The Top 7… Sequels that changed everything

3. Zelda II

What it was before: A top-down, free-roaming adventure that was sort of like an action-RPG without the leveling up. Instead, players would scour the landscape for dungeons, hidden secrets and cool new weapons and items that would give them a fighting chance against Hyrule’s countless monsters.

What it became: An odd side-scroller/RPG hybrid that was divided between an RPG-style “land map” (on which you’d be attacked by monsters if you wandered off the road), and action sequences that unfolded mainly in caves, swamps and “Palaces” dominated by huge, memorable boss monsters. Finding items to get past obstacles was essential, but your continued survival was more a matter of killing enemies to gain experience and leveling up Link’s life, attack and magic.

This was also the first Zelda to feature magic spells (and a magic meter to dictate how much you could use them), as well as towns filled with occasionally helpful civilians. More interestingly, it was the first time series hero Link was represented as a teenager, which since Ocarina of Time has been the way most Zelda fans seem to prefer him.

Also, much as Zelda II is always derided as the black sheep of the Zelda family, it’s important to point out that it was actually an excellent game, much as a few petulant fans cried foul when it was released. It was different from other Zeldas, sure, but at the time, most of us were too busy figuring out how to earn the down-thrust ability to care.


Where it went from there: Zelda II’s negative reputation might have more to do with this than anything else, actually. Following the experiment that was Zelda II, A Link to the Past reverted the main Zelda series to something much more like the first game, with numerous improvements and a few borrowed elements from Zelda II (like the magic meter). The series has kept that formula going into the present day, and even the 3D adventures retain most of the overhead-Zelda gameplay elements.

Above: Exploring dungeons, finding key items – it should all be familiar by now 

The only Zelda games that would actually go on to mimic Zelda II’s formula, meanwhile, were the reviled CD-I games, Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon. And really, the less said about those, the better.

2. Duke Nukem 3D

What it was before: A pair of interesting-for-their-time, PC-only platformers starring Duke Nukem, a smart-mouthed (but still decidedly PG) blond hero who wandered around blasting robots (and, later, aliens and guys in flight suits) with lasers.


The second game gave us a Duke that was a little closer to the character we know, but who still erred on the kid-friendly side of brutality.

What it became: One of the most beloved and influential first-person shooters of all time. Far more than just a transition from 2D to 3D, Duke Nukem 3D was a near-total reinvention of Duke Nukem’s gameplay, character and tone. Not only did the perspective change, but the action got a hell of a lot more impressive. The levels were huge, varied wildly and were immensely interactive, with Duke able to smash objects in the environment and activate things like light switches and faucets. The action was bloody and intense, with a wide variety of cool guns for gibbing everything from alien grunts and pigcops to towering monsters.

Duke himself, meanwhile, went from a Flash Gordon-esque robot-fighter to a gravel-voiced, steroidal badass hell-bent on tipping every stripper, peeing in every plumbing fixture and doing horrible, horrible things to aliens.

Above: Oh dear

 He was a parody of action heroes, sure, but an insanely brutal and entertaining parody who had a jetpack and could pulp monsters by kicking them in the balls, and his game – since ported to seemingly every platform that can handle it – was a hell of a lot of fun.

Where it went from there: Down a very long and meandering path, filled with spinoffs and semi-sequels that are probably best forgotten. Towering over them all was Duke Nukem Forever, which gradually went from one of the most hotly anticipated PC games ever to one of the internet’s longest-running jokes. But after 13 years of delays, hilarious insistences the project was on track and an outright cancellation, September’s Penny Arcade Expo brought the news that Duke Nukem Forever was back on – and a quick hands-on reminded us why we were looking forward to it in the first place.

Above: Which is to say it was pretty fun for the 10 minutes we played


Top 7


  • pintofbeer786 - November 19, 2010 12:37 p.m.

    wa'bout just cause 2
  • pintofbeer786 - November 19, 2010 12:32 p.m.

    i think just ause 2 was a massive improvement
  • Kezmer - October 15, 2010 3:18 a.m.

    Actraiser 2... ruined it !!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • RazielArcanum - October 13, 2010 11:04 a.m.

    I don't seem to recall any "memorable" bosses in Zelda II. ... ...okay, I could never finish it. I'm sorry.
  • philipshaw - October 13, 2010 10:59 a.m.

    Great article, I'm playing through Jak 2 again and even though it's radically different to the first game, I still think Jak 2 is the best in the series. I was surprised to not see Resi4 higher up the list
  • BAbaracus1983 - October 13, 2010 9:10 a.m.

    Pretty good list. Too bad that the list isn't for the top 8; then you could add Metal Gear Solid
  • eyeKARUMBA - October 13, 2010 4:25 a.m.

    Couple things; first, shouldn't RE4 be higher than 5? I mean, it revolutionized not only the RE series but the entire survival horror genre, and is one of the highest-reviewed games of all time. Second, and perhaps more importantly: where is Fallout 3? It turned the series from a top-down, turn-based RPG into a 1st-person, open world action-RPG, and did it beautifully (ignoring the glitches).
  • ScrEAMaPiLLar - October 13, 2010 1:34 a.m.

    I'd have to agree with each one. Can't wait to hear the discussion about these on Tdar.
  • AlpineGuy - October 13, 2010 12:39 a.m.

    This ended up being a pretty good list. Nice jorb there, Homesta-I mean, Mikel. Glad to see Prince of Persia: Warrior Within got a mention. Godsmack, anyone?
  • oreopizza47 - October 12, 2010 11:13 p.m.

    I happened to like RE5 alot. RE4 was good, but I stopped caring when it said "escort mission" and haven't yet gone back, although it was beautiful until then. RE5 on the other hand, is amazing in my opinion, because of it's co-op. Single player can feel like one big escort mission, but when you've got a friend sitting next to you helping you rock the zombie world, you know shit just got real. Personally, I prefer local co-op to online, but as long as a game has both I'm good. Can't stand games with only online though.
  • ViolentLee - October 12, 2010 10:41 p.m.

    Way to mention Dynasty Warriors. So few people realize/remember that the original was a 3D one-on-one fighter.
  • TheBoz - October 12, 2010 9:15 p.m.

    Creatures 2 on the C64, the original was a platformer with violent, and I mean violent and bloody torture rooms. The sequel went away from the linear play of the platform levels and concentrated on the torture rooms with bonus levels of bouncing the creatures from one end of the screen to the other. Also FIFA Football, the original game on the Megadrive was a 2d affair but with the illusion of a forced 3d perspective and what that has grown into. Very similar comparison to Duke Nukem as mentioned.
  • soccerclownking - October 12, 2010 8:53 p.m.

    What about Call of Duty Multiplayer? With CoD4 everyone was like Z0MFG CoD4 FTW OMGWTFBBQ!!!1!one!1! Soon after MW2 came out, most people including me called it a stupid campfest for 12 year old n00bz.
  • Cleanser247 - October 12, 2010 4:56 p.m.

    Great Top 7 Mikel! I enjoyed it : D
  • Clovin64 - October 12, 2010 2:56 p.m.

    Dynasty Warriors 3 was the first DW game I played after the first PS1 game. I had no idea it had turned into a battlefield brawler. Oh God, I had so much fun with DW3. Killing swarms of troops in 2 player co op is some of my favourite gamng memories.
  • TheWizard92 - October 12, 2010 2:30 p.m.

    I loved playing Dynasty Warriors 2 when I was younger! And, I am glad to see that Resident Evil was in this because I always hated having to used the d-pad controls for the first one, I died practicaly every 30 seconds. Not my best effort. Lol.
  • Bitchslapthehomeless - October 12, 2010 2:24 p.m.

    and Street Fighter 2! There, I've said my peace... Still a great read, Mikel.
  • Bitchslapthehomeless - October 12, 2010 2:19 p.m.

    Jak II was terrible, and a complete reaction to the Grand Theft Auto craze that was going on... And with that, I think Grand Theft Auto 3 should have REALLY been mentioned along with Metal Gear Solid, Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Burnout: Takedown and Warcraft II deserve mentions over these games, as they all introduced stuff that really changed games.

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