10 Game Sequels That Were Better Than The First & 10 That Seriously Disappointed

10 Game Sequels That Were Better Than The First & 10 That Seriously Disappointed

Franchises live and die by the sequel. One good one can ensure the longevity of a series for years to come — but one flop is enough to have gamers running for the hills. Developers generally face two outcomes: improve their product and move the franchise forward or risk losing everything and having their once great product languish in disappointment and untapped potential. Here's a deeper look at video game sequels that knew the assignment and those that completely dropped the ball. 

1. Halo 2

Although often criticized for its cliffhanger ending and short single-player campaign, Halo 2 is a watershed moment for video game sequels that single-handedly paved the way for modern FPS console gaming. Halo 2 took all of the best elements of its lauded predecessors and gloriously expanded upon them. It also introduced the long-awaited online multiplayer mode that changed online console gaming forever and set the stage for the phenomenon of Xbox Live. 

Science-Fiction-965259 1280Andrea Wierer on Wikimedia Commons

2. Mass Effect 2

"Mass Effect 2" did what any great sequel ought to: live up to the original and improve on it in every way possible. It polished the original's rough edges by improving combat mechanics and deepening the narrative structure, making for a far more seamless experience that finally lived up to the promise of the first game. Beyond that, “Mass Effect 2” was lauded for its complex character interactions and moral dilemmas, setting a new benchmark for what storytelling in video games is capable of. 

Pax 2009 - Mass Effect 2 Booth (3899545854)Alex on Wikimedia Commons

3. Portal 2

As a sequel, "Portal 2" did everything you could hope for: introduce completely new gameplay elements while improving what made the first game such a surprising success. The sequel to Valve's glorified afterthought (an addition to 2007's "Orange Box"), "Portal 2" was celebrated for its clever puzzles, memorable characters, and witty dialogue — not to mention adding a brand new cooperative mode that allowed players to tackle the game’s head-scratching puzzles together. 

 Portal 2 (4955806092)Dave Monk on Wikimedia Commons 

4. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Much like its predecessors, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" set the standard for open-world gaming in ways that only a “Grand Theft Auto” entry can. It expanded the scope of the series by offering a massive, open world that included three distinct cities and vast rural areas, unlike anything seen in open-world gaming before. It also added a whole new slate of gameplay features including RPG elements, immersive character customization, expanded vehicle and weapon variety and multiplayer co-op. 

Gta San Andreas Mural, Melbournes2art on Wikimedia Commons


5. Assassin’s Creed II

"Assassin’s Creed II" took everything good about the original and turned it up to 11. With a more engaging story, better character development, and a more vibrant and interactive world, “Assassin’s Creed II” was a vast improvement over the original in every way possible. Set in Renaissance Italy, its rich historical detail and improved gameplay mechanics were universally praised and helped pave the way for a robust and celebrated franchise that continues to this day.

Assassin's Creed Ii Launch Event In Empik (4)Sergey Galyonkin on Wikimedia Commons

6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" was the Nintendo Switch’s first “Killer App” and helped re-cement Nintendo as a venerable and ambitious console manufacturer after years of disappointment. With its open-world design and freedom of exploration, the game's departure from traditional Zelda formulas was universally praised, offering players a whole new way to explore and immerse themselves in the Zelda universe. 

Ryan-Quintal-S7Phrjujnea-UnsplashPhoto by Ryan Quintal

7. Red Dead Redemption 2

Although technically a prequel, Rockstar’s long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s “Red Dead Redemption” spectacularly improved on the original and exceeded all expectations. After almost a decade of waiting, gamers were treated to a sequel with more detailed storytelling than its predecessor, expansive environments, and deeper character exploration. “Red Dead Redemption 2” and its meticulous attention to detail and engaging narrative not only lived up to the hype, but set new standards for the action-adventure genre as a whole.

Red Dead Redemption At Pax East 2010Kurt Eng on Wikimedia Commons

8. Half-Life 2

"Half-Life 2" wasn’t just a show of force as a sequel, but it (along with Counter-Strike: Source) also served as the grand introduction to Valve’s shiny new, proprietary gaming engine: the Source engine. This sequel masterfully improved upon its lauded predecessor with a compelling story, innovative gameplay, as well as improved graphics and physics (thanks to Source). “Half-Life 2” lived up to the almost impossible expectations set by its predecessor and served as a technical benchmark for the FPS genre long after its release.

Half-Life 2 Survivor - BackPhil Kates on Wikimedia Commons

9. Street Fighter II

The greatest measure of a sequel is its ability to move the franchise forward. But in the case of "Street Fighter II", it moved the entire genre forward! This beloved sequel revolutionized the fighting genre with its introduction of competitive two-player gameplay and multiple character selections, each boasting a unique move set. It vastly outperformed the original "Street Fighter" in both commercial success and critical acclaim while defining the arcade fighting game genre for years to come. 

1024Px-Streetfighter1空練 on Wikimedia Commons

10. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Building upon its highly beloved predecessors, "Skyrim" enhanced the open-world experience with a vastly improved graphics engine, more intricate quest lines, and deeper character customization. This installment in the long-storied Elder Scrolls series was an instant hit when it released in Fall 2011, with gamers and critics alike praising its expansive storytelling, detailed open world, and immersive gameplay. Despite its success, a sequel to Skyrim is nowhere to be found — yet fans still hold out hope that their patience will soon be rewarded.

Polcon 2015 Skyrim CosplayKlapi on Wikimedia Commons


1. Mass Effect: Andromeda

“Mass Effect 2” set the standard for the series, but it also left giant shoes to fill. Unfortunately, "Mass Effect: Andromeda" fell short of its high expectations by offering players a mangled mess rife with an uninspired plot, less engaging characters, and numerous technical issues at launch. Fans and critics alike were left scratching their heads wondering how the developers of such a beloved and successful franchise could deliver such an undercooked product. 

Dragon Con 2013 - Mass Effect (9664675500)Pat Loika on Wikimedia Commons

2. Duke Nukem Forever

While many sequels are pushed out the door to meet profit quotas and shareholder demands, “Duke Nukem Forever” is certainly not one of them! At least not if you factor in a production cycle that includes over a decade of delays. Despite years of development, "Duke Nukem Forever" disappointed gamers with its outdated graphics, lazy writing, and underwhelming gameplay mechanics. No one has heard from poor Duke ever since. 

Duke Nukem Forever Gameplay At Pax Prime 2011 (4955863865)Russell Bernice on Wikimedia Commons

3. SimCity (2013)

After almost a decade of waiting, fans were eager to finally get their hands on a new installment of the popular city-building simulator: SimCity. Sadly, the 2013 reboot of the series introduced frustrating always-online DRM, small city sizes, and numerous launch issues that prevented many hopeful fans from playing. Its departure from several of the core mechanics that made previous entries a hit culminated in a strong backlash from the community, which the series is still reeling from to this day.

Micropolis - Big City Tomhannen on Wikimedia Commons

4. Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)

Many were hopeful that  “Star Wars Battlefront II” would build upon some of the elements that were lacking from the original (including a dedicated single-player campaign). Instead, this graphically impressive sequel left fans with a bitter taste in their mouth after it found itself embroiled in controversy. The outcry against “Star Wars Battlefront II” stemmed from its rather aggressive reliance on microtransactions, which many felt were pay-to-win. The initial uproar significantly impacted its reception and forced major revisions to its monetization practices that many felt were too little, too late. 

Agnieszka-Stankiewicz-C0Vrnwvejoa-UnsplashPhoto by Agnieszka Stankiewicz 

5. Thief (2014)

The greatest sin a sequel can commit is losing sight of what made its predecessors so successful while offering fans less of what they've come to expect from the series. This is certainly the case with the long-forgotten and underwhelming 2014 reboot of the immensely popular “Thief” series. Its deviation from the stealth mechanics, linear gameplay, and forgettable story and characters were all seen as diluting the essence of what made the series popular in the first place — resulting in a complete dud that the series has yet to come back from.

Alexander-Andrews-Tph3Q6202Qa-UnsplashPhoto by Alexander Andrews

6. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

It’s important to keep things fresh and interesting, but sometimes developers can let their ambition get the best of them. "Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts" is a clear-cut example of a developer radically changing the winning formula of its predecessors in an effort to reinvent the wheel only to have it blow up in their face. By focusing on vehicle construction rather than traditional platforming, "Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts"  was widely rejected by fans who cherished the original games for their inventive platforming challenges.

Otakuthon 2015- Banjo-Kazooie (20309297319)Pikawil on Wikimedia Commons


7. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

"Sonic the Hedgehog" (2006) had some pretty large sneakers to fit. Not only was it intended to be a reboot for the beloved series, but it was also slated to be the franchise’s glorious entrance into high definition and the next generation of gaming. Unfortunately, this entry in the iconic series was a complete disaster in every imaginable way. Not only was it plagued with severe technical issues, poor-level design, and a convoluted story, but the game is often cited as one of the worst in the franchise, leading to a tarnishing of the series and its reputation for years to come. 

View Of A Large Inflatable Sonic The Hedgehog In The Hamley's Toy Parade - Geograph.org.uk - 5199998Robert Lamb on Wikimedia Commons

8. Dead Space 3

The "Dead Space" series was universally beloved for its atmospheric horror elements and compelling narrative. But in an effort to widen the scope of its commercial appeal, EA demanded that "Dead Space 3" shift its focus towards more action-oriented gameplay and multiplayer co-op. These changes starkly contrasted with the ethos of the franchise and greatly diluted the survival horror elements that fans grew to love, effectively dooming the franchise and any potential for its return. 

Mayan-Sachan--Sno19Zc5Ac-UnsplashPhoto by Mayan Sachan

9. Medal of Honor: Warfighter

In an effort to thwart, or at least keep pace with, the juggernaut known as “Call of Duty”, EA saw to it that the next installment in their longstanding “Medal of Honor” series would finally dip its toes in the modern military shooter genre. Sadly, this pivot fell short of its lofty expectations due to a cliché narrative, technical issues, and lackluster gameplay. Simply put, ”Medal of Honor: Warfighter” did little to stand out in a crowded modern shooter market, let alone take down a dominating franchise like “Call of Duty”. 

Medal Of Honor Warfighter Gamescom 2012 Cologne GermanyTim Bartel on Wikimedia Commons

10. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5

After a long hiatus, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5" was finally rushed to market in order to prevent the expiration of the developer's licensing agreement with the titular skater. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a complete bust of sequel plagued with bugs and lacking the smooth, polished gameplay that earlier titles were known for. The game was a critical disappointment, tarnishing the legacy of the franchise, as well as any hopes for a revival of the beloved franchise's former glory. 

Tony Hawk (42147463975)Andrea Wierer on Wikimedia Commons