When making a sequel, you have the option of following the exact same formula that made the original such a success or trying brand new things to impress your audience. As with all risks, this can go either way. Sometimes you get things that exponentially increase the enjoyability of the first entry, like “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Superman 2.” More often than not, though, the sequel will spit in the face of the audience, too busy counting your money to ever hear your wails of lament. A publisher knows perfectly well that they already have a solid fan base that will pay for a sequel, so they feel no compulsion to actually churn out something the audience will enjoy. We see this weekly with movies, but make no mistake, the gaming world is also rife with studios who consider their target demographic as nothing more than money-laden suckers.
Usually, we don’t really care, because it can be chalked up to a risk that didn’t play out, sometimes, just sometimes, someone has the audacity to tamper with some of our favorite franchises. This is when a sequel is so bad, it reaches backward and destroys all of your favorite memories of the original. Or at least, that’s what you would think is happening, judging by fan backlash. So let’s take a look at some video game sequels that pretty much destroyed their franchise, but since I’m not completely sadistic, let’s counteract all those with sequels that took our favorite franchises to new, unimagined heights.
34 Terrible: Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
No matter how hard I try to recreate the creative process behind this absolute misfire, I genuinely can’t fathom how anyone thought this game would be a good idea. The first two were jewels in the N64 crown, and they followed up by creating something only tangentially related.
Nobody was asking for a vehicle creator.
The game opens with a small amount of self-awareness, acknowledging that fetch quests can be tedious and boring. After that, you build cars for contrived reasons to outsmart the disembodied head of series antagonist, Gruntilda.
33 Awesome: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy already took the Mario franchise in a fun and exciting new direction, met with an almost universal accord. To me, that meant that the sequel had nowhere to go but down, but I was happy to be proven wrong (it happens when hidden stars align.)
Everything good about the first returned, and added more. Fans complement to increased difficulty, and the inclusion of Yoshi (which is a surprising deciding factor in how much people love this game over the first).
32 Terrible: Perfect Dark Zero
I expect to get a lot of flak about this, so I’m putting it pretty early in the list. A lot of people love this game, and it was kind of fun at the time, sure. I think a lot of the fun we had with this title was a leftover fuzzy feeling we had with the previous Perfect Dark game, which lived up to its title and was very near perfect in what it scored with fans and critics.
The follow up wasn’t strictly a cash grab, there was some genuine care put into it, but it didn’t amaze.
31 Awesome: Batman: Arkham City
This is easily one of my favorite games of all time, so maybe I’m a little biased. I’m also partial to this because I think Batman is one of the greatest inventions of humans in history. But as you’ll see later in the list, that doesn’t mean I’m totally forgiving.
The first entry, Arkham Asylum, completely blew me away. You WERE Batman, in a way not properly captured in previous games. And then City comes out, and we are shown that there is a game where Batman can leap from rooftops like we always wanted.
30 Terrible: Batman: Arkham Origins (And Knight)
Both City and Asylum had some serious boss fight issues, since they were pretty boring. Origins improved on that, and that alone. The plot was boring, the map was literally reskinned from a previous game, and the voice actors were not the veterans we were used to.
Knight was visually impressive, and the map was incredible, but the plot was literally a plot twist fans saw a mile away. And Rocksteady was so impressed with their Batmobile, they forget that overusing it would make people tired of it.
29 Awesome: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Personally, I don’t think a lot changed from the first to second Uncharted games, but many fans believe this to be far and away the best entry in the series. The fighting was more fluid, the villains were WAY better, and the locations seemed more varied while being more fun.
It’s also my personal opinion that there are no BAD entries in the series, as I’ve done full playthroughs multiple times because every single game is immensely joyful. But if the fans have spoken, saying number 2 is vastly superior, I will defer to their good judgment.
28 Terrible: Duke Nukem Forever
You’d think that when a game is being developed for fifteen years, you would probably end up with something resembling a good product. You would be wrong, since the game was hardly developed, jumped through multiple studios, and honestly, the humor was dated.
I’ve recently started playing Duke Nukem 3D on my PS3, and I can’t believe how fun that game still is, compared to what a joyless trudge the follow up becomes. Sure, it could be the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, or it could be that genuine love went into this game, versus Forever being a soulless cash grab.
27 Awesome: Sonic The Hedgehog 2
This may ruffle the spines of some Sonic purists (you know they exist) but the second game in the serious was infinitely better. The added presence of Miles “Tails” Prower made the game two times as fun right off the bat, even if he was a little OP.
The music was better, the level design was more varied, the boss battles were tougher, and all that weird Chaos Emerald bonus stuff made for a vastly more entertaining game than the first.
26 Terrible: Sonic ’06
It’s hard to pick a “worst” entry in this franchise, since I dislike a lot of them, but this one has brought me the most joy watching people attempt to play this broken game. The plot is jarring, and the character design makes people uncomfortable, but all of that pales to the glitches.
I’ve seen Sonic lose the ability to jump, only to later lose the ability to stay grounded, disobeying all laws of gravity and simply floating away. Couple that with unremarkable music and color palettes, and you have an unplayable game.
25 Awesome: Wolfenstein: The New Order
Every entry before The New Order was pretty standard, with you blasting your way through hordes of alternating soldiers and supernatural creatures (or if you’re lucky, a terrible combination). They were immensely fun and pretty much pioneered the FPS.
There was no need for this entry to be this in-depth, showing the toll that a man perpetually thrust into battle against a superior enemy would sustain, mentally and physically. The soundtrack is emotionally evoking, the fights are even more fun than you would expect, and the ending is tear-jerking. Also, a needlessly awesome DLC.
24 Terrible: Devil May Cry 2
It’s nice when I can make an entry that isn’t controversial in any way. Almost anyone who is a fan of the “DMC” franchise agrees this entry is a huge step backward. The animations don’t have the same warmth, the fighting is less fun and apparently, the stages are bland.
I’m not a huge fan of the series, so I can’t concretely say why fans hate this so much, but asking around gives me a pretty good idea. Sometimes you just have to trust the people when they tell you something is terrible.
23 Awesome: Fallout 3 (And New Vegas)
I was tempted to only mention Fallout 3 since that was the entry that took the whole series in the direction that we find so familiar today. The first person battles were first thrust on us in the third entry, but it wasn’t the best.
Not everyone agrees, but for me, New Vegas was the infinitely more fun game. All of 3 has this sad, greyish green feel to it, and everything has been reduced to rubble. New Vegas showed us that people can live, and even thrive after the bombs fall.
22 Terrible: Max Payne 3
The first two Max Payne games were a monumental triumph. One of the first games to use “bullet time,” the first entries combined ultra-intensity with a gritty film noir narrative, peppering tense moments with over the top, self-aware graphic novel style paneling. The gritty streets needed a jaded hero, and you were that hero.
So, of course, the sequel got rid of the city we were used to, took away the whole comic book aspect, had next to zero interactivity with the environment (something I personally cherished from the first game) and made the hero a shadow of his former self.
21 Awesome: BioShock Infinite
Don’t get me wrong, the first two BioShock games were totally awesome. The enemies were varied and tough, the powers you gained made the game perpetually interesting, and the story had compelling villains.
All that got turned up to eleven in Infinite. We are introduced to a character that actually talked and had a flawed past (as much of a cliché as that is) while also sporting around a companion that isn’t useless, which is rare in video games. The powers were still fun, the enemies were great and weird, and the narrative is surprisingly thoughtful.
20 Terrible: Dead Space 3
For a brief time in video games recently, a bunch of studios thought it would be a good idea to turn horror franchises into co-op ordeals. What works for things like the above mentioned Sonic 2 doesn’t necessarily translate well to games based on jump scares.
Part of what made the first two Dead Space games work so well was the feeling of being utterly alone. Just the presence of a partner means that you are slightly less outnumbered, and not quite alone with your thoughts. Adding two players pretty much destroyed all notions of horror.
19 Awesome: Mrs. Pac-Man
What started as a simple conversion kit for the original Pac-Man called Crazy Otto expanded on playability and difficulty in every way. I was hesitant to include this one in the list since it is basically the skin of a Pac-Man game placed over an existing game that was created for a separate reason, but hey, a lot of popular games are simple reskins.
With the introduction of randomized ghost movement, the game could no longer be beaten by simple pattern memorization. On top of that, she’s got a cute bow and freckle.
18 Terrible: F.E.A.R. 3
Remember earlier, when I said making something co-op will rob the experience of most of the horror element. It still applies. The third F.E.A.R. game had you playing side-by-side by your ghostly half-brother, who was the antagonist of the first game, rendering everything you did pointless.
Also, playing as Paxton Fettel leaves a weird taste in the player’s mouth (he has a very weird diet) because he has been so consistently evil. The whole game is an unfun mess, not just because of the unsatisfactory conclusion to the story, but also monotonous and easy gameplay.
17 Awesome: Resident Evil 4
I loved the sudden, weird departure this game took, and I’m claiming it is an awesome departure from the franchise’s norm. The strange, shambling townfolk were super cool, plus we had the usual giant animals and horrifying abominations.
The villain is also an awesome, weird inhuman manchild.
None of the fixed cameras or impossible puzzles of previous entries, plus a main character who seems almost unstoppable. I think you can all guess where the weakness lies in this entry, but I don’t think it stops it from being better than previous titles.
16 Terrible: Dino Crisis 3
Hard to argue the merit of a game that has been voted as having the “Worst Camera Ever” by IGN. Terrible camera angles were a common complaint back in the day (looking at you Resident Evil) so for one to be that abysmally bad, that’s truly an achievement.
Many were disappointed that this entry didn’t expand the series in any meaningful way, and many found it more frustrating than fun. A little bit of frustration is bound the be expected in any difficult game, but it should be balanced with a sense of achievement.
15 Awesome: Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
I want to be incredibly clear that I think there are tons of quality entries in the whole Castlevania franchise. Even Lords Of Shadow had merit in my book, although I can admit that isn’t exactly a popular opinion. That being said, Symphony Of The Night took the whole thing to a new level.
Previous entries had been massive, sure, but not in the same way, especially when you consider that there is a completely new second game if you find the “secret ending.” Plus the introduction of a less than completely insane plot was a nice departure from the norm.
14 Terrible: Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
Multiple people online have already talked about the complete mess that Simon’s Quest was, so at the risk of sounding like I’m just miming them, I’ll run through what I have a problem with. Firstly, the day/night cycle is loved by some people, but it was needlessly frustrating, and the bizarre word choice ruined any immersion.
My biggest problem was grinding. Instead of collecting hearts to use in your weapons, you now endlessly collect hearts to buy things you need to further your quest. And it is way too easy to lose them all. And the puzzles are literally unsolvable.
13 Awesome: Mass Effect 2
I loved the first Mass Effect but I have no problem admitting parts of it were bad. I’m surprised it found as big of an audience as it did. Wandering around in the Mako took far too long, the game is full of glitches and combat wasn’t fulfilling.
Almost every single one of the complaints is addressed, and then we were given stuff we didn’t know we wanted. You build actual trust and friendships, fighting is more fun, the whole thing feels like an actual universe.
12 Terrible: Mass Effect: Andromeda
I’m not going to have any of you tell me that Andromeda wasn’t that bad. It was terrible, not just by Mass Effect standards, but by any standards of modern video gaming. The levels are bland, we got fewer planets than promised, the plot is barely existent, and we lost all the characters we were attached to.
The gameplay is some of the least fun I’ve played in recent years, which would be ok in an RPG if the world was fleshed out, but it isn’t. This lackluster entry pretty much put a nail in the coffin of Mass Effect.
11 Awesome: Silent Hill 2
The Silent Hill franchise is pretty much fizzled out, with a series of less and less impactful entries towards the end there. That being said, it started out strong and only seemed to get stronger. The second entries plot may seem simpler, but that serves to make the investment a little stronger.
We have bigger monsters, better graphics, more streamlined fighting and overall, it’s clear that we aren’t using the mist to hide loading times, but to actually express a sense of claustrophobia.
10 Terrible: Alone In The Dark (2008)
This is a hard one to review, since depending on what system you played this on, it could be wildly different games. It’s been years, but I remember playing this on the WII and entirely frustrated with the driving mechanic, so my experience may be different than yours.
Still, all the charm of investigating a supernatural mystery is gone, replaced with a less fun Silent Hill clone. The old games, despite being cheesy and difficult, were enjoyed by massive amounts of people.
9 Awesome: GTA: San Andreas
It’s hard to justify at what point the GTA franchise took off in leaps and bounds, considering that every single entry seems to be an exponential improvement on the last. So what made me pick this one? It just seemed to have more freedom and a better plot.
You had the ability to either get heavy or buff, which was instantly fun. But it revolved around a lot less crude humor and a more enjoyable roster of characters. So if you ask me, this game is actually the best, despite it being somewhat aged.
8 Terrible: Star Fox Adventures
Someone once argued with me that Star Fox Adventures isn’t actually a bad game, at which point I knew they were from a Mirror Universe where joy is outlawed and wickedness is celebrated above all else.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on this entry, or maybe there’s a niche group of people who are very defensive of any entry in media that contains attractive, anthropomorphized talking animals. So while I can understand the visual appeal of the game, it was extremely tedious and boring to play.
7 Awesome: Star Fox 64
There’s going to be a common theme here that a lot of the franchises that carried over to the N64 made huge strides in improvement. Transporting many titles from two dimensions to three was insane at the time. And although Star Fox had dabbled in polygonal three dimensions in previous entries, they made it seamless in this entry.
Many of these games didn’t age well, which is fair by modern eyes, but it was ground-breaking technology at the time. When you are used to seeing barely recognizable shapes and pixels get turned into genuine shapes and characters, you can’t help but be blown away.
6 Terrible: Everything After GoldenEye
Everyone can agree that we loved GoldenEye so I won’t give it much thought. What deserves discussing is how many titles after it tried to capture the same magic, and fell flat on their face.
Seriously, can you name a good “James Bond” game after this one? There have been plenty of released games, but if I listed them all, it would take up my word count. The fact of the matter is that companies know we will always play these games, thinking there’s a small chance they might be as good as GoldenEye.
5 Awesome: Watch Dogs 2
Remember when Watch Dogs came out and it was supposed to be the future of video games? Yeah, that wasn’t exactly what we got, but there was some potential there. If you ask me, we got that potential in the sequel, although lots of people think it was too little, too late.
I liked the new plot, the new weapon was a ton of fun, and the cast wasn’t instantly unlikable. Plus one of the DLCs has you using modern technology to track down a copycat of a real ciminal, which is objectively awesome.
4 Terrible: Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutants
For reasons I will never understand, fans are crazy about Crash Bandicoot. I found the game monotonous, and the character was too zany to actually hit the nerve of being fun. That being said, that’s just my superior opinion, and art is subjective.
Many longtime fans found the game bland and repetitive, with a ton of criticism being directed at the unforgivable gaming sin of too much backtracking. While it still has its fans, it is widely regarded as an inferior entry.
3 Awesome: Dragon Age: Inquisition
I have yet to meet someone who has played Dragon Age: Inquisition who wasn’t instantly mesmerized by it. Everyone loves the plot, the acting, the level design, the soundtracks, the enemy variety, the visuals. There are almost zero complaints about this game, which is a massive achievement.
Alright, sure, there were a few glitches, but can you honestly say you’ve heard of such a massive AAA title that wasn’t a little bogged down with bugs? At this point, it’s just par for the course, right?
2 Terrible: The Zelda CD-i Entries
I think if you look at the above image, you can start to see why these three games are considered visual nightmares. Link: The Faces Of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and, of course, Zelda’s Adventure are considered some of the worst entries in the long Zelda franchise. They are so hated that fans don’t even consider them to be canon, although Nintendo isn’t exactly clear if they are.
Seeing how bad these three games turned out, it’s no wonder that Nintendo has been more tight-fisted when allowing third parties to touch their intellectual properties.
1 Awesome: The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
There have been very few misfires in the Zelda series as far as I’m concerned. I think Skyward Sword is a bit of a mess, but what do I know, I like Phantom Hourglass so I’m probably in the minority. But most people agree that Ocarina of Time was leaps and bounds more fun than previous entries.
It was the most immersed in Zelda any of us had ever been.
The targeting system is a bit of a mess by today’s standards, but the sprawling story, memorable characters, and music, not to mention a map that was massive at the time, blew our innocent little minds.