SLIDESHOW

11 PC game sequels that put the originals to shame

All too many game sequels lack the ingenuity and originality that made the originals so much fun. That's not the case with these reboots: They're way better than the games that spawned them.

I liked the second one better

The Empire Strikes Back. The Dark Knight. The Godfather: Part II. Each of these film sequels is even better than the original movie.

Few game sequels manage to reach that level of excellence, wallowing instead in derivative story lines and unevolved game mechanics (Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?).

But a few games break the mold. Check out these 11 sequels that honor the original by improving on it—starting with a series that corkscrewed from straight and serious into twisted and insane.

Saints Row IV

The first Saints Row was an open-world sandbox game full of realistic violence and gang activity resembling Grand Theft Auto. But when Saints Row IV arrived, all of that flew out the window. Insanity ensued.

Get trapped in a computer simulation by evil aliens, use explosive superpowers to take on your foe, and swing bats shaped like naughty adult toys. Saints Row IV has no time for logic. Its only concern is fun—and that's where it thrives.

There's never a dull moment in Saints Row 4, and it's tough to criticize the game's story for being silly when it doesn't take itself seriously. It's a perfect blend of action and absurdity that will keep you playing for hours.

Portal 2

The original Portal was something of a tech demo that Valve threw into its Orange Box for a little added value. It instantly became a smash hit. Portal 2 takes the adventure to the next level.

The story of GLaDOS continues in the ruins of a time-decayed Aperture Laboratories, after Chell wakes up from a long cryogenic sleep to meet new AI friends, jump through more mind-bending portals, and solve plenty of puzzles with fun, new mechanics.

When you're done, you can team up with a friend to complete the entirely independent cooperative campaign.

Mass Effect 2

It's missing the moon-jumping Mako vehicle, but Mass Effect 2 is a much better game than the first installment.

The developers axed the clunky inventory system, endowed player characters with revamped powers, and gave them a more open universe to explore. This space epic feels like a complete upgrade.

The cherry on top? The game takes into account every decision you made in the first installment.

I hear you asking, "But what about Mass Effect 3?" Well, enough players hated the ending of that iteration of the game to warrant an extended-cut DLC to change it up, so I'm declaring Mass Effect 2 the winner.

Team Fortress 2

The original Team Fortress was a gritty, independently produced Quake mod. Valve recognized the game's potential and snapped it up.

Over the course of many years, Team Fortress 2 evolved into a cartoonish, yet engrossing multiplayer game that is completely free to play.

The original is a classic, but the sequel is a living game that will continue to improve—as long as Valve doesn't get bored with it.

Half-Life 2

With an updated game engine, mind-blowing physics, and stunning graphics, Half-Life 2 redefined the PC game.

The original Half-Life proved that a game could tell an engrossing story from a single character's perspective—even though that protagonist couldn't speak. Half-Life 2 continued the trend, leading the mute Gordon Freeman through a world overrun by an interdimensional menace.

Fight for humanity and explore the world outside the Black Mesa Research Facility. Wield the gravity gun to fling anything not nailed down at your alien-zombie foes while you wait impatiently for Half-Life 3 to arrive.

Just Cause 2

Just Cause was a great action game, despite being hampered by bugs and awkward controls. Then Just Cause 2 came along and made everyone forget the shortcomings of the original.

The vast map alone is enough to entice any open-world lover to explore the game's tall mountains, arid deserts, dense jungles, and big cities. Hijack helicopters, boats, cars, and planes for a different perspective, or jump out and glide on the wind with your parachute.

Just Cause 2 is the action movie you've always wanted to star in—and a terrifyingly fun game.

SimCity 4

The latest iteration of SimCity left a nasty taste in our mouths, but the earlier SimCity 4 is still worth playing.

For one thing, you aren't limited by having to construct your metropolis in a village-size space—so urban-sprawl away: Build complex highway systems, preserve vast areas of farmland, and terraform the map to your liking. Heck, the game even comes with mod support, so you can change anything you don't like!

Left 4 Dead 2

The original zombie-infested co-op game was a smash hit, but Left 4 Dead 2 takes the brain-flavored cake, with hair-raising levels, quirky characters, infected monsters, and tons of weapons.

The original game has been completely incorporated into the second, delivering two killer-zombie (or zombie-killer) games for the price of one!

Payday 2

The original Payday was pretty straightforward: Rob people, make money, level up. Payday 2 raises the ante with full-on customization and specified skill trees, putting you in charge of your criminal career.

You have a lot more incentive to snag that extra $10,000 in cash, even if you have to break open one extra safe, since the uptick in income means you'll be able to afford a sweet holographic sight for the new gun you just bought. Mount it and head over to your hideout to practice the skills you've learned.

Payday 2 is a deeper experience than the original—and because money is the key to your progress, pulling off each heist becomes a little more tense and a lot more fun.

Diablo II

The best sequel in a series isn't always the most recent one, as 2000's Diablo II illustrates. This dungeon crawler remains a fan favorite, even after last year's release of Diablo III.

The decade-old graphics are no longer up to snuff, but the game remains challenging and fun.

Diablo II is like a fine wine resting in the cellar of a demon-infested monastery. It just gets better with age.

Batman: Arkham City

Fighting crime is a tough job, especially when you live in a city filled to the festering brim with villains.

Batman: Arkham City removes you from the confines of Arkham Asylum so you can spread your cape and glide all over the full breadth of the city-turned-prison.

The new detective mode puts Batman to work investigating and solving crimes—not just beating information out of thugs (though the refined combat system gives you plenty of opportunities to put up your dukes).

If you're more interested in Batman's back story, check out the recently released Batman: Arkham Origins.