Skip to main content

123 games with untapped franchise potential

61. Gitaroo Man

PS2 (THQ/Koei, 2001)

Before Rock Band and Guitar Hero took rhythm-based gaming mainstream (read: sold out,) Gitaroo Man and a handful of other quirky titles were experimenting with the genre. Koei has managed to crap out dozens of Dyansty Warriors games, so surely they can find the bandwidth to build a Gitaroo Man franchise. Though Gitaroo Man Lives for the PSP inspired hopes of a big comeback, a proper sequel is definitely in order.

62. Magician Lord

Neo Geo, Arcade, Virtual Console (SNK, 1990/2007)

There hasn’t been a cool wizard in a long time (Jedi don’t count) and an updated Magician Lord would rectify that. Yeah, you could shoot fireballs as a wizard, but you can also transform into a dragon or ninja warrior. Damn, an updated version would be awesome. You could do anything!

63. Blast Corps

Nintendo 64 (Nintendo/Rare, 1997)

Simple: Two defective nuclear missiles are autopilot to a scheduled detonation and it’s up to you and your fleet of destructive vehicles to clear a safe path. So we’re thinking, since hardware manufacturers love drowning us with processing jargon during every console launch, why not showcase that technology with a little exercise in controlled demolition puzzles that Blast Corps only got one opportunity to provide? OR, it could look exactly the same, and we could use Google Earth to upload versions of our hometown to flatten with a Ramdozer or a giant death-mech named Thunderfist.

64. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

GameCube (Nintendo/Silicon Knights, 2002)

Probably the deepest, darkest game Nintendo ever published, Eternal Darkness was an absolutely brilliant horror adventure in which solving puzzles and killing monsters were secondary to having the game mess with your head. Sadly, the game’s clever hallucination-pranks and Lovecraft-inspired horror weren’t enough to make it sell – even though it briefly hinted at “Eternal Darkness 2: Sanity’s Redemption” during a fake cliffhanger ending a few hours in. Even so, ED:SR designer (and Silicon Knights president) Denis Dyack has hinted at the possibility of sequels, but usually as something he’d consider after completing the Too Human trilogy. For the sake of the declining horror-game genre, we can only hope that happens sooner rather than later.

65. Jaws: Unleashed

PS2, Xbox, PC (Majesco/Appaloosa, 2006)

Jaws: Unleashed sucked. There’s no denying this. However, it’s extremely difficult to hate a game in which you play as a giant, angry shark, even if the puzzles are terrible, you’re being attacked constantly and the camera makes it impossible to see what you’re doing. Giving Jaws another try on a current-gen console could be pretty cool, provided the devs actually took the time to fix the old game’s problems. And maybe also didn’t do things like forcing Jaws to swipe a scientist across a card reader in order to open an electronic door.

66. Primal

PS2 (SCEA/SCEE, 2003)

While it could be argued that Primal got a spiritual sequel in the form of the excellent adventure game/blatant Ghostbusters ripoff Ghosthunter, we never again got to see petulant tattooed heroine Jen, her gargoyle sidekick Scree or the element-themed worlds they visited. Metroid already proved that there’s huge franchise potential in female characters who have to change into different forms to navigate weird alien worlds, so why does Primal remain a stand-alone, long-forgotten gem?

67. Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone

PS2, Xbox, PC (Atari/Stormfront Studios, 2004)

It’s no secret that Demon Stone was never that great a game, but like so many of the other titles on this list, it had strong potential to turn into something greater. A Dungeons & Dragons-branded brawler by Stormfront, the same studio behind the similar Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Demon Stone starred a warrior, a mage and a thief, who were onscreen at all times and whom players could switch between on the fly. It also featured some potent star power, with a voice performance by Patrick Stewart and a story penned by R.A. Salvatore. Unfortunately, any hope of seeing a Demon Stone follow-up evaporated along with Stormfront, which closed its doors in 2008. Of course, there’s no reason another developer couldn’t grab the ball and run with it…

68. Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure

Mega Drive/Genesis, SNES, Virtual Console (Interplay, 1994)

Champion of gross-out fans everywhere, Boogerman made a cameo in Clayfighter 63 1/3 but hasn’t had a proper sequel (2008’s Virtual Console re-release notwithstanding.) Since potty humor is ageless, we suspect a Boogerman franchise would find a place on all platforms past, present and future.

69. Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist

PC (Sierra On-Line, 1993)

The classic tale of gunslinger turned pharmacist to serve a small frontier town full of people who need their funny prescriptions filled. Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist needs a sequel because Gun and Red Dead Revolver have very few jokes and because pharmacists are an underrepresented profession in gaming.

70. Breakdown

Xbox (Namco, 2004)

Breakdown got a lot of attention for its originality (first person fistfights!) and bizarre plot (time traveling alien super-soldiers.) Official Xbox Magazine went so far as to claim that Breakdown’s story was better than Halo’s. Three and a half Halo games later, there’s still no franchise in sight for Breakdown.

71. Yars’ Revenge

Atari 2600 (Atari, 1982) GameBoy Color (Telegames, 1999)

There’s really only one thing you need to know about this one: You played as a giant, metallic space fly able to spit fireballs and literally eat your enemy’s protective shield. That alone made for the best box art in 2600 history, but there was more: a giant cannon just like the Ion cannon from The Empire Strikes Back, the ability to hide from enemy cruise missiles in a rainbow-hued nebula, and an enemy who could change into a spinning plasma vortex of death and streak across space in an attempt to fry you. Take all of these elements, evolve them properly into modern forms (morphable space flies, please!) and you’ll have the first must-play space dogfighter on consoles in years.

72. Gunvalkyrie

Xbox (Sega/Smilebit, 2002)

Hear the game Gunvalkyrie mentioned, and the first comment is always something about how impossibly hard the game was. However, if anyone in the conversation had the stones to stick with it, the next comment will be that Gunvalkyrie was friggin’ brilliant – and possibly that the complainer should maybe just trade his gaming console in for a bib and rattle. A sci-fi first-person shooter packed with otherworldly art design and exotically envisioned enemies, Gunvalkyrie forced you to master some new skill each and every level. By game’s end, both playable characters had amassed a large arsenal of explosive weaponry and the ability to – with nimble joystick handling – stay airborne for huge amounts of time thanks to a jet-powered jump pack. A true gaming workout, but few games in the Xbox library were as beautiful to look at or morerewarding to play.

73. Crimson Skies

PC (Microsoft, 2000)

Set in an alternate version of the 1930’s in which the skies are clogged with zeppelins and hot-rodded WWI-era propeller planes, this series was an aerial dogfighter’s absolute dream. It even sold well enough to merit a 2003 Xbox follow-up that was part sequel, part remake. In fact, there was even a series of novels, a collectible miniatures game and a tabletop board game. However, all of those products have dropped off the map in recent years, leaving this franchise to plummet down to earth. But given the strength of Xbox LIVE now, we have to think this Crimson Skies could soar again.

74. Deep Fear

Sega Saturn (Sega, 1998)

Long before BioShock, Deep Fear was steeping Sega Saturns in undersea terror. Deep Fear is best described as Resident Evil meets The Abyss. The player is trapped at The Big Table, an underwater Naval research station whose crew is mutating due to an alien parasite infestation. This atmospheric survival/horror game also used limited air supplies and moody silence to create tension (see Dead Space.) Though we’re puffing at the gills for BioShock 2, we’d love to get our feet wet in another Deep Fear game.

75. Realm of Impossibility

Commodore 64, Atari 400/800, ZX Spectrum (1985), Apple IIe (Electronic Arts, 1984)

Essentially, Realm of Impossibility was a gothically themed, horror platform game – your little stick man ran around climbing ladders and exploring in search of magical crowns. But the levles you explored were filled with optical illusions and geometry pulled right out of an MC Escher painting. Plus, they were inhabited by zombies, snakes, spiders and other beasties. Moreover, you simply couldn’t kill these enemies – you instead had to avoid them with spells (freeze, confuse, protect) or by dropping crosses they couldn’t step over. Not even primitive graphics could keep the resulting game from delivering a tense, terrifying experience.

76. Seaman

Sega Dreamcast (Sega, 2000)

Not so much a game as a virtual pet, Seaman tasked the player with the care and feeding of seaman – a surly, person-faced fish with whom you could have actual conversations using the Dreamcast’s microphone attachment. Seaman would remember your birthday, offer relationship advice, and if you were insulting or didn’t feed him well or visit often, bombard you with comically acidic comments. It was brilliant, unique, and successful enough in Japan to get a 2007 sequel. No luck over here, though. Time to go fishing, Sega!

77. Freedom Fighters

PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC (Electronic Arts, 2003)

From the same developers as the Hitman series, this was the movie Red Dawn turned into a game – but without Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson or anyone else you now see on those “I Love the ‘80s” specials. In a captivating alternate history, Russia has taken over the US and it’s up to you and up to a dozen fellow rebels to keep the stars and stripes flying. Figuratively, that is. The reality of it is that this is a squad-based third person shooter that was tragically underappreciated in its day. We’ve been hearing about a rumored sequel since 2004 – it’s time to pull the trigger.

78. Ghosthunter

PlayStation 2 (Sony, 2004)

With a Ghostbusters-like blend of horror and comedy, this creepy third-person shooter cast the player as a detective who accidentally releases a huge horde of ghosts while investigating an abandoned crime scene. They kidnap his sassy female partner almost immediately, and he bonds with a well-intentioned ghost to chase them all down and set things right. Equal parts action, atmosphere, and humor and possessed with impressive graphics for its time, this series definitelydeserves a second chance at life.

79. Lifeline

PS2 (Konami/SCEI, 2003)

A game controlled entirely by voice? Madness, you say! Lifeline is much like an old text adventure, but with pretty graphics instead of words and you say commands instead of typing them. Yes, that means combat, too! While this frustrated many PS2 owners, it made others feel more attached to the characters. Improvements in headset and voice-recognition technology make a franchise more viable on today’s systems.

80. Mr. Mosquito

PS2 (SCE/Zoom, 2001)

Above: Sexy and full of nourishing iron

When the blood of unsuspecting victims is at risk of being sucked out, vampires are generally the culprits. In the case of one of the strangest games ever made, however, you play as a mosquito, and your only goal is to drain the Yamada family without being noticed. A sequel to this unique game was released in Japan, but Europe and North America have yet to experience more vein tapping oddness.