16 Game Sequels That May Have Let You Down
By Alessandro Fillari on
Learning often requires failure.
There can be a lot of pressure involved in trying to release a follow up to a much-loved game. When making a sequel, oftentimes creators have to follow the vague mantra of "bigger and better"--but as it turns out, that's not always the way to find success. Over the years, there have been many game sequels that managed to let fans down, leaving us all to wonder what went wrong.
No developer is immune from missing the mark, unfortunately. With the likes of Blizzard, EA, Capcom, Sega, and even Nintendo releasing games that didn't quite land the way we wanted, not every game in a series can be a winner. But in some cases, those missteps would eventually lead to other entries that not only surpassed the previous game, but also allowed the series to grow in ways that fans least expect.
In this feature, GameSpot dug deep and picked some titles which we believe were some of gaming's more notable stumbles when trying to make a worthy sequel. Whether it was ambition going beyond the developer's means, or an ill-advised vision that drastically changed from what worked before, some sequels just weren't able to rekindle the magic that the original title had. We've chosen a few games for this list, and broke down exactly why we think they didn't quite live up to their predecessors. While not all of these games are total flops, these particular games lacked a certain something that's noticeable when placed next to its predecessor.
For more features on upcoming sequels that may live up to expectations, be sure to read everything we know Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, The Last of Us 2, and Fallout 76. In the mean time, which game sequels do you feel like didn't live up to the original? Let us know in the comments below.
Assassin's Creed III (October 30, 2012)
Assassin's Creed III has always been a tough game for me to settle. Back when I first played the game, I was in love with its historical setting, the cultural authenticity of its protagonist Ratonhnhaké:ton, and its courage to step away from the urban environments of previous entries. However, Assassin's Creed III's overall execution proved to be lackluster--which was embodied in its opening hours. What began as an ambitious beginning by putting you in control of the protagonist's father, Haytham Kenway, inevitably turned into a rote trip down all too familiar ground. Laced in those early hours were derivative storytelling and mechanics that fans have known for years. And new additions to the formula, like naval combat, hunting, and tree free-running, were split too few and far in-between, making the whole introduction a slog. For every great aspect it had to offer, there was a caveat that took away from its impact.
After six or so hours, Assassin's Creed III eventually picks up, throwing you headfirst into the American Revolutionary War's most iconic events. Seeing a grounded, more honest depiction of George Washington was fascinating, while participating in the Battle of Bunker Hill proved to be one of the adventure's most exciting set pieces. But these moments were accompanied by inconsistent stealth, patchy AI, and inflexible mission design. Its fragmented world never did justice to the openness of its frontier premise, with activities split apart across too many different areas.
Back then I wanted very much to enjoy Assassin's Creed III, but it would often disappoint me more than satisfy. Today, I'm happy that I can better appreciate its ambition; the game proved to be a proper springboard that would inevitably set up the framework for the franchise's later entries. However, no matter which way you cut it, Assassin's Creed III failed to live up to the legacy of quality set by its predecessors. |Matt Espineli
Bioshock 2 (February 9, 2010)
BioShock is rightfully considered a classic for its eerie atmosphere and unsettling story twist. Descending into Rapture and hearing a Splicer scuttle across your biosphere still gives me a shiver down my spine, and feeling the lumbering thud of a Big Daddy is possibly the only thing from the franchise that causes me more anxiety than hearing the jaunty tune that summons BioShock Infinite's Songbird.
But before we soared above the clouds in Columbia, we returned to the depths of Rapture for BioShock 2. Despite the improvements made to the shooting mechanics, this sequel ultimately falls short in comparison to the original game. BioShock 2 is just too similar to the original. For some genres, sticking to what you know is fine, but the tone of Rapture is so closely tied to discovering its hidden horrors that it's best experienced as a stranger who's trying to understand a nightmare. You're no longer a stranger to Rapture in BioShock 2, and that makes everything far less terrifying.
As a result, Rapture just lost a lot of its mystique in BioShock 2. Most of the characters we encountered and enemies we fought are a little too similar to the deranged assortment of damaged souls we met the first time around. I have plenty of qualms with BioShock Infinite as well, but I'll admit that the new setting at least offered interesting changes to the original game's mechanics. BioShock 2 could have been way better if it had just done more to distance itself from the first BioShock. | Jordan Ramee
Crackdown 2 (July 6, 2010)
I adored the original Crackdown; it offered a take on the open-world action game that no game at the time (and very few since) have provided. A playground where you can jump high into the air, climb skyscrapers, and pick up cars over your head to throw at enemies made for a very enjoyable sandbox. The game was perhaps a bit shallow overall, with repetitive objectives and dumb enemies, but it was still great fun--just the sort of setup that makes for a strong sequel.
Rather than being developed by the same studio, Realtime Worlds, Crackdown 2 went to another developer, Ruffian Games. While there's nothing wrong with that, it felt as if Ruffian was too busy trying to recreate the basis of the first game to provide any meaningful innovations. Crackdown 2 was set in the same location, Pacific City, and made few real advancements in terms of gameplay. The story remained an afterthought, there was little variety in objectives, and the new Freak enemies did nothing to impact the game.
While the core gameplay remained enjoyable, and the addition of four-player co-op was very welcome, Crackdown 2 nevertheless felt like a disappointing retread. | Chris Pereira
Crysis 2 (March 22, 2011)
While history remembers Crysis as a benchmark for PC gaming performance, I like to think back on the original game as more of a fun solid sandbox FPS. With plenty of weapons and different powers channeled from your nanotech infused armor, you could wreak havoc across a tropical island filled with North Korean military and alien invaders. Its story was forgettable, and the characters even more so, but the game was all sorts of dumb fun, and even in 2018--nearly 11 years after its release--Crysis is still quite easy on the eyes.
Coming from Crytek, the developers behind the original Far Cry, Crysis felt like a spiritual successor to their previous game's focus on exploring and battling through a dense jungle environment. But for the follow-up, Crysis 2, the developers opted for a change in scenery and some revisions to the core gameplay, which unfortunately took away the heart of what made the original so fun. Now set in future-New York City, and armed with a more streamlined nanosuit, you're tasked with taking out a rogue military force and deal with another alien invasion. On the surface this sounds all well and good; the original game certainly didn't win any points for originality, but in practice Crysis 2 lost me when it focused on far more linear-style action with fewer options. This was all made worse by a more simplified power-up system, where certain powers were only contextual and never on command.
The original Crysis was far from a masterclass in FPS gameplay, but it still managed to let players go about missions in the way they saw fit. This was a game, regardless of tone, that let players grab chickens and throw them at enemies with "maximum strength"--as the nanosuit's AI said. The sequel, while not an awful game, lost sight of that--instead going for a more traditional FPS experience. While Crysis 3 was Crytek's attempt at offering the best of both worlds--even re-introducing jungle environments in a ruined NYC--it still never reached the same heights that the original game managed to meet. What I remember most about playing Crysis 1 was figuring out the best ways to go through several of the game's major set-pieces, which resulted in some of my favorite moments playing it. I can't recall having anything even close to those moments in both of the sequels, which is a real shame. | Alessandro Fillari
Deus Ex: Invisible War (December 2, 2003)
Believe me when I say that Deus Ex: Invisible War was a perfectly fine game. The original Deus Ex is, without a doubt, one of the greatest games of all time, and with such a high bar to clear, Invisible War had an incredibly tall order to fulfill. And because of that, it felt like a step back during the earlier years of immersive sims. At first, I noticed the RPG elements that were stripped away and the simplified (to a fault) inventory system. Spec-ing your character to a specific playstyle was entirely relegated to an either-or situation with augmentations since there were no stats or skill trees to tinker with. I couldn't shake the feeling of being funnelled through a narrow path despite having options to tackle objectives through either stealth and hacking or sheer force.
The cast was considerably less charismatic and the conspiracy aspect of the story didn't hit quite as hard as the original. And the one aspect that stood out to me the most was an unshakeable sense of claustrophobia. Deus Ex's world felt open, with space to work, but Invisible War didn't provide the same level of freedom in its level design.
Deus Ex: Invisible War did do some things right, though. The game still had its own sense of place and distinct atmosphere. Neon lights beamed across environments that served as playgrounds for emergent moments when messing with physics or the set of tools you're given. Getting tangled in a web of factions still evoked a tension that was felt throughout. However, Alex Denton's journey just didn't live up to JC's. | Michael Higham
Devil May Cry 2 (January 25, 2003)
If there's one thing to be said about the Devil May Cry series, it's that it always tries to keep things interesting. Known for its fast-paced and stylish approach to action, with an assortment of seriously cheesy moments throughout, Capcom's self-assured brawler franchise offers some of the most satisfying combat and thrills around. However, there's one entry in the series that's universally regarded as the black sheep--and no, it's not Ninja Theory's misunderstood and grossly underrated DmC: Devil May Cry.
Releasing only 16 months after the original game, Devil May Cry 2 was Capcom's attempt at capitalizing on the surprise success of DMC1, and it almost immediately became the quintessential example of how not to do a sequel. I was a big admirer of the original game, and watching the early trailers and previews for DMC2, which showed off more stylish moves, a cooler outfit for Dante, and a new secondary campaign with newcomer Lucia--in her first and only appearance--made me very excited for what was to come. However upon release, the game's more serious tone and revisions to gameplay ended up rubbing fans, myself included, the wrong way. The game's combat also saw a noticeable downgrade from DMC1's sharp and responsive mechanics, made worse by the glaringly subdued difficulty. When stacked up with its predecessor, the sequel showed a stark drop in overall quality, which made clearing through its two campaigns a chore.
While it did have some bright spots, which include real-time weapon swapping, mission select, and the Bloody Palace mode--all of which are now mainstays of the series--DMC2 was a poor attempt at chasing after the original's success, which ultimately resulted in a game that was far too easy, muddled in its approach to stylish combat, and, well, boring. Personally speaking, I was more annoyed that I wasted a weekend and some allowance powering through the game over the course of a weekend.
Though the sequel missed the mark, the Devil May Cry series would eventually find its footing again with the release of Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, which reaffirmed its status as a top-tier action game. While fans have had many intense debates about what their personal rankings are for the series, one thing is rarely disputed--Devil May Cry 2 was where the series hit rock-bottom. | Alessandro Fillari
Diablo 3 (May 15, 2012)
Blizzard rarely rushes to release new games, and Diablo III was no exception. It came 12 years after its predecessor, yet--long wait or not--proved to be a huge disappointment. Diablo II was not known for having a terrific endgame--I spent a huge chunk of my adolescence doing Baal runs, where you endlessly repeat the same final boss fight--but Diablo III likewise failed to provide anything worth doing once the credits rolled.
The lack of PvP hurt in that regard further, but worse than anything was the way the item economy worked. High-quality items were handed out at a ridiculously infrequent pace, and the best way to obtain good gear was the game's controversial auction house where you could spend real-world money. For a game all about the loot grind, it was hugely off-putting (as was an always-online requirement preventing offline single-player).
While I didn't share every complaint others had--I enjoyed the change in art style--it was undeniable that I was not just disappointed, but I wasn't even having fun. For the follow-up to what was at the time my favorite game ever, that was astounding.
Thankfully, unlike many of the other games on this list, things did turn around. The shutdown of the auction house and release of the Reaper of Souls expansion and a major free update all paired to turn the game around. Quality items were no longer rationed out at a snail's pace, an Adventure mode provided variety in the endgame, and years of further updates have ultimately turned Diablo III into not only a worthwhile sequel, but one that in many ways surpasses its predecessors. | Chris Pereira
Dragon Age 2 (March 8, 2011)
The acclaimed RPG developer BioWare has gone through many changes over its 20+ years in the business. With games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the Mass Effect franchise pushing it to the forefront, many diehard fans longed for a return to its classic CRPG titles like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate. 2009's Dragon Age: Origins ended up being the happy mix of its modern design sense it developed working on Mass Effect, with the old-school sensibilities of its early hits. In the framework of a traditional fantasy-RPG, you would create a unique character, become one of the last Grey Wardens, and have their choices shape the land of Ferelden forever. Truth be told, the first Bioware game I played was KOTOR, and I mostly followed their modern movement since then. I ended up getting into their CRPG beginnings sometime later.
I did, however, play the original Dragon Age, which I ended up liking far more than I thought. After the game's completion, I was already looking forward to seeing more from the series. And just two years later, BioWare's sequel Dragon Age II was released--but it ended up making some big changes that I couldn't get over. While you could import your saves from the original game to carry over important decisions--which was very important to me--the sequel focused on the exploits of an entirely new character named Hawke, a human exile traveling to the city of Kirkwall, far away from the original's main setting. By and large, Dragon Age II was a much more cinematic and action-focused game, a big shift from Origins' more traditional fantasy adventure.
By focusing on a more defined character--even removing options for backstories and different races to choose from--it resulted in a game that took the role-playing aspect of the original game less seriously, which ironically was what placed BioWare on the map. Moreover, the action-focused gameplay ultimately didn't mesh well with the original's tactical framework, which felt like busywork when coupled with the new system. Coming off of Origins, I found getting into Dragon Age II to be quite jarring. Throughout Hawke's story, you could see moments where the developer struggled to balance the expectations of a more accessible action-RPG with its traditional role-playing style.
After its release, Dragon Age II received several updates and expansions that sought to refine the game further. But eventually, BioWare cut its losses and moved on, even cancelling the final DLC episode, The Exalted March. The developer then began work on the next installment in the series, Dragon Age Inquisition, which ended up being a better evolution of the studio's role-playing lineage, and even justifying Hawke's place in the overarching story. Still, Dragon Age 2 comes off more like an odd diversion in the grand scheme of things, that feels a bit too inconsequential for the series it's a part of it. It certainly makes me feel like I won't miss much by skipping out on it during my eventual revisit of the series. | Alessandro Fillari
Final Fantasy Tactic Advance (September 8, 2003)
Final Fantasy Tactics wasn't a great game solely because of its deep tactical combat; it also told a great story that featured more backstabbing and heroics than a season of Game of Thrones. The setting of Ivalice was so notable and well beloved that it graduated into something bigger: a mainstay of the Final Fantasy series at large.
Games like Final Fantasy XII and XIV gave the concept of Ivalice room to grow, but the basis for their version of Ivalice more closely resembles the Final Fantasy Tactics follow-up game, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. It's medieval, it's got decent tactical combat, but it also sets itself up as an imaginary dream world living between the pages of a modern children's fantasy novel.
That's all well and good in isolation, but as a "sequel" to a game that thrived in part because of its characters, many of whom were sadistic adults hell-bent on accruing power by any means necessary, a children's fantasy hardly fits the bill. Oh and that tactical combat? Every battle has some limitation decided at random by a judge. It's not awful, but it strips away the sense that you're playing tightly orchestrated battles that are being fought for an unavoidable purpose in service of the plot. | Peter Brown
Mass Effect: Andromeda (March 21, 2017)
We waited a long time for Mass Effect: Andromeda--five years to be exact, so expectations were high. BioWare promised an ambitious science-fiction adventure fit for the current generation of consoles, one that would allow you to explore an uncharted galaxy with an entirely new cast of characters.
What we got was underwhelming to say the least. Considering we saw very little of the game until a month before release, we shouldn't have been surprised. The characters were dull, the worlds were barren, the story fell flat, and the game was rife with bugs. Many of the glitches have been ironed out at this point, but Andromeda's problems run much deeper.
The one thing Andromeda had going for it was the combat. Zipping around combat zones with your jetpack while mixing and matching different abilities felt fantastic. Unfortunately, for a franchise known for its characters and storytelling, it takes more than flashy gameplay to leave a lasting impression. | Jake Dekker
Metroid II: Return of Samus (November 1991)
Metroid II suffers the same fate as Zelda II--it tries to be great by doing something different, but loses the appeal of the original title. Its one saving grace is its legacy: giving Samus her iconic Varia suit design. But it's not like we knew that suit was going to stick around back in the day.
Pretty much every Metroid game focuses on one of Samus' missions where she has to traverse dangerous environments and find different types of weapon and suit upgrades to explore new areas and take on more formidable threats. Metroid II is the one exception, where Samus acts as a bounty hunter instead of a super soldier. It's an ideal mission on paper--Samus is a bounty hunter after all--but it's ruined in practice by Metroid II's repeated use of the same type of prey. Sure, the Metroids come in five different forms, but you'll face each of those forms numerous times in the exact same type of fight. Metroid II's 3DS remake, Samus Returns, works so well because the game implements new bosses to break up the humdrum of hunting the same thing for hours on end.
Metroid II was also just limited by technology when it first released in the early 90s. Launching on the original Game Boy meant Metroid II lacked the vibrant color palette of its NES predecessor, and the musical score couldn't be as complex either. | Jordan Ramee
Perfect Dark Zero (November 22, 2005)
Rare had some expectations to live up to with Perfect Dark Zero; it had been five years and two console generations since the original game by the time Zero came around. Perfect Dark was a spiritual follow-up to the iconic Goldeneye 007 and certainly took console shooters to new heights during the N64's lifecycle, but games had evolved drastically in that five-year period, and the franchise didn't feel like it changed with the times. That didn't necessarily sour the entire experience, though.
Perfect Dark Zero released right around the launch of the Xbox 360, and it was exciting to see Joanna Dark back in action with an incredibly fun cooperative mode and some good single-player moments. The game was also a decent showcase of the console's graphical prowess at the time, and really leveraged that shiny-surface look of this era. However, it lacked a compelling narrative and fluid gameplay seen in some of the top-tier shooters from Microsoft's previous console. While many other games honed in on smooth movement and shooting mechanics, Perfect Dark Zero seemed like it adopted the antiquated feel of older games and stayed true to its roots to a fault. | Michael Higham
Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (January 8, 2008)
The original Sonic Riders remains one of my favorite racing games to this day. It knocked the blue blur and the rest of his friends off their feet and onto Extreme Gear--a collection of hoverboards, skates, and bikes--which they'd use to race against the avian Babylon Rogues. I had a blast weaving between traffic on Metal City or careening through the sky on Babylon Ruins. The story isn't the best, but the campaign challenges you to master balancing your speed against fuel consumption.
A sequel, Zero Gravity, made way too many changes to the original game's winning formula. Taking shortcuts became dependent on which Gear a character was riding, not the character themselves. The Extreme Gears also used an upgrade system that relied on rings, but since rings took such a long time to respawn, whoever was in first place would get all their Gear upgrades first. Made their lead even bigger. If I'm in first place by the end of the first lap on a race, it's practically impossible for anyone to catch up to me. And that's no fun. I want a race, not a blowout.
Zero Gravity's worst offender is the gravity mechanics. In the original Sonic Riders, deciding when to give up a massive chunk of fuel for a speed boost made for some of the closest, most stressful competition I've had with my friends. In Zero Gravity, boosts are replaced with Gravity Dives, which let a player careen ahead at breakneck speeds. However, each course only has one place where players can really use a dive (the game even lets you know when to use it). There's no strategy to fuel consumption in Zero Gravity, so the game just can't produce the same heart-pounding races I love in the original. | Jordan Ramee
Star Craft 2 (July 27, 2010)
By no means is StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty a bad game; its expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, were welcome additions to the base game. But having to be a sequel to the most iconic real-time strategy game ever, StarCraft 2 was more of a victim of circumstance. The sequel had a healthy competitive scene for a while and the community was very active in the game's heyday. However, it's near impossible to match the impact of StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War (both released in 1998), which still get competitions to this day.
StarCraft 2 had sensible modernizations for how you command units so you weren't held to the same limitations from all those years ago. There was considerably less emphasis on micromanagement, which gave newcomers an avenue to jump into an RTS franchise that was often seen as intimidating, but there was still substantial depth to strategy. Regardless, it wasn't able to maintain the same competitive scene as its predecessor; many factors, like the rise of MOBAs or the attachment to the purity of Brood War's gameplay, are part of the equation. High-level players also had frustrations with some of the more intricate changes with balance and unit abilities. | Michael Higham
Valkyria Chronicles 2 (August 31, 2010)
Valkyria Chronicles on PS3 (now remastered on PS4 and PC) remains a console strategy treasure, a unique take on turn-based tactics that melds top-down sandtable strategy with the satisfying real-time component of third-person positioning and attacking. Its signature watercolor-style visuals are gorgeous and understated, a timeless look that perfectly serves the game's somber tone and wartime themes.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 was a great game too--it was proof that the tactical system was stalwart, and it was one of those games that I sunk dozens and dozens of hours into. But it failed to reach the same kinds of heights as the original game, and despite some positive tweaks in gameplay, fell short in many respects.
A lot of that boiled down to the fact that the series had moved onto Sony's PSP handheld, and the limitations that came with that. Superficially, the visuals just couldn't compare. Without the crispness of textures and 3D fidelity, its interpretation of the game's art style didn't have the same impact. The large battlefields were now split into smaller maps, presumably to reduce the strain on hardware resources, requiring you to capture encampments before being able to continue on. It was fine, but another chip away at the grandeur established in the original.
But the big disappointment for me personally was its decision to crank the anime knob to 11. The narrative turned away from the human effects of political and international warfare, and towards the dynamics of a military academy--basically, a high school, featuring an increased number of obvious character archetypes, loud personalities, and even more fanservice (though that felt more at home here than in the original). It's the kind of Japanese-style teenage drama that you've likely seen a ton of before, which isn't the worst thing in the world, but a bit of a shame after I was so impressed with the tone of the original.
I enjoyed Valkyria Chronicles 2 a lot--it's the perfect series for a handheld system--but the thing I remember most about my time playing it is how much I wanted to go back and play the original Valkyria Chronicles once I was done. A lot of time has passed since then, and I still revisit Valkyria Chronicles every so often. Its sequel? Not so much. | Edmond Tran
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (January 14, 1987)
The original Zelda is fun to play today, but in the 1980s it was a revelation. For a generation of gamers who were used to playing repetitive arcade games, The Legend of Zelda was an almost unimaginably epic adventure. With its vast open world rife with secrets and Link's expanding set of abilities, this game exploded our sense of what a video game could be. What new wonders could its sequel possibly bring? I could hardly imagine.
Zelda II: The Adventures of Link didn't bring unimaginable wonders. Instead of polishing the almost perfect gameplay of the original, it made big, sweeping changes, nearly all for the worse. In place of a fully open world is one in which your progress is gated to make for a more linear adventure. Instead of the satisfying top-down action of the original, we get awkward side-scrolling combat hampered by Link's toothpick-sized sword. And don't even get me started on the knights who can block your every attack, no matter how fast you duck and stab.
But let's end on a high note: at least the music is rad. | Chris Reed