Don't call it a comeback...
Gaming fame is a fickle beast. One year, a franchise can be the toast of the biz, and the next its sequels are clogging up the bargain bin. There's no real formula to keeping a popular series alive, only that if the box doesn't say Halo, Call of Duty, GTA, or [insert insanely popular franchise here] there's always a risk of missing the mark and being forgotten for good.
Here then, for your amusement, is our list of highly anticipated sequels that were quickly forgotten. Do you remember...?
Imagine being born a Baldwin, Sheen, or Bieber today and you can envision the pressure 2009's Wolfenstein felt to live up to its legendary family name. A direct sequel to 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein, it picked up the trail of Nazi-killer B.J. Blazkowicz as he infiltrated the city of Isenstadt to stop zee eevil Germans from unleashing inter-dimensional hell upon earth. This time around, B.J. (as his friends call him) had the help of a Thule Medallion which allowed him to slip between The Vale and manipulate time, physics, and his own natural abilities to get the jump on his enemies.
Why it was forgotten: Wolfenstein had the nigh impossible task of reigniting passion for the Wolfenstein franchise long after the FPS genre it helped create had both evolved and become crowded with other, more advanced competition. It also had nominal backup from Wolfenstein creator id Software, who this time let Raven Software handle the lion's share of coding using id's Tech 4 engine. As such, Wolfenstein played well enough, but it failed to make a fraction of the impact its predecessors did in their dayespecially under the oppressive shadows of Halo, Call of Duty, and other trailblazers of the modern age. Lackluster sales even motivated publisher Activision to axe half of Raven's employees, thereby hampering the longevity of its DLC and multiplayer support. RIP B.J. Blazkowivz...?
Read more Wolfenstein coverage
Alone in the Dark (2008)
Alone in the Dark fans endured a seven-year stretch between 2001's Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare and 2008's Alone on the Dark (aka Alone in the Dark: Inferno for PS3). Developed by Eden Games--a studio owned by the series' creator Infogram--the sequel saw the return of paranormal investigator Edward Carnby in a modern day adventure that did its best to pay homage to the series' point-and-click heritage while still wooing the modern, run-and-gun majority. Originally made to compliment Uwe Boll's Alone in the Dark movies, Eden Games later rejected its Uwe association and forged ahead with an original story and a smattering of fresh gameplay elements--all designed to bring Alone in the Dark's puzzle-solving horror mechanics into a new age.
Why it was forgotten: Alone in the Dark brought a lot to the table, including impressive set pieces, a true-to-form Edward Carnby mystery, and environmental puzzles that actually required some brain matter. Unfortunately, reports of technical glitches, underwhelming controls, and half-cooked missions scared non-fans away from the start; while series devotees were turned off by it's episodic structure which allowed players to skip through difficult parts with zero punishment, thereby eliminating the need or desire to replay whole chunks of the game. Fair or not, Alone in the Dark's deterrents turned what could have been a series comeback into forgettable blip in Carnby's career.
Read more Alone in the Dark coverage
Released for Sony PlayStation in 2000 (1999 in Japan), Chrono Cross was the highly anticipated follow-up to the 1995 SNES classic, Chrono Trigger. With Chrono Trigger scribe Masato Kato at the helm as both director and writer, fans had every reason to believe the spiky-haired time traveler would rise again. Except he didn't. In lieu of continuing Chrono Trigger's story, both Kato and producer Hiromichi Tanaka opted to base Chrono Cross off 1996's Radical Dreamers, which was a Chrono Trigger spinoff for the Satellaview that introduced a parallel universe void of pretty much everything familiar to Crono, Marle, and Lucca's world. The result was an indirect sequel that fused themes from the original with an all new story and cast designed to be accessible to fans news and old.
Why it was forgotten: Chrono Trigger was (and still is) one of the defining RPGs of our generation; a 16-bit masterpiece that combined top-notch storytelling and gameplay to create a video game epic that is revered to this day. Chrono Cross, on the other hand, was just ... great. The game sold well and was a hit with critics, but its loose ties to Chrono Trigger eventually erased it from the hearts and minds of Chrono Trigger loyalists.
Golden Axe: Dragon Rider
Before Castle Crashers and Guardian Heroes, the king of beat-em-ups was Sega's 1989 Golden Axe. Nearly two decades after its release, Sega attempted to recreate that medieval local multiplayer magic in 2008's Golden Axe: Beast Rider, which it entrusted to its own studio Secret Level (aka the now defunct Sega Studios San Francisco). The game re-imagined Golden Axe as a gritty, third-person action adventure, all but abandoning its 2D sidescrolling heritage. It also ditched Golden Axe's multiplayer approach, limiting players to control over the warrior Tyris Flare as she wielded magic and beasts in her quest to thwart the evil (or so we assume) Death Adder.
Why it was forgotten: Dated graphics, boring gameplay, and a hamfisted attempt to make Golden Axe more mature notwithstanding, Golden Axe: Beast Rider was single player. That's like Borderlands 3 doing away with multiplayer or Left 3 Dead limiting its survivors to parties of one. It also didn't help that Secret Level turned Golden Axe into a mediocre God of War clone when, you know, God of War was already servicing that niche well enough on its own. Secret Level's intent may have been to pull Golden Axe into the modern era; but in so doing, it forgot almost everything that made the original worthy of a return.
Read more Golden Axe: Beast Rider coverage
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Rare played it risky when it resurrected its bear and Breegull duo for a sequel to 2000's Banjo-Tooie for N64. Eager to evolve Banjo and Kazooie's gameplay for the (then) new Xbox 360, the studio replaced the series' traditional platforming mechanics with a new vehicle creation system whereby players constructed land, air, and water crafts to overcome obstacles and solve puzzles throughout the game's colorful worlds. Developed under the title Banjo Buildie, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts skidded onto the scene in 2008, bringing Banjo and Kazooie back from their eight year hiatus and introducing fans to a DIY approach to open world platformers.
Why it was forgotten: To be honest, we're not entirely sure. The build-your-own-ride hook was a deep and addicting addition to the Banjo-Kazooie world, and there were endless amounts of fun to be had in crafting unique solutions to game's many puzzles, objectives, and mini-games. What's more, Rare maintained the series focus on exploration, creating themed worlds that just begged to be squeezed dry of their many secrets. Maybe it was the fact Nuts & Bolts was too much of a departure from previous Banjo-Kazooi's platformers, or that it still held tight to the collect-a-thon nature of its N64 ancestors. Whatever the reason, it's a shame Nuts and Bolts barely made a sound when it was released. Here's hoping there's enough gas in Rare's tank to try again?
Read more Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts coverage
There's a reason children of the eighties still dream of changing their names to Rad and fighting evil empires with a kickass robo-arm. That reason is Bionic Commando, Capcom's classic NES platformer, inspired by the 1987 arcade cabinet of the same name. Considered one of the most radical and/or tubular games of the 8-bit era, Bionic Commando was an obvious choice for a modern revival, so it came as no shock when Capcom announced it was pairing with GRIN to create two new Bionic Commando games in the form of 2008's downloadable remake, Bionic Commando: Rearmed; and 2009's full release sequel, Bionic Commando. Both games brought the swinging platformer back in respectable ways, with the former adding an HD sheen and multiplayer modes, and the latter introducing Major Nathan Rad Spencer to a 3D world ripe for his arm-swinging skills.
Why it was forgotten: Bionic Commando: Rearmed may have stoked our love for robotic limbs, but Bionic Commando weighed that childlike joy down with an overly complicated story (something about dead wives and terrorist cells), emo atmosphere, weak shooting, and cheap radiation barrier tricks which sucked the life out the game's pseudo open worlds. Gone was the carefree Bionic Commando we loved, and in its place a serviceable actioneer. By the time Just Cause 2 near-perfected the art of reckless, swinging carnage a year later, GRIN's Bionic Commando had slipped far from gamers' radars, and GRIN has since closed down, while the game is now only remembered for its regrettable twist that Rad's arm was actually his wife.
Read more Bionic Commando coverage
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
It took the Takahashi brothers at Camelot Software seven years to come through with this long-awaited sequel to their Golden Sun series. After years of teases and industry rumblings, the studio made good on its promise to continue the story of Weyard with this DS entry, polishing its puzzle-solving and monster-collecting mechanics from its Game Boy Advanced versions for a new audience. The game took place thirty years after 2003's Golden Sun: Lost Age, and followed the children of Golden Sun's previous heroes as they crawled through dungeons collecting Djinn in their plight to beat a new enemy threat and save the world from environmental anomalies known as Psyenergy Vortexes.
Why it was forgotten: Seven years in the dark took its toll on the Golden Sun series. What was already a fairly traditional RPG felt even more dated in 2010 next to the Dragon Warriors, Final Fantasies, and Pokemons of it time. Sluggish pacing and a lowered difficulty level also took some of the shine off of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's fetching style and other series strengths. As a result, the more dedicated fans were eager to dive back into Weyard, but newcomers took a pass. In the two years since its release, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has reportedly sold 580k copies, half that of Golden Sun: The Lost Age; and a fraction of 2001's original Golden Sun.
Read more Golden Sun: Dark Dawn coverage
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Pit has never been a major star in Nintendo's roster, yet 3DS owners were overjoyed all the same when it was announced at E3 2010 that he'd be headlining his own game for the 3D handheld. Eventually arriving in March 2012, Kid Icarus: Uprising plucked the cherub-that-could from his 2D cage and set him free to save mankind against a resurrected Medusa in levels that took place on both land and in the air. It's developer, the now defunct Project Sora (founded by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata and HAL Laboratory veteran Masahiro Sakurai), even threw in six-player multiplayer to show off the 3DS's online muscle.
Why it was forgotten: It wasn't really Kid Icarus, for one. Don't get us wrong; Nintendo needed a mascot who could show off the 3DS's visuals, and Pit fit the bill. It's just that the sidescrolling charm of the series got lost in the makeover. What's more, as a new game starring a B-List mascot, Kid Icarus had to start from scratch with younger gamers. Meanwhile, those who did grow up with Pit weren't crazy for game's on-rail design and less-than-perfect controls. Kid Icarus: Uprising is one of the 3DS's best games, but considering it was released this year and no one has talked about it in months, we're not so confident about its legacy.
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Oka-what? Oka-who? Exactly. Even fans of similarly ignored Okami, upon which Okamiden is based, aren't all aware this spin-off for the DS ever existed. Developed by Mobile Game and Studio Inc., the title took place nine months after Okami and starred a young pup named Chibiterasu, who was later revealed to be the celestial son of Amaterasu, the sun goddess from the original. Like Okami, players guided Chibiterasu through a land teaming with secrets, treasures, and charms while solving puzzles and killing foes with the 'Celestial Brush'; a mechanic which required players to draw symbols for various effects. The game's drawing mechanic felt at home on the DS, and the luscious ukiyo-e hand painted style was just as much a treat on the smallscreen as it was on the PS2.
Why it was forgotten: As much as we complain about lack of innovation in gaming, it's also true that sometimes games suffer because they stray too far from the pack. Like Okami, Okamiden employed very unique visuals and a core drawing gameplay that, while fun to play, didn't appeal to the more straightforward adventurers. Okamiden was also developed by the folks associated with the Wii port of Okami, with very loose connections to Okami's original creators at Clover Studio, who were forced to close their doors after Okami failed to perform. In short: there's no clear reason why Okamiden flew under the radar, but it's a shame the series has never reached the level of success it rightly deserves.
Read more Okamiden coverage
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
The original NiGHTS into Dreams debuted in 1996 for the Sega Saturn. If that year stirs up warm and fuzzy memories, it's because 1996 also saw the release of a little platformer called Super Mario 64; a game that all but overshadowed everything else on retail shelves, including Sonic Team's flying adventure. Those who got around to piloting Nights discovered an innovative and imaginative platformer deserving of its own praise. As such, NiGHTS became something of a cult hit in the decade that followed, motivating Sonic Team to try again in 2007 with the Wii exclusive, NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams. Like its predecessor, the sequel found players gliding through the dream-like worlds of Nightopia and Nightmare saving innocent dreamers from Wizeman the Wicked who--as the name implies--wasn't much of a stand up guy.
Why it was forgotten: Critics praised NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams for recapturing the charm and visual flare of the original, but that's generally where the comparisons (and compliments) ended. Where NiGHTS was a smooth and ethereal experience for Sega Saturn, NiGHTS Journey of Dreams was a clunky and average shooter muddied by dodgy motion controls and a general sense of meh. What's more, Sonic Team's sequel skewed to a younger crowd, leaving older fans to wish for the good ole days.
Read more NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams coverage
Panzer Dragoon Orta
The fifth game in the Panzer Dragoon series, Orta swooped in for Xbox in 2002 after a four-year hiatus, bringing some of its original creators from Team Andromeda along for the ride as members of Smilebit. The on-rails shooter picked up decades after the conclusion of 1998's Panzer Dragoon Saga, and saw players taking control of a young dragonrider named Orta as she becames central in a plot to thwart the newly resurrected Empire and its race of mutant Dragonmares. The game was told in 10 episodic chunks, and included a rating system that encouraged dragon owners to try again for higher episode scores.
Why it was forgotten: As we lamented back in our Top 7 Sega series we want back, Panzer Dragoon Orta wasn't a bad game by far, but it was a step back. Where Panzer Dragoon Saga for the Sega Saturn infused the series with rich RPG elements, Orta scaled those ambitions back for an on-rails experience reminiscent of the series circa the early 1990s. This retro feel, combined with a short runtime and punishing difficulty level, placed Panzer Dragoon Orta squarely in the devout fans demographic.
Read more Panzer Dragoon Orta coverage
Perfect Dark Zero
When Rare debuted Perfect Dark for the N64 in 2000, it was billed as the spiritual successor to the studio's 1997 FPS masterpiece, Golden 007. Granted, Perfect Dark's setting was far more futuristic and Bond had been swapped out for a Croft-esque bounty hunter named Joanna Dark, but its tight FPS mechanics and polished local multiplayer put it squarely within range of its 007 inspiration. Add in the fact it was also directed by GoldenEye 007 alumnus Martin Hollis and it's easy to see why it went on to woo critics and gamers alike. Five years later, Rare attempted to rekindle the love for its I Can't Believe Its Not GoldenEye franchise in 2005's Perfect Dark Zero. The sequel (well, technically, prequel) was originally slated for the Nintendo GameCube, but Rare's separation from the Big N led it to the warm embrace of Microsoft where it was commissioned to release Perfect Dark Zero as a launch title for the Xbox 360.
Why it was forgotten: Making the Xbox 360 launch deadline proved taxing for the relatively small development team. Features were cut, elements were slimmed down, and though Perfect Dark Zero arrived in fair shape for the 360's launch, it did not represent Rare's complete vision. More importantly, it had not evolved. After five years of development, Joanna Dark's once trail-blazing assets seemed old hat compared to her FPS competitors. As such, reviewers and gamers alike gave it above average reviews, but soon moved on.
Toe Jam and Earl III: Mission to Earth
As fans of the original 1991 Toe Jam and Earl for the Sega Genesis can attest, Johnson Voorsanger Productions' top-down alien title was ... odd. Awesome? Sure. Radical? Totally. But odd all the same. Regardless, ToeJame and Earl gained a devout following. This led to a memorable sequel, ToeJam & Ear in Panic on Funkatron in 1993; and then the not-so-memorable ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth. The latter was originally planned as a remake of the original, but that plan was vetoed when creators Mark Voorsanger and Greg Johnson joined with Visual Concepts to do something new. In the years that followed, ToeJam & Earl III bounced between multiple consoles before landing on Xbox in 2002. In addition to a new design, the third game introduced a sassy, fem-alien to the group named Latisha, who helped the boyz in retrieving Sacred Albums of Funk from Earth for Lamont the Funkapotamus. Like we said ... odd.
Why it was forgotten: Vaguely offensive stereotypes aside, the "next generation" just wasn't hip to ToeJam and Earl's groove. The humor didn't fly with reviewers and the melting pot style of gameplay left everything feeling half cooked. Where ToeJam and Earl were considered fresh and wacky by 1990 standards, by 2002 the anamorphic duo were the equivalent of a Vanilla Ice album-great for nostalgia, but not something we'd go blaring in public. Well, maybe some of us.
Twisted Metal 2012
Twisted Metal was the series that made David Jaffe a known name in the video game industry, so it came as little surprise when he announced a sequel to the long-running vehicular combat game from his freshly minted studio, Eat Sleep Play. In development for three years, Twisted Metal began life as a downloadable sequel for the PlayStation Network, but soon became a full release reboot once Sony became impressed with Eat Sleep Play's progress. The game finally released after years of teasing in 2012, introducing fans to a renewed take on the combat racing series starring the sadistic clown Sweet Tooth, the skull-faced Mr. Grimm, and the unhinged Dollface--all who sought to win one wish from the enigmatic Calypso by winning his tournament.
Why it was forgotten: A new Twisted Metal was a welcome site on the PS3; but while Eat Sleep Play's 2012 entry revved up some renewed excitement for the franchise, reviewers felt it just didn't do enough to restore the series to its former glory. That is, while many considered it superior to 2001's Twisted Metal: Black reboot, and meatier than 2005's Twisted Metal: Head-On for the PSP, Twisted Metal's emphasis on solo carnage and its comparatively sparse multiplayer left fans wanting more.
Read more Twisted Metal coverage
Between SingleTrac's Warhawk in 1995 to LightBox Interactive's Starhawk in 2012, there was this 2007 sequel which sought to remake the original for a new, online world. Developed by Incognito Entertainment, founded by former SingleTrac veterans, 2007's Warhawk ditched its efforts on a single player campaign during production, focusing instead on a completely multiplayer game. The result was one of the PS3's first dedicated multiplayer efforts (and the first title to be made downloadable on PSN and retail), which shipped with six games modes, five maps, and a varying amount of land and air vehicles to help players wage virtual war as either Eucadian or Chermovan forces. Later expansions expanded this selection, but none would see the half-finished single player campaign re-instated.
Why it was forgotten: As a PS3 exclusive released during the infancy of Sony's PlayStation Network, Warhawk's lack of single player content closed it off from a number of PS3 newbies. Online multiplayer was far from as popular as it is today, and those who did log on to join the war were met numerous server and connectivity errors upon launch. And while these were quickly corrected, even favourable reviews couldn't drum up the same level of excitement or online engagement the series once commanded. Now Warhawk is known for its terrible E3 demo of Sixaxis controls.
Read more Warhawk coverage
Which forgotten did we forget?
Game shop shelves are littered with good intentions, and we know there's many more titles out there that deserve a second look. Let us know which forgotten sequels we left out, or if one of the games on our list is in your collection, in the comments...