Even more than the movie industry, video games love to create franchises. If a game does well and finds an audience, it’s almost certainly going to have a sequel (or several) planned.
The occasional standalone title might be released but even the most narrative heavy games usually get a follow-up. The result is, usually, a best-case scenario for the studio making the game and the fans playing it. The franchise keeps making money and gamers get the stories, characters, and gameplay that they enjoy.
Yet there are occasions where things don’t work out the way that they should. Sometimes a video game franchise long overstays its welcome, churning out sequel after sequel. In the end it'll either lose what made the series special in the first place or just become something completely different.
The opposite situation can also be true where a franchise deserves a sequel or follow-up of some kind and never gets it. For every Zelda and Mario that seems like it’ll last forever, there’s a video game franchise that was cut off before it really started growing.
This an effort to look at both sides of the coin in video game franchises. It’s not a comparison of all these franchises to figure out which are necessarily better or worse. It is, however, an effort to look at which franchises went on too long and which should be given second chances.
Here are the 9 Video Game Franchises That Ended Too Soon (And 7 That Need To Go).
16 Ended Too Soon: Half-Life
Half-Life isn’t officially cancelled. Yet, with over ten years having passed since the last entry in the series, which was a downloadable chapter for the second full release, and no buzz, it’s effectively dead. There might come a day when Valve resurrects Half-Life and finally wraps up the plot threads, but it doesn’t look it’s coming any time soon.
The reason for why Half-Life is over doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
The first two games in the series are widely acclaimed and, thanks to Half-Life 2 being released on Xbox 360's The Orange Box, a whole new audience was opened to the series. If Half-Life 3 ever materialized, people would buy it.
Just for the sake of good storytelling too, so much needs to be answered with Half-Life. Half-Life 2: Episode 2 ended a huge cliffhanger and there’s been no hint of resolution in any medium.
15 Need to Go: Metal Gear
There’s a very good chance that the Metal Gear series will wither and die very, very soon. For now, though Konami is desperately trying to keep the franchise alive, despite losing its creative mastermind.
The Metal Gear series is a product of its director, Hideo Kojima. Kojima, though, has left (or was fired) from Konami and has no chance to make a new Metal Gear game. However, Konami is still releasing games under the Metal Gear name, even if they’re spin-offs.
It’s all a very transparent attempt to have a dead franchise keep creating money.
Even removing it from the controversy and the fact that fans are very protective of Kojima and his vision, the attempt is lazy and gross.
The last Metal Gear game with Kojima behind it wasn’t perfect as it ended with a few plot threads left unresolved. Yet no one but Kojima should be answering those questions.
14 Ended Too Soon: Knights of the Old Republic
BioWare and EA can pretend that Knights of the Old Republic isn’t dead, as it exists in a new form with the Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic. However, fans know that simply isn’t true.
The Old Republic shares as much with the first two KOTOR games as Star Wars Battlefront shares with The Force Unleashed, so nothing. Even if The Old Republic is a different type of MMO, it’s still a MMO and lacks that personal single-player experience of Knights of the Old Republic.
The first two KOTOR games are widely considered some of the best Star Wars games (and stories) ever. They took the galaxy and approached from a new and exciting angle, letting players really immerse themselves.
Yet, after Knights of the Old Republic II, all direct continuation stopped. Instead, BioWare worked on The Old Republic and created their own space opera in Mass Effect.
13 Need to Go: Dead Rising
When Dead Rising began it was interesting, fresh, and exciting. The first Dead Rising was released in 2006. at the very onset of the zombie boom. It had a unique sense of humor and format for a game, where there was a very specific time limit set in place.
The longer Dead Rising has gone on, the more originality has been leeched from it. The franchise is now as lifeless as the zombie monsters who overwhelm it. Dead Rising has become, in all honesty, a hot mess.
The tone of the franchise has varied wildly and that includes not just the games but the side projects, like movies. Dead Rising has no real identity anymore besides zombies are involved. The series is also weirdly convinced that original hero, Frank West, is charming and magnetic when he’s far from it.
After Dead Rising 4, which was aggressively OK, it just needs to bow out.
12 Ended Too Soon: Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia is a series that has been resurrected and rebooted several times. It still stings though that Ubisoft seems to have completely abandoned the franchise. There are few reasons why Prince of Persia is a state of animated suspension, the biggest factor, though, is the success of Assassin’s Creed.
When the first Assassin’s Creed launched, Prince of Persia was Ubisoft’s biggest single-player franchise.
Soon the wall running of the Prince was replaced by the wall climbing of the Creed. As the assassins’ collective star rose, the Prince’s faded to oblivion. The nail in the coffin, seemingly, being the horrible movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role.
It’s true that the franchise didn’t have the highest overall quality. The most recent entries were very disappointing. However, there should be room for two sword-swinging, parkour performing heroes in Ubisoft’s line-up.
11 Need to Go: Five Nights at Freddy’s
The success of Five Nights at Freddy is one of the biggest gaming mysteries of recent memory. Whether it tapped into millennials’ secret fear of animatronics or it just produced easy YouTube reaction videos, Five Nights was the game-de-jour for a long time. Five Nights is still popular and continues to have buzz around it, but it’s mechanically a horrible game.
There’s no real gameplay to Five Nights and its many spin-offs.
They’re cheap, shoddily made games that usually just involve clicking on the screen and jump scares. Fans are convinced there’s some deep lore at play but it’s so vague and complicated it’s indecipherable.
Matters aren’t helped that the timeline of the series is more convoluted than Fast & The Furious with a fraction of the charm and none of the Vin Diesel.
The games make a lot, even when they’re released for free, but they should go away.
10 Ended Too Soon: Crimson Skies
The Xbox One is a solid console. However, Microsoft is severely lacking in first party titles and console exclusive games. So, it’s very bizarre that the company has an IP like Crimson Skies and is doing nothing with it. The Crimson Skies franchise has two games but it’s second, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, is the underrated jewel.
A arcade flying game with incredible controls, High Road to Revenge was one of the original Xbox’s best games. It took place in an alternate America and felt so fresh and unique to everything out there.
The game was clever and fun. Although it told a complete story, it was totally deserving of a sequel. Yet after the second's game release, Crimson Skies crashed and burned.
The game has been made backward compatible on Xbox 360 and Xbox One but any continuation is just a fan’s pipe dream.
9 Need to Go: LEGO Games
It is rather remarkable how many licenses that the LEGO games have captured. Nearly every property with a dedicated fanbase has seen a LEGO Game created. Each entry, for the most part, has the same approachable: cute and family friendly energy. They’re not awful games but the franchise has too many entries.
LEGO games obviously aim for a younger audience and aren’t meant to be too complex, as they' re pick-and-play games for the whole family. Sadly, they’re also very repetitive.
There’s no real joy of creation (or destruction) like there is with regular LEGOs. It’s just a matter of mixing between holding down and mashing a single button to watch stuff happen. There’s way to appeal to a young audience and not be so simple.
With everything under the sun having a LEGO game, it’s time to end the franchise-- or, at the very least, drastically retool it.
8 Ended Too Soon: Chrono
In the 16-bit era Square Enix created several amazing RPGs. However, about the only one who has continued to grow and evolve is Final Fantasy. Everything else was pretty much left to die. No dead franchise from Square hurts more than the Chrono series.
The franchise began with Chrono Trigger, which is one of the best RPGs of all time and was revolutionary for the era.
It focused on time travel from an accessible but still complex way.
It had multiple game endings when that was considered impossible and overall just built an amazing world with lots of lore. The series did continue with Chrono Cross on the PS One, but it was a step down and didn’t do that well.
However, countless series have had missteps and have continued. Final Fantasy hasn’t dropped the ball more than few times. Chrono deserves second, third, and fourth chances.
7 Need to Go: Call of Duty
Call of Duty isn’t quite the juggernaut it used to be in the gaming community. It’s still very big and is showing no signs of slowing down with its annual release schedule. Call of Duty makes money, but it would still be in the best (creative) interest of the franchise to slow down, if not stop altogether.
Call of Duty is primarily an online game. The campaign exists but 80% of the user base ignores it. Call of Duty has done a great job with building its multiplayer mode though and that should be the focus on the series.
The franchise would be best releasing one game every so often and continuing to support it with online features and content.
The cycle of releasing virtually the same game year after year is just dull and uninspired.
The quality hasn’t exactly dipped for Call of Duty but it’s just boring and expected.
6 Ended Too Soon: Earthworm Jim
The '90s saw a cavalcade of platforming mascots hit the gaming scene. A few managed to escape the decade, far more were abandoned and never seen from again.
A couple, like Crash and Spyro, are even rumored to be getting resurrections sooner rather than later. Yet if there’s one platforming mascot that should still be revived its Earthworm Jim.
Earthworm Jim has seen re-releases and remakes of his older games. Yet it’s been a long time since Earthworm Jim had a proper new entry. It’s a total waste of a character that’s just full of personality and has headed some surprisingly excellent games.
The death of Earthworm Jim has a lot to do with its publisher, Interplay, failing and being wiped off the map. However, someone should pick up Jim and try to give him new life.
5 Need to Go: Mario Party
Nintendo really does treat their IP right. The House of Mario tries to always improve things with each entry of a franchise. The notable and sad exception, however, is Mario Party.
The franchise started off very strong in the Nintendo 64 era, even if the minigames were mostly garbage. Yet the longer Mario Party has gone on, the more it’s been mishandled.
Mario Party is build on unfairness as so much is left up to luck and chance. However, recently entries in the series have taken away almost all the skill. The classic board game format is gone, replaced with a car mechanic that puts every player in the same location. It’s a pit where fun minigames are only sporadically sprinkled in.
Nintendo could change things and restore the classic (better) format. However, in its current form, Mario Party needs to just be put out of its misery.
4 Ended Too Soon: Banjo-Kazooie
Banjo-Kazooie is another A+ franchise that Microsoft has access to but they’re just sitting on it. It’s true that the last entry in the franchise, Nuts & Bolts, didn’t do well. However, that’s also because it was the exact opposite of what fans wanted from a new Banjo-Kazooie game.
It was a vehicle creation game that just happened to slap platforming Banjo and Kazooie into it.
Banjo-Kazooie really could be Microsoft’s answer to Mario. Back when Banjo-Kazooie was on Nintendo’s console, the games were completely on par with Mario 64 for platforming supremacy.
The franchise is overloading on personality, color, and just plain fun. Sadly, Banjo and Kazooie are doing nothing but gathering dust in Microsoft’s closet.
It’s not easy to build a 3D platformer in the modern era, despite how Nintendo makes things look. Still, there should be some effort to make it happen for Banjo-Kazooie.
3 Need to Go: Sonic
Sonic isn't a completely terrible franchise. Occasionally even the modern games end up being halfway decent. However, there are far more bad Sonic games than good ones. The dedicated fans keep Sonic afloat, but SEGA seems to be trying to everything to kill the blue hedgehog.
A good Sonic game just needs one thing to make it work: a satisfying sense of speed and acceleration.
Players need feel like they’re controlling a super-fast hedgehog. Strangely, SEGA rarely seems able to make that work. There’s been so many gimmicks and weird mechanics added to Sonic that feels like SEGA has no idea what to do with their most popular character.
Even if great games, like Sonic Mania, are released it can’t help but feeling the franchise is beating a dead horse (or hedgehog) over and over.
2 Ended Too Soon: Mass Effect
Mass Effect just released a new entry in the series. It is a bit premature to say it’s dead. However, there are several reports that the franchise is on ice for the foreseeable future and there may never be another entry to come out. This is a disappointment for several reasons.
The last Mass Effect, Andromeda, was a flawed game but not a disaster. The problems with Andromeda could easily be fixed in a sequel. That game could’ve, retroactively, even made the original more enjoyable.
Yet Andromeda was such a critical failure and middling financial success that all production on the game and franchise seized. BioWare has abandoned Mass Effect to work on new sci-fi franchise Anthem and the only continuing single-player RPG franchise in development is Dragon Age.
Mass Effect is too expansive and detailed a world to be totally abandoned, but that's what seems to be the reality.
1 Ended Too Soon: Jade Empire
This is yet another BioWare property that has been lowered into an early grave. The death of Jade Empire does make more sense than the death of Knights of the Old Republic.
It was a new IP that was released at the tail end of the original Xbox’s life cycle with little fanfare. Jade Empire is the definition of a cult hit. It’s also fantastic.
As a blend of Chinese mythology and original lore, Jade Empire is unlike any other Western RPG. This wasn't only true at the time of its release, but also now in present day as well. It’s game world begging for more stories and characters.
Jade Empire does tell a complete story and is well worth playing (and replaying). However, it’s also one of the most exciting and unique RPG franchises from BioWare that somehow has just one entry.
What abandoned video game franchises would you like to see more entries from someday? Which series do you think need to be abandoned? Sound off in the comments!
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