Let's take a moment to collect ourselves
We all need a vacation sometimes. Whether you go off on a big adventure, visit family back home, or just refuse to leave your apartment for an extended period of time, it's tough to overstate how much a nice, long break can improve your quality of life. Yeah, it may be tough to get back to real life afterwards, but chances are your time off will be apparent in the quality of your work. Unless you really hate your job in which case, sorry.
That doesn't just apply for people, either. Some of the biggest video game franchises on shelves today (and the year after that and the year after that and the year after that) could really use a break. I don't mean to be harsh here - it's tough for anyone to keep the creative spark on the same kind of project year in and year out. That's why these franchises deserve to go dark for a bit and come back better than ever.
7. Resident Evil
Resident Evil has always had a kind of kooky backstory, given its endless stream of double crosses and massive corporate/governmental conspiracies. But Resident Evil 6's three (four if you count Ada's sidestory) interjoining campaigns cranked the whole thing up for a sort of narrative judgment day. Clones, amnesia, dead presidents, secret illegitimate children, seemingly endless new varieties of creepy mutant baddies - it was, um, definitely over the top.
That's not necessarily a bad thing - like I said, Resident Evil's always been a bit bonkers. But recently all the twists, turns, and doubling back have gotten a bit tiresome. Frankly, that's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to Resident Evil Revelations 2 - it takes place before Resident Evil 6 and tells its own discrete story with characters we haven't seen much of since the early days of the series. If the franchise itself took a few years off and came back with a reboot, I'd love to see the main cast discover the horror all over again. Minus the clones and dead presidents.
6. Super Mario
Do you remember back when you could get excited about a game just because it had 'Mario' in the title? Even if you hated tennis or racing games, you knew that no product could bear the plumber's mustachioed visage unless it lived up to Nintendo's stringent standards of accessibility, fun, and challenge (or unless it was a licensed edutainment title like Mario is Missing).
Nowadays, you can be sure that a game with "Mario" in the title has Mario in it. Also probably Luigi, Peach, and Bowser. You can even be confident that it will be pretty good. But it just doesn't guarantee greatness like it used to. Between Tennis, Golf, Party, Maker, Kart, Olympic Games, New Super Mario Bros., and all the rest, Mario has, like, a Starbucks-level franchising operation going here. And just like Starbucks, that ubiquity can make for mediocrity, even with modern classics like Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8 surfacing with some regularity. It's not too late by any stretch - if Nintendo just reins it in a bit, it could preserve Mario greatness for generations to come.
Did you realize there's been at least one new mainstream Pokemon game every year since 2009? Platinum, Heart Gold/Soul Silver, Black/White, Black/White Version 2, X/Y, and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. That's either six or 11 games, depending on whether you count each version as a separate title. Even for a clinically diagnosed Pokemanic, that's a whole lotta Pokemon.
Pokemon's wide world full of monsters to capture, gym leaders to beat, and towns to explore was mindblowing the first time out. And it still has all that! But it's not really mindblowing any more. I mean, one of the bullet points for Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire is that you can put Pikachu in a frilly pink dress. Yes, Pikachu is really cute in a frilly pink dress. But the creators and fans alike deserve a new Pokemon game that takes advantage of the last decade and a half of advancements in technology and game design, rather than just building on the same old fundamentals. The only way that's gonna happen is if Pokemon takes a few years off. Yes, it would be a painful wait, but it would be so worth it.
Remember when Battlefield was the freewheeling, massive-online-antics-encouraging underdog to Call of Duty? It still is! It just doesn't feel that way, because months of online issues have taken their toll on Battlefield 4's reputation. In a better world, the most questionable thing about Battlefield 4 would be the term 'Levolution' as we look back on fond memories of jumping out of airplanes to drop C4 on helicopters.
Now we're coming up on the cool-looking but poorly timed Battlefield Hardline, which is a game about cops breaking the rules to see that justice is done in a culture that's become painfully aware of its militarized police force. That's not going to need a problematic launch to get people angry. I don't expect EA and Visceral to cancel Hardline or anything, but maybe this is fate's way of telling them to just, y'know, slow it down a bit
3. Call of Duty
Yeah, yeah, you knew this was coming. But seriously. We've been doing this every year since 2006, when Call of Duty 2 released on PC and as a launch game for Xbox 360. Think about that - ever since the beginning of the last console generation, we've gone no longer than 12 months without a new mainstream Call of Duty. To be fair, it would be kind of a shock to stop now. Kids who were in elementary school when they were inadvisably allowed to play the first game are graduating high school now. And they've never had a holiday season without a new Call of Duty since.
But it just can't last forever. Sales seem to be slowing down, and Activision has been relatively quiet on the series' recent performance. That's a shame, given GR+'s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review - clearly the series still has a lot of fight left as it enters its golden years. It just needs to slow down a bit, or else it might break its hip.
I could talk about how Sonic's lost his way for years, and how the wounded trust and enthusiasm will only heal if given enough time. But Sonic devotee Justin Towell already said it far better than I could.
On the other hand, I have a bit more emotional distance from the blue hedgehog. Given enough time, I think Sonic still could come back. In fact, that's the main problem - he just never has enough time. We've gotten at least one new Sonic game every two years ever since 2001 - going from Adventure Battles to Secret Rings to Werehogs to Colors to Lost Worlds to Booms. The poor little guy has been literally run ragged, and he needs to sit down for a minute and drink some Gatorade. Give him and Sonic Team a few years to get their heads right and they can come back and wow us again.
1. Assassin's Creed
I've got to give Ubisoft credit for annualizing the seemingly unannualizable. Shooters or sports games have an established pattern for this sort of thing, but getting a yearly production line going for a semi-historical open-world action game complete with huge, intricate cities, and a complex plot? That's pretty impressive. Unfortunately, after the buggy and one-step-forward, two-steps-back showing that was Assassin's Creed Unity, there has never been a greater need for revolution.
Assassin's Creed has become an unlikely flagship franchise for Ubisoft, and I'm worried that its goodwill is burning off. Not just for the company's sake, but moreso because I really like the idea of Assassin's Creed. Running around historical cities and rubbing elbows with/killing their important figures is still really cool. But no matter how many thousands of developers you throw at a good idea, sometimes it just needs a little bit more time to breathe. Don't let Assassin's Creed suffocate, Ubisoft.
Vacation, all I ever wanted
But really, this is all coming from a place of love. Somebody just needs to get those franchises a pair of oversized novelty sunglasses and a Mai Tai before they work themselves to death. Of course, they're not the only ones who could use a little time out of the spotlight. What franchises do you think need to take a break? Let me know in the comments!