When the follow up resets the bar.
There are two different kinds of sequels: one is a soulless cash in on the original (too many examples to list here), the other is a honed masterpiece that the creators should have nailed in the first place. The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan are all prime examples from classic film franchises, but how can one narrow down the the top 10 video game sequels? To distinguish this Top 10 from the plethora of weak-sauce lists found on the internet, we’re going to need some rules:
- The sequel must be the second ever game in the franchise. For example Metroid Prime 2: Echoes will not be on this list because Metroid II: Return of Samus on Gameboy was the second title.
- The title doesn’t need to have a “2” or “II” in it to be valid.
- The sequel can have a different name, but most be from the same IP as the original.
Of course this list is open to interpretation as it includes a lot of old-school games that some of you have never played, but the influence of these titles stretches to all kinds of games in development today. Enjoy.
10. Super Mario Bros. (NES)
But this was an original, right? Mario almost didn’t make the list because of the dismal NES game that was Super Mario Bros. 2, but if you look back further the original was actually a co-op arcade game called Mario Bros. (Nintendo have actually referred to it as “Pipeline” in the past for disambiguation), where Mario and Luigi defeated enemies in sewers until they both died. Super Mario Bros. gave up the dark room co-op in favour of getting Mario above ground (for the most part) and chasing Bowser through the land in an attempt to rescue the princess, who always seemed to be in another castle. The entire platformer genre owe its entire existence to this very successful and timely sequel.
9. Civilization 2 (PC)
The original Civ was a masterpiece in its own right, but the move to an isometric “2.5D” map and the various tweaks and improvements turned an already addictive game into dangerously addictive pastime. The AI couldn’t cheat as much as it did previously with its random events and it was a lot less predictable. Units now had hit points and your settlers had enough intelligence to not get themselves killed near the front line. The subsequent Civ games are all a rendition of this 1996 classic.
8. Castlevania 2: Simons Quest (NES)
Ever wondered where the “vania” in Metroidvania came from? It certainly wasn’t the first Castlevania, which was a frustrating tunnel platformer where you couldn’t save your progress. Castlevania 2: Simons Quest let you roam in the 2D world, talk to villagers to hear advice (or lies), enter and exit buildings, build up a handy inventory and even gain experience. At night, the ghoulies came out and you had to keep your wits about you to survive until sunrise. Sounds routine enough these days, but this was 1987 people!
7. Diablo II (PC)
If you include the expansion pack Lord of Destruction, you probably have the most addictive single and multiplayer action RPG of all time. Many detested the console-friendly dumbing down of Diabo III‘s combat system, favouring the pure PC controls for slicing up dark gothic monsters for loot until the sun came up. With a reliable community of co-op through Battle.net, Diablo II was perhaps Blizzard’s finest work in the last 20 years.
6. Halo 2 (Xbox)
We wouldn’t get half way through this list without mentioning the game that brought the FPS genre to consoles and could have sold the original Xbox system all on its own. Online multiplayer over Xbox Live gave Halo 2 near-infinite replayablity, and you could dual-wield (insert favourite Halo weapon here, I’m going with Needler). The rechargeable shield abolished the health pack hunt and you could pilot all sorts of awesome vehicles and aircraft. Bungie made their mark with this 2004 gamechanger.
5. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Arcade, SNES)
There aren’t many games – let alone sequels – that have documentaries made about them, but Street Fighter II is the first of two games on this list that have a cult of international competition and celebration. It was the first fighting game to make a seamless transition from arcade to home console and as the franchise continues to expand, World Warrior will remain omnipotent. For more on unequivocally the best fighting game of all time, check out our feature on the perfection of Street Fighter II.
4. Batman: Arkham City (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
It was by no means the second Batman video game, but we let this onto the list because the Arkham series has always stood on its own two feet as the most immersive superhero games since, well, ever. Arkham Asylum dialled in flowing combat combos and a user interface that was worthy of the world’s greatest detective, but it wasn’t until City came out that you could really stretch Batman’s legs as you glided through a whole metropolis preying on criminals. The remainder of the Arkham series will build upon this standout sequel, but other than a few additional gadgets and tougher bosses, the layout remains more or less unchanged.
3. Mass Effect 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Your childhood dream of becoming a space faring explorer may have been realised after watching Star Wars and Star Trek, but never before has such a rich video game environment been built on a galactic scale. Mass Effect 2 let you explore more planets, develop relationships with more characters and made every optional side quest seem just as important as the main storyline. The kicker was you could import your saved character profile from the original game, allowing a seamless transition for your beloved paragon or renegade.
2. Red Dead Redemption (PS3, Xbox 360)
Does anyone even remember Red Dead Revolver? Rockstar know how to pull you into a second world, and with Red Dead Redemption series they left the gritty cityscape of GTA in favour of an early 20th Century adventure on the USA’s western frontier. Gun battles were exhilarating without the need for AK 47s and rocket launchers, and the long haul horseback commutes left you in awe as you literally rode off into the sunset. A perfect soundtrack complimented a perfect game with all the choices you needed to be the hero or the villain. Say Rockstar, when is that PC port coming?
1. Half Life 2 (PC)
The pinnacle of PC gaming? The gameplay demo of Half Life 2 at the 2003 E3 will go down as one of the most legendary presentations by Valve, ever. The game took way too long to finish and had to battle a leaked code scandal which added another year before being released. Though the gameplay was somewhat linear, the graphics, sound, AI, physics and narrative more than made up for it by letting you don the “Free Man’s” biohazard suit. Awesome vehicle segments, no cut scenes, baffling puzzles that utilized the accurate modelling of weight and buoyancy. Several playthroughs were necessary to appreciate all the groundbreaking development that make this best sequel and perhaps the best game of all time.
KOTR II: The Sith Lords – Because choosing the the dark side over the Jedis is just so… evil.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Nathan Drake hit his stride in this 2009 treasure hunting action adventure
DOTA 2 – The barriers to entry into the DOTA 2 community are great, but the rewards are that much greater
Have a favourite sequel you believe deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments below.