New entries in a long-running series come with a number of expectations. Players generally tend to expect similar aesthetics and mechanics similar to those in previous games. Yet sometimes, developers like to fiddle around with our expectations and deliver something new and different. Sometimes, like with Wind Waker, the end result is magnificent. Other times, they’re totally botched, like 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog.
On the fringe of all these mismatched expectations is a third group. These are games that are decent, good, or possibly even great in their own regard, but they have no place in the franchise they were inserted into. Often these kinds of games are subject to heavy backlash from fans of the series, but I believe that they offer something intriguing and new to potentially stagnant franchises. So go ahead and plant your tush, because I’m about to list five good games that were utterly misplaced.
If you were to trace a line between all the Castlevania games, you’d find a pretty clean evolutionary slope. The first game was linear, the second was a little too exploration-heavy, and everything after that more or less worked towards finding a nice middle-ground between linear storytelling and Metroid-style exploration.
However, if you follow that evolutionary line far enough, it will eventually do a complete loop-de-loop and zig-zag around a bit. This is where Lords of Shadow enters the picture. LoS abandons the typical “Metroidvania” roots of the franchise and goes a bit more Hollywood, featuring larger-than-life monsters, God of War hack-n-slash mechanics, and more bloom effect than you can shake a stick at. The end result is a game that technically functions well, but feels nothing like a Castlevania game in either its gameplay or presentation.
Due to the popularity of crime sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto, it’s no surprise that there would be a series of games based on the Japanese Yakuza. What doesn’t make sense, however, is why one of the games in this series features a zombie apocalypse scenario.
Dead Souls takes the Yakuza franchise, known for its deep beat-em-up gameplay and relative lack of guns, and tosses in zombies with third-person shooter mechanics. Believe me, there really isn’t any angle at which you can see why it was made. Don’t get me wrong though—I’m glad it was.
As a third-person shooter, it’s a tad clunky. The missions also don’t have much variety to them. But if you’re familiar with the setting and the characters, it’s absolutely a blast. While you’re playing, it’s impossible to grasp that this is the same series that handles deep concepts of succession and rivalry, but it’s hard to care when Kazuya Kiryu is blasting zombies’ heads off in a playground with a sniper rifle.
To this day, I still contest that Kirby’s Epic Yarn is an excellent game, but I have friends who disagree with me, and I can kind of see where they’re coming from. The game took an iconic character and basically removed the parts that made him iconic to begin with. Kirby’s super-inhalation abilities and floating prowess are all gone.
I defend this design choice under the stipulation that the game be considered a spin-off. Although, even I have to admit, the most successful spin-offs retain certain aspects from the original game. Mario’s RPG games retain his super jump; Samurai Warriors is pretty similar to Dynasty Warriors in design and execution. The only things Epic Yarn shares with its parent series are its characters and the simple fact that they are both, technically, platformers (though vastly different).
Still, it’s a great game on its own. It’s “cutesy,” maybe a little too cutesy for certain gamers, but the controls are solid and the level design is great. I just have a feeling that the upcoming Yoshi’s Epic Yarn is going to be a better fit.
Banjo-Tooie is one of my favorite games of all time. It reached a plateau of platforming perfection that has only truly been contested by the recent 3D Mario games. The interconnected world design, the self-referential-but-not-over-the-top humor, the whimsical approach; it all made for a fugue of excellence that could only be bested by Banjo-Threeie.
Instead we got Nuts & Bolts, which, if this was a list of top 5 gaming disappointments, would most certainly be numero uno. Gone are the clever platforming challenges that require quick thinking and dexterity. Gone are the levels brimming with life. Gone is the cohesive, interesting overworld. No… instead of all that, we were given a vehicle-building sim.
To be fair, it’s a pretty good one. There’s a decent sense of discovery to be had when you finally figure out the right way to balance wheels and machine parts. Speeding across the sprawling levels shows off some gorgeous landscapes—if only they were more populated. And the script, while far too self-referential, is still hilarious. But it’s just not the Banjo-Kazooie I know and love, so on the list it goes.
Star Fox Adventures is the metaphorical mixed bag of gaming. On one hand, it’s got beautiful scenery, ambient music, colorful characters, fast-paced progression, and a story that has you guessing until the very end. On the other hand, it has some of the worst voice acting to disgrace the planet, a pathetically easy combat system, and a plot twist at the end that negates all excitement you may have had for the climax.
But moreover, the game is just not Star Fox, almost literally—this was never intended to be a Star Fox game. It was slated to be Dinosaur Planet, until Nintendo “urged” Rare to change the license. If Nintendo hadn’t interfered, the game might not have suffered from such blatant case of mistaken identity. It’s possible that the main character, who was originally named Sabre, could have become popular enough to turn Dinosaur Planet into a new IP for Nintendo to draw from. Unfortunately, Nintendo did have to step in, and even though it led to a very confusing game, I still have to admit that the core gameplay is enjoyable.
So what do you think? Are there any games you like that you think were tossed into the wrong series? Leave a comment below!