Dork Age / Video Games

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    Final Fantasy 
  • The "Compilation of Final Fantasy VII", spearheaded by Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, is seen as one for the FF7 sub-franchise. Advent Children was met with highly mixed reception, and many fans were not happy with the Flanderization of various characters, particularly Cloud, who was bashed as the kind of "emo pretty-boy" stereotype that eventually became a frequent point of criticism for Final Fantasy, and Square Enix, as a whole. As the Compilation continued to build up, FF7 lost much of its prestige and recognition; most of the other entries were also met with similar criticisms and mixed reception — barring a few standouts like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, which nonetheless weren't as prestigious and loved as the original game. FF7's reputation only started to see a rise again with the announcement of Final Fantasy VII Remake and Cloud's addition to Super Smash Bros., both of which were driven by "Holy Shit!" Quotient reactions and drew heavily from the original game while ignoring developments from Advent Children and the rest of the Compilation.note 
  • In Final Fantasy XI, the Chains of Promathia expansion is considered to be a Dork Age by many, many, many players. Reasons included; grueling boss fights that required very specific party combinations and a fair amount of luck to win, storylines that were left hanging between updates, Notorious Monsters that were amazingly gimmicky with incredibly low drop rates for gear AND pop items for further Notorious Monsters. The era was also known for the infamous "Ranger Nerf" that, while somewhat justified in the fact that the Ranger job was severely overpowered compared to other jobs, went way too far and made it into one of the weakest jobs in the game. (This nerf was partially countered years later after Samurai became the new overpowered pet-job of the dev team.) Combined with the first unbeatable boss of the game, the Jailer of Love which was then nerfed to make way for the new unbeatable boss Absolute Virtue, quite a lot of mid to end-game players left FFXI to play World of Warcraft. Not that Chains of Promethia was completely terrible; the mission storyline is among the longest and most interesting in the game (and better than some of the storylines of the main games), created systems and fights that are still popular years later like Limbus, ENMs, Bahamut, and Ouryu, and included many in-depth optional side quests such as Adventuring Fellows (your own personal NPC). Changes to the mission fights were made to help players, such as making the fights easier, removing the experience penalty if they fall during battles, rewarding players with experience if they help people with the battles, and easing the restrictions of special items that help to make the battles easier- but these were made after the next expansion, Treasures of Aht Urhgan, when most players will agree that the Dork Age ended with a vengeance with a completely new philosophy in game design. (That it shouldn't be terrible to do things in the game.) Many people look fondly at the Chains of Promethia expansion, mainly because time has passed and people don't quite remember the original controller-throwing difficulty of the unnerfed missions, or they had only played the missions after they had been nerfed. Also, not losing thousands upon thousands of XP to the then unnerfed Jailer of Love and the still-to-this-day unnerfed Absolute Virtue may well help to keep those glasses rose-colored.
  • Final Fantasy XIV managed to go through a dork age twice. When the game launched in 2010, there were lots of bugs, terrible optimization that made the game run sluggishly for most PC users, and many game mechanics that were not looked upon favorably, such as having experience points being reduced in gains if you try to level up too much. Once the development team got replaced with new faces, the game was reworked from the ground up and relaunched 3 years later with favorable results; players could complete quests at their own leisure, items were mostly easy to obtain, and the game was very stable and optimized. However, a second dork age came along shortly after the rerelease; certain materials were hard to find or buy due to people and bots alike farming the materials and then selling the materials back on the market for absurdly high prices. End game gear that wasn't part of a loot drop were regulated to many weeks (or even months) of grinding for special tomes that were needed to obtain said gear. A few patches did address the issues, but the next major patch introduced more problems with the Atma system where players had to get 12 specific items from 12 specific events that pop up at random times in order to power up their Infinity +1 Sword. The problem is that the events can take hours to appear and the items from the event have ridiculously low drop rates. The fan base had exploded in anger over the Atma system and some have compared it to the same systems that were used in Final Fantasy XI.

  • Nintendo fans remember Hotel Mario and the Zelda CD-i games with shame, due to this and general unplayablity. They haven't been forgotten by YouTube, by way of So Bad, It's Good-ness and by extension, YouTube Poop.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The GameCube / GBA era was one at the time of its release. The flagship game of this era, Super Mario Sunshine, was controversial due to its unconventional gameplay, and was criticized for its voice acting. The rest of the era was dominated with remakes and spinoff entries (Mario Party, Mario Kart and sports titles) with the only other big headers being Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. In hindsight, these games have been Vindicated by History or become Cult Classics.
    • The Paper Mario subseries is often agreed to be in one as of 2016. It started with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, which was a heavily controversial game for removing the story, exploration and RPG elements that made previous installments so beloved (the former being suggested by Miyamoto no less). Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam was mostly held aloft by the gameplay and characterization approach of its other constituent series, while suffering from a few of the same problems as later Paper Mario games, and with Paper Mario: Color Splash more-or-less being a straight sequel to Sticker Star, many fans agree that the dork age isn't ending any time soon. There are a few fans who believe that the dork age began with Super Paper Mario, but in hindsight, it's seen as a far better game that mostly only suffers due to its different gameplay. There is also a section of fans who believe Color Splash ended the dork age by bring back the humour and characterisation from past titles and fixing most of the problems Sticker Star is remembered for. Really, the fanbase has been shattered into so many shards over Color Splash, it is hard to tell what they think of it.
    • Mario Party started out with three well-received games on the Nintendo 64, but became repetitive and formulaic by the time of the Nintendo GameCube sequels, and Mario Party Advance released during the same period was considered flat-out bad for its poor multiplayer experience. Mario Party 8, an early Wii title, got mediocre reviews and divisive fan reception, and Mario Party DS, the Nintendo DS follow-up that was released the same year, was considered So Okay, It's Average for largely similar reasons, particularly for feeling technologically dated. However, in an ironic twist, when the Mario Party series returned from hibernation, the mixed reception to the newer games invoked a sense of Vindicated by History for the Nintendo GameCube titles, as well as 8 and DS from fans who still wish for a return to the old formula.

      The series then went into hibernation for several years until Nd Cube made Mario Party 9 and tried to Win Back the Crowd by changing the game mechanics considerably, most notably having all players travel around the board in the same car. Again the Mario Party audience was divided, this time over whether it changed too much rather than changed too little. Mario Party 10 on the Wii U was based on this formula, and got a similar response.

      Island Tour on the 3DS was an attempt to tide over those who felt alienated by 9 with more traditional gameplay, and ended up being regarded as terminally mediocre. Star Rush for the 3DS tries to mix up the formula once more. While it is considered a decent attempt and a marked improvement over the other ND Cube Mario Party titles, whether or not it pulls the series out of its slump is yet to be seen, and Mario Party: The Top 100 was met with mixed reactions.
  • After being revived to universal acclaim through the Metroid Prime Trilogy by Retro Studios, the Metroid franchise stumbled into one hard with Team Ninja's Metroid: Other M, which was widely maligned by the fanbase for its more streamlined and linear gameplay, unconventional control scheme, and notorious storyline that many felt heavily derailed the character of series protagonist Samus Aran, as well as committing a second major sin in hinting that the Prime Trilogy might be Canon Discontinuity. The game was met with middling reviews and by and large alienated the Western fanbase, becoming an outright sales flop on the Western market. While the game did fare a bit better with the Japanese audience, which it was meant to appeal to in the first place, the sales on that side of the Pacific still ended up falling short of Nintendo's expectations. This resulted in Nintendo letting the Metroid series lie low, with co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto (who was heavily involved in Other M, to the point of being directly responsible for the more controversial design decisions) temporarily abandoning the series.

    Things went From Bad to Worse when Nintendo followed up Other M six years later with Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a Lighter and Softer spinoff game that took significant steps away from the series (focusing on the Federation instead of Samus, who is otherwise hardly in the game outside of a few cameos; utilizing a more simplified and deformed artstyle, and being a team co-op shooter, as opposed to being a Metroidvania game, among other things). Fan reaction was predominantly negative, with the fanbase at large accusing Nintendo to being absolutely tone deaf to what they wanted from a new Metroid game, with some fans even (infamously) going as far to call for the game's cancellation; the backlash culminated in Federation Force, on top of receiving weak reviews from critics, bombing even harder in sales than Other M did. Not helping matters was the DMCA takedown of the positively received Fan Remake, Another Metroid 2 Remake, which happened right around Federation Force's release.

    Only one year later, interest in the series was revived when not one, but two Metroid games that had Samus as the lead as well as two Metroid series amiibo were announced at E3 2017, with the first one —Samus Returns— being released later that September to widespread critical praise.
  • After Nintendo sold off Rare in 2002, the Donkey Kong franchise struggled in finding a new identity for itself. Donkey Kong stopped getting Donkey Kong Country games and went into quirky spinoff titles that, while having their share of fans, weren't particularly amazing. These included the Donkey Konga series of rhythm games with very few songs actually from previous games, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat which, while a fun platformer with a unique control scheme that works better than it sounds, had nothing to do with Donkey Kong Country and got a lot of hate for it, and Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, a racing game that was criticized for its poor controls and slow-paced feel compared to other games in the series. It came to an end in 2010, when Retro Studios took over and developed Donkey Kong Country Returns, which was released to wide acclaim and brought in a new legion of DK fans, resulting in an equally acclaimed sequel, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, being released in 2014.
  • The Wario series is currently stuck in a bit of a rut. Following the critically-acclaimed but financially middling Wario Land: Shake It in 2008, Wario stopped getting new platforming adventures while his other series, WarioWare, saw a steep downturn in popularity with the back-to-back failures of Warioware: Snapped! (which was critcized for being an obvious Tech Demo Game for the DSi camera and not working much at all), Warioware: D.I.Y (which was critically-acclaimed but sold horribly and was more divisive among fans due to its focus on user-generated content on a platform that made content sharing inconvenient at best), and Game & Wario, which was an even bigger sales failure than D.I.Y and whose decision to eschew the fast-paced microgames that had been the series trademark for long-form minigames proved to be controversial; however a new WarioWare game for Nintendo 3DS entitled WarioWare Gold releases August 2018.

    Sonic the Hedgehog 
  • The first one was between 1995 to 1997. The cancellation of Sonic X-treme meant that there would not be a main series Sonic on the Sega Saturn, which only provided fans with a Compilation Re-release, a port of a slow isometric game and a racing spin-off. Other than that, Sonic was relegated mostly to various spin-offs on the Game Gear. While the early '90s had Sonic more recognisable than Mickey Mouse, Sonic Team reportedly received letters asking who Sonic was shortly after the release of 1996's NIGHTS Into Dreams. This Dork Age finally ended with the release of Sonic Adventure in 1998.
  • The second (and perhaps the most well-known) is the one from 2005 to 2007 with the releases of Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), and Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis. Shadow's game was a spin-off meant to please Shadow's fans and conclude his amnesia arc, but Sega didn't stop there; they also tried to aim for the Grand Theft Auto crowd using Shadow's Byronic Hero characterization to justify some pretty bizarre choices (namely guns and mild swearing) with So Bad, It's Good results, plus the game's slippery controls and repetitive mission-based gameplay. Sonic '06 was hyped to be the Blue Blur's big comeback and a "re-imagining" of the series for the seventh-generation consoles; instead it turned out to be a rushed mess with Sonic receiving a much-maligned romance subplot involving a human princess, which had less overall importance compared to the plots given to his co-stars. Sonic Genesis was a Game Boy Advance port of the original game, and ended up as another rushed mess that was just salt in the wound after '06. Lastly, Sonic Riders, Sonic Rivals, and Sonic and the Secret Rings were released around this time, and though not as reviled as '06, they were either seen as So Okay, It's Average at best and/or panned for their controls.
  • After this, the fanbase became even more fractured than before, with differing opinions on when the Dork Age even started and when (if at all) it ended.
  • There's been a third Dork Age for the franchise, which began in some time after the release of Sonic Generations and may or may not have ended by now; marked by a slew of releases of surprisingly middling quality after it was believed Sonic Team had finally gotten back on track. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II became a contested followup within a sequel series that was controversial to begin with, and its sales and reviews were so middling that it caused plans for future episodes to the saga to be quietly dismissed. Following that was Sonic Lost World, which brought upon a myriad of changes from the past titles —most notoriously the gameplay and level design, the artstyle, and the narrative/characterization in the story— that weren't accepted by several and were considered heavily flawed by those who did give it a chance; and was widely perceived as the first real stumble. Lost World also established the beginning of an unpopular and unsuccessful partnership forged between Sega and Nintendo, which restricted a trilogy of Sonic games as exclusive to the Wii U console, which turned out to be a commercial disappointment. Then came the infamous Sonic Boom spinoff games (Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal), which already riding off the controversy of being licensed games to a new brand of Sonic fans criticized as unnecessary and at risk of further fracturing the fanbase. With both games criticized as repetitive and dull in their design, and Rise of Lyric in particular turning out to be yet another rushed mess of a game (with many likening Rise of Lyric to the aforementioned Sonic '06); the Boom games proved themselves as a new low point for the series as both critical and commercial failures. Unsurprisingly, they were credited to Sega undergoing restructuring and dozens of employee layoffs shortly after their release, and Sega later apologizing for betraying the trust of their consumers.

    While the Boom games would mark the absolute nadir of the third Dork Age, attempts to move on from it haven't been smooth sailing. Sonic Team's attempt at getting into the mobile gaming space with Sonic Runners started out promising (if still not without problems) with its soft launch...only for the game to go offline barely a year later thanks to the well-received "official" worldwide launch of the game, which took the game's existing issues and turned them Up to Eleven while adding more issues onto the pile. A third Sonic Boom game, Fire and Ice, sank without a trace; despite being delayed by Sega for over a year for quality control reasons and commended as a superior effort over the past Boom games by the few who decided to pick it up. The legal pileup caused by Ken Penders's lawsuits and CreatorArchie's shifted focus to other properties resulted in Sega and Archie abruptly cancelling the latter's famed comic series about the mascot. Despite the comic having run for 24 years up to that point, the cancellation was announced with minimal fanfare and after a startlingly long period of radio silence from both parties after release of issues came to an unannounced (and permanent) hiatus. Sonic Team's long-awaited followup to Lost World, multiplatform debut for the generation, and tie-in game for the series' 25th anniversary, Sonic Forces, only continued the streak of lukewarm reception. Despite garnering interest for returning to the Boost gameplay, gunning for a more serious story and tone (in contrast to past titles), and premise (Dr. Eggman having succeeded in taking over the world); the gameplay and level design was panned as a lackluster step back from previous Boost titles and its story was considered a disappointment, with the game largely considered unambitious outside of its "Custom Hero" playstyle (which ever since its reveal has remained a major topic of great debate between fans).

    The third Dork Age, however, isn't without its few diamonds in the rough. Despite the poor reception of the tie-in games, the Sonic Boom animated series has generally been considered a genuinely enjoyable show, and has largely shaken off the stigma caused by the tie-in games. The end of the Archie Sonic comic was shortly followed by Sega announcing they had given IDW Publishing the rights to make a new comic about the series set for 2018, emphasizing the series as a fresh start from the Archie continuity. Sega taking a chance on getting the fans to make an official Sonic game resulted in their other 25th anniversary project in Sonic Mania, a successor to the Genesis Sonic games developed by high-profile members from the community that was praised by reviewers and fans alike as not only a proper follow up to the Genesis Sonic titles, but as one of the best Sonic games in years.

  • Warcraft: There's a lot of debate as to which expansion of World of Warcraft constitutes as this. The common arguments are as follows:
  • The Burning Crusade is generally considered to have great gameplay, but a terrible plot and setting that changed a lot of beloved Warcraft III characters, accidentally and shoddily retconned a major enemy race, and had too many elements verging on sci-fi for players to feel it belonged comfortably in Warcraft's fantasy setting. It also contained what is still considered to be the single hardest raid dungeon in the game's history, which influenced a lot of the development team's future philosophies with raid and class design.
  • Wrath of the Lich King is the inverse, with players praising its great narrative and characterization, but hating the gameplay changes, feeling as if both dungeon and raid content was dumbed down to appeal to a more casual playerbase, and homogenizing classes to the point where they lacked unique identity. It also added the game's first new class, the Death Knight, which saw a ridiculous amount of oversaturation during the expansion's life cycle.
  • Cataclysm has been met with cries of both story and gameplay rot, with the former two expansions and the vanilla game ironically being looked back upon as Golden Ages. Gameplay wise, it met a good mix of people feeling the new content was too hard, followed by nerfs that made it too easy. Story-wise the expansion had a largely ineffectual main antagonist following up the very well-loved Arthas, characters such as Thrall and Garrosh playing very important but unpopular roles, and it began the trend of Alliance players feeling as if the writers were biased against them, giving the Horde a lot of Kick the Dog moments and having their own quest lines never result in a fair comeuppance against the Horde.
  • Mists of Pandaria was controversial; certain aspects of the gameplay (notably daily quests) have been heavily criticized, and prior to release many people felt the inclusion of the pandaren was a jump the shark moment for the series. The story and the handling of the faction war are also objects of criticism. Debates also abound as to whether the game having its lowest subscription numbers in years is a result of poor development or simply people tiring of an almost decade-old game.
  • Warlords of Draenor has proven to be a very, very controversial expansion with players. Although the sub numbers increased from 6 million to 10 million and hype was high the launch was marred by full servers with some people unable to get on for *hours* waiting in a queue. Players felt themselves at a loss for what to do after hitting the level cap besides raiding and the population shrank to 5.5 million in September 2015, which turned out to be the last ever sub announcement as Blizzard announced in the following November they would no long announce sub numbers.
  • One that most will agree upon is the handling of the orc storyline in Cataclysm, and Mists of Pandaria due to their seeming extreme demonization, Aesop Amnesia, and Flanderization. The positive representation of the orcs in Mists of Pandaria could even be counted on one hand!
  • Let's not forget the RTS crowd who've been waiting years since Warcraft III for a new RTS title. Some believe ever since WoW (and MMORPGs in general) proved to be a bigger money maker than RTS games, this change in genre for the franchise marked the end of future RTS titles. Since then, StarCraft II has been released to scratch the RTS itch, but the wait for a Warcraft IV continues.
  • From a story standpoint, WoW has slowly become a dork age for the franchise in general. During the era of the RTS games, each game would expand on the world and even though some things were changed, for the most part fans were fine with the way the story developed. As WoW went on, retcons and continuity errors became much more common as well as more blatant. Many important NPCs became flanderized and new characters who were built up as important were often very controversial. The nature of being an MMORPG strangled the story, and prevented a lot of story threads from being resolved properly. Many characters who were portrayed as morally ambiguous (or even benevolent) were turned into raid bosses with little justification. The Alliance and The Horde will always be at each other's throats, no matter how many Conflict Balls have to be passed around for it to happen. The defeat of The Lich King was partially negated by the reveal that without a Lich King, the Scourge would devastate Azeroth, so another character was forced to take up the role, ensuring that the Scourge will likely never be wiped out. Attempts at rescuing characters from the scrappy heap either don't stick, or come at the expense of other characters. The developers are forced to try (and often fail) to balance the NPCs from taking part in important events without stealing the glory from the players, and having the NPCs doing absolutely nothing at all. Regardless of the mechanical benefits, each expansion tends to bring on another heap of base-breaking plot developments and characterization.

    Other games 
  • The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is widely believed to have gone through a dork age between 2007 and 2008. Once a Mecca for gamers, the event was made invitation-only and attendance dropped from 60,000 down to a low of 5,000 (the event was also inexplicably renamed the "E3 Media & Business Summit" during that time with little justification other than "the video game industry is not about 'entertainment', it's about business"). As a result, E3 went from being the ultimate expo in the video games to a low-key event. It didn't help that the E for All trade show meant to replace it turned out to be a dud. Also to make things worse the announcements and game demos E3 is known for were rather lacking in comparison to previous years.
  • Silent Hill is notorious for its horribly Broken Base, but most fans will agree that the series peaked with the first three games, and the existence of a franchise Dork Age is nearly unanimous. The general summation of this is a reverence for "Team Silent" and a mistrust of the games in which this development team was not involved, though the consensus is that Silent Hill 4: The Room, the last of the Team Silent entries (and a Dolled-Up Installment), is where the slide began.

    The first non-Team Silent game, Silent Hill: Origins, a prequel by the British developer, Climax Studios, was seen as a rather meager entry for having a main character who's own motivation and goal was rather vague at best and outright filmsy at worst, and having some rather glaring Series Continuity Errors. Silent Hill: Homecoming, developed by the American developer, Double Helix, was met with some degree of skepticism, as some fans felt that it was too slanted towards being an Actionized Sequel, amongst other criticisms like the game being too "Americanized", taking too many cues from the somewhat controversial Silent Hill film, and favoring Pandering to the Base over actual symbolism, but on the whole the game ended up being mostly seen as So Okay, It's Average. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories broke the fanbase further, between those convinced that the series remained mired in suck, and those who believe this entry was fresh and compelling enough to possibly signal a revival of the franchise.

    Reception to Silent Hill: Downpour was far more positive, and the announcement of Silent Hills got even the most jaded fans interested in the series again... until it got canceled in a dreadful case of Screwed by the Publisher, which (along with the announcement of a Silent Hill slot machine) has many fans wishing the Ten Plagues on Konami and fearing that the series may never escape its Dork Age.
  • Twisted Metal 3 and 4 were developed by 989 Studios rather than series' original developers, Singletrac. When the former staff members of Singletrac formed Incognito to develop the newer games in the franchise, it elected to wipe the events of those two titles from continuity.
  • A variant: Monkey Island 2 ended in such an impenetrably baffling fashion (the last part of the game takes place in the maintenance tunnels of an amusement park, and the undead antagonist turns out to be Guybrush's brother in a mask, and the whole escapade was All Just a Dream (or was it?) that its sequel, The Curse of Monkey Island, retconned the previous game's final confrontation into something a bit easier to follow. However, status quo wasn't necessarily restored because Monkey Island 2's ending was bad — it's more that after Ron Gilbert left the series, no one knew where he was planning to go with this revelation, and he has no intention of telling anybody. However, it's far more likely that it was just the final absurd twist in a game full of them than any sort of deep statement about the characters.
  • The makers of the MMO Star Wars: Galaxies decided it wasn't successful enough, so they came up with the "New Game Experience", which involved massive changes to the game mechanics, combat system, character classes, and everything else, in the hope of attracting a whole new demographic. The result was an existing player base that was thoroughly (and vocally) pissed off, a new player base that never materialised, and a huge drop in subscriptions (not officially admitted, but confirmed by user-written in-game surveying tools before the company caught on and disabled the tools). Other MMOs have done similar things on a less spectacular scale, but SWG's NGE is the infamous example everyone points to. One of the major reasons for this is that the developers changed the way one becomes a Jedi. Originally, players had to find a holocron and master whatever class tree it said to master, then the player may luck out and become a Jedi, or would receive another holocron and continue the cycle until they eventually became a Jedi. This, naturally, would be a grind. The New Game Experience let players start as a Jedi. Not only did this mean that everyone picked to be a Jedi while avoiding every other class, and pissing off those people unlucky enough to have had to master every class to become a Jedi before then, but it also royally futzed with the franchise's canon. You had many thousands of Jedi running around in the open when at that time in the official storyline, the only true, trained Jedi still living was Yoda. Just how bad is it? A new Star Wars MMO, handled by Knights of the Old Republic developer BioWare and set in the KoToR timeline to justify letting everyone be a Jedi, has since came along.
  • The Leisure Suit Larry series entered a Dork Age with the games starring Larry Lovage (Magna Cum Laude and Box Office Bust). It is worth noting that Al Lowe, the series' creator, isn't involved with either of them. Judging by his site, he'd be more than happy to give them advice, and is also more than happy he wasn't involved when the games bombed.
  • In the late 1990s, Konami farmed out the development of the Contra series to Hungarian developer Appaloosa, resulting in the creation of the series' two PlayStation installments Contra: Legacy of War (which also saw release on the Sega Saturn) in 1996, and C: The Contra Adventure in 1998. Both games were critically panned when they came out and Konami even canceled plans to localize the first of the two titles in Japan after the negative reception it received, which makes one wonder why they would give Appaloosa a second chance. It's made all the worse by the fact that Legacy of War relied on a 3D glasses gimmick for sales (we're talking '50s B-Movie red/blue cardboard glasses here) and massively derailed existing characters and canon, considering these followed on from Contra: Hard Corps, one of the more story-heavy Contra games, it did not go well. It should be noted that both games are explicitly exiled from the Contra canon.
  • Backyard Sports, with the games from 2006 onward. There had been numerous character changes and removed characters, and the announcers were incredibly boring.
  • Fans of The King of Fighters generally look at the period of time Eolith produced the games, especially KOF 2001 as a Dork Age. The way 2001 plays is in general more glitchy and gimmicky (letting you choose how many teammates and strikers you want, for starters — meaning you can even fight 1-vs-4 battles, something that should only be reserved for bosses) than any other incarnation of the series, and is in general a mess. The music for these games has been compared to the sounds of robots farting, and Eolith introduced a few of their own character designs (although a scant few, like May Lee, were more favorably received). When SNK reclaimed the wheel as SNK Playmore, among the first things they did was to wipe several elements from 2001 right out of the canon, including the whole character of K9999 (also a blatant Captain Ersatz of Tetsuo) and Foxy's death. 2002, however, is still one of the most played versions in the series competitively, and even after the release of 2002: Unlimited Match you'll still see some original '02 tournies being played. Now, 2001 on the other hand? Nope.
    • The time the franchise switched to the tag team format with KOF 2003 and KOF XI can be seen as one as well (though it was generally well-received, especially with the improvements made in XI, one of the more favorable SNKP entries along with XIII), which is why later games have dumped the tag team system in favor of the traditional 3-man elimination format.
  • Fans of the Crash Bandicoot series generally consider the departure of series creator Naughty Dog in 2000 to be the start of the series' descent into mediocrity, with Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex and Crash Nitro Kart being seen as uninspired copies of Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped and Crash Team Racing respectively. An attempt was made to freshen up the series with Crash Twinsanity, but the Obvious Beta status of the game led to the game selling poorly. Radical Entertainment would proceed to release Crash of the Titans and Crash: Mind Over Mutant, which received a mixed reception and led to the series going into hibernation for 8 years until the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was released, marking the end of Crash's Dork Age for the time being.
  • Mortal Kombat was another fighting series that went through this.
    • After Mortal Kombat 4 hit the Polygon Ceiling, the series seemed to have reached a stalemate with a largely undistinguishable (except for an expanded character roster) Updated Re-release for Dreamcast, Mortal Kombat Gold, and the PlayStation-exclusive Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, an utterly horrible action spin-off. In the wake of this, John Tobias jumped ship from the creative team, and the series laid low as the gaming industry entered its new generation — between Special Forces and the next entry in the series, there was a three-year gap.
    • The trilogy of Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon are not exactly remembered fondly. Deadly Alliance derailed several characters and dropped bridges on nearly all of the iconic characters of the series, Deception introduced many less than stellar characters, including a character whose entirely characterization is literally yet another Stripperific ninja, a character is who is a walking, one-note Toilet Humor joke, a main hero who is straight out of a teenage MK fanfiction, and a main villain who is one of the biggest Villain Sues in fighting game history (though Onaga is more fondly regarded nowadays among the fandom, a rarity for Big Bads not named Shao Kahn). Finally, Armageddon replaced the unique Fatalities with bog standard ones to accommodate for all the characters present and a Story Mode even more fanfictiony than Deception's.
    • And then there was Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which can be seen as Midway trying to figure out what to do with the series. It's not necessarily a bad game, but it's a firm indicator of Mortal Kombat's Dork Age, because the simple fact of it being rated T by ESRB (due to the DC superheroes) made this game a standout, and not in a positive way: it meant a lot of what players knew of MK would be inevitably Bowdlerised (mainly the explicit Gorn, which was reduced to the odd blood spill here and there, and censored Fatalities — even more so than the home versions of the original game). It ultimately took Midway filing for bankruptcy and seeing its assets acquired by WB Games for the series to get back on track-the bankruptcy/acquisition period allowed for Midway Studios (now reincarnated as Netherrealm Studios) to sort out what worked and what didn't work and then return to series to form with the well-received Mortal Kombat 9, as well as using their experience on the DC end of things to turn out Injustice: Gods Among Us, a cool all-DC fighting game. There's a (mostly-joking) conspiracy theory that WB deliberately gimped MK vs. DC in order to facilitate their buyout of Midway.
  • Street Fighter actually inverted this. When the Street Fighter III series came out, many people were turned off by all the changes and many dropped the series altogether. As time has passed however, many looked back and were able to view the SFIII series, specifically the third iteration, 3rd Strike, much more favorably.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War was Warren Spector's entry into a Dork Age, and immediately lost his accumulated industry and fan respect. He's managed to bounce back some, which is better than most other developer/producers in the same situation have been able to do (anyone remember what John Romero has been up to since Daikatana?) but still hasn't regained his former stature. Because of lingering rancor, Thief: Deadly Shadows received less fair critical reviews than it deserved, and Spector hasn't been invited to return for a sequel. He may have found a rehabilitation of his image in the unlikely vessel of a Mickey Mouse game, though its mixed reception (and Spector's claims that negative reviewers "misunderstood" the game) didn't make for the reputation resurrection that was hoped for.
  • Infinity Ward, the studio that created Call of Duty, seems to be stuck in one since 2010. When the studio released the first Call of Duty in 2001, Infinity Ward was universally praised for the game's quality and for popularizing the World War 2 military shooter genre. Infinity Ward's reputation only grew when it moved the Call of Duty franchise into the modern day setting with the ''Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare''. However, after the release of Modern Warfare 2, the company has been entering a gradual downward spiral. In 2010, many of its staff left or were forced out by parent company Activision over payment issues, leaving the studio without many of its original creative minds. Subsequently, the following Infinity Ward games Call of Duty Ghosts and Call of Duty Infinite Warfare were seen as inferior installments in the franchise; Ghosts was disliked for its weak story and rehashed Modern Warfare gameplay, and Infinite Warfare was criticized for copying the sci-fi gameplay of Halo and Titanfall. In more recent years, the fanbase consider studios Treyarch and Sledgehammer to be the best developers of Call of Duty for at least willing to innovate and update their games. In the eyes of the public, Infinity Ward is a hollow shell of its former self now overshadowed by other studios in the shooter market.
  • While Warhammer 40,000-based games made by Relic Entertainment (Dawn of War 1 and 2, Space Marine, etc.) have been generally well-received, the Dawn of War expansion that was farmed out to Iron Lore, Soulstorm, has received nothing but rancor. Canonically, the storyline of the previous expansion was a rousing success for the "Spess Mehreens", while the campaign of the Obvious Beta that was Soulstorm is considered an embarrassing defeat that is spoken of only with great reluctance. This is elaborated upon by fans that have noticed a few things: In Soulstorm, two factions in particular were noticeably overpowered by Iron Lore: Tau and, to a far far worse extent, Eldar. A lot of the other factions were barely complete, having only threadbare unit lineups or just plain weak units that weren't worth the resources they were made of. One of these factions hit the hardest were the In-Universe Butt-Monkey Imperial Guard. Later material that mentions the events in Soulstorm written by Games Workshop shows that the Imperial Guard won a massive victory over all other factions, the Tau were forced out of the sector entirely, and that the Eldar had lost an entire Craftworld due to the conflict. Even Dawn of War II takes multiple jabs at Soulstorm, with the disastrous Kaurava campaign referred to as "a mistake" that should not be spoken of again, which seriously depleted the chapter's manpower, and ends up being part of Cyrus' reason for betrayal if he ends up as the traitor in Chaos Rising.
  • The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise fell into one hard with RIDE and SHRED, which attempted to revive the franchise by using a skateboard-shaped motion controller to simulate boarding movement. This failed to address any of the problems the series had been going through, and introduced several new ones. Both games failed as a result, and the Hawk franchise crashed and burned, forcing Activision to put it on life support with the downloadable "back-to-basics" Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD and the mobile Temple Run clone Tony Hawk's Shred Session. Unfortunately, Pro Skater 5 received poor reception, putting the franchise's future in doubt.
  • There are ten years between Black Isle's Fallout 2 and Bethesda Softworks' Fallout 3. There are two Fallout games between them — Microforte's Fallout Tactics and Interplay's In-Name-Only Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. Tactics was a competent game, albeit one that had severe issues with staying within the established continuity (in a world where World War III was brought on by a crippling energy crisis, many bases have full drums of fuel just lying around more than a hundred years later, et cetera). The same cannot be said of Brotherhood, a second-rate Baldur's Gate clone with a paper-thin Fallout veneer and MAJOR continuity errors. Bethesda has proclaimed Tactics to be Broad Strokes canon, while Brotherhood is full-on Canon Discontinuity.
  • The Need for Speed franchise had one. While several older fans claim the entire Underground era to be Fanon Discontinuity, most fans generally point to Carbon in 2006 as the beginning of the series' downward slide (especially coming on the heels of Most Wanted in 2005, generally regarded as one of the series' high points), and ProStreet and Undercover in the ensuing years as the nadir of NFS' dork age. In any event, it ended with the release of the very well-received Shift in 2009 and Hot Pursuit in 2010, which brought the series back to its focus on exotic cars and away from the burned-out "tuner" culture.

    Since then, however, a Broken Base has emerged between "exotic" fans, who prefer the games when they're focused on supercars and exotic locales, and "tuner" fans, who prefer car customization and city racing. This produced a case of Critical Dissonance on the 2013 Most Wanted and 2014's Rivals, as fans of exotics (which included the majority of critics) loved these games but fans of tuners hated them. When the 2015 entry (titled simply Need for Speed) tried to go back to the tuner well in response to these complaints, it was seen as having put the series into a second Dork Age, which wasn't helped by a number of genuinely controversial design decisions that both exotic fans and tuner fans hated, such as the driving physics, the Rubber Band A.I. (a long-standing problem with the series, but one that was especially glaring here), and the game requiring online connectivity for seemingly no reason. 2017's Need for Speed Payback only deepened the hole, incorporating microtransactions and loot-box mechanics that many players saw as purely exploitative in a full-price retail game.
  • There was a time where, to save on bandwidth costs, the site for hosting custom content for Garry's Mod forced its users to download add-ons via torrents rather than getting them directly off the site. It lasted for about two months.
  • The Valis series had lain dormant since the early 1990s, until its reputation was stained in 2006 by a series of H-Games titled Valis X, which Telenet Japan published in a desperate and failed attempt to avoid bankruptcy.
  • Rock Band's "hardcore" fan base often think 2012 is a dork age for their Downloadable Content. Most of the new releases now come in threes and with only one Pro Guitar/Bass upgrade, and a not insignificant amount of them are from the (often late) Turn of the Millennium and The New '10s which they stereotypically consider "crappy." (Nothing really exciting for them was released minus an Iron Maiden 6-pack and a Slayer pack.) Plus, they are often considered "too easy."
  • League of Legends had very tight and involved lore development for a MOBA, to the point where it even had its own subsection in the main client (the "Journal of Justice"). However, around 2012, the lore team switched hands, and much of their narrative philosophy changed, causing them to throw out a lot of old lore and start again. Newer heroes were considered uninspiring and bland, with little to no motivation to join the League, while some old characters had their entire backstories changed to very mixed reception. Eventually Riot decided to retcon the whole Institute of War in an attempt to appeal to the e-sports scene, angering lore fans even more.
    • However, the dork age for the lore finally ended when the Bilgewater event was released. While some decisions were mixed at best (such as Gangplank's disable from all queues to coincide with his "death"), the following events and champion updates started to make the champions interact with each other even more; although infrequent, the new lores are actually being more well-received each passing rework/addition.
  • Resident Evil fell into one in the wake of the poor reception of Operation Raccoon City and the mixed reception of Resident Evil 6 in 2012, the main complaint being that the series veered too far from its Survival Horror roots in an attempt to me-too shooters like Gears of War and Modern Warfare. While the 3DS title Resident Evil: Revelations was much better received and is canonically a main series title, it was a portable game on a Nintendo handheld and received a much smaller marketing push than ORC and RE6 did. Some would argue that the Dork Age began with Resident Evil 5 in 2009, though that game, while divisive among fans, received fairly positive reviews at the time.

    Revelations was eventually ported to PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, and PCs, giving the game more mainstream exposure, followed by the release of a sequel that also took a crack at Revisiting the Roots, leading many to tentatively declare that the Dork Age was over. Then came the announcement of Umbrella Corps, another co-op/competitive multiplayer shooter, making fans wonder if Capcom learned anything from ORC. On the other hand, Resident Evil 7, which had been announced long before either Revelations 2 or Umbrella Corps but suffered from a drought of information following said announcement, was fully unveiled at E3 2016, showing that the series is pushing further towards the style of the pre-RE4 games, and was eventually released in early 2017. While several fans felt the game went too far in the horror direction and aped first-person horror games like P.T., Outlast, Condemned and Amnesia; the game was otherwise widely well-received by reviewers and many fans, so the end of this troubling period may finally be in sight.
  • The Lunar series started to slide in early 2000s, with the installments developed for Nintendo portable systems. First Lunar: The Silver Star was remade for the Game Boy Advance as Lunar Legend, with shallower characterizations, a point-and-click map replacing the once large overworld, and different and simpler combat. Then came the prequel Lunar: Dragon Song, the first non-remake Lunar game in a decade, which in a bid to attract new players to the franchise dumbed down the gameplay and story even more, but also added annoying new mechanics like having to choose between fighting for experience and fighting for items (which in this game are mostly Vendor Trash), taking damage while running, and repetitive Fetch Quests. The localizations of these two games published by Ubisoft also compared poorly with the painstaking effort Working Designs put into localizing previous installments.
  • RuneScape is often considered to have gone through this after the game's creators, the Gower brothers, handed off its reigns to Mark Gerhard, one of the senior mods. This is mostly related to two controversial gameplay changes Gerhard introduced: first, the implementation of microtransactions, something the Gowers promised they would never do, and second, a complete overhaul of the combat system which was seen by numerous fans as a cynical attempt to ape World of Warcraft. Jagex heard the criticisms of the combat system and as a result introduced both "Old School" worlds that allow players to experience the game as it was in 2007, and a poll wherein players voted to introduce the option to toggle between the old and new combat systems on the main worlds, as well. On the plus side, Gerhard's tenure also coincided with some very well-received advances to the game's Myth Arc, including tying up plot points that had been dangling for nearly a decade.
  • The Tetris: The Grand Master series got better with each new release for its first three installments. Then came the very un-TGM-like Xbox 360 title Tetris: The Grand Master ACE, the tragic byproduct of The Tetris Company's and Microsoft's Executive Meddling. Most of the trademark TGM gameplay mechanics have been stripped (including Master Mode, and by extension the unique TGM-style leveling up and grade system), you get a variation of infinite spin (limit of 128 rotations and 128 movements) as opposed to TGM's "step reset" lock delay, and you need an Xbox Live Gold membership to unlock proper TGM rotation. It's considered an okay Tetris game, but a bad TGM game.
  • The first two games in the Double Dragon series were pretty successful at the arcade and on consoles. The first NES game even sold out on the day of its release. But then came Double Dragon 3, which was farmed out to an external developer, featured a poorly-thought out plot involving Mineral MacGuffins, flat level designs, fewer moves than its predecessors, and an ill-conceived shopping gimmick obviously added as a transparent means of inserting more tokens into the machine. There were a couple more Double Dragon sequels after the third game, but the series never quite recovered from there: the NES version of the third game (while considered to be an improvement from the arcade version) is ridiculously hard, the SNES-exclusive fourth game was an Obvious Beta, and the last two games made before Technos went out of business were standard competitive fighting games that did nothing to stand out from an already overcrowded market. The movie "adaptation" of the series wasn't helping matters either... Thankfully, WayForward's 2012 reimagining is commonly seen as having done justice to the Double Dragon name (while not being afraid to make some jokes at its expense either). Unfortunately, the remake of Double Dragon II that followed (not developed by WayForward) proceeded to extinguish that goodwill. Then, that got followed up by Double Dragon IV, a divisive sequel to the original games from a developer with an usually good track record.
  • The Harvest Moon fandom is torn on what time period their Dork Age spans but it's generally thought to have began around Magical Melody and DS. The characters are seen as shallower, several disliked mechanics have been tried out, and the series as a whole got Lighter and Softer. It got worse when Marvelous said they were focusing on handhelds instead of consoles; and it shows as they released six DS games but only two, near identical Wii games. Even Yasuhiro Wada has shown dislike to the way the games have gotten; he especially dislikes how much focus romance is given within the series. That said, the Wii games were acclaimed (though they still weren't perfect) and the 3DS game, A New Beginning, is seen as an improvement over the past handheld installments.
  • The Rayman series has the infamous Rabbid era from 2006 to 2008. The fourth game in the series introduced Rabbids, one-joke characters who don't do anything but scream "DAAAAAAAAAAAH" at the top of their lungs. Due to Executive Meddling, the game, originally planned as a platformer like its predecessors, shifted into a party game (though the Game Boy Advance version was still made a platformer). In the next two games, the Rabbids ended up stealing the entire show and the eponymous hero was demoted to Butt-Monkey. Fortunately, Rabbids Go Home, the final game involving the Rabbids, removed Rayman entirely, while Rayman himself came back in force in his own adventure in Rayman Origins, though interestingly the Rabbids themselves have not only an animated series on Nickelodeon but a crossover with (of all series) Super Mario Bros., which ended up winning critical acclaim against all odds.
  • Star Trek Online, if what has been said on the official forums is true, has been in this position since Season 8.5. 8.5 saw the removal of the Hourly Events in favor of weekend events, which cheesed off players due to the fact that players used the Bonus Marks 3-hour event to grind marks for their Fleets. The start of this season also gave out a special event ship for the 4th anniversary, only to have it put behind a time gate due to the extra bells and whistles that went with it, a major deviation from year 2 and 3's ships. It got worse come Season 9, when it was revealed that the Reputation Powers players could get no longer stacked and that they were limited to 8 passives — four space and four ground — in an attempt to curb Power Creep before it got way out of hand. It also infuriated certain players because of the usage of Undine ships for Lockbox prizes and Lobi offerings, as many players felt that doing so broke canon and that Cryptic had promised them that they would never use the Undine as Lockbox prizes.
  • After several years of no activity in the franchise, the Dungeon Keeper mobile "game" (in quotes because it neatly encapsules every stereotypical flaw of mobile games) managed to not only anger fans but also created a media fallout that ended in Mythic Games' death.
  • Originally a popular mobile game, Supercell's Clash of Clans began suffering from a severe drop in both playerbase and ratings as a result of releasing a very poorly received Town Hall 11 update by December 2015. Common complaints include the severely increasing difficulty of finding loot due to shield changes, the complete and total nerf to Town Hall sniping due to them giving no shield at all that upsets a lot of players along with the Personal Break Timer that punishes players just for having a successful defense.
  • For many Spongebob Squarepants fans, they consider SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab to be the last good SpongeBob Licensed Game. After that, the dork age began when THQ focused on creating more tie-in titles to cash in on the special episodes that were airing at the time, such as Atlantis Squarepantis and Truth or Square, which were either mediocre at best or just poor at worst. However, many agree that the dork age reached its ugly peak when THQ went bankrupt in 2013 and the license was handed over to Activision, which resulted in poorly-made SpongeBob games such as Plankton's Robotic Revenge and SpongeBob Heropants.
  • Sonic Team, developers of the Sonic The Hedgehog series mentioned above, went into a studio-wide dork age starting with the release of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg in 2003, a mediocre kid's game nowhere near the quality of NiGHTS into Dreams... or even Burning Rangers. A slew of generic Puyo Puyo titles that aren't as well-liked as the Compile-era games are (most of which were not even released outside of Japan) and the So Okay, It's Average NiGHTS: Journey Of Dreams did little to soften the blow. Nowadays, the company no longer makes original IPs and solely produces Sonic titles, most of which have been poorly received.
  • Many Dota 2 players criticize versions 6.81 and 6.83 for having strategically one-dimensional metagame. 6.81 is known as "The Deathball Patch" because winning a few early-game fights gave such a huge advantage that the team could simply proceed to move as five and completely steamroll the enemy. This led to very predictable picks (you were lucky to have a single match without Death Prophet, Faceless Void, Razor or Brewmaster) and matches were considered rather boring in general because the end result was usually determined before the 15 minute mark. 6.82 aimed to rectify these issues by granting bonus gold and XP for killing players with an advantage, thus giving the losing team a chance to make a comeback, but 6.83 (often called "The Rubber Band/Comeback Patch") went right into the opposite extreme by further increasing those bonuses. Gaining early-game dominance was effectively meaningless because certain carry heroes such as Sniper, Juggernaut and Troll Warlord (needless to say, you saw these heroes in almost every match) could easily turn the entire match around after scoring couple of inevitable kills and assists during high-ground defense and gaining enough gold to buy their core items.
  • This can befall a franchise when moving to a new games system on their first next gen iteration while developers come to grips with the new technology. Specific examples include:
    • Madden NFL, with Electronic Arts themselves admitting that bringing the series to seventh gen was a struggle and certain issues and restructuring of features was due to the core game mechanics not translating over well.
    • NBA Live 96 was essentially just a graphic improvement over the 16 bit era, with the PC being a more Polished Port. Later games would include better graphics, gameplay and features.
    • WWE Video Games would generally have most all of the features on their first next gen game gone (this would carry over to CAW mode being gutted in their off shoot Raw or Day or Reckoning games, most moves being removed, three match season mode, extremely long loading times, etc.) while the next year there would be more options, features, moves and wrestlers, with the game being far more polished.
  • Pac-Man is believed to be in one by a lot of his hardcore fans, especially those of the "adventure" titles such as the Pac-Man World games. Fans of his adventure and higher budget games believe it to have started with World 3 's lukewarm reception and entered full-force with the release of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures and its tie-in games. Ever since the failure of the entire Ghostly Adventures branch being an attempted reboot, some people even now go as far as to believe the IP and mascot should just be dropped as he is too outdated, claiming the only good game he had was his original arcade outing. Needless to say, saying this around some fans doesn't go down well.
  • The three fully-3D Worms games — Worms 3D, Worms Forts and Worms 4: Mayhem — are widely seen as the nadir of the series, with fans pretty unanimously agreeing that the series' gameplay did not translate at all well to the third dimension, and even creators Team 17 reportedly regarding the games as an Old Shame. As a result, the next couple of games went back to a similar graphical style to Worms 2 and its follow-ups, before adopting a 2D style that really got the series back on-track.
  • Mega Man became notorious for this during The New '10s, after the departure of series co-creator Keiji Inafune seemingly left Capcom with no clear idea of where to take the franchise. Between Mega Man 10 in 2010 and the announcement of Mega Man 11 in late 2017, the series mostly lay dormant aside from the Archie comics, a handful of cameos, some figurines, and appearances in crossover fighting games, with the only game releases during this period being several mobile phone ports of dubious quality and the allegedly free "social RPG" Rockman Xover, which was utterly savaged by critics and fans alike and is widely agreed to be the nadir of the franchise as a whole.