It’s fair to say that video game sequels can often become subjects of slander thanks to the many money-grabbing devs that prowl the industry. Sort of like getting a whiff of the pie after being served to the buyer — studios often resort to baking another one for the sake of it — even if the consumer is far from being starved. And as well as that can often go, it doesn’t always work wonders for the users buying the goods. Of course, it’s a cash flow that effortlessly lines the pockets of the creators regardless — but it can also come with a series of consequences too.
You could argue that video game sequels can either make or break a franchise. Where some games are built to be standalone experiences with nothing else to latch on to, others are destined to branch out with more subplots than you can shake a stick at. And it’s the latter that we’re honing in on for this list. We’re talking about the sequels that actually managed to surpass the original, as well as leave a lasting mark to behold. It’s these five sequels that we honestly think are better than the seasoned siblings.
5. Tony Hawk’s Underground
There’s no denying it — Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was (and still very much is) the best skateboarding series to ever grace the world of extreme sports. Or, at least the first two games are, anyway. After the global success of Pro Skater 2, however, the formula did start to grow a little stale, which eventually left a rather sour taste lingering on our tongues. The best-selling recipe just wasn’t cutting it anymore, and Neversoft needed to come up with something fresh to help win back the enormous player base. And that’s when Tony Hawk’s Underground rolled in, thankfully.
Introducing open-world levels with added core abilities (like being able to get off your board for example), Underground struck back with an exciting new concept that was still able to incorporate some of those beloved quirks that made the early Pro Skater entries tick. While keeping the flame alive with a spool of classic segments (like the hidden tapes), Neversoft was able to completely redesign the skateboarding platform and pave the way to bigger and bolder experiences.
4. Batman: Arkham City
After raking in the glory for producing one of the best open-world games to ever touch the superhero frontline, Rocksteady Studios knew they had to ramp things up a notch if they were to ever develop a sequel. And, true to their ambition — that’s exactly what they did. Even after Arkham Asylum went on to win GoTY (along with a bat-load of other awards), Arkham City was still able to surpass expectations and ultimately one-up the predecessor.
While Arkham Asylum did have an enormous amount of positives, there were a fair few things that both players and critics did resort to nit-picking. Like the whole game being restricted to one location, for example. And then, of course, there was the odd boss battle that ticked a few nerves over the skewiff mechanics and whatnot. However, when Arkham City came along — everything was tweaked to perfection. The city unravelled and allowed players to immerse like never before. The asylum was out of the picture — and all of Gotham suddenly turned into a playground fit for a Dark Knight.
3. Resident Evil 4
After ridding Racoon City of all its undead residents and otherworldly creatures, we sort of knew that a change of pace was in order if we were to stay entwined with the franchise. Zombies were becoming a little worn out, and Racoon City was becoming about as familiar as our own homes outside the game. Capcom needed to change course and plant roots elsewhere — somewhere we wouldn’t immediately recognise and sigh in disappointment after sinking into one of the familiar pairs of shoes.
While the first three Resident Evil chapters are a true credit to the survival horror world, there are a few things that needed changing after the third instalment sizzled out. Of course, the main two being the fixed camera and tedious controls that did spoil the immersion at the best of times. Luckily for us, Capcom practically reinvented the wheel when spinning Resident Evil 4 onto the board. The gridlocked cameras were out — the over-the-shoulder view was in. Throw in a compelling storyline and a boatload of action and you’ve got a complete resurrection of a decaying franchise.
2. Borderlands 2
Gearbox knuckled in on a truly mesmerizing concept when drawing up the initial Borderlands script. Of course, the idea of a shoot-and-loot experience with the addition of OTT storylines and wacky antics was always going to be a success in some form. And it was. Borderlands is and always will be a staple in the action genre, plain and simple. That being said, there are many things that Gearbox failed to include in the first game — all of which were correctly slotted in when the sequel finally rolled around.
Borderlands 2 proved to doubters that sequels don’t always have to be the bolt-on bucket that sponges off of the original cash cow. In fact, Gearbox took the first game and completely swapped out most things that made it great — only to make them even better the second time around. New characters, smoother gameplay, bigger worlds — and everything laced between. It all amounted to a far better experience that, in turn, left the eldest sibling burning apple red with envy.
1. Assassin’s Creed 2
Ubisoft tapped into one of the most promising concepts to ever spiral from the video game world with Assassin’s Creed. Rather than being able to serve up a standalone title and calling it quits once the curtain closed — the series essentially set the stage to last as long as the gaming kingpin allowed it to breathe. By holding the keys to all of history and having any era to toy with, Ubisoft practically built a lasting franchise that would go on to line their pockets for all eternity. And it all started with that 2007 debut.
While the first Assassin’s Creed game did bring a whole lot of realism to the table, there were still things that left us itching for something a little more unpredictable. Considering the whole of the first game consisted of traversing one city to the next with no real end goal other than to claim a slew of lives and have your gear returned to you — there really was a lot more that Ubisoft needed to experiment with. Thankfully, when it came to drawing up Assassin’s Creed 2 — that’s exactly what they did. Ezio Auditore was introduced, and the rest went down in history, forging an unforgettable timeline of absolute classics.