This is part of our ongoing series about games and trends of one of the most longest-lived eras in gaming’s history — the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation.
As we approach next month’s releases of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you’ll undoubtedly see a lot of people looking back at the current-gen of gaming. People will make hundreds of lists of the best and worst games released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
I’m not here to talk about those games. In fact, I’m going to write about titles that nobody really remembers. Games that, despite some initial hype, just fizzled and faded away shortly after they came out.
Again, these aren’t the worst games of this generation. They also aren’t titles that are so obscure that of course you don’t remember their existences. These are the games that “almost were” and “should have been” — but will instead end up as footnotes in the larger narrative of the gaming’s history.
Perfect Dark Zero
Released: Nov. 17, 2005 (Xbox 360)
What it was: Since Microsoft wasn’t going to have a new Halo ready for the Xbox 360’s launch, they looked to developer Rare to make the killer app for their newest system. Rare was best known for the games it made during its partnership with Nintendo, including titles like the first-person shooter Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. It also made 2000’s Perfect Dark, another N64 FPS that was a spiritual sequel to Goldeneye, just without the expensive James Bond license.
So after Microsoft bought Rare, and since making a Goldeneye 2 was impossible from a licensing perspective, making a Perfect Dark sequel made a lot of sense. The game was Perfect Dark Zero, and it was the most promoted title during the 360’s launch, meant to showcase the console’s graphical and online capabilities.
Why you forgot about it: Despite all the hype, Perfect Dark Zero was good, not great. While the mechanics were solid, the campaign suffered from weak artificial intelligence, a lame story, and an annoying blue arrow on the floor that was constantly leading you around the confusing levels.
But most importantly, Perfect Dark Zero was completely overshadowed by another FPS that launched with the Xbox 360, Call of Duty 2. You may have heard of it and it sequels. Meanwhile, the Perfect Dark franchise has not continued past Zero.
Why you might have remembered it: You read one of dozens of articles looking into the fall of Rare, a developer best known these days for making Kinect minigame collections and a piñata/animal-raising simulator.
You also probably forgot about: Kameo: Elements of Power, another Rare game that launched with the Xbox 360. It was an action-platformer. Yeah, it wasn’t a great generation for Rare
Released: Aug. 31, 2007 (PlayStation 3)
What it was: Developer Factor 5 was known for making great Star Wars games that put players in the cockpits of classic vehicles like TIE fighters and X-wings. Lair was going to ditch the spaceships for dragons, and Sony often used the title to promote its newest system, the PlayStation 3. In fact, when Sony decided to add motion controls to the new console, Lair became the poster boy for the tilt-sensitive controller, the Sixaxis.
Why you forgot about it: Because the Sixaxis controls were terrible. Instead of using an analog stick to move your dragon, Lair forced you to tilt and wave your controller around like an idiot in a desperate attempt of maneuverability. It was unresponsive and frustrating. A patch would later enable players to switch to a more traditional, analog-based control style. Unfortunately, the rest of the game was also pretty wretched, so it didn’t help much. Factor 5 never really recovered from Lair’s failure, and the studio eventually closed in 2009.
Why you might have remembered it: I said earlier that this isn’t necessarily a list of terrible games, but Lair was pretty freaking terrible. If we can thank Lair for anything, it’s for proving that the Sixaxis was a bad idea.
You also probably forgot about: Warhawk, another early Playstation 3 title that encouraged players to fly vehicles with terrible motion controls.