11 Franchises to Revive Xbox’s 1st Party Lineup.

By John Wahl

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Microsoft has an incredibly strong catalog of first party video game properties. With 14 internal studios, and decades of experience, Xbox Game Studios has a plethora of tried and true franchises to work with. You wouldn’t necessarily know that from looking at the Xbox One generation though.

There have certainly been stand outs such as Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon, Ori and the Blind Forest (and it’s sequel), and Gears 4 & 5. But for each success there have been once great franchises that have lost momentum (Halo 5), new IP that failed to reach commercial success (Recore), and series that have laid dormant for years (Fable).

Microsoft has stated repeatedly that with the upcoming Series X, they are committed to avoiding the mistakes of the past. With multiple studio acquisitions and the opening of a brand new AAA studio (The Initiative), we have reason to be optimistic that this is true. And while they undoubtedly have some brand new IP in the works, I would love it if they would take advantage of their rich back catalog and bring back some beloved series.

So I’ve put together a list of 11 first party Xbox franchises that would look great in the Series X portfolio. Here’s hoping that we see a few of these titles in their upcoming Inside Xbox showing off their Series X launch lineup.

One of the best 3D platformers to come out of the 64 bit era, Banjo Kazooie (and it’s sequel Banzo Tooie) were tremendously fun to play and had a great sense of humor. They didn’t quite reach the bar that Super Mario 64 set, but they were fantastic games in their own right. The third game in the series, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts has a bit of a cult following, but it didn’t “feel” right in the way the first two did. Microsoft would be smart to go back to their roots and bring back the family friendly duo.

Now that Microsoft has the Double Fine catalog of properties at it’s disposal, now would be the perfect time to bring back this cult classic. The first game was a solid action game with a fun story, it was only dragged down a bit by the weirdly out of place RTS segments. Bring back Jack Black to star as Eddie Riggs and have him bring along some of his rock star friends to play supporting roles like Dave Grohl, Ozzy Osbourne, and James Hetfield.

Developed by Mistwalker and Artoon, Blue Dragon was part of an effort by Microsoft to boost their presence in Japan. While the strategy failed to help Xbox gain a foothold in the country, it did result in some great exclusive JRPGs. Blue Dragon was a fun, colorful, old school RPG that felt like it could have been plucked from the 16-bit era and reborn for the Xbox 360. The series has laid dormant since Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow on the Nintendo DS released back in 2009, but the time just might be right for a comeback.

Out of anything on this list, I think the odds are probably best that we’ll see the return of Joanna Dark in the not too distant future. While developer RARE might have it’s hands full with Sea of Thieves and the upcoming Everwild, there are other studios who might be up to the task of reinventing Perfect Dark for the modern era. Perhaps a brand new studio created by Microsoft full of AAA development talent hired from studios such as Naughty Dog, Insomniac and Rockstar who are looking to make a big splash on the Series X? Hmmmm.

Not heard from since the days of the original Xbox, Crimson Skies is one of those franchises that die hard fans have been clamoring for for years. Taking place in a post-WWI alternate history, the series could be a great addition to an already diverse lineup of 1st party games. I mean, there really aren’t that many flight combat/action games these days so there may be an audience just waiting for something like this.

Another cult classic, Viva Pinata enjoyed a good deal of success between it’s two Xbox 360 installments, a Nintendo DS game, and two seasons of an animated series developed by 4Kids Productions. The two 360 games were included in the release of Rare Replay in 2015 but fans would love to see a true sequel to the candy critter simulator. It would also help to add another family friendly game to a 1st party lineup which can sometimes be a bit on the dark and grim side.

Hydro Thunder was a standout title for the SEGA Dreamcast back in the day, the arcade racer featured thrilling action and imaginative level designs. When developer Midway was acquired by Warner Bros., Microsoft got a hold of the license and released a follow up, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, in 2010 on Xbox Live Arcade. In my opinion you can never have too many arcade style racers, and a decade later I think we’re more than ready to make waves with a new installment.

After years without too many quality releases, the extreme sports genre is attempting to make a comeback with the return of series like Tony Hawk and Skate recently announced. While that leaves skateboarding covered, we still need a great snowboarding game and EA doesn’t seem too anxious to return to SSX since their attempt at a reboot back in 2012. So now is the right time to bring back Amped and show the world that it’s still fun as hell to shred some powder in video games.

Another JRPG from developer Mistwalker, Lost Odyssey came from legendary Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and featured a soundtrack from composer Nobuo Uematsu. Despite getting mostly favorable reviews and doing fairly well sales-wise, the game never received another entry. I thought it was fantastic tale with a fun combat system, and especially for fans of the Final Fantasy series who at that point were out of luck if they only played on Xbox. I would love to see Microsoft make a bold move and take another crack at the series.

So the original Fuzion Frenzy didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it came out, but as an original Xbox launch title, there are still a lot of people who look back fondly on the party game. I think it would be a fun nod to their history for Microsoft to reinvent the title for the Series X and create a fun multiplayer experience at launch. Maybe pack it in with the console or make it a free to play download. Who doesn’t like a good party game?

Back in 2009, Microsoft made the bold move of creating a live game show on Xbox Live that had a “mob” of one hundred player competing against “the one”. It was free to play and contestants could win Microsoft Points (remember those?) that you could then spend in the Xbox Store. It was ahead of it’s time and fun as hell to play. In a post HQ Trivia world, I think 1 vs. 100 could find a big audience again.

Microsoft is expected to reveal their 1st party lineup for the Series X sometime this month. Will we see any of these games brought back? I think the odds are long on many of them, but I also think Phil Spencer and company will be swinging for the fences this time around, so anything is possible.

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