Time to take a break.
The good news? Despite their prevalence, video game sequels tend to be technically superior to their predecessors. They often fix flaws, improve visuals, and add features than fans have requested. The best games in most successful franchises are often not the first ones.
But cranking out too many games in one series can be problematic, too. Nothing kills the fun like oversaturation (we're eyeballing you, Guitar Hero), and sadly, a number of game makers have proven that they just don't understand the old showbiz adage of 'leaving 'em wanting more.' Instead, we get the same old game year after year as publishers try to wring every drop of milk out of their once-healthy cash cows. We don't want more, but they keep giving it to us anyway.
Here are five franchises that should do us all a favor and take a nice, long vacation.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Beginning with 2003's Sonic Heroes (or thereabouts), a string of pretty lousy games started gnawing away on the mascot's legacy. 2006's Sonic the Hedgehog was a disaster, as was 2008's Sonic Unleashed. If you typed "which game franchises should die" into a search engine in 2009, Sonic's was the first name on every list.
To be fair, though, he's made a decent comeback of late. Sonic Colors for the Wii was a solid platformer, as was the recently released throwback game, Sonic Generations. But despite these modest gains, it's time for the hedgehog to go on administrative leave. He's been running non-stop for over 20 years now. Give him — and us -- a break, Sega.
But it's time for this warrior to lay down the weapon for a while. The last Dynasty Warriors game to score higher than a 70% rating was released back in 2005; since then, it's been one disappointment after another (and another, and another, and another.) We've yet to see how the next game -- this one timed as a launch title for the PlayStation Vita -- fares, but unless it's a knock out, we're hoping Koei takes this brawler back to the dojo for a while.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Released in 1999, the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was a groundbreaking achievement in sports game design, and for a good couple of sequels, it just kept getting better. Then it started doing downhill — fast.
Like a skater who can't stop trying to nail an impossible trick, the series started pushing the 'extreme' part over the gameplay part, but it didn't truly jump the rail until 2009's dismal Tony Hawk Ride and its crummy skateboard game controller. We were all hoping the Hawkman would take that as a signal to get off the half-pipe, but sure, enough, they tried again with 2010's Tony Hawk Shred, which fell just as awkwardly as Ride.
No more, right? Well, that depends on what you consider 'more'. Unafraid to beat a dead board, Activision will try to remind us all of better days by releasing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, a downloadable reimagining of the first two games in the series. It's bound to be more fun than faking kickflips on a wobbly peripheral, but an even better idea? Take a few years off and rebuild the formula from scratch.
Why? Because since the first title stormed game consoles in 2007, there have been four main Assassin's Creed games, with 2008 being the only skipped year. Add to that a number of handheld and browser-based games, and you get a franchise teetering on the edge of oversaturation.
It's beginning to show signs of aging, too. Last year's Assassin's Creed: Revelations was the lowest scoring game in the series thus far, with most complaints focusing on the game's overall similarity to previous entries. That tends to happen when you squeeze out a new game year after year.
By the way, that's about to happen again, as Ubisoft is already hard at work on the fifth game, due out towards the end of 2012…unless someone stabs it first.
And it's about time The Sims quit working so hard.
Why? Expansions. It's been expanded so many times, we can hardly remember which game, technically, was the last official core release (it was The Sims 3; we looked it up.) The first game had seven expansions, the second had eight expansions and nine "stuff" packs, and so far we've seen five expansions and five more stuff packs for The Sims 3 since its initial release in 2009. Who knew life was so complicated?
And that's just scratching the surface of this overproduced franchise. Spinoffs include The Sims Online, The Sims Stories and, most recently, The Sims Social. Then there are the 'MySims' console games, six of which have been released since 2007. Tack on a few iOS releases, numerous ports to various handhelds and, of course, the in-development The Sims movie and you wind up with a product spread thinner than the Kardashians.
It's not that The Sims are bad, mind you. It's just that we'd like some time to regroup. Get our real lives in order for a while, you know? This laundry isn't going to wash itself.