When new IPs are well received and match expected sales they become a franchise that spawns a series of sequels. More often than not, the sequel to the first installment tends to be the best in the series, so I thought I'd share some of the best second efforts to have come out in recent years.
Assassin's Creed 2
The first Assassin's Creed had a lot of hype around it. Ubisoft set some really high expectations for their new IP, and while the game was good it didn't quite hit the heights many it expected it to. After listening to feedback from critics and fans alike, Assassin's Creed 2 delivered the game that people wanted.
We were introduced to an interesting Protagonist in Ezio, switching the setting to the height of the Renaissance in Italy during the 15th and early 16th century. Players were given the freedom to explore Florence, Venice, Tuscany and Forlì. While Assassin's Creed plots have always been quite convoluted, the story surrounding Ezio himself was a simple premise of him trying to avenge the death of his family. The game had a variety of different quests that would then become a stable in future installments, the game was amazing to look at and the combat was refined and made much more fluid, emphasising the feeling of being an Assassin.
Furthermore, players were able to customize the appearance of Ezio and modify weapons, plus there was a heavy emphasis on staying hidden and manipulating your surroundings to your advantage. There were also Prince of Persia like dungeons to further unlock rare items and treasures. Coincidentally, the game spawned a mini-trilogy in the series known as the Ezio trilogy. The follow ups weren't quite as game changing as AC2, but were still great in their own right. Almost eight years later, Assassin's Creed 2 still remains the highest rated game in the franchise.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
The original Super Mario Galaxy was incredible and rightly picked up many Game of the Year Awards in 2007. This was one of the greatest years in gaming history, so with such an impressive feat achieved how could Nintendo make a worthy follow up? It's simple: by creating a Masterpiece.
We thought Nintendo had already shown us how much fun you can have running around on Spherical platforms in the forms of small planets, while jumping across one star to another and traversing huge land masses with varying gravity effects. But with the sequel, they showed they had only scratched the surface.
Each level you entered played differently from the last — the sheer amount of variety was outstanding. Furthermore, Nintendo brought Yoshi to join in on the fun and revamped the 3D platforming once again, offering a faster and more direct approach to the levels.
The game also fixed the camera issues that plagued the original and introduced more power up suits for Mario. The Hub world was changed back to the more traditional Mario design, making the experience more streamlined. You spent less time running around aimlessly, instead travelling from one level to another in a moment's notice. Lastly, there were new challenge modes added to levels that you had already completed — the difficulty was increased for the seasoned platformers, offering an opportunity to gain further stars for completion.
Mass Effect 2
This is widely considered the best game in the Mass Effect franchise, and BioWare has struggled to create a game to match it since. There are plenty of reasons why, and I could go on forever explaining each point.
Let's put it like this: Deep and engaging story? Check. Excellent third person shooter gameplay? Check. Great graphics with consistent frame rate and minimal technical issues? Check. Those who played the original were able to carry their save over to the sequel, meaning the actions and decisions they took in the previous game would affect their experience in the second. This meant gamers experienced their own unique story based on their past actions.
BioWare also introduced the excellent Loyalty Missions which took you on a personal quest with each member of your crew. Luckily each member of crew was memorable and felt like an asset to your team — there was also a return of fan favourite characters from the original.
While some of the streamlining of the RPG mechanics weren't an entire hit with the fans, overall it delivered a great Space Opera for fans of the genre. The Suicide mission at the end of the game was truly epic and really emphasized all the steps and decisions you made throughout the game to get to that point.
Need For Speed Underground 2
13 years on, fans are still asking for an Underground 3 or at the very least a re-mastered edition. That is how highly this game is regarded, and is my personal favourite Need For Speed game.
There have been many Need For Speed entries since, but none have reached the level of customization made available in Underground 2. From paint jobs and body kits, all the way to custom hydraulics and a changeable HUD — you could even install speakers in the boot. Unlike the reboot in 2015, every car that you purchased had the same high level of customizability. You didn't have a large car roster, but you still had a variety of different brands. Ultimately it was about owning a handful of cars and making them as unique as possible.
The game was the first in the franchise to feature an open world and you would unlock its different areas as you progressed through the story. The narrative was simple enough, but added motives for the player. You had a ton of different race types: Circuit, Drifting, Street X, and Sprint to name a few. The game had a killer soundtrack and even added extra stuff like featuring your car in street magazines and challenging rival racers as you drove around the map.
I'm still hoping for an Undergound 3 — please EA, give the fans what they want!
Batman: Arkham City
Even though I consider Arkham Asylum my favourite in Rocksteady's series, mostly for nostalgic reasons, I cannot deny that the sequel was the best game in the franchise.
Firstly, you had the open world map with tons of side quests, collectibles/riddles and variety of locals. You had more villains, although some got to shine more than others. A much deeper plot, with a few twists and an ending that you couldn't have seen coming. The excellent gameplay from the first game was tweaked and added a deeper level to the combat mechanics, and The Dark Knight was given even more gadgets to play with.
Those who bought the game brand new got to play as Catwoman, too. She played a lot different to Batman and added another element to the game but also had a part to play in the story.
Usually people say less is more, but in this case more was indeed more. There is so much to do in this game, you will spend a lot more hours even after completing the main plot. It wasn't just a game for Batman fans, but fans of open world games too.
The first Uncharted showed a lot of promise. The sequel showed what the PlayStation 3 was really capable of.
It was this game that started talks about making a movie based off the IP, it was this game that bought in those scripted disaster moments i8n which players had to run, jump and time their movements to avoid deaths. The gameplay added nothing new in terms of enemy combat, but it was refined and engaging and just kept you playing and having fun.
We really got to know Drake as a character and what he is really like as a person. Him along with the rest of the cast were very likeable and well voice acted. Uncharted 3 and Uncharted 4 were also top games in their own right, but for me number two still remains my favourite. They are all brilliant games, though Uncharted 2 showed best what the franchise is all about.
Those are some of my favourite video game sequels, what were yours?