Bigger, better and more badass, the strange thing about videogames is that sequels usually trump the originals. The engine’s in place and the success of the original gives the developers more freedom to play with new ideas.
Here’s a list of ten of the best. If you’d like to add your own, head down to the comments.
10. God Of War 2
How do you follow one of the most exciting third person action adventures ever? Simple: you make it bigger, more violent, cram the first twenty minutes with more ‘wow’ moments than most games have in their entire running time and, most importantly, you don’t rest on your laurels. God Of War 2 took everything one step further and made every boss about eighty feet bigger. Kratos may have been a badass in the first game, but here, he’s even meaner. Better looking than the first game, with a plot that spans aeons, God Of War 2 tasks you with slaughtering an awful lot of Gods. Any game that starts with you fighting the Colossus of Rhodes and only gets bigger from there deserves a place on this list.
9. Resident Evil 2Resident Evil was a great game, scary, exciting, action packed and brain taxing all at the same time. The cut scenes may have been unintentionally hilarious, but other than that it was, as early survival horror goes, brilliant. Then came Resident Evil 2, and the first one just didn’t cut it any more. It has the same kind of intertwining, dual characters narrative, but the set pieces were that bit more bombastic, the scares that little bit scarier and the characters that little bit more believable. Whereas the haunted house antics of the original were enjoyable, the sheer scope of Resident Evil 2, a city ripped apart in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak, a cop trying to survive and a girl desperately seeking for her brother, leaves it standing. A game that built on everything that its prequel did well, and had a few surprises up its sleeve as well.
8. Fable 2
Okay, Peter Molyneux may be entirely incapable of not hyping his games every time he opens his mouth, and that hype may be unintentionally untrue by the time said game is actually released, but Fable 2 did an awful lot more of what it set out to do than its predecessor. More focused than the original, whilst still giving the player a vast world in which to play, Fable 2 was closer to its dark, fairy tale gone bad aesthetic than the first game. The moral choice system was more refined, the combat more fun and the emoticon style gesture system an interesting and diverting new idea. The whole acorn-oak nonsense may have left a sour taste in some people’s mouths, and the very British sense of humour and sensibility wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but all in all, Fable 2 was a vast achievement that went a few steps further in almost every department than the original.
7. Duke Nukem 3DDuke Nukem began life as the star of a side scrolling shooter, a flat topped marine with a sprinkling of personality and some large guns. It wasn’t until Duke Nukem 3D that the wise cracking, misogynistic womaniser with a penchant for bubble gum and super violence we all know and love came to the fore. Pig cops, strippers, vaguely concealed innuendo and flesh, it was all there. Watching Duke shooting stuff had been good. Being Duke and shooting stuff was great. The tale may have a sad and drawn out ending, but in the mid-nineties, Mister Nukem was the height of cool. Fair enough, he probably set the cause of games as a legitimate art form back a few years, but with biceps like that are you going to argue?
6. Half Life 2Half Life was an incredible game, save for the rushed and messy last level; it showed us that narrative needn’t be told through cut scenes, that action heroes could be scientists, that the greatest weapon of them all was the crow bar. Then Half Life 2 came along and showed us that that was all still true, that last levels didn’t have to be disappointing and that physics was the most fun ever. The gravity gun still stands as the greatest invention in videogames since mazes, dots and ghosts. The ongoing story of Gordon, Alyx, aliens and revolution is one that’s hooked millions of people, and with Valve’s episodic release strategy, will quite likely continue to do so. Half Life 2 proves that PC gaming is not dead, whilst also doing remarkably well on the consoles, too. Valve pulled off a masterstroke with this essential sequel.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
The original brought the skateboarding game up to date and launched about a thousand imitators. The sequel refined the formula and added manuals, making what was already an addictive score attack game the digital equivalent of uncut heroin. The tracks were better, the tricks smoother and the graphics that little bit more polished. Whilst the series may have delved into more open world territory recently, it’s this, the second entrant, that’s the shining jewel in the crown. It plays like a dream, and, up until Skate came out recently, was, quite frankly, the best title out there. It also introduced the now ubiquitous ‘create a skater’ mode and a park design feature that let you build a skating arena for you and your friends. Like the best games, Tony Hawk’s 2 stands the test of time.
4. Final Fantasy 7Final Fantasy 7 took the template laid down by its forebears and added some glitz and glamour, a marketing campaign the likes of which had never been seen before, and a story that captivated not just Japan, but the rest of the world as well. Whilst the rest of the series was brilliant, it wasn’t until this, the seventh iteration, that everything finally clicked into place. FF7 broke Japanese RPGs in the West, telling an epic story that shocked many and still resonates today. It certainly wasn’t for everyone, whilst it was the biggest selling game ever, it was also the most traded in. Still, as sequels go, FF7 quite rightly takes its place on this list: a game that redefined our expectations, changed the way games were sold forever and, perhaps most importantly, made you dress up as a woman to get into a club.
3. Grand Theft Auto 3
The first two Grand Theft Autos were top down crime capers with a wickedly British sense of humour, eminently playable and enjoyable, that courted a little controversy when they were first released. GTA 3 showed the world just what video games were capable of: open, living worlds, populated with interesting characters, exciting missions and adventures that could be experienced at the players will. Or, if they preferred, they could steal a tank and go on a rampage. The three-dimensional freedom that GTA 3 offered still makes some modern games look miserly, and the depth of the game left many staggered. The tabloid press went mental over it as well, dubbed it a crime simulator, and insured it would go down in the annals of gaming history. A milestone in more ways than one, then.
2. Street Fighter 2
The original Street Fighter was a bit of a mess with confused controls, a tiny roster of characters and some pretty shoddy sprites. Street Fighter 2, on the other hand, has defined two-dimensional fighting for the best part of two decades, spawned a marketing empire the size of a small empire and managed to keep rafts of amusement arcades afloat all throughout the nineties. Everyone who’s ever played a fighting game knows how to perform a hadouken, and anyone who’s any good at fighting games has the input for a dragon punch embedded on their soul. Street Fighter 2 was a revolution, the sort of game that comes along once every generation and changes everything. Even now, it’s being played on Xbox Live and PSN, both in HD and its original form. A pretty impressive achievement for a game from 1991.
1. PlayStation 2
The PlayStation may have begun gaming’s long march towards grownup, mainstream acceptability, but it was its sleek black younger sibling that spearheaded the charge. The first console to successfully integrate a DVD player from the outset, it turned games machines into multi-media entertainment systems. Not content with that, it also sported some of the most influential and important games that this industry has ever known. Even now, superseded by a faster, more powerful console itself, the PS2 still shifts thousands of units a month in Japan alone. The PS2 almost single-handedly killed off the Dreamcast, changed Nintendo’s focus from the core to the casual and made Microsoft’s first foray into the console market look decidedly average.Not too bad for an unremarkable looking black box, I think you’ll agree.
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