“Successful Failure” seems an oxymoron, but the term arguably applies to the titles listed here. They were good products that flopped in terms of sales… but for the few who actually played them, they were great gaming experiences.
Here are my picks, in no particular order:
PSYCHONAUTS: This was a fun platformer with an inventive story, and art direction that felt like something out of an animated Tim Burton movie. The fact that the game largely took place inside the subconscious minds of various characters allowed for positively crazy, surreal level design. Sure, the graphics are becoming dated now… as with every game on this list… but this is still a very playable game.
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL: Here’s a game that is loved by just about everyone who played it, but which is hard to get anyone to play. Maybe it’s the graphics, but that’s a rather superficial reason to dismiss a game with such a well-constructed story, and such strong playability.
THE LONGEST JOURNEY 1 & 2: Okay, the original TLJ is actually a better game – an absolute classic in the third-person adventure genre – but the sequel is also quite good, even with the unresolved cliffhanger ending. We were promised “Chapters” to follow TLJ2, but they haven’t materialized. Why? The second game didn’t sell very well. This is an absolute shame as this is one of the best-written game series I’ve ever had the chance to play! The art direction and puzzles are generally solid as well, but it’s the epic storytelling that makes these games great.
NO ONE LIVES FOREVER 1 & 2: With a tone somewhere between James Bond and Austin Powers, these spy-themed FPSs are not only fun, with diverse gadgets, weapons, and locations – they’re really, really funny. NOLF 1 & 2 are the unseen classics of the FPS genre; the mix of stealth, flat-out action, and puzzles, works really well here. NOLF 2 was only marginally successful, however, and this led to a sub-par bargain-bin follow-up (Contract J.A.C.K.) and ultimately the cancellation of the NOLF series. (Developer Monolith then went on to create the commercially successful “F.E.A.R”, leaving NOLF in the dust.)
URU: Cyan Worlds made a string of misfires, one after another, following “Myst” and “Riven”. “RealMyst” and “Myst V” were decent-but-not-great products that flopped badly, but the key failure was arguably URU, which had astronomically high system requirements upon its late 2003 release, high difficulty level and moderately-clunky interface, and poor marketing from the publisher… and yet the strengths (beautiful art direction and world design, great sound design, strong fantasy mythology, are definitely there) … it was supposed to by a realtime 3d fantasy MMO… but quickly got cancelled after release, reopened later, cancelled again… now it’s reopened, one last time, as donation-supported freeware. And still, even as a free game, relatively few people have tried playing it, though it has accumulated a small but devoted fanbase. Creator Rand Miller has said “It failed, but it failed really well.”
Now, granted, there are many other games I could list here, and you have every right to disagree with me, but to me, these are some of the PC games that are most deserving of a mention… the most frustrating and undeserved flops.
By the way, you can find most of these on Amazon.com or GOG.com… I know Psychonauts and Beyond Good And Evil are at GOG.com… as for Uru, try MystOnline.com as you’ll find the free download there.
Have a good day, and have fun gaming!