For better or for worse, we live in an industry ruled by sequels, where taking risks on brand new IPs is becoming rare, replaced more and more often by regular iterations of established franchises. At least, this is the case on the ďAAAĒ level, and Nintendo is certainly not excluded from this observation. However, Iím not going to get on a soapbox and rant about sequelitis; Iíll save that for another day. And the simple fact is, at the end of the day, developers wouldnít make sequels if consumers werenít buying them. When you truly love a game, it is hard to not want more.
Same platform sequels (sequels that appear on the same piece of hardware as the previous game) are interesting to me in the sense that they (generally) give developers a chance to focus less on making their core game engine work, and more on polishing the gameplay and adding new ideas. Because of this, you often find same platform sequels that outshine the originals in many ways. However, in most cases this results in a sequel that has refined many elements of the original, but has not really taken the franchise to the next level. That kind of leap is often reserved for a sequel on a brand new platform.
But not always. So Iíve put together a top 10 list of same (Nintendo) platform sequels that, in my opinion, did not just refine their respective franchises, but took them another step beyond, whether utilizing familiar gameplay while taking a clear leap forward, or coming up with something brand new entirely. So sorry Super Mario Galaxy 2, youíre one of my favorite sequels of all-time, but you just donít qualify for this list. This is for same platform sequels that really made that extra effort to step up their game. I have also decided to exclude games where the originals just werenít very good games. Iím more interested in sequels that took something already great and made it even better.
Iíll admit right now, I took a few liberties in deciding where to draw the line between refining and a true step forward, but in my opinion, these games all made a definable leap. And my opinion is law! Bow before my mighty opinion!
The original NES Castlevania was a pretty good horror-themed action / platformer game, and Castlevania II: Simonís Quest introduced uhÖ well, basically it introduced a lot of annoying junk that nearly breaks the game. However, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is the Castlevania game that, in my eyes, really showed that Castlevania was a series worth paying attention to. Various playable characters, character swapping, transformations, increased variety in weapons, branching paths, multiple endings, and some of the tightest gameplay the series had seen to date made Dracula's Curse truly stand out.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)
Iíve gone back and played both the original Donkey Kong Country and its sequel, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddyís Kong Quest, many times now, and I have to admit, a part of me wonders what exactly I saw in the original at the time. Donít get me wrong, itís still a fun game, but itís not really quite the spectacular game that it felt like at the time, and when you take away the awesome graphics (which havenít aged well) and awesome music (which has), the game behind them is a fun but fairly basic platformer. Some people make this claim about the original trilogy as a whole, but I have to disagree; Diddyís Kong Quest is still excellent to this day. Itís tough to quantify exactly what it does that the original did not, but it feels vastly more nuanced and a lot more complex. Pretty much everything good about the original comes back kicked up a notch, while a bunch of new stuff (including some awesome animal buddies like the spider) is added to the mix. And the already great soundtrack somehow managed to get even better for the sequel.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is a unique game on my list because it is the only one that I chose which I do not necessarily think was the best in the series up to the point of its release; Iíd probably reserve that spot for the original Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Game Boy Advance. However, Bowser's Inside Story is right up there, and clearly superior to the first DS game in the series (Partners in Time) so it makes my list. Bowserís Inside Story was such a unique take on the formula, making Bowser the star of the show as the main playable character, while the Mario brothers still played a strong supporting role, getting swallowed and exploring the inside of his body (which had some of the best platforming / puzzles in the series.)
Wii Sports Resort (Wii)
This is a tough choice, because speaking by duration only, I spent a lot more time with the original Wii Sports than I did with Wii Sports Resort, or to be more precise, I spent a lot more time with Wii Sports Bowling and Golf than I did with anything in Resort. However, Resort is the superior game by a large margin, instantly rendering the original Wii Sports a relic. In part this was due to the Wii MotionPlus attachment, which gave developers the ability to finally realize the promise of the Wii remote, including a new addition to Wii SportsÖ sword fighting! But Wii Sports Resort also polished up and expanded upon some of the events in the original Wii Sports (removing a few that I never played anyway) while adding a bunch more events and a brand new erm... character? (if you believe Miyamoto), in Wuhu Island.
Pikmin 2 (Gamecube)
A lot of people are going to disagree with me on this one, and those people simply love being wrong. Ok, maybe that is a bit harsh, but when I look back on things, it feels to me like getting Pikmin near the launch of the Gamecube was the equivalent of getting a sweet little appetizer before the huge and delicious main course of Pikmin 2 arrived. You can argue against the Nintendoís decision to remove the day limit in Pikmin 2; I might disagree, but fair enough. However, what you canít argue against is that Pikmin 2 is a much meatier game, including a new playable character, new pikmin types, 200! treasure pieces to collect (next to 30 in the original), 30 additional challenge stages that can be played either single player or co-op, and a competitive battle mode. All of this culminating in not only one of my favorite Gamecube games, but one of my most played as well.
WarioWare: Twisted! (Game Boy Advance)
One of the limitations same platform sequels have is that they need to try to impress gamers in new ways using the same olí hardware that they already used. WarioWare: Twisted! got around this by saying fudge it, weíll just add new hardware onto the game cartridge itself. Twisted! came with a gyroscope built into the cartridge, which allowed players to manipulate the game world by actually twisting their Game Boy Advance itself. Of course, this could have just come off as a cheap gimmick, but a pretty brilliant WarioWare game was designed around it, which included, among other things, a ďbossĒ stage that involved keeping a man from falling over, which, through subtle manipulations, would have you holding your Game Boy Advance upside-down by the time it was over. Thatís the kind of neat innovation that you donít see in too many same platform sequels.
Mega Man 2 (NES)
I actually like the original Mega Man a lot more than most people do, at least, if you trust that our ratings here at Negative World reflect the greater Mega Man playing population in any way. However, there is simply no denying that Mega Man 2 is a superior game on every measurable level. Itís bigger, itís better designed, itís better balanced (except for the super cheap metal blade), the robot masters are more interesting, the power-ups are more fun to use, it controls (a bit) better, the graphics are better, and the music, my god, the music! Mega Man 2 is a perfect example of how to take a great game and make the sequel into a spectacular one not through a reinvention of the core principles, but by taking what works and just plain making it all that much better.
Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Final Fantasy VI, known as Final Fantasy III in the West until subsequent rereleases that reverted it back to the original name, was the third Final Fantasy game to hit the Super Nintendo, although only the second Final Fantasy to hit the Super Nintendo in the West, the first being Final Fantasy IV, known as Final Fantasy II here. Confused yet? Final Fantasy V eventually made it over on the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance, but for the sake of this list (and also because Iíve never played it), Iím not counting it in my thoughts here. Final Fantasy IV was a great RPG, no doubt, but Final Fantasy VI is one of the defining RPGs of the SNES generation. Among the strong points of the game were a battle system where each character had a truly unique moveset, an en epic storyline with a very memorable villain and an equally memorable cast of characters, and one of the best soundtracks of the 16-bit era. Also the opera scene. Canít forget the opera scene.
Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)
Most of the other games on this list (actually, all of them) follow the same core formula of their previous iteration and simply take things to another level. Resident Evil 4, however, was a complete redesign of the Resident Evil formula. In fact, itís a bit disingenuous to even call it a same platform sequel, because it could be argued that Resident Evil 4 is so far from the previous Resident Evil games that it is essentially a brand new franchise. But hey, Capcom stuck a 4 in it, so it counts! And man, what a game Resident Evil 4 was. A nearly perfect blend of action and horror, and one of the few (generally) linear, single player games that has a good 20+ hours of content in the main campaign and yet never feels old, Resident Evil 4 is just continual excellence from start to finish. Donít get me wrong, I enjoy the older Resident Evil games as well, and I wouldnít mind seeing that style return some day, but Resident Evil 4 was something on another level entirely.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
I often say that Super Mario Bros. 3 is the best same platform sequel in video games, period, but I have to admit that Resident Evil 4 is pretty darn close, and it was tough to decide which one should get the top spot. However, as far as sticking to the basic formula of the previous game (Iím counting the original Super Mario Bros. as the previous game here, ignoring the Westís Super Mario Bros. 2, which wasnít a true Mario game) and crafting a fresh and exciting new experience from it, Super Mario Bros. 3 has simply never been topped. It may not seem as impressive nowadays to younger gamers who didnít experience the game back when it released, but the leap from the original Super Mario Bros. (or the true, previously Japan-only Super Mario Bros. 2, if you want to count that) to Super Mario Bros. 3 was unprecedented at the time. From several huge worlds to explore to tons of new items and suits to franchise defining (and unfortunately a bit overused in current Mario games) settings and enemies to excellent graphics and yes, much like Mega Man 2, a spectacular soundtrack, Super Mario Bros. 3 excelled on every level. It gets my top spot, and I feel pretty comfortable in saying that it deserves it.
There you go. Do you agree, disagree? Have a game that I forgot about? Let me know in the comments!
PS. I have a few others that didnít quite make my list, and I usually post them all here at the end of these top 10 lists, but Iím going to hold off this time around and see if anyone else mentions something that I was thinking of.
I can agree with a lot of these choices; Resident Evil 4, Mega Man 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Donkey Kong Country 2 are all awesome games. DKC2 is an improvement over the first DKC, but unlike a lot of people I still insist that the first DKC is a great game. I think it's an incredible platformer; it's just that DKC2 is even more incredible than it.
@Pokefreak911 Out of curiosity, why do you prefer the first Super Mario Bros. to 3?
Good list. Can't say I can really think of anything to add. I'm sure someone might mention Wario Land 2 or 3, but I actually still prefer the original. I thought Super Mario Land 2 was also a massive step above Super Mario Land, but certainly that couldn't crack your top 10. There was also Pokemon Gold/Silver, but I think that game was just a ton more of the same, and not exactly genre redefining.
Also, while not revolutionary or anything, I thought Professor Layton and the Unwound Future was far and away the best Layton game on the DS. Still some great puzzles, a very intriguing story, and serious heart string pullage.
@Infinitywave I was trying to stick to games that really outdid the game that came before it. Majora's Mask well... for me it did, but kind of generally speaking it sort of rehashes a lot from Ocarina of Time with a new twist.
Plus like... Ocarina of Time. I'd be hard-pressed to seriously claim anything outdid that and have people support that claim...
Guys, did you even read anything that I wrote? It's not just "best same platform sequels evar" it's basically a top 10 list of the ones that made serious improvements on their previous games and became significantly better games.
...which Stephen might think about Majora's Mask versus Ocarina of Time, but I'm like 99% sure Shadowlink would never back the idea that Majora's Mask was a much better game than Ocarina of Time.
It's probably a little my fault for not coming up with a title that explains this better, but I couldn't think of any that weren't super long. Maybe I could rename it "Top 10 Most Improved Same Platform Sequels on a Nintendo System" or something like that?
Ah sorry, I missed that part of the smallprint. ;)
Still, Majora's Mask outshone OoT in some ways (atmosphere, NPC depth, daily routines, innovative game structure) and to do that to arguably the best game of all time is pretty impressive. It's a masterpiece.
@X-pert74 But RE4 is the sequel to RE3, it's not a sequel to a remake of the original or a prequel to the series. Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but since it's pretty clear that there is a numbered sequence of core-line RE games I personally would not count RE4 in a list like this.
@Jargon Twilight Princess! I feel like that game fell through the cracks of time. I really want to see them port it to 3DS, I think it would work fantastically on that system, and they could use the CGN control scheme with the CPP enabled. Wonderful.
@deathly_hallows I judge it by previous games that were made in the series for the system. Basing it solely off of the last numbered game I think would be silly, particularly since the last major game before 4, chronologically, is Code Veronica, not 3.
@PogueSquadron I don't think the first Street Fighter has ever come out for a Nintendo system, if you disregard Fighting Street on the Virtual Console.