games / Columns

The Top 8 Abandoned Xbox Franchises

April 15, 2024 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Killer Instinct Image Credit: Microsoft Studios

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about Xbox game franchises, specifically, ones they have seemingly forgotten about. I had originally had a different topic selected but I couldn’t quite put it into words what I wanted to, with my last column topic. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of gamers obsessed with DLSS, Ray Tracing, FSR and a whole bunch of other nonsense buzzwords that doesn’t actually materially impact the game and the only reason those people care is because they spent $1,800 on a Nvidia 4090, and think (incorrectly) they are better than everyone else. They are wrong. Rant aside, Microsoft/Xbox used to have a lot of cool franchises, so this list is a collection of ones they have left by the wayside. Enjoy:

#8: Blinx: The Time Sweeper

There were a lot of failed mascot platformers made for the original Xbox. Most of them were bad, Grabbed by the Ghoulies says “Hello”, but one of the more notable ones was Blinx: The Time Sweeeper. You played Blinx, who was part of the time Time Sweepers, who is tasked with repairing the timeline when an evil gang starts stealing time. Your powers are all the powers of a VCR including slow-mo, pause, and recording, that let you deal with tasks and enemies as you wanted. It’s not a particularly great game but it did at least have a unique hook going for it.

#7: Crimson Skies

I’ll be honest, I only really know of Crimson Skies by reputation. It’s a fairly beloved steampunk aerial dogfighting game that was one of the first big games to hit original Xbox Live. This was before the 360, so actually getting all 16 players in a game was a bit of a hassle. Phil Spencer has at least occasionally mentioned Crimson Skies, so I don’t really get the hold-up for why even a remastered version of this game isn’t out yet.

#6: Viva Pinata

I have tried to get into Viva Pinata but it’s just not for me. I’m probably playing it “wrong”, since I’m one of the four people who actually has a PC copy of the game, even if getting it to work now is a huge hassle. Viva Pinata is basically like mixing Animal Crossing with Pokemon almost, since you have to keep your garden clean, and attract new Pinatas, but they can also fight and there is a hierarchy with trying to get them all. Rare made basically two mainline Viva Pinata games, a very mediocre party game, and a well-received if odd Nintendo DS version. And that has been it, since about 2008 or so.

#5: Killer Instinct


It really is kind of baffling that Microsoft brought Killer Instinct back, made it a legitimate/fun/great fighting game, then abandoned it. At least for a while. This is the one franchise on this list that wasn’t totally abandoned, Microsoft commissioned Iron Galaxy to put out an Anniversary patch, which just came out like last week, that rebalanced the game, added some new stuff, etc. But why not have IG make a new Instinct game as well? Maybe this is to see if there is interest or not, but there should be since the 2014 game was actually really solid.

#4: “Lancer” Games

Back in the day, Microsoft bought Digital Anvil after the release of their first game “Starlancer”. They then made Freelancer, an amazing sequel and Brute Force. And then that was the end of Digital Anvil. Starlancer was a decent game but it had very complex controls. Freelancer, on the other hand, really tried to make a “modern” (for the time) space combat game, with some intuitive controls and a nice storyline. I still generally hold Freelancer up as the best space game ever made. I imagine Microsoft still owns the rights to the “Lancer” franchise, so they might as well make another one, since Star Citizen isn’t ever coming out in an appreciable way.

#3: Banjo-Kazooie

I’ll be honest, Banjo-Kazooie was never really my jam. I appreciated it, from a distance, but the weird way you had Kazooie strapped to your back was odd. Nuts & Bolts was kind of neat though, it was the first B-K game on an Xbox console and was much more of a vehicle sandbox game than a traditional 3D platformer. Since then? Nothing. Like with Viva Pinata, the franchise has basically become dormant from 2008 on. It’s kind of amazing that Microsoft did have a lot of creative franchises going and then just stopped them after the Xbox 360.

#2: Crackdown

Crackdown is a pretty interesting exercise in releases only getting worse after the first game. The second Crackdown game is tedious but the third Crackdown game is/was a miserable failure that didn’t deliver on nearly anything it originally promised. That said, the first Crackdown game is still an amazing game to play, the feeling of upgrading your Agent is handled nicely, and as a physics toolbox, it is hilarious. I can see why Microsoft put Crackdown on ice, probably forever given their track record, but the idea of Crackdown is still great and might get players interested again.

#1: Gears of War

It is downright amazing how much stature Gears of War has lost. Think of it, Gear was probably, at one point, the second biggest franchise Microsoft had going for it, behind Halo. Now? Microsoft’s biggest franchises are Minecraft, Forza, and the stuff they just got from their Activision deal. Halo is badly wounded and Gears has been MIA since Gears 5 came out. Well, Gears Tactics did come out in 2020 but it seemed to largely be forgotten. There are the recent rumors that Gears 6 will be shown soon but at this point, it’s too little, too late.

For comments, list which Microsoft/Xbox franchises that you miss and why.

Next Issue
Top 8 Abandoned Sony Franchises

article topics :

The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison