The best sequels take an experience that is already established and improve upon it, resulting in something even more enjoyable– some prime examples are The Dark Knight to Batman Begins, or Super Mario Galaxy 2 to Super Mario Galaxy. Here are some of Nintendojo staff’s favorite video game sequels.
The two nearest and dearest to my heart come from a genre not known for actual storyline sequels. GameCube wasn’t known for its role playing, but in 2004 its owners got two pretty good ones from what was then called Namco: Tales of Symphonia and Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. I’m not sure that anyone reasonably thought that either of these games would get any sort of follow-up, so to see now that both of them did is really something to appreciate. To that end, I want to give props to the two games which carried forth the torch on those two nice GameCube franchises.
Baten Kaitos Origins was a GameCube prequel — how many of those do you ever see? — and it remains one of my favorite games of all time. Monolith Soft took the first game and essentially improved on it in every conceivable way. The graphics improved, the music got better (something most would say was not possible), the voice acting improved markedly (thanks to Nintendo handling localization), the combat system was much more fun, and a lot of the annoying quirks and bugs were fleshed out. The plotline packed a ton of punch for those who played the first Baten Kaitos and the ending created a literal explosion of speculation on the GameFAQs message board. Nintendo must have seen that the guys at Monolith Soft knew their stuff, because they subsequently bought a majority stake in the company and turned them loose on Xenoblade, which released to rave reviews in Japan earlier this year.
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World landed on Wii and was admittedly a controversial title. Namco Bandai took that whole “let’s do a spinoff on Wii” approach that irritates us all so much, so although the storyline follows the GameCube game the combat system mashes up Tales-style action combat and monsters as supporting party members. This sequel is not perfect, and is probably on the whole not as good as the first game. At the same time, it wasn’t some lazy cash-in, either: it’s 60 hours long, has a lengthy plot, and actually sports some pretty good graphics, including the use of motion capture to craft the game’s cutscenes. I personally appreciated just getting a chance to see all those characters one more time and finding out what happened after the credits rolled on the first Symphonia. Plus, in addition to its virtues fleshing out the Symphonia storyline, it also has the distinction of being one of the best JRPGs in Wii’s piddly role-playing library. With any luck, Namco Bandai will give us Tales of Graces, too.
Sequels are a staple of video games, and indeed, all media, but it’s a rare sequel that surpasses the original. It takes something like The Empire Strikes Back or Spider-Man 2 to show us that even something great can become even greater.
There are a couple of game sequels that spring immediately to mind. First is Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Though technically a prequel, Castlevania III disregarded the achievements of its immediate predecessor — no slouch in the sequel department, itself — and made itself the ultimate version of the original Castlevania. Not only could you play as barbarian hero Trevor, magic-user Sypha, acrobat Nasty Grant, and even Dracula’s estranged son, who could actually change into a bat and use the traditional vampire fireball attack. Coupled with some great level design and rocking music — which sounded even better if you played the Japanese version, Castlevania III is possible the greatest game in the series, depending on how you feel about linear levels.
Another sequel that made its name known — and I don’t really need to tell you this — is The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. It took everything about 3D and everything about Zelda and made it ten times better. No wonder it’s seen nearly as many remakes as any other game, including the upcoming 3D version. This work of art embraced both freedom and linearity in several ways, and cemented many concepts of the Zelda mythos, including music themes and magic items stil used in current series entries. Not to mention establishing how a 3D action-adventure game would work. Ocarina of Time is a true masterpiece, and this is from someone who never owned an N64. It’s gonna be a long while before we see another sequel this good.
I’m just not good at picking favorites, no matter the category. With sequels, so many games flood my mind — like Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Tecmo Super Bowl, and LostWinds 2. Honestly, I could probably go on forever. As such, I’ve chosen two games from two totally different generations to illustrate my love for the sequel.
First, you have to give props to the the NES classic, Mega Man II. The Blue Bomber’s second go-around included some of the best video game music ever, along with killer level designs and fantastic bosses — I still love disposing of Metal Man. Capcom literally improved on every aspect of the first game, and this sequel rocketed the Mega Man franchise into the upper echelon of gaming greatness. (Sadly, Capcom also shot the series back down by becoming a little too sequel happy.)
Speaking of greatness, it doesn’t get much better than Super Mario Galaxy 2. Mario’s second entry into space may be my favorite Mario game of all time. You’re constantly uncovering something new and interacting with environments in fun ways. You may be riding Yoshi at exhilarating speeds in one level, while the next planet has you running away from Mario clones as you hop from platform to platform. The creativity and imagination present in this sequel is truly astounding, and once again proves why Nintendo is top dog when it comes to game development.
This has the potential to be a very heated round table. Not only are the best sequels debatable, it is also debatable what a sequel is. For instance, I don’t consider Ocarina of Time to be a sequel. I also don’t consider Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Uncharted 2 to be better than their predecessors. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Majora’s Mask, the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, has to be one of the best sequels of all time. Unlike SMG2, it didn’t just take the original game and toss in new levels and bosses. Majora’s Mask completely changed the way Zelda had to be played.
Time played a bigger role in Majora’s Mask than it did in Ocarina of Time. You could speed it up, slow it down, or even go back in time. Not only that, but Link only had 3 days to save Termaina. While OoT did have more dungeons, MM introduced the mask mechanic, which allowed Link to transform into a Zoron, Deku kid, and a Goron, among other things, to save the world. No Zelda title before or since had a huge emphasis on sidequests or character development. Those are just a few of the reasons as to why it is one of the best sequels ever.
BUT I’M NOT DONE YET!!!! I’ve said what I needed to say about MM and now I will move on to two more of the best sequels ever. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic & Knuckles took the Sonic formula and made it better in every way. Longer levels, great music and new special stages helped these titles be the gems they are. I could go one step further, and say that Sonic 3 & Knuckles is really one game (it was originally intended to be, and throw that to the list of best sequels ever. Alone, Sonic 3 was weak, but once locked on with S&K, S3&K was the ultimate Sonic experience. Too bad Sonic 4 is going to fall short of the greatness of S3&K.
I’ll likely be burned at the stake by my fellow staffers as a heretic, but I don’t view Majora’s Mask as the brightest spot in Legend of Zelda‘s illustrious history– really, I just became easily irked with the gameplay. I also distinctly remember the brightly colored pipes puzzle that frustrated my friend to the point where he tore the game out of his system and threw it under his bed, never to be seen again.
Really, it’s difficult to rate a sequel as ‘best’ given the outstanding franchises that exist on Nintendo systems, often from the Big N themselves. With that in mind, I’ll just go with my current favorite, being Super Mario Galaxy 2. While I don’t believe it’s necessarily better than its predecessor, it certainly lives up to the incredibly high standard that it had set, and in such a manner is by no means worse. Playing as Yoshi is a blast, and the ‘faceship’ is a neat concept that I hope crops up in new games in the great franchise.
Truthfully, one could have a list a mile long of excellent sequels on Nintendo systems. But as for the best? That’s definitely a daunting task, a challenge I admit I’m too cowardly to confront.