The video game business can be ridiculous when it comes to the sheer amount of sequels that are released. A lot of the time, these games are inferior to the original, or else they do not improve in meaningful ways. Fortunately, there are developers out there that are willing to recognize the failings in their original releases and make the sequels something special.

Whereas the original Tony Hawk pretty much started the extreme sports sub-genre, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 perfected it. The gameplay made a shift from simply doing stunts down a long slope to doing crazy stunts in schoolyards, breaking through glass, and taking the "extreme sport" idea to its maximum. None of the latter sequels made improvements quite as notable as THPS 1 to 2. For its fun and simple nature, and for fleshing out the ideas that were only briefly glimpsed in the first game, THPS2 makes number 10.

After releasing 6 (!) Mega Man games for the Nintendo entertainment system of varying levels of care and quality, Capcom finally decided to do something a little bit different. Mega Man X took Mega Man and made it "cool." Stuff like the dash, and the wall climbing, really helped make this continuation of a slowly but surely rotting series into something worth playing again. I realize that some people prefer the original series, but after playing X I can't go back.

This one is a bit more obscure, but certainly still worth a mention. Little Big Adventure was an interesting adventure game by the developers of Alone in the Dark that was rendered practically unplayable due to the camera angles and inexcusably poor controls. Twinsen's Odyssey takes the best parts from Little Big Adventure (namely, the "adventure" part of the title) and fixes the camera issues and improves the controls. It's also a larger game and at the end of the day much more fulfilling and interesting to explore and play.

Pikmin 2 is a notable sequel for taking the "interesting experiment" that was Pikmin 1 and fleshing it out into a really great game. Besides adding 2 player mode, a much larger world, more items to collect, and a cool feature that lets you interact in a sort of "zoo" with all the enemies you defeat, Pikmin 2 also abolishes the time limit that was set on the original game. Although this decision may make the game slightly less cinematic and the stakes a little lower it certainly makes the game more playable and fun. In Pikmin 1, there was always this fear that you wouldn't be able to accomplish everything on time and have to start over again from the beginning. Pikmin 2 takes away some of the stress and leaves nothing but delicious action/rts/adventure goodness.

Commander Keen was a series that seemed made to be milked after the initial game, which was in itself a fairly generic little platformer with some interesting levels. That all changed with the release of Commander Keen 4, which retains the title of "greatest shareware game, like, ever." Keen number 4 brought to the table huge, colorful levels full of interesting enemies, a good level of challenge, and sound and music that can best be described as "oddly addicting." Commander Keen 4 is great in that it's one of those games where the designers put as many cool things to collect, secrets, and challenging bonus areas as they could muster. It's a joy to play and better in every conceivable way to its predecessors.

This is the way a quasi-arcade conversion/sequel should be done! Donkey Kong for Game Boy takes the arcade classic and ads a ton of new levels, new bosses, and manages to far exceed its predecessor in every conceivable way. All of this on the Game Boy for heaven's sake! Donkey Kong was a good game for its time, but today it's a complete bore fest. The same can not be said for its sequel. Advanced moves like the hand stand, side-jump, and others really make the game more interesting and destroy the archaic feeling that Donkey Kong arcade gives out.

While we're on the subject of Gameboy games outdoing what they came from, let's talk about Super Mario Land 3! The first two Mario Land games were decent: don't get me wrong. The main problem with them is that they came across as half-assed attempts to emulate the console experience. Super Mario Land 2 improved on the first one with a more interesting idea of "themed levels," but Wario Land outdid them all. Taking control of the antagonist of the previous game, Wario (to Mario as Bizarro is to Superman), the player is able to smash and bash, stomp and greedily snag treasure and coins. Wario Land was not made from the same desire to bring a portable Mario experience... it was made form the desire to make a great game. The solid controls, the originality of the levels and bosses, and the unique powerups make Wario Land the best of the "Mario Land" game boy games.

The original Diablo was kind of a crap-shoot. The combat had the potential to be interesting, but the game boiled down to a lot of mindless clicky-click. Diablo 2 took the mindless clicky-blick to the next level and made it actually fun. Diablo 2 has a much higher focus on action-based gaming rather than boredom-based gaming like many "real-time" DnD-inspired games where you sit for hours watching your character attack the enemy without any interaction from you, the player. It's one of the most replayable RPG's ever, what with the much-improved online mode and the myriad of items to collect. It also helps that the levels are all randomly generated and yet remain interesting and challenging to explore. For adding more solid action into the mix and spicing up what would otherwise have been a forgotten almost-classic, Diablo 2 earns high marks.

Maybe this is cheating, as Shadow of the Colossus is a prequel and not a sequel. Still, the developers clearly developed their skills since the release of Ico. That game was beautiful, artsy, and a great experience. The only problem was that it was a terrible game. Puzzle solving and monster fighting is great and all, but Ico lacked in depth. Swinging sticks at the same enemies just gets old. Shadow of the Colossus keeps the spirit of the original game with it's minimalist story, beautiful graphics, and strange... soul. But it was a game meant to be played, not "experienced." Death isn't instantaneous, the enemies are not only more interesting, but the centerpiece of the game, and the "puzzles" incorporate action rather than boredom. A great effort!

Although somewhat unpopular among many die-hard Resident Evil fans, Resident Evil 4 is one of those rare sequels that not only continues a series, but manages to take it in a totally new (and superior) direction. With the shift from static camera angles, Resident Evil 4 could have only improved on its predecessors. What really sells it is how sophisticated and interesting the enemy AI is and the excellent action gameplay. Sure, maybe the game isn't as scary anymore. But you know what? It kick ass. And it earned every game of the year award it received and more.

A sequel comes after the release of the original game, so one would assume that it would be superior in at least some meaningful way. This is, in my experience, very rarely the case. Most of the poor sequels that developers create stem from the desire to make money and the fear of creating a new intellectual property that will not be appreciated as the first game was. Sometimes, it's pressure from the publishers to get a game out rather than a desire to make a quick buck from the developers. Whatever the reason, the overflow of lackluster sequels and retreads that has cursed our beloved game industry since its inception shows no signs of slowing down. This list is merely a hats off to those developers that actually put forth an effort to create something better.

List by capgamer (05/09/2007)

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