There is a word that haunts game publishers, and that game is “Forgettable.” And on that point, this article examines why some games are forever carved in our memories, and why some games (even good games) are rarely ever spoken of.
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There Are So Many Games – Aren’t We Bound To Forget Some?
That almost proves the point – there have always been lots of games. Just look at all the arcade libraries that keep being released for old Sega games. There were hundreds of them, and there are hundreds of Playstation, Nintendo, and Microsoft games that have come and gone. Yet, what of the popular and well-liked games that are never spoken of again? We may have all forgotten “Hogs of War” (I didn’t, I thought it was great) because it wasn’t a popular game, but what of the games that were beloved in their time?
Some games wrap things up so well that people feel the sort of resolution where they no longer feel the need to talk about it. “South Park Stick of Truth” is a good example of a game that wraps up so well that people would have forgotten about it if the developer didn’t make a cookie-cutter sequel.
Below are a series of arguments that suggest why a game is memorable and why it may be forgettable. Of the elements suggested, they may all be true, or none of them. Some factors may apply to some games and not others. Each factor below always seems to have its exception to the rule, so for the sake of completeness, the exceptions will be listed as examples.
The Story Was Finished Too Perfectly
One of the reasons why some movies should never be continued or remade is because they worked so well and finished so perfectly that anything you add before or after the timeline is weaker almost by definition. The three Matrix movies and the three Lord of the Rings movies are proof of this fact, and games have a similar problem. Some games wrap things up so well that people feel the sort of resolution where they no longer feel the need to talk about it. “South Park Stick of Truth” is a good example of a game that wraps up so well that people would have forgotten about it if the developer didn’t make a cookie-cutter sequel.
Exception To The Rule: Undertale
This story wraps up perfectly, but people still talk about this game a lot, but that is mostly because of its original take on what a good game can be.
The Story Left No Impact or Had Few Talking Points
Sometimes a story ends so well that people feel resolution and feel no need to talk about it, create memes, ask for sequels, and so forth. On the other hand, there are games that simply leave no impact and so are easily forgotten. Ghosts N’ Goblins had an ending that left no impact, as did Fallout 4. These were loved games, but time hasn’t been good to them.
Exception To The Rule: Batman: Arkham Asylum
Look back, and all you do is kill The Joker. It may have had an impact, but for some reason, it didn’t. Yet, the game is still spoken of because it had game mechanics that were years ahead of its time.
They Have No Ending
Why is it that some games are forgotten despite being beloved? Sometimes it is because the games have no end. There are games like Fallout Shelter, Conan, Animation Throwdown, and so forth that are mostly never talked about. Games with no end are talked about when they are still popular, which is why people are still making WOW memes and posting online about where to find Lost Ark gold, but some games are not popular for very long and they are simply forgotten.
Exception To The Rule: Final Fantasy XIV (14)
This game is still talked about and is still getting attention despite not ending, yet it has never been as popular or well known as games like WOW or Lost Ark.
It Simply Wasn’t Adopted By Popular or Meme Culture
This is a tricky one, but ask yourself this, why are “Friends” memes so popular and understood, when at the time they were getting beaten in the ratings by “Fraiser”, “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Seinfeld.” Why is it that years later, people are still making Friends memes, but nobody is making an “Awww Maaaa” meme for Raymond? For some reason, some entities are adopted by popular or meme culture, and what are otherwise forgettable games are remembered forever.
Exception To The Rule: Wii Sports
After selling 80 million copies of Wii Sports, people still remember Wii Sports, yet it was never really adopted by popular culture. Where are the memes? The sound effects on YouTube videos? The quotes?
It Copies an Already Told Story
Is this a general rule of forgettable games under any circumstances? Probably, yet, it is weird if you think about it because much of what we love in movies is just a copy of something else.
A game like Prey (2017) copied Bioshock and System Shock, and despite being popular and well made, it has mostly been forgotten.
Many games have the superman problem where there are only so many scenarios available without going too far outside the bounds of believability. A game like Prey (2017) copied Bioshock and System Shock, and despite being popular and well made, it has mostly been forgotten.
Exception To The Rule: All Zelda and Mario Games
In almost every game, they are recycling their own stories. Yet, their constant sequels and innovations allow them to remain popular and difficult to forget.
The Antagonists or Enemies Had No Substance
The game Prey (2017) is what prompted the writing of this article, and it is because the enemies were just black oily things and were completely forgettable. There are many games, popular or not, where forgettable enemies often result in forgettable games.
Exception To The Rule: COD World at War Zombies Mode
COD World at War did a zombies mode, perhaps the most forgettable enemy due to overuse, and it was still somehow good and memorable. The same applies to Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 too.
A Very Forgettable Game Title
This is another factor where “Prey” takes the prize again, especially since the 2017 version was named after a different game also called “Prey” that was made beforehand. The game “Grey” is another candidate for the most forgettable name. And, what is worse is that these games are so difficult to Google because they are commonly used words.
Exception To The Rule: Rust
Honestly, this was a difficult one to figure out, but “Rust” is still seemingly popular and memorable despite having a pretty lousy name that is difficult to Google.
A Very Unfulfilling Ending
Of all the factors in this list, an unfulfilling ending is perhaps the weakest. The fact is that most people don’t finish games. Many people have games in their library that they have forgotten and also never finished. Nevertheless, when a game has a very unfulfilling ending, it is easier to forget.
Exception To The Rule: Far Cry 3
It had a very unfulfilling ending, but its shakeup of the shooter genre helped keep the Far Cry series relevant all the way up to Far Cry 5, which is the point at which Ubisoft stopped trying, oiled up their copy-and-paste tool, and started churning out garbage like Far Cry 6.
What Do You Remember About The Game?
You could argue that some of the world’s greatest games have something ultimately memorable about them that keeps them alive throughout the years. The drunk scene in RDR2, the hand slice in RE7, those stupid squid things in Bloodborne that steal your insight … Perhaps what stops a great game from being forgotten is something memorable. It doesn’t seem like a hard and fast rule if the franchise is still being supported/marketed or the franchise has sequels that are still coming out. But, it does seem that the best way to avoid being forgotten is to have something memorable about your game.
Natalia is an avid gamer and a team player. She loves to spend her weekends competing in video game tournaments with her friends. Her competitive spirit and sharp mind make her a formidable opponent. Natalia enjoys working with others to achieve a common goal, and she is always willing to lend a helping hand.