Top Ten Direct Sequels in Gaming

If there is one constant in the video game industry, it’s that sequels are inevitable if the original had any degree of success. But a great sequel can make all the difference for the direction the rest of the franchise takes or whether it will continue at all. Sometimes one sequel is all a series can manage while at others it will continue forever will no end in sight. 

But what makes a good sequel from a simple cash-grab? A great sequel is going to take what made the original special and build off of it in an interesting way or dramatically improve it based on the new hardware available.

In rare circumstances, they might even go in a different direction but make it feel well earned nonetheless. Here are the games that were able to stick the landing and deliver more content in the worlds that gamers have come to love.

Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2

The original Dead Space managed to create an instant classic with an interesting mechanic in aiming for mutant limbs while ensuring that players were scared of every room they entered. A sequel was a tall order to deliver and while it didn’t quite meet the same level of scariness as the original, Dead Space 2 manages to remain fun and continue the story of Isaac and the Marker in an engaging way. 

Weapons feel just as good and all the enemies are faster and more agile than ever before. The gravity sections were improved upon and gave players a greater level of control which allowed for much more dynamic fights with necromorphs and a lot less frustration with getting mixed up about which way was up. Puzzles were fewer but more interesting this time around and Isaac feels a lot more like an engineer and less like a hulking soldier. This is the franchise at its best for many people as it walks the line between action and horror before it eventually spilled too far over into action. However, everything done here is fun and only served to suck me further into this universe. 

Halo 2

Halo 2

The impact of Combat Evolved transcended gaming and convinced a lot of people who didn’t even have an interest in console gaming to give the original a try. This meant that the pressure for a sequel was high and the need to include another game-changing innovation was present. Bungie wanted to make this Halo the biggest of any campaign they had ever made but at the same time, Microsoft wanted them to make it a launch title for Xbox Live. The need to make a strict deadline combined with the overly ambitious goals of the project meant there was a lot cut from the release. 

However, against all odds and a cliffhanger ending, Halo 2 managed to impress a lot of people when it came out and set the franchise up for one of the best endings to a trilogy in gaming. The multiplayer changed the landscape of online shooters on console forever and the campaign coop defined sleepovers for the next three years. Master Chief was better than ever with immersive action cut scenes, abilities like hijacking vehicles and dual-wielding, and another twist that no one saw coming. Halo 2 kept a lot of what made Combat Evolved great while modernizing its multiplayer and improving its lore.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2

I didn’t know a single person who would have told me honestly that they liked western movies or shows over ten years ago; today, that’s a slightly different story. Red Dead Redemption made westerns cool again, and its sequel continues that trend. Red Dead Redemption 2’s biggest achievement is its ability to make you feel you have actually been transported back to the 1800s, where electricity is just beginning to become a commodity, and the towns are a little more bustling. 

The variety in settings and vistas gives the player plenty to look at while they are cleaning their weapons, skinning animals, or simply drinking a coffee by the fire. The improvements to Red Dead are to the world in which you play. That can not be understated, but the story can be just as engrossing as John Marston’s was, if not a little predictable in one key area. But that’s okay; cowboys are never in it for the destination; it’s always about the journey.

Batman Arham City

Batman: Arkham City

Arkham Asylum was the first superhero game done right, so I can only imagine what the stress involved to create a follow-up was like. Arkham City took everything that made Arkham Asylum such a great concept and did one simple thing: expanded the play area. Instead of an asylum, Arkham City had the slums converted into a prison, so it was like a small city had completely fallen to crime, and Batman had to clean it up. 

The larger scope allowed for more villains, easter eggs, and appearances from other Batman villains. Batman’s skill set also had to have some upgrades, such as a glide feature that allowed him to get around the city faster and more conveniently. And the Joker is just as perfect as he was in the Asylum. In fact, all the characters are on point for their representations, and it’s part of the magic that makes these games so worth playing as a window into the world of Gotham. 

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

People liked Uncharted, but people LOVED Uncharted 2. The original could feel a little clunky at times, and the set pieces were not nearly as exciting as the scenes that Uncharted 2 gave. The action that Nathan Drake has to fly through in Uncharted 2 set a precedent for the series where it was always trying to one-up itself in some way. The movement is tight this time around and the combat even tighter. This entry makes you feel like Indiana Jones, not in the sense that you are exploring ancient ruins and treasure hunting, but because you are exploring a variety of locations during your playtime. 

The environments are so much more diverse this time around, and it makes for a much more interesting experience. That feeling of versatility expands to the gunplay as you have a lot more freedom as to where you want to position Drake for the fights. Climbing, crouching, and running are all on the table to find a better defensive position. Uncharted 2 is truly a sequel that brings the adventure to the next level and doesn’t sacrifice any of the heart that made the original so worth playing. 

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Super Smash Bros Melee

Super Smash Bros. for the N64 was fun, but there was a lot of room for improvement, and Super Smash Bros. Melee delivered that. With an increased roster, expanded single-player mode, and more options for multiplayer, it became the go-to game for parties and dorm rooms. The combat was responsive enough that the competitive scene exploded and has continued to this day. 

Many people regard this entry as the pinnacle of the Smash franchise, and while I can’t quite agree to that degree, I do have to admit that it does everything that the original did and then some. There is nothing more enjoyable than having a team of Mario Bros. vs. the cast of Fire Emblem while throwing PokeBalls at one another on Pokemon Stadium. It was a dream come true for so many kids at the time, and it felt great to play, unlike the often clunky nature of the first entry. 

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2

There are few studios that can make the sequel to a game seem to dwarf the original. Half-Life 2 almost feels like a different game in many ways since Valve was able to utilize their new Source engine to make both the graphics and physical vastly improved from the original’s. After the long-awaited come-back of Gordon Freeman came with all the fan appeal as he slowly reclaims his signature crowbar and HEV suit were accompanied by a few standout character models in the original like Barney, who were developed into full characters. 

Half-Life 2 did what any good sequel should do: It expanded on the game’s universe while giving the player new tools and ways to experience that world. The physics engine that Valve included in conjunction with the gravity gun being the most standout in Half-Life 2. What would Haveholm have been like if we couldn’t send circular saw blades slicing through the air from the gravity gun? Or all the simple physics puzzles? These things helped to give Half-Life 2 more personality, and they have stuck with us ever since.

Banjo Tooie


Banjo-Tooie managed to do the impossible by creating a world that was even bigger and more engrossing than the original. Some people might argue too big, but there was so much new content and places to explore that it’s hard not to appreciate the work that went into this title. All the iconic moves that the bear and bird could perform in the original make a comeback with the added bonus that you don’t need to relearn them over again. Everything is unlocked from the start, and you even get to learn more new techniques. 

The story even got a sizable upgrade and was a lot more serious than the original had ever been. There is a major character death in the first five minutes, for crying out loud. The single-player content is packed to the brim, and Rare somehow even managed to include a multiplayer with fun little mini-games such as shootouts and bumper cars. There is so much to do, and even if friends came over, you still had something to do without ejecting the cartridge. 

Assassin’s Creed 2

Assassin’s Creed 2

Often the first entry in a series isn’t quite meeting the potential of the franchise, and we see that nowhere better than with Assassin’s Creed. The original Assassin’s Creed had an interesting premise, but clunky controls, slow pacing, and repetitive gameplay kept it from being as great as it could be. Two years later, Ubisoft would release the follow with a brand new assassin in Ezio, who would become one of the most beloved characters in gaming. The combat was improved drastically and allowed for a much more fluid level of fighting compared to the original. 

Gameplay events were varied, and the more lively setting of the Italian Rennaissance served as a great backdrop for some fantastic moments. You were even able to meet Leonardo Da Vinci, which at the time felt like such a huge moment considering the average person didn’t know much about Assassin Creed 1’s history. If anything, Assassin’s Creed 2 was too successful as it changed the entire direction of the series forever. The games would become yearly releases, and while that was okay during the Ezio trilogy, what made the series special soon began to disappear until Ubisoft chose to take a step back and rethink it again.

Portal 2

Portal 2

The Orange Box was, at the time, one of the best deals in gaming and came with several amazing games that console players had never had the opportunity to play before. However, one of the most standout entries had been Portal. A tiny experimental game that Valve never thought would blow up, but it did, and the calls for a sequel were loud. Four years later, Portal 2 would release and make the original look like a cheap knock-off. Portal not only added new mechanics that expanded the use of the portal gun, but it also explored the history of Aperture and GLaDOS and connected them to the Half-Life universe.

Everything was made better in the sequel while retaining the humor that helped to make the original so special to people. There are so many memorable moments in Portal 2, from GLaDOS becoming a potato to Cave Johnson’s declining health and Wheatly waking Chell up after her rest. What a great way to jump-start the 2010s in gaming. It’s such a shame that it was the last single-player-focused experience that Valve released because it was one of the best that they ever released. 


2 thoughts on “Top Ten Direct Sequels in Gaming

  1. Another one that jumps to mind is Mass Effect 2. Takes the best parts of the original but overhauls the combat and inventory/exploration to make it much more streamlined and playable. It even one-ups the original on the story front by having a focus on the roster of incredible characters!


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