When a video game is successful, a string of sequels is usually inevitable. With fans clamoring for more, developers want to deliver. Sometimes these follow-ups run out of ideas, and many series overstay their welcome, but some are gone too soon. We’ve handpicked a few franchises that disappeared abruptly despite their success. All of them deserve a reboot, a remake, or a remaster.
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Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain
This blood-soaked Gothic vampire series was a smash hit on the original PlayStation. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and sequel Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver were wonderfully inventive open-world action-adventure games that touched on multiple genres, combining interesting characters and deliciously dark storylines with puzzles and hack-and-slash combat. Another three decent titles followed, but they failed to match the quality and imagination of their predecessors. It has been nearly 20 years since this series got a stake through the heart, and it is long overdue for a resurrection.
Who can resist an insane vehicular combat tournament where a muscle car can face off against a semi, a motorbike, and an ice cream truck, all bristling with deadly weaponry? The mysterious organizer Calypso presided over this last-vehicle-standing demolition derby that featured a bizarre cast of drivers. The cringe-inducing live-action video endings in the original are weird, but the gameplay is worth reviving. Twisted Metal: Black on the PlayStation 2 perfected the road rage formula with balanced combat and dark flashbacks woven in to give the characters some depth. There was a string of canceled games before a solid reboot on the PS3 in 2012, but nothing since then.
No One Lives Forever
Sometimes design, art, code, and sound come together to craft an enduring masterpiece. That was the case with Monolith’s criminally underrated first-person spy caper, The Operative: No One Lives Forever (NOLF). It featured an engaging storyline, a wide array of interesting weapons and gadgetry, a female protagonist, and gags aplenty. There is no modern equivalent. The sequel No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way was equally brilliant, but the prequel Contract J.A.C.K.? Not so much. Sadly, the series never attracted the audience it deserved and has been languishing in legal licensing limbo, which means you can no longer buy it.
Jet Set Radio
A visually stunning game that pioneered cel shading, Jet Set Radio was a revelation when it landed in 2000. Playing as a gang of inline skaters intent on tagging everything with graffiti, including rival gang members, it had a strong anti-authority vibe and a kick-ass soundtrack. The real genius, though, was the pure joy of jumping and grinding around densely layered urban playgrounds at high speed. Follow-up Jet Set Radio Future, released in 2002, was one of my favorite games on the original Xbox, but sales were relatively modest. Sadly, Sega has never greenlit another game in the series, but you can feel its influence in titles like Sunset Overdrive.
Stunningly original and deeply absorbing, Dungeon Keeper turned convention on its head and cast you as the evil lord of an underground realm teeming with minions and monsters. The challenge was to repel invading heroes intent on looting your ill-gotten treasures. It was a unique blend of strategy gameplay, management sim, and dark humor. The original was the legendary Peter Molyneux’s last game with Bullfrog, but the sequel was better-looking and equally brilliant. EA canceled the third game, clearing the decks for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings games. This series deserves a proper sequel. (I refuse to recognize the horrendous money-grabbing microtransaction-ridden mobile version.) Dungeon Keeper influenced many games over the years, from Minecraft to the Dungeons series.
Boasting incredibly frenetic first-person shooter deathmatches, Unreal Tournament was a beautifully balanced high-octane addiction for me. The weapons and gadgets allowed for different play styles (the flak cannon was sublime), it was slick, and the level design was superb. The concept of an intergalactic fight to the death in purpose-built arenas gave the designers free rein to create some of the best maps the genre has ever seen. I still regularly annoy my family when I win any game by saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega!” in Xan Kriegor’s voice. There were several good sequels, and a reboot was announced in 2014 to be developed by Unreal veterans and a crowdsourced team of modders. You can play it for free, but it was never finished, as Epic got a little sidetracked by Fortnite.
Incredibly atmospheric, tense, and thoughtful, Silent Hill took horror games in a more serious direction and spawned a series that delved deep into psychological terror. The first three games were excellent, and I liked the new direction in the fourth (The Room), but it was downhill after that, including a disappointing HD remaster of parts 2 and 3. What’s so painful about the lack of a Silent Hill reboot is that we got a P.T. (playable teaser) to show where the series was going. Hideo Kojima had roped in Guillermo del Toro and lined up Norman Reedus as the protagonist for Silent Hills, but it was canceled when he fell out with Konami, and the trio made Death Stranding instead.
The world of James Bond has exerted an influence on countless games, but the officially licensed efforts rarely live up to the potential, except for Rare’s GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64. Easily the best multiplayer first-person shooter on a console at the time, and for a good while after, GoldenEye 007 also had a strong single-player campaign that allowed for stealth or combat approaches. Licensing rights have always been a problem for Bond, so we never got a remaster. Activision’s 2010 remake was good but very different, and the disappointingly bland 007 Legends is the only Bond game we’ve had since. The news that Hitman 3 developer IO Interactive is working on Project 007 is very exciting, but that one is a long way off.
One of the greatest real-time strategy games of all time, Blizzard’s Starcraft was an epic struggle for interstellar supremacy, pitting humans against all kinds of alien races. The sequel took more than a decade but was worth the wait, and some solid expansions followed. The series also spawned novels and even a board game. There was an excellent remaster of the original in 2017 with upgraded graphics and sound, so perhaps it is greedy to want more, but Blizzard’s decision to officially end development on Starcraft 2 without any mention of a Starcraft 3 raises the awful specter that this franchise might be left to die.
Project Gotham Racing
Packed with desirable cars and graphically impressive (for the time) city circuits, Project Gotham Racing was to Xbox what Gran Turismo is to PlayStation. But PGR was always less concerned with painstaking realism and more fun to play, and the Kudos points system rewarded skilled driving and stylish maneuvers. The second game was my favorite, not least because it had a map of Edinburgh, which was my hometown at the time. Strictly speaking, the series began with Metropolis Street Racer on the Dreamcast, but it became an Xbox mainstay. The gap it left seems to have been filled by the Forza series, so a reboot feels unlikely.
These Games Were Resurrected … Kinda
It’s always possible that a game series is lying dormant rather than truly extinct. The hope that old titles will one day be revived springs eternal for fans. Recent remasters for Quake, Mass Effect, Command and Conquer, Alan Wake, and sequels like Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and Ghosts n’ Goblins: Resurrection proves it can happen. We may never get Half-Life 3, but the virtual reality spin-off Half-Life: Alyx was great. The Broken Sword series was revived by Kickstarter. Then there are spiritual successors, like Turtle Rock’s Back 4 Blood, which feels like part of the Left 4 Dead series.
Other games that sprang to mind until I learned of fresh developments include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which could have topped this list. But after working on the ports of the original and its sequel, Aspyr is developing a full remake for PS5 and PC, though it’s early days and there’s no release date yet. A Dead Space remake is also in the works, as is a Fable reboot, and both Homeworld 3 and Skate 4 are on the horizon. There’s also a chance we’ll get a new Timesplitters game, according to some of the original developers who have reformed the Free Radical Design game studio.
Sometimes Dead Is Better
The cynical may argue that some series are better left alone. It’s all too easy to sully the memory of a true classic by botching a reboot or turning out a tepid sequel. There are polarizing releases like Shenmue 3 and Star Fox Zero, and there are outright duds. All my hopes for a Speedball 2 remake, remaster, or reboot worthy of the name have been thoroughly crushed by a string of disappointing efforts.
Some series have aged badly, as proven by Duke Nukem Forever, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, and Double Dragon Neon. The 2013 SimCity reboot wasn’t a bad game, but the launch was a digital rights management (DRM) disaster, just as EA’s microtransaction controversy overshadowed Star Wars Battlefront II. And if you stray too far from the source material, things can get ugly. Just ask Bomberman: Act Zero. I realize the awful Dungeon Keeper mobile game probably belongs here, but I’m not ready to let go of the hope that we’ll get a decent reboot one day.
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