Rebooting anything can be a tricky, tricky business for even the most experienced developer. There are so many things to take into account. Is it going to be a full on reboot or more of a sequel series? How much can you change without it being too different? What can you do to keep the fans happy while also making the game feel more like your own? All these and more go into the development process with new games. While there have been some pretty successful examples of this, a lot of developers have failed – sometimes inexplicably as they’ve brought down beloved franchises like it was nothing.
Instead of focusing on how to do it right, let’s instead look at what they do wrong. Most developers fail to capture that initial spark that made the original so great. It might just sound like rambling and nostalgia, but when you’re making a reboot, you’ve got to understand that you’ve already got a focused market for your game. You just need to appeal to them in a way that sticks to what they know while offering them something that they can genuinely be excited about. It’s easier said than done and that’s why so many turn out to be as subpar as they are. Here are the top 15 game reboots that ruined their franchises.
SimCity is the undisputed king of city builders. No matter how you look at it, the series has become so popular that even those who aren’t that interested in those types of games have at least some knowledge on how it works. The quirky nature of Sims games is one of their main selling points and it’s what most people think of when the series comes to mind. While SimCity 4 was the best the series had to offer, EA’s 2013 follow-up didn’t earn nearly as much praise. They promised multiplayer and region-wide gameplay, which excited most fans and looked to be a promising addition to the series. But the always online feature created a number of technical problems that affected gameplay and the player’s ability to enter the game. The problem was eventually fixed, but took several weeks and by then the damage had already been done.
This next one’s a bit of a niche franchise that hasn’t really been all too relevant in recent years. If you’re wondering why, then you can look no further than this next game on our list. The original Dungeon Keeper games mixed strategy and humor – winning over a dedicated audience. They weren’t perfect, but they were solid games. The series started off with two strong titles before the third installment was cancelled. EA’s decision to revive the franchise was a chance to pull the series out of obscurity. Instead it seems that they only pushed it deeper into the abyss. 2014’s Dungeon Keeper lacked the charm of the originals and bombarded the player with a bevy of micro-transactions – making it less of a game and more of a cash grab.
The N64 will always be known for its family friendly titles and general appeal to a younger demographic. But that doesn’t mean that there was no mature audience for the console. The original Turok served as a departure from the N64’s kid friendly line up and challenged older players with a fun yet absurd first person shooter that was an instant hit among gamers. The game was so successful that it spawned some six sequels over multiple platforms. Not too bad for a game about killing dinosaurs. When these reboots are made, the most common mistake is that the developers either don’t understand what made the game great to begin with or just wanted to make it too much of their own thing. That was the case with Propaganda Games’ Turok, as the over the top weaponry and fun atmosphere of the originals was replaced with a heavier focus on realism and an overall generic shooter.
As you’ll see a few more times on this list, sometimes the worst games end up being reboots of older titles from different generations. Take this for example; a late 80s platformer re-imagined in the late 2000s as more of an action game with some lazily thrown in platformer elements. That’s what you got with 2009’s Bionic Commando. Though still making use of iconic bionic arm and grappling gun, the platformer elements were washed out with heavy action sequences and an unpredictable mess of a story. This didn’t bode well with fans, as the reviews were somewhat mixed. All in all, the game failed for one major reason; it didn’t sell well enough. Capcom had to count it as a financial failure and the franchise essentially fizzled out for good.
Stealth games are a tricky genre to handle. Your fan base, if very passionate and incredibly knowledgeable on what constitutes a good stealth title, are very vocal about certain titles they feel might not reach up to the standard. One area where this can get really rough for developers is with remakes and sequels. A series dropping in quality as the years go by is one thing; it’s actually expected to happen at some point in time. But taking a beloved series and botching the reboot is a tough pill to swallow. The first Thief game came out back in 1998 and set the precedent for what stealth games should look like. Rebooting the series would be tricky and evidently wasn’t all too big of a success. A sequel could pop out eventually, but putting out a mediocre title isn’t the best way to get that to happen.
If you’re a fan of war themed shooters, then you’ve probably either played or at least heard of the Medal of Honor series. The first Medal of Honor came out during the PS2 era and helped create a lot of the buzz surrounding World War 2 shooters at the time. However, over time, Call of Duty picked up a ton of steam and completely overwhelmed the series. So, the series was due for a bit of makeover. This isn’t exactly the wrong way to go about it, as sometimes a change – if properly executed – can be a good thing. Sadly this was not the case. The new modernized Medal of Honor was an incomplete broken game that lacked originality and copied too much of the franchise it was trying to overtake. Fans didn't care about it, critics didn’t care for it much either and the game significantly damaged the franchise which looks to be done after the unsuccessful wreck that was Warfighter.
The original Frogger was an incredibly simple, yet overly addictive game that could draw you in for hours at a time with just a few simple commands at your disposal. It was a classic that helped define the arcade generation and still serves as a classic by today’s standards. Games like this that offer such simple yet entertaining gameplay are often perfect as they are. But there are always some people that want to see if they can improve on an already great product. For fans of the franchise, the answer to this was no. The 1997 reboot saw janky controls making Frogger tough to handle at points along with uninspired level designs. In hindsight, the whole thing seemed like an ill advised cash grab that failed from the get go.
So here we’ve got another great N64 title that saw its success on later platforms dwindle as the series looked to reach a new generation of gamers. The original Perfect Dark was another N64 title that was aimed towards an older audience and provided the console with some diversity in its library. It was kind of like a GoldenEye sequel in the way that it played, which made it an instant hit among fans. Initially supposed to come out as a GameCube title, Perfect Dark Zero ended up coming out on the Xbox 360 and thus the steady stream of disappointments would begin. The game did not live up to the hype, as the level design was kind of bland and the action stale. The multiplayer, while being decent, did nothing to make up for the ultimately disappointing title.
Though not a reboot in the sense that 2013's Tomb Raider was, Angel of Darkness saw the series try to separate itself from its predecessors by going off in a completely different and darker direction. It failed spectacularly. The Tomb Raider formula was beginning to get stale. So to circumvent this, Edios Interactive tasked Core Design with bringing the series over to the next generation of consoles, essentially rebooting it altogether. The game was a drastic shift from what fans were used to, as it focused more on interacting with others and multiple moral choices rather than the usual routine. Which is what Edios wanted, a departure from the same old same old – and they got it, though it failed to bear fruit.
Ok so this one isn’t technically a reboot so much as it’s a “re-imagining” of the iconic Space Invaders games. But the first and only real question that arises there is, why? Why bother with it? It’s still a fun game believe it or not. Not $70 fun, but fun enough that gamers of all ages can appreciate it even today. But some people need to learn the hard way. To be honest, re-imagining a game gives you way more leeway than actually rebooting it because you can actually make the game more your own. But it was inevitable that Space Raiders and Space Invaders would draw comparisons. What you got were poor graphics, boring level design, repetitive gameplay and an overall terrible third-person shooter.
This next one is based off of one of the oldest games on our list, though not many may have heard of either of these titles. The original Shadowrun was something of a niche title that landed on the SNES back in 1993. The game mixed typical RPG elements with the strategy of table top games. After some sequels and a long time away, fans who’d been pushing for a new entry to the series would have their prayers answered. Or so they thought they did. All they really got was a mediocre game that failed to deliver on all fronts. The game devolved into a first person online shooter, so fans of the originals were completely turned off and it wasn’t long until the game was deemed a commercial failure. It took six years for an actual competent sequel to revive the franchise.
Some things get better with age and it’s after a long time away that we really grow to appreciate certain things in life. Sadly, Duke Nukem isn’t one of those things. After an incredibly successful run in the 90s, the Duke Nukem games disappeared completely. The raunchy comedy and over the top gameplay was great at the time. But as games transitioned into more three dimensional settings, the series was left behind. Forever was never going to be a success and it was painfully obvious to see that even before the game came out that it was doomed. Any game that takes fifteen years to make and goes through that many different changes isn’t going to be a great final product. It was good for some laughs and served as a window to a different era in gaming, but ultimately fell short of its goal. Ironically it’s the lone attempt to revive the series from the dead that served as its final knife in the back.
Speaking of raunchy comedic games, Conker was the king of all things weird and unsettling back in the 90s. The deceptively adorable anthropomorphic squirrel had a dirty mouth and a bad attitude as Conker’s Bad Fur Day still stands as one of the funniest games out there – let alone for the N64. Sadly for fans of the game, Microsoft doesn’t have that great of a history with rebooting N64 titles. Live and Reloaded was supposed to give players much of what Bad Fur Day did on the N64. But surprisingly, Microsoft was way harsher in regards to censorship than Nintendo ever was. This caused a good deal of the game’s content to either get cut or so heavily censored that it didn’t feel like a fluid game anymore. The game was quickly forgotten by most and stands as one of gaming’s biggest “what could have been” titles.
Sometimes, developers just completely miss the point when it comes to remaking games. That would certainly be the case with Bomberman: Act Zero. While it’s completely reasonable to want to make certain parts of a game your own, there are things about the original that need to be respected if you want it to be well received among fans. Too drastic a change rarely bodes well with purists in the gaming community. Add in some weak gameplay and you’ve got the mess that was Bomberman: Act Zero. The cartoony designs were replaced with gritty realism and a totally unfitting tone for the game. The entire game ended up being one dull level on repeat.
This is hands down one of gaming’s biggest failures and SEGA really screwed the pooch with this one on so many levels. It might just be that Sonic games fare better as 2D platformers and don’t have much that they can offer as 3D games. This notion first started to creep into everyone’s heads thanks to this game right here. 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog was a miserable excuse of a game – especially a game that was carrying such a storied franchise on its back. The game was a broken mess. It wouldn’t perform, had long loading screens and boring stages that failed to keep gamers interested. Add in the longer than necessary convoluted mess that was the game’s plot, along with a bestiality romance somewhere in the fodder, and you can see why this game damaged the series as much as it did. There’s hope for Sonic yet, it’s been over ten years since this debacle and while people might not forget – they’re probably more inclined to forgive at this point.