Gallery of the Day

8 Games that Surprised Established Franchise Fans


Sequels are a huge part of videogame development. It’s a rare month when there isn’t a release of a follow-up game to an existing franchise, and for the most part, those games are exactly what you’d expect – most of the same mechanics, with a few improvements. But every now and then, a game comes along and shakes up and existing franchise, departing from either the gameplay or genre conventions of its predecessors. These eight games did just that.

Think we missed one? Tell us what it is in the comments!

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel, Banjoo-Tooie, were widely praised by gamers everywhere. After two Game Boy Advance titles, series fans were excited to hear in 2006 that Rare was bringing a sequel to the Xbox 360. However, they were certainly surprised to find that the platformer they remembered had been transformed into a game about vehicles. Focused mostly on customizing and upgrading vehicles, the game received reviews that were all over the place, and turned off many franchise fans.

Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus

Final Fantasy VII is a game that is loved by many. That’s evident by the reception Sony received when they announced the HD remake at E3 2015. Square was hoping to capitalize on that love when they released Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus in 2006 on the PlayStation 2. After seven previous games in the franchise, many fans were surprised to find that Dirge of Cerberus was an action-RPG third-person shooter, instead of an active-time battle-based RPG like FF VII. Much like the critics, gamers were mixed in their reaction to this departure.

Mario Kart: Double Dash

We all know what Mario Kart is about. You hop on a cart, throw stuff at your friends, and try to beat them to the finish line. Well, Mario Kart: Double Dash changed that up in a really awesome way – it put two players on a cart together. One player drives that cart, and the other is tasked with using items. It may seem like a minor change, but it required players to completely relearn the strategy, and to work together for perks like rocket start and drifting. It sold well and is usually mentioned as one of the best games in the series.

Luigi’s Mansion

While Luigi’s Mansion could be considered a series of its own at this point, when it was released it certainly shook up the world of Mario. After all, gamers were anxiously awaiting a sequel to Super Mario 64 to hit the Gamecube, and Nintendo came along with a new game that starred Luigi as some sort of Mushroom Kingdom Ghostbuster. Shaking up the Mario franchise at the launch of a new system was a big risk, but luckily for Nintendo, it paid off. The game was great, and fans made it the best-selling of all the Gamecube launch titles.

Shadow the Hedgehog

Shadow the Hedgehog first appeared as a character in Sonic Adventure 2. First shown off in 2005, Shadow the Hedgehog was more than just a platformer where you had to run fast. It incorporated vehicles (which Shadow could drive), weapons, special moves, and more. You could choose to complete the “Hero,” “Dark,” or “Normal” ending in each mission, and your choice determined which of the game’s ten endings you would get. Reviews, both from critics and fans, were mixed, with many decrying Sega’s attempt at making a “more mature” Sonic game.

Fable: The Journey

The first two Fable games were huge hits on the Xbox. Even though the third game was not as well-received, fans of the series were hopeful that Lionhead Studios would right the ship with the next game. They pumped out a forgettable Xbox Live beat-em-up titled Fable Heroes, and then speculation began about the next true Fable game, the one Molyneux himself had said they had plans for in 2008. At E3 2011, the game was revealed, and to everyone’s surprise, it was a Kinect-powered on-rails adventure that left fans of the series bewildered, and the majority of critics underwhelmed. Although another game in the series has been announced, the excitement for the series has dwindled.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 was first announced in 1999, and fans of the series couldn’t wait to get their hands on the next installment of the survival-horror series. Four different versions and nearly six years later, the game launched to near-universal acclaim. So what’s the shakeup? RE 4 was the first step away from survival-horror for the series, focusing more on action than previous installments. It also moved away from the limited resources mechanic of the prior titles, with enemies dropping ammo, as well as a shop to purchase upgrades. While the game was successful and well-received, it was also criticized for its near-abandonment of the survival-horror genre.

Metroid Prime

It’s difficult to think of a game that departed from its predecessors more than Metroid Prime. Prior titles were side-scrolling, 2D action-platformers, but Prime eschewed that mechanic in favor of an all-new 3D, first-person perspective. The UI was designed to represent the inside of Samus Aran’s helmet, with multiple modes and options available to players. The reboot not only revolutionized the series, it was both a critical and commercial success as well, becoming one of the best selling games on the Nintendo GameCube.

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