Recently, after wrapping up Shadow of the Tomb Raider – a great if overly familiar sequel – I started thinking about the quality of sequels in video games. Terrible sequels can sink an IP, whereas great sequels can bring them into the limelight and build a brand that’ll last for decades. There are sequels that simply refine the gameplay mechanics but provide a spectacular continuation of the narrative (e.g. Bioshock 2 – haters be damned), and there are those that drastically change and redefine the gameplay mechanics in ways we never knew we needed (e.g. Resident Evil 4).
With that in mind, my question of the week for the staff and readers is simple: “What is your favourite video game sequel?”
My favourite sequel has to be Dragonball Budokai Tenkaichi 3 on the PlayStation 2; a game that has long been held as best Dragonball game ever made. Tenkaichi 3 was every fans dream - an open stage fighting arena with a ridiculously large character roster, boasting a story mode that went through all of the series' narrative arcs, and it even had "what if" scenarios to keep things interesting. The tournament mode was a blast among a large group of friends and caused incredible banter when someone won with Krillin. I'll never forget the countless hours I spent spirit bombing and Kamehamea-ing suckers right in the face (ed - I imagine a Spirit Bomb to the face isn't pleasant, ask Frieza and Kid Buu).
For me, it has to be Mass Effect 2. I know it's a cliche but one of the reasons that cliched choices exist is that they represent games that are just so damn good that everyone enjoyed them. Building on the universe set out on the original, while dropping a lot of the hardcore RPG mechanics to provide a smoother experience, Mass Effect 2 already had a lot going for it before you even got into the story. It provided a logical "reset" for Shepard and his crew, while painting the galaxy, and indeed many of your former companions and foes, in further shades of moral grey. And then consider the suicide mission finale; one of the finest examples of how your decisions throughout your playthrough could impact the ending of a game. While the RGB ending of the trilogy as a whole may have soured opinions (long before Andromeda went in directions none of us really appreciated), Mass Effect 2 still stands out as the glowing gem of the series and a beacon of hope that we may get something like it again from Bioware (ed - And I do love me some awkward space romance).
I have to say the top of this list, for me, should be Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn. Having spent hours of my youth playing the first Baldur's Gate, the release of the sequel just blew me away. It was the first time I encountered a non-linear story path and my young mind was boggled by the fact that I could "choose" when and where to go places, and that the consequences of doing so were on me if I faffed about too long, avoiding the main storyline (ed - presumably too much time spent trying to romance Aerie). This, coupled with the fact that all the original Baldur's Gate classes, items, and spells received a hefty increase in both content and level cap, meant that even more time was spent playing through BG2 and chasing its many avenues of exploration. Then, to top it all off, they then released an expansion, Throne of Bhaal, which let your character advance to epic levels while adding even more gripping content; pure blissful insanity!
My favourite video game sequel to date has to be The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (ed - clearly a man of culture). I was going to be extra cliche and go with Assassins Creed 2 or even AC: Brotherhood, but Oblivion will always be at the top of my list. Not only did I fully submerge myself into the central hub province of Tamriel, only to re-emerge weeks later, there was always some indescribable quality that Oblivion had that I haven't really experienced from any other sequel. It's impossible to pinpoint, or even comprehend, just what made it so great (ed - facial animations?). It was my first, true entry into the RPG genre, and its probably the reason why I love RPGs so much to this day. Not only were there so many classes, races, and builds you could become; every character was given rich stories and distinct personalities, and the caves, mines, and crypts were intricate pieces of art that flowed seamlessly into the world above. Interestingly enough, I have asked everyone I know whether or not they have played Oblivion and what made their experience so great. 90% came back to me and said: "I don't know, there's just some mystical element to it that made it so unbelievably great". Despite playing the game around 30 times already (not an exaggeration), I bought the extra-special "GOTY" Edition during a Steam sale just for the extra few buildings and quests.
This was a difficult one to pick but I’ll have to go with Dark Souls 3. The original Dark Souls ushered in the idea of next to impossible boss fights in a world full of things that want to kill you (almost like the Australia of video games) (ed - Hey, don't do our jobs for us! We got snarky comments too). While many entered for the challenge, some left with a story that was beautifully told - if they could find it. Discovering what every character went through and the deep lore behind - a task that required sifting through item descriptions and snippets of conversation - was almost as fulfilling as beating the game for the first time. Well, it was quite a few years after the original Dark Souls, so many fans were already used to the challenge. Now, all we had to see was how the story unfolded. That’s where Dark Souls 3 comes in and carried on the story from the original. It was nowhere near as challenging by that point, but it answered questions I never even knew I had.
If Shadow of the Colossus wasn't so ambiguous about being a sequel, it would definitely be on this list. But I have to shine some light on a sequel that might not be the most immediate pick out of the bunch. Portal 2 is, without a doubt, one of the best games I've ever played. Not only does it vastly improve and build upon the already stellar gameplay of the first game, it breathes new life and depth into its characters and world. GlaDOS is as intimidating as a potato (no pun intended), but the real star of the show is Wheatley, one of the most genuinely compelling and well-written antagonists I've ever seen in a video game. His quirky nature and clumsy demeanour intentionally throws you off guard, but once the plot starts rolling forward, I found myself hooked on his try-hard villainous ways that came off as pitiful but hilariously clever. There's so much heart and personality in Portal 2, it boggles my mind that writers sat around a table and came up with all of it. The puzzles are head-scratching but never tough, and the gameplay is... well, it's the pinnacle of perfection.
Vying for top spot are two sequels I actually played before going back to the first games: Tomb Raider 2 and Resident Evil 2. It’s a tough choice but my all-time favourite would go to Resident Evil 2, the game that introduced me to Capcom’s cheesy yet terrifying survival-horror IP and made me a lifelong fan of horror games across all genres. After going back to Resident Evil: Director's Cut, and then returning to the sequel, I was still blown away by the increased scope, complexity, and the sheer amount of content on offer. The original offered two scenarios but now there were four. There were still two broadly similar but branching paths, however, the A and B scenarios ensured both Leon and Claire featured prominently in whichever path you chose. While the core gameplay mechanics remained largely unchanged (like the absurd puzzle-based locks in a public police station), the scale of the environments, diversity of monsters types, introduction of secondary characters, and some ridiculous set-pieces all elevated the experience above and beyond what the Spencer Mansion could provide.
So those are our favourite video game sequels and now we’d like to hear your opinion. What makes a great video game sequel for you: story, gameplay, technology? Lets us know in the comments below.
Enjoys games with awesome stories and characters, along with new and interesting hardware. Dislikes day-one patches and driver updates.
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