While we often bemoan the loss of developers at the hands of say, EA, the house Microsoft built has turned into a Gears of War, Halo, and Forza studio exclusively. Naming another AAA or lower franchise the publisher (and of course console maker) has released in the past few years is impossible, leaving the highlights to their third parties. It is tragic how many titles they have abandoned. Their slate of properties and known titles deserve better treatment, and not merely those held by Rare. So, in no particular order, here are the top ten Microsoft-created properties we need to see again, whether from the Xbox maker or current owners.
Three games into the Amped franchise… and it disappeared. The third was a wacky excursion into the world of extreme sports, and while the likes of Tony Hawk Pro Skater have faded in popularity, there remains room for another entry in this brutally difficult series. Microsoft, as with most of their sports library, sold Amped to 2K, and that is likely where it still sits. Maybe it’s time to bring this one back, with plenty of attitude and energy.
Part of the XSN sports series (along with Amped 2), the Links series was a longtime PC staple. On consoles, we received Links 2004, and that was the demise of the franchise. Sold off with the developer, Links also ended up at 2K, where renamed developer Indie Built closed. Thus ended the franchise after merely one console edition, and it still stands as one of the freshest golf games available. Stunning courses and sharp analog swing system make it a stand out prior to EA’s dominating Tiger Woods franchise.
Developed by Day 1 Studios who are now part of Wargaming.net, the Battletech-derived mech shooter was an Xbox staple. It solidified Xbox Live with MechAssault 2, but then vanished after an obscure entry on the Nintendo DS. The series was nowhere near a futuristic simulation, but a wide-reaching, fast-paced war zone. Excellent destruction and scale made for memorable levels, certainly the type of gameplay fitting for the Xbox 360. Sadly, the series never had that chance.
Say what you will for this fantasy Xbox 360 launch title from Rare, but its ambition, puzzles, and platforming style were superlative right from the outset. Few games were more colorful (at a time when brown war shooters were the rage) or carried this much personality throughout the fairy-driven universe. Co-play broadened the approach, and allowed players to experience levels in different ways. It was challenging and vastly underrated upon release, and we need a second trip into this landscape.
When the series apparently died at the hands of an unmerciful mini-game collection, few would bemoan its loss. However, the popularity went far enough as to find itself strolling into Burger King kid’s meals. Someone was paying attention to this goofy and likeable gardening sim (!) that asked players to mate (!!) pinatas (!!!) to form new breeds, all while managing the pests that could prevent growth. So much could be done with this concept, especially online, but it sits rotting without any opportunity to do so.
With the XBLA release of Motocross Madness, maybe Midtown has the best chance to be revived from the titles in this list. Midtown Madness 3 was the only console release for the Windows-centric racing series, a fairly early title for the Xbox. Open world racing and wonderfully fun sense of speed let the title breathe amongst a stock of arcade racers, even against the likes of the popular Midnight Club and Burnout series. There should be plenty of madness left to take in.
What a beauty. To this day, the official Microsoft site remains live for this vintage-inspired flight title, born on the PC and then shifted onto the Xbox for the premiere of Live. Smooth flight systems are accessible to all with the right level of skill required to make the game exciting. While the online portions are long since dead, Crimson Skies holds on thanks to a generous campaign that ensures it leaves behind more than a memory. However, we should be basking in a modern edition.
Super rally racer with wonderful physics and course variation. Visually thrilling for its time, this forgotten racing title crammed cars onto small tracks and asked them to fight it out, online too, and dazzled with perfectly tuned control. Another one of those lost XSN sports titles, Rallisport could easily compete with the likes of Codemasters’ Dirt given the varying approach to the sport. Rallisport’s ice courses are legendary for their challenge.
Most remember Voodoo Vince like they do Blinx: Not at all. That’s a shame since Vince had genuine charm he could call his own. The gimmick, in an attempt to supersede Sony who was pouring out Ratchet & Clank/Jak & Daxter titles, was that Vince could attack by hurting himself. That led to ingenious puzzles and frantic pacing, plus a sense of genuine New Orleans humor spurred on by Southern dialects. There remains nothing else like it, or this daring, in the platformer genre. It melded the slightly darker attitude of Microsoft’s franchises with the accessible play of a platformer.
The newest game to be featured on this list given its 2010 sequel, Ruffian Games uniquely structured open world shooter loved its orbs. Hidden around the city in the midst of a crime wave, the wild jumping mechanics and stable shooting felt secondary to the thrill of leaping between buildings to grab droning green circles. Still, the engaging style of the world offered an enormous amount of challenges and activities. Online in co-op, the entire game exploded into a goofy, violent playground.