Solo Gamer Reviews

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Top 5 Best & Worst Video Game Sequels - Page 2

Video games tend to obey different rules than movies. While movie sequels are rarely as good as their predecessors, video game sequels tend to be improvements. There are plenty of reasons for this, but sufficed to say, there are also plenty of exceptions. That's why this list will celebrate the best while shaming the worst that video game sequels have to offer.

The rules for this list are as follows: 1) the game has to be the second installment in a series (though there is some wiggle room, as we shall see); 2) the original game has to have been at least a relatively decent game (this is why you won't find Street Fighter II on this list, despite the fact that it is arguably the best video game sequel of all time); 3) the game has to have been out for at least a couple of years (sadly, that means no Mass Effect 2); and 4) both the original and sequel have to be games I have played. Using those rules, here are the five best and the five worst.

Final Fantasy ii / iv
3. Final Fantasy II
(a.k.a. Final Fantasy IV)

Okay, so it took a little fudging to give Final Fantasy II a spot on this list, because strictly speaking, it's not the second installment in the franchise. In fact, it's Final Fantasy IV. In the days of the NES (and before the Internet), few here in America were aware that Final Fantasy, the definitive RPG of that era, had already spawned two sequels in Japan. Thus, when Final Fantasy II was released for the Super Nintendo, most of us believed that it was the immediate successor to Final Fantasy. All confusion aside, the game is a startling improvement over the original. The sequel had strong characters, a now-obligatory-but-then-unheard-of summon system, a ridiculously long plot full of twists and turns, and one of the most epic climaxes in video game history (until the current generation, where ludicrously epic climaxes are the norm). Personally, though, Final Fantasy II (er, Final Fantasy IV) holds a special place in my heart as the game that made me fall in love with RPGs and showed me, for the first time, that video games could tell really interesting stories.

2. Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 2

This one is also a bit of a fudge, because most gamers today know that what we call Super Mario Bros. 2 is not, in fact, Super Mario Bros. 2. The real sequel was only originally published in Japan, and it is pretty much just the same game as the original with a much steeper difficulty curve. The Super Mario Bros. 2 that was released in the States, however, is actually a reskinned game called Yumi Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, which has absolutely nothing to do with Mario and Luigi. While the game is still a 2D side-scrolling platformer, it is different in every other way from Super Mario Bros.. Written off in the "plot" as a dream that Mario has one night, the game is fun and different, but is such a huge departure from the original that almost nothing about it survives in the vast Mario franchise today. Once the truth came out that this game was never meant to be a true Mario game, fans were understandably pissed. Fortunately, by then, the awesome Super Mario Bros. 3 had been released, so all was immediately forgiven.

Weesa Storm Troopers gonna die?
2. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

Despite the clear language of the title, a surprising number of gamers out there are unaware that Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is actually a sequel to the first Star Wars FPS, Dark Forces. The confusion stems from the fact that most gamers' first exposure to the franchise was through the unusually named Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. Still, Dark Forces is a great game by itself, even though it belongs in the same category of games as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Its sequel, though, broke free from the bonds of those other games and broke ground on some game concepts that should be incredibly familiar to gamers today. One of the main gimmicks of the game, for example, is the idea that your choices dictate whether you will be a good character or a bad character, and this will effect not only the storyline, but also how you play. Today, this idea is found in more games than you can count, and yet few remember that it was Star Wars that started the trend. For the first time, gamers were given the power to choose between the dark side and the light side, and no matter which side is chosen, the game is awesome.

1. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

I actually remember the day I picked up my golden copy of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and when, with trembling hands, I popped it into my Nintendo, turned it on, and waited eagerly for the game to start. Two hours later, my eyes were glazed over, my upper lip was locked in a permanent sneer, and for the first time in my youth, I knew what true disillusionment felt like. Granted, the game really isn't that bad, and a lot of the innovations in it have persisted throughout the series to date. However, every Zelda fan knows that this sequel is the black sheep of the Zelda family, a game so utterly unlike any of the others that only the bravest dare defend it. Rather than being a top-down adventure game, Zelda II is mostly a side-scrolling RPG. There are towns for the first time in the Zelda franchise, but the townsfolk are all perpetually retarded. And the final boss, rather than being Ganon as we all know it should be, is a twitchy shadow version of Link that will kick your ass before you even know what's going on. And while the game certainly isn't broken and didn't kill the franchise, make no mistakes: it is the worst video game sequel ever made.

1. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

It may seem like I'm biased against radical changes from original game to its sequel, but this is not necessarily true. Soul Reaver, gameplay-wise, has almost nothing in common with its predecessor Blood Omen. However, both are still great games and are the bedrock the single most underappreciated and infuriatingly unresolved series of games: the Legacy of Kain. Soul Reaver is arguably the best game in the legacy, because of its innovative 3D platforming and action elements, its stellar voice-work, its phenomenal artistic design, its intelligent and gothic dialogue, its deliciously haunting soundtrack, and writing that is as sophisticated as it can possibly get in a video game. Raziel, the anti-hero protagonist, has one of the coolest character designs of any game character to date, and nothing about the game feels stale or derivative. Soul Reaver is, in short, not only the best video game sequel ever produced, but also one of the greatest video games I've ever played.

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-e. magill 3/23/2010


Copyright 2010 e. magill. All rights reserved.