‘All good things must come to an end’- a phrase that always fails to soften the blow when the credits begin to roll on our favorite games.
Even worse is when we discover that there will be no sequel. The tears that have fallen while waiting for Half-Life 3 to eventually emerge, for instance, could fill the Grand Canyon.
Games die for a number of reasons. Sometimes developers milk a franchise dry and fans lose interest, sometimes competing titles squeeze them out of the market and sometimes they are just bad games. Not all titles deserve this treatment. Some games didn’t deserve to die; they were wrongly left out in the cold and deserve to be welcomed back onto our consoles. Here are our top picks for old school games that need to be resurrected.
Ape Escape - 1999 - PS1
Ape Escape is a game we at TechRadar spent WAY too much time playing back in the days of Playstation 1. Running around a glorious 3D world whacking mischievous monkeys with a Stun Club (AKA Light Sabre) and capturing them in a Time Net, Ape Escape is centred around monkeys who escape from an amusement park, only to un-knowingly discover a professor’s lab.
Luckily for them he just so happens to be working on Peak Point helmets, a fetching hat that transforms the monkeys into brainiacs (how convenient!). This triggers a plot to change history by capturing humans to make them the main attractions at amusement parks. Protagonist Spike’s job is to capture these critters and save human kind. Jumping, flying and aqua-jetting around the world, with an ever growing list of gadgets, was great and the challenge of capturing every monkey in every level kept us hooked.
Let us address an elephant in the room - a sequel to Ape Escape entitled Playstation Move Ape Escape was released in 2010 on the PS3, but quite frankly we refuse to acknowledge it even counts as part of the the franchise. As nothing more than a cheap way to leverage a well-loved title for Playstation Move, it was bad, very bad…
Almost 17 years on from the original, imagine what the concept could look like on modern consoles- an open world filled with platforming puzzles, more modern gadgets to play with and of course more monkeys! Now that's a game we would like to see!
Earthworm Jim - 1994 - SNES, Mega Drive, Game Boy
There was a lot about Earthworm Jim that was ahead of its time. The hand-drawn animated look was far different from the other 16-bit games that were around in 1994 and the gameplay was, for a 2D side-scroller, highly original. It didn’t go the way of Sonic and make speed the order of the day, but made you really think about how to get across a level. From jumping on tyres, swinging on chains and using Jim’s own worm body as a rope to get across crevices, it was brilliant, brainy fun.
And then there was the surreal sense of humor. The look and feel of the game could have been made anywhere in the world, but the humor could only come from the UK and game developer David Perry. Whether being crushed by a cow, racing through pipes on the back of a hamster, or having to deal with an end foe whose name is The Evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt, Earthworm Jim was genuinely funny.
That’s why it’s in dire need of a sequel, even if it’s just to wash away the bad taste of Gameloft’s lame attempt at a remaster in 2009.
Imagine the climbing game mechanics of Uncharted, mixed with Jim’s delicious humour and spliced with spruced graphics of, say, Rayman Legends. Ma, take my money now.
TimeSplitters - 2000 - PS2
Released in 2000 for PS2, TimeSplitters was a first person shooter to fall in love with.
Fast-paced and frantic gameplay made TimeSplitters highly addictive - a true work of multiplayer genius. It was easy to play this game for hours (late into the night), whether trying to get platinum awards on its challenge modes, or battling with buddies on the multiplayer arcade mode. Who can forget the multiplayer mode "Virus"? Infected characters would run around spreading the contagion, with players running and shooting in a futile attempt to stay un-contaminated.
The FPS genre is a very competitive market, but we don't think CoD, Battlefield or Titanfall offer the same joyous experience as TimeSplitters. Yes they are great games, but there is definitely a gap in the market for a TimeSplitters re-boot, with its splitscreen multiplayer, madcap time-travelling story mode and superb sense of humor - all on a crisp 4K display.
The Bouncer - 2000 - PS2
The Bouncer was released by SquareEnix (SquareSoft back in the day) in 2000, and hasn't been heard of since.
A beat ‘em up game with RPG elements, it was Square’s first big release on the PS2 (long before it out a PS2-era Final Fantasy out) and it’s safe to say what they created wasn’t quite the masterpiece they'd imagined.
For those who may have never even heard of The Bouncer, the premise is that a princess is captured by evil gang the Mikado Special Force Unit from the local pub, Fate Bar.
Yep – princesses in pubs.
She just so happens to be the girlfriend of one of the pub’s bouncers.
Yep – princesses dating pub bouncers. It's starting to sound like an episode of Jerry Springer.
Okay the story (which, by the way, only lasts a few hours) isn’t great but despite that we really enjoyed this game; the beat ‘em up combat was addictive and the 4 player brawl was a great way to pass time with the gang. Over and above these elements, what really saves this game is the graphical beauty SquareEnix were able to utilise on the PS2 - it was phenomenal for its time, with cinematic cut-scenes like none had seen during the early PS2 era.
From what you’ve read so far you may be asking yourself why you would want this to be resurrected? But Square just created this game too early. Imagine a modern RPG with a deep Final Fantasy-esque story alongside epic beat ‘em up combat. From Final Fantasy 15 we’ve already seen that Square can still create excellent combat systems, and we believe they could do the same with a rebooted Bouncer.
Jet Grind Radio / Jet Set Radio - 2000 - Dreamcast, Xbox
Even back when extreme sports games were popular Jet Grind Radio was an outlier. Whereas its competitors focussed on having you skate, snowboard and surf around semi-realistic environments, Jet Grind Radio threw you into a obscene neon cityscape filled to the brim with cyber-punk roller-blading graffiti artists.
If that sounds ridiculous then you’re completely right. Jet Grind Radio delighted in its weirdness, offering a more innocent arcade thrill than Tony Hawk’s Jackass-inspired tomfoolery.
After just two entries the series fell out of fashion when the industry entered its difficult teenage phase and became obsessed with dreary brown color palettes. Now that developers are actually making colorful games again however it’s the perfect time for the series to make a comeback.
Perhaps the best reason for a comeback is the fact that the best game in the series is almost impossible to play nowadays. Jet Set Radio: Future was released back on the original Xbox, and never ran well on the Xbox 360.
Sunset Riders - SNES, Mega Drive, Arcade - 1993
Sunset Riders was a Konami run and gun masterpiece that hit the 16-bit market back in 1993. Long before the majesty of Red Dead Redemption, Sunset Riders was known as one of the most acclaimed cowboy, gun totin’ western themed titles known to gamers. It was essentially the only decent cowboy game too, to be honest.
Konami managed to cram in all that we love from Wild West films and made a game that allowed us to chase down runaway trains and shoot bad guys to get the bounty.
It wasn’t just the Wild West theme that made us Sunset Riders addicts, but also the characterisation, with Wild West cliché ridden bosses (including an evil English ‘gentleman’) and humorous protagonists who made us laugh with expressive animations and moments of typical western heroism.
A lot of you are probably thinking that this sounds an awful lot like Red Dead Redemption, but a re-boot of Sunset Riders would offer something completely different. Red Dead Redemption portrays the dark elements of the Wild West, and whilst Sunset Riders had a similar setting it unashamedly made the most out of western clichés and handles them with humor. Think more John Wayne than Clint Eastwood. It deserves to return.
F-Zero (series) - SNES, N64, GameCube
There are different levels of arcade racing games. You’ve got your racers which see you drive real cars with arcadey controls round real-world tracks, then your fake-but-real-looking (read: Burnout) cars racing around fake-but-real-looking locations, and then after a dozen steps you get to F-Zero.
Instead of Wipeout’s focus on power-ups and weapons, F-Zero focussed on ridiculous speed that sees you flying around tracks faster than your eyes, and often your fingers, can keep track.
The series debuted on the SNES back in 1990, before seeing new entries on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube.
But although the GameCube’s entry, F-Zero GX, was arguably the best the series had to offer we haven’t seen another entry since.
Ultimately F-Zero has been condemned to the worst of Nintendo fates: important enough for its characters and settings to appear in Smash Bros games, but not big enough to see a proper new title release.
Cannon Fodder - 1993 - SNES, Mega Drive and multiple computers
War has never been so much fun. Or simultaneously harrowing.
Playing Cannon Fodder back in the early 90s was quite an experience. A squad based, top-down strategy shooter, it mixed action-packed warfare with tactical play to great effect. It was darkly comic too, with the pint-sized soldiers sliding around ice and, quite literally, queuing up to join your ranks of soon-to-be-dead squaddies.
But there was a serious message deep down in it, too. Each lost soldier would get his own gravestone on a hill in the mission preparation screen (soon numbering dozens upon dozens), and some foes wouldn't die instantly, instead slowly bleeding out and screaming until you'd put them out of their misery.
It's the kind of satire missing from the current crop of gung-ho shooters, and is well worth revisiting. The unique top-down format would look lovely with modern console powers, while online play could let you each take a member of a squad and take on the horrors of war co-operatively.