The 5 Most Convoluted Game Franchises
August 31, 2012, 12:34 pm
When it comes to video games, most players are only interested in the gameplay. Is it fun? Does it engage me? And that is by far the most important element to be found. But gameplay isn't the only thing that can pull a player into the game's world. Storytelling is still considered to be weak in the industry, but that hasn't stopped developers from trying to create epic storylines across multiple games. Each one builds upon the previous games until you have a meticulously crafted world or a convoluted mess. In some cases it can actually be both. You may absolutely love the franchise, but there's no denying that it makes no sense without really digging into the mythos. So with that in mind, let's take a look at five of the most convoluted game franchises we've come across.
With only two main games in total making up this franchise, you'd normally be right in thinking that it shouldn't even be considered for this list. You would be wrong. Though fighting games are never known for their plots, Blazblue bucked the trend and went all out in creating a story that permeated the entire game. Even when gamers aren't playing the Story Mode, they get glimpses of the overall plot thanks to character interactions and quotes during fights. It all seems simple until Story Mode is actually started. Dozens of possibilities are laid bare for the players. Multiple endings are provided and many seem to outright contradict the others. But the craziest part of it all is that every one of these endings is canon. Players discover that the same series of events have been played out dozens, if not hundreds, of times. The multiple endings are actually visions of the past that failed to move time beyond a certain point. Only by obtaining the true ending does this cyclical nature end, but until that point is reached, players will have no idea how this is all happening. Things are a little more clear in the sequel, but the story is still flooded with terms, concepts, and events that just confuse fans. If you're willing to make the effort to unravel it all, it can be an entertaining tale for sure, but that doesn't make it any less convoluted for casual fans.
4. Resident Evil
Resident Evil started out simply enough. A band of special forces cops get stranded in a mansion that's crawling with zombies. By fighting their way through both the zombies and the deadly traps of the mansion itself, they learn that the incident was caused by the Umbrella Corporation and that one of their own is a traitor. It's a good set-up that eventually spiraled into crazier and more convoluted events. The Umbrella Corporation, once a faceless enemy that seemed undefeatable, became little more than a cartoon villain because they kept making the same mistakes. Resident Evil 4 tried to make things more coherent by getting rid of Umbrella's influence entirely, but Resident Evil 5 made everything even worse than before by re-introducing story elements from all over the series. Add in the spin-offs which may or may not be a part of the canon and remakes which has retconned many of the earlier events, and you have a game franchise hamstrung by its own history. The stories are still entertaining in their own goofy way, but good luck making sense of the more insane plot threads.
3. Legacy of Kain
The Legacy of Kain series began with the fall of its first hero, Kain, and the rise of one of his fallen generals, Raziel. Endless betrayal led to time travel and an attempt to set the world to right. By introducing the concept of time travel, stories can easily and quickly become an incoherent mess. By the last game in the series, players only had a vague notion of what was going on since almost every character had changed sides, betrayed them, or just seemed odd. It was one of the franchises greatest strengths, but it eventually collapsed under its own weight. With research, the story can be understood and appreciated since its themes are excellent and the world-building is some of the best in gaming. It just becomes a bit much when every element starts stacking up and threatens to fall under its own hubris.
2. Kingdom Hearts
If any of you have seen our Kingdom Hearts Timeline, you know how vast and convoluted this franchise can be. The series has recently reached a total of seven games but only two of them are numbered titles. And unlike a lot of franchises where the spin-offs don't matter that much in the grand scheme, they are incredibly important. Little scenes can have huge consequences and every detail is remembered. It can be more than a little surprising when a character in the first game is only a summon and barely has any lines shows up in the sequel and remembers fighting alongside the main characters. Most of Kingdom Hearts is actually relatively simple to understand, but its habit of appearing on multiple systems makes things tricky for fans to follow along. Of the seven games that have been released, they have appeared on five different systems. Following the franchise completely means being willing to buy each system it comes out for. That's an insane amount of commitment to ask of any fan. But to those who have been sucked into the world that Kingdom Hearts has created, it's completely worth it.
1. Metal Gear
What other series could have been number 1 on this list? When gamers think of a confusing mess of a story, Metal Gear is always the first to come to mind. And who can blame them when almost every game takes the opportunity to showcase incredibly long cutscenes that seem to meander and posit about the current state of politics, warfare, and control. It's all heady stuff that can be fun to look into, but it bogs the player down after a while. There's a tight, well-written story in here that delivers on all fronts, but the monologues absolutely kill the pacing. These ramblings end up putting tons of filler at the forefront which makes it a near chore to cut through it all to the heart of the story. And that's a shame because here is a game that is willing to ask interesting questions while delivering a ridiculous story filled with over the top characters. There's a reason that the Metal Gear franchise has become one of the most popular in all of gaming, but players could write a masters thesis on everything that the games' stories throw at them.
These five games are only our opinion as we're positive that there's plent more examples of convoluted storylines to be found. Let us know in the comments which series have confused you over the years!