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* ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedII'' was much more strongly received than the original game as an almost-entirely across-the-board improvement on the original in game terms, plus introducing a beloved protagonist in Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
* The first game in the {{Web Game|s}} series ''VideoGame/BallRevamped'' is the least popular and least known. The rest of the games have automatic respawning[[note]]the first one annoyingly forces you to press G or click the screen every time you die, and ''then'' press space to start the level[[/note]], background music, {{boss battle}}s, better atmosphere and better physics. They got rid of randomly appearing {{powerup}}s that could [[LuckBasedMission render a level trivial or impossible]].[[note]]Fortunately, the powerups are randomly generated again if you die, so you don't have to restart the entire game.[[/note]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands}}'', despite being a mechanically sound fusion of FPS and RPG elements, was rather bland and repetitive until the [=DLCs=]. One of the major complaints about the base game was that it took itself too seriously, unlike the expansions, which had far more humor. Now that it has found its true voice, ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands 2}}'' took the style and ran with it [[SurprisinglyImprovedSequel to great acclaim]].
* The ''{{Burnout}}'' series started out poor, with the initial game being not very well received. Its second installment was better, though it was really the third title that could be considered the beard-growing moment, with the games addition of the Takedown maneuver.
* ''CityOfHeroes''. Initially a passable MMO whose main strength was the amazing costume editor, the addition of a mission creation tool to allow players to create their own instances for other players to enjoy took the game to the next level.
** The mission creator came later, but many players will also attest that the game has steadily and massively improved since launch due to major rebalancing that actually worked (despite copping some rage at the time), addition of many costume parts, improved writing, and a general dev focus on player-friendliness. While it's hard to place a particular turning point, the release of ''CityOfVillains'' could be considered a major game changer.
** There are a number of changes which qualify, but the most marked turning point is probably the sale of the franchise from Cryptic to [=NCSoft=], the creation of Paragon Studios, and the departure of much-loathed original lead developer Statesman. Several changes prior to this change were pretty good (particularly the City of Villains expansion and the addition of an an economy in Issue 9), but most of the real solid improvements came afterward (including weapon customization and the ability to play arcs you've outleveled through time travel in I11, I14's aforementioned Architect system, power customization in I16, and the Going Rogue expansion).
* The ''VideoGame/DarkForcesSaga'' started off as a standard FPS clone of ''VideoGame/{{Doom}}'' with a ''Franchise/StarWars'' theme, but its sequel ''VideoGame/JediKnight'' introduced Force powers and lightsabers. It eclipsed its predecessor and set the flavor of the series from there, to the point that "Dark Forces" isn't even used in the title anymore (and creating one of best known cases of ColonCancer ever).
* ''DeadRising'' was a well-received SurvivalHorror WideOpenSandbox game, though it was hampered by its NintendoHard difficulty, unfair save system, somewhat cumbersome controls, and survivors that epitomized ArtificialStupidity. ''DeadRising2'' addressed these issues and improved vastly upon the original game.
* In 2008, Korean game developer Pentavision took their DJMAX series of RhythmGame s to the arcade environment under the name ''DJMAX Technika''. Drastically different in gameplay from its predecessors, the game was already well received, although hints of FakeDifficulty, ObviousBeta and general needless complications were present. Come 2010, the sequel, ''DJMAX Technika 2'' improves on the previous game by being more streamlined in every way, adding new songs (half of which are revivals of classic songs in the franchise) and new modes such as the every popular Crew Race.
* The first two ''Duke Nukem'' games were fairly unremarkable 2D side-scrollers. With ''VideoGame/DukeNukem3D'' the genre changed to first person shooter complete with innovate weapons, impressive (for the time) level design, and a raunchy sense of humor. As a result Duke Nukem has become one of the most famous video game heroes of all time.
** ''VideoGame/DukeNukem3D'' '''itself''' grew a beard about halfway through its development, as it was originally intended as just a 3D continuation of the original platformers with none of the humor and personality that the final version would be famous for. This version, retroactively dubbed ''[=LameDuke=]'', was mercifully put to rest and eventually retooled into the game we know and love today.
* ''Dungeons and Dragons Online'' This game grew a beard in September 2009 when the game went to a Free to Play model and Turbine sued Atari (the digital rights manager of D&D). All the updates since Update 9 have featured much better quest designs.
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'' series' first two installments were quite competent and well received, but the series didn't make a true commercial blockbuster until ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind Morrowind]]'' came around. And the fourth installment, [[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]], [[SurprisinglyImprovedSequel raised the bar even higher]]. (But because of the [[TheyChangedItNowItSucks dramatic game engine revamping]] [[RetCon and lore modifications]], some fans have wildly different opinions...)
** As of ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'' though, the series seems to have grown back the beard a bit. it has been more universally better received on release by fans and critics.
* Whilst there may never be a consensus as to what point this happened in the ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' series from a gameplay perspective, [[FinalFantasyIV the fourth entry]] is widely seen as a major turning point in terms of storyline. Whereas only one of the first three games even had characters with names and personalities (and that game relegated much of its story to [[NoExportForYou Japan-only]] [[AllThereInTheManual side materials]]), FFIV's cast had distinct personalities, backstories, and character development, and devoted far more time to the story than previous entries. Although successor [[FinalFantasyV FFV]] put the story in the backseat, [[FinalFantasyVI FFVI]] would follow FFIV's lead by giving more time than ever to the plot and characterization. Now, is isn't uncommon to hear people cite the stories as being as or even more important to a Final Fantasy entry as the gameplay.
* ''{{Fire Emblem}}'' grew the beard with Genealogy of the Holy War, the fourth game. It featured a much darker story than the past games, along with larger maps, more character interaction (to the point of being able to pair people up), and tons more drama.
* While the gameplay of ''GearsOfWar'' had always been good from the start, the plot of the campaign didn't really start to develop beyond a blatant ExcusePlot until ''Gears of War 2''.
** GearsOfWar 3 grew a beard gameplay-wise: More weapons for your loadout, different weapons spawn on the map (flame nade, digger, one-shot), and more characters to play as. [[ADayInTheLimeLight And a new mode to play as the Locust]]. Of course when it comes to the weapons, [[BrokenBase some players enjoy them, others... not so much.]]
* The first two ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' games were reasonably popular due to their unique gameplay and [[NoSuchThingAsBadPublicity controversy]], but once the change to 3D went full in ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIII'', it was an immense hit, and essentially one of the first well-done [[WideOpenSandbox open-world sandbox]] games. Of course, most players were already thinking "This would be even better in 3D."
* The first GuildWars campaign, Prophecies, is generally considered to have long, monotonous levels compared to the other games. It also had very little max-level content and was almost completely [[SlidingScaleOfSillinessVersusSeriousness serious]], when reaching max level early on in the game and having a slightly dry sense of humor would later become part of the games signature style.
** Factions, the second, solidified many ideas that would be re-used in the next installments, including henchmen with distinct stories who talked to the player, a "starter island" that the character generally leaves around max level, and several pacing adjustments. It doesn't hurt that the Factions era is still widely regarded as the most balanced PvP environment in Guild Wars history.
* HeroesOfMightAndMagicV started out as a 3D-remake of the third game with awkward translation and mostly lazy cutscenes (using the existing animations of heroes and units instead of moving the mouth). It grew its beard over the course of the two expansions, particularly the second.
* {{VideoGame/Hitman}}: Codename 47, while praised for it's originality, is often criticized for being incredibly unforgiving, with missions that can take over 20 minutes to finish without any save points as well as Agent 47's small health bar which often meant you were dead the second you were detected. Then Hitman 2: Silent Assassin came out with the brilliant idea of giving the player a limited amount of saves they could use in each level wherever they want. This encouraged more experimentation since you knew if your plan didn't work out you could go back to a previous save which you placed just where you needed it, but also prevents save-scumming by giving you a finite amount of saves, helping the series find a more balanced difficulty level that still challenged it's player but was never quite as punishing. The game was significantly more well received than it's predecessor.
* No one will say the first two Kingdom Hearts games are less than stellar, but ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII'' is when the series started growing its facial hair. Better accessibility, combat versatility, deeper characterization, and better animation are just a few of the many improvements that were brought to the series and used for every game since. In his character scan for Kingdom Hearts III, [[LiteralMetaphor Sora's chin is starting to grow a goatee.]]
* It's generally seen that ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters '96'', the third game in the series, was when ''[=KOF=]'' started to take off. '' '96'' added running and dodge-rolling in place of dashing and spot-dodging, two mechanics that helped set ''[=KOF=]'' apart from other fighting games, as well as making the overall gameplay smoother and more accessible. The theme tune to '' '98'' even acknowledges it; the pieces were in place in '96.
* ''VideoGame/MarioKart'' revolutionized mascot racing during its time by having 8 characters in a race and having tracks with complex designs and obstacles. ''Mario Kart 64'' took it a step further when the series made the leap to 3D by having better designed tracks, more items, and up to 4 people could play the game on the same console. ''Mario Kart DS'' led the way for online play for the series. "Mario Kart Wii" led the way for global-wide battles. "Mario Kart 8" allowed players to upload their races to Youtube directly via Mario Kart TV.
* ''VideoGame/MarvelHeroes'' was roundly criticised on various fronts upon release, including: lacklustre character models and VFX, uninspired powers and hero mechanics, broken game math, difficulty in obtaining new characters (they could only be obtained for free via random in-game loot drops), lack of good loot (for a game built around it), no endgame, not enough lore flavor and the general deficit of customisation options. All of these issues have since been addressed to varying extents, and more importantly the dev team's transparency and active communication with fans have won past detractors over.
* Though critics loved it unconditionally, the gameplay of the ''Franchise/MassEffect'' franchise was pretty rocky. ''1'' was a straightforward third-person run-&-gun somewhere between ''Halo'' and ''Doom'', hampered by unnecessary TakeCover elements. ''2'' put cover-based shooting center stage, but adjusted all the game's other elements (gun damage, special abilities, HP totals) a bit too far, resulting in fragile and unbalanced gameplay. The trilogy's final entry managed to mix everything just right, to the point that ''3''[='s=] multiplayer mode, at first derided as a cash-in mechanic, is now enjoyed unironically by franchise fans.
** This is mirrored in the driving segments. In the first game you operated the M-35 Mako, an AwesomePersonnelCarrier with physics reminiscent of ''BigRigsOverTheRoadRacing''. The second game replaced the Mako with the Hammerhead hovertank and made driving sequences optional. ''III'' found the best solution: [[KnowWhenToFoldEm removed 'em entirely]].
* ''MegaManBattleNetwork'' was received rather warmly, but is an ObviousBeta to even the most biased of critics. Its sequel introduces the Style system, a wealth of replay value in the sidequests and expanded chip library, the much appreciated ability to flee from battle without the need for a specific Battle Chip and a more varied soundtrack, among other things, creating an overall more polished experience.
* The first two ''Franchise/MetalGear'' games are cult classic stealth games that have a fairly standard action movie plot. 10 years later, the [[SequelDisplacement sequel]], ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' [[{{Deconstruction}} turned the concept on its head]] and added more MindScrew. It became one the most recognised games of all time.
* ''VideoGame/{{Metroid}}'' was good. ''VideoGame/SuperMetroid'' was '''[[EvenBetterSequel awesome]]'''. It created a massive, easy-to-get-lost-in world, atmospheric world. The SequenceBreaking and SelfImposedChallenge potential are incredible, especially with stuff such as the [[GoodBadBugs mockball]] and WallJump.
* ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights'' started out with a rather boring story, full of PlotHoles, with about 2 three-dimensional characters in the entire game. It started growing its beard with the expansions, but the real potential of the engine didn't really emerge until the greatest works of toolset manipulation (''VideoGame/ADanceWithRogues'', ''Sanctum of the Archmage'', ''VideoGame/TheBastardOfKosigan'', the ''Shadowlords'' series, and more) started to show up.
** ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights2'' (developed by Creator/ObsidianEntertainment) was accused of doing much the same thing, via another hackneyed and cliched plotline, linear maps, tons of bugs and one of the most infamous uses of RocksFallEverybodyDies. The first expansion, ''Mask of the Betrayer'' (also developed by Obsidian), improved on just about everything in the base game. In addition to retconning the ending, it had many well-written companions, a shorter and more focused storyline and less linear areas, to the point that it's one of the most critically-revered expansions of all time and is often mentioned in the same breath as ''VideoGame/PlanescapeTorment''! It even had people who hated the game at a loss for words how a company could go one polar extreme to the other.
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'' was this for the ''VideoGame/{{Persona}}'' series. While the others were certainly good games, this was the installment that made the series famous. It was the first to come to the US without having been butchered by borderline racist translators and also introduced the social link system.
** Not just ''Persona''. This is considered to be the game that made the entire ''Franchise/ShinMegamiTensei'' series big in the west, and ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' proceeded to make it even more well known.
* ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorney'': The first two cases of the first game are relatively simple, designed with fairly over-the-top characters while the player learns basics of gameplay. In the third case, the {{HSQ}} shoots up, along with CharacterDevelopment, and, suddenly, the game switches from "non-stop wackiness" to one with real stakes. The next game in the series doubles down on both the RuleOfFunny and EarnYourHappyEnding elements that made the first game so successful.
* ''Pikmin'' 1 and 2 were considered cute classics for GameCube. Pikmin 3, meanwhile, was highly publicized by Nintendo and regarded as one of the Wii U's best games.
* ''VideoGame/PokemonRedAndBlue'' were two excellent [=JRPGs=] for the GameBoy, but they suffered from several problems, including poor balance and a multitude of {{Game Breaking Bug}}s.''[[UpdatedRerelease Yellow]]'' tightened it up a bit and fixed the worst of the bugs, and the beard fully grew with ''VideoGame/PokemonGoldAndSilver'' and grew even thicker with those games' UpdatedRerelease, ''Crystal''.
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil4'' was far, far less of a joke than the previous few games of the series due to the massive changes in controls, camera, setting, everything, and wound up winning Game of the Year at quite a few websites and magazines. The gameplay and puzzles were more acclaimed than in the PlayStation titles (which themselves weren't too bad)
** Even before that was ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil2'', which, rather than having a B-Movie story like the first game, ended up having one of the most engaging plots in the series. Later, the first game was remade in 2002, doing a few Retcons and trying to connect it to the later installments which made it seem a lot less cheesy.
* The original ''SaintsRow'', while fairly well received, was considered by many to be little more than a clone of ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas''. After ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIV'' marked the series's shift to more dramatic storytelling, though, ''SaintsRow2'' managed to win over disenfranchised fans and holdouts alike by taking the humor and ridiculousness of the original game, and cranking it UpToEleven.
* ''VideoGame/SamAndMaxFreelancePolice: Season Two'' is widely considered to be much, much better than Season One, due to having harder puzzles, more variation in locations, more unique episodes, a much more coherent story arc involving most of the supporting cast and [[spoiler:killing off [[TheScrappy the Soda Poppers]].]]
** Also, it had [[{{Badass}} FLINT PAPER]]!!!
** Season One also grew the beard with Abraham Lincoln Must Die. It's no coincidence that this is the episode that's given out for free (for good reasons).
*** The Devil's Playhouse (Season Three) is also this. A [[DarkerAndEdgier darker]], much tighter storyline spoofing the works of H.P. Lovecraft and TheTwilightZone, with top-notch writing, acting and humor. Max gaining some rather fun psychic powers and [[spoiler: The Soda Poppers staying dead]] certainly helped too.
* The [[StreetFighterI first Street Fighter]] was nothing impressive at the time and also had an appalling control scheme that (supposedly) measured the strength of your punches and kicks. To say [[StreetFighterII the second installment in the series]] is better than the first is not an opinion, ''it's a universally agreed upon fact!'' i.e SFII took the few good things the original had going for it, expanded up on them tenfold while also leaving in a little glitch that would [[AscendedGlitch forever change the history of competitive fighting games]]. Oh and the controls were a ''lot'' less perplexing to figure out too!
* The ''SegaSuperstars'' games only started to pick up praise from the critics with the third installment, ''Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing''.
* There is widespread agreement among ''SilentHill'' fans that the beard for the series was grown during ''SilentHill2''. Given that [[SilentHill1 the first game]] tends to be listed as a favorite even after [[LongRunner eight games]], this is a testament to how revered the second game is within the fandom.
** The series has long suffered from BrokenBase Syndrome, with later games being generally less well-regarded. There are some dedicated purists who refuse to ever acknowledge any game after the fourth, but among the more open-minded fans, ''SilentHillShatteredMemories'' has achieved a cult following and some think of it as when the series grew its second beard. That [[SilentHillDownpour latest game]] has been quite better received critically and among fans than several games previous speaks of some truth to the idea.
* SonicTheHedgehog was about a blue, 90's cool anthropomorphic hedgehog fighting against a mad scientist who wanted to use ''woodland creatures to power his robot death armies''. The Chaos Emeralds were already present, but Sonic only collected them in order to stop Robotnik from taking them. The "Best Ending" occurred if you collected all seven emeralds by diving into a dizzying, multi-colored bonus area. Enter SonicTheHedgehog2. Sonic now has a mutant fox best friend who can run ''just as fast as he can'', taught ''Sonic the Spin Dash, which today is just as much a signature move to Sonic as the GroundPound is to Mario''. Sonic and Tails are both playable, allowing for 2-player co-op, and can even race each other in a bonus stage to get the most rings, avoid bombs, and collect the emeralds. Oh, and collecting all 7 emeralds turns Sonic into Super Sonic.
** For the Modern Era of Sonic games, after [[DarkerAndEdgier Shadow The Hedgehog and Sonic 2006]] performed less than expected, Sega went back to what 2-D platforming with SonicTheHedgehog4, which brought on SonicColors, SonicGenerations, and SonicLostWorld.
* ''VideoGame/SlyCooperAndTheThieviusRaccoonus'' was an episodic, linear game where you played through level after level until you faced a boss and moved on to the next episode. In [[VideoGame/Sly2BandOfThieves the sequel]] you instead perform "jobs" which can be anything from sabotaging the weapons of the BigBad to recon to setting up an escape route, all building up to one final heist where you stick it to the bad guy. Plans can go awry and force you to improvise, there is plenty of WorldBuilding and exploration, and much more emphasis is put on the GrayAndGrayMorality of a storyline where the protagonists and antagonists are both criminals.
* ''StarControl'' was a relatively popular turn-based strategy game including a spaceship melee mode a la {{Spacewar}}. The sequel, ''Star Control 2'' increased the scope of the original with a story-driven adventure mode and various other elements. ''Star Control 2'' went on to become widely considered one of the best video games of all time. Alas, [[CanonDiscontinuity there was no]] ''Star Control 3''.
* You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would speak ill of the original ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros'' While opinions may be split over its immediate sequels ([[VideoGame/SuperMarioBrosTheLostLevels Japanese]] and [[VideoGame/SuperMarioBros2 Western]]), a large part of the fanbase agrees that ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'' was when the series really hit its stride. And if not that, ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld''.
* ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'': It started off on the Gameboy with just three series showing up, no pilots or plot at all. It jumped to the Super Famicom and the 2nd had an excuse plot, with the 3rd starting up gags from the various series and doing retcons for disliked plotlines. This continued on for a while as a fun excuse plot series but people say that with Alpha starting the massive and complex story is where the franchise started perfecting.
* While the first ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'' is far from a bad game, it suffered from a limited budget and hardware limitation. After becoming a sleeper hit its sequel, Melee, had a much bigger budget and created to flex the graphical muscle of the then new Game Cube. A lot of the stables of the Smash series were introduced in Melee.
* ''{{Tekken}}'' was a direct arcade port with a versus mode, some remixed music, and Galaga. It was a decent fighter, and an impressive one at that, but it left a little to be desired. Then came it's sequel. New characters, tons of new modes, better emphasis on story, better music, better graphics, the works! And the series would only continue to improve with the third game in the series.
* While fans of the ''VideoGame/{{Thief}}'' series of games generally hold the first game (The Dark Project) in high regard, it's generally agreed among fans that its ''VideoGame/ThiefIITheMetalAge'' was a [[EvenBetterSequel massive]] improvement, featuring a heavier emphasis on level exploration with multiple paths to finish a level, smarter guard AI, a compelling plot with a genuinely disturbing villain, and a significantly lowered focus on one-on-one encounters with enemies, and more stealth and thievery.
* For most ''WarioLand'' fans, ''Wario Land II'' (the second Game Boy title, not the Virtual Boy one) did this, as the series gameplay diverged significantly from that of the ''Mario'' series and actually started developing its own identity with things like the transformations. Which of the next two games is better on the other hand, seems to be dependent on the player.
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' series grew a beard around ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast A Link to the Past]]''; not that the previous two games were bad, but the number of {{Guide Dang It}}s decreased. And it got a much more manageable difficulty. Once ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime Ocarina of Time]]'' was released, the beard was full and glorious.
* In a hardware example, the PlayStation3 started out as a laughing stock with a ridiculous price point, very few quality exclusive titles for well over a year after launch, and a fair amount of meme-generating idiocy (RealTimeWeaponChange, GiantEnemyCrab, AttackItsWeakPoint and ForMassiveDamage) by Sony's PR department. It was also notoriously difficult to make games for, keeping away third-party support. Things began improving in 2008 with the release of ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4GunsOfThePatriots'', which demonstrated what the system was capable of. By holiday 2009, they had launch a new slimmer model, dropped the price in half, and started a new campaign of genuinely funny advertisements featuring Sony's fake Vice President of Whatever-The-Hell-He-Wants-To-Be-VP-Of Kevin Butler. The fact that the [=PS3=] had finally developed a very respectable game lineup didn't hurt either.
* The PlayStation4 is this for the brand overall. After the past two generations with increasingly frustrating-to-code hardware and inflating ego that was finally crashed down like the Hindenburg , Sony finally decides "hey, let's ask what the developers want". Not only did they win the developers over again, but Microsoft's less-than-stellar reveal of the XboxOne was heavily taken advantage of by Sony to win the gamers at E3. And it shows. The [=PlayStation 4=] is the fastest selling console ''in history''.
* ''VideoGame/DiabloIII'', while not a bad game, had a rocky launch and problems later on - loot was deemed lackluster due to the presence of the Auction House and the difficulty levels being fairly imbalanced, with Normal being incredibly boring and Inferno borderline unplayable. Blizzard started rolling out stuff to counter it by introducing Paragon levels and Monster levels, but the game ''really'' hit its stride once Loot 2.0 hit, which amped up loot strength and made the drops much more sensible, to the point where people who hadn't received a Legendary item over 40 hours now were swimming in them after 30 minutes. It was further amped once Reaper of Souls was released and introduced new modes coupled with complete removal of the Auction House.
* ''VideoGame/{{Skylanders}}'':
** ''Giants'' added voice acting to the Skylanders... and added some well-known actors to the list.
** With every series (as early as ''Giants''), the figures started to become more detailed and better sculpted.
** Around ''swap Force'', the levels started to become less linear and opened more up for exploration, hiding some of the hidden unlockables in much less obvious locations.
** ''Swap Force'' also started to vary the playstyle of the Skylanders. While still in rather simplistic and approachable for a younger audience, the Trap Team skylanders added [[StanceSystem]]s, [[StatusBuff]]ers, and minion masters, further rewaring others who try and play certain Skylanders.
** ''Trap Team'' also updates the graphics for the new gen, while still making sure it's aesthetically gorgeous for people playing the game on previous gen systems.