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Genres and trends
Note: Simply being dormant for a certain amount of time does not make a genre or trend Deader Than Disco. For either to be this trope, there needs to be an ongoing backlash from both critics and fans, along with low sales for recent games and a significant decline in the amount of games released that are part of the respective genre or follow the respective trend.
- Point-and-click adventure games were hugely popular from the '80s through the mid-90s, but as happened to text adventures, technological changes made them obsolete. The advent of 3D cards and other game genres getting good writing were the beginning of the end for companies like Sierra and LucasArts. LucasArts distanced itself from the genre early on, focusing on Star Wars games, while Sierra effectively collapsed, trading hands from Vivendi to Activision. While the games do have cult followings, they're mostly mocked for their glacial pacing and convoluted puzzles. Even though they're staples of GOG.com and indie developers are still making them, adventure games seem unlikely to return to their former glory. Indie adventure game developers, like their interactive fiction hobbyist counterparts, focus more on the story than the puzzles. Even then, they still have a vocal hatedom from gamers and game journalists (Ben Croshaw has gone on record as loathing adventure games more than once) for their often tedious gameplay, seeing their fans as stuck in the Nostalgia Filter.
- While the Survival Sandbox genre is still going strong, one of its offshoots, the open-world zombie survival game, has become this. Pioneered by DayZ and State of Decay, the genre took off in the early '10s as a reinvention of the Survival Horror genre, one that finally allowed people to play what many had long considered a dream game: survival in a full-blown Zombie Apocalypse in a way that past games like Resident Evil never truly realized. Inevitably, shovelware developers started cashing in on the trend; a common joke about the copycats was that all they did was slap buzzwords like "zombies", "survival", and "crafting" on the description and call it a day. Survival games with online functionality gained reputations for playerbases filled with trolls, many games in Steam Early Access wound up as unfinished vaporware, and even DayZ began to lose its luster in the community due to a growing number of unpatched bugs. Nowadays, new games in the genre are seen as the domain of hacks trying to get rich quick.
- Motion controls were once held as having the potential to revolutionize gaming as much as the analog stick had done. When Nintendo unveiled the Wii, it became an overnight craze due to how amazing motion controls seemed at the time. For that alone, it sold like nuclear hotcakes and quickly outpaced the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as the best-selling console of the Seventh Generation, which led Microsoft and Sony to produce motion controls for their own consoles. Will Wright even famously stated that the Wii was the only true next-gen console for introducing a new way to play video games, rather than just improving graphics.
By The New Tens however, motion controls had lost much of their luster. The general consensus was that they were largely a gimmick that failed to produce any real quality games outside of a few niche genres (dance games, party games, and fitness tools like Wii Fit). The market for motion-controlled games became over-saturated with shovelware that tried to capitalize on its popularity, and when Microsoft and Sony made motion controls of their own, the shovelware started to pour onto their consoles. By the Eighth Generation, motion controls were all but dead. Most developers completely avoid putting motion controls in their games, while games that functioned almost entirely on motion controls are almost completely dead (Just Dance seems to be the only survivor). Even Nintendo tried to market the Wii U by significantly downplaying the presence of its motion controls in favor of controller-based gaming. However, what really drove home the fact that motion controls are dead was when Microsoft released a Kinect-less SKU of the Xbox One; not only did sales more than double afterwards, but it was widely seen as a Win Back the Crowd moment that saved the Xbox One. While retirement homes worldwide will still use the Wii for some time to come, the idea that motion controls are the "next revolution in gaming" is completely laughable today.
- Interactive Fiction, also known as Text Adventures, as popularized by Zork and the rest of the Infocom line, Infocom being the standard by which all text adventures were measured. By the beginning of The '90s, more powerful computers meant better graphics, which meant the end of text oriented games. There is a sizable hobbyist community around interactive fiction, but a significant amount of them are more literary than adventure oriented, while the genre in general is heavily associated with Guide Dang It as a result of Combinatorial Explosions.
- The Rail Shooter and its close cousin, the Light Gun Game. A combination of the collapse of the arcade industry (where such games were hugely successful), the difficulty of replicating the gameplay on a controller, and the rise of complex first- and third-person shooters in the '00s has rendered such games obsolete, seen as a rigid, stifling relic, and the genres are now largely found in budget titles. When a game today does feature an on-rails or turret-based sequence, it will be criticized for taking control away from the player. A contributing factor is likely the conversion to flatscreen televisions. Cathode-ray televisions all display the same way, but current televisions have wildly different refresh rates, interlacing, and being LCD or plasma. One of the methods lightguns can use to determine placement is by whiting the screen and having the photo-receptive diode in the gun register how many milliseconds it takes for the interlacing to white where it is pointed. With old televisions, this would be a known constant and visible to the naked eye as a screen flash. Newer televisions are capable of various faster refresh rates and are generally less than six millisecondsnote .
- Modern military shooters were huge after the breakthrough smash of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and ruled over most of The Seventh Generation of Console Video Games. largely because they were a place where most people would socially interact with each other. But just before the eighth generation hit, they started to suffer a decline because the market that used to play those games has moved away from it with the releases of smartphones and tablets (which allow for more social interaction). The massive oversaturation, unrelated games being saddled with their mechanics to try and Follow the Leader, heaps of Unfortunate Implications, the release of more thoughtful and deconstructive shooters like Bioshock Infinite and Spec Ops: The Line as well as Pixar-esque class-based shooters like Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch, and as the successes of recent old school-style shooters such as Wolfenstein: The New Order, Shadow Warrior (2013), and Doom (2016), also killed hopes that another audience would be attracted by them. The death of the Medal of Honor franchise with the failure of Warfighter, which helped codify most of the tropes that served as staples of the genre, was also a large loss. Even the two titans of the genre, Call of Duty and Battlefield, have begun to move away from the formula. It still exists, but most would only be cult hits by modern standards.
- Winding the clock back even further, we see this is actually a cycle: the modern war shooter is what made the World War II shooter DTD. Both Medal of Honor and Call of Duty started as WWII shooters, and from the early 2000's to about 2009, they were almost the only shooter games on the market. Only time will tell if Battlefield One's World War I setting will set off a new trend.
- Unlicensed video games for consoles. Back in the NES/SNES eras (and before that, when platform control by the manufacturer was very limited), various companies like Wisdom Tree and the like released various unlicensed and sometimes pirated games for the different systems. Stuff like Action 52 got "published" this way as well. But since a few generations ago, these types of games seem to have become extinct, likely for the following reasons: The expertise and effort needed to make a console game has gone up significantly, so it's less feasible for either a small company/group or a one-man band to try and compete any more. Firmware updates mean that circumventing the lockout mechanisms for game systems is much more difficult, and so both unlicensed ripoffs like Action 52 and outright illegal pirate games (like all those sticking Mario or other famous characters in unrelated titles) can be blocked after their release date.
- Back in the '80s, handhelds that only played one game, like the Game & Watch series and Tiger Electronics' LCD games, were fairly popular. However, the fact that many were low quality, as well as the increase in popularity of more powerful and versatile cartridge-based handhelds like the Game Boy, basically killed off the genre. Game & Watch has had increased popularity since Mr. Game And Watch became a character in Super Smash Bros. Melee, but most other one-game handhelds have died, the field by and large associated with shovelware.
Specific games and series
- In the late '90s, Duke Nukem was quite possibly the coolest video game hero (or rather, Anti-Hero) in existence. Duke Nukem 3D was seen as a landmark shooter, not just for its at-the-time awe-inspiring sense of freedom, but for the wisecracking, steroid-pumped babe-magnet that was Duke himself. Anticipation for his follow-up game, Duke Nukem Forever, was through the roof.
Unfortunately, Duke's time in the spotlight would not last long. Duke Nukem Forever had a notoriously long and chaotic development history (detailed here), with the final game not being released until 2011, more than 14 years after it was announced — and when it was finally released, it was a dud, not just for its clunky gameplay and half-baked ideas, but also for falling victim to changing social mores. What was once seen as possibly the most awesome and badass protagonist in all of gaming was now seen as a racist, sexist, juvenile pervert. Gearbox (the company that finally finished and released the game) vehemently defended the game, saying that players simply didn't get its humor, but the general consensus was that the game's "humor" fell horribly flat, especially in the wake of games like the Grand Theft Auto series that managed to deliver similar edgy, boundary-breaking humor with more intelligence and maturity. While there has been talk of a possible franchise reboot, it's more likely that Duke Nukem Forever will (ironically enough) be the last game where he'll be seen.
- Originally, Driver and its sequel were seen as a revolution in gaming in that they were (together with Body Harvest and Ocarina of Time) some of the first games to let you openly explore a 3D environment, pre-dating the Grand Theft Auto series by two years in this regard. However, the third game, Driv3r in 2004, was Christmas Rushed for both the holiday season and to beat the release date of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and it showed in its Obvious Beta state and resultant mixed reception. Making matters worse was when the game's publisher Atari was caught having bribed two of the largest gaming magazines in Europe, letting them review Driv3r two months early in exchange for giving it a score of 9 out of 10. The fallout from both the game and the scandal destroyed the series' reputation, causing Atari to hand it and developer Reflections off to Ubisoft to wash their hands of it. Nowadays, the Driver series has only a cult following at best, seen nowadays as a curiosity and a footnote of the PS1 era as opposed to the groundbreaking title it was in its heyday, with most of its attention having been sucked up by the 3D Grand Theft Auto games. While Driver: San Francisco in 2011 did win the acclaim of those who played it, it wasn't enough to save the series, with a planned sequel being retooled into Watch_Dogs.
- Clayfighter was one of the more popular street fighting games of the fourth generation, ironically just as much with parents as with children, for being a more cartoonish, less gory take on the traditional street fighting games of that era. Unfortunately, the series lost a number of fans with Clayfighter 2: Judgment Clay for the game's darker tone and omission of a number of fan-favorite fighters like Blue Suede Goo. When the anticipated N64 sequel Clayfighter 63⅓ was finally released after a rather troubled development history, it was an unfinished mess with choppy animation, utterly broken gameplay, and the same dark tone people complained about with C2 (plus, all the fighters dropped in C2 remained MIA, and many fighters introduced in C2 joined them). The game was so broken, in fact, that six months later a rental-only update that addressed some (but certainly not all) of the game's problems was released. Meanwhile, a PlayStation version titled Clayfighter X-treme was almost finished but cancelled at the last minute. Even the once-popular original is now seen as not much better in hindsight, and despite a rumored WiiWare sequel that never materialized, the series is unlikely to ever make a comeback.
- When the first Turok game released on the Nintendo 64, it was lauded for its then-lush graphics and solid first-person shooting gameplay. Unfortunately, when GoldenEye (1997) was released and wowed everybody with its perfectly intuitive control scheme, stellar objective-based single player campaign, and amazing multiplayer mode, the flaws of the original Turok (namely its bizarre C-button dominated control scheme, confusing "collectathon" gameplay, and lack of multiplayer) became much less forgivable. While Turok 2: Seeds Of Evil was highly regarded upon release (though probably more for its at-the-time eye popping graphics than gameplay), Turok 3: Shadow Of Oblivion was largely ignored, thanks in no small part to the fact that it was released a mere three months after Perfect Dark. The fourth main game, Turok Evolution received mixed reviews and underperformed in sales. After the underwhelming commercial performance of the 2008 Turok reboot, it's not too likely the series will return.
- When it was first released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Deadly Towers was hailed as a revolutionary title for its varied exploration for its time; as it was one of the first RPGs on NES. Decades later, between the game's cheap nature, confusing design, and the fact that better RPGs were available not long after, it now shows up regularly on lists of the worst NES games ever.
- Battle Arena Toshinden was considered a Killer App at the time of its release due to it being one of the earliest 3D fighting games (and the first weapons-based 3D fighter) and was showered with rave reviews. The sequels were less well received (in fact, Battle Arena Toshinden URA for the Sega Saturn was the first game to earn a 0.5 Fun Factor in Gamepro Magazine), and the series itself was overshadowed by the likes of other 3D fighting games such as Tekken and Virtua Fighter. Critics and fans who decided to revisit the original were far less kind to it, claiming the game aged poorly. Tomy and DreamFactory tried to reboot the franchise on the Wii, but it was largely ignored. Today, you're more likely to find fans of Saber Marionette J (which it shares a character designer with) than this.
- While forgotten today, Tiger Electronics was a major force in handheld gaming in the '80s and '90s. They released small handheld LCD games that were really cheap and could all be bought separately. Their peak was in the early '90s, during which time they licensed almost every movie and TV show that was popular at the time, and even released handheld versions of games from other companies (they made LCD versions of Sonic 2 and Mortal Kombat, for example). They also released Giga Pets, probably the most successful of the many, many competitors of Tamagotchi. However, in 1998 they were bought out by Hasbro, and they largely abandoned making handheld games after their Furby toy became a runaway hit, causing them to focus more on electronic toys for Hasbro in an attempt to make lightning strike twice. Most of these toys, like the HitClips music player, the VideoNow video player, and the NetJet video game console, failed to catch on. Today, the Tiger Electronics brand is largely dead outside of Furby and its spinoffs, and the games that they made are now considered laughably primitive, especially once the Game Boy brought an NES-level gaming experience to handhelds. The review of them by a certain someone only cemented it.
- The DJMAX Technika series used to be very popular in arcades, surpassing the popularity of other rhythm games wherever Technika machines existed. Unfortunately, in 2012, DJMAX Technika 3 updates abruptly ceased, causing the series to plunge in popularity, which was not helped by the developer Pentavision folding and being absorbed into Neowiz. At the end of 2013, the servers for Technika 3's online functionality were removed, preventing anyone from ever accessing their data (e.g. unlocks) ever again. Today, the "proper" response to someone mentioning Technika or even just the DJMAX franchise in general is a snarky comment denying all existence of the series.
- The Hello Engine in Mario Fan Gaming has come into this. Back in its day, this was a game engine that worked like a level editor for full Mario fan games, with it having numerous built in resources based on games like Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, 3 and World. However, it's fallen into decline for a few notable reasons: Way, way too many people made awful games with it (due to treating a game engine as a level editor for Mario games) that the engine's reputation sank in about three or four years. The fact Hello himself (the creator of said engine) had a reputation for making tons of Mission Pack Sequels with said engine without changing a whole lot didn't help either. The engine was plagued with bugs in all forms, with some notable ones including glitched sliding mechanics (in earlier versions), getting stuck in objects and losing all momentum when entering new rooms. No one making the terrible games ever usually bothered to fix any of this, so the experience was usually a miserable one when coupled with extremely difficult or poor level design. Mario Fan Games Galaxy started just rejecting anything made with said engine (that didn't make massive changes to it) to avoid the flood of crap, meaning that many people moved to different engines or stuff in order to not worry about being accepted. As a result, the engine went from 'hottest thing ever' to 'complete joke' in a short time, with the only major games using it being either Fusion Fangaming projects (Mushroom Kingdom Fusion and Super Mario Fusion Revival) or joke games (many of which edited the engine significantly).
- J2E's Fan Translation of Final Fantasy IV was once highly regarded, praised for a lack of Bowdlerization and not having the initial localization's lowered difficulty. However, as people got wiser, a translated version of the original script became easier to get, and, perhaps more to the point, Legends of Localization ripped it apart, its flaws have become obvious. The script has been criticized for questionable translations, ill-fitting pop culture references, a general sense of unprofessionalism, stealing lines from the original SNES localization, and many supposedly Bowdlerized lines actually being made up by J2E, it came to be widely mocked and considered to be everything wrong with Fan Translations. In addition, Final Fantasy IV: Namingway Edition seeks to restore the original version from the US version, precisely because of the Fan Translation being so poor. (For what it's worth, the aforementioned Legends of Localization still considers it better than the PlayStation 1 script.)
- In 2009 and 2010 Starry Sky was one of the biggest and most beloved otome game franchises. Now it's a dead horse, despite Honeybee still releasing ports of the games on several platforms.
- Bubsy was originally hyped as the next Sonic the Hedgehog. Electronic Gaming Monthly even gave him an award for being the most hyped character of 1993. When the first game came out, it received mostly favorable reviews. However, a combination of a failed cartoon and sequels that got less and less positive reaction per installment (ranging from the painfully mediocre Bubsy 2 to the trainwreck that was Bubsy 3D) have put this bobcat to sleep. History hasn't been kind to the original game either, as it's now held up as an example of everything wrong with mascot-based platformers, citing problems such as slippery controls and Bubsy himself being annoying. Not helping was an ill-concieved cartoon pilot (Rob Paulsen has completely disowned having voiced Bubsy in the second game and the pilot), and Sonic himself has lost his untouchable status.
- Bug! for the Sega Saturn is in a very similar boat. In 1995, the game was highly acclaimed and seen as being the system's big Killer App. Of course, it probably helped that there wasn't much else available for the Saturn at the time, and neither the Nintendo 64 nor PlayStation had launched yet. But the game also had the (rather important) distinction of being probably the first platformer to allow movement in all four directions. It garnered 9's and 10's across the board, with even Steven Spielberg proclaiming (to paraphrase) that it would be to the Saturn what Sonic was to the Genesis. Unfortunately, once competing games like Jumping Flash! and especially Super Mario 64 were released, a backlash set in, and Bug! was quickly cast aside by reviewers and gamers. Many retrospectively criticized the game for its confusing level design, lack of true 3D freedom (you could only move on one axis at a time) and annoying main character. The sequel Bug Too! came and went, with critics giving it lukewarm reviews and gamers largely ignoring it. The series has been forgotten ever since, only ever being brought up as a prime example of everything that was wrong with the Video Game 3D Leap in its early stages.
- Heboris: Unoffical Expansion was initially the go-to open-source PC clone of Tetris. However, the code was a mess, and as a result, attempts to modify it were left futile. It's been superseded by NullpoMino, which is far easier to modify. Generally speaking, if any Tetris guide recommends Heboris, it's outdated.
- The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES game was well-regarded at the time of its release, winning Nintendo Power's Game of the Year Award for 1989, and selling four million copies. However, time hasn't been kind to the game at all. Players who decided to give the game another go years after its release cited the Nintendo Hard difficulty, the many liberties the game took with the Turtles license, and unbalanced player characters are reasons for the game's many flaws that were bound to be inescapable. Nowadays; the more well-regarded TMNT games of the 8-bit and 16-bit era are the NES port of the arcade game; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Manhattan Project; and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time; and the original game is a frequent target of mockery among internet critics.
- FarmVille was once one of the most popular browser games out there, with tens of millions of users and references on even TV shows. It seemingly displaced The Sims as "the game regular people play," and it was even considered a competitor to World of Warcraft. However, its userbase declined heavily around 2011, and it isn't nearly as ubiquitous as it once was, with many of its former fans having moved on to Candy Crush Saga or Clash of Clans. To the people who still care, it's mostly emblematic of shallow, free-to-play-pay-to-win browser games, as well as developer Zynga's plagiarist tendencies (the game is a near-copy of fellow Facebook farming sim FarmTown).
- The Getaway was a Sleeper Hit in the UK of 2002, sold more than one million copies there (the creators even made a special limited edition celebrating the 1 million copies they sold of the game) and presented huge competition to the Grand Theft Auto series there. The creators already had behind the scenes problems after its publication, with its CEO leaving the company to found a company in Australia that would publish the successful L.A. Noire 9 years later, but the company still continued regardless. Then The Getaway: Black Monday was released in 2004, but it was a major flop because it was basically the same game as the original with a new plot and even worse controls. There was a sequel shown to it on E3 2005 but it never saw a release. Nowadays, even the original is nowadays only seen as So Okay, It's Average, with most praising its massive scope (the game features the most accurate maquette of 2002 London that you will ever find) and great storytelling, but reviled for its horrible control and level design, which sacrifices fun for attention to detail. Most people will say that you should play L.A. Noire instead, as it has all the positives that The Getaway has and much less of its drawbacks.
- Zool was at its debut considered to be the Amiga rival to Sonic the Hedgehog and was for many Europeans the reason not to buy a Sega Genesis (even though it started as something unrelated to it to begin with and became multi-platform after a few months). In a sense you could say that it was the #2 Mascot with Attitude and one that could eclipse Sonic in popularity at any given moment. It actually would still have that position were it not for the fact that Commodore was on a decline. Its sequel, Zool 2, was touted as a launch title for the ill-fated Amiga CD 32 and Atari Jaguar and never released on any other console. It also went to the Amiga (one year after its discontinuation) and on PC (where it never really had success). Its general unpopularity is the reason why Gremlin Interactive quietly put an end to the series. Even in retrospect many amiga owners say that the first game was So Okay, It's Average and overhyped beyond belief, although the sequel is still kept in high-regard. Many there prefer to remember them as the creator of fantastic racing games such as the Lotus and Super Cars series. Nowadays the most popular Mascot with Attitude that everyone remembers that is not called Sonic is the above mentioned Bubsy The Bobcat. Its probably not even the most well-known example of a Mascot with Attitude not called Sonic done right, even if Sonic isn't sacred cow status anymore (Spot from the game Cool Spot is a much better contender for this, although Lilac from Freedom Planet is on its way to eclipse him in popularity).
- Several in-universe examples occur in the Grand Theft Auto series.
- Over the course of the series, Lazlow goes from being one of the hottest DJs and radio hosts in America to a washed-up joke who's best known for payola scandals and personal indiscretions, is shilling for the "ZiT!" cellphone app to pay the bills, and gets ridiculed on the street by passerby. Throughout the series, we get to catch up on him at all the points in his career, from his rise (VCS, Vice City) to the peak of his popularity (San Andreas, GTA III) to after his fall (GTA IV). He has received a second wind by GTA V in the form of hosting a TV talent show, but his jerkass demeanor is cranked Up to Eleven.
- In Vice City, set in 1986, Love Fist is shown to be one of the biggest bands in the world, with two of their songs playing on the rock station and with them going on a world tour that's been banned in several countries. However, in San Andreas, set six years later, they appear to have been largely forgotten, with the DJ on the classic rock station asking "whatever happened to Love Fist?" Love Fist was a parody of the stereotypes of Hair Metal and the musicians that performed it, so it makes sense that, by 1992, the band would be washed up like many other hair metal acts were at the time.
- In GTA IV, set in 2008, the website MyRoomOnline.net is a parody of Myspace, its users, and the culture that surrounded it. By GTA V, set five years later, MyRoom is a shell of its former self referred to as "the ghost town of the internet", having been driven into irrelevancy by the Facebook parody Lifeinvader and forced to sell its domain name, reflecting how Myspace went out of style in the late '00s and early '10s.
- Punch-Out!! has an in-universe example in the Wii game, featuring Disco Kid. Doc lampshades this, occasionally saying that disco's dead.