Spiritual Successors Succeed
From offshoots of primitive RPGs for the Apple II like Fallout, to games that haven't even come out yet like No More Heroes 2 (pictured above, the spiritual successor to Killer 7 and expected in January 2010), sometimes the best sequels are the ones that borrow only certain elements, of varying degrees, from their predecessors. Here is a countdown of 13 of the most successful video game spiritual successors.
No. 13: Haunting Ground
The spiritual successor to: Clock Tower series
Haunting Ground failed to reach the success of Capcom's other horror brands like Resident Evil and Dead Rising, but it's still a genuinely blood-curdling, dark adventure that proves you can deliver a scary experience without rubbing over-the-top violence in the player's face (not that there's anything wrong with that).
In Haunting Ground, you play as Fiona, an amnesia-stricken blonde girl in a mini-skirt who inherits a medieval castle crawling with fucked up weirdos who want to kill her and her German Shepherd. Just like Clock Tower, in Haunting Ground you're mostly avoiding conflict rather than engaging in it as you're constantly running away from the game's freakish enemies and searching for hiding spots. Don't write this game off because it's a PS2 game -- Haunting Ground came out only a few years ago and is still worth playing.
No. 12: Ikaruga
Year: 2001 (2008 on Xbox Live)
The spiritual successor to:Radiant Silvergun
Unlike other chaotic shooters in its class, polarity plays a big role in Ikaruga. Out of the thousands of bullets your ship gets showered with, only bullets of the opposite polarity will harm you while bullets of the same charge will give you energy. Mastering Ikaruga requires the reflexes of the mongoose and the ability to avoid blinking for long stretches of time.
No. 11: Maximo
The spiritual successor to: Ghosts 'n Goblins
Maximo was Capcom's spiritual successor and attempt to resurrect one of the most grueling old school video games of all time, Ghosts 'n Goblins. Even though Maximo didn't receive the same high praise the original game that inspired it did (ironically because some said the game was too difficult), it's still a satisfying experience overall that has a lot of nostalgic appeal.
Most GnG fans will agree that the big changes made to the series, like updated 3D graphics and a new hero, were made for the better as the new game is still placed in the Ghost 'n Goblins universe and has the same general feel.
No. 10: Paper Mario
The spiritual successor to: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Fans of Square and Nintendo's collaborative effort, Super Mario RPG, have been clamoring for a sequel pretty much since it was released on the Super Nintendo. And while the series never blossomed into a Final Fantasy as some hoped it would, in 2001 Intelligent Systems delivered the next best thing on the N64, the original Paper Mario, which was equal parts platformer and RPG.
Though a lot of the role-playing elements have been stripped out of the series over the years -- Super Paper Mario on the Wii had virtually none -- the original Paper Mario retained many of the things that made Super Mario RPG so beloved such as its tongue-in-cheek humor and the main point of the game being to track down seven stars.
No. 9: Flashback
The spiritual successor to: Another World
Whether or not Flashback on the Super Nintendo is a true unofficial sequel to Another World is contested, but for the purposes of this article I'm saying it is. Besides, both games' (which came from the same development team, mind you) main feature are their rotoscoping animation, which looks crusty by today's standards, but at the time this was the Metal Gear Solid 4 in terms of merging movie-quality storytelling and video games. Flashback also had several nods to some of the best sci-fi films released around the 80s to early 90s such as They Live, Alien, and Total Recall. And now that Flashback has made its way to the iPhone, there's really no excuse to pass up experiencing this pixelated masterpiece.
No. 8: Xenosaga
The spiritual successor to: Xenogears
Xenosaga is one of the few examples on this list of a spiritual successor that didn't exactly improve upon the vision of the game that inspired it. Xenogears is one of Square's most acclaimed RPGs outside their flagship Final Fantasy franchise -- It also happens to be one of GamePro previews editor Andy Burt's favorite games ever. Even today, the Xenosaga trilogy, which are all named after books by Nietzsche, are still worth a look and are highly recommended great pre-Mass Effect RPGs drenched in science fiction.
No. 7: Crysis
The spiritual successor to: Far Cry
Crysis, like its predecessor Far Cry before it, is a game so visually astonishing that only an ultra powerful PC can truly do its mind-bendingly realistic graphics justice. Hell the game was released two years ago and they still haven't figured out how to port it over to the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.
We just hope that when they do bring this shooter -- where you get to run around kicking alien ass wearing a Nano Muscle Suit -- to consoles, they don't water the experience down like they did with the abysmal Nintendo Wii version of Far Cry.
No. 6: Supreme Commander
The spiritual successor to: Total Annihilation
Released a decade after Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander was a tremendous hit among real-time strategy enthusiasts. On top of showcasing some gorgeous graphics on both the Xbox 360 and PC versions, Supreme Commander made a name for itself with its gripping campaign and its unique strategic zoom system that allows you to view the map in its entirety. And for the last time, GamePro loved the game, awarding it 4.5 out of 5 stars -- it was our sibling GamePro Australia that didn't like the game. Sheesh.
No. 5: Perfect Dark
The spiritual successor to: GoldenEye 007
Perfect Dark's red-headed heroine Joanna Dark and James Bond from GoldenEye 007 are both "special agents" of some sort, but that's where the similarities between the two FPS games' stories end.
The reason Perfect Dark is considered the successor to the venerated N64 shooter GoldenEye 007 has to do with gameplay -- which, aside from some subtle tweaks and improvements, is virtually identical between the two. Unfortunately, the follow up to Perfect Dark on the Xbox 360 (Perfect Dark Zero) didn't play much like the two landmark Nintendo 64 games. It still doesn't look like we'll ever see a GoldenEye 007 on Xbox Live or PSN, but you can pick up Perfect Dark (which has vastly improved graphics) on XBL this winter.
No. 4: Portal
The spiritual successor to: Narbacular Drop
It's strange to think that Portal, one of the most innovative games of the last few years was actually the progeny of what a group of programming students turned in for their senior project (many of whom were also hired by Valve to make Portal).
Even though Portal is an infinitely more ambitious game than Narbacular Drop, the spirit of the two are the same, a merging of first-person gameplay with brain-squeezing puzzles. Walking through solid matter has never been more fun since Portal.
No. 3: Fallout
The spiritual successor to: Wasteland
Though the look, hell... even the genre, of the Fallout series has evolved since its inception in the late nineties, the concept remains the same: explore wastelands ravaged by nuclear apocalypse, using your wits to survive by carrying out quests, earning experience points, and shedding blood when it can't be avoided.
It's true that Wasteland is not as celebrated as its unofficial sequel, which has developed into a goliath of a series that's thriving even today (with Fallout 3 and its numerous expansion packs). But Wasteland played an important part in Fallout's life by laying the groundwork out for one of gaming's biggest franchises.
No. 2: Shadow of the Colossus
The spiritual successor to: Ico
The connection between Shadow of the Colossus and Ico may appear relatively weak at first, but the two PS2 games actually share more in common than you might think. Not only were both games developed by the same team, they were also set in the same world, used same watercolor-like art style, and had protagonists that were related to each other.
Shadow of the Colossus, however, really took the series to the next level by making the meat of what you do in the game slaying towering Colossi. Honestly, what's better than a game comprised of nothing but boss fights?
No. 1: Bioshock
It shouldn't come as too much of a shock that BioShock is the champion of our list of spiritual successor juggernauts.
Even if you're one of the many who'll argue fervently that System Shock is superior to 2K Games' underwater dystopian masterpiece, it's hard to deny that the original BioShock reinforced the case that video games can occasionally transcend being merely a form of entertainment and can rise to the status of art. BioShock deserves this recognition because of its compelling storytelling and truly inspired world filled with fascinating and frightening characters. Now, here's to hoping BioShock 2's new "2010" release date means January or February.