10 More Awesome Games That Never Became Successfull Franchises

DecapAttackI recently made a list of 10 awesome video games which for whatever reason never became huge long-lasting franchises. Whether they were snubbed after one, two or five titles – the list was intended to show off games that were really awesome, had novel elements and maybe even had the potential to stay relevant for at least a few more console generations.

While writing said list of course, I was immediately struck with the inspiration for a follow-up list of further games that totally deserved to have their own successful franchises but failed, either due to low sales, lack of interest from publishers or just from simple rotten luck. Once again, entry on this list only requires that the game had something novel about it and that (regardless if it had a one or more sequel) they were only relevant for a short time.

I’m sure I’m still leaving out tons of games with potential, so if you like, drop a comment telling about games you think would have had the potential of turning into long-lasting franchises. Also, there’s going to be a lot of Nintendo entries this time because I consciously avoided mentioning them last time.

But enough talk, let’s get on with this list… again…

WaveRace64#1 WaveRace

Now, technically WaveRace has crossed on to multiple platforms, but seeing as most of you will only recognise one title in the series, it’s safe to say WaveRace wasn’t exactly a break-out hit. The WaveRace series actually started on the Game Boy back in 1992, but the title most people will probably recognise is the N64 launch title, WaveRace 64. Not only is this game one of my personal favourites from the system, it was just a novel and well-crafted racing game that’s still fun to just pick up and play again.

The swan song title for this series was Blue Storm, a launch-title for the GameCube (and technically a cross-over with 1080 Snowboarding) which sadly failed to make a splash (pun totally intended) on the system. Now granted, Blue Storm lacked the smooth as butter gameplay of the N64 instalment but was still stunningly beautiful and pretty fun to play (though considerably more challenging). WaveRace still clearly had a few more titles in it. Blue Storm really stepped up the game with more racers and a better variety of courses. It’s a shame in my opinion that we never got a motion-controlled WaveRace-title for the Wii.

WaveRace belongs into a pretty big gallery of forgotten Nintendo sports-titles which were incredibly fun and simple to play but which Nintendo has blissfully ignored in favour of anything they can slap the Mario-brand on (and later the Mario & Sonic brand). I’m just saying that this is a series that really needs to be brought back from retirement since racing on an ever-changing landscape (the ocean) is just a really fun idea and really makes this stand out from other more bread-and-butter racing titles.

AdventuresofLolo#2 Adventures of Lolo (Eggerland Series)

I actually feel embarrassed about not having Adventures of Lolo in my Top-10 Puzzle Games List from a while back, because it’s a game that totally deserves to be up there. However, it’s easy to forget a title that hasn’t had a new instalment since the mid-90s. Technically, Lolo was a spin-off from an earlier HAL title, Eggerland, but if you’ve played the game, you know why this adorable blue ball deserves his own game franchise.

As Lolo, you’re trying to save your girlfriend Lala. To accomplish this, you travel through rooms where you must complete different puzzles that require you to move enemies around, freeze them as well as using items to open the door to the next floor. The game requires a lot of thought and that’s what made it’s so unique, the fact that you had to think your way through (thought sometimes a little luck and fast reactions could save you).

Unfortunately, Lolo’s destiny was to be outshined by another HAL Laboratory title which itself went unappreciated for some years before becoming an A-brand Nintendo property, the Kirby series. Yes, HAL has been making pretty much nothing but Kirby titles since the SNES era and Lolo’s had to take it in the ass. Don’t get me wrong, Kirby is cute and all, but I could just kill for a mind-teasing puzzler like Lolo these days.

BASS#3 Beneath A Steel Sky

Revolution Software’s dystopic sci-fi adventure title is truly a worth-while game to try out. More so, it’s freeware and you can get it anywhere so there’s no excuse. This title sees a man brought up in the wastes being forcibly dragged to a weird city where he realises that an evil administrative computer is watching his every move, seemingly wanting him to find its core.

BASS is definitely a bleak title, but one laced with sharp comedy, memorable characters and pretty nifty puzzles. Talking to your bitchy robot buddy Joey is a blast, travelling to the weird cybers-landscape of LINC-space is a real trip and the ever darkening, sinister storyline just keeps you in its grips.

All that said, BASS ends rather quickly. It definitely doesn’t have as open of an ending as Loom from the previous list, but there was definitely potential to revisit this title. I feel the same way about LucasArts’ Full Throttle, but I feel BASS had way more unexplored territory and it would have been fun seeing Robert Foster return to Union City after the rather grim finale.

PilotWings 64#4 PilotWings

Do I even need to say it? Who doesn’t love flying in a video-game? Sure, PilotWings 64 might have been less a full-fledged game and more of an extended tech-demo of what the Nintendo 64 was capable of, but I have never felt quite as much enjoyment just flying around as I did playing this title.

The original PilotWings on the SNES is also a bit of cult-classic, albeit it too garners a similar reputation of being an excuse for Nintendo to flaunt their Mode-7 technology. That doesn’t change the fact that both games were just insanely fun and addicting. The question therefore lies, why was there never a PilotWings for GameCube or any subsequent Nintendo-platform.

I really feel it’s a shame and a loss that Nintendo is sitting on so many IPs, which in their simplicity are games that just design themselves. Sure, you can challenge yourself with the game’s missions – but I think the charm of a game like PilotWings is the ability to just fly at your own leisure. Isn’t that pretty much what the so-called “casual market” is all about?

Eternal_Darkness_box#5 Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Silicon Knights was a company that achieved a lot of clout for a very short amount of time, then lost all of it after being bought out by Microsoft. Their two gaming contributions for the GameCube rank as two of my favourite games for the system, so it’s really a shame that this company couldn’t hold on to a good thing. In Eternal Darkness, you’re trying to solve your grandfather’s murder, find a mysterious book and start having visions of events that happened long ago in the past.

The game has heavy Lovecraftian influences and combines intense gameplay and puzzle-solving with the extremely disturbing sanity system. If you don’t take care of the zombies, creepers and horrors that walk the corridors of the mansion, temple or caves you venture into, you start to experience frightening visions, see your items disappear from your inventory or even explode in a bloody mess without warning. Eternal Darkness is one of those games that really keeps you on your toes. And although the aesthetic is definitely creepy, it’s the subtleness of the horror that really gets to you. Plus, the gameplay really put the Resident Evil titles to shame with their fluidness.

Considering the episodic nature of the story, Eternal Darkness would be the perfect kind of game for today’s audience as a downloadable game released in multiple parts. And really, I just miss the old fixed camera survival horror titles.

ExciteTruck#6 ExciteTruck (and really the whole Excite-brand)

The Excite-series is a series of slightly over the top racing titles from Nintendo. Although they’ve managed to sneak their way on to multiple platforms, it would be far-fetched to say they have ever been a hugely successful franchise. ExciteTruck on the Wii was one of my favourite games for the system, an over-the-top racer where you collected points from stunts and crashing into other players. You could also cause natural disasters and warp the landscape around you.

To be fair, there have been no less than five titles in the Excite-series but what is maddening is the irregularity at which these games have been released. The very first title was ExciteBike for the NES. Its follow-up ExciteBike 64 didn’t arrive until way late into the N64’s life-span. ExciteTruck’s sequel ExciteBots never saw a European release (which is why I never got to play it) and after that, the very final title for the series was a downloadable WiiWare release.

ExciteTruck was a really fun title though as were the vast majority of the Excite-titles, so it bugs me to no end how this is yet another Nintendo franchise that has been completely sidelined by Mario-racing titles. Sure, it was cute seeing an ExciteBike track in Mario Kart 8, but that’s not the same thing as a full-fledged game. Please, just give us a consistent run of over-the-top racers since titles like this work as a fun counter-weight to the “serious” simulation race-titles.

Star_Control_II_cover#7 Star Control

Star Control was a quirky little set of sci-fi titles for the PCs in the early-to-mid 1990s. Initially developed by Toys for Bob, these games follow an intergalactic struggle between Earth and its allies against the slave-master Ur-Quan and their army of Battle Thralls. What made Star Control stand out from most other Sci-Fi titles was however it’s sense of humour with the alien races being quite cartoony with their own quirky personalities.

The first Star Control was a straight-forward action title, but the sequel The Ur-Quan Masters was a vast adventure-title which required heavy exploration, resource gathering, building alliances and trying to bring down the Ur-Quan before they finish completing their ultimate doomsday weapon. Meanwhile you have to deal with the silly, psychic Pkunks, the cowardly Spathi, those creepy Mycon, the sexy Syreen and the lovable trio of Zoq-Fot-Pik.

Star Control’s fate was sealed when Accolade created a much derided third instalment without the involvement of the original creators and the franchise, which now enjoys a cult rep, sadly died out after that. It’s a shame, because the characters of Star Control were really likable and goofy. At times, Star Control could be more of a parody of the sci-fi genre but it never compromised the serious storyline which worked great. Sure, Star Control II wasn’t flawless and the heavy exploration required could get a bit tedious, but here is another rich universe that could have definitely served as the setting of several more games.

donaldinmauimallard#8 Maui Mallard starring Donald Duck (a.k.a. Cold Shadow)

Disney’s licensed games in the mid-90s had their own charm about them. This title sees Donald becoming a private eye and a ninja on the search for a sacred idol. It seemed like Maui Mallard (Cold Shadow) was simply intended as the start of a whole series of Donald-related action-titles which sadly never materialised. I say sadly, because the game was a whole lot of fun.

The colourful and well-produced graphics were great alone, but then there were the different power-ups for your gun and, of course, the ninja-transformation which was super cool. The gameplay could be a tad tricky at times but it certainly wasn’t bad. And the soundtrack was incredible. I could have seen Donald solving quite a few more mysteries as Maui Mallard in future instalments. Heck, even a spin-off title of him as just a ninja would have been fantastic.

Alas, the fact that this is a Disney property definitely makes any future prospects of more sequels unlikely. Still, I wouldn’t mind Disney revisiting Donald’s PI alter ego.

DarksidersII#9 Darksiders 2

I love me some Zelda and I especially like it when other games try to imitate Zelda, especially if they do it well. Darksiders 2 was an action-RPG from THQ, their final game before claiming bankruptcy which was a shame. Even though the game is an RPG, you never had to stop to level grind. In fact, for the vast majority of the game your stats really didn’t matter that much.

What I loved about Darksiders 2 were the vast dungeons, where you got to climb all around, kill baddies and solve puzzles… just like in Zelda. The bosses were mostly fun and I loved the grim setting with its gruff characters. In their gruffness they actually become quite comical which was all fine by me. Darksiders 2 just has a really cool vibe and really fun dungeons. It’s a shame that what was clearly supposed to be a four-part series (one for each horseman of the apocalypse) got snubbed by the distributor going down.

I’ve played a bit of the first Darksiders, but I feel the sequel improved way more on it. I would really love to see this series return if for no other reason than to see Uriel and Lilith again, maybe even as playable characters.

ChameleonTwist#10 Chameleon Twist

Alright, maybe this is just me, but I really loved Chameleon Twist on the N64. One of the last games from SunSoft, you controlled a humanoid chameleon through a fantasy world trying to find its way home.

Whereas the story of this one was a little weak, what made it fun was the tongue mechanic. Not only did you get to eat enemies and use the as ammunition, you could also swing yourself all around with the tongue and this gameplay element is what made Chameleon Twist really stand out from the bread and butter of most 3D platformers around the time it was made.

This novel gameplay mechanic really would have deserved to be utilised in future instalments. Chameleon Twist did have one sequel on the N64 (which I sadly never played). I just wish these cute 3D platformers would make a proper comeback one of these days.