It's safe to say at this point that God of War for PlayStation 4 has successfully revived the classic franchise. It was a series that had lost its way. Kratos' need for violence and revenge had almost descended into parody. By time God of War: Ascension rolled around in 2013, fans were saying, "Been there, done that."
God of War developer Sony Santa Monica was undeterred though. While it collaborated with other developers, the studio was quietly looking at way to bring God of War back to the top of Sony's slate. The game made the jump from Greek to Norse mythology. Kratos went from angry revenge machine to a man full of regret trying to prevent his son from making the same mistakes. Combat was revamped completely and gone were the iconic Blades of Chaos.
It's a different game, but God of War still feels like it's a part of the franchise. It's new, while understanding what fans liked about the original games. Acknowledging the past, but looking towards the future. More games need that kind of love, and here's just a few of the franchises we have in mind.
Remember Halo? It was at one point, the crown jewel in Microsoft's entire catalog. Halo was the game that brought a number of folks over to the idea on first-person shooters on consoles. Bungie crafted an intelligent, thoughtful shooter that was also an excellent sci-fi adventure. The series only got better with Halo 2 and later titles.
Halo: Reach, released in 2010, is probably the last game loved by Halo fans. Bungie left Microsoft and the series it had created to go play with Destiny. Microsoft established 343 Industries as the new steward of the franchise. Unfortunately, the first two games in the Reclaimer Saga, Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, have been less than stellar. They're fine games, but the early Halo titles were so great that fine just isn't enough.
Given Halo 4's 2012 release and Halo 5's 2015 release, we're prime for another Halo this year, but 343 Industries needs to figure out how to really recontextualize and rethink Halo. In a world with shooters like Doom, Battlefield 1, and Titanfall 2, Halo needs to stand out and lead the pack.
Before From Software was all Souls, all the time, the studio did do other games. One of those games was the long-running create-your-own-mech franchise, Armored Core. The series allowed players to live out their Gundam and Macross fantasties, cobbling together monstrous war machines out of various parts and paint jobs.
The first Armored Core launched for PlayStation in 1997, introducing players to third-person mech action, sliding around a battlefield and dispensing with hundreds of missiles. Since then, the series played host to 15 total titles, many with a varying focus in terms of gameplay. The last was 2013's Armored Core: Verdict Day, which fixed some issues in the previous Armored Core V, but felt a bit lifeless.
From Software doesn't quite know what to do with the franchise at this point, given all of the changes the series has undergone since the beginning. The studio needs to focus on why Armored Core was a winner: the ability to create and pilot your own mech. If Armored Core can recapture that, there's still a place for it in the industry.
We may not see this one anytime soon, given that Bioware is currently all-in on making sure Anthem is a hit. The Dragon Age team is left with a skeleton crew and that doesn't bode well for a complete rethink of the franchise.
Dragon Age is a weird one, because none of the games play quite the same. Dragon Age: Origins was probably the closest to Bioware's previous Baldur's Gate titles, but with modern technology. Dragon Age 2 was heavier on the action-combat side of things, but that meant losing a bit of the tactical combat of the first game and overall the game lacked the role-playing depth fans wanted.
Dragon Age: Inquisition was a good game, but fans didn't see it as an amazing one and after Dragon Age II, it felt like another misstep. By the following year, the bar was raised by the release of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, which is still a best-seller to this day. Titles like Larian Studios' Divinity: Original Sin 2 and InXile Entertainment's Wasteland 2 show there's still a strong hunger for excellent Western RPGs, and Bioware should be leading that pack with a Dragon Age title.
Another game we're not likely to see, given Konami's current development efforts. At the very least, we can hope there's a game that takes the ideas found in Silent Hill and presents them to a larger audience.
The first Silent Hill came out in 1999, as a sort of a more supernatural and psychological alternative to Capcom's survival horror franchise, Biohazard/Resident Evil. While Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine were soldiers, Silent Hill protagonist Harry Mason was just an average joe. He was physically weak and can't aim a gun very well: it's better to run than fight. He gets tired after sprinting a short distance. The deep fog surrounding Silent Hill required a flashlight to see and a portable radio to give you a vague idea of which direction danger was coming from. Silent Hill held onto its tension for the full running time.
Silent Hill 2 improved upon the original in every single way, placing itself as one of the best horror games ever. The follow-up, Silent Hill 3, was pretty good, but didn't live up to its predecessor. It was the beginning of the decline, as Silent Hill 4: The Room wasn't as good as Silent Hill 3. Following those four games, Konami seemed to be at loss with a direction for the franchise. Team Silent could never hold onto its key developers and Konami disbanded the studio to leave the Silent Hill series in the hands of contracted Western developers. The results were less than stellar.
P.T. from Kojima Productions hinted at an amazing return to form for Silent Hills, but we all know how that ended. The best we can hope for is that the new Kojima Productions tries its hand at horror after the scifi-style Death Stranding.
Legacy of Kain
Way back in 1996, Silicon Knights released a game that was envisioned as The Legend of Zelda for adults. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PlayStation starred Kain, an arrogant noble turned vampire, who murdered his way through the high-fantasy world of Nosgoth.
Crystal Dynamics, who published the first game, took another concept crafted by employees Amy Hennig and Seth Carus and created Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, a title that took place in a world dominated by Kain himself. Soul Reaver continued the series' dark tone and love of grey morality, while bringing the adventure into a full 3D world with dimension-shifting mechanics. Like other games on this list, it began to falter after that. Soul Reaver 2 felt like more of the same, Blood Omen 2 felt cheap in comparison to the primary series, and Legacy of Kain: Defiance was a retread of things Crystal Dynamics had already done.
There's still room for a darker spin on The Legend of Zelda, but perhaps the only heir apparent to that moniker will be the upcoming Darksiders 3. Crystal Dynamics is focused on Shadow of the Tomb Raider and its upcoming Avengers game, so I doubt they're revisiting Legacy of Kain anytime soon. Still, even if Kain or Soul Reaver protagonist Raziel don't get another spin, it'd be great to see the series return to prominence.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Turok was a game that was honestly in the right place at the right time. Based on the long-time Valiant Comic series of the same name, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter had players hunting dinosaurs and aliens in The Lost Land. It was a great shooter for the era, offering some open environments and inventive weapons. Turok wasn't amazing, but it was good enough and being on the Nintendo 64 helped it stand out a great deal.
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil improved on the previous game with more exploration, better graphics, a new multiplayer mode, and the kickass Cerebral Bore weapon. Unfortunately, Turok couldn't stay on top. Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion on N64 felt like more of the same and couldn't beat the innovation and craft of Rare's Perfect Dark, which came out the same year. Turok: Evolution (2002) and Turok (2008) both launched on platforms other than the Nintendo 64, but didn't recapture the magic of those first two games.
What's interesting is that the last Turok was still a commercial success despite being just okay. The developer, Propaganda Games, was actually working on a sequel before Disney killed the entire studio. That means there's still hunger out there for some dinosaur huntin' action.
If you've been playing PC games for some time, you knew this had to be on the list. Ultima was one of the building blocks of the entire computer role-playing game (CRPG) genre. Before games like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed popularized the 3D open-world, this was actually the first open-world PC game. Ultima was a survival and role-playing experience like none other, especially on its original platform, the Apple II.
Ultima II was a pure sequel, but Ultima III really stepped things up with animated graphics, a musical score, and the ability to build a party after questing alone in the previous games. If you love Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, you need to thank Ultima III (and Wizardry) for inspiring those games in the first place.
Ultima as a series has always benefited from series creator Richard Garriott's attention to detail. Garriott tried to make games that could almost be considered simulations, and improvements in technology only increased what could be done in that respect. Ultima IV added a much bigger world, a conversation system, and the introduction of the Virtues. Ultima V added a day-night cycle, daily routines for NPCs, and the Underworld. Ultima VI tore down everything and rebuilt Ultima from the ground up.
Ultima VII: The Black Gate and Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, both went in different directions when it came to player choice and world simulation, continuing to make Ultima the premier role-playing franchise. Ultima VIII was the beginning of the end, as Garriott delegated much of the game to others and changes were made to simplify Ultima to reach new audiences. It didn't quite work out. Ultima IX: Ascension suffered from the success of Ultima Online and other personnel changes. That final title was buggy, ugly, and unfinished; it was also the biggest nail in the coffin of any franchise on this list.
If any series needs a full God of War style comeback, it's Ultima.