Kratos is back and better than ever. The recent return of God of War took a franchise and a character that were beloved in their prime, but are now considered painfully of their moment, and made them more relevant and mature than anyone was expecting. The reaction to this shift has been overwhelmingly positive, with many hailing it as a generation-defining game.
This isn’t the first time a game franchise has found new popularity thanks to a healthy dose of fresh, modern perspective. The 2012 Tomb Raider reboot also took an iconic character who had become a little cringe-worthy in subsequent years (likewise a grotesque embodiment of heteronormative gender ideals) and revitalized her with a compelling backstory and modern gameplay.
The success of these two revived franchises raises the question: Who should be next? We compiled a list of some older video games we think would be well-served by a thoughtful, modern reboot.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
This time-traveling Native American warrior who hunts dinosaurs and demons in a parallel dimension first graced the Nintendo 64 in 1997. At the dawn of console first-person shooters (several months before GoldenEye 007 hit stores), players and critics loved its lush presentation, open levels and outlandish, but intense action. It garnered a few direct sequels and a failed 2008 reboot, but other than a 2015 remaster, the franchise has been dormant.
Many fans of the game may not realize, but Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was adapted from a long-running, Silver Age comic. The game was adapted from a 1992 comic reboot of the franchise, which introduced the robots, rocket launchers, and other science-fiction elements. The original run from the 1950s through the 1980s followed the trials of a pre-Columbian Native American trapped in a valley where dinosaurs never died off. Between those two poles of a time-traveling space marine and a Stone Age survivalist, there is an enormous amount of latitude to create an interesting story. Horizon Zero Dawn demonstrated how awesome a game about hunting giant beasts with primitive technology can be. Moreover, Native Americans still have little to no representation in popular media, and Turok remains one of the only protagonists we can think of to this day.
The hyper-macho, ass-kicking, bubblegum-chewing, wisecracking action hero Duke Nukem makes Kratos look positively enlightened, even at his worst. After starring in several side-scrolling platformers, Duke made his mark with the genre-defining first-person shooter Duke Nukem 3D in 1996. An evolution of the silent “Doomguy”, Duke brought theretofore unseen personality to the role of protagonist, which until then was frequently more of cipher for the player. The franchise lost its juice when the follow-up, Duke Nukem Forever, was trapped in development limbo for over a decade, releasing with a whimper, not a bang, in 2011.
Kratos’ violence and misogyny were rooted in Greek myth, but Duke Nukem’s an all-American dirtbag. The naked sexism that we excused as edgy in 1996 reads as downright gross today and games are much better off for it. If Kratos can be made relevant, if not quite redeemed, maybe there’s still hope for Duke? Although it’s difficult to imagine a serious, story-driven approach making sense, we wonder if there might be a game where Duke’s on the receiving end of satire, rather than punching down. Making fun of problematic tropes vs reinforcing them is a tricky line to walk that may not be worthwhile in this case, but it’s an interesting mental exercise.
Ecco the Dolphin
Back in the ’80s and ’90s, it felt like games could be about anything before genres became quite so crystallized. A weirder artifact of the 16-bit era was the Ecco the Dolphin series of 2D platformers for the Sega Genesis about a lone dolphin named Ecco, searching through space and time for their lost pod, kidnapped by aliens. Water levels had been a common feature of platformers since Super Mario Bros, but this was the first game to really open up the vertical plane and focus entirely on exploration limited by breath management.
Although ostensibly kid-friendly, Ecco kind of felt like a horror game. Facing terrifying aliens in the inky, isolating depths while the risk of drowning looms over you is incredibly tense. Taut underwater exploration peppered with unsettling alien threats now brings to mind the fantastic Subnautica, which is one of the most atmospheric survival/exploration games we have ever played. There have also since been several popular games featuring animal protagonists, such as Shelter. We would love to revisit Ecco’s world rendered with current technology.
Prince of Persia
The 1989 original Apple II platformer The Prince of Persia scarred a generation of children with its life-like (for the time), rotoscopic animation depiction of horrible death by spike traps. Its 2003 reboot, The Sands of Time, was a revolutionary and hugely influential 3D platformer, with its fluid, acrobatic action, and innovative time-rewinding mechanics. Follow-ups to Sands of Time struggled with tone, however, leaning into the gritty violence that defined AAA gaming of that era and losing its sense of fun and whimsy. A mediocre film adaptation starring Jake Gyllenhaal in 2010 more or less killed the franchise for the time being.
Many fans thought that early, leaked images from Assassin’s Creed Origins were in fact for a new Prince of Persia game, and Ubisoft has made allusions to a revival, but not yet announced anything concrete. Although it’s difficult to imagine Ubisoft doing anything other than cramming the franchise into its general open-world model and loading it down with RPG systems, but a swashbuckling action puzzle-platformer set in ancient Persia sounds pretty delightful.
Bayonetta wasn’t the first leather-clad, ass-kicking video game heroine. Still in the shadow of The Matrix’s Trinity as the era’s pinnacle of badass femininity, Rayne first appeared in the 2002 3D hack-and-slash BloodRayne for PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. Set in the 1930s, she is a half-vampire (dhampir) who hunts other vampires, who turn out to be Nazis, of course. The game had one direct sequel and a poorly-received Xbox Live Arcade 2D platformer, but what really killed the franchise was a trilogy of films directed by notorious game adapter Uwe Boll.
A half-vampire hunting undead Nazis … that kind of sounds like “Blade meets Wolfenstein,” right? The critical and popular success of the rebooted Wolfenstein series has demonstrated a strong interest in Nazi-slaying with fantastical elements as a form of escapism that still feels broadly relevant in 2018. If B.J. Blazkowicz can be remade as a sympathetic and three-dimensional character, why not Rayne?
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