At no point in the near future are we going to run short of '90s purists claiming that it was the golden decade in gaming, producing the best and brightest in terms of iconic gaming titles and landmark achievements. And at some junctures, it's difficult to not admit they're right. Has Square Enix really ever broken the high water mark that was Final Fantasy VII? Was Half-Life not the gaming industry equivalent of putting a pair of boots on the moon?
Like it or not, we emerged from the '90s with some of the most beloved and enduring legacies we know and love in gaming today. And while that's nice and all, it tends to create towering standards and expectations for the following acts. After all, when we see a title tagged with the Legend of Zelda, it's safe and fair to expect great things from it.
Mostly safe, anyway. Whether it was developmental complacency spawned by the branding's existing strength, a low-effort cash grab or simple and straightforward creative blundering, a series taking deep and sturdy roots in gaming's golden era doesn't necessarily pave a bump-free road to future success, as most of these titles had to learn the hard way. Here are twenty-five sequels to '90s smash hits and classics that didn't quite measure up to what gamers expected from them. Bear in mind that we're not going with direct sequels here - if any entry in the series flopped after it initially made waves in the '90s, then it's fair game to us. Anyway, how many of them disappointed you too? Let us know!
25 Mortal Kombat: Special Forces (2000)
The Mortal Kombat series has had a host of ups and downs over the course of its lengthy career. Lucky for us, they've mostly been ups, especially with the latent Mortal Kombat X and presumably the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11. Unluckily for them, the ones that weren't hits tended to be totally awful.
Funnily enough, it always seems to happen when they shift from the series' focus on fighting games.
Special Forces serves as a sterling example of this observation, as virtually nothing about this awkward action-adventure crossover worked. Boring animations, tedious fighting mechanics and infuriating camera angle barely even begin the laundry list of issues that plagued this title.
24 GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2004)
Though there were many mediocre attempts to keep the Bond name an active industry force to be reckoned with after the legendary success of GoldenEye 007, this was probably the most direct attempt to replicate that success by channeling the original iconic title.
And it was also the one that fell furthest from the mark.
The single-player campaign had very little to do with any sort of continuity from the original GoldenEye, but hey, it was the multiplayer that mattered, right? Apparently, that didn't go over too well either, since the multiplayer servers for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox ports were shut down after a run totaling only two years.
23 Shadow The Hedgehog (2005)
Being honest, narrowing down the infamous list of Sonic-related missteps in gaming was no small feat. And while this pick is admittedly a spin-off title, I think this was probably the release that indicated we were passing a point of no return for a much-beloved piece of '90s nostalgia.
The bare-knuckled attempts to cram some grit and edgy, "grown-up" appeal into the innate, kid-friendly goofiness that is the Sonic universe came across as remarkably desperate and more awkward than flying solo at prom. And that still leaves the remarkably unpopular shifts in gameplay dynamics. I mean seriously, just try to imagine Sonic dying his hair black and dual-wielding uzis. Yeah, that's pretty much what you're getting here.
22 Mario Is Missing (1992)
Have you ever wished that you could combine a stripped down Mario game, sans Mario for the most part, with your high school geography and history classes? Oh, what's that? You've never, over the course of your entire life, wished for such an abomination?
Well, apparently no one else did either. But we got it anyway.
Prepare yourself for the most surreal Mario experience of a lifetime, as Bowser sets up shop in Antarctica, and Luigi sets out to stop him by, you know, doing really good on social studies quizzes in various locales such as Paris and Tokyo? Because, well, yeah. How else would he do it? No, I'm not making that up. Needless to say, this experiment in edutainment didn't exactly woo audiences.
21 The Legend Of Zelda: Faces Of Evil (1993)
Sure, it's considered completely non-canon. Yes, absolutely, a lot of us would prefer to forget that the CD-I Zelda games ever actually happened, and that they were all some sort of weird shared hallucination.
But no, we absolutely cannot get through a list of bad '90s games spin-offs and sequels without mentioning them.
I understand that we're treading tired ground with this one, but this game was a legendarily terrible chapter in a volume of timeless action-adventure classics that are still breathing strong today. If you haven't ever treated yourself to the bizarre, bad animations and hilarious attempts at voice acting, please do so as soon as possible.
20 Dirge Of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (2006)
Being fair, expectations are going to instantaneously skyrocket once you attach Final Fantasy VII to a title. Unfortunately, the name alone did very little to cover up the evidence that this was one of Square's first forays into an action-shooter hybridized with its trademark RPG formulas.
In theory, there were ways that this could've worked. While Parasite Eve wasn't one of its flagship achievements, it was still a cult hit and had managed to bend genres in a similar way. Alas, no such magic emerged from the development process. With awkward, thin gameplay mechanics further hampered by astoundingly dumb AI and a surprisingly boring plot to carry it, our favorite Final Fantasy vampire's time in the sun went about as well as you'd expect for a vampire.
19 Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (2012)
Imagine, if you will, SOCOM meeting Resident Evil and producing an adrenaline-fueled masterpiece meeting the perfect middle ground between intense squad-based combat and survival horror.
Now forget the entirety of whatever you just imagined and wipe that grin off your face, because that's not what we got.
This was an admittedly cool idea on paper, but was somehow entirely botched in execution. Incredibly clunky and sluggish while somehow still managing to be too fast paced for a survival horror experience, Raccoon City failed to innovate either of the involved genres in this unfortunate fusion.
18 Medal Of Honor (2010)
Desperate to keep up with the unprecedented successes of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, this is the title that took this classic WW2 series into the modern era of infantry combat.
Though it looks like they should've stuck with what they knew, given the reception.
By the time Medal of Honor was even preparing to jump in to the contemporary military shooter arena, it had been so thoroughly dominated by existing properties and subsequently saturated by titles trying to emulate them that both this release and the one following it fell entirely flat.
17 Alone In The Dark (2008)
While never quite packing the name recognition of titles like Silent Hill or Resident Evil, this series definitely has a history spanning much longer than its survival horror colleagues, with the first game releasing in 1992.
This title popped up seven whole years after the nominal success of 2001's Alone In the Dark: The New Nightmare, and met with pretty poor reception despite selling rather well. Some of the reviews were so bad that developer Atari actually threatened to take them to court over it, which is usually a pretty telling move on the developers' end.
16 Spyro: Enter The Dragonfly (2002)
Everyone's favorite purple fire-breather really had a good run through the late nineties with his original trilogy. After that he took a brief hiatus to handhelds before heading back to home consoles with this 2002 release.
It didn't amount to much of a triumphant return, regrettably.
Being the fourth home console entry in the series, fans were expecting some sort of improvement on the formula that had made Spyro great. But what they got was really just a buggy mess of a Spyro game that felt so dated they could've sworn they had already played a better optimized version of it three years past.
15 Bomberman: Act Zero (2006)
Act Zero looks like a really lame attempt to cram some gritty realism into a game that had absolutely no place for it. It turns out that the wild, cartoonish presentation of the series was an innate part of its charm. Gee, who would have thought that?
Apart from the completely unnecessary shift in tone to a gloomy dystopian backdrop that wasn't interesting enough to pay attention to, the game itself really was a repetitive mess. Constantly and consistently reused assets, unreliable collision detection and more are available aplenty in a sort of buffet style sampler of bad design decisions.
14 DOOM 3 (2004)
Take the original DOOM that you know and love, slow it down to a crawl, slap in a few predictable jump scares and a drab, uninspired plot. Oh, now imagine it being so dark that you'll have to switch between your weapon and your flashlight every thirty seconds, because that's spooky and not at all annoying to the tenth degree.
Does that sound like a fun game? Like, at all?
The answer should be "no." Being completely and utterly fair, it isn't the worst first person shooter you could take a jog with. But as a DOOM game, it really just doesn't manage to carry the torch. It just sort of awkwardly fumbles it for a few dozen yards before performing an epic face plant.
13 Mega Man X7 (2003)
Going on a short venture through the Mega Man fandom will reveal that the entirety of the X series is a bit polarizing from the get go. Not by much, but there is some contention. With X7 though, that little gap widens into an impressively vast canyon.
Seeking a "best of both worlds" approach, developer Capcom decided to include both 2D platforming and 3D sections in the game. This was a novel idea, sure, but the split direction just resulted in neither of these modes playing well. The 2D sections felt slow and clunky compared to previous games, with the ill-fitting 3D sections running even slower. The latter was made even more painful with intolerably fixed camera angles, and it just wasn't a good enough gimmick to cover up the lack of polish on this one.
12 Duke Nukem Forever (2011)
Duke Nukem's remarkably sad attempt to reboot itself is perhaps one of the most notoriously over-hyped titles to have ever existed, and as such belongs on this list as a point of utter necessity.
The badly aged and raunchy dad humor, the odd, "modern shooter mad libs" style gameplay direction and very definition of development hell led poor Duke into an absolute critical annihilation for his halfhearted 2011 effort to get back into the saddle. Asking what this game did wrong would make this entry an insurmountable wall of text. Asking what it did right would leave me with a blank page.
11 Turok (2008)
Turok stands toe to toe with GoldenEye in terms of showing us what the N64 could do with the FPS genre, having produced a great many fond memories of friends gathered around one of Nintendo's greatest consoles for some multiplayer mayhem. But the two games have something else in common - abysmal attempts to recreate the magic of their original successes.
This attempted reboot bogged down our favorite dinosaur-blasting shoot 'em up with bland, uninteresting combat and way more QTE's than you should ever be comfortable with in a shooter.
10 Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness (2003)
Tomb Raider has a pretty heavy reputation to uphold, as for many '90s kids it is the definitive title that got them to take up gaming as a serious hobby. But as with most iconic gaming franchises, it was just a matter of time before the foundation started showing some cracks.
For Lara Croft it was The Angel of Darkness, her first appearance on the PS2. It drew fire for a number of incredibly valid reasons, including the "darker" though somehow threadbare plot and overall narrative direction. I mean, did we even see a tomb for the entirety of this one? For most of this we can safely blame the chaotic and disjointed development process, and while Tomb Raider would remain a contender into the modern era, it still isn't the force of nature that it used to be.
9 Metroid: Other M (2010)
Commercially, this entry into the Metroid series seemed to do pretty well. But when you dig into the fan community's side of the story, things aren't nearly as rosy. Other M is largely derided as the weakest in the series.
While the gameplay and mechanics themselves are certainly nothing to write home about, the most common complaint is with the handling of the plot and Samus' comparatively weak portrayal as the game sought to paint her in a more "humanized" light. Regardless of intent, transforming the strong and silent lady mercenary into soap opera fodder didn't go over well.
8 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (2015)
Pro Skater 2 is widely hailed as a completely necessary piece of '90s kid nostalgia. Chances are, if you owned a PlayStation then you played it at some point in time. And it would more or less continue the trend for many years to come.
Until the year 2015, that is, when the fifth core title in the franchise released to a brutal round of critical panning. Everything from the multitude of technical faults to the unimpressive graphical fidelity was taken to task without quarter. Entertainment Weekly event went so far as to label this title the worst game of 2015.
7 Castlevania (1999)
This was the very first of the Castlevania series to come to life in full, luscious, explosive and lifelike 3D graphics! Just about as far as any of those things will go with a Nintendo 64 game, anyway.
Or not at all, honestly. This was certainly one ugly looking game, wasn't it?
And the gameplay absolutely did not make up for it, not for an inch. It was definitely apparent that this was a series first for 3D environments, with control and camera frustrations frequently cited as definitive buzzkills.
6 Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath Of Cortex (2001)
Old Crash has had a little bit of a resurgence in popularity somewhat recently, so it only seems appropriate to nitpick my way through his past and drag out some embarrassing baby pictures. The Wrath of Cortex will suit this purpose just fine.
This 2001 release for the wacky platforming star fell thoroughly below the average set by his previous outings, with frequent criticisms leveled at the extreme overabundance of vehicular driving sections. The sheer volume of them got in the way of what could've been a pretty decent platforming game, so long as you could get over the nearly eternal loading screens that punctuated every level.
5 Bubsy 3D (1996)
Bubsy had a promising start at a time when platforming was already producing its best, and for a few shining moments he really seemed poised to stand on equal footing with genre legends like Mario and Sonic, becoming a sort of branding mascot in his own right.
But then Bubsy 3D happened, and like a young adult Disney star transitioning to Hollywood, Bubsy developed a lot of bad habits and absolutely demolished his career. His leap into the third dimension included a baffling decision to go with tank controls for a platformer, along with poor visual quality and voice acting we probably could have gone the rest of our lives without listening to.
4 Silent Hill: Homecoming (2008)
Silent Hill is a definitive genre benchmark for survival horror, branching off into a more subtle and cerebral avenue than its distant cousin, Resident Evil. This distinction was more or less forgotten for 2008's Homecoming, making for a legion of disappointed fans.
As opposed to the accessible, untrained and purposefully vulnerable protagonists that Silent Hill is known for, we enter the shoes of former soldier-man Alex for an action-forward approach that forsakes several of the series' hallmarks for tacti-cool acrobatics, blazing guns and explosions that would fit better into a recent Resident Evil release, which sort of robs the whole "survival" part from survival horror. Actually, it sort of does away with the "horror" bit in the process too, doesn't it?
3 Donkey Konga (2003)
Rhythm games never really were my cup of tea, though I could understand the draw behind games like Guitar Hero. But did Donkey Kong really need its own equivalent to keep up with the times? Because the base games seemed to be doing just fine.
The game seems more like an attempt to cash in on a gimmick than anything else, featuring a limited selection of tracks and a custom bongo drum controller that would continuously litter thrift store shelves for a solid decade. Honestly, just save yourself some frustration, listen to the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack and play air drums.
2 Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)
Banjo Kazooie is another golden era platforming series that's sure to stir up the warm and fuzzies lurking behind your age-hardened heart, something that developer Rare was probably well aware of and banking on when this effort to reinvigorate the series went to the drawing board.
The first thing they seemed to do wrong was... to not develop a platformer? Yeah, I guess that one would be pretty obvious. Instead, they put out a sort of open world game that was about tediously designing a bunch of custom vehicles that controlled very poorly on a bad physics engine. So that's fun. At this point, we haven't heard from the franchise since, and it's been eleven years.
1 Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures (1994)
Yes, I know Pac-Man came out in the '80s. But it hit almost every console released in the '90s in one way or another. Pac-Man is ubiquitous. You don't escape Pac-Man. Anyway, you know what this guy is up to, right? Running away from the ghosts, eating the dots, or pellets, or whatever. And that's what we love about him. He' predictable, simple.
What he's definitely not doing is settling down in suburbia and forcing you to guide him through a frustratingly unresponsive point-and-click adventure armed with a slingshot and the patience of a saint, right? Well, think again! Welcome to The New Adventures, where you'll indirectly aid Pac-Man in such endeavors as checking the mail, acquiring milk, and... that's about as far as I got before giving up. It isn't fun. We'll leave it there.