With my recent writings on sequels, I’ve decided that a good Top 8 would be one on the best sequels. My personal rule for determining this list was to take into account my enjoyment of the games as well as what they did for their respective series. Also, I’ve limited myself to sequels that are directly related to other games in the series (essentially, no Final Fantasy games) and have decided to include only one entry per franchise. Really, I don’t think anyone wants to see a list full of Metroid and Castlevania games.
8. Fable 2
Neither Fable or Fable 2 were ever going to live up to all of the expectations and hype created for them, but Fable 2 was a valiant effort. While I do feel that the use of magic took a hit in Fable 2 (as opposed to the original), the rest of the game was wonderful and represented an advancement over Fable (itself a great game in my opinion). Albion actually felt quite large, thanks in part to the game being on newer hardware, and the story was intriguing, if a bit predictable. Really, this game just felt like it took everything in Fable and upped the quality and depth. Considering that I consider Fable to be a great game, that makes Fable 2 quite the feat, and one of my favorite games on the Xbox 360.
7. Super Castlevania IV
This was a tough one simply because I love all of the Castlevania sequels. While I’m a fan of the exploration based installments, I have a major soft spot for the level based games, and I think Super Castlevania IV is just about the perfect level based Castlevania game. The platforming is extremely well designed with a few stages throwing some interesting changes at you, the music fits the mood of the game wonderfully (which is the case for most Castlevania titles), and the level of difficulty is perfectly measured. This is a game where everything seems to just come together perfectly to make an incredibly stellar game while also displaying what the Super NES was capable of over the NES.
6. Mega Man 3
While popular opinion holds that Mega Man 2 is the pinnacle of the series, it is 3 that always stands out in my mind. I feel that Mega Man 3 perfected everything about the series, the bosses, the platforming, even the “Wily didn’t do it” fake out. It also introduced Rush, who has been a constant presence in every Mega Man game since, and the slide, which while simplistic, allowed for more complex stages to be designed. I must also mention the soundtrack here. Mega Man games generally all have good music, but this one is at the top for me.
5. Batman: Arkham City
One of the reasons I’m listing this here, aside from the fact that it’s just a great game, is that it managed to recapture the allure of Arkham Asylum in a way that managed to feel completely fresh and new, despite having many of the same mechanics as Asylum. I’m on record as preferring the previous title, but that takes nothing away from this game. The gameplay and design of Arkham City is simply staggering in it’s scope and application. Gliding from one end of Arkham City to the other is one of the most freeing experiences I’ve had in a video game. Backing all of this up was an epic storyline that visited nearly every member of Batman’s rogue gallery, culminating in a final boss battle that I never saw coming, but enjoyed thoroughly.
4. Super Mario Brothers 3
As important a game as it is, Super Mario Brothers is a very, very basic game. Super Mario 2 was either exactly like it (Japan) or radically different (America). Super Mario Brothers 3 was the first sequel to stick to the Mario formula while adding so much to the game that it completely dwarfed the original in every conceivable way. Heck, there was even a movie built around it’s launch (no negative words will be said about The Wizard on my blog). Not only was this sequel an instant classic, but has influenced Mario games to this day, over 20 years later. Quite a bit of the excitement for the release of Super Mario 3D Land was because the logo had a raccoon tail on it, which immediately inspired memories of the classic leaf power-up. The same can be said for New Super Mario Brothers 2, which featured the Leaf power-up as well (though as raccoon ears & tail and not the tanooki suit found in 3D Land). Few games before or since have had the impact of this final Mario outing on the NES.
3. Resident Evil 4
I’ve already praised this game once, in My Top 8 Gamecube Games, but I have to repeat here just how important this game was to the Resident Evil franchise, and gaming in general. Resident Evil was still popular at this point, though I believe that was beginning to wane a bit due to the repeated tank controls and fixed camera angles. Showing some inspired creativity that has been mostly absent since, Capcom completely changed up the play style of their well-known series, not only shifting the course of Resident Evil, but popularizing the “over-the-shoulder” style third person shooter that has been seen in many games since (including fellow horror titles Dead Space & Dead Space 2). I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that without this title being the massive hit it was, we would not have seen many of the titles that imitated it’s style and became hits themselves.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Sure, Ocarina of Time is regarded by the masses as the best Zelda (by the way, I’m not the masses), but it was this title on the Super NES that cemented the franchise’s top tier status for Nintendo. After what some people saw as a misstep in Zelda II on the NES (by the way, I’m not some people), A Link to the Past returned the series to the familiar top-down perspective seen in the original title. A Link to the Past also crafted one of the deepest and most intriguing worlds to be seen at that point of time. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. The realization upon entering the dark world that you’ve only explored half of the map of the game and really only just begun your adventure? One of the most joyful surprises I’ve ever had in a game.
1. Metroid Prime
This was a tough one. Super Metroid and Metroid Prime are so close in my mind that it was tough to pick one, but I went with Metroid Prime for two reasons. Firstly, it is just an amazing game. Metroid has generally had a sense of isolation about it, and I think that moving that experience to a first-person perspective managed to make it more striking while also keeping the trademark exploration aspect of the series. Secondly, it made Metroid a relevant franchise again. Super Metroid is widely heralded as one of the best games ever made, but after skipping the Nintendo 64, people were beginning to wonder if we had seen the last of the series. Prime not only “revived” the franchise, but managed to elevate it to the elite status of Nintendo franchises such as Mario and Legend of Zelda. A well deserved elevation given the brilliance of this game.
Brandon Nicholson is a blogger for TMRzoo.com and the founder of Just Another Video Game Blog and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3 and PS4, Microsoft XBOX One and XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Brandon provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.