If you're a fan of a franchise of any kind for an extended period of time, it stands to reason that you'll be there for some of its biggest changes. Change is a part of life, and that also applies to video games. And whether these changes were for good or ill, the franchise in question was a remarkably different animal after it happened.
It can be both exciting and terrifying when a game franchise undergoes some sort of makeover, be it a creator departure or radical gameplay overhauls. After all, it's possible that the change could result in you not even recognizing your favorite series anymore, and that is a truly frightening end result.
But whether the change won you over or not, it's hard to deny the massive repercussions that some of gaming's most famous dynasties have undergone as a result of these turning points. So let's take a look at ten times a video game franchise took a hard left turn and changed itself forever.
10. Tomb Raider Embraces The Future
It's easy to remember the way fans reacted when Tomb Raider was rebooted in 2013, as fans of Lara Croft's globe-trotting adventures saw the series take a huge tonal shift. It was dark, gritty and portrayed Lara as a real girl with real problems. A far cry from the archetype adventurer from the previous saga.
It saved Tomb Raider, but better yet; it saved Lara Croft. It was a turning point that was absolutely required to keep a struggling franchise relevant in the wake of the breakout success of another fortune-hunting adventure series; Uncharted. Lara needed to keep up with the Nathan Drake's of the world, and she did so spectacularly.
Lara came from a bygone era of gaming, where things were different. She was a relic from console generations past, being left in the dust of modern heroes who had realistic human emotions. She needed to feel real, to have something in her world other than the surface traits that defined her previously. And by allowing Lara to become more than what she was, Crystal Dynamics saved one of gaming's most iconic heroines and changed the franchise forever.
9. Final Fantasy X Introduces Voice Acting
For the first nine installments, Final Fantasy took great advantage of the long-forgotten J-RPG text boxes to tell their stories. Though it had the occasional bits of audio, including Kefka's laugh in Final Fantasy VI, the series was content with essentially being visual novels. It was a simple charm, but with the tenth major entry in the franchise, it was time for a change.
And boy did it ever change. For the first time, Final Fantasy characters actually spoke real, audible dialogue. They weren't just a series of text dumps matched up to a sprite, but fully-fleshed out individuals. They no longer needed you to create voices in your own mind, because the characters of Final Fantasy had grown up and had their own voices now.
It was an astounding moment in the history of the series, having a ripple effect on the rest of the franchise that meant all future mainline Final Fantasy games would follow suit. With each passing entry, Square was able to do things with characters that they simply couldn't do before. These were real people and you were watching their story unfold, and they were the ones telling it.
8. Castlevania 64 Continues The Legacy
Castlevania was not immune to the afflictions that cursed other long-running franchise, suffering from the scary prospect of transitioning from the side-scrolling dimensions of 2D into the brave new world of 3D. Though the series had already knocked it out of the park with incredible 2D entries such as Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood, it's first 3D attempt was a valiant one.
While Castlevania 64 didn't have quite the same reception as its 2D counterparts, it still managed to find a surprisingly great balance between what made the atmosphere and vibe of the 2D games work while reworking that into the continually growing 3D market. It was fun, spooky and all-around considered a great next step for Castlevania.
This led to more 3D Castlevania projects, including 2003's Lament of Innocence and the 2010 Hideo Kojima-led reboot Lords of Shadow. The series would find it difficult to stray from its roots, going on a streak of mind-blowing handheld entries from 2001 to 2007, but the first Nintendo 64 title in this beloved franchise set the stage for what Castlevania needed.
7. Metal Gear Goes Solid
If Castlevania had something of a hard time making the jump from 2D to 3D, then perhaps it should have remembered what happened one year earlier when the Hideo Kojima-created stealth franchise Metal Gear took the plunge. This was the future of video games circa 1998, when Metal Gear Solid launched and altered the course of the series forever.
The story was presumably over in 1990's Metal Gear 2, where series protagonist Solid Snake retired into the solitude of Alaska. Creator Kojima had gone on to create other fantastic games such as Policenauts, but found new life with the Sony PlayStation and decided to bring Snake out of retirement.
Metal Gear Solid took the series out of the top-down 2D perspective, setting the next chapter in his saga in a fully-realized 3D world. Metal Gear had grown up, exchanging text boxes for a massively talented voice cast and a story that felt like a Hollywood action film. Subsequent Metal Gear titles would follow suit, becoming bigger and flashier, but they all have the original PS1 classic to thank for paving the way.
6. Resident Evil 4 Changes The Perspective
It was something of a shock to see a Resident Evil game that didn't take place from a fixed perspective, with artfully placed camera angles that hearkened back to classic cinema. But that's exactly what happened when Resident Evil 4 released in 2005 as part of Capcom's exclusive deal with Nintendo known as the "Capcom Five".
This wasn't Resident Evil as you know it, but rather a tremendous jump into the future for the series. The camera remained with you, propped up behind Leon's shoulder and giving you a full-on view of all the monster-slaying action. It was just you, Leon and whatever type of carnage you could inflict on Resident Evil's most notorious beasts.
While many fans, including the author himself, bemoaned the loss of fixed-cameras and cinematic bliss, it was hard to deny the obvious path that was laying ahead of Resident Evil. Capcom appears to be softening on the old-school Resident Evil tropes that the fourth entry did away with, but RE4 holds an immovable position in the franchise for turning it completely on its head.
5. First-Person Metroid Hunting
It doesn't take long to look at 2002's Metroid Prime and realize that something is amiss. This is no longer a 2D side-scrolling action game, but rather a frantic, speedy first-person shooter that carries the indelible Metroid legacy with it. Developer Retro Studios took the proverbial Morph Ball and ran with it, taking Metroid out of its comfort zone at the perfect time.
Fans had never played a Metroid game quite like it. You were locked into the experience, jostled about as you struggled to survive while being placed firmly into the helmet of series heroine Samus. You weren't just playing as Samus; you were Samus. You went on this incredible journey with her, hand in hand. It was an emotional connection that more games should strive to compete with.
Not only is Metroid Prime considered one of the strongest games in the series, but it also sparked a revolution for how the series would carry itself for the next several years. Two sequels, titled Echoes and Corruption respectively, launched in 2004 and 2007. While fans still await the announcement of a potential new Metroid game for Nintendo's upcoming NX console, they can remember that this was the moment where the franchise made its biggest leap.
4. Final Fantasy Moves To The PlayStation
For ten straight years, Final Fantasy called Nintendo home. It was a special relationship, producing many classic games and cherished memories. But times were changing in the 1990's, and so too was the gaming industry. Traditional cartridges were out and CD's were in, creating tension between Square and Nintendo that forced the developers to put the next entry of their series on the Big N's rival; the Sony PlayStation.
The move was a spectacular one, helping Sony establish a stranglehold on the industry. Final Fantasy VII pushed PlayStation units, sold millions of copies and set the standard for the franchise going forward. This led to an incredible trio of Final Fantasy games on the PS1, culminating in FF8 and FF9, showing just how outstanding this era of gaming was.
But perhaps more than that, Final Fantasy VII proved the unstoppable heart of this franchise. Fans the world over have been touched by the ongoing adventures of these wonderful characters, watching as animated films, HD remakes, cartoons, spin-offs and more continue to build on this powerful universe.
3. Call of Duty Finds A New Theatre
It was likely a difficult sell to pitch a first-person shooter that didn't take place in World War II, as Medal of Honor, Battlefield and Call of Duty all made their names on this historic time period. But while the setting was getting stale and the lack of innovation frustrating, Infinity Ward would finally take the jump with 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Gone were the trenches of Normandy and blown out cities of Poland, replaced with the gritty, modern setting that fans of the genre had wanted. The virtual conflict was finally referencing what was relevant; our own time. We were living this in our own lives, giving a haunting reality to the whole affair.
Moreover, it started a trend where hardcore gamers weren't the only ones picking up the controller. Couch co-op and online multiplayer was taking a stranglehold with shooters, and Call of Duty was leading the charge in 2007. While many games before had gone the route of online combat, few were as ever as mainstream as Call of Duty can claim. The audience had changed, and Modern Warfare was the catalyst.
2. Mario Sells The N64
It takes a lot to sell a system, but if anyone can do it, it's one of gaming's most prolific mascots; Mario. While Nintendo may have lost out on the adventures of Cloud and the gang in Final Fantasy VII, they did make out rather well with Super Mario 64, the mammoth launch title that has sold over eleven million copies and single-handedly changed the way people looked at 3D game design.
With some rare exceptions, this became the gold standard for future Mario titles. Every game that released in its wake needed to stand up to this revolutionary game, as terrifying a prospect if there ever was one. And it wasn't just Mario or console sales that the game affected, either. You likely won't find a game developer alive today that doesn't cite Super Mario 64 as having an influence on them.
Without Super Mario 64, it's tough to imagine Nintendo hanging with Sony the way they did during the 1990's. It sold systems, reinvigorated Mario for a new generation and paved the way for 3D games to become the sensation they are today.
1. Hyrule Historia Clarifies 25 Years Of Lore
When it comes to video games, there's perhaps no franchise like The Legend of Zelda. Fans of this long-standing series have spent the last thirty years dissecting and organizing the mythology that connects all of these games together, building their own unique timelines to satisfy their desire to understand it all. And before 2013, the existence of an official timeline of any sort seemed out of reach.
But during the 25th anniversary of Zelda, Nintendo opted to silence them all by releasing the Hyrule Historia. It was a nifty little book, containing artwork, a manga and more importantly; an official timeline. Though fans had often speculated on their own regarding the concept of a split, where the ending events of Ocarina of Time created two distinct timelines. Little did they know that not only were they on the right track, they weren't prepared for how far Nintendo was willing to go.
Nintendo confirmed the existence of not only two, but three timelines, including the revelation that one of these resulted during the scenario of Link actually being defeated in battle by his nemesis Ganon. It was a thrilling prospect, the idea that the world of Zelda was even more outrageous than we had anticipated, and set a startling precedent for the future of Zelda.
It established unpredictability, allowing for any future Zelda game to take a hard left turn, as well as casting an ominous shadow over the events of the first two games in the series; the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. These two titles now take place in a world that needs a hero more than ever, reinforcing the spirit of heroism that this franchise does with such grace.
What's next? What future timelines will the upcoming NX Zelda title explore or create? It's all possible thanks to Nintendo's willingness to communicate and has put Zelda onto the very path that it faces right now.
That's just the beginning. Which video game franchise turning point has affected you the most? Which one do you remember that we forgot? Let us know in the comments!