Creating a good sequel can be tricky. Developers usually want to improve aspects of the previous game that worked while also changing aspects of the series so that it can evolve in a meaningful way. Sometimes this causes a series’ later entries to look nothing like their predecessors while other times they can appear surprisingly similar. With Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the most anticipated sequels of all time, releasing in just under a week we decided to take a look back at the sequels that redefined their franchises, polished features and were just overall better games than the ones that came before. These are the games we thought about when asked the question:
I feel like the best sequels aren’t ones that simply iterate on a list of features, but evolve the existing property while retaining its core identity. Sly 2 Band of Thieves fits that description perfectly. It kept the first game’s awesome art style, colorful cast of characters, and zany world of crime and thievery while adding new playable characters, completely overhauling the mission structure, and crafting a compelling and mature narrative. This sequel managed to improve on the first game in every way while changing almost everything about it. And that’s impressive.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is an excellent sequel for the same reasons you cited above. It takes the core elements of the original Paper Mario and makes them more epic in about every single way. It feels like a natural continuation of the first in terms of tone and game mechanics. A more recent example is Mario + Rabbids: Donkey Kong Adventure. I know it’s just DLC but it’s a full campaign that iterates on the original dynamic beautifully. I loved the main game, but Donkey Kong Adventure is better in almost every way. Don’t believe me? Check out my review.
Many video game sequels have surpassed their originals, but one that will always be special to me is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2.
THPS1 is one of my all time favorite games, and my sister and I spent an entire spring break glued to our N64 when it came out. But as fondly as I remember the first game, Pro Skater 2 improved on it in every way. The controls were refined, and new mechanics like manuals opened up a world of new possibilities for extending combos. Create and Skater and Create a Park made their debut in THPS2, which would be franchise mainstays moving forward. The soundtrack, while missing Goldfinger’s “Superman”, was bigger and just as iconic. The levels were more detailed with deeper challenges and better secrets. You could play as Spider-Man! And playing the sequel on my then impressive PC, the game played much better than the original had on my N64. Best of all, the Skate Street level was a recreation of a real skatepark in my hometown of Ventura, CA. Pulling off 720 benihanas on a virtual half pipe that existed in reality just a few blocks away from me was pretty freakin’ cool.
Did I mention you could play as Spider-Man?