The first entries in a video game series have too many obstacles to overcome. They all need to feature different gameplay mechanics, along with characters, story, world, and lore.
They often try to do something a little more experimental than other series on the market to stand out. For all those reasons, and more, it’s usually not until a sequel that most games really start to shine.
This is when developers know exactly what their game is about from the start and can build on what came before, knowing that the player has that knowledge as well. Of course, this also means that expectations are high, leaving many sequels that aren’t enough to feel disappointing.
1. Street Fighter 2
The first couple games on this list at least knew what they wanted to be when they started, but the first Street Fighter game only vaguely feels like a proper fighting game. This is why Street Fighter 2, the game that has gotten more than five iterations, is so impressive.
The first game had some basic moves, such as the famous dragon punch and storm kick, but they were very difficult to pull off, partly because of the control setup. Instead of having separate buttons for each level of attack (mild, medium, and hard), the player has to press the arcade pad hard to make a really strong attack.
The game had only two playable characters, Ryu and Ken, who were functionally identical. The sequel fixed every problem with this game, as well as inventing staples of the fighting game genre that are followed today. The roster of characters was expanded to six, all of whom have become iconic to the series and all with their own personalities and special moves.
2. Red Dead Redemption
Some sequels stand so well on their own, many fans don’t even realize they’re sequels. Red Dead Revolver was released in 2004 on Playstation 2 and Xbox. The game saw enormous success with its western setting and unique characters; The game seemed to be the right franchise material.
Those hopes were realized when the follow-up, Red Dead Redemption, launched six years later on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and improved on everything that was laid out in the original game.
The story was attention-grabbing and the world was deep and immersive. Red Dead Redemption 2 expands on this further and shows that the franchise is just getting started.
Street Fighter II hit the arcades in 1991 and completely changed the way fighting games were played. The game added new characters and helped the set completely overshadow the previous. The installment was so successful that six different versions of the game were released on different platforms.
3. Bioshock 2
Gamers were introduced to the Rapture with the release of BioShock in 2007. A sequel followed in 2010 and made for an immersive experience that built on the first game. The player takes control of a Big Daddy, the formidable foe that existed in the original.
With this new character, games were able to use new attacks unique to Big Daddy, including the famous drill. The game also included all-new plasmids to use in your battle through the sunken city, and a story that can easily be compared to the story found in BioShock.
4. Starcraft II: Wings Of Liberty
Released in 2010 for PC, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a real-time strategy game developed by Warcraft and Diablo creators Blizzard Entertainment. The game and its expansion have earned heavy critical acclaim and surpassed early criticisms of being only “Warcraft in Space”.
Starcraft II became a worldwide phenomenon in competitive gaming, with the sport’s largest eSports events taking place in South Korea. However, in addition to multiplayer, it’s easy to forget that Starcraft II has a great and lengthy campaign mode.
5. S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2
There were two more releases in the years following the original release of 2007 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. These new entries in the series were somewhere between an expansion and a true sequel, but they clearly weren’t progress enough to land an official S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 title for GSC Game World. The developers officially announced development in 2010, but after a quick cancellation, the game went dark for years.
In 2018, GSC Gameworld re-announced the title. There was little information, almost surprisingly, on Xbox’s E3 stage until it was revealed 2 years later. With a slow pace of information since then, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series will be making its way to consoles for the first time in the coming months.