The TA Top Five: Sequels - Part One

By Mark Delaney, 5 years ago
In film, sequels have a tendency of falling short of their predecessors. Often times, public opinion holds the original film in a series in the highest regard. Honestly, does anyone like the Scream series after the first one? Sure The Empire Strikes Back is everyone's favorite war among stars, but sequels outdoing the original, in cinema, are few and far between. In games, this isn't the case though. Technology advances, budgets and manpower increase, and the inherent building block nature of gaming technology allows studios to improve on a format that was already working before.

Like movies, however, video game sequels are extremely common themselves. Studios would often rather continue a proven franchise than risk their money on a new IP. The Xbox 360 has seen countless sequels. From Far Cry 3 and Silent Hill: Downpour, which tell standalone stories under the label of a familiar title, to monstrous hits like Grand Theft Auto IV and BioShock Infinite (Xbox 360), games that return to a universe we know but show it to us behind new eyes, sequels in games allow us to get more out of a setting we loved and with which we were not finished.

For this list of the best 360 sequels, I set two prerequisites as a cut-off:
1. The game must be a sequel to a 360 game.
2. If the game contains a story, it must continue the same story as its predecessor.

Given those parameters, a lot of games, like those aforementioned, were disqualified from this list. If and when we revisit the best sequels list on TA, perhaps new parameters may be set. With that said, here are my top five sequels on the Xbox 360, and please be aware that some spoilers may be found in here, so don't read about games you plan on playing if you don't want to be spoiled.

5. Trials Evolution

Though this game doesn't try to tell a story like the rest listed, there's no denying the impressive feature set offered in Evolution. It took an addictive and familiar formula and blew the doors open, even literally. Out of the confines of the warehouse, bikers took their side-scrolling dirtbikes across the beaches of Normandy, spooky castles, dense jungles, and 2 GB worth of other terrains. That doesn't include the infinite possibilities afforded to gamers with the crazy-deep custom track creator where popular ideas featured re-imaginings of other games like Alan Wake and Angry Birds, to basketball, to, somehow, first-person shooters. All of this, plus competitive multiplayer made Trials Evolution one of the most successful XBLA games of all-time, and deservedly so.

Trials 2

4. Portal 2

There's room for games that let you shut off your brain and enjoy the simple things, like multiplayer shooters or the entirety of the Saints Row series, but Portal goes a much different route and challenges gamers to use their problem-solving abilities across an array of space-time-defying first-person puzzles. What felt like a throw-in with The Orange Box took on a life of its own. The game's short but satisfying story introduced us to a masochistic AI, companion cubes, and our test subject, Chell. Portal 2 took this brain-frying formula and expanded it ten-fold with puzzle-altering gels, light bridges, a longer story, and a standalone co-op campaign that is regarded as one of the best in its own right. On top of all that, hilarious characters like Wheatley and the voice of Cave Johnson keep you company on what might otherwise be a controller-smashing trek through Valve's twisted test chambers.

Screenshot 11

3. Mass Effect 2

For a glimpse at what makes Mass Effect 2 so great, you need only to play the opening scene. Where most games drop the player in an immersion-breaking tutorial or narrative exposition via cutscenes, Mass Effect 2 opens with what — correct me if I'm wrong — no game has done previously, and kills your character. Two laborious years later, he is revived by Cerberus and is told he was brought back so he could... die again. The stakes were high and only Shepard could be trusted with the mission, but even then death looks to be the only outcome. While some gamers complained the game lost some of its depth as an RPG, the story is much more focused than the first one and is arguably the best in the trilogy. The loyalty missions assigned to you by each of your squadmates were especially effective at both letting you craft your own Shepard and discovering more about the people you interact with on the Normandy 2.


2. Assassin's Creed II

When Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed early in the generation, fans and critics admired the ideas and gameplay mechanics introduced. Hiding in plain sight, stalking in crowds, and the now signature parkour chase scenes were fun appetizers for what was to come later in the series. Now a yearly franchise, the series' best is still its first sequel. Introducing Ezio at a young age and watching his family die bonded us to the young Renaissance Man. As the story unfolds, the gameplay greatly expands on what the original set forth. Parkouring was smoother and the combat was more polished. No longer was the best course a defensive mindset. Ezio was brutal as the attacker, unlike his ancestor Altair. The sci-fi elements of the already twisting story go through the roof with a mystery-laden ending rivalling a LOST season finale and to this day, after three more sequels and counting, we are still trying to figure some of it out.

AC2 screen

1. Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360)

The number one commendation you hear about Rocksteady's first foray behind the cape and cowl was that it became the first game to make you really feel like Batman. So when the sequel debuted a few years later, Bat-fans wondered what they could do better. The answer was, ultimately, everything. Gone was the Metroidvania-style backtracking. Now we could glide and zipline around a whole district of Gotham City. On top of that, this section was inhabited exclusively by prisoners and wackos, most of whom were all too familiar with the Dark Knight already. The combat, which has since inspired many other games' systems, grew even more fluid and allows for the most satisfying fight scenes on the console today. Rocksteady used every ounce of their game-licensing juice for this one too and they scavenged the property's rogues gallery high and low for many of Batman's most interesting baddies. The story delivers better than any superhero game ever has, and the final scene is absolutely chilling ( — and no, that's not a Mister Freeze pun).

Harley's Revenge Screen 3

We'll eventually offer up another list of our own top sequels (there's plenty to go around, after all), but for now let's hear your top five.

The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his fiancée and son. He almost never writes in the third person.