10 Video Game Sequels that were Better than the Original
In an industry where franchises typically reign supreme, sequels mean everything. Capitalising on the success of a game with a good follow-up is absolutely crucial to building a franchise, putting pressure on studios to create titles that are bigger, better, and more impressive than their predecessors.
Although it may seem only logical that a successor should improve upon the established formula, this is actually more difficult than it seems. The original title’s strengths and weaknesses must first be carefully assessed, with features then added or removed as necessary. Story considerations further complicate the issue: a good sequel should follow the narrative progression of previous games without straying too close to or too far from familiar ground.
Whether it’s the result of a significant improvement from an unimpressive original or a follow-up to a great game that simply smashes it out of the park, some sequels are just better than what came before. With that in mind, I’m Ashton from TripleJump, and here are 10 Video Game Sequels that were Better than the Original.
10. Batman: Arkham City
Rocksteady’s Arkham franchise offers something that everyone secretly dreams of: the opportunity to become Batman. Their first effort, Batman: Arkham Asylum, was considered a near-perfect game that really captured the essence of the Dark Knight. So, after hitting a home run on their first attempt, Rocksteady had no choice but to swing for the fences again with the sequel.
Batman: Arkham City took everything that made the first game so great and applied it to a bigger and more open world. Setting Batman loose in a part of Gotham City that has been repurposed as a prison for its most violent inhabitants, Arkham City featured all of the best elements of its predecessor with a few key additions.
Instead of the more linear gameplay of the first game, Arkham City provided Batman with plenty of distractions, including side missions involving a number of his most iconic enemies. Giving the Caped Crusader actual buildings to grapple from and glide between rounded out the Batman experience perfectly, delivering the only real aspect of the character that the first game hadn’t been able to.
With Arkham City, Rocksteady had the difficult task of recreating the huge success of Arkham Asylum, but by truly understanding what fans wanted from a Batman game, the sequel was able to improve upon the original.
9. Assassin’s Creed II
It’s no secret that the very first Assassin’s Creed game has aged like milk. Though it did establish a number of the franchise’s key mechanics – like the Leap of Faith and hidden blade assassinations – it simply isn’t a particularly fun gameplay experience, especially when compared with subsequent games in the franchise. Assassin’s Creed II proves this perfectly, as the direct follow-up was able to offer everything that the first game did as well as much more to boot.
Where the first game simply tasked players with scaling buildings, riding horses, and assassinating people, the second added several mechanics as well as refining those introduced in the original. With so many tweaks and additions, gameplay in Assassin’s Creed II was vastly improved, with purchasable character upgrades and new traversal mechanics to help the game’s world really come to life.
Perhaps most importantly was the fact that Assassin’s Creed II featured a much more engaging story than the first game. Protagonist, Ezio, wasn’t just out to fight an ancient war, but he wanted to avenge the murders of his father and brothers at the hands of the Templars. All in all, the second game’s emotionally driven story and improved gameplay helped to make it a far better overall experience than its predecessor.
8. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
The story of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise is one of a titanic rise followed by a meteoric fall, and, in keeping with the nature of the series, it’s a pretty wild ride. Way back in 1999, when all this success was still but a twinkle in Mr. Hawk’s eye, the very first game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, was released. It was a huge success, and quickly became known for its addictive gameplay and totally tubular soundtrack.
Just one year later, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was released, and it blew the first game out of the water. In terms of gameplay, it wasn’t radically different from the original, save one key feature: the manual.
As any Tony Hawk aficionado will already know, the manual was, quite literally, a game-changer. Though it may be just a simple connecting trick, it allowed players to chain strings of tricks into combos, balancing their manuals to get from place to place. Doing so made gameplay much more challenging, with the game demanding increased skill and focus from its players.
After the massive success of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and its manuals, subsequent games in the franchise all featured at least one new mechanic, making it more than just an improvement on the first: it’s the franchise’s most significant title.
7. Borderlands 2
Sometimes, making a perfect follow-up is all about understanding why a sequel is a good idea in the first place. After making the thoroughly entertaining and critically acclaimed Borderlands, Gearbox Software faced the impossible task of improving upon it for the sequel. That’s where Borderlands 2 comes in.
Borderlands 2 isn’t a hugely innovative sequel that makes huge and obvious improvements upon the original – though the ways in which it establishes its superiority are actually quite subtle, the game is undeniably better for it. With regard to gameplay, everything is just that bit more polished, with everything from customisation options to the pace of its action being much smoother and more substantial than in the first game.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the franchise that Borderlands 2 improved upon was its personality. As the first game’s script was praised for its comedic potential, Gearbox doubled down on the franchise’s unique sense of humour, writing the sequel to make the world feel bigger, better and even more brilliantly bizarre. In almost every way, Borderlands 2’s story is a vast improvement upon that of the original, because it really tapped into the essence of the franchise itself. Though the first game was excellent, Borderlands 2 still serves as a shining example of how to absolutely nail a sequel in every way.
6. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill is one of the definitive horror video game franchises, but it didn’t achieve that status overnight. The first game, Silent Hill, introduced players to the town of the same name, a foggy New England hamlet filled to the brim with nightmarish monsters. However, the 2001 follow-up, Silent Hill 2, was a substantial improvement in practically every way, and it was the second game that really cemented Silent Hill as a pant-wetting force to be reckoned with.
For starters, Silent Hill 2 embraced the all-important fog of the first game, elevating the atmosphere of tension it created. It also featured a far more nuanced and layered story, with its various monsters each symbolising an element of protagonist, James Sunderland’s, dark past. Factor in a handful of tweaks to gameplay that make the experience much smoother than its predecessor, and it becomes clear that Silent Hill 2 is just a far superior game.
Really, it’s only better as the result of the developers’ clear understanding of what made the first game good and what players enjoyed about it. The Silent Hill franchise has always been an experience like no other, but it was fine-tuning the success of the first game that made Silent Hill 2 one of the greatest horror titles of all time.
5. Street Fighter II
The first Street Fighter game may have achieved some moderate success, but it’s the sequel that really shaped the franchise as it’s known today. Capcom’s first fighting game was a relatively straightforward experience, but the sequel, Street Fighter II, evolved the genre with substantial gameplay innovations and the inclusion of now-iconic characters.
One of the game’s biggest improvements actually came about by accident: certain moves performed in sequence became incredibly difficult to block, and thus the combo was born. Not only did this put the Street Fighter franchise on the map, but it shaped the entire fighting game genre as it’s known today. Street Fighter II also offered multiple playable characters that each came with their own unique moves – a hugely popular feature which the original simply didn’t have.
In many ways, the franchise really didn’t begin until Street Fighter II. Yes, technically it’s not a franchise until it has multiple games, but also, the first Street Fighter was simply nowhere near as good as the sequel. The huge improvements in gameplay and innovative (if accidental) inclusions made Street Fighter II a truly landmark title, and the original game has lived in its shadow ever since.
4. Resident Evil 4
There are very few franchises with the longevity of Resident Evil, and it didn’t get to be so consistently popular without making a few important innovations along the way. After the series defined the survival horror genre with its first few titles, Resident Evil 4 came along and shook the franchise to its roots in the best way imaginable.
Shifting focus away from the puzzle-solving and survival concerns of previous games and taking a more action-heavy approach, Resident Evil 4’s gameplay was something entirely new within the franchise. With over-the-shoulder camera angles and free-aiming weapons, Resident Evil 4’s combat was a world apart from what the series had become known for.
Though redefining the parameters of an entire franchise’s gameplay can be risky, Resident Evil 4 truly understood the assignment, managing to keep the tense survival horror atmosphere of previous games while also overhauling practically every gameplay mechanic. It also introduced new and exciting elements of Resident Evil’s wider story using existing characters, further smoothing the transition into its new style of play.
Crucially, Resident Evil 4 updated the franchise exactly when it was needed. Replacing mechanics that once worked but have since gone stale can be tough to do right, but this particular sequel carried it off perfectly, and may have even saved the entire Resident Evil franchise.
3. God of War (2018)
It’s not often that a franchise undergoes a massive narrative overhaul for a sequel, and it’s even less often that it actually works. However, that’s exactly what happened with the God of War games, emphatically reviving the dwindling franchise for a new generation.
Understanding exactly how 2018’s God of War is better than the original game might require additional context: both follow Kratos, a Spartan warrior, as he finds himself pitted against various deities for numerous reasons. The first game and its direct sequels all concern Kratos’ quest for revenge on the Olympian gods, whereas the 2018 game marked the beginning of his path of redemption.
Kratos’ bloodlust was a key part of the first few titles in the franchise, but the departure from the hack and slash action this enabled was a welcome one. Softening Kratos’s hard edges a little to better illustrate his relationship with his son is one of the finest narrative developments in all of video games, swapping out extreme and relentless violence for something a little more measured.
Acknowledging Kratos’ bloody past and exploring how he can redeem himself is one of the most touching pieces of storytelling of all time, and it ultimately makes 2018’s God of War a far better game than its predecessors.
2. Saints Row 2
The name Saints Row is practically synonymous with over-the-top, in-your-face gameplay. It’s a franchise famous for being as outrageous as possible, but it wasn’t always that way. Saints Row got its start in 2006 as a pretty straightforward GTA clone, and it wasn’t until the sequel that Volition’s franchise really dialled up the shock value.
Though Saints Row was entertaining, there was very little to set it apart from other similar games. Then, Saints Row 2 came along and everything changed: there was absolutely nothing held back, with the franchise’s sense of humour suddenly changed to be as inflammatory as possible. Crucially, it was exactly the change Saints Row needed, with the second game a marked improvement on the first for individuality alone.
By retaining the solid gameplay of the first game but making its world as ridiculous and hilarious as possible, Saints Row 2 was a massive improvement that helped the series go from strength to strength. With the second game, Saints Row had found its niche, and subsequent titles fit perfectly into that same groove. As hard as it may be to believe that Saints Row began life as a relatively tame GTA knock-off, the first game’s lack of character thankfully gave way to the sequel’s unforgettable sense of humour.
1. Mass Effect 2
If we were to write a checklist of everything a good sequel should be, it’s safe to say that Mass Effect 2 would not only tick every box, but probably find a way to add new boxes and tick those too. It really is that good.
The first Mass Effect established one of the most epic sci-fi stories ever told, but in many ways, its gameplay was lacking. Mass Effect 2 fixed all that, though: every minor wrinkle and hiccup was smoothed out or… whatever you do to hiccups. With fast-paced action, a brilliantly-conceived companion system and a staggering number of planets to scan and explore, Mass Effect 2 was the space opera that we never knew we needed.
It’s not that the first game wasn’t good, but just that Mass Effect 2 found a way to make the universe feel as substantial as it deserved. Continuing the excellent story of its predecessor with smoother gameplay and new and exciting mechanics, Mass Effect 2 is simply the gold standard of video game sequels. After all, there’s a good reason that the second game of BioWare’s sci-fi trilogy is considered to be by far the best, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with Shepard’s dancing.