20 Sequels That Are Better Than the Original Game

Street Fighter II gameplay

20 Sequels That Are Better Than the Original Game

Unlike movies, it’s almost always a sure bet for video games to have sequels that far outshine the original entries in a series. That said, there are those exceptions to the rule where the first game is exceptionally better than the follow-up. Classics like Contra, Super Mario Bros., and even The Legend of Zelda are all somewhat let down by their sequels. Even if they’re good games in their own right, the follow-ups to several impactful titles can’t compare to the brilliance of the original. The same can’t be said of the 20 video games in this list, as each one of these titles represents a situation where the sequel is better than the original game thanks to gameplay innovations, important story beats, or even a complete reinvention of the series mechanics.

While it would certainly expand the available titles to include by allowing third, fourth, or later entries in a long-running series, the term “sequel” is applied literally here. Rather than open up the floor to every game in a wide-ranging franchise, the games on this list are the direct follow-up to a groundbreaking original title. In some cases, these games end up being the middle or second chapters in an expansive trilogy or run of games, while in others the sequel ends up being the final definitive statement from the developers.

20. Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2 gameplay

©Titanfall 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

While the original Titanfall would provide some excellent multiplayer thrills as one of the best launch titles on the Xbox One, the sequel is where the franchise truly comes into its own. Titanfall 2 doesn’t just include a single-player campaign that fleshes out the experience, it includes one of the best FPS campaigns in history and builds the foundation for Respawn’s incredibly successful Apex Legends battle royale. The movement mechanics in Titanfall 2 are the star of the show, with the player able to execute impressive parkour maneuvers and wall runs while simultaneously taking out enemies before hopping into the seat of a two-story mech. Titanfall 2 also includes multiplayer, but with a campaign this good you practically don’t even need it.

19. Mortal Kombat II

Mortal Kombat II gameplay

©Mortal Kombat II gameplay screenshot – Original

The second game in the Mortal Kombat series makes massive leaps over the original in just about every way. The roster of fighters is larger and introduces fan favorites like Baraka, Katana, and Kung Lao. The stages are more impressive and include a wider variety of environmental hazards to use to the player’s advantage. And, of course, the number of potential Fatalities almost doubles and takes the gore of the original to new, absurdly comical heights. Mortal Kombat II is everything a fighting game sequel should be, and without its success and innovation over the original who knows whether the franchise would continue to endure into the modern era like it has.

18. Age of Empires II

Age of Empires II gameplay

©Age of Empires II gameplay screenshot – Original

The impact of Age of Empires II is so profound that it still stands as the definitive entry in Microsoft’s historical RTS series to this day. The original Age of Empires took the components of RTS titles of the era and applied them to a historically accurate mix of Civilization and Warcraft, but the sequel goes above and beyond in every way. Not only are there expansions to the number of playable historical factions, but the introduction of 5 different historical campaigns creates the potential for hundreds of hours of gameplay. Age of Empires II‘s Middle Ages setting also provides some interesting unit types and building progressions, allowing players to construct massive walled castles at the ready for warfare. And with the addition of online multiplayer, Age of Empires II ends up sitting right alongside Starcraft as one of the definitive competitive RTS games.

17. Assassin’s Creed II

Assassin's Creed II gameplay

©Assassin’s Creed II gameplay screenshot – Original

If the first Assassin’s Creed is a proof of concept, Assassin’s Creed II is the franchise’s promise fulfilled. Not only is Ezio a much more interesting and personable protagonist than the first game’s Altair, but getting to follow his saga as a member of the Brotherhood of Assassins during the height of the Renaissance is still one of the best plotlines in the Assassin’s Creed series, even after more than a dozen games. The open world of medieval Rome is much more interesting than Crusades-era Jerusalem, options for stealth and traversal are greater in comparison to the original game, and the story takes some surprising turns that impact the rest of the Assassin’s Creed series. If you were to play just one Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed II is your best bet.

16. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Star Wars Jedi Knight II gameplay

©Star Wars Jedi Knight II gameplay screenshot – Original

While it’s technically the third game in the Dark Forces saga starring erstwhile Star Wars extended universe hero Kyle Katarn, Jedi Knight II more than deserves a place on this list. The first Jedi Knight (Dark Forces II) introduces the idea of Kyle Katarn being Force-sensitive, but Jedi Knight II runs with it. The result? Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is arguably the first game to ever truly capture what it feels like to be a Jedi. The game starts out with FPS levels similar to what one would find in the first two games in the series but quickly transitions to a sprawling third-person action-adventure game after Kyle visits the Jedi Temple and unlocks his use of the Force. To say that Star Wars games haven’t been the same since is an understatement.

15. TimeSplitters 2

TimeSplitters 2 gameplay

©TimeSplitters 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

As the middle chapter in a trilogy of games, TimeSplitters 2 represents the peak of the series. What many people didn’t realize at the time of TimeSplitters 2‘s release was that developer FreeRadical was host to several veterans from the GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark teams at Rare, resulting in TimeSplitters 2 being about as close to a genuine sequel to those games as we ever would get. With both an excellent single-player campaign and some of the best local multiplayer on 6th generation consoles, TimeSplitters 2 stands as one of the best FPS games of the era and the spiritual successor to two brilliant Nintendo 64 classics.

14. Borderlands 2

©Borderlands 2 holding shot

Though Borderlands 3 might present the best gameplay in Gearbox’s “looter-shooter” franchise, Borderlands 2 still stands as the greatest game in the series for some very specific reasons. For starters, Borderlands 2‘s playable heroes and changes over the original’s class structure present some of the funniest and most varied character choices in the series. Additionally, the actual gunplay, quest design, and open-world traversal (essentially the core gameplay elements of Borderlands) are vastly improved over the original and work in concert with one another to present one of the more addictive open-world loops. Lastly, Handsome Jack is both the best villain in the Borderlands series and one of the greatest video game antagonists of all time, and the series’ writing has never been as strong as it is in the excellent sequel.

13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time

TMNT: Turtles in Time start screen

©Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time gameplay screenshot – Original

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IP would be inescapable in the late 1980s and early 1990s, coinciding with the golden age of the arcade beat ’em up. After having a massive hit with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, Konami followed it up with the even better sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. Many players remember the SNES version of the game (TMNT IV) or the Genesis release (Hyperstone Heist), but the arcade original and true sequel to the TMNT arcade game might be one of the greatest arcade coin-op games of all time, released at a time when Konami were the indisputable leaders in the genre thanks to a slew of incredible classics like X-Men, The Simpsons, and the excellent TMNT beat ’em ups.

12. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot – Original

After 4 mainline entries, more than a few spin-off games, and a failed reboot of the series courtesy of none other than Hideo Kojima, Silent Hill 2 is somehow still the greatest game in Konami’s legendary survival-horror franchise. Even though the act of sitting down and playing through Silent Hill 2 can prove to be an exercise in frustration, the game’s writing, characters, and pitch-perfect understanding of what makes a good psychological horror experience cement it as one of the greatest horror games of all time and a must-experience title on the PS2. The original Silent Hill is an excellent game somewhat let down by the technological limitations of the PS1, but the sequel makes good on its promise, to a point where none of the later games in the franchise can even compare.

11. Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 gameplay

©Resident Evil gameplay screenshot – Original

For how important the original Resident Evil is to the survival-horror genre (including inventing the actual name), Resident Evil 2 is the game that cements the series’ enduring legacy. Rather than follow original series heroes Chris and Jill, RE2 introduces players to a brand new deuteragonist team of Claire Redfield (Chris’ sister) and rookie Raccoon City Police officer Leon Kennedy. Both Leon and Claire are now legacy Resident Evil heroes in their own right, going on to appear in several excellent entries in the franchise, but their initial adventure and escape from Raccoon City is still one of the best stories in the series. Resident Evil 2 ups the stakes over its predecessor in every way, from more numerous and deadly enemies to its greater emphasis on story and character development.

10. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 gameplay

©Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Much like how Resident Evil didn’t invent survival horror but instead perfected the format that would influence the genre for generations to come, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater wouldn’t be the first skateboarding game but would instead develop the template for modern extreme sports simulation in the medium. And, just like Resident Evil, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater‘s direct sequel is a quantum leap over its predecessor in terms of gameplay, challenge, and overall quality. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is also the last game in the series before year entries would result in diminishing returns for the franchise. So, in a way, THPS2 is a bit of a time capsule from when the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series was at its peak and the pinnacle of what skateboarding should translate to in a video game.

9. Portal 2

Portal 2 gameplay

©Portal 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Valve’s Portal is an absolutely genius tech demo disguising itself as a clever puzzle game, but Portal 2 transcends the original to become something of a legendary title in its own right. Unlike the first Portal, which has little to go off of in terms of story and plot development, Portal 2 contains an entire narrative that strings the player along through a gauntlet of endlessly entertaining and ingenious platforming puzzles. And, in typical Valve fashion, the absence of a Portal 3 means that Portal 2 is the latest and greatest game in the company’s phenomenal puzzle series. 15 years after Portal 2‘s launch, the game still stands as perhaps the best puzzle platformer of all time even when stacking it up against modern greats like Viewfinder or The Entropy Centre.

8. Halo 2

Halo 2 gameplay

©Halo 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Like the first Halo, Halo 2 would completely transform the gaming landscape, albeit for a completely different reason. Halo: Combat Evolved might have been the Xbox’s killer app and a console game that would signal how far first-person shooter titles had evolved, but Halo 2 is the game responsible for making online gaming ubiquitous with home consoles. On top of that, it’s also just incredibly fun to play. The addition of dual-wielding makes for some super satisfying gunplay in which Master Chief is occasionally hilariously overpowered, but the split narrative and dual protagonists make Halo 2 one of the most important chapters in Master Chief’s saga. Even though the game ends on a cliffhanger, the visuals, gameplay, and multiplayer are a definitive step up over the original Halo.

7. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2 gameplay

©Uncharted 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

The first Uncharted is a great game, even if it does borrow a little too liberally from classics like Tomb Raider. Comparatively, Uncharted 2 is an entirely different beast and where the franchise really begins to come into its own. Thanks to an excellent narrative by legendary game writer Amy Hennig and some necessary refinements to the gunplay and traversal, Uncharted 2 is both more interesting and more fun to play than the original. The sequel begins with what is possibly the greatest single opening to a video game ever and then never lets off the gas pedal for the rest of the game, resulting in a tightly-paced thrill ride across the gorgeous setting of Nepal. Even in the face of the incredible Uncharted 4, there’s still a strong case for Uncharted 2 to reign as the best game in the series.

6. Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 gameplay

©Mass Effect 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Mass Effect 2 is more than just a sequel. It’s the definitive middle chapter of one of the best trilogies in gaming and the pivotal turning point for one of the all-time greatest sci-fi sagas in any medium. Comparing Mass Effect 2 to the Empire Strikes Back of the Mass Effect series is apt, as the game’s narrative both begins and ends with tragedy, forcing the player to consider the weight and result of all the choices made across both the first and second chapter of Commander Shepard’s quest to save the galaxy. On top of its excellent narrative, though, Mass Effect 2 fixes all the complaints players had about the first entry to be a more polished, feature-rich, and smoother experience. If you’re looking for the perfect blend of third-person shooting and RPG mechanics in the Mass Effect series, Mass Effect 2 is the game that strikes that balance.

5. Mega Man II

Mega Man II title screen

©Mega Man II gameplay screenshot – Original

Many of the games on this list are sequels to original titles where the initial game in the series serves as a proof of concept, only for the sequel to iron out all the wrinkles and provide the true experience intended by the developer. Perhaps no more perfect example of this kind of progression exists than Mega Man II, which expands on the original Mega Man in every way to become the pinnacle of the franchise all these years later. There are 8 Robot Masters instead of 6, the game’s platforming and shooting are more tightly tuned and balanced, and the soundtrack is perhaps the greatest collection of 8-bit chiptunes ever assembled. Mega Man fans will still swear by the sequel being the series’ one example of a “perfect” game, and whether you’re playing it for the first or the 100th time it still shines as an incredible action-platformer.

4. Diablo II

Diablo II gameplay

©Activision Blizzard – Original

Everything about Diablo II just screams “bigger and better” in comparison to the original Diablo. There are more classes, and more loot, the game is longer, the environments are more varied, there’s a greater emphasis on storytelling, and the build customization and character progression create a compelling gameplay loop that is nigh-impossible to break away from. Blizzard nailed the “kill, loot, level up, repeat” loop that the Diablo series is famous for with Diablo II, creating the perfect regular dopamine hit for players as they traverse floor after floor of massive, labyrinthine dungeons. That Diablo II would serve as the main inspiration for Blizzard’s desire to course-correct the franchise with Diablo IV speaks volumes about the sequel’s enduring legacy.

3. Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II gameplay

©Street Fighter II gameplay screenshot – Original

Street Fighter II is such a vast improvement over its predecessor that it’s amazing both titles are even part of the same series. For how ubiquitous Street Fighter II is with fighting games (and with arcades), its predecessor is fairly primitive by comparison. Capcom would pull out all the stops for the second game in its fledgling fighting game series, introducing a slew of new playable characters, a globe-spanning selection of memorable stages, and perhaps the most perfectly balanced and mechanically rich fighting game template ever devised. 2D fighters owe a massive debt of gratitude to Capcom and Street Fighter II, and it’s still the gold standard for accessible fighting games with a low-skill floor and high-skill ceiling.

2. Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City gameplay

©Batman: Arkham City gameplay screenshot – Original

It’s safe to say that Batman: Arkham Asylum walked so that Arkham City could run. While the first game in Rocksteady’s now-legendary Batman trilogy keeps the Caped Crusader within the confines of the notorious Arkham Asylum and takes on more than just a bit of survival-horror flair in the process, Arkham City unleashes players onto the streets of Gotham City itself in an open-world adventure that absolutely captures what it would be like to live a day in the shoes of the World’s Greatest Detective. Superhero games could be somewhat hit or miss before Batman: Arkham City, but now just about every open-world superhero adventure has Arkham City to thank for its success. Arkham City isn’t just the best Batman game, it’s one of the best open-world games.

1. Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 gameplay

©Half-Life 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

The great tragedy of Half-Life 2 is that it’s ostensibly the final game in Valve’s legendary FPS series, despite the fact that the game’s ending leaves more than enough room for the company to return with a third entry. All wishing for Half-Life 3 aside, though, Half-Life 2 is just as (if not more) important to the gaming landscape as its predecessor is, influencing an entire generation of game makers and providing the template for future blockbusters by mixing engaging narrative with immersive gameplay. Just about every moment of Half-Life 2 is an insane setpiece moment meant to draw the player into its dystopic future Earth, and the raising of the stakes makes every victory feel genuinely rewarding and well-earned. And with pivotal moments like exploring Ravenholm and the Gravity Gun’s transformation, Half-Life 2 more than earns its spot as the greatest video game sequel that surpasses the original.

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