Franchises come with expectations. When you purchase a game in any series, you're right to assumed it'll be a sequel, either continuing the story or carrying a similar style of gameplay with just the right amount of innovation. These are games that, for better or worse, didn't meet those expectations.
In some instances, this was kind of a good thing. But even if it was a good game, games in a series have to engage in expectation management. Probably the biggest tragedy is when a good game just occupied the wrong space. Perhaps a new lead designer used the brand to make that game he always wanted to, but it was just too different to its predecessors.
This is a list dedicated to those games. Can you think of any more? Drop them in the comments below!
Command & Conquer 4
I actually didn't mind this as a game. If you separated it from the C&C franchise, I would have played and enjoyed it. But one thing is for sure: It wasn't a Command & Conquer game. This was back in the early days of games borrowing from the MOBA genre, and C&C4 decided to base its multiplayer around 5v5 combat with commanders levelling up throughout the match. The mobile bases and infinite unit queues made people rage against the final game in the series. It was just too different.
Some in the office have disagreed, but I think it's reasonable to expect a good multiplayer engine when you buy a Doom game. Sure, that statement moreso applies to Quake, but there should at least be some cool deathmatch action in Doom -- a lesson it seems they seem to have learned with their upcoming game, as a lot of the marketing is showing that as a priority. Aside from the multiplayer, Doom 3 was more horror-focused than previous games, and the inability to shine a flashlight while shooting seemed silly.
Supreme Commander 2
Screw this game. This was Supreme Commander while under the stewardship of Square Enix, which promptly dumbed down the franchise to its most basic unit hierarchies. The game functioned, and you could make more units than you normally could in an RTS, but the spirit of the game was gone. There was no reason for any TA or SupCom fan to play this game over SupCom: Forged Alliance.
Metroid: Other M
I've ranted at length on Kotaku about this game before, so I won't spend too much time on it. Aside from the gameplay differences, Other M took one of gaming's strongest heroines and turned her into a submissive weakling who freezes in combat and takes orders from someone who isn't her superior.
The latest SimCity will be known for its terrible launch and a design that serviced EA over gamers. By design, the game wasn't in its full form unless you were playing multiplayer with mayors of other cities surrounding you, enabling traffic and trade. Whether this is actually an attempt at innovative design or simply an anti-pirate strategy, we may never know, but put me in the cynical camp. Thankfully, Cities: Skylines picked up the slack on this one.
Age of Empires Online
Get the hell out of my house with this game. Get right out. How dare you taint this once-great franchise with your crappy gamification and microtransactions. How dare you then go on to make Age of Empires: Castle Siege, which is basically a Clash of Clans clone with a thin coat of paint in the form of my childhood memories. Get in the damn bin.
Can you think of any more? I've thought for a while on whether or not to include games which have a slightly different title. Take Battlefield Hardline, for example. One could gauge from the title that it's slightly different to a normal Battlefield. If one did include those games, the floodgates open for others like Age of Mythology, Descent: FreeSpace, Starfox Adventures, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, FIFA Street, Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, and many, many more.
It's hard to sort them, though. There's a strong argument for Age of Mythology being on the list because of Ensemble's (at the time) trademark historical accuracy. But then again, someone else could make the argument that Age of Empires 3 belongs on the list more than AoM, because gunpowder fundamentally changes the rock/paper/scissors combat the franchise has always used. In the end, I settled on Age of Empires Online, because seriously, get the hell out of my house with that game.
Have you ever bought a franchise game that just didn't belong?