Happy Thursday and welcome to another edition of The Top 5! This week, I asked the crew what their favorite sequels were. Predictably, everyone had their own definition of what a sequel is, but I myself allowed for a much looser definition of the required Top 5. What we have is an interesting list that’s got overlaps from time to time and even callbacks to games of old. What games were these? Find out now on this week’s list of The Top 5: Sequels!
5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
There’s a reason why many people love Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. For one, it is the perfect realization of the ideas that they set forth with the first Uncharted title, blending the cover based shooting elements of games such as Gears of War with the exploration and often supernatural elements of the original Tomb Raider trilogy. It was released during a time when developers were just exploring the abundant use of set pieces for both storytelling and gameplay and the many ideas that made it to Uncharted 2 helped ensure that whoever played the game would have an amazingly memorable experience.
4. Mass Effect 2
Sure, Bioware stripped the game of many of its RPG mechanics and made the shooting a lot tighter, but what it gained was a brand new cast of characters that not only helped expand the universe but also added a lot more substance and context to the day to day lives of everyone living in that era. The plot twists, coupled with the often ambiguous nature of the moral choices you’d have to make, made for some entertaining playthroughs (yes, playthroughs) and moreso than any game in the series, the flow of the story and the pace of the action felt right. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt bored while playing Mass Effect 2, and even the slower parts fare much better in terms of entertainment than similar moments in either Mass Effect or Mass Effect 3.
3. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
After the disappointment that was Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, I was ready to write off the entire Metal Gear Solid series as a fluke. But for some reason, here comes Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and it not only exceeded my expectations, but also bested the original Metal Gear Solid as my favorite Metal Gear Solid title of all time. Not even Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots held a candle to this game. Featuring a rogues gallery of memorable boss characters strewn about a James Bond-esque themed landscape, Metal Gear Solid 3 had everything the original had and so much more. And that ending… wow. Just thinking about it makes me feel Snake’s plight and gives the appropriate context to his actions in the original Metal Gear titles for the MSX.
2. Final Fantasy VI
While not a true sequel to previous Final Fantasies, Final Fantasy VI elaborates on the customization offered in Final Fantasy V and separates abilities from jobs and classes and ties them with summons called Espers. This allows for an interesting amount of customizability, grafting abilities permanently onto characters as it helped usher an era of Final Fantasy titles where you’re able to create your character in however fashion you want. The steam punk theme is also one that’s unique to the series, bridging the gap between the medieval Final Fantasies and giving them more of a science fiction flair with just a hint of fantasy. It’s also got a memorable cast with moments that will go down in video game history as some of the most ruthless to the most emotionally resonant. And let’s not forget one important thing: the bad guy wins.
1. Persona 4 Golden
Up until this pick, some of the choices I’ve made for the Top 5 have been a combination of actual sequels to games or follow ups to numbered games in a series. Funny, as it seems, but Persona 4 probably wouldn’t have been a part of this list had we created this many years ago. Persona 4, while it acknowledged that it shared a universe with Persona 3, wasn’t a true sequel to Persona 3. However, thanks to the canonical releases of Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Ultimax, both Persona 3 and Persona 4 universes now have a shared storyline and one that we may or may not see continued in the upcoming Persona 5. But I digress.
I’ve lauded enough praises before to Persona 4 to fill a review or two. The synergy between the gameplay, your friendships, and the storyline, mixed with the feeling of living in a small town, sets it apart from many JRPGs released over the past several years. It’s simple: a serial murder mystery set in a small town that makes every small encounter you have with any of its residents so intimate that you feel invested in not only the resolution of the mystery, but also for the well being of every single person in that community. That’s more feels than being told to save the entire world from an evil that’s somehow supposed to make things worse for people. But again, I digress.
Persona 4 Golden is, for all intents and purposes, an elaboration and an extension of the events of the original Persona 4 and delivers so much more fun events, memories, added gameplay elements, and storyline for fans of the original. Is it a sequel to Persona 4? Not really, but what it does really well is take an existing concept and really iron out many of its faults – which aren’t many to begin with. I bought a Vita just for this game, and I’m happy to say that it’s well worth my initial investment.
Persona 4 is, barnone, one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. The fact that Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Ultimax connects both Persona 3 and Persona 4 together makes this a legit addition to this list.
Narrowing down my choices this week was not easy. There are so many amazing sequels out there, many of which are a part of long running franchises. Considering the likes of Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and The Elder Scrolls have each produced multiple titles worthy of this list, settling on a list of only five games left the cutting room floor littered with gold.
It should come as no surprise that I’d like to list off a variety of honorable mentions this week. Here they are! Um Jammer Lammy, Street Fighter IV, Grand Theft Auto (III, IV, V, San Andreas, Vice City), Final Fantasy (VI, VII, X), Dragon Quest (III, IV, VIII, IX), Assassin’s Creed II, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Halo 2, Super Mario (World, 64, Galaxy), The Elder Scrolls (III: Morrowind, IV: Oblivion), Call of Duty (2, 4: Modern Warfare), The Legend of Zelda (A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Super Metroid, Diablo II, Phantasy Star (II, IV: The End of the Millennium), Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, Warcraft (II, III), StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, Guitar Hero II, Rock Band 3, Half-life 2, Portal 2, Torchlight II, Saints Row 2 and countless others amazing sequels. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface here.
Whew. Now on to the list proper:
5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The only reason this didn’t place more highly on the list is that we pretty much knew what to expect from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim before it was released. The groundwork had already been laid by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and it’s hard to say that Skyrim is really that much better. Then again, Oblivion was and is a phenomenal game, so even minor improvements are a big deal in this case.
Skyrim has many: the massive open world filled with hand-crafted dungeons, the radiant quest system, dual-wielding spells, the excellent optional quest chains and the dragons—oh, the dragons! Man, this is one game that’s hard to write about, because every time I do, I just want to play it.
4. Suikoden II
As one of my favorite RPGs of all time, Suikoden II practically makes this list by default. As a sequel, it’s got everything: a bigger world, a more interesting cast, a stronger storyline, an unbelievably cruel villain, better strategy battles, and of course, an amazing castle to house your army of 108 unique characters. We need more games like this one!
3. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
I wouldn’t be surprised to see this at the top of Ted’s list. I cannot overstate the importance and impact of Street Fighter II. Despite being in every arcade worth visiting, it was often difficult to get a chance to play because there were almost always people playing it throughout the day. We had to line up our quarters to claim a place in line, and hope that we survived long enough to play a couple of matches before becoming overwhelmed by an inevitable and quite insurmountable new challenger.
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior defined the fighting games genre like no other game before or since. Calling it an incredible sequel is the least of the praise it deserves.
2. Super Mario Bros. 3
Ever seen The Wizard, with Fred Savage? If you were a kid growing up in the 80s, I bet you did. It was one of the few movies that predominantly featured video games, and towards the end of the movie, something incredible happened. Jimmy Woods, having successfully reached the finals in the Video Armageddon tournament, found out that he would have to play a brand new game that no one had ever played before during the last round. And so, I, and hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of young gamers witnessed the glory that was Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time.
It was incredible. The graphics! The level design! The paragoombas! The super leaf! The world map! The warp whistle! I can’t possible express in words how amazing this moment was for me. It became my life’s ambition to own a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 as soon as it was released in North America, and fortunately, I would not have to wait long—though in kid terms, it took ages. And though I already knew it would be an amazing game, it still exceeded every one of my expectations. It is truly one of the greatest sequels of all time.
1. Final Fantasy IV
Growing up as a gamer, Final Fantasy IV (otherwise known as Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo in North America) was one of those rare games that occupied my mind completely throughout my school days. Every waking second that I couldn’t be playing it, I wished that I could. It was that incredible, and I played through it from start to finish over 20 times.
Final Fantasy IV represented a significant step forward for role playing games in several ways. It told a deep, compelling storyline—far more elaborate than anything I had yet experienced as a gamer—and featured a cast of very well developed and interesting characters. It also introduced the Active Time Battle system (ATB), which added a layer of action and urgency to combat that wasn’t present in the turn based system used in most other RPGs at the time.
I could have easily placed Final Fantasy VI, VII or even X in this spot, as I had similar experiences with each of them pulling me away from life’s responsibilities as well. But Final Fantasy IV will always be the game that I remember most fondly from my youth, and as a sequel, I can think of no better.
noun ˈsē-kwəl also -ˌkwel
: a book, movie, etc., that continues a story begun in another book, movie, etc.
With this definition, my list is going to be proper sequels, as opposed to new games in the franchise so you won’t see any Grand Theft Auto, or Final Fantasy games listed.
5. Mass Effect 2
Nothing in Mass Effect could have prepared me for what Mass Effect 2 would actually turn out to be. While the de-emphasis of RPG elements was slightly disappointing, nearly ever other aspect of the game was overhauled and improved. Combat was much more satisfying, the storytelling was much deeper, with more variables and paths, and the side characters were much more interesting and fun to talk to, coupled with the fact that not only had my choices from the previous game carried over, but also my Commander Shepard as well.
Having seemingly optional Loyalty Missions and ship upgrades play right into the ending the player received was a fantastic mechanic (everyone survived for me) that made replaying the game much less of a slog than most RPGs can be.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is in a unique place being on my list as it’s the first game in the Elder Scrolls series I have actually played. And while I haven’t played any of the previous Elder Scrolls games, Skyrim does an excellent job of cluing newcomers like myself in on the world of Nirn, and more specifically Tamriel. The conflicts amongst species and factions are well articulated and easy to understand. The history of the world is rich with little details and full of lore to discover and learn about. Not to mention that the game is a blast to play. I’ve always had an affinity for RPGs, and Skryim is my all-time favourite. And, you know, dragons.
3. Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil was a revelation to me. As a huge fan of horror, and more specifically, zombies, playing the first Resident Evil blew my mind. Fast forward to Resident Evil 2, the game, like all good sequels, expands upon the story and gameplay, offering one of the most memorable experiences in gaming I have ever had. Making it even better was the ability to play the game 4 different times and get a different perspective. Too bad they never adopted this system again, though.
2. Portal 2
Yet another example of Valve expanding on their foundations and creating something truly special. While Portal is a brilliant game in and of itself, Portal 2 takes those mechanics and story elements and fleshes them out to a remarkable degree. The world of Aperture Science is given depth, history, humor and personality, while making the story a character in its own right. Add in the fact that the core puzzle mechanics are expanded in truly ingenious ways, it’s hard to argue that Portal 2 isn’t one of the best sequels of all time.
1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
For me, Uncharted 2 is the epitome of what a video game sequel should be. It takes the characters and mechanics of the previous game and expands and improves upon them while adding new elements to the gameplay. From the opening moments of the game to the closing moments of the game, everything in Uncharted 2 is just flat out better than Drake’s Fortune. I have written about my love for this game several times, even naming it my number one game of the last generation. For me, Uncharted 2 is as close to perfect as possible.
5. Super Mario Brothers 3
Dude, do you even remember how much stuff there was in this game? All the wacky suits and power ups? Do you remember the giant world and how awesome the giant world was? The secrets like ducking on the white box for a few seconds? Remember the cool airship levels? Mario 3 was just packed chock full of stuff. Lots of stuff. Fun stuff. It’s hard to say if it felt like a Mario game because Mario 1 had been the only Mario game up to that point. but we accept it that it does feel that way and it’s awesome.
4. Fallout 3
After Oblivion, Bethesda was probably going to work on another Elder Scrolls game. I mean, they did eventually. But resurrecting the beloved Fallout franchise and defiling it by making it first-person? However, Fallout 3 introduced the post-apocalyptic role playing game to a whole new generation of players. It’s also easy to forget that Fallout 3 was the first time publishers had tried to make mid-size DLC available. 5 pieces came out at $10 a pop, each taking 3-6 hours to complete. It was a unique strategy at the time, but it’s now commonplace, where we’ve seen it in Batman titles, Borderlands, and many others.
3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The original Deus Ex has achieved mythical status as a cerebral FPS that let you play in your desired fashion. After a lackluster sequel in Invisible War, Eidos Montreal went to try and catch lightning in a bottle by releasing Deus Ex: Human Revolution after working on it for several years. Amazingly, it managed to live up to the shadow created by its predecessor, with some decently intelligent writing. The recently released Director’s Cut fixes issues with boss fights requiring firepower, and integrates all of the game’s DLC more seamlessly into the main adventure. It was a herculean feat to try to stand next to the shoulders of giants, but Human Revolution succeeds.
2. Halo 2
Most hyped sequel of all time? Maybe. An IGN writer once said that a Microsoft PR rep told him “This is the most important game you will ever review.” But for Xbox owners, the hype was real: Xbox Live was a fun service, but they needed a Halo to play it on, and Halo wasn’t going to be re-released with Live support. Halo 2 came out and delivered in a way that no one expected; instead of a traditional server and game browser, Halo 2 let you pick a playlist and jump into a match. Highly controversial at the time, this has become the de-facto standard for console-based matchmaking. A set of several memorable maps, including Zanzibar, and the debut of the always-fun Plasma Sword rounded out what ended up being a solid package. Let’s forget about that ending, though.
1. Street Fighter II
Street Fighter II reinvigorated the arcade scene the likes of which today’s kids would have a lot of trouble believing, and created a new genre that is beloved by many people to this very day. The original Street Fighter was kind of a clunky game, with the 6-button layout only added later in the game’s life; it used two pressure sensitive buttons for punch and kick that had a propensity to break. Street Fighter II was much smoother, and launched many a discussion on whether Guile or Ryu was the best character in the game. Of course, over its many revisions, Guile was nerfed to bejeezus and back. Street Fighter II was a revolutionary game in an industry that doesn’t see too many of them any more.
What an interesting set of lists! Who would’ve thought that Street Fighter II would show up on this list twice? Do you have a favorite sequel or sequels? Sound them off on the comments below and tell us! Better yet, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can read it on the air!