In the movie world, sequels are a dreaded affair and are usually just cheap ways for a movie studio to quickly cash in on a hit (the Hong Kong movie industry is a big offender in this regard, especially in the 80’s). Very rarely does a movie have a sequel that can stand alongside the original, let alone surpass it. There are a few exceptions to the rule of course (The Godfather 2, Terminator 2 and Blade II come to mind), but mostly they suck (2 Fast 2 Furious, Ocean’s 12, and how bad was Son of the Mask?!?).
In the videogame world, things aren’t that much different. If a new IP does well, you can expect a sequel out soon that is pretty much the same game except with flashier graphics. But just like in the movie world, there are exceptions to the rule and every now and then a sequel will come out that is not just as good as the original, but actually leaps and bounds better.
We’ve put together a list of the 10 best sequels that have ever been put out. And remember, the games on this list aren’t here just because they’re prettier, but they also push the envelope in innovation and design to deliver a hugely improved gaming experience.
#10 – Dead or Alive 2
When the first DoA came out, it was little more than just a faster version of Virtua Fighter with exploding floors and ridiculously bouncy boobs. It introduced a cool rock-scissors-paper fighting mechanic where strikes beat throws, throws beat reversals and reversals beat strikes, but it didn’t quite push it enough and it felt mostly like Virtua Fighter with bouncy boobs.
Then came DoA2, blasting out of nowhere with a huge list of improvements such as multi-tiered levels (where you can knock a player off a rope bridge and then jump down and continue the fight in the river below), two-on-two tag team battles (including these awesome tag-team combo attacks), and a greatly refined fighting engine that made it really easy for beginners to put on a flashy and fun fight while retaining a level of depth to satisfy veterans. This major tweak also gave DoA2 that polish that really made the gameplay stand out on its own.
And yes, the boob bouncing received an extra special overhaul with a new physics engine to give you the most realistic bouncing boobs ever seen in a videogame at the time.
#9 – Wing Commander II
Wing Commander 1 was an epic game that made you feel about as close as you can get to being Luke Skywalker without invoking the holy trilogy of sci-fi movies. It pushed the graphical abilities of PCs at the time to fully immerse the player in a spaceship cockpit (think exploding balls of sparks in your cockpit when your ship gets hit, and a depiction of your hand on a joystick that accurately follows your input) and it had a stellar plot and great cast of characters to put you in the middle of a space opera.
But while Wing Commander 1 told the its tale through text-based conversations with other pilots in the bar, Wing Commander II added a huge amount of cutscenes and digitally recorded voice samples to really take the term “interactive movie” to a new level. Sure, the open-ended structure of Wing Commander 1 was altered to become more linear, and events are now more scripted than before… but in return you get a really heightened sense of drama, and a deeper emotional connection to your co-pilots because they are now more integrated to the storyline.
Wing Commander 3 will always be remembered as the game that started the 90’s boom of live-action cutscenes, but Wing Commander II pushed the interactive movie years before that.
#8 – Assassin’s Creed II
Assassin’s Creed 1 was an incredibly over-hyped game. It promised all sorts of coolness with a free-running assassin in an open world, and lots of cool assassin-moves and stealth kills. But what it turned out to be was an incredibly repetitive and dull experience, full of time-wasting activities like “follow a random NPC around town” and “try to pick-pocket a random NPC” or “try to follow and then pick-pocket a random NPC.”
Assassin’s Creed II took the potential of the first game and made it happen. Suddenly, you could actually do cool things. You didn’t have to waste as much time in the “real world” listening to Veronica Mars tell you stuff that isn’t all that interesting. And the missions actually had variety and felt like they added to the plot. And of course, you had those awesome free-running activities such as “let’s find a million random feathers scattered across the roof-tops.”
If you read the sequel’s manual, it even makes a lot of in-jokes at the inadequacies of the first game.
#7 – SimCity 2000
SimCity was a great game in that it came completely out of nowhere. Nobody in their right mind would’ve guessed that a game with no winning conditions or storyline could be successful. Well, they were wrong, and SimCity gave birth to the sandbox genre of games.
But as innovative as SimCity was, it also was quite limited in what it could do. You could really only zone residential, commercial and industrial areas, and then build roads, fire stations and power plants to support them. There was just so much that you could not do, and so much else that you wanted to do.
SimCity 2000 fixed all of that by greatly expanding on the city-building aspects of the game, and threw in a whole slew of new buildings and utilities. Not only do you have to maintain power lines now, but you also had to provide plumbing and water via a new underground view. You can build schools and hospitals to improve your residents, and you could choose between nine different power plants to balance energy efficiency, cost and pollution. Different types of roads can be built, and public transport was introduced. And those arcologies… those cities-within-a-city. They were awesome!
And how to best enjoy your new elaborate cities? Try a new dimetric point of view to really appreciate those skyscrapers.
#6 – The Sims 2
Here’s another sandbox game that was greatly improved in the sequel. The original Sims was an instant best seller because it was something so unique and so openly accessible. But just as the first SimCity was limited, so was The Sims. For starters, every day was the same. There was no concept of weekends, or time off for your Sims to really enjoy themselves. Imagine working every single day without a break. It’s not fun for the Sims, and it’s certainly not fun for you. Sims also didn’t die. Children don’t age past being children, and adults don’t die of old age. It was a bit… static in that sense. Also, every Sim was kind of the same.
That all changed in The Sims 2. The inclusion of weekends allowed Sims to finally do something aside from the mundane daily grind of work and sleep. And to break the static nature of the original Sims, a proper life cycle was introduced. Now Sims can have children, who will grow from babies to teenagers to adults, and then grow old and die. You no longer look after the same member of the family, but now you will oversee generations of a family, complete with genetic mingling. Yes, babies will inherit the genetics of their parents, so you can really tinker with their DNA and breed your Sims accordingly.
Another feature introduced to distinguish the Sims is the Aspiration System. Different Sims now have different aspirations, and meeting these aspirations will grant them bonuses and joy. Not only does this distinguish the Sims from one another, but it also gives players some goals when the game gets just a little bit too “sandboxy” (aka pointless).
The new fully 3D engine is not just prettier, but it also allows you to zoom in and get up close and personal with your Sims, making them feel more alive than ever before, and allowing for different camera angles for those people making machinima videos.
Okay, we’ll put up the second part of the list later in the week.