Long gone are the days of The Beatles and annual release dates you can have Siri set your reminders to. Unless you happen to be Activision – in which case, hi, Activision! – we’d be foolish as gamers to expect another entry in our favorite series from you without two to three years to pass by first.
But already this year, there’s been a windfall of sequels hitting the marketplace after an absurdly lengthy wait. Kid Icarus: Uprising for the 3DS is the first entry since 1991’s Kid Icarus: Of Myth And Monsters, and the February reboot of Syndicate is the first we’ve seen of that name since 1993, a.k.a. grunge’s heyday. And you know how fans are. They hate waiting. Some of them hate waiting so much they take it into their impatient own hands to make their own damned sequels.
So, if you can quit reminiscing about flannel shirts, power chords, and intravenous drugs for just a moment, join Topless Robot, won’t you, as we take a look back at game sequels that took so damn long to come out that fans got inspiringly proactive about it.
7) Neo Sonic Universe
Forget the spinoffs, the Dr. Mario clone, the pinball excursion on Game Boy Advance, and the Windows educational games like Sonic’s Schoolhouse. Fact is, fans of the speedy spiny mammal had to wait a long-ass time to get a proper follow-up in the 21st century. In hindsight, given how middling the reviews for Sonic 4: Episode 1 had been in 2010 — especially damning since it followed 1994’s Sonic the Hedgehog 3 — one of the best things to come out of the wait is a fan-made 2003 game called >Neo Sonic Universe. A gorgeous game built on the guts of Sonic Advance games, many say it’s superior to all the recent Sonic games. (They’re right.) In many ways, this is the sequel fans deserved – aside from a few glitches – because it remembered what made the series great in the first place: an emphasis on clever platforming over shuttling to your own death by holding down right on the d-pad.
6) King’s Quest: The Silver Lining
It’s funny to think that a series that started off punishing you for not washing your hands before dinner with a swift death scene eventually drew inspiration from Diablo with Mask of Eternity. The fans didn’t take the 1998 Roberta Williams-designed bitch-slap of a game lightly, so a group of them banded together in 2000 to right this objective wrong. After wrangling with legal issues with Vivendi Games and Activision, eventually, a decade later, the episode series The Silver Lining was released to so-so reviews. (Though definitely still worth reading is this excellent 2010 Kotaku article on the game’s twisted history.) The game was, at best, okay and lavished with praise the way a little kid’s drawing of an elephant-looking smudge dancing on brown flowers might. It was poorly animated, awkwardly voice acted, and simple to the point of being unimaginative, but, hey, it came out. And as it turned out, without this game, the next proper release, a reimagining/reboot thingy from Telltale wouldn’t be coming out. So, there’s that.
5) Tempest Tubes
When Tempest was hot in arcades, it was white-hot. In 1982, an arcade owner named Duncan Brown bought two Tempest machines and set out to hack one of them one weekend using what he called the “brute-force approach… I would go into each range of data and just stomp on a couple of dozen bytes in a row.” The result was a much, much more difficult version of the game called TempestTubes. Not only was it a hit in his arcade, but it even became successful enough to surface on the MAME scene and even be included on 1994’s Atari Arcade Hits: Volume 1 for PC.
4) Mega Man IV: After In Indonesia
In the dozen years between 1996’s Mega Man 8 and 2008’s Mega Man 9, we saw the rise in mainstream popularity of console emulators. Not that Topless Robot condones such illegal activities, but, according to our research there were oodles and oodles of fan-made Mega Man games. Some of them bear user reviews like “not horrible,” for Mega Man: C4 (a redesign of Mega Man 4) to 2000’s Mega Man II: Remix, which has no review – probably because it’s a harder version of the game that’s impossible to beat because Quick Man’s stage is unfinished. Regardless, this tradition continues, and seems to have gotten a touch more creative with the recently released Mega Man IV: After In Indonesia, in which Mega Man visits Indonesia, meets a girl named Kalinka, and then fights her father, Dr. Cossack. Spoiler alert: The entire game culminates in an epic battle at Dr. Cossack’s mansion that turns into a 100-person Bollywood dance routine. Which isn’t racist because Bollywood is popular in Indonesia. You racist.
3) Sam & Max: Flintlocked
A baby could have been born and Bar or Bat Mitzvahed in the time it took for the hyperkinetic rabbity thing and his hat-wearing crime-investigating partner made it back with an official game. After 1993’s Sam & Max Hit the Road, they came close a couple of times, if you can call canceled games like Sam & Max Plunge Through Space for the Xbox getting canned because developer Infinite Machine went bankrupt or LucasArts pulling the plug in 2004 on Sam & Max: Freelance Police for the PC “close.” How unfair, then, that a fan-made game also got canceled – or as its creators say, it’s “only sleeping.” That’s some nap, considering the game hit the hay in 2006. It’s just as well, since Sam & Max: Flintlocked kinda looks like how Steve Purcell’s creations would appear if Dilbert creator Scott Adams became lead artist. Tough to say what the game would’ve been like, but at least it kept the dream alive a while longer until Telltale picked up the duo.
2) Black Mesa
Valve promised that Half Life: Episode Three would come out by Christmas of 2007. Well, guess what: that didn’t happen. It’s particularly frustrating for Half-Life disciples since Episode 2 ends on what even objectively can be called one whiz-bang of a cliffhanger. Half-Life has itself become its own veritable platform, with countless mods, though one of the most anticipated ones is Black Mesa. It’s a fan-made remake of HL1 in HL2‘s engine, only far more stunning, theatrical, and more frenetic in all its crowbar-wielding glory. It was given a release date of “late 2009.” Well, guess what: that hasn’t happened yet, either. Darn.
1) Space Quest: Vohaul Strikes Back
So the guys behind Space Quest, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, are getting the band back together. In mid-April, the pair announced they’re teaming back up to make another game, that, while isn’t officially being called a Space Quest sequel, clearly will be a spiritual successor. And it’s about freakin’ time, because at this point the number of full-fledged fan-made games outnumber the official ones. And we’re not talking about a long time ago. Many of them have come out in the last few months — which is astonishing given that Space Quest 6 came out in the post-grunge year of 1995 — like the slapsticky, monkey-filled Space Quest: Vohaul Strikes Back just before Christmas last year and the retro-styled Space Quest -1: Decision of the Elders came out in January. The former stars Roger Wilco trying to lead the pleople of the ice planet of Radon against the evil Dr. Sludge Vohaul and his army of simian commandoes; the latter is a prequel to the original Space Quest, in which Jerry has to find his fianc?e Julia after they separated beaming to a mysterious planet. Frankly, we prefer the one with the monkeys.