The word ‘sequel’ is often seen as dirty, particularly in the world of cinema where they are little more than cheap, money-grabbing tie ins, with little to no value (with some notable exceptions, of course, like Aliens, T2: Judgement Day, and The Godfather Part II). This doesn’t apply to planned trilogies and sagas, like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, but most definitely does apply to literature, where sequels are usually so terrible that they can ruin an author’s reputation. For some reason, videogames can time and time again produce excellent sequels that are often better (or as good as) the ones that came before. I thought we’d celebrate the sequel today and countdown the 10 best.
For this list, the game has to be (generally) inarguably better than their original … so no Arkham City or Halo 2 … and I’m trying to stay away from long running series with multiple entries that are all pretty much as good as each other … so no Elder Scrolls … although there is one exception to that particular caveat …
- Fable 2 (2008)
The Fable series is a favourite here at Mugwumps and Englishmen, however it is largely down to Fable 2, as Fable 3 fell on its arse and Fable, whilst brilliant, didn’t quite inspire the same warm, gooey, feeling of its sequel. I spoke about Fable 2 on my top Xbox exclusives list, so I won’t bore you too much here. Fable 2 essentially gave us nearly everything that the first game had, but better. The combat was more intuitive; the job minigames were excellent; the ability to be a landlord was perhaps more fun than the game itself; the story and your decisions were genuinely engaging and potentially soul destroying … we will just gloss over the piss-poor ending …
- Pokémon: Gold and Silver (1999)
If Pokémon opted for a numbering system, instead of colours, gems, metals, letters, galactic bodies, and whatever else they can think of, then Gold and Silver would be known as Pokémon 2. Following up the uber-mega-franchise spawning Red and Blue, Gold and Silver didn’t just provide a clone, but took what made the first one so iconic and made it bigger and better. The battles were (arguably) more difficult, there was double the amount of Pokémon; double the amount of landmass to explore; twice as much story to tell; as well as giving you little extras like a phone, a day and night cycle, Pokémon reproduction, and even a radio where you could listen to Proffessor Oak’s radio show … Along with its remakes Heart Gold and Soul Silver, the series of Pokémon has never really bettered itself.
- Portal 2 (2011)
Portal was a delightful little surprise of a game when it was first released, bundled in The Orange Box in 2007. It soon became apparent that even though The Orange Box contained Half-Life 2 (and it’s two expansion packs) and Team Fortress 2, it was really Portal that everyone was playing. A simple puzzle platforming game that introduced us to the ‘Portal Gun’ that fires two portals that can then be travelled between. The game was elevated to greatness by GLaDOS, the maniacal AI robot that was hell-bent on killing you. She was evil and hilarious in equal measure and the sequel was wise to focus more on her. The sequel gave us the same platforming genius of the first, but with a shit-tonne more story. The game also introduced us to Stephen Merchant’s Wheatley, who is one of the most genius creations in gaming history.
- Street Fighter 2 (1991)
If you say you’ve played Street Fighter, then you are lying … no one played it. A basic arcade fighter released in the late 80s only found its way to gaming arcades (and seeing as we don’t really have them in the UK, you’re lying if you said you played it!). Everything changed with the sequel and it’s many ports to different consoles and handhelds throughout the ages. Street Fighter 2 invented the modern fighter genre, with its unique and interesting character designs, all with unique and interesting move sets. Whilst no one played the original, I would wager 98% of the gaming community has played the sequel at some point in their lives.
- Half-Life 2 (2004)
Ah, Half-Life 2, we meet again. The Half-Life franchise (all two games) is one of the most popular and loved shooter series on the planet, and the fact that there has been no sign of a third entry in well over 10 years, has caused a lot of people a lot of pain. The sequel took the basic look and feel of the first game and gave it an overhaul. There were now fully formed characters, and although protagonist, Gordon Freeman, still didn’t speak, he still kicked ass in some of the most well-designed levels in all of gaming.
- Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001)
You might be thinking that my inclusion of this and not an Elder Scrolls game is a bit silly, but I have my reasons (I had to hash it all out with James who was insistent on Oblivion or Skyrim being included … Oblivion nearly was). The reason why GTA3 gets a place on this list, is because it completely and utterly revolutionised its own franchise as well as videogames in general. It’s rare that one game has such a far reaching, rippling effect. Although it wasn’t the first 3D sandbox game, it was by far the most high-profile and best (at the time). A lot of what found its way into GTA3 is prevalent in almost every sandbox released since.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
Do I really need to say anything about what is quite possibly the best videogame of the past 10 years (and maybe, of all time)? I suppose I should, as it’s why I’m here to start with. I will admit to having never playing the first Witcher game, however I did play The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and fell in love almost straight away. The game was brutal, gory, and sexy, with a strong combat system that needed skills and a good old fashioned epic fantasy story with assassinations, dragons, war, and elven genocide. The sequel took all of that lovely, Witcher goodness and created the best open world ever designed (and I don’t think anyone reading this would disagree). The Northern Kingdoms and Skellige were quite possibly the first fictional worlds I have played around in that actually felt real. You could feel the tensions of the witch hunters in Novigrad, and feel the threat of the elements as you rode your little boat around Skellige. Although this is probably the best game on this list, there are three more that, as sequels, did more.
- Uncarted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
Uncharted is one of the best franchises in gaming history and took what made the original Tomb Raider games fun and brought them up to speed with the 21st Century … and then made them feel like a Spielberg action film. The word ‘thrilling’ is overused a lot when describing games, but the Uncharted franchise is genuinely, unequivocally thrilling. This is no more obvious than in the second (and still best) entry, Uncharted 2, which has more high-octane action sequences than I’ve had pizzas (and if you know me, then you know that is a lot) … The characters are all voice-acted to perfection, the script is genuinely hilarious, and the aforementioned action sequences will blow your tiny, tiny minds.
- Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)
Assassin’s Creed is one of those franchises that won’t die and has definitely had its ups and downs (although it looks to be on course for a massive ‘up’ with the upcoming release of Origins). Think back to 2009 and before you’d gotten used to parkouring over rooftops in Constantinople or Havana before jumping off and plunging a knife into some dude’s neck … and back to a time when the world had not heard of Assassin’s Creed. It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it? The first game was set in the Middle East during the time of the Crusades and was a very good game for the time. It changed the face of many games that came after it and set the tone for free-running in games, as well as the creation of large, detailed, open world cities (that would heavily inspire The Witcher 3). When the sequel came around and moved the action to the much more glamourous setting of Renaissance Italy and let you climb your way across the likes of Florence and Venice, we realised just how good this franchise could (and would prove) to be.
- Mass Effect 2 (2010)
I have a confession to make … although everything inside my very being tells me that Mass Effect 2 is better in every single way to the first … I just can’t believe it. I love the first game, even though every living soul who has played the franchise will claim this is better … so I will go with the ‘vox populi’ (not those terrorist bastards from Bioshock: Infinite). Mass Effect 2 took the things we loved from the first game: the branching dialogue options; the choice focused gameplay, and battling an incoming, galaxy wide, genocidal onslaught, and then gave us a good combat system, truly iconic characters (hello, Mordin Solus … I’m sorry I shot you in the third game) and quite possibly the greatest level in gaming history: the suicide mission. The last mission of the game was the tensest experience of my life, as the game made no qualms about you dying during it and that being the actual ending … no restarts, no nothing. Couple this with the very real possibility of losing your beloved crew members and even alien love partners … and this was one gaming experience no one will ever forget … maybe it was better than Mass Effect after all …
As usual, if you’d like to bitch and moan at me for not including your favourite videogame sequel, you can find me skulking around Twitter @MugumpBlog