10 Awesome Games That Never Turned into Successful Franchises
With so many games out there, it’s really a shame how many are left by their creators at a single instalment when there was potential for a sequel or even an entire series based off that title. Lots of awesome games just don’t make it, either because of sales, because their makers went out of business or, in some cases, due to sheer rotten luck.
Here are 10 games and budding series that were sadly snubbed of a healthy continued existence on the games market due to one or more factors. These games aren’t in any specific order.
I was planning on maybe putting a cap on how many sequels some of these titles will have had, but I decided that simply having a low amount of sequels or just by being relevant for an extremely short amount of time was enough to justify an entry on the list. All that really matters is that a.) these games had something fun and/or worth-while about them and b.) they never managed to make a successful future iteration on future gaming platforms.
On with the list…
I’m not saying that this Breakout clone from Taito released in 1998 should have really been the basis of further Breakout-style titles. However, if the company can re-imagine Bubble Bobble into the amazingly addicting and fun Puzzle Bobble (Bust-A-Move), you would think that they would have been able to take the charming cast of Puchi Carat and turn it into a successful franchise.
Yes, Puchi Carat gets on this list solely because of its adorable cast. The game itself is fun, a versus-based Breakout battle between two characters. The reason you keep playing though is because of the goofy cast which includes the likes of the band-aid nose kid Garnett, the sexy Peridot, the weird Pokemon-looking animal thing Bee and even that annoying fairy C-Mond.
The cast of Puchi Carat could have easily been re-used for other types of single-screen games (maybe a collection) with different puzzle mechanics. Maybe even game-styles based off each character’s personality. However, Taito are the masters of creating lovable characters who only appear in a single game. It’s a shame they missed the opportunity with this title.
The fact that Sega’s original mascot never became an iconic video-game franchise similar to Mario, Mega Man or Castlevania certainly wasn’t due to a lack of trying. Sega was desperate to make its big-eared, giant-fisted, origini-munching rock-paper-scissors master into a star which is why, even though it was never a successful franchise, there were no less than six Alex Kidd games. Sadly, all but one were only ever released for Sega’s ill-fated Master System.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World may had not been an amazing game but showed an impressive level of depth for the genre in a time when the genre was still very undeveloped. Unfortunately, Sega churned one lacklustre follow-up after the next and never really stopped to hone the mechanics of the original until the series’ fifth title Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, the only instalment of the series to cross over to their 16-bit Mega Drive console. However, between releasing a lacklustre arcade rendition, a lackluster BMX spin-off and reworking a children’s adventure game to make the series more versatile, Alex Kidd just kind of lost its way as a franchise and was quickly dropped with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog.
This is really sad because Alex is a really charming character and the game mechanics of Miracle World and Enchanted Castle could have made for a really likable series of titles, if Sega had bothered to buckle down and work out some of the more annoying kinks in these titles. Miracle World in particular with its stores, interactive characters and vast gameplay variety had the makings of a great game. I really wish Sega would maybe one day revisit this franchise and perfect what they started.
LucasFilm Games, later LucasArts, was never a huge sequel factory even in the hey-days of their colourful and likable adventure games. Besides two Maniac Mansion games, two Indiana Jones titles and the Monkey Island series, none of their games really went on to have successful franchises based after them (except Sam & Max under the TellTale titles). One that had potential was also sadly snuffed out due to a somewhat belittling legacy it left behind.
Loom was a weird and cooky little title which dispensed with point-and-click adventure game traditions and used a system of melodies as its puzzle systems. The player had to learn the spells, write them down and figure out themselves how to best use them to advance in this fantasy storyline. Loom had a weird aesthetic and it was per chance a little linear and easy, short even. That’s because Brian Moriarty hoped to turn the game into a series but sadly never managed to complete any of his future projects for LucasArts.
Having played the game now myself, I really feel there was a lot of potential for making games based around the auxiliary characters of the game. The world of Loom was quite charming and interesting. Particularly, I enjoyed the spell-casting system and really would have liked to have seen another game similar to it. Moriarty has even said that he would be happy if a Loom follow-up would be made by the likes of TellTale. There’s a lot in the LucasArts adventure game library I would have wanted to see more of, but Loom definitely feels like it would have deserved a proper follow-up.
Rare were the masters of doing unexpected things. Though best recognised for their platformers, the company did action-adventure titles, FPS and even fighting games. After that, it shouldn’t really surprise anyone that they were also responsible for one of the Nintendo 64’s best racing games. Fun fact: This game also introduced Banjo the Bear and Conker the Squirrel before they starred in their own games. For whatever reason though, Diddy Kong Racing never got a proper follow-up.
Maybe Rare didn’t want to seem like it was competing with the Mario Kart series or perhaps they just never had the time and money to make it, but it seems criminal that a game as versatile and experimental as this was left without a proper follow-up. It wasn’t just a racing title but actually had a storyline and it allowed you to freely explore the island hub world between races. This game’s one and only proper sequel attempt on the GBA was snubbed before it was finished (probably due to the Microsoft buy-out) and all that the series ever got was a DS-remake with a hotter version of Tiny Kong.
Diddy Kong Racing really shouldn’t have ended. It belongs into a criminally under-rated list of racing titles from Nintendo alongside titles like WaveRace and ExciteTruck. Mario Kart is great and all, but it would great if Nintendo would switch things up a bit and maybe let its lesser exposed characters shine once in a while.
Bullfrog more or less perfected the world-building strategy sub-genre, so it feels strange calling any of their games unsuccessful. One series that got snubbed long before it had a chance to shine was, unfortunately, this creative and darkly comical series about building your own dungeon of monsters and booby traps to kill heroes foolish enough to venture into them.
The first Dungeon Keeper felt more like a full gaming experience, but even its slightly more beginner friendly sequel was a lot of fun. The creatures were hilarious and the cheeky sense of comedy really made these games stand out. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun designing your own evil dungeon of death. Sure, the combat is pretty dull (as in most RTS-type dealios) but the creative and silly side of the game is where it charm lies and which is why it’s such a shame this series didn’t get further than a couple of instalments.
EA of course later tried to revive the series with a terrible mobile app edition but what Dungeon Keeper really needs and deserves is a proper, full-fledged and fully fleshed out game. Both an exciting and challenging campaign mode as well as the more casual and fun Pet Dungeon modes. Plus, a variety of new monsters would really be a lot of fun.
Just as with Alex Kidd, I would want to say that the fact this series was left in the dust wasn’t for a lack of trying – but that’s not really accurate. The Legends-sub series of the Mega Man franchise got a mixed reaction from the Mega Man purists back on the first PlayStation but the game was successful enough to get one sequel and spin-off for that system. However, after that, Legends kind of died out until a few years back when the third game finally seemed to be coming to the 3DS, but it too got lost in Capcom’s Mega Man purge which cancelled a lot of other promising titles.
Despite its spotty reputation, Legends was an awesome game. A Zelda-esque action-adventure where you traversed dark mines and fought a variety of disturbing robots while enjoying the game’s cheery aesthetic and anime-ish cutscenes. The game just had loads of charm and was a lot of fun to play. The reason fans reacted so badly was just because it was in 3D and because it wasn’t really anything like the previous Mega Man titles.
However, I would imagine a game like Legends doing very well in the current games market. Of course the game world would have to be vastly expanded (Legends is actually a pretty short title) but the ingredients of a great gaming experience are there. It’s just sad that no-one, including Capcom, has still yet to realise it.
Treasure is a company that notoriously doesn’t make a lot of sequels. Even though Gunstar Heroes is universally recognised as one of the best games for the Sega Mega Drive, for whatever reason the company never tried to make a follow-up to the title. The game plays like a combination of Mega Man and Contra. It’s widely considered one of the best co-op games for the system and is definitely an incredibly fun title.
The plot of the game is a little vague but there clearly was a lot of potential for turning this into series. They could have made the girl Gunstar hero playable, as well as that turn-coat guy you fight in the tunnels. What I loved most about the game was how each level was very different and also because the bosses were goofy and weird to say the least. The game could have easily had one or two more sequels on its respective system.
Now, I will admit that Gunstar Heroes might have not fared so well on the 3D systems but it would have been fun to see Treasure try to make the game work. Unfortunately, all that has ever come out of this game are a bunch of ports and re-releases on later systems. People these days love co-op titles though, so you would think Treasure would have the sense to jump on the opportunity and develop a brand new game for everyone to enjoy.
During the very early years of 3D platforming there were still many companies vying for supremacy on the platformer-markets. However, with Nintendo and Rare cornering the market on one hand and Sony’s PlayStation focusing less and less on this particular genre, many of these early efforts fell out of the spotlight and were reduced almost exclusively into licence-game fodder in the on-coming generations.
Croc was a simple game where you controlled a backpack wearing crocodile on his mission to save his cute fuzzball foster parents in a variety of colourful levels. The game had decently responsive and well thought out controls, great level design and a really catchy soundtrack.
Unfortunately, Croc could never quite match the popularity of such titles as Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro or Crash Bandicoot. Argonaut Software did make one sequel, Croc 2, but then sank into the aforementioned mediocrity of licensed video-game production before going out of business in 2004. Croc was charming and fun; and even though it didn’t really push the limits of the 3D platforming genre, it was definitely a very memorable title. The rights are currently in the hands of Activision, so maybe one of these days we can finally see the cute backpack wearing Croc make his comeback.
NiGHTS into Dreams was pretty much the only hit that the failed Sega Saturn console ever had. In its simplicity, people loved the flying 3D action title where you traversed through bizarre dreamlike landscapes, facing off against cooky adversaries and listened to some delightful 90s techno music. The game eventually had a sequel on the Wii. Despite being a really enjoyable title, Journey of Dreams got a very lukewarm reception and admittedly, it was a sequel that arrived pretty much a whole decade late.
The reason Sega failed to capitalize on this charming series of course had to do with asinine company politics. Yuji Naka prevented Sega from developing a sequel to NiGHTS despite the fact that company was in dire straits with the failure of the Saturn system. Indeed, Sega had to wait until Naka left the company before they finally dared to do anything new with the NiGHTS franchise.
Even though Journey of Dreams was far from flawless as a gaming experience, I felt it was a step in the right direction in refining NiGHTS into a more complete gaming experience. The original is now definitely dated and simplistic, but immensely fun, so it would do Sega good to actually try to revive this franchise rather than just endlessly milk their much suffered Sonic series. The concept is sound and NiGHTS is a pretty charming character. This is a Sega series that deserves more love than its gotten so far.
Need I say more? How could you not love a game about a hung over squirrel trying to find his way home and having constant obstacles in his way. From shit-talking beetles, to literal singing mountains of shit, hard-partying cavemen, vampires, zombies and evil teddy bears. Conker’s crazy adventure is one of the funniest and most inventive titles I’ve ever played. It far exceeds its humble platformer origins and just becomes a master-piece in its own right.
I have multiple reasons for wanting to see another Conker game. One of them of course is the game’s incredibly sad ending which is just the cherry on top of an already a brilliant game. Admittedly, there’s a few parts of Conker that could be ironed out (water controls, gun-segments) but for its variety and comedy, not to mention story, the game is just worth playing all the way through.
Now, it’s nice to see that Rare hasn’t entirely abandoned Conker with him appearing in the up-coming Project Spark – but we all really want is a proper sequel. There of course was a remake of the game for the original Xbox but that’s about it. Let’s hope Conker’s new endeavours finally open the door for his return into the gaming scene. I for one really want to see the little bastard back.