Game franchises come and go, as do themes, environments and other flavours of the week, month or year.
But sometimes, entire genres fade into obscurity as the gaming world simply loses interest. This is my list of genres that I think are overdue for a return to the spotlight.
Check out mine, and then let me know in the comments what you’d like to see more of.
It’s not that these don’t exist, it’s more that no one really gives a toss anymore. Nowadays it’s basically Starcraft 2, and even that is struggling to establish itself as a proper e-sport. You can find it on the Twitch page somewhere between a random Russian RPG and My Little Pony.
It’s a damned shame considering online multiplayer is more accessible now that it’s ever been.
A couple of decades ago RTS games were king – between Age of Empires and Command and Conquer and the original Starcraft, sending armies of tiny men to attack each other was just about the most fun you could have on a computer.
I think that may be part of the problem, too – these games were booming in a time when the PC was king, but they’re a tougher sell now since they’re essentially unplayable on consoles. The C&C franchise fell off a cliff, the third instalment of Age of Empires got the consumer equivalent of a slow clap and the only thing to lose popularity faster than Starcraft is Bill Cosby.
Chance of a comeback: Poor. Haven’t seen the masses get excited by an RTS in quite some time, honestly.
The point-and-click adventure game
What the hell happened to these, anyway? Now I get that the text-based versions couldn’t last long (even though I’d totally play one of those), but what happened to the likes of Monkey Island?
Yes we have the Telltale Games and they’re very good and all that, but it’s just not the same. I want puzzles that force me into an internal struggle against looking at a walkthrough, I want to have to look at every picture frame and open every cupboard looking for clues or valuable items. There’s something special about the brutal difficulty of those old-school adventure titles that gives a masochistic pleasure you won’t find in Mr Grey’s slave-dungeon.
Chance of a comeback: Supposedly we’ll be getting a new King’s Quest one of these days, so maybe that will reinvigorate the franchise. Except the cynic in me thinks it’s going to be some kind of watered-down garbage that’s about as challenging as Barbie’s Island Adventure (which, to be fair, is not without it’s share of difficult missions).
The arena shooter
What the hell happened to these? Any FPS player worth their salt used to test their skills in Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament (and, for the fancy, Painkiller); now it’s just a pack of noobs spraying each other with SMGs in Call of Duty or hanging out the bottom of helicopters in Battlefield.
Even Quake Live went through that abominable transformation where it essentially tried to compete with Call of Duty, which was kind of the most terrible event in all of gaming history. It’d be like Michael Bay trying his hand at a romantic comedy.
Do people really care about those crappy six-hour single-player campaigns enough to make these not viable?
It may be again because arena shooters don’t really play that great on consoles (at least, I assume so, I can’t imagine trying to rocket jump and rail with a controller), but where I think a game like this could really shine is with the free-to-play model.
Chance of a comeback: Perhaps that new Unreal Tournament that’s in the works will answer all my prayers, but I suspect that might be an isolated release rather than a trendsetter.
I think I’ve finally reached that point. WW1/WW2/Vietnam War were essentially the only military FPS environments available, until Modern Warfare came along and changed everything.
Now I think we’ve come back around full circle – I would trade in all my heartbeat sensors, nukes, exosuits and fully automatic shotguns for that dirty clanking sound as I slide another bullet into the chamber of my bolt-action rifle.
It would be nice if we could actually have a balance, instead of having one general theme stuffed repeatedly down our throats until that once-gourmet meal starts to taste like a turd sandwich.
Chance of a comeback: I’m guessing “Black Ops 3” isn’t going to take place in the trenches, so I’m going to go with “crappy” for now.
The creepy occult, the nonsensical and the generally unexpected
This isn’t a genre so much as a general theme. Still, I wanted to bring it up because I have a deep nostalgia for it – or perhaps I just ran out of viable options for a list of five, you decide.
Anyways, what I’m trying to get at is that back in the day a lot of the games you played (mostly FPS) had this kind of creepy, occult undertone to them. These weren’t strictly horror titles, either.
Games like Quake and Heretic would get a bad rap in the press for their “satanic” symbolism, but it wasn’t really about all that. It was just meant to be unsettling – and it worked. Strange messages on the walls, shrines covered in blood, dimly lit rooms with burnt out torches and candles, various cult-like symbols and corpses hanging from the ceilings.
Even games like the original Max Payne put some of this stuff in; like I said, these weren’t strictly horror titles. I feel like games today are too dedicated to a single theme – it’s a zombie game, or a horror game or a serious-business stealth game.
I kind of miss the good old days where developers didn’t really care – you might find a soldier around the next corner or it might be a mythical beast. You might find yourself in a space station on one level and inside a dungeon on another.
There’s something distinctly unsettling about things not making sense in the way they should – where the narrative links exist, but they’re tenuous and unexpected. Think of Doom taking you to Hell, or Half-Life to an alien planet.
Chance of a comeback: I’d say not good. I think a lot of people want things to have more of a coherent logic and fit into a neat package, and I can’t necessarily fault that. I do think humans will always be more terrifying than monsters however, and I’d love to see more of the occult stuff.