As games become more expensive to make, the big publishers are more likely to play it safe; they’ll stick to what they know will sell and usually that means sequels. Now, I don’t mind a lot of sequels, even annualized releases, if they manage to maintain a certain level of quality. Outside of the usual fanboy complaints from people who weren’t going to play these games anyway, I think most gamers are pretty happy whenever a new Halo, Zelda, or Uncharted is announced, and if you enjoyed the previous entry in the series then it’s only natural to want more.
But unfortunately, not every sequel is as good as the titles I just mentioned. For every genuine, major step forward like Assassin’s Creed 2 or Mass Effect 2 out there, there’s at least a dozen sequels or new entries into old franchises that fall completely flat on their faces. Whether it’s another game in the Sonic Cycle (wherein a new Sonic game is announced, Sega promises it’ll fix everything, gamers get excited and hyped, then the game finally comes out and it somehow ends up being even worse,) or something like the oft-delayed but strangely rushed feeling Final Fantasy XIII, which managed to even disappoint the most hardcore of Final Fantasy fanboys, I’m sure that all of us have been duped into buying at least one misguided, rushed, or simply plain bad sequel.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled my list of what I think are the
10 11 most disappointing sequels in gaming history. Keep in mind there are no Sonic games on this list, because, well, I don’t think anyone with a rational view of the world was expecting most of the recent Sonic’s to be good anyway, and hell, if I included crap like Sonic Heroes, Sonic Unleashed, and the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog for Xbox 360 and PS3, Sonic 4, etc., this entire list would be made up of Sonic games. Now, sit back and prepare to be underwhelmed, because here are the most disappointing sequels of all time, in no particular order, because they don’t even deserve to be ranked:
Metroid: Other M
The Metroid Prime and GBA Metroid games were great, but gamers have always clamored for a new Metroid game done in the style of the revolutionary Super Metroid. They wanted the old, non-linear exploration and the sidescrolling, third-person viewpoint of the old SNES classic, coupled with the presentation and flash of a modern game. In 2010, Nintendo, along with development assistance from Tecmo’s Team Ninja (developer of the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive games,) gave gamers just what they asked for, and in doing so they managed to reinforce the old adage “becareful what you wish for.”
On the surface, Other M looks like it should be the ultimate Metroid game: its got level designs reminiscent of Super Metroid, with a focus on exploration and platforming, and it blends Team Ninja’s signature stylish third-person combat with some of Metroid Prime’s first person shooting elements. If this had been all that Other M offered, it probably would’ve been a much better game, but unfortunately, the developers didn’t stop there.
In an attempt to modernize a franchise that didn’t actually need any modernizing, Other M’s development team (which included Yoshio Sakamoto, director of Super Metroid,) thought they should put a bigger emphasis on the story, and that’s where a large amount of Other M’s problems originate: Samus, the silent, stoic bounty hunter that gamers had fallen in love with was a reduced to whiney, self-absorbed little girl who cowered at the sight of boss enemies (even a reoccuring boss whom she’s defeated several times prior at this point in the series’ timeline,) and who seemingly can’t think for herself. Super Metroid told an engaging story through wonderfully minimalist, pantomimed cutscenes that managed to convey the severity of each situation without saying a word. Other M tells its story via long, badly acted and badly written cut-scenes that transform Samus from bad-ass gaming icon into the gaming equivalent of Don Draper’s wife.
It’s not just the narrative that ruins Other M either. Odd design choices, like awkwardly having to switch the way you hold the Wii-mote from sideways-NES style to the traditional pointer-based method in the midst of battle (while often getting pummeled by enemies while you fumble with the controller,) to badly designed, tedious point-and-click “puzzles,” manage to transform the usually beautifully streamlined Metroid experience into something that feels like a student design project. There are moments when the classic Metroid brilliance shows through, but it’s clear that the development team behind Other M had no clue what direction to take the series, and simply tossed in every idea they had without giving any thought to whether those ideas actually made sense or not. Recent reports from within Nintendo reveal that the company is aware that most fans were deeply disappointed by Other M, so hopefully they can get the series (and Samus’s reputation) back on track with the next game.
The original Resistance: Fall of Man isn’t the best FPS ever made, but it was a damn fine game in its own right, and it was definitely the best game available at the PS3’s launch. So when developer Insomniac delivered the inevitable sequel, most people expected it to be pretty good. No longer constrained by having to finish the game in time for a console launch, it seemed like Insomniac finally had the time to develop a game that cashed in on all of the potential that Resistance’s epic aliens-meet- WW2 alternate-history setting offered. On paper, Resistance 2 seems like it does just that: the single player campaign is longer with more diverse settings and combat situations, the game offers more bizarre alien weaponry, adds in a dedicated co-op campaign and R2 revamps the competitive multiplayer to support a whopping 40 players in one match.
But while those features sound enticing when you read them in a preview or on the back of the game’s box, actually playing game the was a different experience entirely. Lacking a lot of the polish and personality that made the original game the stand-out title of the PS3’s launch, Resistance 2 was strangely released to mostly positive critical praise but was quickly disowned by hardcore fans of the original game; the new single-player campaign lacked the intense, wide-open firefights of the original in favor of boring scripted events and shoddy corridor-based shooting, and was rife with frustrating trial-and-error segments that often pitted you against enemies who kill you in one hit. Resistance 2 ditched the original game’s innovative weapon wheel (an on-screen menu that allowed you to switch between the game’s entire arsenal of weapons quickly,) in favor of a more restrictive two weapon limit, and the chaotic multiplayer showed that it was possible to have too many players, as big matches quickly devolved into wars of attrition rather than tests of skill.
Insomniac seems to have agreed with Resistance’s hardcore fanbase, as they promptly cancelled all planned DLC for Resistance 2 and have publicly stated that they consider the game a failure. Thankfully, they took the fan feedback to heart and gave us Resistance 3 in 2011, and the general consensus on that game seems to be that it’s everything Resistance 2 wasn’t: the single player campaign is fun and polished, the weapon wheel back, and the new multiplayer mode (which reduces the player count back down to 16,) manages to still feel intense and skill based without delving into the random chaos that characterized R2’s online matches.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
The original NiGHTS: Into Dreams was released for the troubled Sega Saturn in 1996, where it was immediately overshadowed (and understandably so,) by the launch of the Nintendo 64 and the 3D revolution that Super Mario 64 brought about. But while Mario raked in the sales and accolades, the rare few who tried out Sega and Sonic Team’s experimental flight game found an instant classic. With its mix of surreal visuals and addictive, arcade-like score-based gameplay, NiGHTS became a cult classic that is still regarded as one of the best (if not the best) games to come out of Sega.
While they made their fair share of poor business decisions, the Sega of the 90’s always managed to deliver with quality titles like NiGHTS. In sharp contrast, the modern, third-party Sega that exists today is much more profitable than they were in the Saturn and Dreamcast days, but they’ve all but destroyed the excellent development reputation they managed to build up during the 90’s with modern garbage like Golden Axe: Beast Rider and the licensed Iron Man games. While they still somehow manage to turn out a great game every now and then (examples: Valkyria Chronicles, Sonic Colors, Vanquish,) there’s no doubt that the Sega of today is just a pale imitation of the company that defined gaming for a good portion of the 90’s.
And there’s no better example of that decline in quality than NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, the 2007 Wii exclusive sequel to the Saturn classic that just about manages to get everything wrong: the controls are inaccurate, the new levels are all hideous and are poorly laid out, the boss battles are forgettable, and worse of all, the game manages to turn the original game’s thoughtfully minimal narrative into a trainwreck of children’s programming cliches and bad acting. Do I really need to hear NiGHTS give me a lecture about the importance of believing in myself every level? No, I really don’t, and you really shouldn’t want to play this abomination of a game. The only flaw with the original NiGHTS for Saturn was that it was too short; NiGHTS: Journey into Dreams corrects that by giving you a longer adventure, but unfortunately that added length just prolongs the suffering. This is one nightmare that you’ll want to end as soon as possible.
Final Fantasy XIV
It’s not unusual for a new MMO to launch with some problems. These are gigantic, complicated games, and usually, everything that can go wrong with an MMO launch will end up going very, very wrong: overloaded servers, bugged quests, and constant crashes and server resets have all happened to every major MMO, including the mighty World of Warcraft. Fans of the genre have come to expect, even tolerate these issues.
Even with those lowered expectations, the launch of Square-Enix’s latest MMO, Final Fantasy XIV, managed to provide a new example in how not to launch a new MMO. Suffering from the same issues that plague the genre and then some, Final Fantasy XIV didn’t just fail because of technical limitations, but it failed because the game simply wasn’t finished: there was an appalling lack of content (even by MMO launch standards,) the UI was unnecessarily complicated and unintuitive, and a ludicrous amount of bugs (again, even by MMO launch standards,) that ranged from everything to game-ending crashes to a bug that made it difficult to even chat with other players effectively. Even MMO veterans, who knew to lower their standards when going into a new game launch, were appalled by the state the game was released in. While the game managed to accrue a small following of apologists who insisted (and continue to insist) that nothing was out of the ordinary regarding FFXIV, anyone who ever played another MMO in their life immediately felt short-changed upon entering XIV’s haphazardly held together world.
Square-Enix immediately realized they really dropped the ball with XIV and announced that the game was suspending all subscription fees until further notice, and that the game was being given a completely new development team to “fix” the mess that everyone had just paid $60 for. They more recently announced that they’d essentially be relaunching the game as Final Fantasy XIV Version 2.0, an attempt at salvaging the project which makes so many changes to FFXIV’s core systems that it might as well be entirely new game. When you consider that there wasn’t a whole lot the original release of FFXIV got right in the first place, it makes sense that they’d basically just remake the whole thing from scratch. Here’s hoping they get it right this time.
Mega Man 4
Now, don’t get me wrong: Mega Man 4 isn’t a terrible game. There are far worse Mega Man games out there, and there are other action/platformers out there that are infinitely worse than this. Mega Man 4 isn’t on this list because of some stupid design choice or shoddy programming or anything like that. It’s on this list because of what it represents: the turning point of Mega Man.
The first three Mega Man games are all challenging, wonderfully designed games that are all based on the same formula, but still feel fresh thanks to their unique, clever level design and memorable boss characters. While 4 introduced a major innovation in the form of the chargeable mega buster, it also represents the point in the series when the designers clearly ran out of ideas and simply began churning out sequels for the money; while still a technically passable game in every way, Mega Man 4 (and pretty much every game in the original Mega Man series until the current gen retro rival Mega Man 9) lacked the passion, the cleverness, the attention to detail, and that certain je ne sais quoi of the first three games in the series.
By the time the game came out in 1991, it was clear that Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and his team were focusing most of their new ideas into the game that would eventually become Mega Man X (a spin-off series which itself would suffer from too many iterative sequels a few years down the line,) and Mega Man 4 and its further sequels on the NES all felt like afterthoughts. While not a terrible game, Mega Man 4 was a substantial drop in quality from the original trilogy of Mega Man games, and marked the point at which the series began to jump the shark. I love Mega Man, but there’s a difference between quality sequels like Mega Man 2 and 9 and the unimaginative, template-recycling cash-ins that games like Mega Man 4 represent.
Phantasy Star Universe
I’ve made my distaste for PSU clear on this blog before, but hey, I’m still bitter, so let me repeat myself: Phantasy Star Universe is the epitome of mediocrity, and an insult to the games it claims to be the successor to. Just as NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams was a pale imitation of the original NiGHTS, PSU did nothing but tarnish the reputation of pioneering Dreamcast classic Phantasy Star Online.
It’s almost laughable how much Phantasy Star Universe manages to screw up a winning formula. The original PSO was probably one of the most addictive console games ever, and its nigh-perfect balance of challenging dungeon crawling and loot collecting turned what could’ve been a repetitive grind into one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had while playing a game. PSU is the exact opposite: while improvements were made to the core combat mechanics, PSU completely screws up the delicate balance between grind and reward that PSO so deftly pulled off, resulting in a game that feels more like work rather than fun.
That’s not PSU’s only problem, however: the game also features one the worst, most insipid stories and cast of characters that I’ve ever seen in a game, and that’s saying a lot considering the amount of terrible J-RPG’s I’ve been subjected to over the years. Every single irritating anime cliche and trope is recycled un-ironically in PSU. It’s as though the game’s designers were trying to create some sort of Smash Bros. like crossover starring every annoying stock character from every terrible anime you’ve ever watched. This game’s cast is the gaming equivalent of The Jersey Shore. If the characters in this game were all of the same race, I would demand that that race be ethnically cleansed.
Perfect Dark Zero
The original Perfect Dark wasn’t the best FPS on the N64, but it was still a solid, fun title that, at the very least, gave console players a worthwhile alternative to Goldeneye. The single player campaign cast players in the role of Joanna Dark, a futuristic spy who became embroiled in a secret conflict between two alien species. While the alien conspiracy theory-filled story line wasn’t the greatest piece of fiction to ever grace a game, it at least had the good sense to not take itself too seriously, and really, it was just an excuse to set-up some interesting gun fights. Like Goldeneye before it, Perfect Dark also featured an incredibly addictive multiplayer mode that kept me and my friends squinting at our split-screened standard-def TV well past our bed-times.
While N64 classics like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were perhaps the first truly good console FPS’s, the genre grew by leaps in bounds in the generation to follow, thanks to innovative hits like the original Halo. Dual-stick controls became the norm, as did epic, scripted events and enemies with tactical AI. In the span of less than five years, simple corridor shooters like Goldeneye and the original Perfect Dark went from being cutting-edge to ancient relics.
Fast forward to 2005: Microsoft is about to launch their newest console, the Xbox 360, and they need a killer app. Halo 3 won’t be ready for another year, so Microsoft taps Rare to finally create a sequel to Perfect Dark. Rare could’ve used this opportunity to modernize Perfect Dark, and reclaim their crown as kings of the console FPS from the likes of Bungie and Infinity Ward. Instead, they gave us a game that managed to feel as antiquated as the original N64 game, with boring, simple settings, brain-dead enemy AI, and level designs so broken and confusing that the designers actually had to paint giant flashing arrows on the ground at the last minute to let the player know where to go next. Joanna Dark herself was redesigned to look like a failed, 80’s teenage pop-star, and in general the whole game reeked of market focus testing and a generally embarrassing feeling of the developers trying way to hard to be “hip.” While the game somehow managed to get decent review scores from most major press outlets, fans were less than impressed with Joanna Dark’s latest (but definitely not greatest) adventure. Call of Duty 2 ended up becoming the stand-out hit of the Xbox 360 launch, and Perfect Dark Zero quickly found its way to bargain bins, where it (including the Limited Edition of the game,) can still be found today.
Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within
Do you remember Poochie? In one of the best episodes of The Simpsons, the creators of Itchy and Scratchy decide that they need to introduce a new character to boost sagging ratings of the show, so they end up creating Poochie, a rapping, skate-boarding dog, designed by clueless marketing execs to appeal to what they think kids find cool.
Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within is videogaming’s Poochie. The first game in the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy was critcially acclaimed, winning most publications Game of the Year awards in 2003 (even managing to top stiff competition from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), but publisher Ubisoft felt like the game didn’t sell as many copies as it should have. So instead of trying to make a better game for its sequel, they concentrated instead on making a more marketable game.
In the original game, the titular Prince was a snobby but charming smart-ass. He was a flawed character who managed to grow into a heroic figure slowly over the course of his adventure. In The Warrior Within, the Prince is transformed into a grungy, masochistic warrior who cusses like a sailor and revels in destruction. If it weren’t for the opening exposition telling me that this was the same character from the original game, I wouldn’t believe it: any traces of the original lovable snob are gone, and in his place we have an un-ironic 90’s budget action movie cliche as our new protagonist. Instead of Farah, the self-sufficient and intelligent Indian princess who was the Prince’s original love interest, The Warrior Within features an impossibly buxom, personality-less piece of wank material who’s only memorable trait is her outfit that’s seemingly made of dental floss.
At the time of its release, mature games like GTA were just beginning to take over the hardcore gaming scene, and it seems like Warrior Within was a shameless attempt at piggy-backing on other games’ successes. Everything in the game just smacks of marketing exec influence and pandering, and everyone over the age of 12 or 13 found Warrior Within’s painful attempts at being “edgy” embarrassing. The Prince of Persia series features some of the best platformers ever made, but Warrior Within is not one of those games. It remains memorable for one reason only: as a cautionary tale of what happens when you let your marketing team have more influence in the design of a game than your actual game designers.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords
Obsidian Entertainment are great at designing games. Unfortunately, they aren’t very good at finishing them: thanks to bug-filled and crash prone releases like the otherwise fantastic Fallout: New Vegas and Neverwinter Nights 2, the company has garnered a deserved reputation for releasing unfinished games that feel more like early beta’s rather than boxed, retail products. Obsidian’s games are undeniably great when they work properly, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all that often.
Their most infamously broken game was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, the sequel to Bioware’s genre-defining hit. Obviously, not many developers out there are up to the task of filling in for Bioware, but for the first few hours of KoTOR 2, it seems like Obsidian succeeded: the mystery filled story shows a lot of early promise, and the dialogue is just as clever and natural as Bioware’s best. The game makes some minor improvements to the original KoTOR’s semi-turn based combat system, the most notable of which are different lightsaber stances that allow you to tailor your fighting style towards specific situations.
But while KoTOR 2 makes a good first impression, things quickly fall apart: on both the original Xbox and PC versions, the game is prone to constant crashes, graphical glitches, and weird AI and pathfinding errors. The original KoTOR had these issues too, sure, but the bugs weren’t this prevalent. By Obsidian’s own admission, the game suffered from a rushed development schedule, and once you get passed KoTOR 2’s prologue areas, the lack of dev time really shows. Big plot threads are never properly resolved thanks to last minute cuts and edits, and the game’s difficulty curve and balance are completely off; some major bosses (including Darth Nihilus, the bad-ass Sith who graces the game’s cover art,) can be defeated in one or two turns, while other, more basic enemies are strangely difficult.
KoTOR 2 isn’t a terrible game, but it’s a game that fails to live up to the original Knights of the Old Republic, and it fails to make good on the potential that’s so evident in its own opening chapters. Like most Obsidian games, all of KoTOR 2’s flaws probably could’ve been fixed with a few extra months of development and some extra bug testing, but as it stands now, KoTOR 2 remains one of the most disappointing missed opportunities in gaming history.
Mortal Kombat 3
It’s 1995, and Mortal Kombat is at the height of its popularity. While the original game drew infamy for its (now comparatively comical) violence, Mortal Kombat 2 proved that MK was a legitimately good game that offered more than just gimmicky gore. There was a Mortal Kombat tv show, action figures, and even a surprisingly tolerable big-budget movie. It was impossible to talk about games without talking about Mortal Kombat, and some people even went as far as to say that Mortal Kombat was superior to Capcom’s pioneering Street Fighter series. Expectations were high for Mortal Kombat 3, and people expected it to change everything.
In many ways, Mortal Kombat 3 did change a lot of fighting game fans’ lives: it made them stop being Mortal Kombat fans and changed them into fans of other fighting games. To put it simply, the game manage to disappoint on every level.
There’s a lot of genuine problems with Mortal Kombat 3: the pointless addition of the “Run” button and meter, or the inflexible, stiff “dial-a-combo” system that the game introduced, but Mortal Kombat 3 will always be most derided for its cast of characters. The new characters range from the ridiculously lame, mall cop-esque Striker to Motaro, a centaur created using claymation techniques that looks like he was ripped out of a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. As if the new characters weren’t enough to make series fans question whether they wanted to stick with the series, the third game also omitted many fan favorites from the roster, including Johnny Cage and the iconic Scorpion.
Many consider MK3 the point at which the series jumped the shark; following entries in the franchise took MK into 3D, and while some games were better than others, none of the Mortal Kombat games released throughout the next fifteen years managed to achieve anything better than abject mediocrity. Thankfully, NetherRealm managed to successfully resurrect the franchise with their excellent reboot last year, and for now, it seems like Mortal Kombat is back on its way towards being a respectable fighter again.
Duke Nukem Forever
All of the games I listed previously were disappointing for a number of reasons. Some of them were ruined by technical issues. Others suffered from a lack of imagination. Most of them failed to live up to the standard set by their prequels. Duke Nukem Forever is all of these things and more, but there’s one thing that Duke Nukem Forever isn’t: a good game.
The other games on this list were probably preceded by a few months or a year of hype before they were released, hence the disappointment. Duke Nukem Forever had 14 years of empty promises, ridiculous hyperbole, and unrealistic expectations to live up to, so you could say that the disappointment this game delivered was magnified by a factor of 14. But even if you manage to divorce DNF’s troubled development period with your thoughts on the final product, it’s inarguable that Duke’s latest outing is perhaps one of the worst games of the generation.
Despite being released for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, DNF features graphics that are about on par with the Wii games you find on clearance for $5 at Wal-Mart. While the game features plenty of pointless diversions like being able to draw a dick on a whiteboard, at no point during its painfully long (or, at the very least, it felt like it was long,) campaign does it manage to serve up a single entertaining or satisfying gun fight, nor does Duke ever manage to say anything that’s even remotely funny. I mean, it’s obvious that the game is trying really hard to be funny, but that painful, strained desperation to entertain just makes Duke even more depressing. I understand that there are some people out there who somehow think that this game is both fun to play and hilarious, but those people are probably the same… uh, “special” people who think Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill is a cinematic masterpiece.
Duke Nukem Forever is to the original Duke Nukem games what Sonic Unleashed was to Sonic 2. It is to videogames what Justin Beiber is to music. Sure, there are worse games out there than Duke Nukem Forever, but you know what? There are worse diseases than herpes out there too, that doesn’t mean I’ll gladly and willingly infect myself. DNF, despite its inarguable crappiness, has managed to accrue a strangely overly sensitive defense force who seem convinced that DNF is free from any massive flaws and is somehow being unfairly targeted and bashed by the press. I have no idea what game these fanboys are seeing, because even with their emotional, desperate, often poorly worded pleas to “OMG JUST LEAVE POOR DUKE ALONE ASSHOLE,” I can’t see a single reason why anyone would find even a single aspect of this game worthwhile.
Well, I’ve said my piece. Those were the 11 games that I think are the most disappointing sequels in gaming history. If you think I forgot something, or you actually somehow actually liked one of these games, feel free to vent you impotent nerd rage in the comments as usual.