Sometimes a game crashes and burns so loudly that it's impossible to ignore. But for others—following a flashy marketing campaign, maybe some preview events or E3 presentations—the release date passes, and soon after that they might as well cease to exist.
They're played and reviewed, sure. And someone, somewhere, probably even loved them. But for the rest of us, they're forgotten until years later when someone mentions their name and we go, “Oh, yeah! That game! I forgot that came out.”
Here are some of the last decade's biggest games that disappeared from the public consciousness.
Released: August 2016.
Why we were excited: As someone who always bounced off MOBAs, like many others I had hopes that Epic's big-budget in-house entry into the genre, with its third-person shooter presentation, would be my best chance to finally become someone who understands what “jungling” means.
Why we forgot it: Paragon had an identity problem. In response to a stagnating player base, updates seemed to prioritize making the game as approachable as possible to theoretical new players it couldn't attract. This wasn't helped by an aesthetic that felt incapable of differentiating itself, never producing character designs more memorable than Large Grey Fellow, Man With Guns, or Swords Lady.
Can you play it today? Nope. Paragon was shut down for good in April 2018. But Epic Games later made the game's assets free-to-use for anyone working with the Unreal Engine, and they've already started appearing elsewhere.
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
Released: August 2019.
Our review score: 58.
Why we were excited: Ancestors promised to be a survival game on an evolutionary scale—an opportunity to shepherd the development of humanity's progenitors, charting the long course from apes who don't even know math, to better-dressed apes who forgot everything they knew about math because they've used basically none of it since they passed AP Calc in 2010.
Why we forgot it: Playing Ancestors meant wrestling with a sometimes obscure, often inconsistent, and frequently repetitive collection of survival mechanics, failing any one of which means doom for an unfortunate proto-human. Is there something compelling in its fever dream of shattered hominids? Sure. Does anyone need to play it? Probably not.
Released: August 2020.
Why we were excited: Hyper Scape was Ubisoft's swing at battle royale with a AAA-sized bat. Instead of a nonspecific murder island populated by parachuting paramilitaries, Hyper Scape's simulated bloodsport took place within an in-fiction virtual reality—a surprisingly fresh setting that Twitch viewers could meddle with in real-time as they watched their favorite streamer's matches. And you could turn into a ball sometimes?
Why we forgot it: Despite being one of the most-watched games on Twitch when streamers got their hands on the technical test in July 2020, interest in Hyper Scape had already dematerialized by the time it launched just a month later. Possibly because a little game called Fall Guys released in the weeks between?
Can you play it today? No. Ubisoft announced in January 2022 that it'd be shuttering Hyper Scape on April 28.
Ryse: Son of Rome
Released: October 2014.
Our review score: 57.
Why we were excited: Listen, maybe you got a little too into Gladiator when you saw it as a kid. Maybe, before you really knew what was happening, you'd read the Wikipedia page for every deity in the Roman pantheon, and then suddenly you're graduating high school with five years of Latin under your built. And then, a few years later, even though most of that interest has boiled off, somebody's releasing a game that's got Roman legionnaires rendered in the finest 2014 CryEngine graphics, and that's more appealing than you'd like to admit.
Why we forgot it: Ryse didn't have much going for it beyond being a graphical showcase for the Xbox One launch lineup. By the time it was ported to PC in 2014, its bland story and uninspired combat didn't earn a lasting place in our hearts, and no amount of highly detailed legionnaires could help with that.
Can you play it today? Yes, it's available on Steam.
Released: September 2015.
Our review score: 77.
Why we were excited: Everyone loves a post-apocalyptic wasteland, especially when its cars have harpoons. Fury Road had hit theaters just months beforehand, and everyone was daydreaming about vehicular bloodbaths in places called “Bullet Farm” or “Gas Town”.
Why we forgot it: Unfortunately, there were parts of Mad Max where you had to leave Max’s car. The highs of the vehicular combat were brought low by open world fatigue, a plodding story, and counter-based combat of the Batman: Arkham boilerplate variety. Also, Charlize Theron wasn't there.
Civilization: Beyond Earth
Released: October 2014.
Our review score: 87.
Why we were excited: Do I really need to explain the appeal of Civilization, but sci-fi? Consider the raw thrill of choosing one kind of science over another in a Civ game. Now imagine doing that in space. There's so much science out there! The possibilities are endless.
Why we forgot it: The novelty of taking Civ to the stars only held up as long as its sci-fi elements were able to distract from the fact that, at the end of the day, it was kind of just Civ 5 under there. Being able to say that you’ve entered into a diplomatic love triangle with Gandhi and Pachacuti has a unique charm, and goofing around with orbital satellites can't quite compare.
Can you play it today? Yep, it's available on Steam.
Released: April 2020.
Our review score: 83.
Why we were excited: It's XCOM, but with a more aggressive flavor—one better suited to the linebacker brigades of chainsaw-toting meatfolk who populate the Gears of War universe. And it was very pretty, in a thick-necked, beef chuck kind of way.
Why we forgot it: The joy of beating back the Locust hordes with your bespoke battalion of steak soldiers was hampered by a campaign with too much padding. Gating progress behind a slog of repetitive side missions stalled its momentum before Gears Tactics could earn a cherished place in our memory. We'd happily welcome a sequel, though.
Can you play it today? Yes, it's just a Steam page away.
Released: May 2016.
Our review score: 72.
Why we were excited: Battleborn made the tantalizing promise of a competitive, ability-driven hero shooter with a cast of flashy, colorful characters. And crucially, it did so before Overwatch existed.
Why we forgot it: Well, about three weeks later, Overwatch did exist. In comparison with Blizzard's more approachable offering, Battleborn's layers of character-specific unlocks and upgrades demanded a lot of investment. Its player base evaporated.
Can you play it today? You can't. When adjustments to Battleborn’s monetization scheme and an eventual shift to a free-to-play model failed to draw its audience back, Gearbox announced in November 2019 that Battleborn would enter a phased shut-down. Its servers went offline for good in January 2021.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Released: October 2020.
Our review score: 80.
Why we were excited: The main draw for Watch Dogs: Legion was forming a coalition of hacktivists and revolutionaries to overthrow a totalitarian police state, with literally anyone as a potential recruit. Builders. Bank tellers. Most importantly, grandmas.
Why we forgot it: Even though every citizen in Watch Dogs: Legion's London has a special trait or ability, your DedSec recruits still feel basically interchangeable. And without any real political meat on the bones of its story of citizen uprising, Legion was a game without character—so much so that it felt noteworthy when Watch Dogs' first protagonist was added to the game, despite his strongest character trait being that he has a hat.
Can you play it today? Yes. It's available for purchase at Ubisoft's website, though post-launch support ended in January 2022.
Released: May 2019.
Our review score: 70.
Why we were excited: Bethesda certainly tried their best to get us there, by which I mean they used a lot of fluorescent pink in Rage 2's marketing. Nobody can resist that. The murder-boomerang looked all right in the trailers, too.
Why we forgot it: Rage 2 had some truly excellent shooting and some truly forgettable everything else. Hollow writing and a bland open world left its wasteland without the most important piece of any post-apocalypse: personality.
We Happy Few
Released: August 2018.
Our review score: 56.
Why we were excited: We Happy Few made a strong aesthetic impression with its alt-history dystopian 60s Britain. Nothing grabs attention like a porcelain-faced Englishman with an unsettling perpetual smile.
Why we forgot it: While it had some fun visuals and excellent vocal performances, playing We Happy Few was more exhausting than it was engaging: a clunky experience of survival and stealth that never quite meshed.
Released: November 2018
Our review score: 80
Why we were excited: People love collectible cards, and people love Dota 2. The math checks out here.
Why we forgot it: Partly because it was pretty expensive. Like other digital card games, players in Artifact were incentivized to buy card packs to flesh out their collection. But unlike its competition, Artifact also required an up-front purchase of the game itself, and had effectively no method for acquiring cards through play. The other problem was its intense learning curve. That made Artifact too much to stomach, even after its Artifact 2.0 relaunch.
Can you play it today? Technically, sure. While Valve has ceased development, its original incarnation and its attempted revision—as well as their cards—are available for free on Steam as Artifact Classic and Artifact Foundry, respectively. But I'm told queue times are pretty long.
Released: March 2015
Our review score: 76
Why we were excited about it: I'll be honest. I don’t remember anyone who was particularly excited by the idea of Battlefield trading military fantasy for copaganda. But it did look a lot like Battlefield 4, a much cooler game with much cooler helicopters.
Why we forgot it: Look, military simulation is already a delicate enough line to walk when it doesn't have any cops around. If we're going to remember this game at all, it should probably only be to have a conversation about the implications of how a military shooter franchise like Battlefield can be mapped so easily onto law enforcement.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst
Released: June 2016.
Our review score: 78.
Why we were excited: A successor to Mirror’s Edge, with an entire open world to do parkour in. (Do parkour on? To?)
Why we forgot it: Like several other entries in this list, Catalyst was yet another game with an over-bloated open world, and too much of it distracted from the pure joy of running and climbing on stuff. Whatever faults the original Mirror's Edge had, at least it knew not to get in its own way.