As we near the release of the upcoming Transformers: Fall of Cybertron from High Moon Studios and Activision, we can’t help but think that this team really did a bang-up job bringing the popular Hasbro franchise to a new level.  Granted, it’s not doing it by itself, but considering where past Transformers games have been, it’s really a strong movement forward, as we’re expecting Fall to be quite the follow-up to 2010’s release of War For Cybertron.

Where has the Transformers game franchise been over the years?  All over the place, honestly.  While some great games have come out, others have fallen by the way side.  

We’ve got a brief but detailed history talking about the history of the most noteworthy Transformers games.  Now, we won’t talk about them all (we decided to skip the Beast Wars games because, well, we’re talking old-school Transformers), but some of the more noteworthy ones will be discussed here.  Transform and roll out!

Transformers: Convoy no Nazo (Takara, Famicom)

How bad was the first Transformers game that came out on the Japanese equivalent of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Famicom?  So bad that it didn’t even get a chance at a US release.  This side-scrolling action game puts you in control of Ultra Magnus as he fights through ten levels of mayhem, only to face Megatron and…large Decepticon symbols.  

Seriously, the bottom line on Convoy no Nazo is that it’s just plain bad.  The difficulty spiked so horribly that you couldn’t even make it part way through the first stage without luck, and the fact you have to battle Transformers symbols as bosses?!  Someone simply ran out of ideas.  The game bombed horribly in Japan, so, as you might guess, we didn’t see any Transformers games for quite a few years.

(On a side note, the Angry Video Game Nerd railed the game completely during one of his more humorous episodes.  You can watch it here, but language may not make it safe for work!

Transformers (Atari, PlayStation 2)

Though it’s more based on the classic Armada series rather than the 80’s series that originally inspired the franchise, Atari didn’t actually do half bad bringing the Transformers back into the spotlight on the PlayStation 2.  In this 2004 release, you play as one of three Autobots – Optimus Prime, Red Alert and Hot Shot – as you battle Megatron and his fellow Decepticons.  

Featuring the ability to transform between vehicle and robot with the press of a button (a feature that High Moon utilizes quite well in its current Transformers games), the game featured a pretty good amount of action, as well as some fairly decent controls for a licensed game.  

Unfortunately, instead of calling on the legendary Peter Cullen to voice Optimus Prime, Garry Chalk, who voiced him in Armada (as well as the Transformers Energon series) took the role.  Not that he did bad with it, but come on, it’s all Cullen, baby.

Transformers: The Game (Activision, various platforms)

In 2007, around the same time as Michael Bay’s big-screen film, Activision worked with Travellers Tales on a game that coordinated with events from the film, featuring realistic character models that represented Optimus Prime, Megatron and other Autobots and Decepticons from the film.  It also provided, for the first time in the series history, the opportunity to play through events featuring both sides, Autobots and Decepticons, depending on your preference.  

The game features ten characters on each side, as well as a full accolade of voice actors from the film, including Peter Cullen (as Prime), as well as Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox.  The game did okay, but some players were expecting a better variation of gameplay, not to mention a camera that didn’t make you struggle to see what was happening around you.  It definitely set the pace for future Transformers games to come, at the very least…

Transformers: War For Cybertron (Activision, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3)

After the release of the somewhat average movie-licensed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Activision opted to take a more original approach with its franchise, calling upon the talented development team at High Moon Studios to weave its magic with a bolder storyline.  And thus, War For Cybertron was born.  

Featuring a great single player campaign that spread out between Autobot and Decepticon, the game became a huge success, and also garnered some great options for co-op play and multiplayer, where you could battle in full-on skirmishes.  Though there were some issues in need of addressing (something the team is bound to remedy with Fall of Cybertron), it really set the standard of how to do an original game revolving around a franchise the right way.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Activision, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3)

Finally, we have the last game that came out from the Transformers camp before High Moon went to work on Fall of Cybertron.  And though it was a movie-licensed affair with much less depth than War For Cybertron, Dark of the Moon was rather respectable on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, delivering the same amount of entertaining robot-or-vehicle gameplay, as well as a story that didn’t jump too far off track.  

Unfortunately, the other versions of the game didn’t fare so well.  Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Stealth Force Edition, produced by Behaviour Interactive for the Wii and Nintendo 3DS, tried to spin off in a new direction, revolving around a much different storyline in the same universe.  Sadly, without the ability to transform into a robot (yes, you were stuck as a vehicle the entire time), the appeal waivered quickly.  The fact that the graphics didn’t live up to the par and the game didn’t have the same sort of features as the Xbox 360/PS3 versions didn’t help either.  In the end, Stealth Force Edition was best left forgotten.  

Thankfully, you can bet that Grimlock will wipe his feet with those games when Fall of Cybertron arrives next month!