When you create something popular and profitable within entertainment, the chances are someone will want you to replicate that success. That culture has given us everything from the famously disappointing Star Wars prequels to the much loved Godfather II. Sequels are cheaper to make and offer the security of an established IP with an existing audience, and therefore less risk. The only caveat is that it isn’t always easy to live up to the original.
For video games this has churned out disasters like Duke Nukem forever, but it also means we get to return to some of our favourite worlds and characters across multiple generations. Whether that’s another trip to the Wild West with our favourite brooding gun slinger or another chance to fill a Pokedex, sequels do offer the opportunity to build on a game’s strengths and sometimes the follow up is even better than the original.
To prove that point, here are seven video game sequels that put their predecessors to shame;
- GTA Vice City
Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series has produced some of the most popular video games ever made. The latest iteration sold over 60 million copies, delivering an ambitious and memorable open world experience. But it was back in 2002, following the success of Grand Theft Auto III, that the series made its greatest leap with the ground breaking release of Vice City.
The depth of the game’s detailed 80s Miami environment, its killer soundtrack and a memorable story and cast created a believable world that made the gameplay and missions far more immersive. It did benefit from important updates to mechanics and visuals, but it was the unprecedented world building that set Vice City apart from its predecessors and made GTA the benchmark of open world games.
- Portal 2
The original Portal was such an unexpected hit that it’s no surprise there was demand for more of the same. The game’s popularity stems not just from the clever physics-puzzle premise but also its unexpectedly good story, dark humour and strong voice acting. Portal 2 brought all that back and more – with an extended story, more complicated puzzles, an excellent co-op mode and a fleshed out experience that built on all the strengths of the original. It’s not that there was anything wrong with Portal, but its sequel will go down as one of the greatest video games of all time.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Inspired by Indiana Jones’ archaeological treasure hunts, the original Uncharted launched back in 2007 and instantly got attention for its ambitious story and quality voice acting. Among Thieves managed to build on these strengths with even bigger set pieces and more intelligent storytelling – achieving exceptional cinematic style and pacing.
It vastly improved the game’s gunplay and melee, and made key exploratory mechanics such as climbing far more enjoyable. It also introduced the stealth mechanics that would form the basis of Naughty Dog’s future Uncharted adventures, as well as their much loved post-apocalyptic title the Last of Us.
- Witcher 3
The second entry in the Witcher series, Assassin of Kings, told an epic fantasy story in a memorable and entertaining way. In making its sequel an open world environment, CD Project Red went one step further and brought that story to life.
With a scale around 30 times larger than previous Witcher games, Wild Hunt is a huge leap from its predecessors. In addition to another amazing fantasy tale, its huge, dynamic and diverse environments are full of engaging sub plots and intelligent NPC interactions.
The game also added a greater cast of well written characters – specifically a stronger and less one-dimensional portrayal of women – and a greater depth to the main character’s connection to his friends and sidekicks. Despite his stereotypical lone wanderer facade, Geralt’s love for his (extremely likeable) adopted daughter and his desire to find and protect her is the driving force of the game, which is much more emphatic than previous stories and therefore way more engaging.
- Link to the Past
As someone who’s favourite Zelda game is Majora’s mask, I was hella tempted to include it on this list for its creepy atmosphere, clever time mechanics and creative dungeons. Ultimately, I do concede that it doesn’t improve on Ocarina of Time per se.. but Link to the Past is a firm improvement on its predecessors for several reasons.
Almost every early Zelda game had unique innovations, but Link to the Past offered some of the most important introductions both to mechanics and lore that would become standard throughout the series. Where would we be without items like the Master Sword and heartpeices, or locations such as Kakariko Village and Lake Hylia. It was the first game to give dungeons their distinctly different temple themes and it introduced the idea of the Dark World that formed the basis of so many future iterations. Even the logo debuted here.
It’s one of the greatest video games of all time and its monumental success inspired so many more incredible adventures through Hyrule.
- Pokémon Gold and Silver
The original Pokémon Gameboy adventures weren’t just beloved – they created a legacy and an obsession that swept the world, across anime, toys and collectables. Since then we’ve had multiple pocket monster adventures each generation, and with so many entrants to the series it’s difficult to imagine the game without some of the innovations introduced in the very first real sequel; Gold and Silver.
In addition to the visual enhancements, a new generation of creatures to collect and an entirely new region to explore, Gold and Silver was also the first game to introduce breeding, Dark and Steel type Pokémon and the in-battle XP progress bar – all of which have become staple parts of subsequent sequels. Having recently replayed the original games, I can attest that whilst they are still great adventures, I did miss the inclusion of Silver and Gold’s innovations.
Although, equally I miss having Pikachu follow me around in every game since..
- Red Dead Redemption
The fact that Rockstar’s recently announced game is Red Dead Redemption 2, despite being the third in the series, speaks volumes as to how much John Marston’s first Wild West outing eclipsed its predecessor.
The 2010 sequel did inherit some things from Revolver, namely the atmospheric setting and dead-eye targeting mechanic, but Redemption delivered the fleshed out experience and expansive open world we’ve come to expect from Rockstar. The vast landscapes, strong characters and meaty plot lines together with quality, fun gameplay made the whole experience completely immersive and highly memorable.
Redemption’s sequel was so highly anticipated that a single (fairly ambiguous) tweet from Rockstar gained hundreds of thousands of interactions in just 24 hours and sent fans into a frenzy. With a stunning trailer for 2017’s Red Dead Redemption 2, we can’t wait to see what’s next for the wild west franchise.