5 Games That Were Their Own Thing Till The Publisher Threw Them Into A Franchise
Sometimes, making a new game is scary and hard, and you want the comfort of an old friend. Which is a nice way of saying games that feature Mario on a Monopoly board sell better than games featuring scary unfamiliar characters. A lot of times, shamelessly slapping a mustache onto a character and calling him Mario is as bad as it sounds, but sometimes, the game that comes out is, well …
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order didn't start out as a Star Wars game. Respawn, the game's creators, were hard at work building their newest IP when their parent company EA intervened. EA had this license to make Star Wars games, and they'd lately been using it to churn out hot trash, but now they told Respawn, "That thing you're working on? What if the lasers went pew pew, and the bad guy were space Nazis?"
There wasn't some grand other game that we could've gotten, however, because game design doesn't work the way anyone assumes. The creators had already worked out the basic ideas of movement, level design, and combat without starting to come up with a story or characters when EA caught wind of it, took one look, and went, "This bad boy can fit so many lightsabers in it."
The game went on to be a hit, launching a soon-to-be franchise, all because EA needed a game to smack a sticker on and Respawn had a faceless automaton that needed a soul.
Quake is one of the defining first person shooters—before it, there was Doom and then just an empty silent void. But if things were a little different, it would've been a one-hit wonder.
Before the series took a hard pivot into the online realm, laying the pathway for Call of Duty and 11-year olds making you cry, the original Quake was controversial and led to multiple shake-ups inside designer Id Software, with most of the staff resigning from the company shortly after release.
And then it was time for Id to move on. They started on a new game called LOCK & LOAD, then called Strogg, and eventually just called LOAD—which, let's be honest, we could totally see as the name of an iconic franchise. Unlike the horror-themed Quake (featuring music by Trent Reznor, who tried to create the scariest and most depressing sounds possible), this game was taking a hard swing into a fun action RPG.
Yeah, it was never meant to be a Quake sequel. But the company didn't really know what to do with it, so they said screw it. It's Quake II.
Super Mario Kart
Mario Kart is one of the bestselling and friendship-ruining games of all time. The cute series is fun for casuals, children, and elite pro gamers alike (but also mostly drunk college kids with nothing else to do on a Saturday Night).
The series captures hearts for being a solid racing game, and for having characters we know and love—Walmart brand King Kong, Sexy Italian, Big Hat, etc. But though the series would seem unrecognizable with other characters (to the point that every other franchise that tries fails), it's inspiration for it wasn't even the Mario franchise, it was Captain Falcon himself, Mr. F-Zero.
Back before it became the number one game to play while high and waiting for Taco Bell, Mario Kart started as Nintendo looking at F-Zero and trying to make the next leap—instead of a one-player game, it's a two-player game. When designing the game, the team had a stand-in racer, a guy in overalls, because that was just in style in Nintendo offices at that point. At one point while they were testing the game, they were looking at how your opponent racer appeared on your screen, and they subbed Mario in because honestly three pixels of black is all it really took to make the change.
After seeing how cute it looked, the team left Mario in and slowly changed the game. Oil cans became bananas, and a characterless game became populated with the entirety of the mushroom kingdom.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Kirby's Epic Yarn is a game where you're a bunch of fluff, who sucks up other fluff, like God's own dust buster. It's like if a cloud decided to become a vacuum. That might be a little confusing if you've previously heard of Kirby and know that he's not normally a ball of yarn, but that's because the yarn ball was originally going to be the star of a brand-new IP and world.
The game would have featured Prince Fluff, ruler of Patch Kingdom. However, when the developers of the game, Good-Feel, showed Nintendo the character, everyone realized he was already a bit like Kirby.
The team rebranded the game as a Kirby adventure, so bad news for all of you out there really wishing for a chance to play as Prince Fluff.
Unless you have another person around. See, the game has a co-op mode, and when you play it with someone else, your friend gets to be Prince Fluff, the original lead of the game. It's like you get to have your cake and eat it too. And then turn into a monster that spits out flaming candles and wears a hat made of fondant, just like God intended.
Kid Icarus Uprising
1986's Kid Icarus had you climbing the heavens and defeating monsters, like a Bible school rebrand of Ice Climbers. But despite his original game being beloved, Kid Icarus wouldn't see another game, save a slightly modified Gameboy pseudo remake, for 26 years (21 years if you count the Gameboy version). And the only reason it got one at all was because goddamn, the Nintendo 3DS needed more games.
See, the creator—Masahiro Sakurai, who is best known for making Kirby and Smash Bros—was tasked with creating a new game for the 3DS. He started working on an original shooter, because it seemed what the 3DS would be best at. Along the way, he decided that since it's Nintendo (and potentially to reduce his workload given he was making the game almost completely by himself at first), he might as well go with an existing IP. Inspired by how every goddamn character in Smash Bros either received their latest game two minutes before it came out or hadn't gotten one in 19 years, Sakurai decided that Kid Icarus would do (after realizing Star Fox wouldn't allow him the creative freedom he wanted).
Unlike the original game, featuring an evil goddess fighting against a good goddess, the new series adds aliens, a sun god, a god parasite, and a dark version of Pitt as well as the ability for children to ever beat it even a little.
Which, to be honest, doesn't sound a lot like Star Fox, but hey, you know what else didn't sound like Star Fox?
Star Fox Adventures
Star Fox is a long and much beloved series focusing on a series of animals who all get their legs cut off so they can become better fighter pilots and take on the long-thought dead madman who killed most of your parents. It's a fun Nintendo franchise for the whole family. The series is primarily an on the rails shooter, featuring you and your team fighting against Andross (the giant evil dead robot ghost space monkey) who is attempting to conquer the galaxy … and then there was the dinosaur land one.
Yeah, one of the games jettisoned you on a strange land, like the beginning of Metroid, except instead of the monsters of the planet being weird bird people who want to adopt you, it's dinosaurs. The original game was designed to be a more Banjo-Kazooie-esque story, of magic, children, and warlocks, but then a big idiot had to come in and change all of it. Instead of the original plot of an ancient warlock related to you, it's just Andross again.
See, the game was pretty far along in development under the title Dinosaur Planet, when Nintendo looked at it and slid some dollar bills across the table while going “Hey, why don’t you see if you can slide a Fox into that?” So a lot of the original game stuck around—including a cut scene that has Fox moving erratically because it was originally a different character Saber who was holding a sword, and an end scene that has Krystal use magic powers … despite not having them in this game.
Shortly after the game came out, Rare, the developer, was bought by Microsoft, which absolutely had nothing to do with how much they were sick of Nintendo's shit.
If you think about it all unplanned pregnancies are sequels that didn’t start out that way. Follow Tara Marie @TaraMarieWords or buy her comic wherever hasn’t sold out of it already. It’s selling like hotcakes!
Top image: Nintendo