Creative industries have never been averse to mining the past for inspiration, but none more so than the world of video games, where the inexorable march of technology generally renders products obsolete in a matter of months. This means that the remake/reboot cycle is even more accelerated than it is in the world of movies, and franchises are thus constantly being revisited or revived — like Mortal Kombat, which comes out in 3D April 19th. Still, there are some notable franchises that have been languishing for age. Here’s our picks for ten of them that really need to be revived for the 2010s.
This was a killer game in its time – along with Doom, it followed the trail that Wolfenstein 3D had blazed in the first-person shooter genre, but unlike both those games, it featured true 3D graphics. Unfortunately, it also didn’t sell nearly as many copies as Doom, and the brand was buried after one sequel in 1999. While 2007 hit BioShock carried the System Shock flag into the new millenium, it’d be nice to see the real thing reincarnated one day.
There have been plenty of games that have adopted the god-game idea pioneered by Populous in the 20 years since its release – from full-blown extravaganzas like Black & White and Spore to mobile games like ngmoco’s freemium crapfest Godfinger, and even a DS port of Populous itself (or something vaguely resembling it, at least). But nothing’s quite approached the unique glory of the original, which is just crying out to be revived on iOS and Android.
Another game that’s begging to be ported to iOS/Android/etc. A company called Mobile1UP tried to do exactly that a couple of years back, but were swiftly slapped with a cease-and-desist letter from Sony, who own the Lemmings concept and were none too amused with the idea of a bunch of upstarts stealing a march on them. Since then, the game’s languished in licensing hell – an all-too-familiar story for old game franchises.
1989 game Mean Streets occupies a place in computer history for two reasons. The first was that it was one of the first games to have digitized sound, which you could get working by rigging up a contraption to connect your PC speaker to an external amp (this usually required a soldering iron and nerves of steel). The second was that it introduced the world to Tex Murphy, a hard-boiled private investigator in a Philip K. Dick-like San Francisco noir of the future. Murphy endured for five games, all of which were characterized by tight plotting, excellent writing and good reviews. He’s a character that we’d love to see return one day.
Sure, Maxis is making squillions out of The Sims these days, but even so, why no more SimCity? The last proper instalment in the series came out in 2003, and unleashing Godzilla on an unsuspecting city is much more fun than dicking around with hassling your Sim to clean his room.
We hereby admit to being shameless and unrepentant nerds who love RPGs and been wanting a sequel to Baldur’s Gate II for most of the last decade. Come on, already.
Another on the RPG tip. Ultima was an excellent long-running franchise that deserved a better ending than it got. The early games were pioneers in the field of computer RPGS, and the series really blossomed with Ultimas VI and VII, both of which were quality – epic, non-linear and absorbing, with excellent plotting and hundreds of credible characters. Ultima VIII suffered from being rushed out to meet EA’s release schedule, and final instalment Ultima IX sucked righteously. Since the release of IX in 1999, the franchise has been dead in the water, even if Ultima Online still soldiers on. Apparently, the problem is that EA and Ultima creator Richard “Lord British” Garriott each own rights to aspects of the game, making it impossible for either to create a new game without the other. Boo.
Back when the pinnacle of flight sim technology was sitting in front of your PC with a joystick, X-Wing was the business. Its successor Tie Fighter, released in 1994, was even better, but inexplicably, the series stalled soon after – another game, X-Wing Alliance, was released in 1999, but after that, nothing. We can understand why some of the franchises here will never see the light of day again – but surely there’s a market for a game that lets you fly an X-Wing, for Chrissakes?
And while we’re on retro flight sims, how could we forget the franchise that employed Mark Hamill? This game was so big in the late 1990s that it spawned its own TV show, as well as a (dreadful) film. Since the turn of the millenium, though, there’s been nothing on the Wing Commander front at all, save for an XBox game in 2007.
With Chinese Democracy having been released last year, Duke Nukem is now flying the flag alone for the most ridiculously delayed release for a product first promised in the 1990s: the follow-up to 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Forever, has been in development since, well, forever. Although there’ve been plenty of other Duke Nukem-branded releases since then, the main event is still yet to take place. Publishers Gearbox Software are currently promising a May 3 release. We’ll believe it when we see it.