For many, it’s easy to pick out which video games are likely to be successful, be it commercially or critically. Each annual Call of Duty release, for instance, is essentially a sure-fire sales champion, and even though Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has suffered in comparison to other games in the franchise, it has still sold extremely well. Meanwhile, few were expecting anything but the best from Uncharted 4 when it released earlier this year.
However, sometimes a hugely popular or profitable game will appear out of nowhere, defying the expectations of not only gamers themselves but even its own creators. Here’s Game Rant’s list of the most surprising success stories in video games.
The Final Fantasy series is the most well-known JRPG franchise in video game history, and the Square Enix series has been a huge factor in gaming for decades. However, this has not always been the case, and even though the series holds a huge place in gaming, its success at the outset was much less certain than its current status may suggest. What’s more, it was all written out in the game’s name.
The first title in the series is named Final Fantasy because the game’s designers believed that it would be the last game that Square created. According to composer Nobuo Uematsu, the company was facing bankruptcy prior to Final Fantasy‘s release, meaning that the game would literally have been Square’s final fantasy story. Thankfully, the title was a tremendous success, and the rest is history.
Not every game has the same clout as the Final Fantasy series, but that doesn’t mean that the successes of smaller projects are any less impressive. One such example is that of Undertale, the quirky, retro-styled RPG that launched in 2015. Barely heard about prior to its release, the game quickly became one of the most talked about games of the year.
Mixing together a unique story, original characters and gameplay, and a fabulously tongue-in-cheek look at how old-school RPGs worked, Undertale found an audience almost immediately. Understandably, that turned into both excellent sales and a stellar critical reception, with Undertale seen as one of the best indie games of 2015.
Not every game’s success is necessarily earned. That’s certainly the case with Flappy Bird, the mobile sensation that became a must-have app back in early 2014. The title became a pop culture phenomenon due to its frustrating but simple gameplay, and was one of the most talked about games of the year.
It’s still not exactly certain why Flappy Bird became such a huge deal, but long-term success has not exactly been found. On the back of criticism, and feeling guilty about the addictive nature of the game, developer Dong Nguyen removed the game from the app store. That didn’t stop others from taking advantage of the game’s must-have status, though, as phones with Flappy Bird installed suddenly went for huge money on sites such as eBay.
Flappy Bird is not the only mobile title to take the world by storm, however, and this year its place as perhaps the most unexpected mobile game hit was quite easily displaced. This is down to the launch of Pokemon GO. Although many expected Pokemon GO to be successful, it’s the level of popularity that the game has received that has been so surprising, beating Candy Crush to become the biggest mobile game in US history.
This, of course, had some very positive results for Nintendo, with a stock price jump despite the fact that the company did not even develop the game. The game’s biggest proof of success, however, is the way in which gamers have reacted to the title, from stampedes in New York’s Central Park through to to accidentally crossing country borders.
Although the crowdfunding of games has sometimes been a controversial topic, as seen with the disappointment of Mighty No. 9, sometimes sites such as Kickstarter have managed to fund some incredible games. One of the biggest success stories of crowdfunding is Shovel Knight. The retro platformer had a modest funding target of $75,000, but ended up reaching $311,502 by the end of its campaign.
The end result was seen by many as one of the best 2D platformers of recent years, and a wonderfully-crafted love letter to gaming of yesteryear. Since its release, Shovel Knight has also gone from strength to strength, releasing across multiple platforms and even seeing its own amiibo.