Top X List | What PC Gamers Have Been Hiding From the Rest of Us
I imagine a lot of you either have enjoyed or are currently enjoying Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. Originally released episodically via their site or through a console’s online component, the five-episode game surrounds a brand-new story more akin to the original comics than the AMC show, and has been highly-lauded, including pulling off a major upset at the Spike Video Game Awards winning “Game of the Year.”
I was excited too… until I put my retail disc version into my XBox 360.
Yup. Lag city, trick, lag lag city trick.
While I considered my new usage for my disc version of The Walking Dead (possibly a beer coaster for “The Walking Dead” viewing parties?) and whether I should shell out for the episodes or cast it all aside with a flippant middle finger, it got me to wondering what other titles have been stranded in PC Land with no love for us console people.
There are some juicy titles that we console players have been deprived of, so in this entry of Top X List, x = “6 Games That Weren’t Ported to Consoles But Should Have Been.”
The obvious rule here is that the game must have been launched on PCs but not have been ported to consoles. Duh. But it’s harder than one might think. Originally, American McGee’s Alice was on this list, as it was never ported. But wait! Those who bought Alice: Madness Returns for PS3 or XBox 360 got a code for a digital download of the first Alice. So yes, it was ported.
But there is a game on here, that while wasn’t directly ported, received a weak, half-assed version that was released on consoles. However, the console version was so piss-poor, it couldn’t be considered a direct port and therefore made its way on to the list.
Moral of the story: Don’t shoot the messenger.
That being said, six games that weren’t ported to consoles but should have been, in alphabetical order:
Afterlife (LucasArts, 1996)
If you were a PC gamer in the ’90s, you played SimCity. You did. It’s a fact. Everyone did. The problem with the SimCraze was that after SimCity there was SimAnt, SimCopter, SimEarth, SimTower, SimLife, and of course, The Sims and its 200,000 spin-offs and expansion packs.
By that time, you weren’t just SimDone, you were most likely done for real.
Many of these SimGames made it to consoles, for better or for worse, including the original SimCity. One that didn’t, but should have, is one that didn’t have the SimMoniker, which may have helped or hindered it. LucasArts’ Afterlife could have been called “SimHeaven and SimHell,” which would have been a lengthy but apt title. As a semi-omnipotent demiurge controlling the operations of The Afterlife for a planet simply known as The Planet, your job is to create and operate a fantastic and highly-efficient Heaven, and a horrific and highly-inefficient Hell (since the only thing worse than being tormented in Hell is having it done inefficiently).
Coordinating eight sin zones in Hell (one for each deadly sin, along with one for general badness) and eight corresponding virtue zones in Heaven, your job is to build the zones up in degree of Reward for the Blessed (in Heaven) or Punishment for the Damned (in Hell). While doing this, you also build up workforces of Angels and Demons, while monitoring The Planet for issues and belief systems. Your assistants, Aria Goodhalo and Jasper Wormswood, will assist in your Heavenly blessings/Hellish tortures, but remember, you’re not a full-fledged deity by any means, and your bosses, The Powers That Be, will check in on you from time to time to make sure your Afterlife isn’t going to (if you’ll excuse the pun) hell in a handbasket.
This game breaks out of the SimMold by not taking itself too seriously, while presenting the challenge of not one SimTask at a time, but two. Porting it to a console, realistically not only would you have the original game, but you could theoretically make it a two-player challenge, with one player monitoring Heaven and one monitoring Hell. Dividing of resources would make it a team effort, and one requiring strategy… and a little backstabbing now and then.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010, Frictional Games)
I can’t write about this game without getting a tingle… it’s that good, and that scary.
When a game recommends playing in the dark, with headphones on to block out surrounding noise, you know it’s not messing around. The horror-survival game (with the emphasis on horror and survival) focuses on a male protagonist named Daniel, who remembers only a few things at the start of the game: his name, his hometown, and that he has to get the hell out of the castle he wakes up in.
Now picture this game, in a dark room, with console headphones on, and a… THING… jumping out at you on a big-screen HDTV.
I just peed a little thinking about it.
Far Cry (2004, Ubisoft)
Ahh, see, here’s where the finger-pointing starts. “Far Cry was ported! Far Cry was ported!”
Nay nay, says I. There was an XBox game released based on Far Cry known as Far Cry Instincts, which was based on the storyline of Far Cry but not a direct port, as it was more linear and took out many side missions, while adding in new feral abilities. In fact, Far Cry Instincts had sequels exclusive to it: Far Cry Instincts: Evolution for the XBox, and Far Cry Instincts: Predator for the XBox 360, both of which had an even shorter single-player campaign than Far Cry Instincts. And Far Cry Vengeance was released to the Wii, but this was simply a port of Far Cry Instincts.
While Far Cry 2 and 3 were both ported to consoles, a true port of the original Far Cry in all its open-world glory never came to be.
Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle (1993, LucasArts)
Maniac Mansion was released in 1987, and received critical acclaim, along with an NES port that was watered down, but still an actual port of the game. With the success of the game, all ports considered, and the cult following Maniac Mansion gained in the years to pass, a sequel seemed inevitable, but fans knew that LucasArts (then Lucasfilm Games) wouldn’t do one without quality gameplay and a solid story.
1993 rolls around, and LucasArts releases Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle. Using the same point-and-click mechanics as the original Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle presented, in terms of plot, depth, gameplay and graphics, a game that blew the original out of the water.
Crazed disembodied tentacles bent on taking over the world? Check. The Edison family back to cause havoc? Check. Time traveling? You got it. Historic tomfoolery? Yep, it’s in there. A nerd, a dippy med student, and a fat roadie? All available to you. A port to a console? Um, no.
’93 was an odd time, hovering in between 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. An obvious choice would be to send it to the NES; but there would be no way to translate the graphics to the limited sprites of the 8-bit system. Yet porting it to the SNES would be difficult as the 16-bit console was still in its infancy, only having been released in 1991. Furthermore, Jaleco, the company that published the original NES port of Maniac Mansion, was struggling to stay afloat, having pulled out of the arcade game business around that time.
The game has not only a larger cult following than the original Maniac Mansion, but still holds to the test of time as even today, it’s still a fun, humorous game that sucks players in to the insanity while the puzzles still challenge even the most hardcore adventure gamer. A port on the Wii U would allow for the Gamepad to house the action words and the inventory for each character, as well as manage their Chron-o-John, allowing the TV screen to shine those wacky cartoonish ’90s graphics in all their colorful glory.
Make it happen, LucasArts. Make it happen.
Shannara (1995, Legend Entertainment)
If three Lord of the Rings movies, a follow-up Hobbit film, seven Harry Potter books and eight films, various video game incarnations of all of the above, plus the upcoming Oz The Great and Powerful didn’t tip you off, let me clue you in: Fantasy is all the rage in Hollywood right now. And with various filmmakers toying with the idea of making Terry Brooks’ Shannara series into a Game of Thrones-esque drama, now would be time to jump on the trend and port this 1995 point-and-click adventure that was more akin to Shadowgate and Deja Vu than Maniac Mansion.
As Jak, son of Shea Ohmsford, the protagonist of the original novel The Sword of Shannara, you are met by the druid Allanon, who warns you that the Warlock Lord has returned. The Elfstones in hand, you set off to recover and repair the legendary Sword of Shannara, the only relic that can banish the Warlock Lord for good.
This would actually be a great game to update and put in a three-dimensional adventure game, but a port might make for a great title for a console’s online network. Either way, it’s a game that slid under the radar in the ’90s but could still make quite a splash today.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007, THQ)
Yes, friends, THQ is gone, but the developers of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have gone on to form their own studio, Vostok Games, to release a true sequel; a port is still possible.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Is one of those games your PC-gaming friends told you that you absolutely had to play while you were knee-deep in a console game that you couldn’t tear away from. In it, you play an amnesiac S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (short for “Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, and Robbers”) who wakes up in “The Zone,” a fictitious version of the Zone of Alienation around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. In S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Chernobyl has undergone a second nuclear meltdown, pumping more radiation into the Zone, making the area not only uninhabitable but un-occupiable in some areas by any means. Furthermore, certain areas of the Zone have seen mutations to their plant life, animal life, and human life… if one can call it that anymore.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has one of the best physics mechanisms seen in gameplay lately. You can’t sprint while wielding large weaponry, you can’t sprint an unlimited amount of time, and anomalies such as radiation poisoning, hunger, and bleeding don’t just go away, you have to heal it. Weather and precipitation wreaks havoc on your machinery, your weaponry, and your traction and footing. Mutants don’t just attack you, they hunt and stalk you, making you question who is the stalker, and who is the stalked. In fact, developers revealed that prior to its PC release, the AI in the game had to be toned down considerably, in that the enemies were too tough even for the developers, but the AI was so smart it could beat itself in gameplay.
That’s some hardcore AI.
It’s fantastic, and a port to any console would be an instant hit. In fact, this might be a game that deserves an eighth-gen port. Besides, any game that promotes heavy drinking of vodka is a-ok with me. (Just kidding. Drink only in moderation; don’t drink and drive. Don’t drink and game either, you’ll wind up saying something stupid online.)