Like any media, video games are at the mercy of subjective tastes. Some games are immediate hits upon release, and some land with a resounding retail thud that kills any hope of a sequel. People can be fickle, and many lack the financial freedom to just buy any game they want. The combination of these two factors lead many gamers to be selective with their purchases, and lots of great games thus go unnoticed. Poor sales kill the brand, and that’s where it ends, leaving many wonderful titles without any chance to shine.
As we know, poor sales aren’t necessarily the result of a game being bad. All kinds of factors – lack of advertising, market shifts, etc. – can kill its chances at retail. Sega’s arcade and console hardware has been home to some of the greatest releases in history, but lots of wonderful titles fell victim to these circumstances and remained one-shot deals on their respective platforms. These games are good; some are even considered classics. For whatever reason, they never got the sequels they deserved. This list could be a thousand names long, but we’re just going to take a look at 10 that come to mind. How wonderful it would be to see new installments on modern consoles, with all the bells and whistles current technology has to offer!
I have been singing Astal’s praises since its release shortly after the Saturn suddenly appeared in stores in 1995. Its gameplay was simple, but the presentation was breathtaking, and it presented an excellent formula for 2D platform titles to adopt on 32-bit machines. Its combination of beautiful sprite art and next generation special effects made it one Saturn title that has aged like fine wine. I still have to stop for a second or two on the Sea of Clouds stage to just take in the visuals (and that amazing audio track!), and it saddens me that we never got to see Astal and his trusty bird on the Dreamcast or anywhere else. Seriously, I could play 2D platformers like this all day.
Cyborg Hunter (Master System)
A year after Sega enthralled (and likely confounded) Master System owners with its delightful action/adventure thriller Zillion, Activision responded with its own game, the excellent Cyborg Hunter. Yes, I said excellent. I find this one to be the kind of game that needs a chance to make its case. It was based on a Japanese anime, which no doubt made its acceptance by gamers a much easier task in that country, but in the West it had no such connection. All we had was the cool cover, as was the case with many titles back then. I remember renting Cyborg Hunter and not knowing what the hell I was doing… at first. Yes, it frustrated me, but once I figured things out, it was all fun from there. I think the game deserves another chance, even if it’s just as a remake. There’s potential here, and the lore was barely touched upon in the last game, something the anime could help clarify. I need to know who Trevor and Catherine were!
Fighters Megamix (Saturn)
Sega dropped Fighters Megamix on Saturn owners without much anticipation. It was announced at a press conference, and before we could even process this eclectic lineup of Sega characters, the disc was already in our consoles. And what a glorious time it was! All the cast of Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers, along with a dozen extra characters and a ton of stages and options made it the go-to Saturn 3D fighting game. It would be insane to think of an updated version, complete with more characters, online play, and a ranking system. Add in lots of unlockables and cue up an image of Futurama’s Fry waving a handful of cash.
Perhaps the oddest game on this list, Illbleed was Crazy Games’ (formally Climax Graphics) attempt to top itself, and the game became a strong contender for Blue Stinger’s crown as the weirdest survival horror game on the Dreamcast. Rather than solve puzzles, Illbleed made players locate and disarm traps to survive an amusement park that could actually kill the patrons. Apparently, the park’s owner was obsessed with horror elements and tried them out in the park by testing them on his own daughter. Years later, the members of her school horror club disappear while visiting, so she goes in to find them. The whole affair had a great, cheesy B-movie vibe to it, and it was nice to see a developer try and do something different.
Unfortunately, Illbleed was a commercial failure, releasing two months after Sega had pulled the plug on the console. Too many people overlooked the game, and they never got to see its fresh take on the genre. The game has developed something of a cult following since its release in 2001 but not much else. An Xbox port was planned, but the poor performance of the Xbox in Japan, internal issues at developer Crazy Games, and the death of its producer put the series down for good. It would be interesting so see someone bring the concept back and give us another round at the amusement park.
Master of Darkness (Master System/Game Gear)
Until Bloodlines arrived in 1994, the closest Sega fans could claim to having a Castlevania game was Master of Darkness. Yeah, Nintendo had vampire hunters, but Master System and Game Gear owners got a tale involving an occult-savvy psychologist, Jack the Ripper, and Dracula. There were monsters aplenty, tight gameplay, and slick presentation – a wonderful recipe for adventure seekers needing a vampire fix in 1992. I could this franchise returning as a downloadable game, updating the visuals and audio but retaining the same style. As big as Castlevania is today, it might be hard for the good Dr. Social to escape from its shadow, but I sure as hell would like to see him try. It’d be a shame for a brand with to stay marooned on 8-bit hardware.
Popful Mail (Sega CD)
Though released on several platforms, Popful Mail was somehow a “one and done” franchise. I don’t know why, considering the Sega CD game was excellent. It brought Falcom’s classic side-scrolling, action/RPG style to Sega’s add-on with that Working Designs touch. Now, that last detail may spark some discussion among fans, but there’s no doubt that Popful Mail was something special when it arrived on the Sega CD in 1991. The machine needed a game like this, and fans were not disappointed.
Falcom returned to the franchise in 1995 with a series of drama CDs (akin to the radio dramas of old), but there was never another game. Thinking of the success reboots like Wonder Boy has had on modern consoles, I think Falcom could make it work. I’d love another go at fighting baddies and collecting treasure with Mail and her friends.
Power Drift (Arcade)
Probably the best-known Sega racer to never get a timely port (after Daytona USA 2), Power Drift remains incredibly popular to this day. It pushed Sega’s scaling technology to its absolute limit and took players on an insane rollercoaster-like ride filled with sharp turns, dips, and furious speed. I can only imagine how a sequel would look on modern platforms, but I insist it would have to remain 2D. Insane Code’s 2022 Xbox/PC love letter to classics like OutRun and the Lotus series, 80’s Overdrive, shows the aesthetic, and it would be wonderful to see Power Drift updated in such a form. The look might need some tweaking for such a faster-paced game, but I firmly believe that something along those lines could work.
Everyone seems to love Sega’s little star character, but that love has mostly come with time. Ristar was a late Genesis release, arriving just as retailers were dumping their 16-bit inventory at clearance to make room for the Saturn and PlayStation. Its likable character, excellent presentation and gameplay or multi-platform release (Game Gear) swayed gamers to give it a chance, and it largely went unnoticed. Apparently, Sega knew what it had, and it has included Ristar on multiple game collections for over the years. The constant exposure and showing of love online by fans has finally elevated Ristar among Genesis platformers. Is it enough to convince Sega to make a sequel? Doubtful, but it sure would be a nice thing to wake up to one day.
Shadow Squadron (32X)
More than any other 32X title, the one I see get the most consistent praise is Shadow Squadron. Just about everyone seems to like it, and for good reason. Wrapped in flat-shaded polygonal goodness, it gave us more exciting Star Wars action than Star Wars Arcade did. Missions progressed from engaging fighters to taking on capital ships and finally battling above a planet, and for a game without a license, it had some interesting designs and intense combat. The spartan sound and simple visuals were areas for improvement, and a remake, Stellar Assault SS, appeared on the Japanese Saturn three years later, sporting beefier presentation. That was the end, however, and the series remained dormant ever since.
There doesn’t appear to be any plans on the horizon to bring Shadow Squadron back, but fans can at least enjoy the full English fan translation that was completed earlier in 2023. It has fully redubbed English voiceovers, localized menus and load screens, and even a full-color digital instruction manual. The best feature by far though is that it now supports the Sega Saturn Mission Stick, something the original didn’t have. Grab the translation here and enjoy the version of Shadow Squadron western gamers never got.
Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)
I know I’m not the only one clamoring for a sequel to this beloved Dreamcast RPG, and there’s a reason why so many people want to cruise the skies in their massive airships. Skies of Arcadia was full of charm and chock full of memorable characters and wonderful presentation. A new game with modern trappings would finally give the brand a chance to expand its lore and mechanics. Imagine a game world far larger than the original with tons of new areas to explore, or one in which players each had their own airships and could upgrade them and join and quest together. The likelihood of a revival is anyone’s guess, given the untimely passing of Producer and Sega legend Rieko Kodama, but hope remains strong.
As I said, we could probably make a list a thousand games long for this topic. These 10 games are just a sample of franchises that have fallen off the radar of their publishers, titles that are worthy of a second shot. Anything’s possible, and some may yet appear. I wouldn’t bet money on it, though.