Top-10 most successful video game “dead ringers” in history
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We’ve recently learned about the fairly credible rumour that Ubisoft was going to announce its very own take on the Rocket League formula. Titled Roller Champions, the alleged game will be reportedly revealed at E3 2019; there’re some early details, however, which make us believe that this newest title will turn out being a complete rip-off of the aforementioned popular arcade by Psyonix – with the only exception that the cars will be replaced with people on roller-skates.
It’s not something revolutionary new for the gaming industry – years have passed, and we’ve seen a bunch of games inheriting particular design decisions, mechanics, and core gameplay features from popular counterparts – only to become even greater blockbusters. It doesn’t often end that way, but great ideas tend to give birth to famous clones. Or should we say “dead ringers”? We’ve compiled a list of popular titles – both modern and classic ones – that are famous for adopting other games’ gameplay approaches.
A total of ten “dead ringers” await you – and you’ve definitely played most of them. We do have to warn that being a “dead ringer” is not necessarily a bad thing in this context, as quality copies that improve, enhance, and expand someone else’s experience they are based on greatly add to the overall progress of the gaming industry.
PUBG “dead ringer”
The Battle Royale craze started with PUBG – the game was warmly welcomed by the community despite its performance issues and overall technological flaws. The concept of the genre proved to be so attractive for the fans of multiplayer shooters, that PUBG’s audience was growing a few millions of users per month. You must remember those days when the Steam community was wondering if – or when – PUBG would beat the concurrent players' counts of CS:GO and Dota 2.
At the same time, Epic Games was struggling to draw any attention towards its building arcade Fortnite. The game was in closed testing hidden behind the paywall, and the studio was likely to die together with its unsuccessful attempt to make something unique. Luckily, a small group of developers within the studio decided to make an experiment and merge Fortnite’s building mechanics together with PUBG’s core gameplay elements. The rest is history, as for today, Fortnite Battle Royale remains the absolute king of the genre – even despite the unexpected release of Apex Legends.
This is actually a great example of adopting the competitor’s ideas to work within the environment of an absolutely different game. Although we are not rating the titles of our compilation from the most successful one to the least one, Fortnite well deserves the first place.
Call of Duty
Medal of Honor “dead ringer”
You would probably think that both arts we’ve used for the image above are from the same game. Close, since both games were made by roughly the same people. Medal of Honor was a great WWII shooter – a deep and compelling one, as its story campaigns fascinatingly depicted all of the major conflicts of the war. The developers weren’t afraid to experiment with mechanics and to add elements of other genres. Perhaps, some of you dinosaurs out there still remember the stealth mission where you had to change clothes in order to look like a German soldier.
Call of Duty originally emerged after the group of the original MoH developers decided to take a more independent approach towards creating games. EA was rather tyrannical with the IPs it owned even back then – including Medal of Honor. As a result, some of the original devs led by Vince Zampella left to create their own studio with the help of Activision – and that way Call of Duty was born. The first game was a huge leap forward in comparison to Medal of Honor – a lot more entertaining and cinematic experience, which proved that the genre of a WWII shooter still has a long way to go.
Call of Duty has drastically changed since, but the common love for cinematic approach remains untouched. Regarding Medal of Honor, well... When was the last time you heard any news regarding the once iconic franchise?
Monster Hunter “dead ringer”
Monster Hunter is best described by its sheer love for huge mythical beasts and enormous swords used to slay those monsters. There’s something primal in the passion of the fans for their favourite series – and you can’t judge them. The game has always been the “stumbling block” when console and PC communities were sorting things out in order to decide which platform was better. The latter lacked anything close to Monster Hunter in terms of experience provided, and that was a huge downside for PC gaming – and a shame, since Monster Hunter was exceptionally good.
The developers behind Dauntless decided to fix the situation in favour of PC gamers and to get rid of the injustice. This game was originally advertised as the proper take on the Monster Hunter gameplay formula – but specifically for PC. And the first closed tests proved that it was indeed the case – the game inherited all of the major mechanics and elements of the famed “big brother” while maintaining its own visual style and approach towards general game design.
Funnily, Monter Hunter World was later announced for PC, and the developers of Dauntless decided to expand the experience over to consoles as well. Regardless, the game turned out to be exciting and worthy. And those of you who are tired of the general Japanese “silliness” appropriate only for Monster Hunter might find the salvation in Dauntless.
Serious Sam “dead ringer”
Ah, Serious Sam was the king of brainless meaty horde shooters – the pure run and gun experience. There wasn’t anything more satisfying than killing hundreds of stupidly designed aliens and mutants while your hero was shouting out hilarious puns. Sam’s character was one of the major reasons why gamers all over the world were so fond of Croteam’s title. If you are somewhere around your thirties and you haven’t ever played Serious Sam – well, congratulations, you’ve wasted your life.
Strictly speaking, Painkiller wasn’t a complete “dead ringer” of Serious Sam. Will Rock was – and that game was 50% fun and 50% terrible. While Painkiller was 100% sheer excitement. Unlike Croteam’s “kids-friendly” vividly coloured shooter, Painkiller was dark, grim, and sometimes even frightening. It had a huge arsenal of unique and varied weaponry with several shooting modes, and hellish level-design greatly added to the impression you were fighting your way through the demonic plains of reality. If you haven’t played Serious Sam, but enjoyed Painkiller instead – we forgive you.
Sadly, Painkiller couldn’t continue its legacy. The game became the victim of poor development and delegating the rights to create future add-ons to some stupidly overexcited fans and unknown studios. Whilst Serious Sam is still somewhere around – and Croteam is actually working on another sequel.
League of Legends
DotA “dead ringer”
Back of the beginning of the 2000s, Warcraft 3 was a huge hit – and the custom multiplayer maps were even greater as they allowed to enjoy the game in new, unexpected ways. The original Defence of the Ancients map was such a successful creation that it led to organizing fully-fledged esports tournaments – the ones even more exciting than the events dedicated to “vanilla” Warcraft 3. Everyone was playing DotA back then, and it was as popular as Counter-Strike – if not more.
The phenomenon of a single competitive map for Blizzard’s strategy was used by Riot Games to build its own project upon the gameplay design of DotA. This way League of Legends started its existence – and long before Valve gave a job to IceFrog in order to create Dota 2, LoL became one of the most popular games on the planet.
This interesting case clearly shows how Blizzard missed the opportunity to encourage its community and to work directly with content creators. The company later tried to make its own DotA under the name Heroes of the Storm, but it wasn’t even remotely as popular as the original map or Valve’s Dota 2 – and nowhere close to the worldwide popularity of LoL.
Team Fortress 2 “dead ringer”
Team Fortress 2 was the landmark event for the whole genre of multiplayer shooters. Together with Half-Life 2 and Portal, this game raised the popularity of Valve as a quality developer to stellar heights. The title was built upon the core ideas of the original Team Fortress, although it took a completely different approach in literally everything else – and it definitely wasn’t a mistake. The game was not just fun – it was so entertaining that you could spend hours and hours there enjoying the cartoonish visual style, professionally executed voiceover, creatively designed unique characters, great gameplay balance, deep strategic potential, and so on, and so on… Eventually, Valve itself dig the grave for its hugely successful humorous shooter, which turned into a free-to-play imbalanced hat simulator. RIP.
Blizzard didn’t miss the opportunity this time; the company created a complete rip-off of Team Fortress 2 – Overwatch was such an obvious clone of the game that you didn’t have to do anything to notice the evident similarities. Everything – from the female narrator, class system, visual style, multiplayer modes, etc. – was thoroughly copied into original sci-fi universe of Overwatch. The only worthy difference was the further development of the class-based system. Characters were treated with special unique abilities – much like in the fashion of MOBAs.
Funnily, the first ever competitive shooter from the studio became a huge success, and that was the story when the tables have turned for Valve in favour of Blizzard.
Quake III: Arena “dead ringer”
Long before TF2 and Overwatch were designed, we had the golden era of multiplayer shooters. Quake III Arena was the example of how to turn the pure skill of players into the engaging and deeply satisfying gameplay experience. Simplified through the console commands graphics, drastically adjusted FOV, unbelievably masterful plays – damn, son, those were the times! It didn’t really matter if you were playing in computer clubs together with other gamers or improving your personal skill with bots on the Nightmare difficulty at home – the game was a shining gem for the whole genre. To this day, the game keeps its legendary status – and it speaks for itself.
It would seem that no one could possibly get any closer to the bar raised by Quake III – but Epic managed to do that with the original Unreal Tournament. The game was a straightforward rival for Quake; despite the fact that it inherited many of the design decisions, UT didn’t feel like a rip-off at all – mainly due to its distinctive cast of characters, unique weaponry, and excellent multiplayer maps, although the general gameplay was fairly the same. It’s actually hard to believe that both games developed and released during the same period managed to keep their exclusivity and well-deserved legendary status. Doesn’t it seem like Epic has successfully repeated itself with Fortnite many years after?
As for now, both franchises have lost their glory. Quake Champions is nothing like its iconic ancestor, while the most recent entry in the UT series became the victim of Fortnite – just because Epic decided to allocate all of its development resources towards moneymaking Battle Royale title. Sad but true.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Battlefield “dead ringer”
Now, this is a tricky pair – and an ironic one. Battlefield 1942 was a breakthrough in terms of providing combined-arms shooter gameplay on a huge scale. Vast multiplayer maps, several classes of soldiers, mostly authentically recreated WWII atmosphere, a combination of infantry, vehicle, naval, and airborne action – there wasn’t anything like that before, and the gaming community of that period was blessed with such an incredible gift from DICE. Battlefield franchise doesn’t need any further introduction – the series is happily existing many years after and is being supported by DICE just like in the old times.
Thanks to Pandemic, the all-terrain huge-scale action of the Battlefield series was introduced to the iconic sci-fi universe of Star Wars. Who would’ve thought that the gameplay concept of DICE’s shooter would work so well in the Galaxy far, far away? Battlefront wasn’t just a reskin of Battlefield though; despite the obvious similarities, the game – along with its sequel – felt original and unique due to the extremely popular setting and incorporating of Star Wars-specific mechanics like lightsabers, droids, well-known heroic characters, jetpacks, fictional creatures, etc. This is another eyebrow-raising example of unexpected, yet very satisfying coexistence of two similar projects. And the gaming community benefitted more than any other involved group of people.
Now, the ironic part is that Star Wars: Battlefront was doomed along with its creators; years after, the rights to restart the franchise were given to those who created the very concept used in Battlefield – and Battlefront – in the first place. DICE got in charge of the “dead ringer” it unintentionally gave birth to. What a turn of events.
Path of Exile
Diablo III “dead ringer”
Everyone has heard of Diablo II – even those who have never played the game themselves. The title is constantly being referenced whenever there’re talks emerging in regards to the cult classics of the gaming industry – and that brings us to overly high expectations of the fans towards Diablo III. A huge army of fans was waiting for Blizzard to develop and release the anticipated triquel – and the result was controversial. The game divided the community of the franchise into two irreconcilable opposites. There were the ones deeply satisfied with how Diablo III turned out; there were those who felt completely disappointed over the Blizzard’s project. Regardless, the game was a huge event in the industry, and it was an indisputably quality project – and an influential one.
Still, the level of frustration among the fans was improperly high. A year and a half after Diablo III released, Australian studio Grinding Gear Games presented its own action RPG Path of Exile, which rapidly deserved the title of the “proper Diablo III.” It was true salvation for those disappointed by Blizzard’s work; the game had deep mechanics, unique approach towards skill progress, grim gothic art style close to Diablo II, the fairly thoughtful concept of crafting – you name it. On top of that, the game was – and still is – completely free; GGG benefits from selling cosmetics only, and the developers continue supporting the game with new content almost six years after Path of Exile initially released. Now, that’s the level of dedication Blizzard should take note of.
Judging by the announcement of Diablo Immortal though, Blizzard hasn’t learned anything.
Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven
GTA 3 “dead ringer”
“But my hands are all messed up, so you better drive brother…” If you don’t recognize this dialogue line, you are probably a young player whose experience with the GTA series is limited by GTA 5. The phrase we’ve quoted was actually one of the very first ones you hear when you start playing GTA 3 – the iconic game, which was the first in the franchise to turn the experience into full 3D. Rockstar managed to capture and correctly depict the dull rainy atmosphere of Liberty City – obviously inspired by New York. A huge open city, lots of gameplay opportunities, varied and rich set of cars, the very driving itself, radio stations with licensed music, engaging story, side activities, perfectly written characters, freedom and humour – there’s too much to recite! These signature features of the franchise are kept at the highest level to this day.
The design concept of an open-world action game, which highly depends on driving, was so tempting that no one was surprised when Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven appeared on the horizon. However, the quality of the game happened to be the surprising part – it was hard to expect such a level of masterful execution from the game, which was first considered a simple clone. The original Mafia was an authentic and unique experience with its own dramatic story, deep atmosphere, fantastically depicted noir setting – and so on. The game was actually so good that many players believe it was fairly better than GTA 3. If only there were more projects like that – the ones that not only inherit the general successful idea but also improve and build upon it.
And that’s it. The ten examples of the games, which prove that the initial idea behind the project is not necessarily the only reason why it becomes popular. Talented creators are capable of cultivating these ideas in such a way that the result pleases not only them – but the gaming community as well. And we should be grateful for that.
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