Sequels are tough. Everybody seems to want something different in a sequel, and you’re never going to please everyone. Do you try to keep it as similar to the original as possible, or do you try to totally switch it up? I’m not entirely convinced either direction is better than the other, as there are good examples of each type of sequel. With that said, this is my list of the top ten best video game sequels ever.

10 – Chrono Cross

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Hear me out. The reason that I put Chrono Cross on this list is for the people who like sequels that have very loose ties to their predecessors, and that do something very, very different. Personally, I’m not normally one of those people, but I’ve seen it argued a number of times that a sequel can use loose concepts and ideas to tie it to its established universe and that that’s a good thing. This way, you’ll have a general idea of what you’re getting into, but there will still be a lot of surprises along the way. Chrono Cross is a good example of this. It’s still a turn-based JRPG, the game’s music is made by the same composer (well, one of two original composers), and a big focus of the sequel is timelines. Otherwise, it’s entirely new. I can understand why you might think as far as a sequel is concerned, this one is a bad one, because of how little it references its source material, but I can certainly understand the argument that I presented above. It helps that Chrono Cross as a game on its own is fantastic as well.

9 – Assassin’s Creed II

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As far as video game hype goes, I think Assassin’s Creed was one of the most hyped games of my childhood. It was a fun game (for a while), and it delivered on everything it had promised, but it got very tedious after you had visited each of the main cities once. Assassin’s Creed II was a fantastic sequel for a number of reasons. The main character, Ezio, had infinitely more personality than the first game’s Altair. The story had a lot more depth, and the game added a whole bunch of new features; enough of them that the game felt very fresh (something later games weren’t quite able to match). As far as I’m concerned, Assassin’s Creed II is the definitive of the creeds.

8 – Batman: Arkham City

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The Batman Arkham games are all the proof that is needed that comic book video games are indeed capable of being good. In my eyes, Arkham City was the best possible sequel to the acclaimed Arkham Asylum. Where Asylum was a lot more “level-based”, Arkham City gives you free reign of an entire inmate asylum, and was a great sense of progression and improvement over its predecessor.

7 – Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

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Donkey Kong Country was (and still is) a fantastic 2D platformer. It sports tight controls, amazing visuals that still stand up very well today, and a great soundtrack. The sequel, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest sports all of the same and more. The “controls” aren’t any better per se, but Dixie Kong having her “hair-icopter” ability added some more depth than Donkey Kong did originally. The team at Rare stepped up their level design, and created some of the most rewarding, challenging levels I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. The music is nothing short of a magnum opus, and is often included on “best video game music lists”. The game is a masterpiece, and a fantastic sequel.

6 – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

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While I was initially disappointed that this game was considered the proper sequel to what was, for a long time, my favorite game, Super Mario World, after giving it an honest shot, my reservations left me forever. The game has a very different aesthetic, and lacks a proper overworld, but in the end it does what it needs to do: provides some amazing gameplay. I applaud this sequel for how original it was, and for how many risks it took when you take into account how easy it would have been to make a very uninspired sequel to Super Mario World.

5 – Persona 4

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I absolutely loved Persona 3: FES, so my hype for Persona 4 was enormous. As far as story and characters go, as far as which game does each “better” is pretty subjective. Where P4 surges ahead of P3 is in its improvements to combat, and its varying dungeon layout. In P3 all of your party members are AI controlled, which can lead to some frustrating moments. P4 made the completely obvious, totally-not-revolutionary decision to give you full control of your party, and the game is oh so much better for it. As well, P3 suffered from a pretty bland, repetitive dungeon, but P4 offers multiple dungeon designs, and they’re all separate from each other, making them much more distinct. The improvements made were in no way innovative, but they certainly made for a better sequel.

4 – Pokémon (Gold/Silver)

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It’s pretty obvious why Pokémon (Gold/Silver) is on this list, but let’s briefly discuss why just in case you’re unsure. There are way more awesome Pokémon. There is more than twice as much content, including a trip back to the original Kanto region (so cool). You face off against your player character from the first game in a secret end-game dungeon (oh em gee so cool). The graphics are infinitely better. It’s just a great sequel, okay?

3 – Super Metroid

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Like others on this list, Super Metroid gets its spot not because it reinvented the Metroid wheel, but simply because of how many small refinements were made. The controls, the movement, the scale and the look all got a nice upgrade, and the game is one of the best out there (of all time, ever).

2 – Street Fighter II

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The original Street Fighter was pretty atrocious. It was a newly emerging genre, so there were bound to be some growing pains, but even so, the game is a mess. Somehow, Capcom seemed to learn exactly what was wrong with Street Fighter, and what needed to be improved, and put out Street Fighter II, and the fighting-game genre was launched into the mainstream. Even today, Street Fighter II holds up, and this game finds its place on this list for just how important it was in establishing fighting-games as a viable genre.

1 – Mega Man X

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Mega Man X is easily one of my favorite games ever. As far as sequels are concerned, I think that it’s one of the best of all time. It’s a very easy thing to make a 2D platformer that just doesn’t “feel” right. Moving Mega Man into 16-bits would have been a difficult task for anyone, but Capcom was clearly up to the challenge. The game plays smooth as butter, and its updated visuals still look fantastic today. The game’s formula was almost entirely unchanged, but still it manages to feel completely fresh. If you want to see a much longer-form argument explaining why Mega Man X makes an excellent sequel, check out Egoraptor’s Sequelitis episode on it. Better yet, if you haven’t played Mega Man X, go do yourself a favor and check it out!
Can you think of any great sequels that I missed? Let me know in the comments!