Before Halo, before Grand Theft Auto and before The Sims, there had already been number of fantastic, inventive video game franchises that have shaped the gaming landscape as we know it. Some have long been forgotten by the masses, reduced to the occasional moment of fuzzy, nostalgic recall. And some deserve better. In the current trend of retro-revivals; TGR feel some of these franchises deserve resurrection, whether it’s a long-overdue current-gen update, or just that elusive next instalment to finally be released. If you’re one of the many salivating over Final Fantasy XIII, Guitar Hero V and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, spare a thought for those forgotten franchises that weren’t as lucky.
Rare’s arcade beat-em-up wowed audiences with its graphics. Its arcade success led to successful ports to the SNES and Game Boy. The high difficulty in pulling off increasingly complex combos (including the Ultra-combo) and its outlandish combatants helped Killer Instinct become a cult hit. Playable characters included the cyborg ‘Fulgore’, a skeleton called ‘Spinal’, icy alien ‘Glacius’ and of course, the velociraptor ‘Riptor’. Following the recent rebirth of Rare’s Banjo-Kazooie franchise with Nuts and Bolts, the British developer producing Killer Instinct 3 is still a possibility. It would, however, have to pull out all the stops to compete with the likes of Street Fighter IV, and that might mean a total change of direction for the series.
X-COM (UFO: Enemy Unknown)
Considering the hardware limitations of the time, X-COM did well to cram and balance so many ideas; turn-based strategy, squad tactics, character levelling and resource management to name a few of its features. UFO conspiracies and alien paranoia are classic gaming themes that, in the right hands, could be truly atmospheric on modern hardware. Having more expansive levels to explore and a multiplayer option in a next-gen remake would make our day.
Maniac Mansion and its sequel Day of Tentacle remain two of gaming’s most loved and quirky adventure games. Multiple playable characters, different possible endings, mind-bending time travel and a great sense of humour contributed to its sizable popularity. After the recent releases of new chapters in two classic LucasArts IPs in the form of the Sam and Max and Monkey Island series, we at TGR suspect (and by suspect we mean really hope – Ed) a Maniac Mansion or Day of the Tentacle remake is on the cards – and it will be met with open arms.
The tagline says it all: “Evil is good”. Dungeon Keeper was gem of a strategy game. For once it was the player’s turn to build, then take control of a dungeon and all of its nasties, killing and torturing the hereos in this game, the world’s first dungeon sim. Nice little touches like being able to slap units around and get down into the dungeon action using a first person perspective showed us that the Bullfrog team were challenging the conventions of the strategy genre. Dungeon Keeper 3 was in production but sadly never made it to release. We’d like to see what horrendous new ideas could come to light in a future instalment.
Say what you will about the Duke, the star of gaming’s most comical shooter franchise, but Nukem fans are still loyal to this day. Duke Nukem 3D pitched you against aliens, mutants and pig-cops, and also had you visit strip clubs and pornography shops in an orgy of adolescent silliness. The franchise looked set to continue with the development of Duke Nukem Forever by 3D Realms – officially announced back in the late 90s. Despite several releases of screenshots and promotional materials repeated release delays and a lack of budget led to its cancellation this year, making Forever one of, if not the most notorious example of vaporware ever. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end…
Carmageddon‘s Mad Max makes Niko Bellic look like a charity volunteer. The most notoriously brutal driving game ever made just so happened to be bloody good as well. Hitting zombies/pedestrians/robots (depending on which version you could get your hands on) in spectacular showers of blood and performing outrageous stunts never got old. All three Carmageddon series entries used all the CPU power available to make themselves as visually distasteful as possible, ensuring those tricksy censorship people got involved. We have no doubt that a modern reinvention of the Carmageddon franchise would find new ways to shock the censors all over again.
This Sega-developed Dreamcast title was an ambitious role-playing game offering up huge levels of interactivity, a diverse selection of gameplay elements, and stunning visuals. The game world was designed to draw the player into the story by being as convincing as possible, and at the time it was. The series ended after the second installment, leaving the story without conclusion and fans drawn into the Shenmue world crying out for closure. Despite huge Internet speculation, petitions and some frightening J-RPG fandom, a Shenmue 3 release remains unlikely any time soon, partly due to the limited commercial success of its predecessors. Stick it to the man.
You could argue that Thief‘s Garret never really went away, but that he was always waiting silently in the darkness just around the next corner. Thief was the series taught gamers the real meaning of stealth within the genre. Revolutionary gameplay features meant that, to avoid detection by guards, players had to consider both the level of light that was cast upon them and the amount of noise they were making. It had been over five years since the third game in the series when Thief 4 was confirmed earlier this year to be in the early stages of development. The Eidos Montreal studio also have the small task of making Deus Ex 3, apparently simultaneously, so let’s hope that they can do the Thief franchise justice despite this pressure. And that it releases before we’re too old to be sneaking around anymore.
Mega corporations employ cyborg agents to push mind-control drugs in a future dystopia – Syndicate‘s setting was so deliciously dark. Its mix of real-time action, isometric viewpoint, and sandbox and emergent gameplay elements gave it influence and impact back when it released in 1993. EA now own the rights to the Syndicate series and Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux has expressed interest in a next-gen online version. GamesIndustry.biz claims that Starbreeze Studios, makers of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, is working with EA on a new Syndicate title. This has not been confirmed. We can but hope it will be.
The open-ended, space combat and interstellar trading sim opened the industry’s eyes to what could be achieved in gaming when it released all the way back in 1984. Two sequels, Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters, were released, both taking advantage of the increasingly powerful hardware of the time. Elite‘s place in video game history is well-documented, but could it be part of the future as well? A fourth installment has supposedly been in development for several years. Could modern games like Mass Effect and EVE Online be the start of a resurgence of epic space games that paves the way for its release? Or would Elite 4 have to do something special to stand out in the modern market? Either way, it would be quite the story.