5 Game Franchises That Should Reboot Their Lore
Spoilers: This article contains plot details for each game series discussed.
Titles like The Last of Us and Bioshock have demonstrated the power of great storytelling in video games. As the industry continues to advance graphically and technologically, it’s only natural that improvements would also extend to game narratives. Popular powerhouses like League of Legends understand the importance of lore, which is why Riot just announced a reboot of their game’s background story as a way to re-establish their characters in the universe they’ve created.
That got us thinking: if Riot can do that with League of Legends, and other companies like Square Enix have already done so with Tomb Raider, what other franchises would benefit from rebooting their lore?
1. Metal Gear
The first Metal Gear game was released in 1987 and the story begins with Solid Snake, a new recruit, attempting to search and rescue fellow soldier Gray Fox, under the orders of Solid Snake’s leader, Big Boss. Nuclear weapons become the center of the conflict and, as the story progresses, we find out that Big Boss is actually a traitor to the U.S. government -- or so it seems. Subsequent games in the series detail how Big Boss is actually Solid Snake’s father/clone who used to go by the name Naked Snake. Big Boss helped create a group called the Patriots who took control of the United States government to create an idealistically unified nation, but things go awry when another clone named Liquid Snake enters the fray. Oh, and there’s actually a character called Dr. Strangelove. It’s all very confusing.
Series creator Hideo Kojima is aware that fans find the Metal Gear Solid series a bit complicated, but this was never his intention. “Ideally," he once said, "what I want to do is, for example, make a story that’s seems very simple, it's very easy to understand on the surface, and once you zoom in there's a lot of details and a lot of things that you can see there.” And ultimately he’s okay with sacrificing continuity to fit certain elements into his games, saying: “Sometimes I need to accept these inconsistencies in order to be able to achieve what I want for the story.” Maybe Kojima, knowing these elements ahead of time, can develop a MGS reboot that’s easier to grasp for newcomers.
Sonic the Hedgehog is an iconic video game character that doesn’t seem to inspire that much excitement nowadays. With over thirty games to his name, Sonic has definitely been through the ringer. Starting with the very successful 1991 game, Sonic made a name for himself fairly quickly with a straightforward plot that could be summed up in three sentences, not to mention the compelling gameplay and level design. From there, the lore began to include sidekicks, failed lab experiments, and Chaos Emeralds that manipulate time and space.
Then there’s the dark year known as 2006. In that year's Sonic the Hedgehog, Doctor Eggman kidnaps Princess Elise to obtain the Flames of Disaster, there's a scepter of darkness that releases someone named Mephiles the Dark, and the very human-looking damsel-in-distress Elise and Sonic share a kiss at some point. Considering the game went on to be called one of the worst video games ever made, it’s safe to say SEGA needs to rethink their storyline strategy, among other gameplay traits, and bring back what made everyone fall in love with the blue-haired spiky creature in the first place. We’re sure it wasn't princesses.
3. Assassin's Creed
The concept for the Assassin’s Creed franchise is brilliant: how do you have multiple games in the same series travel through different times in history? Have the protagonist relive their ancestors’ memories. The Assassin’s Creed series has introduced several complex characters like Altair, Ezio, Aveline, and Connor, but that’s partially what makes the lore of Assassin’s Creed so confusing. There are many descendants to learn about—more so than I listed—and the time periods they lived and how the plot of Assassins versus the Templars relates to the First Civilization and the artifacts they’ve left behind. All of that is a game in itself, but it’s a poorly constructed one if a majority of Assassin’s Creed fans are claiming they can’t follow the story.
It’s especially troubling because an open world game like Assassin’s Creed depends on its story to justify the links between sequels (as opposed to the mechanically simpler Mario franchise, for instance).
The main storyline is comprised of six (soon to be eight) games since 2007, and Ubisoft shows no signs of slowing down—which makes sense given the amount of sales the AC franchise brings. Hopefully the refresher Assassin’s Creed Unity, which is said to give new players a chance to catch up on the lore without playing former games, is the first step of Ubisoft’s refocus on storytelling. That said, a clean reboot might still be the only way to bring clarity.
4. Kingdom Hearts
The existence of the Kingdom Hearts series is owed to a few chance encounters and overheard conversations, which makes its subsequent success all the more remarkable. The mix of Final Fantasy attributes and iconic Disney characters proved to be a winning combination, even if the story of the 2002 game was cheekier than RPG players were used to: a fourteen-year old boy living in a remote island discovers that his friends have gone missing, and in his search he’s equipped with a weapon called a Keyblade. With a Keyblade in hand, he teams up with Donald Duck and Goofy, killing monsters and freeing hearts that were overtaken by darkness. The team’s deeds successfully stop the villain from gaining access to Kingdom Hearts, a realm that harbors ultimate knowledge and power.
Sora’s adventures led the game to the top of the charts as one of the highest selling video games of all time and inspired sequel after sequel after sequel. And with each sequel, the initial plot expanded into drivel involving time travel, clones, memory manipulation, and resurrections—not to mention some of the awkwardness of kids entering their teenage years.
As highly anticipated as Kingdom Hearts 3 is, the eight preceding games that expand on the game’s lore are too convoluted for even the most devout fan to follow, let alone the children to whom the game is primarily marketed. Who comes up with a name like Dream Drop Distance, and what are these Unversed, Dream Eaters, and Spirits?! Why does everyone look the same?!
5. Resident Evil
It all started with the Progenitor virus: one scientist envisioned creating a cure for the handicapped while his two evil co-workers had more devious plans in mind to engineer the best bio weapon. But that’s not the first virus we’re introduced to in the Resident Evil franchise, and that was likely a sign of the complicated narrative roads to come.
The 1996 Resident Evil introduced us to Alpha Team—which is comprised of RE staples Chris, Jill, and Wesker—as they investigate the disappearance of Bravo Team. Thanks to the T-virus, a successor to the Progenitor virus that gives humans powerful abilities, Alpha Team has to fight off undead enemies and vicious mutated monsters during their investigation. Capcom found they had a hit on their hands, and they eventually released twenty games expanding on the lore of the T-virus, T-Veronica virus, NE-T virus, G-virus, and C-virus, as well as cults and something called a Majini.
What started off as survival-horror with a flimsy plot has escalated into a series full of action-packed confusion. The enemies in the game haven't even acted like zombies since Resident Evil 4, and the explanation for this is usually overshadowed by unstable villain motives. Capcom is more than aware of this and they’ve introduced the possibility of “a slight reboot to get the series into a place where it would work with open-world gameplay.” Truthfully, a reboot where the series makes a bit of sense is all we ask.