fun and the best ones were tightly balanced. They even allowed upgrades to your ride -perfect template for a modern update. Nice job GR! Also, I'll second Colony Wars and Tie Fighter, or any space combat game with a plot. They all seemed to die out in the 90s, which is shame when you think what they could do with a Freespace or a Wing Commander now. Lastly, I'd point out that Trine is kind of a spiritual successor to Lost Vikings. Trine is more combat-y and isn't nearly as hard, but it's the same kind of idea. Just saying...
  • GwaR - September 24, 2010 8:12 p.m.

    Also, add Dungeon Keeper to the list. I haven't seen another game like it since Evil Genius -which was largely overlooked.
  • TheCaptainAwesome - September 24, 2010 8:14 p.m.

    BETRAYAL, where is my beloved Conker if I may ask?
  • xXxBLACKHALOxXx - September 24, 2010 8:18 p.m.

    RC Pro Am Rocked So Did Battletoads I Remember When It Was Battletoads and Double Dragon For The SNES lol
  • db1331 - September 24, 2010 8:25 p.m.

    Let me add that I would also love a new Pirates of Dark Water game.
  • FoxdenRacing - September 24, 2010 8:36 p.m.

    I'm disappointed that a few others didn't make the list: Starseige Tribes ---------------- The granddaddy of class-based FPS, the multiplayer-only Tribes was a bit barebones [3 classes, and 3 loadouts for each, and 3 vehicles] even for its day, but the sheer number of tactical options it provided made it a simplistic masterpiece. To lay traps and sensors, or use living scouts? Load up an assault vehicle or spread out? Tribes kept the then-everywhere rocket jumping via its disc launcher and added in a second must-know movement tactic: skiiing. Using only a jetpack and the jump button, slide down one hillside, jet up another, and rocket into the sky motocross style...up one hill, down the next; a good skier could keep pace with vehicles, making the perfect escort. How I'd like to see it: A full-on sequel that takes advantage of modern hardware. 32-man rooms, a half-dozen vehicles with unique purposes, add in the multitude of options of Tribes 2 or even Tribes 1's Havok mod, keep the exaggerated weapons, and keep the gore to a minimum; it could provide the springboard to create 'Classic FPS' as its own genre. Screw realism! Descent or Descent: Freespace ----------------------------- A game not for the faint of heart or slow of reflexes, the world of Descent had a simple premise: a computer virus drives mining robots to violence, and only a tiny space-fighter could fit in the narrow caverns to take them down. What it did was redefine freedom of movement in FPS games, combining the rotation of a fighter jet with the linear movement of an FPS; players could move or rotate on any axis: forward/back, up/down, strafe left/right, as well as yaw, pitch, roll...and did I mention a nitro-style boost? It also introduced the world to tri-chording...the difficult movement technique of sliding on a diagonal, boosting, and moving upwards to greatly increase one's speed, from the days before all movement was normalized to 100%. Combine the best Ace Combat and any FPS have to offer, double the awesome, and that's Descent. Descent Freespace: Taking the technology (and movement mechanics) of Descent into the realm of open-air space battles, Freespace threw Descent players into the unfamiliar realm of wide-open space battles; and boy did it have a sense of scale. Players ran fighters, bombers, interceptors, and 'utility' craft against one another, and occasionally against bigger fish, all while non-military targets scrambled for cover and capital ships tens of miles long blasted each other from the stars. Crafty players would use not only the flak cannons but also the massive plasma beams shot from capship to capship to destroy pursuers, and crazy bomber pilots would ride the beam to line up a shot against the plasma cannons themselves, dropping bombs right down the barrel. Players did this all while managing shield distribution and energy balance...offensive power, defensive power, or booster strength could all be boosted at the expense of the others. How I'd like to see them: Full on modern updates. Keep the classic weapons, maybe add one or two new ones for 'interesting' factor. Introduce an F-Zero GX style shipbuilder in addition to classic machines, all with custom loadouts and Chromehounds-style custom camo. Otherwise, leave the respective formulas (frantic, high-speed, close-quarters dogfights and equally frantic massive space battles that'd make George Lucas have p**is envy) alone. F-Zero Visited more recently than the others, F-Zero pushed the limits of human reaction times...and that was to survive on easy. A brutally difficult game through and through with insanely fast frame rates, vertigo-inducing labyrinthine tracks, boosters that weakened the car with each use, and narrow spaces...all while 30-40 machines fought over the top some it was more frustrating than Ninja Gaiden II [modern, not classic]. To others, it was old-school arcade-style racing heaven. How I'd like to see it remade: A straight-up sequel to F-Zero GX. Any FPS in Quake/Unreal Tournament's vein: ------------------------------------ Bring back a rocket-jumping, health-and-armor grabbing, dozen-weapon game where there was no 'good' and 'bad' weapon, only 'right time' and 'wrong time' to use them, and see just how long today's foul-mouthed, tea-bagging, squeaky-voiced, spoiled-on-realism kids last against an entire generation of gamers that still have the skills, but nowhere to use 'em. The entire car combat genre: ---------------------------- Twisted Metal is nice, but tries far too hard to be dark; the fun-vs-grit ratio hit the perfect balance with TM2. Bring back the days where blowing cars apart was fun (or funny), not brutal. The entire beat-em-up / hack'n'slash genre: ------------------------------------------- DMC1 was awesome, and Dead Rising was massive, but we really haven't had a good-all-around, multiplayer-having one since Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. There's so much potential there!
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - September 24, 2010 8:42 p.m.

    Streets of Rage HD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nuff said.
  • Dreddie - September 24, 2010 8:49 p.m.

    I would go nuts over a next chapter in Soul Reaver. I was so addicted to that story.
  • Montag - September 24, 2010 8:51 p.m.

    Interstate 76 How many games had a poetry button?
  • Redeater - September 24, 2010 8:51 p.m.

    I was SO dissapointed with Strider for the NES. For some reason I had it in my head that Strider and Willow would be exactly like their arcade versions with slightly worse graphics. A new Battletoads game would be fun. Maybe on xbla WITHOUT those terrible racing levels.

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