Oh, how the mighty have fallen. At one time or another these video game franchises were considered the best of the best, combining innovation, fun and replayability into a product that provided hours upon hours of entertainment. Fans couldn’t get enough of these games, and publishers were happy to oblige them with various sequels and spinoffs. But at some point, the fanfare turned into disillusionment.
Most, if not all of the entries on this list are beloved game series that just sort of fell off. Their dips in quality could be for any number of reasons: rushed production, lack of innovation, a shift in direction or sub-par graphics. Whatever the culprit, the legacy of these franchises have taken a beating over the years. They aren’t necessarily beyond redemption, but they have seriously tarnished the trust fans have in their respective series.
Here are 12 Video Game Series That Have Jumped The Shark
The original Xbox’s killer app, Halo was the definitive first person shooter of the sixth console generation. Tight controls and an engaging storyline had players actually feel like they had stepped into the oversized boots of the genetically-engineered killing machine known as Master Chief.
Over the course of three titles, this grand space opera about an alien coalition of religious zealots fighting against mankind, while the omnipresent threat of something even more dangerous and destructive loomed overhead, finally came to a close, leaving fans feeling satisfied.
But they couldn’t let the heroic Master Chief rest. Oh no, they had a franchise on their hands. So Master Chief was drudged up through a series of plot holes and story inconsistencies to give us two lackluster sequels that do little but tarnish the legacy of the original trilogy with a nonsensical shoehorned plot and uninspired game design.
A phenomenon (or a perfect example of marketing genius), Nintendo’s RPG focusing on the capture and enslavement of animals is a titan in the gaming industry. The Pokemon franchise has spawned countless sequels, a long-running TV show, numerous feature length movies and a plethora of merchandise. It even inspired its own Creepypasta.
Originally released in 1996, the series quickly became popular around the world, with gamers spouting the Pokemon catchphrase, “gotta catch ’em all” like they were jonesing for their next prescription from the methadone clinic.
But therein lies the kicker. It’s impossible to “catch them all”, especially when new installments to the franchise keep introducing more and more of these little pocket monsters for you to collect. Gamers around the world are waiting for Pokemon to crash like other fads from the same era, like Pogs or Beanie Babies, but there is seemingly no end in sight to the grip Pokemon has on gamers.
10. Final Fantasy
One of the most celebrated RPGs of all time has been riding a wave of nostalgia for years. The original game was released in 1987 and captured the imaginations of millions of gamers the world over. Sure, the older games in the series may have been rough around the edges in the graphics department, but the lack of pizzazz was made up for with engaging heartfelt stories and rich gameplay mechanics.
It’s hard to pinpoint when Final Fantasy lost its way, as the series has stumbled and recovered a number of times over the course of its 29 years, but the later games have definitely suffered a dip in quality. The stories don’t resonate like the older titles and recent entries in the series have been laden with bugs that have caused delays and further disappointment.
Final Fantasy isn’t necessarily a bad franchise, but due to the overwhelming amount of fanboys the series has, Square Enix doesn’t bother with any of their other RPG properties, which is criminal. At this point, we’d take a new entry in the Chrono games than another Final Fantasy game any day.
9. Silent Hill
One of the most legitimately terrifying games ever made, Silent Hill forced players to break out their old night lights before they went to bed. Featuring grotesque imagery, twisted stories and bone-chilling sound design, Silent Hill was the video game that went bump in the night.
A game that focused on psychological horror, the series was a critical darling that fans obsessed over, that is, until the fifth game in the series. Up until the fifth game in the series, all of the Silent Hill games were developed by an internal team at Konami called, appropriately enough, Team Silent. However, the subsequent five releases have all been developed by other groups, each one failing to live up to the legacy of the original games.
After years of disappointing sequels and spinoffs, fans were finally treated to what seemed like a proper continuation of the series in Silent Hills. Featuring heavyweights in both the video game and film industry, the playable teaser for Silent Hills was horrifying and whetted many appetites. Unfortunately, the game was cancelled, and the chances of it ever being developed are slim, as Konami plans to focus on mobile gaming rather than traditional consoles, robbing this once great franchise of the sequel it deserves.
8. God of War
Incredible graphics, fantastic combat (although somewhat repetitive) and a truly sweeping cinematic presentation made the first three God of War games near infallible. Gamers loved the blood-soaked brutality of the series’ anti-hero, Kratos, as he hacked and slashed his way through ancient Greek mythology, hell-bent on revenge. And after three incredibly satisfying games, Kratos’ journey was over.
Except it wasn’t, because corporate greed saw Kratos return to cash in on inferior prequels and mid-quels that weren’t nearly as engaging as the original three.
With rumors that Kratos is going to return in another sequel despite literally killing all of the Gods and plunging the world into some sort of primordial hellscape, we can’t help but roll our eyes. The first game in the series introduces players to Kratos as he is committing suicide. Just let the guy die already!
7. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Much like how most of us would never play professional football or baseball, most of us would never be able to compete as a professional skateboarder. In fact, most of us would probably consider ourselves lucky if we ever mastered the Ollie, much less a fakie 720 kickflip. That’s why the Tony Hawk series was so cool. It allowed gamers to pull off incredible skateboard tricks that they would never be able to pull off in real life, all against a great pop-punk soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the Tony Hawk series overstayed its welcome. With a number of forgettable sequels, crummy spinoffs and attempts to integrate awkward skateboard peripherals, the series experienced criticism and dwindling sales. The recent Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 tried hard to bring the series back to its roots, but glitches and buggy gameplay combined with ugly level design saw the franchise face plant into the pavement. Again.
6. Resident Evil
A terrifying, claustrophobic gaming experience, Resident Evil was responsible for creating an entire sub-genre of video games: survival horror. While the nausea inducing fixed cameras angles were a point of contention, the limited view they offered served to heighten the tension. And who could forget the stilted dialogue? Giving birth to memes and illustrating the difficult task of Japanese to English translation, these hilarious quips gave Resident Evil its B-movie charm.
The series was often met with acclaim from fans and critics alike, who praised the atmosphere and genuine scares that the Resident Evil universe cooked up. The fourth entry in the series marked a departure that saw the franchise lean more toward action than scares, but it was viewed as a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stalling genre. Most fans saw it for what it really was, the death knell of a beloved franchise.
Each subsequent release in the Resident Evil series has become increasingly bombastic, trading its creep factor for a Night of the Living Dead remake directed by Michael Bay factor.
Everyone (including us) is quick to point out that the Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed franchises release virtually identical games year after year and suffer severe criticism because of it. But the originators of this sales model are sports games. Football, baseball, soccer, hockey, you name it, every single sports game franchise is greedy. It’s almost as if the makers of these games take the old game and simply slap it into a new box with the latest calendar year on the front. Obviously, there are gameplay tweaks and graphical improvements, but let’s face it, they essentially charge gamers full price for an updated roster.
The worst offender is the Madden series of NFL games. These games are synonymous with American football because they are literally the only game in town. Years ago, this money printing franchise scooped up all of the licensing rights to every NFL team and stadium, essentially blocking any other developer from making a football game with NFL properties.
This monopoly allows the Madden franchise to rest on their laurels, as no competition equals no motivation to innovate.
4. Call of Duty
Although most associate the Call of Duty franchise with futuristic first person shooters, the series began with its roots firmly planted in the over-saturated sub-genre of World War II shooters. In 2007, developer Infinity Ward took the fourth entry of the series into the modern era with, uh, Modern Warfare. The series moved on to a number of subsequent installments that saw the franchise explode in popularity.
Publisher Activision put the franchise into a development cycle that saw three separate studios producing installments to ensure that we were inundated with a new COD sequel every single year. This resulted in painfully short campaigns that feature stories that range from stupidly simple to head-scratchingly complex, recycled level design, and an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” stance on innovation.
To say that if you’ve played one Call of Duty you’ve played them all is incredibly accurate. Especially when you consider that Ghosts literally copied and pasted entire cutscenes from Modern Warfare 2. Of course there’s always the multiplayer, where you can hear eleven year olds scream obscenities at you while their horrendous music plays into their microphones.
3. Assassin’s Creed
Another example of a publisher cranking out a new sequel every year without bothering to make sure that the game is actually finished, Assassin’s Creed has been baiting gamers with mediocrity since 2007 with the release of the first installment of the series. Since then there have been nine main sequels and a litany of spinoffs that have graced everything from dead handhelds to mobile phones.
Every installment features rinse and repeat gameplay, all slight variations of the same core task: stealthily execute someone, stealthily follow someone, stealthily pickpocket someone, stealthily listen to a conversation. Occasionally, there will be some hardcore parkour action, but most of the time you’ll be wandering around and getting into brawls with incompetent guards who wait their turn so that they can attack you one on one.
With each release comes steadily diminishing reviews due to the needlessly complex storyline and lack of innovation. At this point, Assassin’s Creed is doing nothing but assassinating your hard earned dollars.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog
We almost feel sorry for this spiky blue furball. Almost. Sonic has always lived in the shadow of Nintendo’s slightly overweight plumber, mostly due to the focus on speed rather than engaging platforming. Yes, we know that Sonic was all about speed and attitude, but when players are running at the speed of a freight train, they end up just tapping the jump button every so often and praying that they don’t hit one of those mechanized crabs that will cause them to lose all of their rings.
Why does Sega keep investing money into a franchise that was an inferior platformer to begin with? The gaming community has had to slog through broken, rushed and poorly executed Sonic games for years, as they’ve tried to reinvent the hedgehog over and over again in an effort to reinvigorate the franchise. Remember when he was a knight? Or that time he turned into a werewolf? Or how about that time he had a human girlfriend? Sonic is dead, stop traipsing his corpse through awful games.
1. The Sims
Famed game designer Will Wright, the man whose name is synonymous with simulation games, decided to create a “virtual dollhouse”, which eventually gave birth to the sandbox game known as The Sims. Originally released in 2000, The Sims has gone on to be one of the best selling video games of all time.
The game is a “life simulator” where players controlled a virtual person called a “Sim”. The game had you do mundane things like go to work, maintain personal hygiene and pretend to be friends with your annoying neighbors. The game lacked a clearly defined goal other than rudimentary objectives like staying alive and being happy. This boiled down to working in order to earn money so you could buy a whole bunch of expensive stuff to stick in your virtual house, effectively making The Sims less a game and more an interactive Ikea catalog.
To be fair, Wright has said that the game was meant to be a satire of consumer culture, and we suppose there is some interesting about people who spend money in real life to spend fake money in a game, but how this series continues to spawn sequel after sequel is flabbergasting.
Do you disagree with our choices? Which videogame franchises do you wish would disappear? Let us know in the comments!