Like any popular entertainment medium, a significant portion of the gaming landscape is dominated by popular franchises such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Super Mario. Because videogames require a more serious financial investment from its consumers, with a typical game costing $60 as opposed to a $12 movie ticket, videogame franchises can rarely afford to falter, both creatively and technically. The results are a large number of videogame franchises going strong for decades as a result of quality sequels.
However, while gaming franchises live and die on the quality of their titles, there are several of them that, although wildly popular and highly respected, haven’t seen new entries to their rosters in a very long time. These are often the result of financial disagreements, legal fracases and various other reasons not related to fan demand, and so we’re going to be taking a look at five dormant gaming franchises that absolutely deserve a comeback right the hell now.
There’s no argument about this: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and its two follow ups, Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat, are the greatest open world survival horror shooters ever made, more so with some of the impressive overhaul mods that have been released in the years since their release. These games have everything: appropriately desolate game world, zombies, terrifying mutants, hunger and radiation mechanics, customizable firearms, factions, and freedom for players to tailor their playstyle. It also has some charming NPCs, like that one guy who keeps telling you to “Get out of here, Stalker!!”
As an open world game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. succeeds at the formulaic pitfalls that many other open world games like Far Cry 3 and Watch_Dogs trip into by not holding the player’s hand at any time. There is no fast travel, safehouses are regularly subject to attacks, death is often quick and merciless, and, if you have the right mods, nighttime makes it impossible for you to tell if your computer monitor is on or off.
Following Call of Pripyat’s release in 2009, there hasn’t been a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game since then. The closest we’ve gotten is 4A Games’ Metro series, which captures the atmosphere and survival gameplay of the beloved series, but not its open world. Additionally, the mysterious West Games, which claims to have ex-S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers, attempted to revive the series through their Kickstarter funded Areal. It was deleted by Kickstarter over growing suspicions that the developers were running a scam.
In spite of this, there is some hope for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. after all, as original developer GSC Game World recently announced their reformation and a new project, and 4A Games also announced that they were working on a “sandbox-style-experience.” Could we possibly see two S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-styled games of different flavors in the future?
The very first time I heard Joe Musashi let out his fearsome battle cry when activating his ninjitsu magic in the 1989 classic, Revenge of Shinobi, I immediately fell in love with the character and the Shinobi series. Shinobi was and still is the greatest videogame ninja ever conceived, and its unacceptable that his last game was in 1993. What I loved so much about the Shinobi games is that they would often begin in rural Japanese settings in which you had to battle through ninjas, samurais and the like. However, as the game progressed, the settings and enemies would become more modern, with Return of the Ninja Master in particular having players fight a giant alien mutant.
The best Shinobi game in my book however, is 1990’s Shadow Dancer, which took the Shinobi to a highly urban environment and permeated its atmosphere with a gritty 80s vibe. It also boasted an absolutely thumping soundtrack, slick sound effects, brutal one-hit death gameplay, and most critically, an an attack dog companion that would follow you throughout the entire game.
Shinobi is the very definition of a classic 16-bit game that still holds up today, both in its aesthetics and gameplay. Sega put out a pair of Shinobi games in the early 2000s for the PlayStation 2, but these were Shinobi in name only, as both games featured neither Joe Musashi nor the series’s classic side scrolling gameplay. As Double Helix’s recent Strider remake has shown, there are plenty of players who can appreciate old school gameplay with modern production values, and with that said it really is time for Shinobi to make a comeback.