As an industry, video games are largely defined by their blockbuster franchises and the money they rack in at an alarming rate. It just so happens that many of these franchises, while financially successful, are typically also innovators. They change with the landscape of gaming and thanks to the longevity of these franchises, many games often revolutionize and reinvent themselves, sometimes multiple times.
In particular, these 10 video game sequels have been able to reinvent themselves and lead to a franchise renaissance, so to speak.
10. Donkey Kong Country (1994)
Before Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong was mostly known as the nemesis of Mario, but Rare took Donkey Kong and turned him into a platforming star of his own. Using a layout not unlike Super Mario World, Rare reinvented Nintendo's franchise from its arcade-style roots to being a full-fledged platformer.
The original Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo was so successful, largely thanks to its tight platforming gameplay and gorgeous art style, that the franchise continues to this day. In fact, it was just last year that we saw the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze as a Wii U exclusive, further iterating on the reinvention that Rare made for DK in the 90's.
9. Super Mario 64 (1996)
Super Mario 64 not only reinvented Super Mario, but also the platforming genre as a whole, inspiring a multitude of copycats. The game's somewhat nonlinear collect-a-thon style of gameplay was hugely successful, and it made great use of the Nintendo 64's analog stick, another reinvention in and of itself. Shigeru Miyamoto initially created the blueprint for how to make a quality 2D platformer with the original Super Mario Bros., and he outdid himself by making the blueprint for 3D platformers with Super Mario 64.
8. Final Fantasy 7 (1997)
Final Fantasy 7 may not have been a major gameplay reinvention for the Final Fantasy series, so to speak, but it was a reinvention in many other ways. For one, it was the first game in the series to feature 3D graphics, as opposed to the 2D sprites used in the first six games. It was also the first Final Fantasy to be released on a non-Nintendo platform.
Final Fantasy 7 was also hugely influential to the JRPG genre, and like Super Mario 64, inspired a legion of copycats trying to capture the game's success. Those looking to experience Final Fantasy's major reinvention for themselves will have a couple of new chances to do so in the coming years, as Final Fantasy 7 HD is coming to PS4 and and the full Final Fantasy 7 Remake is on the way as well, promising to reinvent FF7 itself.
7. Metal Gear Solid (1998)
After Hideo Kojima released the first Metal Gear game, Konami went ahead and made a non-canon sequel that was not very well received by fans. But, Konami realized that the magic behind Metal Gear was the creative influence of Kojima, and enlisted him to make another 2D Metal Gear game as a true sequel to the original.
However, Kojima didn't truly find major success with the franchise until Metal Gear Solid hit the scene on the PlayStation 1. Metal Gear Solid was a major reinvention for the series, as it saw the franchise not only jump from 2D to 3D graphics, but it also used improved technology to make the games much more cinematic in nature. Not to mention the game introduced David Hayter as the iconic voice of hero Solid Snake.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time still featured many of the classic elements from past games, but it brought them to life in a wondrous, fully-realized 3D world, and in the process created a new formula for the series. Every game since has been largely built to emulate The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, from the dungeon progression to the story and even the design of Link as a mature adult. While we have no idea when the next home console Zelda is coming, it's nice that there's always Ocarina of Time to fall back to, a game that still holds up to this day.
5. Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001)
Grand Theft Auto 3 took the world of GTA and brought it to life with 3D graphics, and a new character-focused perspective. The game laid the foundation for the countless open world action games that followed, and basically every open world action game that has released since. While sequels like San Andreas expanded on what Grand Theft Auto 3 brought to the table, Grand Theft Auto 3 still stands out as the pivotal moment when the series became the huge moneymaker it is. Not only that, the success of GTA 3 also put Rockstar Games on the map as a premiere game developer.
4. Metroid Prime (2002)
After Super Metroid became a hit on the Super Nintendo, many fans were disappointed that Samus didn't have another solo adventure until Metroid Prime came to the GameCube in 2002. However, the long wait was worth it, as Metroid Prime retained the exploratory aspects that made Super Metroid so popular, yet reinvented the series in many other ways.
For one, it brought the franchise its first entry with 3D graphics, and it also shifted the perspective from a 2D side-scroller to a first-person shooter. This may have made fans nervous at first, but the end result is one of the most critically acclaimed and adored games ever made. This reinvention has continued for the most part, with two sequels and a perhaps ill-advised third-person spinoff called Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
The Top 3: Survival Horror Gets a Makeover
3. Resident Evil 4 (2005)
Resident Evil 4 took the tank controls of the past games and re-imagined them through an over-the-shoulder camera angle and a focus on third-person action. It also features New Game Plus, a more interactive inventory screen, brand new enemy types, and a focus on upgrading weaponry, all concepts new to the series.
Resident Evil 4 gave the series the jolt in the arm it needed to remain relevant, and while Resident Evil 6 iterated on RE4 in some ways, it also dropped the ball in others. Now, most want the series to return to its survival-horror roots, and not just through a remake of Resident Evil 2.
2. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is when the Call of Duty series really became the juggernaut franchise that it is today. It didn't just change how gamers viewed Call of Duty, but also multiplayer first-person shooter games in general. The game did away with the standard World War II setting and replaced it with a "modern warfare" approach, including also a fast-paced multiplayer variant that has influenced countless competitors.
1. Fallout 3 (2008)
While previous Fallout games stuck to an isometric viewpoint, Fallout 3 is mostly a first-person shooter, leaving behind many of the classic, western RPG gameplay conventions that defined the first two games in the series. The introduction of VATS took the FPS gameplay concept, but assimilated some turn-based elements into it, making for a stop-and-plan shooter component that's unlike anything gamers had ever seen. Considering the huge success of Fallout 3 and the craze behind the upcoming Fallout 4, it will be a long time, if ever, that we see another Fallout in the style of the original games.
These 10 sequels not only reinvented their franchises, but left a lasting impact on the gaming industry at large. All of them are fantastic games that show that innovation is needed for a series to continue to do well and remain relevant in the ultra-competitive video game industry.
Which games would you have included on this list? Let us know in the comments.