In today’s video game market, sequels, spin-offs, and remakes abound. Due to the immensely high development costs of modern video games, original ideas are incredibly rare, for fear of poor reception and low sales. Consequently, popular franchises get dozens, and in rare cases, hundreds of sequels. While not always the most exceptional of games, often sequels to popular franchises are solid games that re-use all of the features that made predecessor games popular. Sometimes, though, developers decide to try something new, or simply fail to recapture the thrill of older games in the series. Below are some of the most horrific sequels to good or great series that were ever released.
Bionic Commando (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) – The original Bionic Commando was released on the NES in 1988. It was a unique platform game, due to the fact that your main character could not jump. Instead, vertical movement was performed by swinging on a mechanical grappling hook built into your character. Despite a huge difficulty curve, the game was actually quite stellar and had a moderate sized cult following. Almost two decades passed before eager fans finally got a sequel. The 3-D, first person sequel was far from what fans were hoping for. Voted as the Reader’s Choice for Most Disappointing Game of 2009 at Gamespot, the clunky interface, lackluster plot, ridiculous plot twist, and mediocre game play combined to make a first person shooter that couldn’t even sell well to the core audience.
Legend of Mana (PS) – To truly understand how disappointing this sequel was, you need to understand the history of the Mana series. In 1993, Chrono Trigger was the undisputed best game of the year. Despite this, Secret of Mana, released in the same year, sold only slightly fewer copies and had widespread appeal. In any other year, it would have easily been the best game of the year. The long awaited sequel, Legend of Mana, received surprisingly little advertising or fanfare when released 7 years later. The low visibility was probably for the best, given how badly designed the game was. Almost entirely discarding all of the features that made the first game so popular, Legend of Mana was a bland side-scrolling action game with almost no role playing elements and a confusing interface of world design that made the game feel like a series of mini-games, rather than a complete game.
Bloody Roar 3 (PS2) – The original Bloody Roar was anything but a traditional fighting game. The premise of the game was that various lycanthropes, ranging from the traditional werewolf to the absurd wererabbit, were fighting in street fighter style duels for dominance. The fighting system was not as advanced as many similar fighting games, but the transformation system was remarkably fun and the game had an excessive amount of flash and style. Bloody Roar 3 was the first outing of the series on the PS2. Despite higher graphical quality, the game did not look exceptionally better than the previous installments. Slight tweaks to beast mode and fighting actually made the game less responsive and overall the game simply didn’t have the flair of its predecessors.
X-Com: Enforcer (PC) – Fans of the X-Com series probably are mostly unaware of this sequel and those who are aware likely disavow its existence. The X-Com series was one of the most popular and genre defining of turn-based tactical games. The original, X-Com: UFO Defense is considered by critics to be a classic and the 2nd sequel, X-Com: Apocalypse, was lauded for blending real time game play with turn based tactics in an effective and enjoyable way. Fans of the series were horrified when this 3rd person, over the shoulder shooter was released as the final sequel in the series. All of the tactical and strategic elements of the game were scrapped. The publishers simply created a mediocre shooting game with terrible AI and slapped the X-Com name on it, despite an entire lack of plot continuity with the rest of the series. The failure of this game is often credited for ending a once great franchise.
Master of Orion 3 (PC) – Master of Orion and Master of Orion II, having both won multiple awards, are considered to be some of the greatest turn based strategy games ever, with the latter often being the metric by which new space themed strategy games are judged. This sequel was expected to continue the pattern of excellence. Unfortunately, diverging from its predecessors, the game focused on macromanagement rather than micromanagement, and the change stripped away all of the enjoyable features of the series. Without the ability to direct how planets developed, except via imprecise AI protocols, players felt powerless while playing the game. Nearly every player complained that the game felt like it was playing itself and no amount of patches or code changes ever completely resolved the problems.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES) – At face value, this game is actually a reasonably good side scrolling action game, compared to similar games at the time. The problem was that this game was the sequel to The Legend of Zelda, and a slightly above average action game was not an acceptable sequel to a best selling action role playing game that had revolutionized the industry. Maybe the problem was just that this game was rushed to publication too quickly to iron out the little details, but it just didn’t have the same feel as its predecessor and the difficulty curve was way too erratic for fans of the original, most casual gamers, to truly enjoy the game. Based on its reception, it is not surprising that the next sequel, A Link to the Past, returned to the top down perspective of the original.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES) – After Final Fantasy II was released in the United States, fans were eagerly awaiting another epic game in the highly popular series. Despite blatant warning by Square that Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was designed as a gateway game to gamers new to the role playing genre, fans eagerly bought this game upon release. The simplistic game play, unimaginative plot, and complete lack of character customization immediately alienated fans of the series. Despite modest reviews and sales, the game simply had no target audience and consistently tops lists for worst game ever in the series.
In an effort to make profits, even bad games often produce sequels and become franchises. What makes the above games so disappointing is that they are all terrible games that emerged from otherwise good, and in some case, truly excellent series. In some cases, the game was so bad as to have ended the franchise forever, as is the case with Master of Orion 3, X-Com: Enforcer, and most likely Bionic Commando. In other cases, the series survived the terrible sequel and even managed to flourish, though the games still leave a lasting legacy as a blemish that can never be removed. The only bright point is that fans of the series never need actually play the offending sequels.