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There are good games with good sequels, and then there are good games with phenomenal sequels. You know, the sequels that if you want to introduce your friend to the franchise, you will tell them that they can skip right to the second game. It's no easy task, but these are some of the most memorable cases of a sequel far outshining the original.
Assassin’s Creed II – The original Assassin’s Creed feels like an experiment for the goals of the series. A test for the engine and how Assassin’s Creed should work, put out into the market to see what parts of the game were fun, and which ones weren’t. When it came time for Assassin’s Creed II, the team at Ubisoft took everyone’s feedback, axing the recurring missions and boring parts of the game, in favor of almost universally awesome stuff.
Just Cause 2 – The original Just Cause released without much fanfare. The Xbox 360 was still a relatively new system, but it already had its fair share of open-world games, even if Just Cause did have a dramatically different setting. Our review of the original landed on a 7, but Just Cause 2 received our gold award with a 9. Everything got a nice scrub and polish and there are a practically endless number of objectives to pursue.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – The original Uncharted does a good job establishing what kind of person Nathan Drake is, while showing off how well Naughty Dog’s engine can render foliage and t-shirt fabric. The second game takes the Nathan Drake we learned all about in the first game, beats the hell out of him and throws him in a snow storm. It is a huge adventure with a larger story and more characters, but it still has a crazy ending.
Silent Hill 2 – The original Silent Hill is a creepy game with weird camera angles and ghost babies, but Silent Hill 2 is a terrifying trip into the psyche of a man with a dark secret destroying him from the inside and manifesting itself in the form of a city shrouded in fog and crawling with monsters. This is also the first time we see Pyramid Head. Remember that scene? Hiding in the closet? The only way you wouldn’t remember it is if your brain blocked it out like a repressed memory, which would be totally acceptable.
Rayman 2: The Great Escape – The original Rayman is an attractive 2D platformer that launched on the PSone. The sequel didn’t show up for another four years, but it is a huge improvement over the original. The sequel keeps the levels of the standard platformer, but places Rayman into a 3D world. Not every 2D dimensional platforming character is able to transition into the world of 3D, but Rayman had no problems. An interesting world with a moody soundtrack makes Rayman 2 a great place to explore.
Guitar Hero 2 – This comes more from personal experience working in the retail world of video games. Guitar Hero released in 2005, and it had its fans, but for the most part it didn’t make a huge splash. The following year however, Guitar Hero II released and everybody lost their minds. It was the Tickle Me Elmo of video games in 2006. Where I was working, we could not keep the game in stock. I remember a customer begging and pleading to let her buy the display version of the game and guitar that was set up in the store. It was madness. Guitar Hero 2 doesn’t make a ton of changes on the original’s formula. The sequel improves on many elements of how the game was played and expands multiplayer, but the biggest improvement is the soundtrack. Harmonix was able to prove themselves with the original Guitar Hero, and after seeing how the game worked, musicians were much more willing to get involved.
Super Mario Land 2 – Mario’s first foray on the Game Boy is an odd one. He pilots planes and submarines that shoot bullets and fights the sphinx in Egypt. It's weird. The sequel has more in common with Super Mario Bros. 3, with a map you can traverse to choose levels, new power-ups like the carrot that gives Mario rabbit ears for limited flight, and a series of low gravity space levels that put Mario in a space suit. It is less weird, and more awesome.
Mega Man 2 – Mega Man is one of Capcom’s most successful franchises, so it’s surprising to find out that the original Mega Man actually didn’t perform very well. The sequel was a bit of a passion project for series producer Keiji Inafune. Capcom wasn’t entirely on board with the development of a sequel, and only agreed to it as long as the team was working on other titles concurrently. Mega Man 2 was a runaway success with tighter gameplay, better power-ups, special items, two extra bosses and a password system. Mega Man 2 is the reason the franchise moved forward and made it all the way to Mega Man 10.
Street Fighter II – The original Street Fighter for arcade only allowed players to play as Ryu against the computer, and player 2 could only play as Ken. It was ported to the TurboGrafx as Fighting Street, and it wasn’t very good. There’s a reason people don’t really talk about it. Street Fighter II, on the other hand, set a standard for fighting games with continued influence today.
Dead Rising 2 – The original Dead Rising was impressive because of the number of zombies it could display on screen and how everything you could pick up was a weapon, but the core mission structure was one of escort and the save system was confusing. Dead Rising had its fans, but it also had its problems. The sequel addressed these issues to platinum-level victory with a 9.5 review score from Game Informer.
Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight – In the original Dark Forces, you are a mercenary shooting with guns and punching with fists. In Dark Forces II you are a Jedi Knight with force powers and a light saber. I don’t think I really need to say anything else.
Even with a handful of honorable mentions, there are sequels that we have forgotten here. What are your favorite sequels that you liked even more than the originals?
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