Despite good intentions, bad games happen. What's really astonishing, though, is when a bad game gets a sequel, followed by another one.
And another. And another.
How do game franchises continue to exist despite critical drubbings and, often, sales that don't begin to compare to the haul of other titles that never see a second chapter?
The reasons are often budgetary. The games that critics (and most gamers) can't stand cost virtually nothing to make, so they're profitable even with minimal sales. Or in some cases, they started strong and built a loyal following of players who are so conditioned to buying each new release that they don't realize how much the quality has suffered over the years.
And when it comes to quality, you won't find much left in these seven troubled franchises. But you'll find plenty of quantity.
As Kotaku recently pointed out, the four previous games in this lousy Wii mini-game series have a combined Metacritic average of 31. That's humiliating. But the series has sold over 3 million copies, which has earned it a new installment for the Wii U.
Game Party originated at Midway, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment scooped it up (along with more valuable assets), and with the launch of the new platform, the publisher knows that parents are going to be looking for family-friendly software to go with it.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
CSI might be one of the biggest television franchises of the past 12 years, but as a video game series it belongs in the morgue.
Ubisoft released the first one in 2003, though the series peaked in 2006 when CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: 3 Dimensions of Murder got a not-terrible Metacritic score of 67. Since 2010, though, scores have hovered in the high 30s and mid-40s, with some titles just being entirely ignored by critics. Most recently, the series made the shift to iOS, bringing bad mystery gaming to a whole new audience.
Debuting in 2004, the original Painkiller was actually a pretty good game, but the slide into mediocrity (and then utter embarrassment) was a pretty steady one.
Since 2009, the average Metacritic score on Painkiller titles that have been reviewed stands at 38 -- less than half the score of the first game. Later this year, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation is scheduled to hit the Xbox 360 and PC. We don't have high hopes for it.
Right around 2000, Dynasty Warriors was a pretty respectable franchise, earning solid scores in the mid- to high-70s. Flash forward seven years or so and those scores were a lot lower, hovering in the 40s and 50s. Rather than taking a step back to assess the state of things, Namco and Koei (which share rights to the series) instead opted for a different tack: Flood the market with Dynasty Warriors titles and DLC.
In 2012, alone, there have been a stunning 11 releases -- one Vita game and 10 DLC packs. And two more games are expected before the end of the year.
Critics hate the Carnival Games series from Take Two Interactive Software. They loathe it. Take Two? It couldn't care less what they think.
Life to date, this series (which has never topped 56 on Metacritic and has a cumulative score of 49.5) has sold over 7 million copies. That's roughly the same number as the Max Payne franchise prior to this year's Max Payne 3. And, given how poorly that game did this year, Carnival Games could top it with its next (still unannounced) release.
Sonic The Hedgehog
Look, we have fond memories of Sega's blue mascot, too. But nowadays, you can't turn around without a mediocre new Sonic title slapping you in the face.
Recent disasters include Sonic and the Black Knight (Metacritic: 54) and Sonic Free Riders for Kinect (Metacritic: 47), though Sega has sworn they're done milking the franchise and will now focus only on high-quality games. That remains to be seen. The publication speed is still there, at least, as three Sonic games (Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II, Mario & Sonic at the London Olympic Games, and the upcoming Sonic and Sega Racing: Transformed) will have hit shelves before 2012 ends. Things are looking up, but we'd prefer a nice, long break for the poor guy.
The Evil Dead
Horror games are always hit and miss. Games that are based on movies, even moreso. But when THQ resurrected "The Evil Dead" in 2000, it was based solely on the admittedly awesome cult film's staying power.
Unfortunately, the games never captured the essence of the films, ending up with a Metacritic average of 54. They've since made the jump to iOS, where they haven't improved much on that average. And with a remake of the film underway, we live in fear that Evil Dead gaming might rise again.