From riches to rags.
It’s always fantastic when a sequel to a game you love is announced. It’s another chance to relive the magic of the first game, but now with a new story, fresh mechanics and perhaps even a new set of rules entirely. Whatever the reason may be, having the chance to revisit the worlds in which we’ve spent so much time in is very much a welcome concept. However, the following five titles kind of missed the mark. They are among the worst video game sequels of all time.
5. Devil May Cry 2
The sixth generation of consoles arrived all guns blazing, with swathes of new IPs and new ways to play. If we’re talking about games that have stood the test of time,you can’t help but mention Devil May Cry. Originally meant to be Resident Evil 4, here we have a spectacle action game so influential that it paved the way for an entirely new sub-genre. Relentless combo-based combat, a creepy castle to explore filled with enemies and bosses of inspired design, and no shortage of cheese-coated dialogue. Devil May Cry was an instant recipe for success and is still hugely enjoyable to this day.
Unfortunately, this can’t be said for the series’ problem child: Devil May Cry 2, which virtually wrote the book on how not to make a sequel to a classic game. It also penned the bestseller, ‘How to Threaten Your Reputation with a Monstrously Inept Follow-Up to a Confident Genre Definer’.
The exploratory-based level design of the first game disappeared in favour of linear stages of the drabbest palette. The macabre architecture of a castle gone mad was replaced with a town painted only one shade of beige. Dante is transformed from pizza-scoffing rogue into such a brooding bore that I thought I was playing a Final Fantasy game. Thankfully, the series didn’t continue down this dark path for long, with Devil May Cry 3 swiftly picking up the pieces and becoming one of the best games ever.
But hey, at least the second game had a zombie tank for a boss. That’s pretty cool, I guess.
4. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Without a doubt in my mind one of the best rhythm games of all time, Guitar Hero 2 was what I looked forward to every day after school. Forget homework, let the family pleasantries out with the cat, Guitar Hero 2 was calling. I didn’t even mind that most of the songs were covers. They were damn good covers, and you were kind of playing as a cover band anyway, so it made sense. I’m sure that I’m not the only person you’ve heard say the Guitar Hero games helped to shape my future music taste, but it’s true. Pair the amazing soundtrack with tonnes of guitars to collect, songs to unlock, and a delightfully energetic cast of characters to play as and you have one of Harmonix’s finest moments in Guitar Hero 2.
So naturally, the best thing for Activision to do would be to hand the reins over to Neversoft, who were at the time excellent for skateboarding games, but not much of anything else. Now look, I love the Tony Hawk games, and Neversoft’s later Guitar Hero offerings (namely World Tour and GH5) were fantastic, but Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock is a terrible game.
It might well be the best selling and honestly one of the most revered games in the series, but I can’t muster any love for Guitar Hero 3. I was so damn excited for this game that I got a Saturday job just so I could save up for it. At the time I was only 15, so money wasn’t something I saw too much of. Furthering my excitement was the addition of actual guitarists! It had Tom Morello and Slash! How could
Furthering my excitement was the addition of actual guitarists! It had Tom Morello and Slash! I mean, how could Guitar Hero 3 not be good?! Well, quite easily, actually: by having too many classic rock tracks (nothing against them, but they’re not what I personally bought these games for) and by lacking any of the motion or charisma of its predecessors. Seriously, you and your band members are firmly planted in one spot, unable to move. In Guitar Hero 2, your character relished every opportunity to take your eyes away from the brightly hued notes, their boundless energy perfectly fitting of the game and its awesome venues.
Yes, Guitar Hero 3 has a lot of firsts for the series, including playable celebrities, online play and a larger collection of original recordings. However, its lack of confidence can be seen in every fibre of its being; the inferior tracklist (for the most part. You still had One, Cliffs of Dover and Holiday in Cambodia in here, which are objectively all bangers) and your band’s lack of presence.
The tale does have a somewhat happy ending, however. Harmonix moved on to the incredible Rock Band series, and Neversoft continued to improve with World Tour and Guitar Hero 5. Hell, I even quite like Warriors of Rock.
Let’s chalk Guitar Hero 3 up to them finding their sea legs in a new genre, yeah?
3. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World
I’ve harped on before about how Tales of Symphonia is one of my all-time favourites, and for good reason. While its visuals have aged and many, many scenes have a clear lack of polish, it nailed the three things you have to get right in an RPG: (1) a great cast of characters that (2) fight for a world and a cause that you actually care about and features (3) an excellent battle system that doesn’t make you want to flee from every fight. Oh, and the soundtrack is brilliant. It comes courtesy of Star Ocean and Dark Souls composer Motoi Sakuraba.
Needless to say with the announcement of the sequel I could barely contain myself. Yet another chance to catch up with Lloyd and friends after the events of the first game? I simply had to see what they were all up to. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, however, is more concerned with making us play as a spineless emo kid. So much so that I thought I was playing a Final… oh, sorry. I already made that dreadful joke earlier. Moving on!
It’s incredibly clear that Dawn of the New World was a rush job. Everything about it feels hollow in comparison to its roots. The battle system lacks fluidity. It’s missing the camaraderie of your party genuinely working together to overcome greater threats. The dungeons and boss fights were far less enjoyable than before. And it quickly becomes clear that Dawn of the New World is a game without any ideas of its own. Well, besides a half-baked monster training mechanic. At least Tenebrae was cool, but even this cat couldn’t save this game from copious head shaking. F minus, see me after class. God damn it all.
2. Deus Ex: Invisible War
The original Deus Ex is a masterpiece. There’s really not much that can be said about the FPS/RPG hybrid that already hasn’t been thousandfold. Its refreshing approach to level design let the player loose on large maps. With that, we’re now able to tackle objectives in tonnes of different ways. You could go all guns blazing as the emerging FPSs of the time would expect you to. Or you could opt for a more covert approach, hacking security and lockpicking doors. The feeling of going deep behind enemy lines, discovering vast underworlds and secret bases alarmingly close to civilisation and uncovering world threatening conspiracies, Deus Ex’s world was like a mysterious advent calendar: you never knew what was going to be behind the next door.
Of course, some classics don’t age as well as others and Deus Ex is one of those games. It’s still playable, but it’s marred by ancient PC-centric inventory management, less than stellar AI and visuals that shout “so, why exactly have I not been remade yet?”
With Deus Ex being one of the pillars of the PC gaming halls of fame, a sequel was inevitable. Sadly, it was one of those sequels that made the original simply look like a flash in the pan. I am, of course, talking about Deus Ex: Invisible War. Here we have a sequel so loaded with bugs and so clearly unfinished that it only encouraged repeated playthroughs of the original. This time with an added element of choked tears.
Protagonist Alex D didn’t hold a candle to our man JC Denton. The game was lacking in the “cyberpunk meets secret societies” motif that brilliantly drove the first game. Invisible War instead felt like poorly written fan fiction within the Deus Ex universe. There was significantly less exploration and character management. It was also much shorter than its predecessor, ending somewhat abruptly at the ruined UNATCO headquarters with little fanfare. However, Square Enix’s reboot of the franchise fared much better, starting with 2011’s excellent Human Revolution, and continuing with the recently released Mankind Divided.
1. Ridge Racer Unbounded
Sometimes, a beloved franchise can lose its way. All it can take is a different studio to put their own spin on it to freshen things up. Unfortunately, Ridge Racer Unbounded is not one of those games. It’s a shame as the game comes from the accomplished Bugbear Entertainment. Known for the excellent FlatOut series, Bugbear brought their specialities to the table. Unbounded looked gorgeous and the damage models rivalled those seen in Burnout Paradise.
I know that Unbounded has its fans, so I hope I’m not annoying anyone too much with my criticism. In fact, our own Adam Vjestica was more positive in his review. I personally didn’t get on with just how wild a departure Unbounded was from the series’ signature gameplay.
Unbounded drops the satisfying (if massively unrealistic), silky smooth drifting Ridge Racer is known for. Instead, cars handled like the devs copy and pasted code from GTA IV. The usually upbeat soundtrack made way for a deluge of dubstep and techno. And the leisurely pace of previous games was translated into a Destruction Derby-like smash fest. From the get go, the AI is so difficult that playing online is actually the easier option. Perhaps worst of all, poster girl Reiko Nagase is nowhere to be seen.
Unbounded is less like Ridge Racer, and more like a discount Burnout game, but fittingly rounds up our list of the worst video game sequels.
What are your worst video game sequels?
Let us know what your worst video game sequels are! There’s plenty of disappointments out there beyond the 5 I’ve listed here. It is, of course, all subjective too. I have friends who don’t consider Devil May Cry 2 to be all that bad. Some also think Guitar Hero 3 is one of the best in the series. Not for me sadly! In any case, share your thoughts in the comments below.