When a sequel for a video game is announced, there are typically one of two thoughts that cross our mind: A) I hope it lives up to the original, or B) how did that game get a sequel? Whether it’s because a game didn’t live up to its hype or people had already checked out on a series, sometimes sequels don’t get the attention that they deserve. Here are a few examples of some of the unsung sequels that deserve a second glance.
BioShock left us in awe after introducing us to the underwater, dystopian ruins of Rapture, but BioShock 2 expanded upon that iconic city beyond the reach of Andrew Ryan. It introduced us to Sophia Lamb, a tyrant of another type, and tasked us with exploring the slums of Rapture that were home to those who weren’t privileged enough to join the city’s aristocracy.
In terms of gameplay, BioShock 2 had the smoothest combat experience of the entire franchise. BioShock 2 nailed the feeling of playing as a Big Daddy, finally giving us the ability to wield our own drill and stomp around Rapture as the nightmarish titan that terrorized us in the original. That is, until we heard the terrifying screech of one of the most difficult enemies in any BioShock game, the agile and dangerous Big Sister.
Those looking for the narrative jolt of the original BioShock needed look no further than BioShock 2’s Minerva’s Den DLC. This self-contained tale went beyond the stories of Andrew Ryan and Sophia Lamb, but didn’t lack any of the emotional impact. It was BioShock storytelling at its finest.
Check out our BioShock 2 review here.
Max Payne 3
It would not be surprising to see Rockstar become a two-game studio, alternating between iterations of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. If that ends up being the case, let’s take a moment to remember the last great game that Rockstar made outside the GTA and RDR monikers: Max Payne 3.
Here’s to you, Max Payne 3, and how you wrapped up the tragic tale of your titular character and give him some semblance of redemption. Here’s to Max and how he rocked Hawaiian shirts and a bald head, sipped on Mai Tais in Brazil, and cleared rooms filled with armed thugs without spilling a drop. Here’s to the airport sequence and how badass it felt to march through waves of mercenaries while Health’s “Tears” thumped in the background. Here’s to your frantic, bullet-time fueled multiplayer skirmishes. Here’s to you, Max Payne 3.
Check out our Max Payne 3 review here.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Okay, hear us out. There was no way that Andromeda was going to come close to the pedestal that the Mass Effect name has been put on. The original Mass Effect trilogy was an epic tale of Commander Shepard and a ragtag group of memorable characters forming unlikely alliances to try and save the galaxy from annihilation. Andromeda was a contingency plan to ensure a fresh start for humanity. That’s what Mass Effect: Andromeda did for this beloved franchise; it took humanity away from the comfort of being the alpha heroes of the Milky Way and made them into humble explorers searching for a new home. Andromeda’s story may not have enraptured us with the rich narrative and diverse cast of dynamic characters we expected from a Mass Effect game, but the story of Andromeda served the purpose of setting the stage of building a new civilization from the ground up.
Aside from some technical glitches, Andromeda offered one of the finer Mass Effect combat experiences, both in single-player and through an improved, wave-based multiplayer mode that never forced itself to be played, but integrated itself into the single-player in a rewarding and believable way.
Check out our Mass Effect: Andromeda review here.
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
Like Andromeda, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords had an impossible task of following what many rightly regard as the greatest Star Wars game of all time. The sequel told a much darker story as the dark side spread throughout the galaxy after the events of the original KOTOR. The characters encountered throughout the game were vibrant and dynamic, none more so than the antagonistic duo of Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus. The story took you to places left relatively untouched in Star Wars lore, such as the remnants of Telos IV and the smuggler’s moon Nar Shaddaa, and explored them in compelling ways.
We could’ve seen the Padawan surpass the master with KOTOR II, but it was marred by technical issues and unresolved plot points. In the days before developers could release patches to fix these kind of errors, these detractions ultimately hindered the game from reaching its full potential and sitting side-by-side with its predecessor as rulers over the Star Wars galaxy.
Halo 3: ODST
The best moments in Halo are highlighted by Master Chief and his cohort of super-soldier Spartans, but what about the regular joes down on the ground with him? Halo 3: ODST told the tale of an elite group called the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, the best soldiers humanity has that aren’t genetically augmented. ODST was the only Halo game that wasn’t played from a Spartan’s perspective, so jumping into the middle of a firefight against a group of brutes wasn’t as sound a strategy as taking a more intelligent, tactical approach. ODST also introduced the Halo universe to Firefight, a cooperative survival mode where up to four players faced off against waves of Covenant enemies. Firefight went on to be featured in the rightly appreciated Halo: Reach, but we remember where that idea came from.
Check out our Halo 3: ODST review here.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Call of Duty: Ghosts didn’t do much to reinvent the Call of Duty formula after breaking free from the Modern Warfare and Black Ops labels. It didn’t offer anything new in terms of narrative structure, deep characters, or memorable moments. What set Ghosts apart from every other Call of Duty was its Extinction mode.
Extinction was an episodic, cooperative adventure where you and up to three other teammates had to destroy the hives of an ancient race of aliens called Cryptids. Killing Cryptids gave players money that could be used to upgrade weaponry or abilities, which made destroying Cryptid hives much easier. Extinction culminated in intense wave-based encounters and monstrous boss battles as the story of how the Cryptids were awakened is unfurled. This mode went overlooked as it was an optional piece of DLC, but it led to some of the most exciting experiences in any Call of Duty game.
Check out our Call of Duty: Ghosts review here.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
This was the first Splinter Cell game where Sam Fisher was voiced by someone other than Michael Ironside. When making Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Ubisoft went with Eric Johnson to play Sam Fisher since this was the first time they were using performance capture to get the voice, facial animations, and actions of Sam Fisher at the same time. Longtime fans of the iconic, gravelly tone of Sam Fisher were immediately turned off by the drastic change.
It’s a real shame, because Blacklist allowed more freedom of playstyle than any other Splinter Cell game. If you wanted to handle a situation with the stealth and guile of a Chaos Theory Sam Fisher, you’re more than welcome to. If you wanted to go in guns blazing like the action hero Sam Fisher of Splinter Cell Conviction, marking multiple targets and taking them out in a split second, have at it. Blacklist paid homage to the entire franchise by giving players the option to handle every situation in whatever way they saw fit.
Monument Valley 2
When the first Monument Valley game came out in 2014, it quickly climbed towards the top of the charts on the iOS app store. It gained even more mainstream momentum after appearing in the third season of Netflix’s House of Cards. Not much changed in terms of the visually striking puzzles for Monument Valley 2, but more depth was given to its characters. Still silent protagonists, the mother/child relationship was cultivated in touching ways as a journey of discovery unfolds.
Check out our Monument Valley 2 review here.
Where some games on this list couldn’t live up to expectations, Knack 2 is one of the few games that never got its due because of the poor reception its predecessor. When the PlayStation 4 first launched, people were very excited to play anything that would showcase what the new hardware was capable of. Unfortunately, that excitement surrounding Knack quickly waned as its repetitive nature set in. Knack 2 stuck to its guns but found a way to keep its combat engaging throughout. Variety is the spice of life, and shifting from being a tiny Knack to use stealth to a giant Knack that can fight tanks feels much more satisfying the second time around.
Check out our Knack 2 review here.
Picross 3D Round 2
Picross in general is underappreciated under the weight of other puzzle games like Tetris and Dr. Mario, but the 3DS’s second take with Picross made a great game even better. For the uninitiated, Picross tasks you with using your wits and numerical logic to chip away at a cube of smaller blocks until you correctly create the intended sculpture. Along with that mechanic, Picross 3D Round 2 throws in colored cubes that can change shape as the puzzle goes on. This new wrinkle in the Picross formula adds new challenges to overcome for even the most experienced Picross veteran.
Check out our Picross 3D Round 2 review here.
What are some follow-ups that you think never got the following they deserved? Did this list motivate you to give some sequel a second chance? Be sure to let us know in the comments below! If you want to check out some other underappreciated games, give this list of the most underappreciated games of this generation a glance. You can also check out our list of the most underappreciated meta moments in games.