Rolling out: the history of Transformers video games

By Robert Workman, Jun 23, 2014 9:30am PDT

With both Transformers: Age of Extinction and Rise of the Dark Spark arriving this week, the robots in disguise will be rolling out in force and arriving onto the new generation of consoles. The robots have found their niche as of late, thanks to High Moon Studios' recent releases on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, including the well-received Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.

While we wait to pass judgment on this new adventure, we decided to look back on some of the Transformers games of old. Not every one was a success, and some were a downright pain in the gas tank, but they have come a long way over the years. Join us as we take a look back!

The Transformers: Mystery of Convoy

Released back in 1986 for the Famicom, Transformers: Mystery of Convoy never got a release in the United States. There's a reason for that, as the game was annoying difficult. No joke. Everything in the game could hurt you, and the bosses sometimes made no sense. Case in point: during one stage, you face off with a Transformers emblem. An emblem. You know you're in trouble when the game's damn logo is out to destroy you.

However, the game did gain some notoriety over the years. The Angry Video Game Nerd paid "tribute" to it with an episode of his show (featured above), and several others included the game in their notorious NES game lists, right alongside Silver Surfer and other super-difficult entries. Mystery of the Convoy even got a Virtual Console release on the Japanese Wii market in 2008, thanks to heavy fan demand.

Avid Transformers fans who think they are missing something special with Mystery of Convoy... well, you really aren't. But this would be the only Transformers game of both the 8-bit era and in general before they started to resurface in 2004.

Transformers

Released in 2004 by Atari, this PlayStation 2 game helped bring the Transformers back into the mainstream, even though no one was really expecting it to be a success.

Featuring the likes of Optimus Prime and other fan favorites, Transformers would end up doing decent business for Atari, with its simple yet somewhat entertaining gameplay and above-average visuals (by 2004 standards). However, there wasn't too much demand for the game, and a planned PC port was canned shortly after the console release.

Still, the arrival of the Transformers would lead to bigger and better things, mainly with the help of the Michael Bay films, which released in 2007.

Transformers: The Game

To tie in with the movie, Activision released a Transformers video game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and various other platforms. It featured "realistic" models from the film, along with a variety of missions for Autobot fans to enjoy.

However, the game felt limited compared to other movie-licensed fare, even with the capability to transform between robot and car. This trend would continue with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which came out in 2009 under the development care of Luxoflux. Despite bigger environments and the introduction of multiplayer, it too came up short compared to other movie-licensed games.

Fortunately, things got better when the franchise shifted over to High Moon Studios, the same development team behind such games as Darkwatch and Deadpool.

The Cybertron series

In 2010, High Moon Studios turned a corner with the release of Transformers: War For Cybertron. This completely original chapter in the franchise turned out to be one of the most well-received, thanks to its terrific storyline, revamped multiplayer, huge variety of characters and the ability to play either as the Autobots or Decepticons.

Following its release, High Moon tried its hand at movie-licensed fare with a game based on the third film in the series, Dark of the Moon. Although not as highly praised as War For Cybertron, it was better than the previous film-based games.

The development studio returned to top form in 2012 with the concluding chapter in its Cybertron saga, Fall of Cybertron. Not only did this effort shine with bigger environments, more weapons and even better multiplayer, but it introduced one great new character that would become a staple in the Transformers series once more - the powerful Grimlock.

Capable of breathing fire and transforming into a powerful T-Rex with chomping and tail-swinging abilities, Grimlock would become one of the favorite playable characters in the game. No doubt he'll be making a return in this week's Dark Spark, as the team at Edge of Reality seem to enjoy his talents just as much as the fans do.

Where do we go from here?

Following the release of Dark Spark, the future is unknown for the Transformers franchise. However, if High Moon Studios can enter the mix again after finishing work on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare alongside Sledgehammer Games, we could see a prominent return to Cybertron. It's just a matter of time before Optimus Prime and his crew transform and roll out once more.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark releases this week for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, 3DS and PC.

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