Ten Franchises Saved by Sequels

Dear Reader,

You know, all our talk about “Metro: Last Light” got me thinking: many franchises stumble in their original form, only to find their footing and definition through perceptive hindsight and a polished sequel. I’m not saying “Metro” is necessarily destined to be one, that’s still anyone’s call at this point, but I thought it’d be fun to list the top ten franchises that needed a sequel to really get off the ground. In order, of course, from least miraculous reinvention to most.

Hit the jump to see it.

"Let's talk about this..."

 10. Uncharted. The original “Uncharted” was a fun, involving game that created some buzz. The sequel, “Among Thieves,” absolutely set Xbox owners’ teeth a-chattering. In this case, the prestige bump came not from any one thing, but a general polish that brought out the core strengths of the series to be more plainly seen. Adding a workable multiplayer component didn’t hurt, but I wouldn’t say Nathan Drake has ever seriously challenged Master Chief in the realm of deathmatch. This victory was won with a stellar, Hollywood-action-flick campaign carried off with outstanding writing and acting. For my money, “Uncharted 2″ remains the crown jewel of the exclusive PS3 titles.

I Hope You Like Framerate Stutterering

9. Mass Effect. The original “Mass Effect” was a very good game, haunted by the prospect of being a great one. Technological limitations and excess RPG baggage forced the title short of the greatness it seemed destined for. With “Mass Effect 2,” Bioware came back with a vengeance and delivered a stone-cold stunner. At first some (myself included) balked at the over-simplification of the RPG elements, but this ballsy approach proved the right one. “Mass Effect,” as a franchise, is about choice and consequence, not inventory management.

8. Silent Hill. The original “Silent Hill” was certainly a frightening and effective horror game, but much like “Uncharted,” the sequel launched the franchise into a different stratosphere by sharpening the fundamentals. The biggest development was in the area of story: the original was dominated by a fairly standard demon possession tale, but the sequel ventured off into a truly existential nightmare. The incredibly unnerving Pyramid Head became an iconic villain, with good reason, and the franchise became known as the first horror series to set its mind on something deeper than Satanic cults.

7. Just Cause. The original “Just Cause” was, by all accounts, a forgettable attempt to capitalize on the sandbox frenzy of the early 00′s. “Just Cause 2,” whose very existence was something of a surprise, decided to mark out its turf by going balls-to-the-wall, and against all odds, it worked. By embracing the B-movie at the heart of the franchise, Avalanche Studios resurrected a seemingly worthless IP and made something of it. GTA would never dare to give its protagonist an all-powerful grappling hook, or let them straddle a fighter jet in mid-air, so that’s exactly what they did. “Just Cause 2″ succeeded by willfully reinventing itself as the nutcase cousin to Rockstar. Smart move.

Nazis in Space

6. Killzone. It’s hard to start on a worse foot than “Killzone.” Unfairly hyped by Sony as its “Halo” killer, the original title floundered under monumental expectations and Microsoft fan-boys who loved to hate it. Undaunted, Guerilla Studios ate their peas and came back for seconds, delivering a surprisingly muscular, fun sequel that silenced even the most hardened critics and earned them a seat at the big boy table. “Killzone” may never win any awards for originality, but the franchise has iron in its veins, and it’s got the graphical horsepower to put “Halo” to shame and make “Gears of War” sweat bullets.

5. Battlefield: Bad Company. It seemed brilliant at first: a “Battlefield” title made with the consoles in mind. Unfortunately, miscalculations like an all-powerful, life-restoring syringe neutered the campaign, and the multiplayer never took off in its own right. DICE wisely learned from their mistakes, and with “Bad Company 2,” delivered the pedigreed, sophisticated answer to “Call of Duty’s” crass populism. Destructible environments, challenging vehicular combat, and class-based gameplay made “Battlefield” the choice of the discerning gamer. Let the frat boys keep their “Modern Warfare.”

"This might sting a whole hell of a lot"

4. Hitman. The original “Hitman” was a success of art direction, and little else. IO Interactive found a look, a tone, and a winning protagonist, but they failed to master the tricky landscape of stealth gameplay. Going forward, they must have known they needed to rise to the greatness of their material, and put off the clumsy mistakes of their first attempt. “Hitman 2: Silent Assassin” featured a deeper story, better thought-out gameplay, and the confident grace of an author who had found their voice. It became not only their flagship series, but a high water mark for game design with more on its mind than mindless slaughter.

3. Burnout. The original “Burnout” barely made itself known; the sequel could not possibly be ignored. Criterion’s first entry was like an aimless rough draft: they knew they wanted cars to go fast and look pretty, but the punishing and ultimately bland gameplay left many out in the cold. For “Burnout 2: Point of Impact,” they decided to up the mayhem by adding a new “Crash Mode” that incentivized the player for wrecking their ride, even fetishizing the disastrous results in slow-motion replays. Aside from being wickedly fun, Crash Mode was a symbolic gesture: it told the world what “Burnout” was and why they should care about it. In a world of self-serious “Forza”s and “Gran Turismo”s, “Burnout” is the blazing-fast giggle fest that brings out your inner maniac. The franchise went from 0 to 60 in one title, paving the way for “Burnout 3: Takedown,” which would solidify Criterion’s place in the upper echelon of racing titles.

"Those citizens aren't going to blend in with themselves..."

2. Assassin’s Creed. Few games have ever failed more spectacularly than “Assassin’s Creed.” After building an almost mythical amount of buzz before release, the game itself was a surprisingly deflating and mundane experience, full of repetitive missions and a clumsy story. Ubisoft took the reaction seriously, and came back with “Assassin’s Creed II,” which largely succeeded in wiping away the bitter taste of the original. Although AC remains quirky and somewhat flawed to this day, AC2 showed that Ubisoft listened to criticism and took it seriously. As a result, “Assassin’s Creed” continues to thrive today.

"Got lost in his own museum, huh?"

1. Red Dead. Rockstar inherited “Red Dead Revolver” half-finished, and bravely attempted to see it across the finish line. The result was a rare miss for the studio, politely ignored by their customers while they eagerly awaited a new GTA. Apparently chagrinned and dissatisfied, Rockstar dived right back into the Western genre, hell-bent on producing the first masterpiece of the form. Although many scratched their heads at first, the resulting “Red Dead Redemption” was a flat-out classic that put its brethren in Liberty City to shame. In story, gameplay, graphics and presentation, RDR trumps any other competitor in the sandbox genre and stands alone as a modern masterpiece. Oddly, “Redemption” shares no link, either in gameplay or story, with the original, and one cannot help but wonder why Rockstar persisted in keeping the name. Perhaps it was a matter of pride: they wore their failure proudly, as a reminder to themselves and others of the tenacity with which they pursue excellence.


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  • Anonymous

    Your article once again is completely insane. Have you even played any of those games?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    What are you blathering about, Mecha?

  • Mark Ross

    I think he’s mostly pissed at you for #10. Pretty sure that Uncharted did really well sales-wise and from the critics as well. Not sure what needed SAVING per se. I suppose the same 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    Perhaps you’re right. Maybe “Uncharted” never needed saving, per se. 

    There is a MASSIVE gulf between the ratings and sales of the first and the second, though. That you can’t deny. “Uncharted” went from a well-liked franchise to king of the world. I think that qualifies as something of an overhaul. 

  • Anonymous

    Sad that we live in a world where sales mean more than actual gameplay.

  • Anonymous

    And uncharted 1 sold well over a million copies during a bad time in the ps3s life. The sequel didnt SAVE anything. Just expanded on its epicness and increased sales. Isnt that was a sequel should do? This article makes no sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    Okay, okay, you’re right, sheesh. “Uncharted” was a great game. I just think the sequel attained a level of acclaim that was completely unique and elevated the franchise in a way the first one didn’t.

    You’ll notice, I said all of this in the actual paragraph. And it’s also ranked number 10, which means it’s the LEAST dramatic example on this list.

    Furthermore, explain to me how this article doesn’t make sense because one entry is perhaps SLIGHTLY overstated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    And lest you accuse me otherwise, I have played BOTH Uncharted games all the way to completion, so I do know what I’m talking about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.noh Joe Noh

    You’re forgetting the most obvious one: Street Fighter II > Street Fighter. Also, Team Fortress 2 > Team Fortress Classic, Grand Theft Auto 3 > Grand Theft Auto 2,

  • Anonymous

    Killzone 1 was pretty amazing. Red Dead Revolver was highly enjoyable and fun for it’s time. Silent Hill 1 is a classic. Mass Effect 1 is WORLDS BEYOND Shit Effect 2.

    I only agree with Just Cause and Ass Creed. If you’re gonna throw around the term “saved”, you have to mention something like Street Fighter. Nobody even knew what the original street fighter was. If it wasn’t for 2, we wouldn’t even have street fighter today.

  • Anonymous

    Because it feels more like  trolling post than anything. None of these games were “saved” by their sequels. You just listed a bunch of already AAA titles that had BETTER sequels. This article should be titled games that had better sequels.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    I know a lot of people who would disagree about Team Fortress. Street Fighter, yeah that’s a good one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    This was NOT trolling. I think these are all franchises that needed their sequels to establish the reputations they currently have, and I stand by my post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.noh Joe Noh

    While Team Fortress Classic was pretty fun, no one really cared about it quite as much as they did with Counterstrike. I think that if it hadn’t been for Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic would’ve gone the way of the dodo.