From Fallout 3 To BioShock Infinite: Video Game Follow-Ups That Sidestep Sequelitis

bioshock infinite copy From Fallout 3 To BioShock Infinite: Video Game Follow Ups That Sidestep Sequelitis

When video game critic Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw proposed that developers should be banned from ever making a sequel to their games, many people would have nodded at their screens in quiet, contemplative agreement. By not allowing studios to create a franchise, you force them to come up with original ideas for each title. Ergo, video game sequels become a thing of the past.

It’s a good idea in principle, as it prevents the market from being saturated with a series of games that are either hit and miss or just don’t add anything to the original story. When a game has three, four or even more sequels under its belt, the gaming world ceases to be amazed and may even look at the franchise as nothing more than a cash cow that everyone thought had dried up two final bosses ago.

But in that bland, stale bowl of gaming cereal, there are a few tasty bits of sequel marshmallow that are not only met with huge praise, but can even outdo the original in terms of fan appreciation and sales.

See, developers can’t always be sure that their games are going to succeed. Once a title has been released, it’s up to the public and the press to decide its ultimate fate. If a studio is relatively new, it’s going to be difficult to know how well a product will turn out. A sequel allows them to appease fans by continuing a story, adding features based on feedback or even just using the success of the original game to create something more spectacular.

The following list is testament to games that utilize the sequel as a force for good rather than using the generic formula: title + number = easy profit.


6) Quake 2

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Though it didn’t score as highly as its predecessor, id Software’s sequel to the hugely popular FPS game Quake was a massive hit, becoming the most played online title in 1998. It did something that not many sequels have been able to do, it became a separate game in its own right by re-inventing itself and diverging away from the horror element that made the original so special.

After designer John Romero left the company in 1996, id lost one of its most creative innovators. The man was responsible for helping to shape the modern FPS game and inspiring a generation of developers across the world. So with Romero out of the picture, how could Quake 2 hope to make an impact on the gaming community? Simple: by distancing itself from its predecessor.

By changing tact completely and focusing on a more action-oriented approach, rather than the horror aspect of the original, Quake 2 avoided the rookie mistake of being compared to previous, more successful titles and losing out almost by proxy. By doing this, the game was able to stand on its own merits.

Quake 2 may be a sequel in name only, but it didn’t completely sever ties to its ancestors, utilizing sound effects from Quake and re-introducing Doom‘s famous BFG weapon as a nod to the game’s (and developer’s) roots. You can definitely say that fans were pleased with this one.

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5) Portal 2

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When the original Portal became a smash hit, it was inevitable that a sequel was inbound. The game quickly amassed a huge following that left people wanting much more, so Valve had no choice but to put out a follow-up. The story, set in Aperture Science and featuring the dry, sadistic humour of the facility’s AI computer GlaDOS, was too good to leave alone. Fans absolutely adored it and to not expand on the game’s universe and characters would have been foolish.

When Portal 2 was announced, however, there were two schools of thought. On the one hand, it meant the small puzzle game that piggy-backed on The Orange Box was getting its own, full-fledged sequel — allowing diehard fans to rejoice. However, as pleasing as that news was, we were left to wonder how Valve could possibly stretch a three hour game into something that would easily last four times that length without getting repetitive or being spread too thin.

Fortunately, Valve – being Valve – pulled it off and the end result was a critically acclaimed successor to the original Portal. With a fresh story, new characters, imaginative puzzle rooms and a triumphant return of the game’s protagonist and antagonist, it certainly made fans take a step back, stroke their chins in pleasant contemplation and think, “This. This is how you do sequels.”

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4) System Shock 2

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There are some games whose sequels are so well-received that the original can be all but forgotten about. System Shock 2 is just such a game. Though the original System Shock is considered very influential, particularly in terms of its gameplay design and its 3D engine, its sequel is held up as a much superior product.

The second instalment’s success probably had something to do with Ken Levine and Irrational Games (of BioShock fame) co-creating it. Retrospectively, it’s easy to look back at System Shock 2 and see where BioShock‘s influence came from, but even at the time of its release it was considered a huge success.

System Shock 2 took home seven Game Of The Year prizes, citing its engaging story, role-playing elements and horror atmosphere as something to unanimously applaud. The first System Shock may have left its mark on the world, but the sequel took it a step further by influencing a whole genre of video games.

Despite only selling around 58,000 copies (just over a third of what System Shock sold), the game is still considered a landmark in the FPS genre nearly 15 years after its release.

When a sequel can outshine the original despite poor sales, you know you have something that can transcend mere commercial success and stand the test of time as a truly astonishing achievement.

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3) BioShock Infinite

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Of course, you can’t mention Ken Levine and Irrational Games without name-dropping BioShock. When the original game was first released back in 2007, it became instantly recognized as one of the most important entries into the genre. It was – for lack of a better phrase – a work of art, taking everything the studio had learnt from System Shock 2 and upping the ante by utilizing the explosion of current-gen technology.

What’s interesting about BioShock Infinite is that it isn’t the second game in the series, it’s the third. Why didn’t we mention BioShock 2, then? Well, because quite frankly, it just didn’t match up to the original game.

Created by a different development team all together (2K Games), the second entry into the series took the unique design of BioShock and only made a slightly different game from the perspective of a different character (a prototype Big Daddy, of all things). It was obvious that it couldn’t stack up to the original. Though it was still met with positive reviews, BioShock 2 was evidently missing that certain spark.

And so, BioShock Infinite saw a return of Ken Levine and Irrational Games and the result was something that completely turned the gaming world on its head. With a beautifully crafted world, a superior storyline, strong character development and one hell of an ending (seen below), it did the impossible by proving that a threequel can outshine a poor continuation of a game that was already considered near-perfect.

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2) Fallout 3

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The original Fallout series will always be a fond memory for PC gamers of the 90s. There are many diehard fans who will forever hold it up as a pillar of prowess and excellence. One of its sequels, Fallout 3, gets a special mention on this list because it took everything that made the original game so great and gave it that much needed revamp. It re-invented the feel and look of the series by taking immense advantage of current gaming technology, something that just wasn’t available to developers back in the late 1990s.

While it did contain some bugs upon release, this was simply just evidence that the Fallout series was a much bigger experience than originally anticipated. The story was large and convoluted and the world itself was immense. While fans of the original may still cling to Fallout and Fallout 2 and regard them highly, there’s no denying that the developers of Fallout 3 saw something extremely ambitious in the original post-apocalyptic RPG formula, before giving it a 21st Century re-imagining that illustrated just how far the medium has progressed over the years.

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1) Half-Life 2

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Perhaps it was a little unfair to list successful sequels to games that were already considered pretty good anyways. But chances are, games that are poorly received tend not to go much further. Sequels to these titles also tend to be equally as weak, or are released rather subtly under the radar. Conversely, it’s very easy for a sequel to be met with poor reception, particularly when compared to the success of the original.

This is why this topic is critical. It shows that no matter how amazing a game is, there are always opportunities to improve on it or take it a step further.

Half-Life is a special title because it was the very first game developed by Valve. Back then, nobody had heard of them. But the release of their most popular product to date shot them to overnight success, and they’ve been on top ever since.

Then they went and did it again in 2004. But it was harder this time, because everyone already expected them to produce a quality game that would hopefully outshine its predecessor (which, at this point was already considered one of the most influential games of all time – a tough act to follow). And if you don’t deliver, your reputation takes a nose-dive.

Half-Life 2 not only proved that a sequel can be successful, but that it could receive more praise than its predecessor. With 39 Game Of The Year awards and an entry in the Guinness Book Of Records for “Highest Rated Shooter by PC Gamer Magazine,” it blew the competition out of the water and has secured its spot as one of the most successful sequels in modern gaming history.

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  • Ryan Kosior

    No Mass Effect 2? I’d even go as far as to put it at the top of this list (yes, even above the extremely overrated half-life 2)