The Top 7... Cult-classic franchises we’d love to see rebooted
Waiting to be reborn
Updated with the Community Choice entry!
If you had told us five years ago that we would love an XCOM game, we would’ve called you crazy. The original X-COM: UFO Defense was no doubt a great game, with a grip of devoted fans that still play it to this day--but its deep tactical gameplay is nigh impenetrable for new-school gamers. Then Firaxis Games came along, gave it a fresh coat of modern-day polish, energized the gameplay, and created one of the most exciting games of this holiday season. How’s that for a reboot?
It got us thinking--there are plenty of franchises out there which, much like XCOM, are ripe for remakes thanks to their devout, albeit small, following. These are the seven seemingly forgotten franchises that we think need to come back in style; if you’ve done a majority of your gaming during the ‘80s and ‘90s, we can bet you’d be on board with these reboots.
Skyrim, Shmyrim--we want our first-person spellcasting to be as pixelated as possible. One of Raven Software’s first breakout hits, you may best remember the Heretic franchise from its pseudo-sequel Hexen. Using a modified version of the classic Doom engine, this first-person hack-‘n’-slash series had you smashing maces or slinging spells into the fleshy faces of gruesome monsters (as one of three playable classes, no less). Instead of a grimy space station, the Heretic games had you exploring ancient temples and misty marshes--and it forced you to collect keys, but hey, that was the thing to do at the time.
Sadly, its medieval murdering never took off like Doom’s demon killing. A modern-day reboot could distinguish itself from the Elder Scrolls pack by playing up the dark fantasy and occult elements, and it’s already known to offer something Skyrim can’t: co-op.
With some of the most irrefutably outstanding box art for its games, the Turrican series is beloved by those who played it. A 2D side-scrolling shooter in the same vein as Metroid, Turrican was all about blasting aliens with a varied arsenal of space-age weaponry, and even included a morph-ball form--except this one had spikes! The alien enemy designs were varied, the graphics were pleasingly vibrant, and the running animation was pretty dang impressive for the time. Just knowing that we were playing as the bionic cyborg from the game’s cover made it all that much better, even if we were constantly getting lost in the maze-like level layouts.
Give the game some Shadow Complex-style bells and whistles and make it an affordable downloadable, and Turrican would be on its way towards being the next big Metroidvania franchise. Or go big-budget and turn it into a stylized third-person shooter--look, we just want to see Turrican on a box again. That’ll make us happy.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert gets all the nostalgic RTS credit--but not many know that this obscure strategy game predates it, and was way ahead of its time. With one of the least Google-able names of all time, Z (also known as “Zed”) delivered robot-on-robot, red-vs-blue aggression as bots warred over a variety of worlds. Its gameplay could be compared to the Dawn of War series: Instead of tasking the player with macro-level management of mineral gathering and base construction, your units were at the forefront of the action. Moving around the map and capturing territories was the name of the game, and you could seize unmanned warmachines to bolster your forces. The varied robot types also had great character, thanks to some spiffy unit portraits.
The game’s light-hearted humor could be compared to the Worms series, and that franchise has certainly withstood the test of time. It wouldn’t take much to make Z a miniature modern-day hit--turn it into a tower-defense game or an asynchronous, turn-based strategy game, and the simple charm of its sprite graphics and straightforward objectives will do the rest.
Okay, so gamers who suffer from motion sickness will definitely hate this space shooter, with its incredibly disorienting z-axis flight. But those that can stomach Descent’s gut-wrenching twists and turns will find a supremely engaging 3D shoot-‘em-up. Picture Doom with an additional dimension of movement and a cockpit view, and that’s Descent in a nutshell--zooming around spacious space stations and tight underground tunnels collecting nifty new weapons and energy globes. The enemy ships were particularly memorable, turning a few jagged polygons into angular, downright menacing machines, and we were far more compelled by collecting new laser types than we had any right to be.
There just aren’t enough “dogfighting in space” games these days, and we reckon a Descent reboot would perfectly fill that void in our hearts. As long as it maintains the six degrees of spatial freedom that made the originals famous, nothing (except the need for a barf bag nearby) can go wrong.
Kids today with their Massive Effects and Final Fantasies--whatever happened to the totally-out-there, Blade Runner-meets-D&D RPGs like Shadowrun? Based on a tabletop RPG by the same name, this isometric sci-fi adventure melded punk culture, classic fantasy, and futuristic cityscapes into one incredibly unique, noir-style story. Hitting 2050 Seattle’s dilapidated streets as the amnesiac Jake Armitage, you never knew what you’d be in for next--ducking into an alleyway might put you face to face with shapeshifting shamans, cyborg assassins, or brutish orcs, which you could converse with or kill using guns and magic.
Don’t give us any lip about 2007’s mediocre-at-best Shadowrun shooter--like the recent Syndicate reboot, that game captured little to nothing about what made the originals so special. We want a dystopian urban future rendered in full 3D, with the same snappy dialogue, technological intrigue, and frantic combat from the earlier games. And, thanks to that crazy cultural phenomenon Kickstarter, we just might get our wish.
2. Star Wars: X-Wing / TIE Fighter
Flight sims are a lot more palatable when they involve iconic Star Wars ships. Before Factor 5 wowed us with the Rogue Squadron series, would-be ace pilots for the Rebel Alliance or Empire were getting their jollies in the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games (the latter of which is easily one of the most fondly remembered DOS games of all time). The graphics may be borderline abysmal by today’s standards, but the mere fact that you could control the instantly recognizable starfighters (with a cockpit view, no less) was enough to make hardcore Star Wars fans jump aboard the flight-sim bandwagon. Hearing the classic TIE Fighter scream as they zoomed through the dark void of space made us feel like we were part of the movies, with the scope of each battle and fully-voiced cutscenes driving the classic Trilogy vibe home.
With developer Totally Games no longer in Lucasarts' pocket, another studio will have to take it upon themselves to create the next-generation Star Wars flight sim. As long as new iterations stick to authentic representations of the namesake aircraft and adamantly abolish any on-foot nonsense (we’re looking at you, Rebel Strike), Star Wars fans should be happy to strap back in for another trip through the Death Star’s trenches.
1. Another World
Despite a small cast of characters, minimalist gameplay, and some truly grueling difficulty, Another World (Out of This World, to US folks) resonated with gamers in ways they weren’t expecting. The game’s vivid vector graphics were utterly stunning at the time, and the pacing of the heavy, nicely animated platforming naturally melded with taking in the sights of the sublime alien landscape. Getting your character--the protagonist Physics professor Lester--killed over and over was all but inevitable, what with a cornucopia of death traps and one-hit kills. But slowly adapting to the hostile surroundings offered a hard-earned satisfaction and a surprisingly moving story.
The game’s graphical style probably wouldn’t hold up for the modern gaming crowd, but the core principle would still work: The sensation of exploring foreign, photo-realistic planets is enough to captivate most anyone, and the methodical platforming would be a nice change of pace from the twitch run-’n’-jumping of modern fare. Prince of Persia definitely got its modern-day due; it seems like a mere matter of time before people pine for the greatness of Another World.
Community Choice: Road Rash
This classic motorcycle combat racer was less about being first to the finish line, and more about painting the concrete pavement with the fleshy faces of your competitors. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that gloriously gory--but the implications of whacking a cyclist on the back of the head with a metal chain or a baseball bat are pretty severe. Full of the gnarly attitude you’d expect from unlawful motorcycle street racing, Road Rash even let you take your chances on walloping a pursuing cop off his bike, though whiffing meant instant incarceration.
Sixo T knows the risks of such confrontational cycling, saying “I remember taunting a few of the characters, only to end up eating the glass of an oncoming car.” You could even call the game a bad influence; Tyrande recalls that her parents “split the disc in two” when her brother mentioned the desire to smash a cop’s windshield. But that kind of anarchic rivalry with the other racers is what made Road Rash so memorable, and a reboot could bring even more over-the-top violence and improved graphics to the game’s breakneck (literally) racing.
Gone, but not forgotten
Would you be on-board with modern-day reboots of these games, or do you think they should remain in the past? Think we missed your favorite cult-classic game and need the masses to know about it? Leave us a comment below singing the praises of old-but-timeless games, and maybe someone will get the ball rolling on the next XCOM: Enemy Unknown-caliber reboot.
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