By now you all probably know how much I love the Survival Horror genre. There are some many different series in the genre that, if you look at the older console eras, it actually seems like a bloated genre.
However, just like movies, video games suffer from “sequel syndrome”, where in the second game in the series just doesn’t live up to the first. Of course, there are games that break this template, and so today I wanted to take a look at my personal top 7 Survival Horror sequels that actually managed to be better than the first one.
For these list features, I’m going to be adding rules for each one goimg forward, so why not start now. The rules for this list are as follow;
- The game must be the second in the series. Later sequels don’t count.
- The game must sit within the Survival Horror genre, rather then just generic horror.
- Spiritual successors and sequels do not count.
So, with those now out of the way, let’s get this feature started!
(Please note: this is in no particular order.)
Resident Evil 2
When the first Resident Evil came out, we were able to look past the horrible live action intro and utterly awful voice acting and see the gem underneath. It was a brilliant piece of horror that actually gave birth to the term ” survival horror”. So any sequel would need to live up to this legacy.
That is partly why the original version of Resident Evil 2 was cancelled despite being very, very far into development. This would go on to be known as Resident Evil 1.5, and the actual version of RE2 went into development.
By the time it was released, it had some big shoes (or a big mansion) to live up to. How did it manage this?
By expanding the setting, taking the series out of the mansion in the Arklay mountains and into Raccoon City itself. As well as believable and relatable characters, you now had an entire city of monsters coming for you.
There is a reason why so many people consider it one of (if not the) best Resident Evil games to date.
Fatal Frame 2
The first Fatal Frame (or Project Zero) game felt like a masterful work of art, that perfectly mixed the themes and tension of Japanese horror movies with standard setup of a Survival Horror game. In fact, you can read my review of the first game here. At the time, I didn’t think we’d be able to get a better J-Horror game than that.
Then Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly was released.
If you want to know how scary the game is, and how much Fatal Frame 2 gets under your skin, then all I can say is that it took me years to be able to finally finish it. Fatal Frame 2 is the one classic Survival Horror game I have played that manages to freak me out so much that I cannot play through it in one sitting. It gets into your head, and you are constantly on edge, your adrenaline never dipping.
If that isn’t enough of a reason for Fatal Frame 2 to be on this list, then add in the fact that the storyline is brilliantly portrayed and truly harrowing. Oh, and the characters will pull you in and really make you care for them! All of this adds up to being one of the best Survival Horror games in general, let alone one of the best sequels!
Dino Crisis 2
This one might come as a surprise to some, but for me, the second Dino Crisis game was a huge improvement on the first. Whilst the original Dino Crisis felt very much like “Resident Evil with Dinosaurs”, as it was intended, the second was bigger and better in so many ways.
The story, whilst very convoluted, was entertaining and far more thought out and in-depth than the first game. On top of the that, the lush, green forests added a false sense of security that is then shattered time and time again by the sudden emergence of a velociraptor or even a T-Rex (and later something even bigger). Also, despite the games move into a more action orientated gameplay style, it still manages to feel very much like a survival game, where you could run out of ammo or health at any moment.
The in game shop does help to alleviate this, but only to an extent. All in all, Dino Crisis 2 was just a generally more enjoyable game that improved on the first in many different ways.
Forbidden Siren 2
If you’ve never played one of the Forbidden Siren games, then you have done yourself an injustice. They are some of the most original and unique takes on the “undead” genre. Rather than just having you face down hordes of mindless zombies, the Forbidden Siren games pit you against the Shibito, clever and strategic undead enemies that will trap you, trick you and more.
Then, there is the fact that you have to be strategic in how you approach a situation, because unlike Resident Evil, if they catch you then there is very little chance that you’ll be able to escape!
That’s where the ability to “mind jack” comes into play. In essence, you can psychically enter the minds of nearby Shibito to work out where they are and what they are doing. This allows you to plan your escape routes to avoid being seen.
However, there is nothing quite as unnerving as when you mind jack into a shibito that is looking right at you…
The second game in the series takes all of this and ramps it up ten fold, with the atmophere being overwhelming at times. Set on an “abandoned” island, you are left with very few chances of escape, and the prevailing darkness feels like it could be hiding absolutely anything. This is one game you should not miss out on!
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
The first Amnesia, known as The Dark Descent, has one of the most memorable water levels I have ever encountered in a game. In essence, you have to play “the floor is lava”, except that rather than falling in imaginary lava, touching the flooded floor alerts an invisibile monster to your location. Then, once you’ve managed to navigate one of the most terrifying jumping puzzles in gaming history, you have to sprint through the rest of the catacombs, locking each door behind you so that you gain some vital extra seconds whilst the entity breaks them down.
Sound scary? Good. I’m glad you understand how horrific and adrenaline pumping that is. Because the second game, A Machine for Pigs, is far scarier!
The addition of creepy children, a haunting storyline and incredibly creepy pig masks just ends up making everything far more skin-crawling. Even the fact that the game is set in a time where technology has moved on from oil lamps doesn’t help… The sounds of machinery echoing through the halls only makes you more nervous, as you want to be able to hear the monsters, but they are often drowned out by background noise.
The Amnesia series remains the king of first person horror games, and A Machine for Pigs definitely shows you why!
Dead Space 2
When a sequel opens with the first game’s protagonist strapped to a chair without any clothes or weapons, woken up by a stranger trying to help who is then impaled in front of you, you know that you are in for one hell of a ride. Dead Space 2’s opening sprint through Necromorph infested hallways is fear-inducing enough, but the game never lets up from there!
Whilst the first was thoroughly grounded in early Resident Evil gameplay styles, the second one adds far more action to the mix, as well as an insane amount of lore and mythology.
The developers also managed to keep the Necromorphs as scary and horrifying as they had been in the first game, and increase that considerably. The monstrocities that you face along the way are amazing, as is the cast of characters! With deranged mad men trying to kill you with a fork, to a sidekick type character who is actually likeable, unlike certainly others (Ashley and Sheva from Resident Evil come to mind), Dead Space 2 manages to rid itself of the most common issues that seemed to plague the genre at that time.
For example, whilst both Dead Space 2 and the Resident Evil franchise took a far more action-focused perspective to horror, Dead Space 2 managed to remain scary. On top of this, the world building was through the roof, and the depth of the backstory and overarching plot were immense.
Silent Hill 2
Now, I know I said that this list was in no particular order, but I did save the best until last… Silent Hill 2 is generally considered one of the best games ever made, and the best Survival Horror game to date.
The first is an absolutely classic, but it was Silent Hill 2 that positively blew your mind when you played it. Gone was the focus on The Order, a cult wishing to summon/give birth to their god. Instead, the storyline focused on individuals and their various different mental health issues. But of course, this being a Silent Hill game, those issues were amplified and then personified by the game’s titular town.
From an abused women to a man who found it easier to just kill someone who made fun of him than deal with it, you had a very unique cast that made you feel constantly on edge when around them. Add to this the introduction of the now infamous Pyramid Head, and you’re already on to a winner.
The soundtrack is also hauntingly beautiful, to the point where I often listen to it when I need to concentrate, yet when it is playing within the context of the game, the music takes on a much more sinister tone. Then, as a final measure of excellence, throw in one of most awesome plot twists in a horror game so far, as you have the equation for the perfect Survival Horror game. Seriously. If you haven’t played Silent Hill 2, then you need to go out and buy it. If ever there was a Survival Horror game that everyone needs to play, this would be it.
In fact, if ever anyone asked me which games out of all the games they absolutely must play, this would be right near the top of that list!
And That’s All Folks
Those were my personal top 7 Survival Horror sequels that were better than their originals. For those of you wondering where Outlast 2 or The Evil Within 2 are, I have yet to play them, so I don’t feel I can add them to this list yet. However, once I have played them both, I may very well make an updated list later on. For now, though, these 7 games are all amazing sequels and outstanding Survival Horror games in their own rights.
Have you played any of these? Do you have a favourite horror game? Let me know in the comments below!