When does a game series usually peak?

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Rax
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PostWhen does a game series usually peak?
by Rax » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:19 am

I was thinking about this the other day as I started a playthrough of Black Flag, my favourite Assassins Creed, and I realised that the 4th entry in a series is usually a good one. I know Black Flag wasnt the 4th AC game but its full title is Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag so im counting it. Super Mario World, Links Awakening, Resident Evil 4, Metroid Prime, Red Alert 2, Modern Warfare, theyre all the 4th entry in a series and are very well regarded. Im guessing it could have something to do with refining the formula, closing out a trilogy and getting a fresh start or finally changing things up, but theres a good chance if a game series makes it to 4 entries then the 4th one will be good. It doesnt hold for everything (GTA IV :dread: ), but it does seem like number 4 is a sweet spot for a lot of game series.

Or am I blinded by something and the original is always the best? Is the first sequel the best? Which is usually the worst entry in a series? And why is is the third one?

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Jenuall » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:33 am

I don't think there's really any one formula that is going to hold here as there are so many different series and types of games that the results will differ so greatly across the spectrum.

There are clearly going to be many examples of a third or fourth game in a series being the best because the same developers have stuck with it, refined the formula, worked out what the real strengths are and give it their absolute best to learn from everything so far and deliver a standout entry. But there are going to be just as many situations where the development shifts between teams and so that kind of learning never happens and things don't improve, or where a developer gets burned out and the games suffer, or where they simple fail to bottle the same lightning that they captured with the original.

For me personally if I look at my all time favourite games lists the vast majority of the titles are either the first or second instalment in a series.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Preezy » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:58 am

Tomb Raider 2
Mass Effect 2
Half-Life 2
Red Dead Redemption 2
Portal 2
Batman: Arkham City (2)
Uncharted 2
Starcraft 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2

Seems a fairly reliable trend...

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Jenuall » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:04 am

Wrong right off the bat there - Tomb Raider 2 is a travesty compared to the original!

No way Portal 2 is better than the purity of the first game either. :capnscotty:

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Vermilion » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:11 am

Don't forget Sonic Adventure 2 and Crazy Taxi 2.

Both were nowhere near as good as the originals.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Kriken » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:10 am

Maybe the second instalment. That's where they double down on what the original did, refine things or focus on the more interesting parts of the game. Since sequels often also re-use assets from the previous game, development can focus on other things and having more content overall.

While the first game could be the culmination of an idea they just wanted to get off the table, the second game is the one they really wanted to make but didn't have the breathing room to do at first.

Of course though that's not always the case. Sometimes a sequel is just made for the sake of it and sometimes it fails to capture what made the first game great. The more a series goes on, the more likely it becomes that making a new entry is done for the sake of it, but of course there are a lot of exceptions where the series just mostly goes from strength to strength.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Balladeer » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:24 am

It also depends on whether you’re one of those people (ohai OR) who values innovation far above refinement. In that case 2 will never be better than 1 for those people unless it takes a completely different direction.

It isn’t three, I know that much. That seems to be the point where refinement brings diminishing returns or the series goes off in a strange direction (Super Paper Mario I’m looking at you).

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Lotus » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:31 am

For the most part it feels like the second game in a series is often a highpoint.

First game is where the initial ideas are, and you see how well it's received.
Second game is where they expand on what made the original good, and add in some new ideas and improvements based on user feedback.
Third game and beyond is where they run out of ideas and are more interested in making money from the now-established series' name than making a good game.

There are obviously exceptions, and I'm being flippant to some extent, but it feels like this a hell of a lot of the time.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Drumstick » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:44 am

I think it's different depending on the genre.

For action adventures, often in my experience/opinion it's the first.

Racing games it depends on the sub-genre, i.e. arcade racers it's is probably the second or third attempt (see Burnout). Karting games is probably similar.

Won't always hold true mind.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by fry87 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 11:52 am

Preezy wrote:Tomb Raider 2
Mass Effect 2
Half-Life 2
Red Dead Redemption 2
Portal 2
Batman: Arkham City (2)
Uncharted 2
Starcraft 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2

Seems a fairly reliable trend...

The 2nd installment was immediately what I was thinking due to a number of these examples (although I preferred Arkham Asylum to the bigger City). Other examples I'd include are Crash 2 & Spyro 2, as their respective sequels introduced side characters and other game play styles that took away a bit from the more focused predecessors.

But as others have said it varies. Plenty of games nail it first time around, while others take longer to peak (perhaps relating to hardware advancements in some cases).

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Jezo » Wed Jun 24, 2020 12:38 pm

>Game 1 is great!
>Game 2 is built from an already great foundation, refined and has additions seamlessly woven in to accentuate gameplay
>Game 3 experiments a little because they can
>Continues with experiments whether they were good or not

Game 2 has highest chance to be peak because it generally builds off whatever the first game was and refines it to be its best. 3 is generally great too, but will often rely on new characters/gimmicks/unrelated gameplay mechanics to seem fresh. After that the original team is generally done with the series and moves on to new things while companies then milk it for all its worth with whatever it can gooseberry fool out regardless of quality.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Trelliz » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:24 pm

Preezy wrote:Tomb Raider 2
Mass Effect 2
Half-Life 2
Red Dead Redemption 2
Portal 2
Batman: Arkham City (2)
Uncharted 2
Starcraft 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2

Seems a fairly reliable trend...


After 2 the money really starts to sniff around a game series, which is when it gets hammered into the most profitable version of itself, if not necessarily the best.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Hime » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:35 pm

Trelliz wrote:
Preezy wrote:Tomb Raider 2
Mass Effect 2
Half-Life 2
Red Dead Redemption 2
Portal 2
Batman: Arkham City (2)
Uncharted 2
Starcraft 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2

Seems a fairly reliable trend...


After 2 the money really starts to sniff around a game series, which is when it gets hammered into the most profitable version of itself, if not necessarily the best.

What about all those examples where 4 is the best one?

Let's be honest, we could throw around examples all day that X entry in the series is the best.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Preezy » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:36 pm

It's basically the same with movies. Very rare for anything past film 2 or 3 in the series to be the peak. Obviously there are exceptions but I think it's a safe rule of thumb.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Jenuall » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:37 pm

This is my list from the most recent "post your top 20 games" thread along with their series entry:

Deus Ex (1)
System Shock 2 (2)
Thief The Dark Project (1)
Final Fantasy VII (7)
Witcher 3 (3)
Doom (93) (1)
Sonic 2 (2)
GTA III (3)
Metal Gear Solid (3)
Prey (2017) (1)
Dishonored (1)
Dark Souls (1, though you might count Demon's Souls as 1...)
Super Mario 64 (sheesh, depends what you count I guess but probably 8 or 9?)
Super Mario Odyssey (as above but this could be anything up to like 20 by now!)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (6)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (similar to Mario there are lots that may or may not count as the "core" series but I make this 19 overall)
Half-Life (1)
Half-Life 2 (2)
Portal (1)
Celeste (1)

Breaking that down gives:
1 (9 games)
2 (3 games)
3 (3 games)
4+ (5 games)

I think generally I appreciate the originality of new games more that the refinement/milking of a franchise that comes later. Another factor is that a lot of the series I like tend not to be hugely successful so we don't necessarily get loads of entries so it's hard to know if they would have gotten better or worse!

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by OrangeRKN » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:46 pm

It definitely varies a lot! I think as others that the first game is often the most focused and innovative, while the second game can often expand and refine in a way that wasn't possible in the original. There are so many examples and counter examples though!

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by rinks » Wed Jun 24, 2020 5:53 pm

Just before they add microtransactions.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Errkal » Wed Jun 24, 2020 5:57 pm

Jenuall wrote:
No way Portal 2 is better than the purity of the first game either. :capnscotty:


Thus, Portal 2 is no where near as good as 1.

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Dowbocop » Wed Jun 24, 2020 6:05 pm

Rax wrote:GTA IV :dread:

I'm no GTA historian (barely played them if I'm honest) but isn't the fourth GTA Vice City?

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PostRe: When does a game series usually peak?
by Jenuall » Wed Jun 24, 2020 6:43 pm

Dowbocop wrote:
Rax wrote:GTA IV :dread:

I'm no GTA historian (barely played them if I'm honest) but isn't the fourth GTA Vice City?

If you count GTA London then the fourth is technically 3. :lol:

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