Not every number two has to be a stinker. In fact when it comes to video games, sequels are almost always bigger, better, and faster than their predecessors.
With so many truly strong sequels floating around the ether, it was almost impossible to nail down what (I consider to be) the 11 strongest, but that’s what I’ve done, and dissent and disagreement will almost certainly follow.
Before we jump in, honorable mentions include Assassin’s Creed II, Arkham City, Borderlands 2, Star Fox 64, Portal 2, Super Mario Bros 3, and Mario Kart 64 – like I said, there are a lot of good sequels out there.
Super Smash Bros Melee
Super Smash Bros on the N64 was an awesome little game that offered four player madness and a modest roster of Nintendo characters that allowed the likes of Pikachu, Link, and Mario to duke it out.
Super Smash Bros Melee on the GameCube took the Nintendocentric concept and produced a game of staggering size and content, drawing from every corner of Nintendo’s rich history.
Well known faces like Bowser, Zelda, and Yoshi joined the fray this time around, while obscure NES throwbacks such as Ice Climbers and Mr Game & Watch helped round out a generous roster of fighters, each with (for the most part) very different skills.
Easy to pick up and play, but with an astonishing level of hidden depth, Melee remains the Smash game of choice for many a gamer, with a competitive scene that remains strong, even 16 years after its release.
Resident Evil 2
How do you improve on the first Resident Evil? Do you attempt to simply imitate the claustrophobic and iconic Spencer Mansion setting?
Nope. Capcom took the ‘house of horrors’ concept for its zombie slayin’ sequel and spilled the ghastly contents of the nightmare abode onto the streets of Raccoon City for the first (and best) game about a citywide zombie outbreak.
The real beauty of this sequel is that it’s bigger, better, bolder, and madder, and yet Capcom still manage to evoke that feeling of dread.
You may well be out on the streets and away from the mansion, but that looming feeling that you’re trapped with no way out is as present as ever.
One of the most revered multiplayer games of all time, and a benchmark of LAN parties everywhere for years, Diablo II was – and still is – the best Diablo game.
Unlike Diablo III, the first sequel managed to improve on the excellent original in every way; polished, highly addictive, and damn-near perfect, Diablo II is responsible for many a broken mouse across the globe.
To be honest, I do suspect that Blizzard basically just decided Diablo II could never be topped, hence the fact that it’s 2012 follow-up was mostly forgettable rubbish.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
The first Uncharted game was a breathtaking cinematic romp that really showed off what the PlayStation 3 could do.
Its sequel didn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, but rather refined what was already there while giving us more of the same: More exotic locations to explore, more brilliant Nathan/Sully banter, and more gloriously over the top set pieces. Oh, and the excellent Claudia Black as Chloe – better than Elena? I’d say so. Fight me.
Remember how the game starts with Nathan climbing up a destroyed train hanging on the edge of the cliff? And remember how we eventually learn through flashbacks just how the train and Nathan came to be in that state? Yeah… what a fucking great game.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Okay, so The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is actually the third Zelda game, but A) that still counts as a sequel and B) it was a more conventional sequel when compared to the side-scrolling Adventure of Link for NES.
Not only did A Link to the Past return the franchise to its top down roots, but it also introduced many elements that remain a staple of Zelda to this day: A more linear approach to the story and world, dungeon-specific items, a light/dark world mechanic, and the introduction of the Master Sword.
This formulaic approach might have gotten stale over the years (hence Breath of the Wild’s promise to shake things up), but this SNES classic was a breath of fresh air at the time, streamlining what made the first Zelda great while offering a series of memorable and brilliantly designed dungeons stuffed with enemies, puzzles, and treasures.
BioShock 2 may not have the same phenomenal impact and shocking twists as its predecessor, but there’s still a hell of a lot to love when it comes to our return to Rapture.
Improved combat, new abilities, engaging multiplayer, and a markedly different antagonist to the original’s sinister Andrew Ryan all make for a sequel that was clearly not content to simply rest on the laurels of what had come before.
Oh, and you play as one BioShock’s hulking ‘Big Daddies’, driven by a singular desire to find your own ‘Little Sister’, leading to some really fucking harrowing moments that involve the harvest of mutant children. Lovely.
Left 4 Dead 2
Everything about the original Left 4 Dead is back in this brilliant sequel, which annoyingly isn’t called Left 5 Dead, which breaks my heart to this day.
Still, Left 4 Dead 2 does everything a sequel should, giving us more scenarios, more weapons, and way more undead scumbags to cut down with friends – as far as multiplayer zombie romps go, I’d say Left 4 Dead 2 (AKA Left 5 Dead) remains the cream of the crop.
Given Valve’s apparent fear of doing things in threes, it seems unlikely we’ll ever get another Left 4 Dead game, but that’s okay because the first sequel is still a ton of fun.
Let’s just ignore the fact that Halo 2’s abrupt ending was nothing short of a bitch slap in the face, and a stain on an otherwise excellent campaign.
Let’s instead focus on the fucking sublime multiplayer (both local and online) that saw countless weekends with mates fade away as we wasted hours screwing around with dual weapons, playing on some brilliantly designed maps, and shitting our pants every time we heard the gentle hum of an energy sword.
If the original Halo gave birth to the modern FPS, Halo 2 refined it into a perfect, accessible, and endlessly rewarding experience. Great work from Bungie.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
One of the greatest open world games of all time, and a revolutionary piece of work that remains a firm favourite and stone cold classic with gamers everywhere.
How were Rockstar to top Grand Theft Auto III’s kind-of-New-York? By recreating the 1980s and embracing all the gaudiness, brilliant music, and gangland violence of Miami during that time of course.
Vice City is proof, I think, that Rockstar are masters when it comes to creating an immersive, pitch perfect world to explore. Do you need more evidence? Go on then…
Red Dead Redemption
How many developers do you know that can do 80’s gangland and epic Western? Red Dead Redemption proved that Rockstar are way more than just GTA.
This gritty tale of death and, erm… redemption remains one of the greatest games of all time, and expanded on Red Dead Revolver in ways fans of Westerns could probably never have dreamed.
If the point of a game is to truly immerse you in the rile of a certain character or type of person, then the confidence and verve with which Rockstar crafted a vast old west sandbox for us to play in as cowboys is to be applauded.
You could hunt bounties, take part in duels, tame horses, save prostitutes with hearts of gold, and lasso bad guys to stop them from getting away – every time you pick up Red Dead Redemption you’re stepping into a fully realised, gorgeous world. No wonder everyone is so excited for the next one.
For my money, Pokemon Gold/Silver serve as the perfect example of how to do a sequel properly, and remain the high watermark against which I will continue to judge every new Pokemon game.
That is, at least until one of the newer games even tries to offer me the same level of content that these ancient GameBoy games managed to cram in to a single cartridge.
See, on top of your standard eight gyms/Elite Four/catch a butt-load of Pokemon journey, you eventually unlock access to the entire Kanto region from the original games, where you’ll find more Pokemon, eight more gyms, and an eventual final battle with your character from the first game.
Throw in the night/day system, time based events, the fact that the concept of catching ’em all was still an achievable feat rather than the folly of a madman, and the innovative ability to import your ‘mon from Red/Blue, and we have one hell of a game.
As great as every subsequent Pokemon game has been, I’m always disappointed that they’re not quite as good as Gold & Silver.
Agree? Disagree? Like I said before we all went on this crazy ride together, there are so many fantastic sequels out there (because that’s kind of the point of a sequel I guess).
With that said, there are more than a few truly shitty sequels floating about in the great toilet of the world, but we’ll get to them in due time.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.