The Best Video Game One Hit Wonders (and Why They Never Got Sequels) | History Hit

The Best Video Game One Hit Wonders (and Why They Never Got Sequels)

Ben Wilson

05 Jul 2021
Heavy Rain screenshot
Image Credit: Quantic Dream

There are titles in gaming that are all but guaranteed to sell with every iteration regardless of the number attached to them. There’s always an Assassin’s Creed, a Call of Duty and a Total War. But what of the innovative or intriguing titles that went one-and-done?

We look back at nine memorable efforts which never received a follow-up, and why. They include a Hong Kong-based Grand Theft Auto clone, and the interactive adventure which mystifyingly asked players to “press X to Jason”.

Sleeping Dogs screenshot

Image Credit: Square Enix

Sleeping Dogs (2012)

Imagine a Grand Theft Auto game set in contemporary Hong Kong, with meatier fisticuffs and also cockfighting. Now stop imagining, and pick up the PS4 ‘definitive edition’ of Sleeping Dogs. This open-world tale of undercover Chinese-American police officer Wei Shen surprised everyone on release thanks to its all-action gunfights, wild set-pieces and Batman: Arkham Asylum-style melee combat.

A sequel set in China’s Pearl River Delta was set to see Shen joined by “conflicted, corrupt partner” Henry Fang, but publisher Square Enix pulled the project in late 2013.

LA Noire screenshot

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

LA Noire (2011)

LA Noire came from beneath the umbrella of Rockstar Games, the same minds behind the legendary sandbox series Grand Theft Auto. It enabled players to roam a virtual, semi-historical version of Los Angeles in 1947. Lead man Cole Phelps is tasked with investigating crime scenes for clues, following up leads, and interrogating suspects to solve cases.

While a sequel for LA Noire was effectively confirmed by publishing boss Strauss Zelnick, the original development company was associated with poor working conditions and collapsed in 2011. Only a spin-off, LA Noire: The VR Case Files, has been released since.

Bulletstorm screenshot

Image Credit: Gearbox Publishing

Bulletstorm (2011)

Bulletstorm featured an electric blend of larger-than-life characters, bombastic shooting and farcical ‘kills’. Whether players employed ‘Splatterpunk’ or ‘Acid Rain’ (this involved two enemies being vaporised in mid-air), these tricks racked up points to use on further expanding an arsenal, making for a cunning mix of arcade and strategy.

The game ended on a major cliffhanger, with main enemy Sarrano turning into a cyborg But a sequel was shelved when developer People Can Fly was shifted to the Gears Of War series.

Alien Soldier screenshot

Image Credit: SEGA

Alien Soldier (1995)

Released in the Mega Drive’s twilight years, Hideyuki Suganami’s side-scrolling run-and-gun game pushed the classic Sega console to its limits. Futuristic main character Epsilon-Eagle could be steered through 25 stages, taking in 26 boss battles, with creativity and curiosity at every turn: one foe is a giant toad who lays explosives.

Critics were not overly impressed. Japanese gaming bible Famitsu awarded it 24 out of 40. Yet two-and-a-half decades later, Alien Soldier is considered a before-its-time masterpiece. Just one never to receive a follow-up.

Gitaroo Man (2001)

Long before Guitar Hero there was PS2’s Gitaroo Man: a similar premise, where you tapped buttons as prompts flowed in from all sides of the screen, but in a far more madcap vein. Swirling lines had to be navigated with the analogue stick, the in-game art was an explosion on the senses, and the storyline boggled the brain.

A young boy named U-1 is picked on by his rival Kazuya and passed over by Pico, the girl of his dreams – but his life is changed when his dog Puma gives him a weapon known as the Last Gitaroo, and the game’s musical battles commence. It made for a cult favourite but didn’t shift enough copies to justify a sequel.

Killer 7 screenshot

Image Credit: NIS America, Inc.

Killer 7 (2005)

Goichi Suda – AKA Suda51 – is one of the world’s most renowned developers, and this was the first of his games to be released outside of Japan. An unconventional plot and complex control scheme turned off some, but for die-hards it only made this more compelling.,

Players carried out hits using a set of seven different assassins – all a physical manifestation of one man, wheelchair-bound Harman Smith. Fans spent a decade clamouring for a sequel, but Suda51 said in 2016 that it will “probably never happen” as Capcom holds the rights to the IP.

Heavy Rain screenshot

Image Credit: Quantic Dream

Heavy Rain (2010)

“Jason. Jason. Jason. Jason?” One of the most iconic scenes of the Playstation 3 era saw players wandering through a shopping mall in search of the protagonist’s lost son, with just a single instruction: ‘press X to Jason’. The search didn’t end well, and this branching story-cum-movie saw you directing scenes in a four-person hunt for the Origami Killer.

Its 2,000-page script was penned by famed studio head David Cage, but none of its multiple endings provided scope for a sequel. Instead, the team moved on to Beyond: Two Souls, a supernatural action-adventure featuring Elliot Page and Willem Dafoe.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)

LucasArts has scored a well-earned recognition over the years for its Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and Star Wars games, yet this power-up-packed slasher is up there with any of its early 1990s efforts.

Taking control of protagonists Zeke and Julie, players got to use innovative weapons such as water guns and ice pops to take down hammy B-movie enemies including squidmen, blobs and demon babies. This one did earn a follow-up of sorts in 1994’s Ghoul Patrol, but it still makes the list as that game didn’t begin development as a sequel.

Tetris on the Gameboy

Image Credit: Nintendo

Tetris (1984)

The most famous puzzler ever has spawned numerous re-skins, yet in a sense it’s the greatest one-hit wonder in gaming history. No future version has come close to recapturing the original magic.

Conceived by Russian software engineer Alexey Pajitnov, the height of its block-falling, screen-clearing fame was the Game Boy era. No game ever worked better on Nintendo’s handheld. It shifted 2.5 million copies within a year of its 1989 release and made Hirokazu Tanaka’s soundtrack instantly recognizable.

Ben Wilson