Why are sequels to entertainment properties so hard to pull off? It seems that for every The Dark Knight or Mass Effect 2 you have hundreds of follow-ups that either fail to live up to lofty expectations set forth by the original release or simply fail due to a rush to release mainly motivated by the opportunity to earn a quick buck. People often take for granted the sheer effort and dedication it takes to create a new property and not only make it something of high-quality but also have it become something that is critically and financially successful. In the current age of entertainment, people are surrounded by quality content in several mediums, across hundreds of platforms, that take thousands of hours to consume. It makes sense that once a company knows they have a hit on their hands they would try and get a follow-up out the door as soon as possible, but you must remember why people fell in love with it in the first place.
A sequel can fail for numerous reasons, and most of the time it's simply due to not receiving adequate resources to reach a high-quality benchmark. Other times they fail to capture what made it special or change it purposefully in hopes of making sure it doesn't feel stale or like more of the same. It's hard to find success over and over again but that doesn't mean it's impossible. As you'll read sometimes it's a product of rushed development, sometimes development hell, and sometimes poor development choices. Let's now take a look at the 25 worst video game sequels of all-time in an official ranking from worst to first-worst.
25 Mass Effect 3
Some people may be pretty upset to find Mass Effect 3 outside of the Top 10, but in reality, it barely belongs on this list, to begin with. The end of the trilogy wasn't disliked because it was a bad game or suffered from tons of technical issues. A huge focal point for those who were disappointed was the way the game ended. Many people felt that their decisions through 3 games pretty much culminated in an ending where it didn't really matter. There is an argument to be had as to whether or not that was the point of the resolution, but it's hard to argue it was one of the worst sequels of all-time.
24 Super Mario Bros. 2
At first glance, it might seem strange to have a game like Super Mario Bros. 2 on a list talking about the worst sequels. The problem here is that the original Super Mario Bros. exploded on the scene and dominated almost every household imaginable. People became really familiar with the structure of the game and hoped the sequel would follow in its footsteps. It turns out that the sequel would actually end up being a re-skin of a game that already existed, Doki Doki Panic. Super Mario Bros. 2 is more about rushed development and confusing fans as it is about it being a bad game in terms of gameplay.
23 Bioshock 2
First, let us give thanks to Bioshock 2 for giving the gaming industry one of the greatest pieces of downloadable content of all time in Minerva's Den. To this day that specific DLC is still considered the gold standard for what post-release content could be. The base game, on the other hand, has very easily solidified its case as the only poorly reviewed game in the franchise. Bioshock 2 met in the middle of a weird space where it wasn't uniquely different in the franchise like Bioshock: Infinite was, but it also wasn't close enough to the horror vibes that made Bioshock so memorable.
22 Mass Effect: Andromeda
Just like Mass Effect 3, this will likely be one of the larger points of contention with this entire list of the worst sequels of all-time. At launch Mass Effect: Andromeda suffered from some normal launch day bugs and such, but the biggest issue for consumers was the terrible facial and stair ascending animations the game suffered from due to those aspects of the game being handled by a partner developer. Though it could never recover from the backlash it received at launch, the game managed to fix many of these problems and is a solid experience you can get for an extraordinary price.
21 Zelda 2: Adventures Of Link
Zelda 2 falls partially into the same space as the sequel to Super Mario Bros. does. Fans fell in love with their initial outing in the world of Hyrule and were excited to see what new adventures they would go on with Link in order to protect Zelda and save Hyrule as we know it. The exploration and experimentation of The Legend of Zelda was something fans really felt could set the series apart. Imagine everyone's disappointment when the sequel is released and it ends up being a 2-dimensional platformer and removes most of what people felt made the series special.
20 LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Lego has made a great impact in the world of video games exclusively through partnerships with huge franchises that they then, in turn, make Lego versions of those properties stories. Many of the games in the first wave of Lego releases were great. They gave new life to Star Wars scenes fans had watched a 100 times over. It also provided a smart way for parents to introduce their kids to both Lego and Star Wars alike. By the time LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars was developed the project felt uninspired and seemed like a lazy adaptation instead of a refreshing retelling.
19 Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
How should you follow-up an arcade classic that will stand the test of time? Well, you make a 2-dimensional puzzle/point-and-click adventure game of course. Not only do you change the genre completely, but you have the game feature the worst part of point-and-click adventure games, the illogical puzzles. The worst part about Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures is that it took away the specific thing that made Pac-Man great, its tight controls. You'll often hear people say that less is more and in the case of Pac-Man their desire for complexity led them to mediocrity.
18 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 is a game that's remembered a lot more fondly than it deserves to be. The sequel to a game series that came out of nowhere despite being directly attached to one of the biggest entertainment properties to ever exist was simply a casualty of rushing to market. At release, it was criticized for offering little to no evolution on the first entry and in some aspects felt like it stepped back in quality. It offered players very repetitive gameplay and had an accelerated development cycle in hopes of building off the success of the original.
17 Dead Space 3
Though many people love the horror genre, the truth of the matter is that it's an extremely niche market. As the industry's advanced and evolved over the years we've seen many franchises like Dead Space or Resident Evil change into action games with horror elements as opposed to horror games with action elements. This was due in part largely to publishers wanted to make more money and gain interest from a larger audience. Both Resident Evil 4/5 and Dead Space 2 seemed to have found a happy medium, and sadly both were then followed up by entries that alienated their most faithful of fans.
16 Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite
Marvel vs. Capcom is a storied gaming franchise that series diehards feel has been mishandled and mistreated for years. To this day you can still find hardcore players holding their own tournaments in MvC 2 because they feel it offers one of the best fighting game experiences in the history of the genre. When this new entry was revealed fans were cautiously optimistic that the series had returned. Upon further inspection, it seemed as if this wasn't handled with care, as most evident by the facial models of many of the characters. Marvel seems to have been just as upset at the effort and the storied series may have wasted its last breath.
15 Bomberman: Act Zero
There's a weird idea out there that you can simply breathe new life into a franchise by completely turning it on its head. In the case of Bomberman: Act Zero the powers that be felt it was best to take a silly and joyous game and turn it into a gritty and serious experience. When you take away all of the charm the Bomberman series had, what exactly are you left with? Another problem with it was that they coupled this change in tone and theme with a bland color scheme and a bevy of levels that felt uninspired with little to no flair attached.
14 Medal Of Honor: Warfighter
It's really astounding that many of the games on this list share the same common mistake of a product being rushed to market. Medal of Honor: Warfighter just wasn't a disappointing moment in a franchise, it was essentially the nail in the coffin for a series once thought of as the gold standard. The game featured numerous bugs and really poor AI. In the world of first-person shooters, it's hard to imagine anything topping Call of Duty or Battlefield, but Medal of Honor once did. It's a shame that greed and mismanagement cost the world more Medal of Honor for what seems to be forever.
13 Ninja Gaiden 3
Ninja Gaiden is a series, before the era of FromSoftware's Souls and Souls-like games, that was revered and loved for its difficult combat. As the series went on fans started to grow worried that it would exchange what made it unique for what could make it sell better. Ninja Gaiden 3 did just that as the combat was stripped down and made a lot more user-friendly in hopes of increasing sales and appealing to a more casual demographic. On top of major gameplay changes, the game also featured a nonsensical plot that culminated in a confusing ending. Here's hoping the series returns.
12 Sonic The Hedgehog 2006
Where do we fall on the idea of a reboot of a series technically being a sequel? Well, no matter how you cut it Sonic the Hedgehog released in 2006, often referred to as Sonic 06' deserves a place on this list. Not only was this game disappointing to fans, but SEGA themselves also seem to ignore its very existence considering every other game after its release has pretty much ignored its plot. Speaking of plot, how weird is it that SEGA rushed a Sonic game out to market for its 15th year anniversary and it had a plot in which Sonic was in love with a human woman?
11 Driver 3
It's hard enough to release a game out to the masses and have it blow up in your face in terms of critical reception. It's another thing entirely to get caught paying people to give your game a positive review. If you have 5-10 minutes of free time do yourself a favor and read about Driv3r Gate. It's a fascinating story and is much more interesting than anything in the actual game. Driver was a short-lived series that had a cult following, but never managed to cut a large enough slice of the pie among all of the other car racing games to build any sustainability, well that and releasing Driver 3.
10 Devil May Cry 2
With the recent release of Devil May Cry V in 2019, it's hard to believe that the second game in the series almost sunk the franchise. Devil May Cry 2 was supposed to be the next step, the evolution of the original that captivated an audience and had the world fall in love with this new property. Despite all these years and numerous other entries in the series, it is still easily considered the worst game in the franchise. It offered no variety and was bland and boring throughout the slog of a journey it provided to players. When you take away challenge and nuance all you're left with is a shell of its original counterpart.
9 Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil recently was able to get back on track with the release of both Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 Remake in back-to-back years. Capcom themselves seem to have hit a stride and are delivering quality experiences to their fans after years of misfortune and missed opportunities. Resident Evil 6 continued down the track of turning arguably the best survival horror franchise ever created into a run-and-gun action game with some horror elements. Though it wasn't the catalyst for this direction, it definitively was the one that suffered the most.
8 NBA Live 14
Sports games often get overlooked simply due to the fact that they're released annually and most people simply see them as $60 roster updates with little to no improvement. In the world of the NBA, there was a seismic shift in which basketball video game franchise was the top dog. For most of the 2000s, NBA Live ruled the land, but NBA 2K slowly built a following and overtook EA's NBA Live series after 2008. It was so bad in-fact that EA's series took a hiatus before returning with NBA Live 14, which in comparison to NBA 2k14 was a horrible mess. NBA Live still hasn't fully recovered and has had a hard time keeping pace with the record-breaking NBA 2K series in the years since.
7 Duke Nukem Forever
Normally when a game has a long and storied development cycle it often suffers by framing itself on gameplay that was sufficient when it began development, but by the time it released it feels stale and outdated. Duke Nukem Forever suffered some of those issues, but its main problem was that it featured humor that had long died down a decade before its release. It went from feeling cheeky and rebellious to childish and immature. Couple that with the fact that no one could finish the game and it shipped with numerous glitches and bugs and of course you're going to be a letdown.
6 Metal Gear Survive
This is the only game on the list outside of Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 that isn't a clear sequel to a previous game in the franchise. Metal Gear Survive is more of a spinoff than it is a sequel, but it is the first game released by Konami after their separation from legendary game designer Hideo Kojima. Leading up to its release many people felt as though Metal Gear Survive would simply be a microtransaction cash grab using the name of a popular franchise gamers everywhere loved. The worry is that without Kojima involved the game would be missing any of the heart or passion of the other entries. It turns out these fears weren't only justified, they were 100% correct.
5 Homefront: The Revolution
Imagine experiencing terrible and tumultuous times where you don't seem to have a plan or strategy and priorities and responsibilities keep shifted and there's no real leadership. Imagine feeling as if there's no more happiness left in the world and the ending is nowhere in sight. No, I'm not talking about the plot of Homefront: The Revolution, I'm talking about its journey through development and the series of issues it faced along the way.
4 Star Wars Battlefront II
Imagine relaunching a Star Wars video game franchise people loved as a multiplayer only experience and hearing how everyone wants a single-player campaign in the sequel. Then imagine making a single-player campaign in the sequel that's pretty short and equally lackluster alongside arguably the most pervasive and idiotic set of multiplayer microtransactions the video game industry has ever seen. Not only did this blow up in Electronic Arts' faces, but it came months after bragging about having a campaign at their E3 press conference and ultimately led to video game gambling investigations across the world.
3 Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts not only missed in terms of fan expectations for the third entry in Rare's beloved 3-dimensional platformer, but it's also halted the series in its tracks and we haven't seen a new entry in the franchise since. Imagine capturing the gameplay perfectly from your Nintendo 64 entry that fans fell in love with and deciding to release that in 2008. That's where this game made a huge mistake. They forgot to include any of the charm that made the original Banjo Kazooie great, while at the same time they figured there was no point in updating out of style gameplay.
2 Crackdown 3
Crackdown 3, a mediocre franchise with a dedicated fanbase, and unrealistic expectations that never seemed to line up. Yes, Crackdown 3 suffered from a long and cumbersome development cycle and numerous delays after its big E3 reveal. The problem is that Crackdown has never been a AAA franchise that's meant to be a system seller, but because of Xbox's lack of prime exclusives, the 3rd entry in the collect-a-thon of a franchise was shifted into lofty expectations. The game finally released in 2019 and didn't even crack the Top 20 sales on the Xbox One, itself. Please pay respects to the cloud.
1 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5
Expectations dictate everything in terms of reception and legacy. An indie game like Celeste and come out of nowhere and win the hearts of millions whereas the 5th entry in the most notable skateboarding franchise, that carries the name of the greatest skateboarder who ever lived has so much to live up to. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 was a case of a license ending and a publisher taking advantage of one last opportunity. It seems it was the last game in a contract between Activision and Tony Hawk and unfortunately for Hawk it was simply a way for Activision to squeeze as much juice out of the perishing partnership as they could.