For some reason, many companies these days have decided that just numbering their sequels isn’t acceptable any longer. It’s much cooler to just use arbitrary subtitles in place of numbers. Don’t worry about it, gaming publishers of the world, I DIDN’T WANT TO CATCH UP ON YOUR FRANCHISES ANYWAY!
To start off, I want to state my inspiration for writing this article. While it’s not even close to the most confusing franchise, I found myself, one day, standing in front of a Gamestop bargain bin deciding that I wanted to catch up on the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I’d never played even one before but I had heard they were great. So I’m standing in the store holding two games: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. I’m a newbie to the franchise, I don’t know what the hell these things are. My phone was dead at the time so I couldn’t look it up and I, of course, stumbled into the Gamestop where the employee was working who didn’t know anything about MGS either. Do I need both? Are they the same game? Is one like an expansion or something? I had no idea. All because they couldn’t just name the damn game something sensible like Metal Gear Solid 3: Special Edition (which is what Subsistence is, by the way.) So, with that story aside, let’s jump into some of the most bizarrely named games out there.
1. Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest
First up is a relatively tame one but one that no doubt confused many folks back in 2004 when the name changed in the US. Dragon Quest was made by Enix WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY back in 1986 on the Famicom. This game would go on to revolutionize RPGs forever, essentially creating JRPGs as we know them today. Enix knew they had a hit on their hands and wanted to bring it state-side so that we in the US could revel in their brilliance. Too bad there was a tabletop RPG already out called DragonQuest. So Dragon Quest was brought to the US as Dragon Warrior and thus it was named through the first 7 games.
This never needed to be a problem until Square Enix decided that the poor Americans just couldn’t be left to suffer the name Dragon Warrior for one minute longer! Thus, with the eighth game on the horizon, they changed the name in the US to Dragon Quest. They then re-released many of the older titles for the DS with the new Dragon Quest moniker. It’s not like Dragon is an uncommon word to have in RPG names. We’ve got Dragon Age, Dungeons and Dragons, Dragon’s Lair, Dragon’s Dogma, Blue Dragon, the list goes on and on. So when Dragon Quest IV came out on the DS, it wasn’t unreasonable to think that this was a brand new game!
To make matters worse, although the US is sitting pretty with the title change now, little do the unsuspecting masses know that Dragon Quest X was actually released in Japan all the way back in 2012 and there are no plans to bring it to the US. However, Dragon Quest XI will likely make its way over in the next year or two so who know what kind of a shitstorm that will create?
2. Assassin’s Creed
Assassin’s Creed is going to be a nightmare for retro gamers a decade from now to figure out. The series started off with a pretty okay system. They would number their main entry titles and give subtitles to the spin-offs. This worked out for the first several games in the franchise.
- Assassin’s Creed (main series)
- Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles (spin-off)
- Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines (spin-off)
- Assassin’s Creed II (main series)
- Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery (spin-off)
We’re looking fairly good here. We avoid the Metal Gear Solid problem by having the spin-offs be for portables and the main series entries be for home console. I’ve got to say, it’s a good way to do things once you figure out their system. But then…
- Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (main series)
What the hell is this??? Brotherhood is a main series entry and a direct sequel to II so why didn’t they just name it Assassin’s Creed III? Well, it would be confusing because while I and II had different protagonists, II and Brotherhood are both following the same person. But then why didn’t they make the games Assassin’s Creed: Discovery and Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood to at least maintain a tiny bit of continuity? Because Ubisoft, that’s why. Oh, you think it ends there? NOPE!
Next up we have Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. This one’s another main series entry and a direct sequel to Brotherhood. So I guess we’re dropping the numbers completely, right? WRONG! After that we have Assassin’s Creed III.
Why do you hate us so much, Ubisoft? You’re giving us Assassin’s Creed III which is actually the fifth main series title? That’s not confusing at all. At least the spin-offs have maintained their sanity, each being a subtitled entry also using the main series number it’s associated with. The mobile/social games break this trend but that’s forgivable.
Well, Ubisoft just can’t let that stand now, can they? Next main title: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. That’s right! They just jacked the spin-off naming scheme for a main series entry! Because fuck all those gaming historians out there trying to make any bit of sense out of this franchise. Now, each game in the series is just given a subtitle and we’ve stuck with that for the last three games. They’ve also been calling the spin-off titles Assassin’s Creed Chronicles. We’re starting to see a pattern here so don’t be surprised if the next one is Assassin’s Creed V: Chronicles, the tenth game in the franchise!
3. Final Fantasy
I was in elementary school when Final Fantasy VII was huge on the Playstation. The thing was, almost nobody knew anything about the previous Final Fantasy games. After doing some digging, I could find Final Fantasy 1, 2, and 3 but that was it. Where were 4, 5, and 6?
Turns out this was all just some localization nonsense. Basically, Squaresoft wanted the newest game in the franchise sent over without worrying about translating them all. So what we saw as 1, 2 and 3 were actually 1, 4 and 6. 5 made it over to the US on Final Fantasy Chronicles for the Playstation but 2 and 3 weren’t translated until they were released on the GBA and DS.
Squaresoft decided, after kicking Nintendo straight in the ‘nads and moving to Sony, they were just going to keep the numbers the same and released VII as VII. But that’s not the only bit of craziness that Final Fantasy has dealt with over the years. We also got the glorious bullshit that is…
10-2? What the hell? Well, it’s actually more straight forward than you think if you’re familiar with Final Fantasy. See, despite Final Fantasy using numbered entries throughout their main-series, each entry is completely independent of any other entry. You don’t need to have played Final Fantasy VII to play Final Fantasy VIII as they don’t even take place in the same game universe.
This worked out just fine until people just kept crying out for a sequel to Final Fantasy VII. They wanted so much to see Cloud and friends again that Square Enix finally gave in and gave us all a sequel to Final Fantasy X. Fuck you, Square Enix… They’ve kept consistent with this naming scheme for the most part aside from some oddities like Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (a prequel and second sequel respectively) but to the average gamer, this is more than enough confusion to keep them away.
4. Kingdom Hearts
Unlike the other series on this list, Kingdom Hearts has kept consistent throughout it’s entire run. Main series titles are numbered without subtitles and spin-offs are given subtitles. The problem is that this damn series has had far more spin-offs than main series entries at this point and spin-offs are often just as important to the main series’ storyline that the distinction between main series and spin-off basically doesn’t even matter!
Following the convoluted storyline in this franchise is a damned nightmare. Take it from someone who once considered themselves a fan, I’ve never seen a franchise try so hard to make it’s fans hate it. Here’s the whole stupid story.
We started off with Kingdom Hearts. While awaiting the promised Kingdom Hearts II, we got Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories on the GBA. It was a game that linked KH 1 and 2 and played totally differently than the main series entries. It wasn’t until 2 came out that this became kind of an issue. See, Chain of Memories is actually vital to understanding what the hell is going on in 2. Without it, the entire introduction sequence makes no sense at all. But hey, it was a misstep, let’s move on.
After 2, we were promised a third entry as soon as series director Tetsuya Nomura was done with his other major project, Final Fantasy XIII Versus… yeah, we all know how that turned out. Squeenix couldn’t leave us KH fans empty handed though, could they? Of course not!
Let’s list off the spin-offs we’ve gotten since Kingdom Hearts 2, shall we? Kingdom Hearts: Coded, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts x (chi). Don’t forget those re-releases and compilations like Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix and finally Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue.
So, you want to know what order these all go in? So does the rest of the world… I wrote them out as they were released but the chronological order is much different. Coded and 3D are sequels to 2 while 358/2 days (pronounced three five eight over two days… obviously…) is right before 2 and Birth by Sleep takes place nine years before 1. The worst part of all of this stupidity is that almost every game was released on a different console. The only consistency is that 1 and 2 were both on the PS2 and Coded/chi were both originally mobile games. Maybe now that Tetsuya Nomura was booted from FFXV, we may finally get an ending to this insanity.
Have you got more franchises you’d like to see put through the wringer? I can think of a few franchises that are confusing as hell and deserve to be mentioned but maybe I’ll save those for Part 2. Leave your ideas in the comments below and maybe I’ll get to them if I decide I hate myself enough to do this again!