Between the movie and gaming industry, sequels are a common phenomenon. Many times you’ll hear friends and family saying something along the lines of “the original was better”. So, when is it time to stop making sequels?
This is a difficult question to answer as there are plenty of positive and negative examples to fuel this debate. Before we take a high-level look at some, I want to highlight the fact that I’ll be flexible with the term sequel. Traditionally, “sequel” is defined as a continuation of an existing story or theme. When discussing video games, I will include franchises with multiple releases, even if the are not directly connected to one another. As long as the games exist either in the same world or spirit of the franchise, I will consider all releases since the original a sequel.
- Final Fantasy: This franchise has been around since 1987 and has defined the RPG. It’s a gigantic IP that has captured the hearts of fans around the world. To date, there are 15 main Final Fantasy titles with another one in the works. In this case, the sequels that were released were not necessarily interconnected with one another, although they do share a similar game design or pattern. Some dipped in ratings; however, the franchise has held up through the decades. Should they stop at Final Fantasy XVI (currently in progress for the PS5)? Given the uniqueness of each release, I would say no!
- Legend of Zelda: A similarly impactful franchise, The Legend of Zelda was initially released in 1986. It received a direct sequel, Zelda II: The Legend of Link, where Nintendo played around with style and game play. There are a total of 19 main Zelda games, excluding remakes. Again, not all releases are direct sequels; however, Nintendo has created the Zelda timeline, tying the franchise together. All the Zelda games have been relatively successful thanks to Nintendo’s desire to change things up–just look at Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If we had put a cap on a number of sequels, perhaps we never would’ve seen the 2017 Game of The Year.
- Mario Kart: Would you count their numerous releases “sequels”? Since they are not simply touching up the graphics each time, I would say so. Now, we can let the numbers speak for themselves–the latest installment, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, had sold just under 40 million copies by the end of March 2021, beating out Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Ghost of Tsushima, and Final Fantasy Remake VII. Bear in mind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was released in April 2017.
I could go on and on with examples (e.g. God of War, Assassin’s Creed, Donkey Kong), but the above simply shows that publishers can continue to release multiple sequels with success. This comes with a caveat that we are flexible with the definition of “sequel”.
If we want to look at something that follows are more traditional definition, let’s check out The Last of Us: Part II. That is a direct sequel following the 2013 smash hit The Last of Us. While part two drew a polarizing response, it rose to popularity, selling 2.8 million copies within its first month of release. This statistic alone launched The Last of Us: Part II to the status of best-selling Playstation exclusive launch to date. Whether or not there should be a part three really depends on the story potential.
When is it time to stop making video game sequels?
I hate to answer this question with “it depends”, but I genuinely feel this is so. If a developer keeps the story or franchise fresh, creative, and innovative, there should be no reason why they shouldn’t go for a sequel. Not every release will be a home-run, but without the risk, we wouldn’t have some of our best-selling games today.
Do you feel there’s a certain number of sequels before a franchise gets stale? What factors make for a successful sequel? Let us know your thoughts on our Discord!