5 Dark And Gritty Sequels To Goofy Video Games
Most video game series are built around pure-hearted heroes battling to right some kind of wrong and bring happiness back to the world. However, as gamers matured, developers tried to do the same. Unfortunately, sometimes they mistook "maturity" for "pointlessly dark," and sent some fairly lighthearted game franchises straight to hell. Like with ...
Darkspore, The Blood-Drenched Sequel To Spore Nobody Asked For
2008's Spore wasn't the groundbreaking achievement in entertainment its developer, publisher, and certain comedy websites hyped it up to be. It was a game that let you take a single-celled organism and evolve it into a star-spanning civilization while having virtually no fun at any point during the journey. But as long as you didn't carefully design your Spore monsters to look like two men having sex or a swarm of penises (which of course we all did), it was a family friendly exploration of life and evolution.
So naturally, when it came time for EA to wring a sequel out of the game's unloved corpse, their first and only thought was "Let's make the cute little creations disembowel each other."
Set years after the events of the first game, Darkspore sees countless Spore species transformed into violent, insane monsters that kill everything in sight. They have been infected with a virus called E-DNA that went from planet to planet, causing ... You know what? It's really not worth explaining. The point is, you're no longer building a cute monster and watching it develop; you are building a killing machine and watching it tear apart its enemies.
Darkspore is so miserable that it even retcons the first game to be miserable. It turns out that in Spore, you weren't a benevolent deity nudging life toward enlightenment. You were a part of the Crogenitors, a race of bored super aliens playing god to amuse themselves. They captured and experimented on less advanced species, and only kept the deadliest to be slaves. If you're a fan of the first game, you not only have to deal with every critic in the world telling you how wrong you were, but you also now find out you've been some space dick this whole time.
Shockingly, taking a kid-friendly game about creation and calling all of its players sadistic assholes didn't go over well. The game's servers were shut down in early 2016.
Jak And Daxter Went From Wacky Action Romp To "Gritty" GTA Clone
Jak And Daxter was Naughty Dog's spiritual successor to Crash Bandicoot, and while it may have swapped out Crash for a space elf with a snarky sidekick, it was the same crate-hopping fun for all ages.
There were no weapons. These guys still resorted to the old "stomp your enemies until the world is saved" strategy invented by Italian plumbers decades before. The game was a success, but something happened between Jak And Daxter and Jak II that would end up changing the series forever. That something was the release of GTA 3. It seems the developers of Jak II saw the carjackings, open world, and many, many guns and thought, "What if we made exactly this?" So they tried.
In the sequel, Jak and Daxter are heavily armed, and instead of jumping and bopping, there's vehicular manslaughter. Of course it all takes place in a world of gritty violence and misery. For instance, we learn that the evil Baron Praxis has spent the last two years torturing the main character by pumping him full of something called Dark Eco. And not for any complicated reason; Praxis' endgame is apparently just to kill him. He seems genuinely frustrated with how Jak isn't dead after two years of poison.
Jak himself goes from a lovable mute to an insult-slinging badass. And even that wasn't enough, so they introduced a character called Dark Jak, a meaner version than the already-meaner new Jak.
And to be clear, this isn't Jak And Daxter gameplay with some mature themes and Grand Theft Auto influences. It is a top-to-bottom GTA clone in which you drive around in stolen cars mowing down pedestrians.
Related: What We Want From 'GTA 6'
Advance Wars Sort Of Realized War Is Pretty Grim
The first entry in the Advance Wars series was an adorable strategy game about a cute boy annihilating cute enemies with cute tanks and cute soldiers.
And then we got Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin, which it seems was made after the developers watched a litter of puppies starve to death in their company cafeteria. The sunny, brightly colored characters from the first game are nowhere to be seen. Instead it's a drab collection of dead-eyed murderers.
The colorful cartoonish backgrounds are gone, replaced with bomb-blasted wastelands. Days Of Ruin is set in the post-apocalyptic hellscape remaining after a meteor, earthquakes, tornadoes, and a nuclear holocaust teamed up to kill 90 percent of the world's population. And what does the remaining 10 percent do? They immediately start another war. So instead of a bunch of fun skirmishes with smiling commanders, it's the last of humanity sadly killing itself off.
And the plot itself adds to the misery with betrayal, executions, and gratuitous acts of evil. Here's a fun one!
Among the new cast of characters is a Mengele-like scientist who starts wars solely to see what happens. He mostly uses biological and chemical weapons, adding that much-needed Nazi element to this already weirdly grim game. This used to be a series about a boy being the best tank commander he could be by trying his best and believing in himself. Now it's a fascist madman turning a dying world to a poisoned mass grave.
And it's not like the good guys are much better. For instance, when you finally capture the evil commander Greyfield, you do what any hero does: You shoot him in the face while he pleads for his life.
Hard Truck: Apocalypse Turned A Truck Driving Sim Into A Post-Apocalyptic Road War
The Hard Truck series is a hilariously titled yet relatively realistic trucking sim about delivering cargo and running a small independent business while carefully obeying traffic laws. It's presumably a handful of methamphetamines and a soda bottle full of pee away from the real thing. Hard Truck: 18 Wheels Of Steel even boasts a lot of real-world truck brands, each faithfully recreated with a dizzying array of realistic factors.
We're not saying it looks fun -- only faithfully recreated.
Strangely enough, the next game in the series opens with a meteor hitting Earth and wiping out most of humanity. Stranger still, the last remaining humans are forced to engage in high-speed battles with weaponized cars. Also, you are ferrying packages between small communities while fighting off vicious bandits. It's like if The Road Warrior had been a sequel to an auto safety PSA.
"What? I was KIDDING!" -- the lead designer of Hard Truck Apocalypse after waking up from a coma, probably.
In case the stakes weren't high enough, Earth has been covered in poisonous gas that kills any animal or human not wearing a special mask, "the creation of an unknown genius." This was definitely a necessary story element and not an excuse to leave out wildlife, civilians, and facial animations.
Life is hard for a combat truck courier, so of course, right after the first mission, bandits burn down your home and kill the man you thought was your father.
Again, this was a sequel to a meticulously realistic truck driving simulator.
Related: An Ode To Chonky Video Game Trucks
Contra: Shattered Soldier Starts With The Protagonist Blowing Up The World
The original Contra was about as violent and morally complex as an NES game could be. You were two shirtless men filling their entire world with bullets until everything that wasn't them was dead. Most players probably couldn't tell you who they were killing or why, and most of the sequels stayed close to this perfect formula of video game storytelling.
Then came Contra: Shattered Soldier for the PS2. The game opens with the lead character from the first installment setting off an orbital death laser and killing 80 percent of Earth's population. And they were the lucky ones.
Somehow, in the time between the events of Contra: Hard Corps and Contra: Shattered Soldier, Bill Rizer became history's greatest monster, killing most of the planet as well as his partner, Lance. For his crimes, he's sentenced to 10,000 years in cryosleep. But while he's sleeping, an enemy appears that only he can stop, so they thaw him out early.
Yes, it's Demolition Man: The Version With Less Subtlety.
One of the many stupid things that follow: Lance is somehow still alive, but that's barely worth mentioning because Bill kills him again. It's also revealed that Bill was tricked into destroying Earth by the Triumvirate, three old men with linked brains who have ruled the world in secret for hundreds of years. You can watch a cutscene about it here if you want, but we promise you don't.
It's a grim, exhausting shrine to boredom, but with worse graphics than you'd expect.
As a reminder, this murderous story of gut-wrenching betrayal, accidental genocide, and ancient conspiracies was a sequel to this:
To make things even more grim, when you beat the game, it's revealed that none of these little shapes and monsters you've been killing since the '80s were evil; they only came to the planet to recover a sacred relic humanity had stolen from them. Which means ... holy shit, we killed like four million of those things each. Truly, now we are all sons of bitches.
How great would it be to be able to play all these on a new-but-old NES Classic Edition?
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