As a medium, video games are ripe for second chances exemplified by the almost run-of-the-mill habit of releasing sequels. I don’t know exactly why this is the case, but I’d put forward that gamers are far more willing to give a badly executed, but fundamentally great concept another run. Sequels afford developers the luxury of learning from mistakes and a fresh slate for getting a game right. I’m not complaining; some of the greatest games out there are sequels.
Here are our picks for five sequels that were better than the original. For clarity, we stuck to the strict rule of only considering true sequels and not later entries in a series. For example, there’s no question that The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is a vast improvement on its predecessors, but it isn’t a direct sequel to the original, hence why is doesn’t form part of the list.
1. Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
Back in 1990s, during the halcyon days of real time strategy games, one title reigned supreme and it was Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. Miles better than the original, which was a great game in itself, Age of Empires II offered unparalleled tactical complexity, a thrilling campaign, and all-out medieval warfare rich with counters and countless strategic builds. The game is so iconic that a rich and vibrant multiplayer community still strives to this day. Check out Twitch if you don’t believe me! Wololo!
2. Red Dead Redemption
Before you hound me with cries of dismay at Red Dead Redemption not being a sequel, let me say that it is in fact the second entry in the Red Dead series. The original, Red Dead Revolver, a third-person shooter, was published by Rockstar Games in 2004. Though drastically less fleshed out and revolutionary, it planted the seed for the sequel. Red Dead Redemption is categorically one of the best games ever made. The lonesome vistas, John Marston’s emotive fight to save his family, and the abounding recreancy pervading the huge open world all coalesce to create a truly compelling sequel. Here’s to Red Dead Redemption 2 following suit.
3. Assassin’s Creed II
Let’s face it, Assassin’s Creed was lackluster at best, but had the promise of untapped potential, a hint of uncovered greatness. A diamond in the rough if you will. Assassin’s Creed II took that potential and delivered with a thrilling adventure through renaissance Italy. Uncovering the pernicious plots of the ruling class, the stealthily assassinations, and grappling the landmarks of Florence and Venice took on a grandeur the original failed to hit. Visually, the game was stunning for its time and established the foundations for a franchise that thrives to this day, notably with its latest release, Assassin’s Creed Origins.
4. Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2’s place on this list doesn’t really need an explanation. Half-Life was superb, then Half-Life 2 cranked things up and threw in a state-of-the-art physics engine, a compelling story line, and cutting-edge graphics. On release, a magazine by the name of Maximum PC even went so far as to award Half-Life 2 a rating of 11 out of 10. Now, if only we could be certain that Half-Life 3 is on its way.
5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
The original Uncharted was a phenomenal achievement, setting the scene for that generations third-person adventure genre. Then came Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and it blew us all away. The profound, yet relatable characters were a central piece of the puzzle and heralded an era where developers focused far more on the quality and depth of the characters we were to take control of. The intelligent storytelling and the narrative ease with which the game transported you to stunning locations also played their part. Finally, the combat toyed with absolute perfection in a manner few games even come close to, even to this day.