Nowadays, when something happens to generate a lot of praise and success, chances are it’s going to get the living bejesus milked out of it, for better or for worse. And while the medium of video games are not safe from this rule by any means, it’s actually very frequent to see a sequel or spin-off that can be just as good, if not better than its’ predecessor. With this list, I intend to gather up the best of the best,and even shine the spotlight on the lesser-known ones. And now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 10 Best Retro Game Sequels/Spin-Offs.
-A franchise can appear on this list twice, but one of the games must be a sequel while the other is a spin-off.
NO. 10 – Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble (1996, SNES)
As you all probably know by now, I’m not exactly what you would call a “big fan” of the original DKC. Putting aside the fact that it would later go on to spawn one of the worst cartoons that I’ve ever seen in my entire life, it’s a generally bland and mediocre platformer that feels like it was successful only because of at the time groundbreaking 3D visuals. With that said, its’ follow-ups are a major step forward, and I can easily say that the third game is my favorite out of the original trilogy. Not only has the art style reached its’ peak, but the level design is also less tedious and even throws in some creative ideas here and there. Granted, it still has some flaws that cannot go unaddressed. The boss fights have disappointingly reverted to being quite forgettable (At least in how they play out. Their designs are creepy as hell) and easy, and the level design can still feel somewhat uninspired at times. But even with that in mind, I still find this game to be a really solid experience. Returns and Tropical Freeze are still the best games in the series, though. Donkey Kong Country 3: Now this is something worth going bananas over!
NO. 9 – Earthworm Jim 2 (1995, Genesis/SNES)
With its’ sleek and fluid visuals and sprite animations, delightfully bizarre humor, creative level design, and top-notch run and gun gameplay, Earthworm Jim was one of those games that more or less defined games in the 90’s. And even though it did prove to be the only truly great installment in the franchise (at least in my opinion), that’s not to say that it’s sequel doesn’t manage to hold a candle. The level design, while being significantly more linear, is just as out-of-the-box as ever, continuing the original’s trend of making set-pieces based around the basic theme of a stage. And that’s not even mentioning the tremendous amount of variety between each of the stages – for instance, at one point you could be bouncing puppies to safety with a giant marshmallow, and at another you could be a salamander floating around some kind of underwater abyss blasting sheep. In addition, the tone, which wasn’t even slightly grounded in reality to begin with, has doubled down on the comedic aspects, providing laugh-a-minute gags every step of the way, in addition to what is quite possibly the funniest ending to a video game, ever. The character spritework and animations are also great, though I still think the first game looks better. Regardless, all of these add up to make what is one groovy sequel. Earthworm Jim 2: This is one can of worms that you won’t regret opening.
NO. 8 – Knuckles Chaotix (1995, 32X)
Having been through what can best be described as a LOT of stuff, the Sonic franchise has had a handful of titles released in it gone mostly unnoticed. However, that’s not to see that they’re lacking in quality (for the most part), and this game sure as heck isn’t. Centered around the titular echidna who, unlike Sonic, would rather flex his muscles than chuckle, Knuckles Chaotix takes the formula of the original Genesis trilogy while also adding in ideas of its’ own in order to make it its’ own unique, separate experience. First off, there’s the central mechanic/gimmick of the game, in which two characters are connected to each other through a ring. Admittedly, it’s not executed perfectly – it takes a while to get used to it at first, and it can kind of get a little annoying. However, once you do get used to it, that’s when the game starts to get fun. Even though it’s not as tight as the Genesis trilogy, the level design offers plenty of things to keep your attention while never straying too far away from the usual Sonic formula. The graphics are also extremely vivid in nature, being what might just be the closest a retro game has gotten to being a psychedelic trip, the special stages notwithstanding. As for the boss fights, they’re not as challenging as the ones in 3&K or as memorable as the ones in 2, but they get the job done nonetheless. Knuckles Chaotix: Maybe Sonic’s friends deserve more credit than they get after all.
NO. 7 – DuckTales 2 (1993, NES)
The original DuckTales, while a perfectly decent game, was one that I kind of find to be somewhat overrated. Although it does have some neat level design and gameplay, it was rather unambitious in style and was a bit too short. The sequel on the other hand doesn’t just fix those problems, but also improves exponentially on the aforementioned compliments. With the level design taking on a slightly more open approach in addition to the removal of the timer, the gameplay offers plenty of secrets to be found while at the same time balancing it with a linear style. The visuals have also been improved, showing a more detailed and polished flair within the backgrounds and spritework. If there is one problem that I have, it’s that the soundtrack isn’t as good as the one in the first game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fine, but a lot of the tracks lack the “memorability” as the ones in the first game. DuckTales 2: This ain’t no ponytails or cottontails, alright.
NO. 6 – Star Fox 2 (1995, SNES)
With its’ usage of the Super FX chip, intriguing characters, and a George Lucas-esque space fantasy setting, the original Star Fox was easily one of the most groundbreaking titles to ever be released for the SNES. In fact, it was such a hit that a direct sequel was planned to released, though it was ultimately canceled in favor of the then-in-development N64. And it’s kind of a shame too, cause it’s actually really great. Not only have the already-impressive graphics stepped into mind-blowing territory, but the gameplay has also been expanded by at least five times the size of the original, putting an even larger emphasis on space combat and exploration, both of which are handled near-perfectly. There’s also the soundtrack, which is amongst one of the best that I’ve ever heard in an SNES game. In addition, there’s also new characters such as Fay and Miyu, both of whom fit perfectly into the Star Fox franchise and are (CONTROVERSIAL OPINION ALERT) way more interesting characters than Krystal. To be honest, I actually find this game to be the best in the series, and had it ever came out, it would’ve easily been regarded as a must-have. I love 64 and all, but I think that Nintendo really should’ve used what they had here and translated it onto the N64. Star Fox 2: The canceled game to end all canceled games.
To be continued…