One thing that video games do not have in common with movies is that sequels are usually better than the original. Video game sequels tend to build on the concepts that make the original game successful while discarding the failures that annoyed players.
Unfortunately this does not always hold true for subsequent sequels (the III’s and IV’s of the gaming world), especially when migrating a franchise to a new operating system. There is far too great a temptation on the part of developers to utilize the bells and whistles of the new systems while forgetting important aspects such as enjoyable gameplay.
Here are my five favorite, and five most disappointing, sequels:
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
With the exception of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, every Legend of Zelda sequel has been a phenomenal success both critically and commercially. N64’s Ocarina of Time is considered by many critics to be the best of the series (and by some, the best video game of all time), but Game Boy’s Link’s Awakening is my personal favorite.
Super Mario Brothers 3
3D graphics, cinematic storytelling, and online multiplayer still have nothing on the third Super Mario game. As a pure gameplay experience, it might be the masterpiece of the NES. It still holds up over twenty years later.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
GTA: SA took all of the elements that made classic gangster films like Casino and Goodfellas great, added them to what worked in GTA III and GTA: Vice City, and created what is still the pinnacle of sandbox games. I recently re-played this one all the way through, and it’s still a lot of fun.
Assassin’s Creed II
The original Assassin’s Creed had a lot going for it, but the fighting mechanics, repetitive street missions, and the impossible end missions sucked the life out of the game for me. Fortunately Assassin’s Creed II took the best parts of the original and updated the worst parts to make a nearly perfect game.
Wing Commander II
Boy was this an upgrade. The characters were deeper, the gameplay was smoother, and the story was more compelling than the original. It did everything the first Wing Commander did well and took it to the next level. I spent days playing this game in the 90’s.
Most Disappointing Sequels
I love this game – now. The problem was when it was shipped it was buggy, incomplete, and way too easy. After dozens of tweaks, updates, and expansion packs we now have a game worthy of its predecessors. My point in listing it here is that it should have came shipped that way instead of making the consumer essentially beta test it.
Grand Theft Auto IV
The 2004 and 2005 versions of Madden may still be the finest versions of the game. So for 2006 they decided to add the worst feature of any sports game ever – the passing cone. Thankfully you could disable it.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Here. Let’s take everything you loved about the first game, and throw it out in favor of making a half-ass game that can’t decide if it’s a repetitive platform game or a cheesy RPG. The worst part is that this would be an average, forgettable NES game if it weren’t part of most successful console adventure series of all time.
Sim City 4
I should like this game. I’ve tried to like this game. I’ve given it multiple chances. Theoretically it’s an improvement on Sim City 3, with more diverse features and deeper gameplay. So why is it that every time I play it I feel like I’m pushing a rock up a hill?
What are some of your sequel experiences?
(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe