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5 Video Game Flops That Became Cult Classics

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Video games phenomenons are never established overnight, that much is certain. For many, it takes years for a player base to realize the worth of a franchise, and it isn't often until much later that developers recoup the fees that were lost building such projects. But that's the art of gaming; it's a flip of the coin, and, like movies and other forms of media, cult classics are rarely ever formed in a day.

Of course, there have been a number of quality cult classics storm our world over the years. In this very moment, actually, there are thousands of video games that hold a stake in the cult-like kingdom. There are five, however, that pop out a little more than others, though, and it pains us to know that they were once considered commercial failures. But what are they, and how did such flops find fame much later down the road? Well, here's what we know.

5. Shadow of Rome

Shadow of Rome - E3 2004 Trailer - PS2

Shadow of Rome, believe it or not, was the game that lay the foundations for Dead Rising. Of course, it's hard to picture the two even being in the same network as one another, but the simple fact is, the latter wouldn't have been conceived if it wasn't for Capcom shifting focus following the critical failure of Shadow of Rome. It was only much later that the developer realized what could've been the beginning of a phenomenal hack and slash series.

In Shadow of Rome, players take on two roles: Agrippa, a soldier whose forced to compete in the gladiatorial games after being accused of having something to do with the murder of Julius Caesar, and Octavianus, nephew of Caesar, who believes in Agrippa's innocence and only seeks to prove it. Basically, it's a loose take on 2000's Gladiator, but with more bloodshed and stealth segments.


4. Psychonauts

Psychonauts Trailer [HD]

It's hard to believe that Psychonauts was once considered a commercial failure by Double Fine, what with its sequel going on to receive countless awards and positive reviews. But the fact is, with only 400,000 units shipped after its release, the game was very much seen as a complete flop by industry leaders. Because of this, Double Fine had to go above and beyond to secure the funding for the eventual award-winning sequel.

Praised for its bizarreness and comical approach, Psychonauts went on to garner a significant amount of loyal followers. However, due to its lack of direction, absurd difficulty spikes, and questionable structure, the vast majority went on to plaster it in waves of negative comments. It was only over a decade later when original haters, of course, found it in their hearts to give the game, as well as its sequel, a second chance. And boy, did it pay off.


3. Shenmue

Shenmue was branded a commercial failure on the grounds that it just didn't recoup its overwhelmingly high development fees. That, believe it or not, being a monumental cost of nearly $70 million. Although it did go on to sell over 120 million copies, it received the thumbs down from Sega, which led to a steady decline in popularity until it was eventually revived in 2019.

Of course, let it be said that Shenmue was a critical success in gamers' eyes. In spite of Sega's clear disappointment, the game did actually open the floodgates to a flurry of positive reviews. On top of it being one of the most innovative games of its time, it was also praised for its open world setting, as well as its lavish variety of activities and conversations. So, not a bad game by any means. It's just that, well, it didn't earn enough to be considered a global phenomenon.


2. Beyond Good & Evil

Beyond Good & Evil HD: Launch Trailer

Beyond Good & Evil is a classic example of how false rumors can escalate the overall hype surrounding a would-be series. After releasing its first chapter in 2003, Ubisoft went on to tease a sequel sometime in 2008. Little to our knowledge, though, Beyond Good & Evil 2 wouldn't be released, let alone receive the green light for well over a decade. And now, well, you're looking at one of the few laughing stocks of the industry.

That all being said, Beyond Good & Evil did go on to receive its cult branding. The reason for its official status stemmed from the coals that Ubisoft tried so desperately hard to keep piping hot for over ten years, no doubt. Although a pretty good game at its core, it was the ten-year thread of mixed messages from Ubisoft regarding a sequel that gave the original its marking. Even today, the game is considered a standalone treasure, perhaps to make up for the sequel that we'll probably never get. And yes, Ubisoft is still keeping the old girl afloat today. Will we ever see it? That depends. Though honestly, we wouldn't count our chickens.


1. Bulletstorm

Bulletstorm: Whip, Kick, Boom Trailer

Bulletstorm is a gore-heavy first-person shooter that millions slept on for all the wrong reasons. It had all the fundamentals of a classic mayhem-fueled shooter, sure. That said, its lack of direction led to a slew of poor reviews and an eventual scolding from Electronic Arts. After failing to make a profit, hopes for a sequel were dashed, leaving the would-be series out to dry. Or, you know, cremate.

Unfortunately, the factor that sounded the death knell for Bulletstorm wasn't the sales. Instead, it was sour comments made by critics, which included Fox News' “worst game in the world” branding. A bit harsh, given that it really isn't that bad of a game. Though, such comments eventually sparked curiosity among gamers' hearts, which then resulted in the game getting the awe-inspiring cult classic status, oddly enough. So, as it turned out, a bit of bad press contributed towards the overall success of the so-called flop. Go figure.


So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? Are there any cult classics we should know about? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.