Microsoft has stated that after a… muddled introduction to the Xbox One that E3 would be all about the games, and that we would see fifteen “new” franchises. We know at least a few of them are going to be established hits, and a few will involve jazz hands in front of the Kinect, but Microsoft owns several studios, and dozens of franchises. Here are a few they should bring back.
Last Seen: 1996, with Killer Instinct 2.
Why We Want It Back: Because of all the great fighting game franchises, this is the only one that never really got a fair shot. Killer Instinct arrived right before the moment that home gaming systems could really offer the arcade experience. Worse, thanks to the complicated relationship between Nintendo and Rare, we’ve never seen the game ported to any modern home console, and arcade cabinets are rare to find, especially ones edging twenty years old.
Furthermore, Microsoft has no fighting game franchise, and with modern ideas about fighting games worked into it, Killer Instinct could be a platform exclusive that pulls off the rare feat of selling consoles.
Age Of Empires
Last Seen: In 2011, with Age Of Empires Online, a free-to-play game.
Why We Want It Back: Age Of Empires is the real-time strategy game for people who hate real-time strategy games. The franchise has been defined by sitting down, looking at what frustrates casual players, and tweaking it so that the game itself is simple to understand and play, while offering real depth for hardcore RTS fans. The overall result is a bit like digital crack.
Furthermore, X-COM: Enemy Unknown has shown there’s a real hunger for RTS games among console gamers; Firaxis and 2K were pleasantly surprised by how many console units were snapped up. An Age of Empires spin-off for the Xbox One, or even better a true sequel, would have fans buy the console, and introduce a whole swath of gamers to a great franchise.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Last Seen: Technically speaking, in 2012, with Microsoft Flight, a watered-down user-friendly version of the game. The last “real” game in the franchise arrived in 2009.
Why We Want It Back: Every gamer remembers taking off, and usually crashing into the ground and killing all their passengers, with Flight Simulator. Playing that game and failing miserably at it was, for a long time, a rite of passage among PC gamers.
But more than that, Flight Simulator is the wellspring from which all sim games really take their name. The rigorous dedication to accuracy presents gamers with a very different challenge. It’s odd how engaging and addictive flying a large, heavy object thousands of miles and landing it correctly can be. This franchise is a part of Microsoft history, and a chance for the Xbox One to show off its graphical power while demonstrating that video games don’t have to be about violence.
Last Seen: In 2006, with MechAssault: Phantom War, a game for… uh… the DS. We’re supposed to be seeing MechWarrior Online in the third quarter of 2013, which is currently in an open beta. But come on… it’s a free-to-play game.
Why We Want It Back: Mechs are as much a part of gaming as jumping on enemy heads and firing infrared light beams at a television screen. And that’s because mech games are fun; they require more forethought than your average FPS due to being, well, giant robots and not turning on a dime, and also give you vastly more firepower since a giant robot has more lifting power. There’s nothing quite like pressing a few buttons and burying your opponent in missiles.
True, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor was an Xbox 360 exclusive and also, unsurprisingly, a critical and commercial disaster. But Hawken is a blast, and even if Microsoft does have to negotiate with Topps for the full rights, it would be a shame if one bad game sunk an entire genre for a company.
Last Seen: In 2001, on the original Xbox.
Why We Want It Back: Because there’s nothing more satisfying than sinking a battleship with a speedboat. And also because it will give Microsoft a chance to right a wrong for the fans.
It’s never been made entirely clear what happened, but for some reason, despite Blood Wake moving millions of copies and being a popular early title for the Xbox, nothing happened with the franchise. Contract negotiations broke down, apparently. And that’s a shame; for all the jokes about it being “Twisted Metal with boats”, the game had its own unique mythology and style, and it played incredibly well, even on that clunky controller. An open-world, high-seas game seems a good fit for both showing off the Xbox One’s graphical capabilities and giving players, you know, something fun to do.
Last Seen: 1994, with an arcade cabinet.
Why We Want It Back: Battletoads is possibly the brawler franchise that got away. Everybody who played video games in the ’90s played Battletoads, and Battletoads kicked their asses. It’s a goofy, visually cartoony game, but the graphics belied an absolutely brutal challenge.
And that’s a big part of the appeal. A Battletoads game doesn’t have to be a $100 million console spectacular that uses every bit of the graphical power of the Xbox One to render Zitz, Rash, and Pimple turning their fists into anvils. It can be a downloadable game aimed squarely at the hardcore fans with the classic 2D gameplay and tooth-grinding difficulty. Rare isn’t let off the leash much anymore, and this would be a great way to please fans without having to spend a fortune.
Last Seen: 2010, with Crackdown 2
Why We Want It Back: It’s an open-world third-person shooter where you have superpowers. True, that’s rapidly becoming a crowded genre: The inFamous franchise, the two Prototype games, and Saints Row IV are all examples of the form. But so what? The only thing that kept the second game from being successful was the fact that it was the first one all over again. With the right team behind it, and some willingness to innovate beyond just being Grand Theft Auto With Superpowers, Microsoft could have us all collecting orbs again in a heartbeat.
Last Seen: 2008, with the original game.
Why We Want It Back: Life is hard for RPG fans on home consoles in the first place, so Lost Odyssey was a welcome title. The problem is that the game didn’t do what Microsoft expected it to do… namely, sell lots of Xbox 360s in Japan.
That’s hardly a reflection of the game’s quality, although some were put off by the deliberately old-school combat mechanics. The game itself sold fairly well in the West, and if the franchise is given a little care, it’ll inject some diversity in the Xbox One’s lineup, something we suspect it might need.
Last Seen: 2003, with Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge, and rereleased in 2007.
Why We Want It Back: Two reasons. One, it’s a gleefully pulpy franchise about sky pirates. Pirates in biplanes raiding zeppelins. Second, it was one of the best air combat games on the Xbox, mixing open-world exploration with arcade-style air combat that let you choose to be in the driver’s seat or hand the flying off to the game while you just blew things out the sky during missions.
It was a surprisingly open and smart game, and it seems odd nothing has really been done with the franchise since.
Last Seen: On the original Xbox, in 2002.
Why We Want It Back: Essentially this game was dodgeball with a cartoon sensibility, and a bit of an oddity when it was first introduced. Now, of course, we have the Kinect, so games where you fling ridiculous items at each other are now commonplace.
Honestly, it’s fun to rag on the Kinect but done correctly, Kinect games can offer a unique challenge and style. Far too many games just awkwardly shoehorn it in, but here, you’ve got an opportunity to make a Kinect game that’s something more than just, well, this:
Any other franchises you’d like to see return?