Last week, we started our list of the 10 best videogame sequels that were actually more than just the original game slapped with new graphics and some new features. These were sequels that greatly expanded upon the original premise, and took things to the next level.
So without further adieu, here’s the second part of that list.
#5 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 was a pretty amazing game that took skateboarding and made it fun in a videogame. Before THPS came along, you could only skateboard in games like California Games, and that was pretty nasty! But THPS did it right, and it made virtual skateboarding fun. It even made a household name out of Tony Hawk, and re-popularized skateboarding for a new generation of kids.
But the skating in THPS was rather limited, and was centered around vert-skating (basically going up and down a half-pipe). The only way to get a good score in the game was to get massive air off a half-pipe and then either pull off a few flip tricks or a 720 grab trick… and that was only a small part of real skateboarding.
THPS 2 had more tricks and bigger locations to skate in, but the key difference was the humble manual (basically a wheelie on a skateboard). By introducing the manual, tricks can now be chained together for larger combos. Now you can kickflip into a grind, flip out into a manual, and then head over to another railing for another grind to maximize those combos! Street-skating was finally a viable method to score in THPS 2, and to date no single addition to the THPS gameplay has had as big an impact as this tiny trick.
#4 – Halo 2
Halo was a huge hit for the original Xbox, and redefined what a console FPS should be. On top of the epic storyline with a great cast of aliens and allies, it also had an incredibly fun multiplayer mode that caught the attention of gamers everywhere and soon “Halo parties” were being thrown in geek households everywhere.
How do you top that? You deepen the storyline by including a sub-plot that reveals the story from the aliens’ point of view (and even includes missions where you play as a Covenant warrior), and throw in some John Woo action and allow some dual-wielding gunplay. But these are just small potatoes compared to the big new addition.
You see, the biggest impact would be the inclusion of Xbox Live-enabled multiplayer. While 16 player battles were supported in Halo 1, that meant connecting at least four TVs and four Xboxes together, and that’s just pretty damned inconvenient. 4-8 player matches were far more common, and that’s not quite a large enough match to get team games going. With Xbox Live support, you can now go online and whack 15 other players without needing to tweak your spine lugging TVs around. And that means multiplayer is taken to a whole new level, in a way that’s accessible to all.
Halo 2 was not only the most popular game on Xbox Live, but was a huge reason for Xbox Live’s success, and Internet-based console gaming in general has benefited from this classic game.
#3 – Street Fighter II
Most people think that Street Fighter 1 is a lot like Leisure Suit Larry 4, in the sense that it never existed and the game developers merely chose to skip one number. But while LSL 4 really didn’t exist, there actually was a Street Fighter 1 back in the late 80’s that just didn’t have the impact that its sequel would four years later.
SF1 really laid the foundations for SFII, with the familiar joystick and six attack button configuration. The now industry-standard joystick movements for the Hadouken and Shoryuken special moves were already present, and the best of 3 rounds format was in place, but the game was limited in the sense that you can only play as Ryu (or Ken if you’re challenging player one). There were the other opponents to defeat (including Sagat and a bunch of other faces that would reappear in the later sequels), but they weren’t playable so players could never really get acquainted to them.
What did SFII do differently? It gave the player not just one but eight different characters to choose from, each with their own distinct special moves and fighting styles (well, except for Ken and Ryu, that is). It tightened up the fighting engine to be a bit faster and led to the first appearance of “combo attacks” (though they weren’t an intentional addition at the time). These seemingly minor changes made all the difference needed for the game, and SFII become a worldwide hit and brought fighting games to the forefront, with many derivatives spawning from the woodwork (some good, but most were horrendous).
#2 – Dune II
It was actually quite hard to decide which of the top two would be number one, but eventually I went with Dune II to take second place. The first Dune game was an adventure game that had players assume the role of Paul Atreides, going around the planet and befriending the local fremen. The second game, however, was completely different and bore little to no resemblence to the first game (probably because it was done by a different studio).
Instead of being put into the role of House Atreides, players can now choose between three different Houses to control, each with their own unique set of units. Each mission would the player gather spice for money, and the money can be spent on building up a base or constructing new tanks and weapons of war. The interface was a simple mouse-driven affair, where you can quickly click on a unit and then click on where you want it to go or attack.
If it sounds a lot like a RTS, then it’s because it is. But this wasn’t just any other RTS, because Dune II was the RTS that defined the genre for decades to come. All the modern RTS conventions that we take for granted these days like base-building, resource gathering, fog of war, and faction-specific super weapons were all institutionalized in this ground-breaking game. Just as SFII championed the fighting game genre, Dune II championed the RTS genre, solely from the sequel’s merit.
#1 – Star Control II
Star Control was a pretty fun and colorful game, but it was little more than a prettier version of the ancient SpaceWar! game. Basically, two spaceships would duel in space, with a simple five button setup (turn left/right, thrust, main weapon and special weapon). You could choose between 14 different alien races, each with their own unique spacecraft that had differing speeds, firepower, and special abilities. It also had a simple strategic component, and the storyline (about a war between two factions in space) was mostly non-existent, except for some bio screens of the aliens and their spacecraft.
Then two years later, the sequel came out, and it was a whole new game altogether. Instead of a simple combat game, it was now an epic adventure about a young human captain trying to liberate the entire galaxy from an evil alien armada. All of the storylines that were hinted at in the original came out in full force, and were fully fleshed out through a whole lot of interactions with the various alien species. And the interaction was great! You would zoom about the stars and meet all of these wild and whacky aliens, each with their own distinct personalities. And none of the aliens were cookie-cutter species either, as they all had their deep and varying histories and back stories, some that would be important for the upcoming war, and others are there just so you can immerse yourself into a living and breathing alternate universe.
The gameplay was highly open-ended, and you could zoom around where ever you pleased, and your actions could greatly influence what goes on during the war. In most games, when a major alien civilization is destroyed, it is a pre-scripted plot device and there’ll be little you can do to prevent it. In this game, if an alien civilization is destroyed, it will be due to your actions (or inaction), and not only will it gravely affect the balance of power in the galaxy, but you will probably miss them because they had such infectious personalities.
The dialogue and story in the game was the perfect balance between sci-fi drama and comedy, the combat was simple and addictive, and the aliens will endear themselves to you, long after you complete the game. This isn’t just a great sequel; this is a great game, period.
PS If you haven’t had the pleasure of playing this game, you can download an open-source version here.
Resident Evil 2
Baldur’s Gate II
Eye of the Beholder II
Mortal Kombat II
Of the 10 sequels featured in this story, four used the numerical 2 in their titles, five used the roman II, and SimCity bucked the trend by jumping to 2000.