Much like the movie industry, the video game business has come to depend on sequels and series.
You need look no further than 2011's top games. Metacritic's best-rated titles included The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Portal 2 and Mass Effect 2.
But not every great series has continued. Here's a look at some picks by the reviewers for the Gamer's Manifesto for best games and series that, sadly, haven't seen a sequel or new installment in the past five years.
Nintendo's Wii relaunched the exercise-game rage, but Microsoft's Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360 has led to far more realistic workouts.
Gaming, though, is all about fantasy, so let's inject some imagination into those workouts. Just think how cool it would be to exercise to the stylings of the classic Rampage series, which saw players take on the mantle of various monsters destroying cities.
The Kinect would have you shedding pounds while you climb buildings and stomp around.
The most recent installment in the series was a throwaway game on the Wii in 2006. It's time to bring back the carnage.
Someday, my future grandchildren will say to me, "Grandpa, what ever happened to Ryo Hazuki?"
And I will take a sip of prune juice and sigh, using a napkin to dab at a wistful tear for the video game series that was never finished.
Shenmue was released for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999. It was a lot of things: semi-open-world action adventure, fighting game and forklift-racing simulator among them. You played as Hazuki, a Japanese teen hunting for his father's killer.
It's dated today, but Shenmue was groundbreaking for its time. I remember being awed the first time I witnessed a digital character's eyes move independently of his head and the first time I saw the weather change from sunshine to rain or snow on the fly.
Shenmue was the first game on home consoles to let players go anywhere and do whatever the heck they wanted. Don't feel like tracking the killer and advancing the story? Fine. Do a few odd jobs, earn money and waste the day at the arcade or at the grocery collecting capsule figurines from the quarter machine.
A little more than a year after Shenmue was released, the Sega Dreamcast tanked in America. A port of the 2001 Japanese version of Shenmue II was released on the Xbox in the United States in 2002, but the graphics were decidedly last-generation, and other titles, namely Grand Theft Auto III, had perfected the open-world formula, making the title seem dated before it was even released.
Its cliffhanger ending has never been resolved, even though fans, including me, have clamored for it for nearly a decade.
Sadly, the ending probably will never come. What developer in today's financial climate would take a chance on an obscure series from a failed console? Those of us who lived the Shenmue adventure will have to settle for guest appearances from Hazuki in subpar mobile phone racing games.
NFL 2K series
There has been nothing as painful in video games as the news in 2004 that Electronic Arts had obtained an exclusive contract with the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The deal gave EA sole possession of licensed football video games, completely knocking out its competition. Back then, there was a bevy of NFL games, and ESPN NFL 2K5 was the best. EA had to feel the pressure, especially since developer Visual Concepts released 2K5 for $19.99, as opposed to the then-typical $49.99.
But the low price wasn't an indication of the quality. This game had a lot of depth, and it was truly the start of sports titles trying to make you part of the game. Its franchise mode had a tremendous amount of depth, including salary caps, trades and individual player training regiments. It had SportsCenter and Chris Berman during the pre-game show — "Boom!" The game crushed EA's Madden series, and EA had to know its fate.
Things haven't been the same since. Madden is essentially an annual update of the roster, with a few playbook tweaks and a handful of touches on the stadiums. Without competition, EA hasn't pushed its game to any new heights. Meanwhile, the 2K brand's NBA game has completely bumped off EA's NBA Live franchise. I have no doubt that Madden would have suffered the same fate if it weren't for that darn contract. The exclusive NFL rights were supposed to come to an end this year, but the deal has been extended to 2013. When I heard that, it nearly brought me to tears.
Delano Massey Beyond Oasis
I've always been a fan of The Legend of Zelda, so it's no surprise that I fell for a Sega version of Nintendo's powerhouse franchise.
Released for the Genesis, Beyond Oasis was an action role-playing game in the vein of Zelda that told the tale of Prince Ali, who sought to vanquish evil using his gold armlet. Does it sound similar to vanquishing Ganon and wielding a Master Sword? Sure it does.
Beyond Oasis had top-notch graphics for the day and was a fun mystical tale that included summoning spirits and a variety of weapons. A prequel was produced later, but the series never gained the traction it deserved.
Ask anyone about developer BioWare, and you'll hear of series like Mass Effect or Dragon Age. But one of the company's best and most under-appreciated games, MDK2, came before those two series began.
Released in 2000, MDK2 was a masterpiece of a third-person shooter and far ahead of its time. It was developed for the PC and the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, which is still my favorite console ever. It gave players a unique, deep and sometimes funny experience that couldn't be found anywhere else.
The game had three characters with unique play styles — stealth, puzzle-solving and Rambo-style gunplay.
It was never boring. You could parachute around the gigantic environments as sniper Kurt Hectic and take people out from a distance, or use Dr. Fluke Hawkins to solve puzzles. And when those got challenging, you could switch to Max, the robotic six-legged dog, and blast everything to oblivion because of his ability to equip four guns at once.
The game found new life last year as it was ported to Nintendo Wii's WiiWare service and saw a high-definition remake created for the PC. It shows that there's interest in the series, so Bioware, why not revisit an unfinished trilogy and truly wow the gaming world?
Will Wood Jr.