Video game franchises need to change. This is how they stay fresh; the developers don’t want players to tire of playing the same game so many times. Change is how some of gaming’s most iconic franchises have persevered; they make smart improvements to their formula, while retaining the special elements that made them worth following in the first place.
Some franchises, however, go overboard in trying to change things up. They eventually fade away and in some cases may never fully recover. Even if a new entry receives a positive reception afterwards, the franchise will always be viewed with skepticism thanks to these bad times. Here are five of those franchises that stumbled in their attempts at change.
Granted, Guitar Hero may have been a lost cause by the time it made its surprise return in 2015, but if 2009 was the year the franchise was laid to rest, 2015 was the year its coffin was sealed. After a glut of rhythm games caused a decline in 2010 and a cancellation of the series in 2011, Guitar Hero Live returned simply to put the final nail in the franchise’s coffin.
While the changes to the guitar controller were welcome in that they added new complexity to the game, almost everything else surrounding Guitar Hero Live felt bad. A cheesy, live-action video presentation mixed with a decidedly non-rock-oriented soundtrack took a lot of value from what could have been a promising revival.
Perhaps the game’s biggest sin was its GHTV mode, which allowed players to play streamed songs, instead of downloading them to the console. Between the reliance on microtransactions and the inability to actually own the songs, GHTV’s instability would be the game’s biggest downfall.
Activision sold Guitar Hero Live developer FreeStyleGames to Ubisoft in 2017 and shut down the GHTV service in 2018. This meant a soundtrack that once contained 484 songs would now be reduced to the base number of 42 on the disc. . Needless to say, Guitar Hero Live was a mess, and one that the series will probably never return to.
Solid metal gear
Metal Gear Solid is one of the most revered and beloved video game franchises ever created, and it would be extremely difficult to take away everything the franchise has achieved over the years. The idea can also coexist that Konami ruined one of the greatest games of all time, and the absence of a new game for years is a direct result of the company’s failures to take the series into a new direction.
The franchise proved in 2013 that it could handle a change of direction with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which hinted at a bright future for the series once Metal Gear Solid V was completed. Gamers, however, would not be entitled to this bright future, as the notorious dispute between Konami and Hideo Kojima led to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain being released in an unfinished state with an abrupt ending.
“It definitely can’t get any worse,” players thought as Konami laughed in the background (while playing pachinko) and introduced the world to Metal Gear Survive. Not only has Konami turned Metal Gear into a generic zombie survival game, but the publisher’s greedy business tactics have seeped into the game. Look no further than the game that charges you money for slots. backup… one of the most insignificant things to charge players for, and you went there and did it anyway. Well done geniuses.
Konami never released its sales figures, saying it massively underperformed in terms of sales. This insult of a game is also the newest game in the franchise, as Konami hasn’t touched Metal Gear in years. While it’s probably best for Konami to stay away from it, it’s a real shame that this is where one of gaming’s most iconic franchises had to end.
While Paper Mario began to see a rebound, the series still struggled to shake off the demons of its past. Once an incredibly promising RPG series, 2007’s Super Paper Mario started to steer the franchise away from RPG elements, but still managed to be a well-received game. 2012’s Paper Mario: Sticker Star, however, didn’t perform as well.
The first handheld entry in the series, Sticker Star departed so far from traditional RPG mechanics, such as party members and experience points, that fans barely recognized it as a Paper Mario game. Additionally, the game’s major new mechanic, the sticker system, was criticized for the amount of backtracking it created and the lack of inventory space to work around it.
Nintendo has publicly stated that the Paper Mario series needs to constantly change, and not just try to make new versions of 2004’s Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. That’s perfectly fine, but removing so many of the elements that made The Thousand-Year Door installment in the franchise is sure to alienate.
To be fair, 2016’s Paper Mario: Color Splash and 2020’s Paper Mario: The Origami King took a few steps to improve on what Sticker Star didn’t do well. Even with these improvements, however, the franchise can’t help but shake that feeling that it doesn’t live up to what the original titles did. We can only hope that the series is not too far to see a return to basics.
Banjo-Kazooie remains a truly sad story among mascot rigs of the past. The original 1998 game is still a classic among classics, but it still seems like the only entry in the franchise to do it right. 2000s Banjo-Tooie was a passable sequel but felt overwhelming thanks to its big worlds and frequent flashbacks. When developer Rare was sold to Microsoft, no one could have seen the franchise’s change in direction coming.
Enter 2008 in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, the long-awaited third entry in the franchise that moved away from platformer roots in favor of a more action-adventure, vehicle-building based style of play . While this was a noble effort to change things up, it also resulted in much weaker reception than the classic two titles.
In general, Nuts & Bolts wasn’t exactly “bad,” but it was the kind of game that would have been better if it didn’t have the Banjo-Kazooie name attached to it. As a new IP, it might have been promising, but as a long-awaited follow-up to a famous Nintendo 64 franchise, it felt more like an identity crisis.
It did a lot of damage because, despite strong sales, Microsoft and Rare haven’t revisited the Banjo-Kazooie series with a new game since. While Banjo and Kazooie made a return as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimately, this inclusion did not lead to any news about a new entry. If this were to come back, we can only hope that Microsoft doesn’t backtrack on what Nuts & Bolts did.
It is extremely rare for a game franchise to be ruined multiple times. When a streak hits bottom, the general thought process is that there is nowhere to go but up. The Tony Hawk franchise took that ideology and, much like an angry skater’s skateboard that missed a trick, smashed it in half.
Already going through a small period of decline in the mid to late 2000s with games being more “decent” than “great”, Activision introduced Tony Hawk: Ride in 2009. Riding the wave of peripheral-based video games from the time, it offered gamers the ability to use a skateboard peripheral to feel immersed in the action. It didn’t work out, nor did its sequel, 2010’s Tony Hawk: Shred, and poor sales led to the franchise being put on hold.
By the time the series returned to its roots with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 in 2015, the bar was on the floor. Activision brought a shovel. Between dated graphics that looked even worse than the franchise’s PlayStation 2 releases (in 2015, mind you) and buggy, poorly designed gameplay that bore little resemblance to its predecessors, Pro Skater 5 sank its developer and, apparently, the franchise. with her .
Even his amazing comeback with 2020’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 didn’t last long; after that game’s release, Activision absorbed developer Vicarious Visions into Blizzard Entertainment, effectively canceling the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3+4. The Tony Hawk franchise deserves far better than the treatment Activision has given it over the course of the past decade, especially after such an incredible remake reminded us of what’s so special about these games.
These are just a few game franchises that have been ruined by their decisions to change direction. If you have any other franchises that you think were ruined by a design change, let us know in the comments below!