10 Classic Gaming Franchises You Forgot Existed
There are those gaming franchises that we’re waiting to return, like Timesplitters, and there are those that crashed and burned with terrible entires, like Final Fight. Then there are those that just…vanished. Some of these may give you a pang of nostalgia, some may be among your favourites, but the gaming community has essentially forgotten them.
This multi-platform series stood out in a market of Mario and Sonic imitators for the unique approach each game in the franchise took. The original game was possibly the most unusual, as you played a tuxedoed fish swimming about various waterways completing different missions such as stopping fishermen or rescuing trapped crabs. It was the second game – Robocod – that was the biggest hit. Using a mechanical extending suit you liberated penguins (or elves if it wasn’t a version sponsored by the chocolate company) and Santa’s workshop. The Flash Gordon themed follow-up – Operation Starfish fared less well, with the series ending with a sports themed competitive title.
Speaking of games with candy sponsorship…here’s another one. Zool arrived on amid a flurry of EXTREME marketing trying to position the ‘ninja from the Nth dimension’ as a the game to beat Sonic the Hedgehog (as Sonic had just definitively beaten Mario). It was plenty fun to play, being fast and colourful. Each of the themed worlds were creatively designed, although the first levels being set in a Chupa-Chop world complete with giant company logos floating in the background put some people off. The franchise managed two critically acclaimed games before vanishing. It’s possible it was beaten to the punch by Earthworm Jim.
The Playstation spun out a number of 3D platformer games modelled on the Mario 64 formula including Spyro, Gex and Croc. One of the better games of MediEvil, featuring an undead knight named Sir Daniel Fortesque making amends for his failings in life. With only one eye and no jaw, the cartoony figure was a fun hero in an imaginative world. It was unique and plenty funny.
OK, so these are unlikely to be ‘forgotten’ by those who played them but LucasArts seems to have forgotten to keep making them. Flight simulators have long been a popular genre, but few of them put you in the cockpit of a Star Wars spaceship. X-Wing was fun, but the sequel Tie Fighter took it to the next level. You got to fight the wimpy Rebels, and the gameplay was tight enough that it was easy to get a handle on while being varied enough not to feel confined. Can we get another one please?
Yep, an entire game based on the artwork of H.R. Giger, the lunatic who designed the creature for Alien. You play as Mike, a chap working in advertising, who wakes up with a splitting headache. This is the typical side-effect for having an alien embryo jammed inside your skull. It turns out that this is thanks to a race of creatures from a parallel ‘Dark World’ who are trying to break into your world and you’re on the clock to stop them. Unlike most point and click adventures of the time this one worked on a timer with some actions needing to be carried out at set times. You fail and those creatures are going to come bursting right out of your face. The franchise was unfortunately derailed by some truly horrifying voice acting in the sequel.
A fighting game where the contestants can morph into animal hybrids in the middle of a combo? Sounds awesome! And there were five releases in the series before the entire franchise up and disappeared. There’s something very cool in a Saturday morning cartoon kind of way about these guys turning into tigers and wolves and rabbits mid-battle. Even without the gimmick is had some solid fighting mechanics and a varied cast of characters to help it stand up on its own.
Once a mainstay on early DOS and Windows machines, the multi-part series doesn’t look like much now but was a fun little platformer when the PC was still marking it’s mark in gaming. It was an insanely bright and colourful adventure featuring a kid armed with a pogo-stick he could use to reach higher ground. It didn’t make the jump to modern gaming like it’s competitor Duke Nukem, but that’s because the design and programming team handed off the series to focus on their next project. Pretty sure most people still remember Doom…
This gritty action stealth game made a big splash on the PS1 and put out six games in less than eight years. Although it had a troubled development the game was released to positive reviews and new players found it more accessible than genre leader Metal Gear Solid. It’s combination of stealth, puzzles and action was well balanced and the story was compelling enough to draw players into the world of espionage. Eventually it was overshadowed by the more polished looking Splinter Cell, but it had a good run.
“War…has never been so much fun” promised the oddly catchy theme song. Despite this glib assessment the game series had a strong anti-war message, leaving players staring at the amassed graves of the troops they’ve let die between missions. It’s a unique game with players guiding a small troop of soldiers through top down environments trying to eliminate the enemy. The challenge came in facing the heavy odds and finding the most effective way through the maze-like level designs. After a couple of games and soccer spin-offs the new entries into the series were cancelled and a 2008 revisit clunked.
You might think of Sonic as the definitive Sega mascot, but Alex Kidd held that title for years before the blue hedgehog turned up. In fact, the Alex Kidd series was so connected to the brand that the Sega Master System, the rival to the NES, had Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in to the console. They’re fun, classic 8-bit games featuring a small kid with large monkey-like ears and a weirdly over-sized fist. The level variation was a big selling point, with fast moving motorbikes and the like mixing things up. There were six titles out in four years, with the characters popularity peaking in the late 80s just before Sonic showed up…then he never went away.