Created By: KingZeal on April 9, 2013 Last Edited By: KingZeal on April 13, 2013

Superior Successor

Successors Outperform Predecessors

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"While it's true that my work is based on you
I'm a supercomputer. You're like a TI-82!"

A fictional phenomenon where a younger generation, a younger sibling, or some other form of successor, proves to be more smarter, more capable, or much more powerful than the generation before them.

This can be used in several ways:
  • A parent who has some sort of gift or talent gives birth to a child with even better gifts.
  • A successor masters work that his predecessor spent their entire life trying and failed to, or completes it in a much shorter time period.
  • The new generation is more accomplished or successful than the older, attaining a higher standard of living or prestige.
  • An inheritor takes what was left to them and improves upon it.
  • The successors destroy the Sealed Evil in a Can rather than re-sealing it.
  • They solve difficult moral, political or philosophical problems, or stop a Regularly Scheduled Evil, that their predecessors couldn't.
  • Or, more simply, they make better use of resources or powers their predecessors had, even if they are no more powerful (or perhaps even less powerful).

The easiest explanation is that the new person is better talented. Another is that they're able to approach old problems with new ideas and/or a fresh perspective. Perhaps the older generation specifically raised the new generation to surpass them (or to bring hope where they'd failed). Maybe the old generation just ran out of time.

Another explanation is that advancement doesn't need to be linear. It can be geometric or exponential, and when a sufficiently powerful discovery or achievement is made, it automatically boosts what comes after. For example, every single person reading this has likely surpassed the geniuses that discovered fire and the wheel.

Do not confuse for Replacement Mooks or cases where someone or something inadequate was swapped out for something better. Making machines more powerful or capable than the last, or replacing someone or something that was a failure, makes sense. What makes this phenomenon notable is that there's a smidge of uncertainty. At least ONE person (the predecessor or successor) has to achieve their talent. If the predecessor was manufactured or cultivated, the successor needs to achieve it, or vice-versa.

Super Trope To:

Often overlaps with

Contrast Super Prototype, Lost Technology, Ancient Astronauts and Stronger with Age.

The polar opposite of Sketchy Successor.

Quite often a staple in Shounen and Comic Books. Is quite common in cases of a "Well Done, Son!" Guy.

Thanks to Mythology, this trope also happens to be Older Than Dirt.


Anime & Manga
  • In Dragon Ball:
    • Goku masters the Kamehameha in a few seconds despite the fact that it took its creator, Master Roshi, his whole life to figure it out.
    • Gohan (and other half-Saiyans) is greatly more powerful than either his human or Saiyan progeny.
    • After grueling over an entire season to achieve it, Vegeta watches his son turn into a Super Saiyan instantly.
    • Averted with Future Trunks. His master Gohan taught him to fight and tried to teach him to achieve Super Saiyan status, but Trunks couldn't manage it until after Gohan's death. When he still fails to defeat Gohan's killers, his mother sends him back in time to find another way.
  • In Bleach:
    • t's tempting to say "Ichigo, just...Ichigo". The Big Bad flat out says that the most frightening thing about him is his growth rate. But that's no fun, so let's list them all:
      • Frequently stated to have the most spiritual power of any character in the series, when at full power.
      • Becomes a Captain-Level fighter in the better part of a month, when it takes decades or centuries for most.
      • Gains bankai in three days where it would normally take ten years (thanks to help from his mentor).
      • Equalled the Big Bad in power after the equivalent of a year's training, while the Big Bad had schemed for centuries to achieve it.
    • Apart from Ichigo, Kenpachi eventually surpasses his predecessor, Yachiru: the original Kenpachi.
    • All current Espada are more powerful than their predecessors. That's how they get their jobs.
  • In Naruto, this is a recurring theme:
    • All of the Legendary Sennin become stronger than their teacher, the Third Hokage.
    • Nagato surpasses (and later kills) his teacher, Jiraiya.
    • Minato (the Fourth Hokage) becomes stronger than Jaraiya and the Third Hokage
    • Itachi is later surpassed by his younger brother, Sasuke.
    • Zig-zagged with the title character often:
      • Naruto learned to use the Rasengan faster than his predecessors, but at first only in incomplete form. It took the three-year Time Skip for him to fully master it (which was about the length of time it took its creator to make it). However, after he masters it, he's able to make far, far more effective and unique variations of it. (See page picture.)
      • Perfected Sage Mode, when his mentor could only use an imperfect version. Later, he even learns to do it while minimizing its Necessary Drawback.
      • Naruto's parents, teachers, and senior pupil have all said they believe he is the one that will find a way to fix the Crapsack World of the Shinobi System.
      • Unlike the previous jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tails, Naruto finally manages to befriend and "tame" it.
      • The above examples finally become justified in Part II in several ways. It's learned that using shadow clones allows one to learn faster, and Naruto also happens to be the only one capable of making clones for as long and in as many quantities. This is because he has the Nine-Tails Chakra, but that's only because his hereditary clan are gifted with exorbitant amounts of chakra in the first place. Also, his father intentionally put a small gap in the Nine-Tails' seal to allow Naruto to slowly access and gain control of it. And finally, his very name was given to him by his predecessors to mark him as the Chosen One.
  • In Fairy Tail, it's constantly said that the younger guild generations are continuing to improve and surpass the old ones. In particular, Erza remarks that Natsu has equaled or even surpassed her.

Comic Books
  • The entire point to mutants in X-Men is that they're an evolutionary adaption. So naturally, mutants are stronger than their Muggle parents. Usually. But even so, quite a few mutants are more powerful than their superpowered parents:
    • The Scarlet Witch is vastly more powerful than Magneto.
    • Proteus is far more powerful than Professor Xavier.
    • Evilutionary Biologists specifically target the Summers family for this reason. Cable and X-Man are powerhouses compared to their parents Cyclops and Jean Grey/Madelyne Pryor [[note]]when she's not Phoenix-possessed--but even then, X-Man has been said to rival her in power[[/note]]
    • Vulcan, the youngest Summers brother, is far more powerful than either of his brothers.
    • Hope Summers, trained and raised by Cable, is one of the strongest mutants to ever live.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Franklin Richards is a Reality Warper who sometimes makes universes for fun. By comparison, is father is a genius stretchyguy and his mother turns invisible and makes forcefields.
    • His sister Valeria is said to be smarter than her father (despite being about THREE) and has more control over her forcefields than her mother.
  • In continuities where Superman has a biological child, that child typically grows up to be more powerful than he was. Especially if the mother was Wonder Woman.

  • Star Wars:
    • Luke Skywalker eventually surpasses Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker in both power and achievement, becoming the greatest Jedi in history.
    • Sith operate exclusively on this principle, seeing as how they follow the rule of Klingon Promotion. It's also their greatest downfall, compared to the cooperative Jedi.

  • It's feared that this could happen in The Sword of Truth. Richard Rahl, the successor to a powerful line of mages, who also happens to be a War Wizard (capable of using both the "good" and "bad" sides of magic naturally), and the wielder of the Sword of Truth marries the Mother Confessor, who have the power of Compelling Voice. A child with these traits (although War Wizardry usually isn't heriditary) would be bad enough, but it's also stated that male Confessors always abuse their powers without fail.

Live-Action TV

Mythology & Religion
  • In Enűma Eliš, the Annunaki grew smarter, stronger, and more magically potent with each generation, culminating in Marduk or Ashur, Depending on the Writer.
  • In Greek Mythology:
    • Chronos was more powerful than his father Uranus, whom he overthrew.
    • Zeus and Olympians were more powerful than their parents the Titans.
    • Zeus feared this a few times. Notably, when it was prophesized that Metis would father him a child that would overthrow him, Zeus ate her and later himself gave birth to Athena.
  • In The Bible, John the Baptist foreshadows Jesus's coming by stating that the next prophet will be far greater than himself.

  • God of War:
    • Like his mythical counterpart, Zeus is afraid of fathering a child more powerful than himself, since he overthrew his father Chronos, and Chronos overthrew his father Uranus. This was why he tried to kill Kratos, and thus it becomes a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
    • Kratos himself takes the place of his master, Ares, as the new war god, and proves less controllable and more dangerous than Ares ever was.
  • Metal Gear: Big Boss gets his name by defeating his mentor, The Boss.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Commander Shepard succeeds where his mentor and superior officer, Captain/Admiral Anderson failed, becoming the first human Spectre.
    Anderson: My chance came and went. It's your time now.
    • Tali'Zorah can potentially take her father's place on the Admiralty Board and succeed where he failed: by taking back Rannoch, the quarian homeworld.
    • Krogan in general are all about this.
    • Aria T'Loak took Omega from her predecessor and transformed it from a generic Wretched Hive into the de-facto capital of the Terminus Systems.
    • Zig-zagged with the current cycle and their Precursors. In many ways, the current galactic civilization is highly less-advanced. In others, however, they have major advantages. This generation (thanks largely to Shepard) is the one that finally completes the Crucible.
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Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • April 9, 2013
    This is Older Than Dirt:

  • April 10, 2013
    • In Greek Mythology, the Greek gods of Olympus were more powerful than their parents the Titans.
  • April 10, 2013
    In Bleach Kenpachi eventually surpasses his predecessor the original Kenpachi. In Fairy Tail Erza states that Natsu may have grown as strong, or even stronger than her. In Naruto this is a recurring theme such as Jaraiya being stronger than the Third Hokage, Minato (and Nagato) being stronger than Jaraiya and Naruto surpassing them all.
  • April 10, 2013
    Add Surpassed The Teacher to the subtropes.

    Also, could machinery (such as Mega Man X being technologically superior to the original Mega Man) count as part of this?
  • April 10, 2013
    I suggest Superior Successor as a catchier two-word title.
  • April 11, 2013
  • April 12, 2013
    Seconding Superior Successor.
  • April 12, 2013
    Belief in this may cause Well Done Son Guy.
  • April 12, 2013
    Why didn't I think of that?

    No, I don't think Mega Man would count here.

    Making machines more powerful or capable than the last, or replacing someone or something that was a failure, makes sense. What makes this phenomenon important is that it's not certain. At least ONE person (the predecessor or successor) has to achieve their talent. If the predecessor was manufactured or cultivated, the successor needs to achieve it, or vice-versa.
  • April 12, 2013
    Contrast Sketchy Successor.

    @OP: The Enuma Elish example doesn't count?
  • April 12, 2013
    It's added.
  • April 12, 2013
    And hatted. :)
  • April 13, 2013
    Not sure if this would count, but I've noticed that second-generation Live Action TV Horror Hosts have much longer careers than the originals which spawned them, possibly because to the originals it was just another gig but the successors were specifically inspired by the originals to do it.
  • April 13, 2013
    We should avoid Real Life examples like the plague.