It’s a general rule of thumb, in the movie world as well as the gaming arena, that the sequel to a film or game is usually not as good as the first. This can be seen every day: Iron Man 2 is not as good as Iron Man, Final Fantasy X-2 is not as good as Final Fantasy X, no CoD game has been as good as Modern Warfare, and so on. However, for every Predator 2, there is an Aliens, and the same goes for games. What I will attempt to do here is list the five games that I think were better than the games that preceded them – the 5 gaming sequels that blew the prequels away.
Now, this is my opinion, so please feel free to disagree, but in no particular order, these are the franchises that have got better as they have got older.
Final Fantasy VIII
I expect this one to cause the most uproar.
As much as I loved FF7, I feel that as a game, Final Fantasy VIII outclassed it in every way. It had better graphics, it had a better story, it didn’t have a boring section in the middle of the game when we were lost in Cloud’s memories – or whatever that bit was. I mean, I get that the story had to be explained, but did it have to be so dull?
Even the opening sequence beats the one in FF7, as the chase through town, and trying to defeat the big tank thing before the run is over makes it a lot of fun.
You can add to that the fact that Squall’s GunBlade is way cooler than Cloud’s Buster Sword, and the companions, while not as memorable as Tifa or Barrett, are still pretty cool and don’t grate on the nerves the way that some RPG characters can. Yep, here’s me looking at you, Dagger!
While very few games have been able to evoke the emotional response of Aerith’s death at the end of Disc 1 of FF7, the dance scene in FF8, where Squall and Rinoa meet and start to fall in love, has also stayed with me. Add to this imaginative boss fights, like where Rinoa is embedded into a sorceress, and we have to avoid hurting her while defeating the boss, incredibly good looking (for the time) summon animations and screen filling Limit Break attacks, and I honestly believe that FF8 outclasses FF7.
Back in 2009, Gearbox brought the looter shooter to the gaming public, with the release of the original Borderlands. In 2012, they upped the ante with the release of Borderlands 2, which was lootier, shootier and featured a whole new cast of characters.
In a nod to the past, the heroes from the first game had become almost part of the establishment of Pandora, and we have to recruit them to our cause as we try to defeat Handsome Jack. And Jack, in my opinion, is one of the best villains I’ve ever fought against in a game, from his mocking ECHO communications about “Butt Stallion” and so on, to the enemies from the Hyperion Corporation he sends against us. Even the robots have a sense of humour, shouting about being hurt as they are whittled down, and gloating as they kill the heroes.
To paraphrase Spinal Tap, Borderlands 2 is Borderlands turned up to 11, and the DLC pieces that were released for the game were the cherry on the top. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is, to this day, one of the best designed DLC packs I’ve played – with one of the best Borderlands characters – with Dark Souls references and a deeper storyline about Tina dealing with Roland’s death, it is surprisingly touching and a great deal of fun.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil, or Biohazard as it was called when I first played it, was a game changer. Even my Japanese import copy of the game, requiring me to whip the disk out and swap it as the Playstation booted, and with all the text being in Japanese couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this new style of game. This “Survival Horror”.
Imagine my joy then when Resident Evil 2 was launched, on two disks and including two different stories.
Introducing us to Leon S. Kennedy, and Claire Redfield, sister of Chris from the first game, the story was mind blowing. Running through the game, shooting zombies or even dashing past them (I actually played Leon’s campaign so much I had the timing for the zombies pretty much down pat), and the amount of times I completed this game, made it one of my all time favourites.
The rest of the overhaul found in RE2 was just as impressive. The alligator boss fight was so much better than the snake in the first game, and the Tyrant that was ordered to hunt down the surviving S.T.A.R.S. members set the template for the Nemesis in the third game, and so on. Who can forget seeing the Licker in the cutscene that first time?
Only the dogs coming through the window in the original Resident Evil managed to bring a bigger jump scare. With the newly remade Resident Evil 2 now available to also have a go at, the genius of this game is now available to a whole new generation.
If you haven’t played Resident Evil 2, go and do so now!
Dark Souls 3
While nothing comes close to the gameplay perfection that is the original Dark Souls game, I found the second a little, well, dull.
The graphics were muddy, the exploration felt forced and I ended up stuck, with half my health available, with the choice of two bosses to fight, both of whom were stomping me in my weakened state.
Now, I accept that this is not wholly the games fault, I should have “got gud” but the fact remains that I gave up on the game, and didn’t ever feel the need to go back to it.
Fast forward to the release of Dark Souls 3, and it was a completely different beast. This was the first Souls game that I ever completed, all the way to the end and even including the optional boss, on his stupid dragon. This game was so different from the second; it flowed, I never felt lost and the story and the gameplay hooked me and refused to let me go. Charging around, killing bosses and feeling like a total badass has stayed with me from that day to this, and I also dived straight back into NG+ when I’d finished.
To me, the third entry of Dark Souls outshone the second in every department and, in my opinion, Dark Souls 3 is second in the series, only to the first.
Forza Horizon 4
There’s no doubt about it… Forza Horizon 3 was a masterpiece, what with the Australian setting, the sun, and the Outback to generally hoon about in. It really was an excellent game, and the follow up would need to be something special to top it.
Luckily, it was!
Setting Forza Horizon 4 in Britain was a stroke of genius, and being able to drive and speed around real places that I had been to made the game almost perfect in my eyes. Driving around the streets of Edinburgh, buying Edinburgh Castle where I’ve been going to since I was a small boy, was like gaming nirvana. With the addition of the seasons mechanic, with snow, rain and all the other traditional British weather elements being included just added another layer of Britishness for me.
Racing through the countryside, in a clapped out old Land Rover was just like watching an old episode of Top Gear, and only needed Clarkson to yell “Pooooweeeeeeer!” as I slid through a fence and off the edge of a cliff to make it perfect.
And to seal the deal, having people with proper British accents in the game was a nice change too – as let’s be honest, the only British accents we normally hear come from the mouth of a baddie or Ms. Lara Croft!
So, there we have it… my 5 votes for games where the sequel is better than the original. There were more I could have added; the Tomb Raider games got better and better until the awful Angel of Darkness, and just recently after the reboot they have continued to get better and better again. The Forza Motorsport games are another good example, whilst the Dead or Alive series could well be included along with many more. But hey, which game sequels do you think deserve a place on the list? Am I alone in thinking FF8 was better than FF7? Let me know in the comments!