5 Video Game Sequels That Didn’t Meet Expectations
What makes a particular gaming experience great is how it’s delivered to you, not just what ingredients you have stirring in the pot. There’s a reason why big ensemble Hollywood films can flop, it’s not just about the star power or the money being pumped in, it’s about the quality and precision of the choices that either succeed or fail to capture genuine emotions of excitement and curiosity.
Every musician should know that simply having a bunch of instruments or jam-mates won’t necessarily make you the next Pink Floyd. It’s more than just elements, it’s how it all comes together into one functioning piece. So when you have a game that’s had a successful predecessor, a big budget, a lot of production time, or what’s worse, more hype than tangible examples, a derailed sequel can leave players and fans disappointed or jaded.
What seems to happen a lot is that publishers, just like movie studios and record labels, are looking for clearly packaged and marketable products, hoping to turn them into easily sold franchises. It’s perfectly fine to be concerned with money or satisfying fans’ desires on a broad scale, but when the project loses sight of the true motivations for gamers wanting to play a game, you set yourself up for either mediocrity or failure, both creatively and financially.
The more you try to make your fans happy, the less happy you’ll make them, because you’ll be more likely to try to recreate what they liked before in a superficial sense rather than taking the underlying material and evolving it. The games on this list aren’t necessarily bad games but ones that simply did not meet expectations in a variety of ways, leaving fans and critics dumbfounded.
1. Duke Nukem Forever
We all should have known that a game that’s been in and out of development for over fifteen years would not exactly be up to par with modern games. Nevertheless, fans of the game’s predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, picked up the sequel only to be rewarded with a lukewarm bowl of soup, likely with Mr. Nukem’s urine in it. Duke’s crude and crass sense of humor is one of the more prevalent features of the game, having you do everything from ogling women to throwing feces. The misogynistic and scatological jokes are given an expectedly juvenile delivery, so Duke is more likely to make you roll your eyes than get out your pitch fork over an offense. This is a game trying to shock you with humor.
What really made Duke Nukem Forever suffer was that it didn’t meet many modern day standards for what makes a good FPS game. The low resolution textures were bland and the visuals overall were ugly. You’re forced to play mini-games, follow very linear paths, engage in races and turret sections, as well as wait lengthy periods for load times. What’s left is a game that lacks the Nuke in Duke Nukem. The surprisingly lackluster and unsatisfying action falls flat in a game that should be all about the carnage. Throw in some frustrating controls and physics, and you have a recipe for a disappointing sequel.
Gamers tend to hype games, especially when they’re based on iconic characters or franchises. The longer they go unfinished or unreleased, the more fans’ imaginations and hopes expand in light of the games that do continue to come out during its development. Duke Nukem Forever is a perfect example of how the long hibernation a studio can go into while designing a game creates a media blackout which allows for the studio to not have to prove its creative worth.
So when the time did actually come to release the game, fans and critics alike could quickly discern that Duke Nukem Forever was a game desperately trying to keep up with the evolution of modern gaming. Considering what the video above has to say about the cultural and marketing influences at the time of the original and sequel, perhaps it proves how this should have been scrapped to begin with.
2. Ninja Gaiden 3
Ninja Gaiden is an established franchise with an insanely difficult ninja experience. The characters, plot, and universe are fantastical and mostly poorly written, but it ends up not mattering as the intense enemies and boss battles engage your anxieties. Ninja Gaiden‘s formula sort of plays out like this: monsters, soldiers, die, repeat. The story is more about your personal experience with failure time and time again, instead of it being a traditional narrative. The experience is about the suffering and how you manage to get through it, much like Dark Souls.
It seems counter-intuitive then to lower the difficulty, limit brutality, reduce enemy variation, simplify gameplay, and pander to casual gamers in a franchise whose fanbase is mostly made up of hardcore gamers who like a good fight. Since the storytelling isn’t a strong point in any of the games, it’s also curious that developer Team Ninja decided to amp up the soap opera style story and dialogue. We should be cringing at the bloody gore not the delivery of horrible lines.
With a more streamlined approach to the game overall, players will find themselves doing more button mashing as opposed to expertly slicing apart foes with memorized combos. The hyperactive camera and QTEs do well to make it look like you’re a badass, but in reality you’re just mashing X. Though Team Ninja did later release Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge to help mitigate some of the problems, Ninja Gaiden 3 still represents a let down in many ways for longtime fans of the series.
3. Battlefield Hardline
Battlefield Hardline is a sequel in the Battlefield series that probably should have just been a game of its own. Hardline attempted, like all Battlefields, to create an enthralling single player experience, playing as a cop in a thriller style story. Yet again, like all Battlefields, the story in no way lives up to the quality and potential of its multiplayer counterpart. Each character, plot point, and level choice by the developers clearly only exists to accommodate the blockbuster checklist attached to the story.
There’s a weird dichotomy in Hardline‘s attempt to do a serious cop drama while also attempting to pull off true Battlefield style engagements or sequences. This makes the game feel like you’re playing two games at once: one part street cop, one part super soldier. Like most Battlefield campaigns, the problem lies in the lack of narrative direction, where everything is attached to some world-ending plot that’s convoluted or, in Hardline‘s case, an uninspired corruption scandal. Drugs or bombs, criminals or terrorists — it’s all handled in the same predictable way.
The multiplayer is where Hardline should have shined with its cops versus robbers concept, but simply didn’t. There are so many glaring issues with spawn points, weapon balance, weapon range, boring maps, and ineffective game modes, that the game barely plays like a recognizable Battlefield title. There’s no sense of danger zones or limitations as to where you can go, removing any sense of fear of exploration from your team.
The pace online has been so increased that any semblance of tactics or teamwork mostly go ignored due simply to the fact that you don’t need strategy when you can quickly sprint or drive across the map. This makes for a faster and more “fun” experience online, but if you were looking for the same style of team play most Battlefields enjoy, you’d be literally dead wrong because somebody already shot you in the back when you spawned.
4. Super Mario Bros. 2
This one’s more fascinating than frustrating for fans. Super Mario Bros. 2 wasn’t exactly a bad game or one that failed to function properly, but one that was so different from its predecessor that it left players wondering what happened. The video above by Gaming Historian does a fantastic job explaining how the version of Super Mario Bros. 2 we know in North America was converted from a different game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic or Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic.
The real Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan was much like the original Super Mario Bros., with the same art style but a much harder difficulty. Concerned over the visual similarity and difficulty of the Japanese sequel, the game was never released to the American public. Later on, the Japanese Mario clone called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic was made with four Arabic characters comprising the group called the “Dream Factory Family,” named after the Japanese festival “The Dream Factory” the game was made for. After that it was decided that Doki Doki could work perfectly as the much needed sequel for Super Mario Bros. in the states, and the version of Super Mario Bros. 2 as we know it in America was born or, in this case, converted.
What threw Americans off was how different the enemies, mechanics, and environments were from the traditional castles and pipes everyone was so familiar with. It wasn’t that it was bad, it just was jarring in how different it looked despite it functioning more or less the same. However, one could gripe about the omission of a save system for Super Mario Bros. 2 in the states, as its Japanese counterpart Doki Doki had a save system, making it easier to play the game in sprints not marathons.
Yes, this is not a direct sequel, but in a way, Destiny is the spiritual successor to Halo, especially considering that studio Bungie has created every Halo game up to Reach. Bungie utilizes a lot of the same elements in both franchises, from armored super soldiers and vehicular warfare, to a similar art style and grand story concept. The Halo-esque gameplay lends itself nicely to Destiny, making all the same jumps, explosions, and powerful abilities just as smooth for the Destiny universe.
Destiny essentially is like a Halo game with all the key content removed that helps make a game distinct. For example, try to imagine a Halo game’s online and story components without any of the key information, details, and personality. Take out the Master Chief, Cortana, Sergeant Johnson, the Human-Covenant war, the extensive backstory, and the unique level geography, and you have Destiny’s bland, vague, and undefined story and landscape. Take out the dynamic map designs that can benefit a variety of tactics and strategies, and you have the often small, basic, and unchallenging maps in Destiny’s competitive modes. In lacking so many defining features, Destiny comes across like a Halo reskin with the hope of completing itself through DLC.
Destiny is one of few games where saying the game has “no story” takes on a literal meaning. Besides some very basic concepts being presented in the form of planets, races, enemies, and technology, there’s really not much more information on any of the questions that can be raised throughout the game. The Speaker, presumably the wisest and most able to inform you, even goes so far as basically saying, “I could tell you about before all this, I could tell you what you want to know, but I won’t, because I’m the Speaker, and I, like the rest of the game, have no soul.” Basically.
Destiny also suffers from poor level design that requires repeating uniformly monotonous missions. If Destiny is truly different than Halo in any significant way, it’s how the experience is more focused on the grinding you’re forced to do for a chance at maybe, at some point, getting the gear you want. Whether the levels you traverse are the larger hub areas on each planet or the narrower branches off the beaten path, the game just doesn’t allow you to roam or explore. Everything feels like you’re stuck on a perpetual unending race track, which you basically are. Destiny is much less an open-world role-playing game and more an open-world action lottery under the guise of an RPG.
What makes all these flaws in Destiny dissatisfying is that Bungie’s next iteration of its colorful sci-fi action-packed style lacks any sense of the scope, relevance, and personal nature the game was purporting to showcase before the game’s release. Players were expecting something to get lost in just like those who enjoy MMOs or one of Bethesda’s franchises like Fallout or The Elder Scrolls. What they got was a broad and shallow framework for a game, with those other elements simply not present in Destiny.
You may even cite how, according to Kotaku, much of the story was cut from the game before release, but even if the story was there, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the game is missing so much more in all its other areas too. Destiny looks, feels, and functions like a Halo game, but has none of the sense of cinematic presence, epic story, relatable characters, or interesting enemies. What you’re left with as a player is to build your sci-fi superhero only to find that there is no cause to fight for or world worth saving.