New IPs are the lifeblood of games (or really, any creative medium), but 2023 told a different story, with the vast majority of its most notable releases (of which there was no shortage) belonging to established properties. Over the course of the last several months, we’ve played some incredible sequels in beloved franchises both old and new, and here, we’re going to talk about the ones that stood out to us the most.
Do keep in mind that we’re talking only about sequels, not remakes. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TEARS OF THE KINGDOM
When Nintendo said that it was making a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild set in the same map, we all assumed it would be much more straightforward than Tears of the Kingdom turned out to be. On top of tweaking and updating Hyrule, it adds a whole new second map in The Depths, additional play space in the form of the Sky Islands, and an entirely new set of mechanics with new abilities that completely change the way you interact with the world. Radically improving on a game as seminal as Breath of the Wild shouldn’t be as easy as it turned out to be for Tears of the Kingdom.
BALDUR’S GATE 3
Coming over two decades on from the last game in the series, Baldur’s Gate 3 somehow perfectly strikes the balance between being a rewarding sequel for fans of the series and being a perfect jumping off point for newcomers. The expansive RPG fills its world full of engaging content and meaningful choice and consequence mechanics, and does so in a way that feels true to the spirit of its predecessors, while also carving out its own unique identity.
MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN 2
With Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Insomniac Games has upped the ante on the previous two games in the series in nearly every way possible. On top of building on the now-established universe that we’ve all become heavily invested in, the game also boasts a larger map with more to see and do. In addition, it makes significant improvements to its combat and traversal mechanics with an increased focus on abilities, the addition of Web Wings, and a dramatic increase in the speed at which you swing through the city. Put together, its many improvements render the previous titles almost completely obsolete.
ARMORED CORE 6: FIRES OF RUBICON
With Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon being completely divorced from past instalments where its world and story are concerned, it serves as a great place to dive in for newcomers, but at the same time, for series veterans, it’s an equally satisfying experience, thanks to how it evolves and polishes the Armored Core gameplay formula. That core loop of tinkering with your mech in the garage and blasting through missions with the perfect build has been captured perfectly in Armored Core 6, but made more polished and refined than ever before, thanks to a bevy of smart tweaks and refinements.
Trying to expand on the strengths of a game as tightly designed and singularly focused as Ghostrunner can be a risky venture, since a sequel is always going to run the risk of diluting those strengths, but Ghostrunner 2 clearly understood the assignment perfectly. The immediacy of its moment-to-moment gameplay and the stiff challenge its combat and traversal encounters pose are not only intact, but even better than in the first game, thanks to excellently implemented additions like vehicular combat, non-linear level design, a stamina mechanic, and more.
Eschewing the roguelite structure of the original game, Everspace 2 instead puts players in a massive open world RPG experience, and in doing so, it allows the core strengths of its formula to flourish that much more. From excellent spaceflight and combat mechanics and controls to addictive and engaging progression mechanics, fans of the first game will find plenty to love in its sequel, while the addition of a giant open world map and the deluge of content it houses only serve to elevate the experience even further.
STAR WARS JEDI: SURVIVOR
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor may have been let down by the many technical and performance issues it launched with, but the game itself is absolutely excellent. It expands on its predecessor almost excellently. In combat, the addition of stances and new Force powers make for much more dynamic encounters against a variety of enemies that are always a blast to fight, while improved traversal mechanics and larger maps with better design and more variety also make exploration that much more enjoyable. Add to that a captivating story with excellently written and portrayed characters, and you get an ideal sequel.
DEAD ISLAND 2
After the long period of development hell and uncertainty that Dead Island 2 was put through, most of us expected it to be a hot mess. That it’s not only a functional game, but a legitimately well put-together and enjoyable one is a testament to developer Dambuster Studios’ efforts. It’s a dumb, fun, gory action game that never tries to be anything else, and with its barbaric combat, irreverant humour, and vibrant, varied environments, it never fails to keep you entertained.
Remnant: From the Ashes was a much better game than most had thought it would be, and its sequel builds on its foundations with impressive confidence. From upping the ante in the combat department with deadlier bosses, the addition of Archetypes, and new weapons, to making exploration even more rewarding with gorgeous environments and a revamped world generation system, Remnant 2 refines and hones its predecessor’s framework in all the right ways.
OXENFREE 2: LOST SIGNALS
If you’re going into Oxenfree 2 with expectations of an experience that will have the same lasting impact that the first game did, you might leave a bit disappointed, but if what you’re looking for is something that captures its brightest highlights and improves on them even further, that’s exactly what you’ll find here. Oxenfree 2 is far from a significant upgrade, but it shows that there’s still plenty of life in the techno horror adventure formula that Night School Studio established in the original to such great effect.
MORTAL KOMBAT 1
Mortal Kombat 1 might technically be a reboot on paper, but just like the last Mortal Kombat reboot, it’s also very much a direct continuation of the franchise. Going through its flashy and eventful story mode, where it constantly and deftly strikes that balance, is a stunning experience, made even better by the addition of major improvements (like Kameo fighters), while Invasions mode, too, offers a meaty ride that’s well worth diving into. Like all Warner Bros. titles, Mortal Kombat 1 has sadly been let down by its aggressive monetization, but hopefully, those issues will be addressed in the months ahead.
STREET FIGHTER 6
Much like multiple other Capcom franchises in the last few years, Street Fighter enjoyed a massive boost in 2023 with Street Fighter 6, which is one of the best, most packed, and most robust entries the series has seen in years. From the excellent Drive system to ingenious new accessibility options to a diverse and well-rounded roster of fighters, Street Fighter 6 boasts several improvements that elevate its moment-to-moment gameplay above most of its peers. Beyond that, with the trifecta of World Tour, Battle Hub, and Fighting Ground, it packs in a hell of a lot of content that can keep you for endless hours.
Blizzard Entertainment took its sweet time with Diablo 4, but even though the action RPG has stumbled with its post-launch support, it’s hard not to be impressed with the final product. That dangerously addictive loop of going through dungeons and powering up your character while tailoring them to your play style is as riotously enjoyable as it’s ever been. With a surprisingly engaging story and a large open world on top of that loop, it’s certainly a compelling experience. Hopefully, Blizzard can get its act together where post-launch content is concerned with future seasons and upcoming expansions, because at its core, Diablo 4 has a lot of great stuff to offer.
ALAN WAKE 2
After thirteen years of trial and error, Remedy Entertainment finally managed to release Alan Wake 2 in 2023, and boy was it worth the wait. The developer’s decision to take the franchise into the survival horror genre proved to be a stroke of genius, while Alan Wake 2 also continued to exhibit Remedy’s strengths in storytelling and art design, crafting a cerebral, bizarre, and utterly unique experience that keeps subverting expectations from start to finish in the best way possible. Calling it Remedy’s best game to date wouldn’t be an exaggeration in the slightest.
The Pikmin franchise has never really had a bad mainline entry, but with Pikmin 4, it hits the sort of heights that even the most ardent fans likely wouldn’t have dreamed of. Its lower difficulty and the removal of hard time limits does take away some of the edge of previous instalments, but at the same time, that allows for an increased emphasis on exploration, which, as it turns out, is one of Pikmin 4’s biggest strengths. Add to that a plethora of refinements that significantly improve the series’ already excellent core formula, and you get what may very well be one of the best games in the Switch’s illustrious library.