I wanted to get this done before E3, because it might be interesting to see if any of these franchises appear at E3 in good form. A few will definitely be there, but will they be anything to be excited about? But basically, this is a list of franchises that used to be awesome, and haven’t been so awesome in recent times. This is not a list of retro franchises that haven’t been around in awhile and need a revival, all of these franchises are still kicking in some form (at least up to last generation), and some are even still putting out respectable games. But they’re not reaching the lofty heights set by their predecessors, when they really should be.
I'm also going to give a "likelihood" score which stands for the likelihood of an excellent game in this franchise releasing anytime in the near future. And no, I won't define the near future.
I consider this a bit of a throwaway choice, in part because it is so predictable, and in part because I never actually cared enough about Sonic in the past to be too concerned with his big downfall. In fact, I’m not even sure if I’m a fan of old school Sonic games, my experience with them has been minimal and I was never particularly impressed. But apparently they used to be pretty good. And they’re not now. And it is important that they get good again, I think, because Sonic represents something important: one of the few major retail platformers left that is not from Nintendo. I don’t want the platformer to die off, and I don’t want developers to think that only Nintendo can pull it off.
Likelihood: 7/10. Sega seems to be discovering a few things about how to make a good Sonic game again, finally. It can't be too long before they make a truly excellent one? Or maybe it can.
Honestly, I didn't get super into this franchise until part 4, but I did play a bit of the games before 4, and they were pretty good. I absolutely loved 4, however. 5 and 6 were ok. But 7 and 8... not so much. Definitely two of the more mediocre games in the series. And 8 should have been so much more interesting, as it was the first motion controlled Mario Party game. The series seems to have taken a break (or been replaced by Wii Party) but I'd like to see it come back in better form, and quit rehashing the same stuff over and over and over.
Likelihood: 5/10. With Wii Party around we may not even see a new Mario Party anytime soon, and even if we do, will it be another rehash? Tough to say.
Lemmings? What is this, the early 90s? Who still cares about Lemmings? I do. The original game is, to this day, one of the highest quality and most unique puzzle games ever made. And then, a whole load of weaker titles and Lemmings kind of phased out to obscurity. I'm not sure if it even counts as a modern franchise, but there was a PSP version that supposedly had a few new levels. Anyway, I'd love to see this sucker come back in full force.
Likelihood: 2/10. The PSP game existing is the only reason I didn't give this a 1/10. I think I may have to admit to myself that this series is pretty much done for at this point. Boo.
WarioWare is still cranking out some good games, so I kind of hesitate to put this game on the list. Still, I really believe that both of the Gameboy games are the two best games in the series, Twisted! being the apex of the franchise and one of my favorite games ever. The Wii game was pretty solid, but I can't say that I was particularly pleased with either of the DS games. At least DIY tried some new stuff, and the game creator was pretty fun to mess around with, but ultimately the mini-games just weren't as fun.
Likelihood: 8/10. The series is pretty consistently good, and some might even argue against my views on the DS games. WarioWare seems to thrive best on new, unique hardware, and we have that in both the 3DS and the upcoming Cafe.
Remember Viewtiful Joe? He stormed onto the scene back on the Gamecube with a super unique, balls to the wall 2D action platformer, complete with Matrix-like slowdown powers and more. And then he got a sequel which some were disappointed in, but personally I loved (although it was a bit of a rehash.) And then... a lame fighting game spinoff and a mediocre handheld game, and nothing has been heard of him since. The loss of Clover Studios may have killed of VJ's chances of returning in glorious form, but I can still hope, can't I?
Likelihood: 4/10. Viewtiful Joe is a relic of an age when developers besides Nintendo at least had some chance of success with 2D retail games. It might come back on handhelds or as a downloadable at some point, but I don't expect much.
Oh god, one of my favorite games ever. Yoshi's Island may actually be my favorite 2D platformer. Although it wasn't a true sequel, Yoshi's Story kind of took the torch from Yoshi's Island, but I guess it was running out in the rain or something, because it sure didn't shine as bright. And then I got super excited when Yoshi's Island 2 was announced, but it wasn't developed by Nintendo, and it definitely didn't touch the original.
Likelihood: 5/10. On the one hand, Nintendo has been bringing back a lot of its 2D franchises in a big way on the Wii, from Mario to Wario to Kirby to Donkey Kong. On the other hand, I'm not sure if they really consider 2D Yoshi to be its own thing worthy of full support. We'll see.
Mega Man X
I'm probably a bit of a weirdo Mega Man fan, because I'd put X over the old school games in a second. Not that they weren't amazing, but X came along and truly took the franchise to the next level, in my eyes. And X2 was pretty sick as well. X3 was alright. X4 was kind of meh. You see where this is going, no? Capcom kept cranking them out, but they never hit the mark again. The Zero and ZX games on GBA/DS are pretty respectable, but I still want a fullblown, awesome X game.
Likelihood: 6/10. I don't think X has quite the same nostalgic appeal as the original games, but Capcom did bring back Mega Man in awesome form in Mega Man 9 and (to a lesser extent) 10, and a lot of fans are calling for X to get the same treatment. It could happen.
I think a whole bunch of us were addicted to the original Animal Crossing when it came out. It was a pretty awesome game, but even moreso, there was clear potential for expanding the franchise further and really taking it to the next level. Which is why it is such a huge disappointment that the subsequent DS and Wii games were about as close to a straight up rehash as Nintendo does outside of Mario Party. A new Animal Crossing for 3DS has already been announced and will probably be at E3, so I guess at this point it is just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best?
Likelihood: 8/10. I feel like this has to happen eventually, if not soon. Nintendo's designers have to be going through the same thing a lot of us are, feeling like there is a ton of untapped potential in this franchise. And the Wii version was a bit underwhelming saleswise, so Nintendo can't see much future in continuing to rehash this franchise.
Super Monkey Ball
Super Monkey Ball launched with the Gamecube and immediately became one of my favorite games of all time. I think the big appeal for me is that it is one of the few games with both a compelling single player and a compelling multiplayer. Outside of FPS, anyhow (although I hear many of those get gimped campaign modes nowadays.) The sequel was a bit less great, but still pretty fun. And the series has taken a long and torturous decline ever since. I want to see this franchise great again Sega. I need to.
Likelihood: 3/10. I wish I could say this has better odds of happening, but Sega seems pretty ok with just pumping these suckers out without much quality put into them. I don't even bother getting excited anymore when a new one is announced. And with Amusement Vision dissolved, the original creators will probably never get a chance to work on the game together again. I fear that it may have to go through a Sonic-esque drought before it comes back in full fury... it it ever does.
Full disclosure: I haven't put significant time into a Starfox game since 64. So maybe I have no right to be saying the series has declined. But I have messed around with a few of the Starfox games since, and they're just not the same. Heck, Sin & Punishment is a better Starfox game than most recent Starfox games. Starfox and Starfox 64 were two of the best received and best selling games on their respective platforms, and Nintendo just doesn't seem to care about this fact. Or didn't, until...
Likelihood: 8/10. Starfox 64 3D gives me hope. Sure, maybe Nintendo just picked it because 64 games are easy to port over while adding a graphical "upgrade", whereas anything Gamecube and beyond wouldn't look significantly better. But I have to believe that they also picked it because they know how much we love this game. If it sells well, maybe they will go back to giving the series their full attention? Please?
There you go, short(-ish) and sweet. Anything I missed? Something you disagree with?
That said fuck Sonic. Sonic was a shitty game even when Sonic was a respected franchise. It's the most over-rated, shitty, technically and fundamentally flawed franchise in the history of gaming to ever garner a substantial fanbase. I hated it when I was a kid and I hate it now. It sucks, I hope it dies and stays dead.
Secondly if you like Lemmings, check out Dwarfs?!? It's a cool spin on the formula, I'm sure you will like it if you were a Lemmings fan;)
@Secret_Tunnel Well... the GBA and DS games just had bad controls. The Wii game had an ok single player but the controls were sort of iffy, and it had a bunch of very mediocre mini-games with a small handful of playable, but nowhere near the standards of the older games, ones mixed in. I haven't played the Gamecube "adventure" game nor the 3DS game, but they pretty much generally got panned in reviews.
I haven't played a Monkey Ball game since 2. What exactly is the problem? Bad level design? Too much "plot?"
Everything is the problem. They could have cut and pasted what they had and called it a day, and it would have been GREAT. Instead they said "Let's take this thing everyone loves and throw it in the garbage and start over. Except instead of starting over, let's just crap on a disc and release it to the public. They'll love it!"
The first series that popped into my mind when I read the title was Tony Hawk. What I wouldn't give for another Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3/4.
I actually agree with your entire list... And the order (pretty much). Although, I am nearly in Oldmanwinter's camp in regards to Sonic. I feel it was never even near the level of Mario games, even in its heyday. Sonic 2 is my favourite, and I'd rather play any Mario game than it (I do like it though).
I want to get Wii Party at some point, because I've heard it's really good.
I wouldn't have Sonic in my list. I've beaten the original Sonic and played bits and pieces of the other Genesis Sonic games, and I didn't really like what I played. It's just the feeling of the controls in general that I don't like. Maybe I should give it another try, but I didn't care for it.
I'd totally have Tony Hawk in my list. I used to love that series, but then American Wasteland came out and ended up being pretty disappointing. I can't recall how many times that game froze up on me. It had some good ideas, but the overall quality of the game didn't match up to the previous titles. I later tried the demo for Proving Ground, and the shift to an off-center camera angle ala Resident Evil 4 really threw me off. That does not fit Tony Hawk at all. I actually don't know if the camera could be changed or not, but even if it could, the slow speed of the gameplay was another complaint of mine. This probably doesn't apply anymore either, but Neversoft's humor also got pretty tiring over time.
I couldn't agree any more if I tried with respect to Animal Crossing's place on this list. Perhaps even a smidgeon higher if I were the one doing the ranking. I was, and still am, madly in gaming love with Animal Crossing for GCN. Wild World was cool and I certainly played the heck out of it, but City Folk has to be the biggest slap in the face Nintendo has ever dealt to fans of one its franchises/series. Adding insult to potential injury, the likelihood (as I see it) of the franchise getting the care and attention it needs so as to be all that it deserves to be, is slim to nil. Especially after seeing the early footage of the 3DS version in the works.
Sonic will never be a top franchise again until it is in the hands of an ambitious (I'd say western) developer. Sega's studios just don't understand how to translate what made the 2D Genesis games so great into 3D. They never did. And considering they JUST NOW seem to be learning what made the originals fun at all, I sincerely doubt they ever will.
The best we can hope for is that they stop trying new things altogether and just copypasta the Genesis games' mechanics onto new levels and call it a day. Sadly, they seem to have a hard time doing even that, looking at Sonic 4. Generations looks like an improvement, for sure, but that's still only half of the game for some reason.
And even if they did perfectly replicate the Genesis games and crank out a great new 2D game, it would still be a shame. I love the Genesis trilogy something fierce, but I'm not blind to the fundamental limitations those games had. Sonic was made for 3D. These should be his glory days. Instead the best we can hope for is a return to his rookie form after years of what could charitably be called mediocrity.
@nate38 Agree with everything except Sonic being made for 3D. The running mechanic that's so wonderful in the early games strikes me as just really, really hard to translate to 3D. I remember running around in Sonic Heroes and thinking, "Parts of this really feel like what Sonic should be in 3D. So why do I feel so ho-hum about it?"
@kriswright The movement system would be difficult to translate into 3D. And that's not the only tough nut to crack, either. That's why it could only be done by an ambitious, well-backed developer willing to spend serious time and resources on the game, probably building and re-building it from the ground up time and again until they find the right balance.
But everything that made the Sonic games fun in 2D should logically be improved with a third dimension. The huge, sprawling, weaving stages of the Genesis games could be vast 3D fields, making the exploration all the better. The momentum-based movement system could take on brand new depth with all the obsession with physics engines we have nowadays (and unlike 99% of games with "physics" on the back of the box, actually put them to good use!). The sensation of speed would no longer be hampered by a tiny side-view, allowing you to actually see what the hell's ahead of you instead of playing by twitch reflexes and memorization.
But instead they went the Sonic Adventure one-way rollercoaster route and never looked back.
One benefit of 3D is that they could get the speed without the "hey look I'm running super fa... OH CRAP I WENT RIGHT OFF THE EDGE AGAIN" feel of certain 2D Sonic games.
I vaguely recall enjoying the Sonic parts of Sonic Adventure Battle 2, although this was long ago and I imagine if I went back to them now I'd be all "meh" about them.
Anyway Sonic was a kind of throwaway on my list, I don't really care too much about the franchise, I just couldn't think of any others to use. I was kind of thinking of putting Advance Wars on there, but Days of Ruin was still pretty good and Dual Strike before it was totally awesome, so I'm not sure if we can say that it has lost it or anything.
Not really too fussed about the rest of the list. Sure I enjoyed some of those games and would probably enjoy new installments, but if the franchise was declared dead and buried tomorrow, I'd be able to move on fairly easily.
Except for Starfox. I agree wholeheartedly with you. We NEED a new awesome Starfox. And I HAVE played all the new entries in the series so I can vouch for your choice.
10. Sonic: Totally agree. I really liked the first two games. Hated the third one. Never played CD, and everything else afterwards seemed off. Maybe Sonic Generations will be good....?
9. Mario Party: I've always hated Mario Party.
8. Lemmings: Never really played Lemmings, so I can't comment.
7. WarioWare: I totally agree. I love the first game. I like the DS and Wii versions. Hated the DSi version. But I agree that this series has gone down.
6. Viewtiful Joe: I've played very little of this franchise, but what I remember was cool. I think this franchise would be cool on the 3DS.
5. Yoshi's Island: I never played much of this game, but I do agree that it needs to be its own franchise.
4. Mega Man X: Totally agree that this franchise needs to be revived in the same way the original franchise was.
3. Animal Crossing: Wholeheartedly agree. I actually would have placed this in the top position. It's pretty much the definition of developer laziness. This franchise needs a huge overhaul and if the 3DS version isn't it, I don't see it going much farther than that.
2. Super Monkey Ball: I like the Game Boy Advance version, but I haven't played enough of the rest to comment.
1. Star Fox: I really liked the SNES version, but I played very little of the N64 version. However, I think this game really needs to make a comeback big time (along with F-Zero). Nintendo also needs to release the SNES version on the 3DS.