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Halo 2 is a lot like Halo 1, except it's Halo 1 on fire going 120 miles per hour through a hospital zone chased by helicopters and ninjas. And the ninjas are all on fire too.
Jason Jones, Official Xbox Magazine

The rule usually holds that the second work in a series, decent though it may be, simply can't stand up to the glory of the first. Indeed, for many a series, when all is said and done, a consensus forms that First Installment Wins.

The exception to this conventional rule is the even better sequel, which are largely (if not unanimously) thought to top the already-good original. In many cases, this is either the result of or comes along with a genre shift, as instead of just trying to top the original, the makers will be trying something entirely new (see the Alien and Terminator examples). In addition, this seems to be common with sequels to superhero films. This may be because genre conventions demand (or at least, strongly encourage) a Super Hero Origin story in the first movie, which takes up a good chunk of the plot and screen time with a relatively uninteresting everyman character before we even get a chance to see any super-heroics. Sequels tend to work well if any change is organic, or a plot was built up in the previous installments.

It's possible that in the musical world, even better sequel is the rule rather the exception, considering that an artist's first album (though still good) may have been recorded when they were still trying to figure out their style. Also common in video games, where the sequel is often built on the technological and fictional foundation of the first, significantly reducing the time needed to come up with or adapt new technology or build the game's world, and allowing the developers to focus on enhancing the things that worked and prune the things that didn't. Sequels in any medium may also benefit from the higher budget and greater creative freedom that are afforded to a proven franchise, provided the beancounters have the good sense to refrain from executive meddling.

Not to be confused with Surprisingly Improved Sequel, where the sequel is "even better" only because the original wasn't all that good.

When it happens within individual seasons, that is Growing the Beard.

Compare Sequel Displacement, Sequel Escalation, More Popular Spin-off. Contrast Contested Sequel, Sequelitis, Sophomore Slump.

Examples with their own page:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • While the original Mobile Suit Gundam performed badly on its original run (in fact, it was cancelled due to falling ratings... but became a smash hit on reruns, go figure), six years later, Zeta Gundam was so popular that it spawned a direct sequel just two weeks after it was completed — a feat yet unsurpassed by any other Gundam installment. To this day, many Gundam fans consider Zeta the best entry in the saga.
  • The Patlabor TV series (a separate continuity from the first OVA and the movies) was consistently decent, but the second OVA (which followed in the same continuity as the TV show) was much better, upping not just the production values but also the humor and the drama.
  • While the first season of the Lyrical Nanoha series was unexpectedly good (given its original premise), it's the second one that remains the most popular among the three televised so far.
  • May not be a complete example, but the loosely connected Psychic Powers manga stories by Katsuhiro Otomo kept increasing in quality as time went on. First was a largely forgettable short story about some cops investigating a paranormal case. This was followed by the beautifully written & illustrated Domu: A Child's Dream, featuring those same officers investigating a series of psychic killings. Then came the classic AKIRA, revolving around the government's attempts to copy the powers seen in Domu for their own ends.
  • The first InuYasha anime was widely loved even with all the filler, but the last part of the manga (that hadn't yet come out when the anime ended) was shown in InuYasha: The Final Act, which was much more straightforward.
  • Most fans agree that the second season of the Slayers anime, Slayers NEXT, is superior in all aspects, from story to character development, to the first season. Unfortunately, it declined shortly after that.
  • A variant example with the Naruto series. The series itself has been continuous since the beginning, and thus has never had need of a true sequel. However, after the drought of Filler (over eighty continuous episodes, nearly two year's worth) after the animated episodes Overtook the Manga, there was a Retool to coincide with the series' Time Skip, leading into Naruto: Shippuuden. Much like the manga it derives from, it jumps in quality to become much more mature, relying far less on toilet humor and greatly emphasizing Character Development. The producers also learned their lesson from the Great Filler Drought, interjecting a filler arc in between every 1-2 Canon story arcs so that there's no chance of Overtaking the Manga. These filler arcs are worth mentioning, in that they are actual story arcs of fairly decent quality, unlike the pre-Time Skip episodes which were mostly stand-alone slapstick.
  • Rosario + Vampire Season II (not to be confused with the anime's Capu2) is regarded as much better than the original manga, thanks to a Darker and Edgier plot, amazing Art Evolution, more Character Development and The Hero Tsukune being more Badass than he was in season I.
  • CLANNAD ~After Story~ consistently gets better reviews than the excellent first season of the anime, thanks to a series of Wham Episodes and Character Development in the second half. It also frequently tops lists of the best anime series ever made.
  • Season 1 of Sonic X is So Okay, It's Average at best. Season 2 introduced some more focused plotlines and more Character Development for the cast. The Darker and Edgier season 3 went even further and is widely considered by fans to be what the show should've been like from the beginning, with a solid Myth Arc and an awesome new Big Bad.

    Comic Books 
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is widely considered to be even better than James Roberts' previous work on Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers.
  • Brian Michael Bendis' well-done run on Moon Knight was followed by Warren Ellis and Brian Wood's run which proceeded to basically reinvent Moon Knight from the ground up and is considered by many to be a modern classic.
  • Grant Morrison's New X-Men revitalized the X-Men and was largely praised by critics and fans, even after it hit some skids towards it's end due to Executive Meddling. It was followed by Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men which was even more critically acclaimed, singlehandedly rescued the X-Books from the Dork Age brought about by House of M, and avoided the meddling that Morrison's run encountered.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The original Equestria Girls wasn't bad, but it had its fair share of Broken Base, mainly over the human element (including nitpicking over the human character designs, despite fans making human versions of the ponies almost since the first episode), though there were other common complaints. The sequel Rainbow Rocks was better received. This Equestria Daily article briefly goes over the differences. Don't worry, no spoilers.
  • Most agree that Toy Story 2 ended up better than the original. Some feel Toy Story 3 managed to top them both.
  • The Rescuers Down Under is generally considered to be better paced, better written, and in general a better movie to the original The Rescuers.
  • Ever since they've finally started growing the beard, DreamWorks' rise in quality has also affected their sequels.
    • While the first Shrek movie is still regarded as a classic animated comedy, Shrek 2 is the most popular of all four movies. It had a bigger plot, several new characters (including Puss in Boots) and was a bigger smash hit during the time it ran in theaters than its predecessor.
    • Kung Fu Panda 2 has been widely considered to be even better than the original, which is already considered one of DreamWorks Animation's best films to date. This is because, as mentioned in the opening paragraph of this page about Alien and Terminator, it tried something new. The last story was about Po coming into his own and learning to be the Dragon Warrior. This film was about saving the world and finding out about Po's past. It wasn't a rehash of the same thing at all, which helped it a lot. Also, like the Terminator and Alien sequels, it featured a shift towards more action, which was available now that Po had completed the training from the first movie. No Bag of Spilling here! Likewise, there is more drama as Po learns some hard truths about the apparent fate of his family and his people and must struggle to come to terms with it. In turn, it sets the stage for the next with Po's biological father, part of a hidden village of giant pandas, realizing his son is alive.
    • The Madagascar films received a giant jump in quality with each sequel installment. This was partly because the characters' struggle to get home gave the series a structure, allowing it to conclude in a emotionally believable way that builds on the characters' growth and change with the third film.
  • Starship Troopers: Invasion, compared to the previous two, at least. The boarding of the John A. Warden manages to feel more suspenseful than the second movie's failed attempt at being Aliens, and even the brief screen-time afforded to the Marauder is better than what the third movie did with them. The bugs haven't looked this good since the original, either.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • While A New Hope is considered a cinematic masterpiece, many consider The Empire Strikes Back as an even better film, and the best of the Star Wars saga, though at the time of release it was disliked by many fans, and there are some who still argue A New Hope was better.
  • While the original Alien is a great movie — interesting characters, creepy and horrifying designs for the alien, it introduced the xenomorph life cycle to an unsuspecting populace, and so on — the second movie, Aliens, is widely (though not universally) regarded as a better film. It also benefited from a Genre Shift from straight up Horror to Action Horror, which meant that instead of suffering from Sequelitis, Aliens was able to do things its own way.
  • Batman Begins was the reboot everyone hoped for after the Neon Age of Schumacher, but it was The Dark Knight that won universal acclaim and a posthumous Academy Award for Heath Ledger.
  • Some film buffs consider The Godfather Part II to be better than the original The Godfather, and everyone considers it to be at the very least comparable.
  • X-Men:
    • X2: X-Men United is considered an improvement on the already good original X-Men, fleshing out the characters and themes introduced in the first one, while providing more action. Bryan Singer said the strategy for X2 was to follow the Empire Strikes Back plot, where they split up the characters for purposes of development, then bring them together again for a fantastic finish.
    • While X-Men: First Class was well-liked by fans for bringing the X-Men series back on track, X-Men: Days of Future Past has been even more well-received and cited by a few reviewers as the best of the X-Men movies. It even currently has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score in the series at 92%, placing DOFP among the best-reviewed Marvel movies of all, Marvel Cinematic Universe or otherwise. The movie has also become the top-grossing X-Men film in terms of worldwide box office by far, usurping the position previously held by The Last Stand.
  • Spider-Man 2 likewise had a drastically improved plot, as well as longer, bigger, and better fight scenes. And if anything, the knockout train battle against Doctor Octopus was the Spider-Man fight everyone had been waiting and hoping for.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day got even more acclaim than The Terminator, and had a much higher gross than the already-beloved first film. Like the Alien series, it shifted from horror in the first installment (which was effectively a Slasher Movie) to a greater focus on action in the second. Incidentally, both sequels were directed by James Cameron, though unlike Alien, Cameron also directed the first Terminator.
  • James Bond:
    • The first three films are generally considered to be progressively better than the one that came before it. Goldfinger is still regarded by some as the best Bond film ever.
    • Similarly Skyfall was easily the most critically acclaimed of the three films starring Daniel Craig, and numerous media outlets claimed it could be the first Bond film to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination.
  • The Evil Dead series.
    • The Evil Dead was a cult film that was noted for its extreme violence and low-budget gore. Evil Dead 2, however, added a new element of slapstick comedy, which is apparently what Sam Raimi wanted all along. The action also focuses more on the character of Ash, who became something of a cult icon.
    • The third film, Army of Darkness, has the highest budget and is the most well known. It continued the trend toward increased slapstick violence and making Ash a wisecrack-spouting badass, which is generally what people remember most about the series.
  • Mad Max and Mad Max 2, (later renamed The Road Warrior). The first was impressive for a low-budget action film to come out of Australia, though by today's standards is rather slow-paced and tedious (despite some excellent auto-stunts). The second film practically popularized the Scavenger World and The Apunkalypse in film, filled with balls to the wall action and is the best remembered film in the series.
  • The third Harry Potter film, based on The Prisoner of Azkaban, is widely considered to be the most well-made in the series after the eight one, and better than the first two by a wide margin.
  • Two examples come from the Universal Horror cycle of the 1930s: Todd Browning's 1931 version of Dracula, despite its fame and popularity, is generally considered a far inferior film to its 1936 sequel, Draculas Daughter — and although James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) is well-regarded among the critics, its 1935 sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, is considered an even better film.
  • Scream 2 is considered by critics to be scarier and funnier than the original Scream (1996). Discussed in Randy's film class, where everyone discusses movie sequels, the frequency of sequels that are better than first installments, and which sequels achieve this.
  • The third Police Academy film, Police Academy 3: Back in Training is considered by most fans as the series' peak.
  • Wrong Turn 2 Dead End received a far better reception than the original film, even though it was Direct-to-Video. Having Henry Rollins in it probably helped.
  • A Fistful of Dollars was a good movie. Its sequel, For a Few Dollars More, was an improvement in several ways. The third film, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, is even better than the second one and is often cited as one of the best films ever made.
  • Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (the titular comics live action adaptation) was a lot more funnier and better than the first, Asterix and Obelix Take On Cesar. Asterix and Obelix at the Olympic Games is said to be less good than the second but better than the first.
  • The Vengeance Trilogy by Park Chan Wook started with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which isn't a bad film, but relatively obscure. Oldboy, the second film, is the one everyone remembers. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, the third film, was also well-received but is not as well-known as Oldboy. However, these are all stand-alone films linked only by the theme of vengeance.
  • Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was a pretty good reboot of a long-dead franchise. Gamera 2: Advent of Legion had a tighter script, deeper characters, better special effects, more action and more gore. Gamera 3 Awakening Of Irys had less action but even deeper characterization and still better special effects with more effective gore, and a better script. It's still debated whether the second or third is the best, but everyone agrees they're both better than the first.
  • The Thing (1982) is widely regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, remakes ever made, with many considering it to be superior to The Thing from Another World.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is considered by a lot of fans to be the best in the series.
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation is seen as this to people who enjoyed G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Others consider it to be a Surprisingly Improved Sequel .
  • While The Hunger Games is good, the sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire improves on it in every way. A new director, no more Jitter Cam, better performances from everyone, spot-on pacing, much improved effects, a darker and more mature story that remains completely faithful to the book... and of course to top it all off, a special edition of the Hunger Games featuring past winners, filmed in IMAX no less, with a shocking and sudden Cliffhanger ending.
  • Before Sunrise is widely considered to be a great romance film. Its sequels Before Sunset and Before Midnight are regarded by most people to be just as good as, if not better than, the original because of their exploration of different stages of Jesse and Celine's relationship and consequently more mature themes of growing up and long-term commitment.
  • There does indeed exist a group of fans who believe Grease 2 to be superior to Grease for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to): a more relatable male lead, Michelle Pfeiffer being better looking than Olivia Newton-John, funnier and less forced T-Bird humor, no ridiculously over-exposed songs like "Summer Nights" and "You're The One That I Want", the sheer inclusion of the "Reproduction" song, etcetera.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger was considered a solid action movie by most critics and audiences, but it had the second-lowest box-office returns of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first wave of movies (only The Incredible Hulk did worse), and it was written off by many fans as a simple prologue to The Avengers. To many people's pleasant surprise, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has turned out to be one of Marvel Studios' most critically acclaimed films to date, garnering the strongest reviews for the series since The Avengers. It's also another one of the Genre Shift examples, as First Avenger was a WWII adventure while Winter Soldier was a Conspiracy Thriller.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes was considered a flawed but successful and enjoyable reboot to an ailing sci-fi franchise, with a groundbreaking performance by Andy Serkis helping to make up for its faults. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes improves on everything, with more complex characters, both human and ape, across the board, strong social and political themes that are deeply explored, and a career-best performance from Serkis, with many calling for an Oscar nomination. The result has been compared to The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight, been called one of the best and most emotionally powerful movies of 2014, and the kind of film other summer blockbusters should strive to be.

    Literature 
  • The Hobbit's sequel, The Lord of the Rings, is much more mature in tone and epic in breath with more dynamic characters and a great deal more at stake. It's partly a matter of genre, as well: The Hobbit was very clearly literature aimed at children, while The Lord of the Rings was a massive enterprise, intended to create an entire mythology.
  • The Silence of the Lambs to Red Dragon.
  • The third Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is generally seen as the best, or at least better than the first two.
  • Every book in the Shannara series after the first.
  • David Brin's first Uplift trilogy - Sundiver is decent, but Startide Rising blows it out of the water (no pun intended), and swept the major SF awards.
  • While Logan's Run is a good book, Logan's World is much better seeing as it has an actual coherent plot and flows from one scene to the next. Plus it shows Logan is an even bigger badass then you were originally led to believe.
  • The first two books in The Dresden Files were Strictly Formula and didn't do much, even if they were enjoyable reads. As the series continued, it got deeper, began playing with tropes a lot more, deviating from formula, and developing characters beyond the stock modern fantasy character archetypes.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the latter being a fun boy's novel with some Coming of Age themes. The former delves more deeply into the world of the Deep South, with biting social commentary and powerful Character Development.
  • Nancy Kress's Probability trilogy got better with each book (in contrast to her better-known Beggars in Spain series, which did somewhat the opposite). The final novel, Probability: Space was the award-winner, and many people refer to the series by the name of the last book.
  • The first novel of the Honor Harrington series, On Basilisk Station, is a thoroughly enjoyable Military Science-Fiction novel, but its sequel, The Honor of the Queen, is where the series really starts to find its stride.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Most fans agree that the series get's better with each book, as there is steady Character Development for the heroes and the plot becomes more complex.
  • The Heroes of Olympus While the second book Son of Neptune was well-received (especially in comparison to the lackluster The Lost Hero), the third book Mark of Athena is even better with Percy and Annabeth reuniting and the Seven finally working as a group. The fourth book The House of Hades continues the trend and is often considered the best, due to its excellent Character Development, a truly insane Chekhov's Armory pulling from pretty much every corner of the story so far (Think Bob and Calypso), and the journey through Tartarus everyone had been waiting for.
  • The first two Discworld novels are enjoyable if somewhat generic fantasy-parodies. After that, Terry Prachett found his voice as an author, and the quality of the series continued to improve.

     Live Action TV  
  • Star Trek: The Original Series was a good television show that had some good lead actors and often made poignant insights into the human condition, but suffered from cramped production time and a low budget. Star Trek: The Next Generation had an actual budget, universally high-quality actors, a chance to use a Story Arc or three dozen, and consistent show continuity, and in fact is the only Trek show to get a Golden Globe nomination for Outstanding Drama Series. TV Guide also considers TNG to be one of the 100 best shows of all time. Things proceeded to escalate even further, in terms of critical reviews at least - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine earned even more critical raves than its predecessor, and pioneered the use of intensive Character Development and Story Arcs spanning multiple seasons in a time well before that became the norm.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess was also a spinoff but was easily more popular than Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, no doubt due to the obscene levels of implied lesbianism. It was also much more willing to be experimental in its stories, and considering how different Hercules could be, that's saying something.
  • The various Power Rangers series fall somewhere between sequel and spin off, but in general, while the first few seasons were good, the production team were still trying to hammer out the kinks of trying to write and film a story around already done Japanese source footage. The show hit its stride somewhere around Power Rangers in Space.
    • Power Rangers Time Force had the benefit of numerous seasons before it to hammer out the kinks before the franchise was sold to Disney, making it one of the most solid entries. It was also extremely close to the original Mirai Sentai Timeranger.
  • Frasier is considered the equal to, if not better than, its parent show Cheers.
  • NCIS is generally considered superior to (and is far more popular than) JAG. NCIS: Los Angeles as well.
  • The second season of The Mole is generally liked better by the viewers than the first season due to an increase in cast size (fourteen players over ten players), a more or less superior cast, and host Anderson Cooper opening up and becoming more friendly and relatable than how he was shown during Season One.
  • The Blackadder series is subject to this, as Blackadder II is generally regarded as being better than The Black Adder. The first season was good in its own rightnote  , just not as good as the second in which Ben Elton took over writing duties from Rowan Atkinson, and the character of Blackadder became the iconic, witty Deadpan Snarker. This could also be considered a case of Growing the Beard. It arguably continued with Blackadder the Third — which some fans consider slightly better than the second series, though others consider it a slight step down — and was definitely continued with Blackadder Goes Forth, which is near-universally regarded as the best Blackadder series.

    Multiple Media 
  • The initial "trilogy" (2001-2003) of LEGO's BIONICLE is the best-known for its unique premise and memorable characters and setting, but it was during the Metru Nui saga (2004) that the true world-building began and the characters were allowed to go beyond being one-note stereotypes. The story, up until then fairly linear and riddled with fantasy-clichÚs, also got more complex and serious, and the Big Bad was re-imagined as a complicated and realistic villain. The Mask of Life saga (2006-2008) is also liked for placing heavy focus on action, replacing troop-builders with well characterized, individual villains, and for loosening up some of the story's more worn-out "rules". This was also when the world was developed into an entire complex universe as the writers introduced several other islands.

    Music 
  • It should be noted that an Even Better Sequel can seem even rarer in the music industry than other forms of entertainment; the "sophomore slump" is such that receiving, for example, "Best New Artist" from an organization might be seen as the kiss of death.
  • Daft Punk's Discovery is widely considered better than the already genre-defining Homework. Also, after the Contested Sequel Human After All and decently-received score for TRON: Legacy, their long-delayed fourth album Random Access Memories has become the robot duo's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful one, mostly due to them trying something new, with its Genre Throwback nature and large-scale production.
  • Nirvana's Nevermind. While Nevermind was a massive success and now ranks highly as one of the greatest albums of all time, Nirvana's first album, Bleach, is almost completely unknown by comparison.
  • The Pixies' second album, Doolittle. Their debut, Surfer Rosa, while failing to be a commercial hit, was well-received by critics, and has since been noted for being one of the greatest albums of all time. With the bar already rather high, Doolittle was released, and is regarded as even better than Surfer Rosa. Oddly, the band fared far better commercially and critically in Britain than they did in their home country of America.
  • Michael Jackson made Off the Wall, which was popular and critically acclaimed. Then he made Thriller, which came to be the biggest-selling album of all time.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins and Siamese Dream. Debut Gish was well received, but was totally displaced by the second record.
  • Sehnsucht (namely "Du Hast") was what put Rammstein on the map in America, despite it being the second album.
  • A lot of people said this about Joy Division's second album, Closer, which came after the massive, genre-defining masterpiece Unknown Pleasures.
  • Led Zeppelin's first album was filled with blues-covers and was all around fairly good. But Led Zeppelin II was where they instead focused more on the rock aspect and really took off.
  • Cream was a Super Group whose first album consisted mostly of blues covers and was not as good as people hoped. For Disraeli Gears they added elements of psychedelia and it was better received.
  • Paranoid is generally considered the best Black Sabbath album. Guess which number it is.
  • Metallica's debut Kill 'em All is a classic, but most consider Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets to be better. Which one is the best is the subject of many a Flame War. While Master was the more commercially successful album and their big breakout, most of the band's more devoted fans agree that Ride the Lightning was the superior album.
  • Kyuss's first album Wretch is generally seen as little more than a curiosity for hardcore fans of the band. However, their second album, Blues For The Red Sun, is widely considered to be one of the best and most influential "stoner rock" albums of all time.
  • Queens of the Stone Age's rather excellent self-titled debut is largely overshadowed by the far more popular Rated R and Songs For The Deaf. While the band certainly sounds more evolved and distinct on those two albums, their debut is still a fine rock record in its own right.
  • Likewise, Megadeth easily topped their debut with the follow-up Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
    • And many agree their best album is Rust in Peace, their fourth.
  • Neutral Milk Hotel only released two albums... but In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is the second, and it's the one that everybody remembers.
  • Rush's Fly By Night is vastly more respected than their debut album, largely because of Neil Peart joining the band. Not that the original doesn't still have its charms.
  • Judas Priest: their first album Rocka Rolla was utterly overshadowed by Sad Wings of Destiny, a universally avowed Adaptation Distillation of metal.
  • The B-52s - Their second album Wild Planet is widely considered by fans to be the one that best captures The B-52's spirit, as it contains their hardest rocking and lyrically weirdest material. It also opens with the best opening track they ever did "Party Out Of Bounds".
  • Joanna Newsom's first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, was a cute folky affair that garnered a largely positive reaction. Her second album, Ys, knocked everyone's socks off and is generally considered one of the best (if strangest) albums of 2006.
    • Her third album has managed to pull this off again. Successfully combining the best elements of the first two. Oh, and it's a Triple Album
  • P!nk's first album was popular, even if it was considered 'more of the same' from LA Reid and Babyface, the producers. Pink did her second album Missundaztood herself, and it is outstanding.
  • Deep Purple's first three albums were cult classics; however, most people know of the band from their fourth album (Deep Purple In Rock) onward. This may have something to do with their then-new lineup and different sound.
  • Hawkwind came first. Then, one of them (Lemmy) was fired, and Motorhead was born. Now who's laughing last?
    • While being on topic, Motorhead's first album, the self-titled one, well, let's say that is less remembered than the other three which came after them: Overkill, Bomber and the classic Ace of Spades.
      • Even less well remembered is On Parole which predates Mot÷rhead and Fast Eddie.
  • Iron Maiden recorded their first two albums with Paul Di'Anno, which are regarded as classics. Then he was replaced by Bruce Dickinson, and they recorded The Number of the Beast. That's all.
  • Helloween did well with their self-titled EP and Walls of Jericho with Kai Hansen on vocals and guitars. Then, he gets tired of singing and playing the guitars at the same time. Then, they hire Michael Kiske. Then, they record the first Keeper of the Seven Keys. Bingo!
    • And even better, after KOTSK1, came its sequel, Keeper Of The Seven Keys 2, considered THE Power Metal masterpiece. Too bad that after those two albums, the band went down to the hill.
  • Dream Theater's first album was recorded with Charlie Dominici on vocals. Then, after he was fired, the band hires James LaBrie. Then, they record Images and Words, which is considered even today a masterpiece of the Progressive Metal. It also contains their first (and ATM only) number 1 hit. After that, the band kept on the road and released many great albums as well.
    • While being on topic, one of DT's songs was called "Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper". After firing Derek Sherinian, the band went to record their second masterpiece, a Concept Album called "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory", one of the best ConceptAlbums of the genre.
    • Speaking of Dominici... He went on to make a series of prog concept albums called "O3: A Trilogy". The first one was a solo album, with Dominici on acoustic guitar, harmonica, and vocals. The second and third were epic amazing prog metal, similar to DT.
  • Vision Divine. Their original singer, Fabio Lione, left the band to concentrate on his solo career and on Rhapsody. Then, they've hired the unknown (to the metal world) singer Michele Luppi. The three recordings on his stance are still today regarded as the best the band made in their career, even after Lione's return.
  • Garth Brooks' first album held his breakthrough song, "The Dance", and won him enough acclaim to make him a CMA Horizon Award winner (now Best New Artist). No Fences topped that with his signature song, "Friends in Low Places", and won him his first CMA Entertainer of the Year award. Ropin' The Wind topped that by becoming the first country album ever to debut #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
  • The Beatles were incredibly popular and well-loved with their first few albums, and were breaking new ground with them. But there were still critics at the time convinced that The Beatles were nothing but a passing fancy for the ladies who would inevitably give way to the next big thing. The lads from Liverpool responded by churning out the likes of Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album. The rest is history.
    • Not to mention that Please Please Me, while arguably one of the best albums coming from the UK in 1963, was undeniably topped by With The Beatles. And with "She Loves You" making them superstars in Europe and "I want to hold your hand" doing the same in America, it probably seemed the only way was down. Cue A Hard Days Night—album, song AND film.
  • Although Bon Jovi's first two albums were popular, Slippery When Wet surpassed them by selling diamond in the US and topping the charts in seven countries. It is also their most critically acclaimed album.
  • Queen's first three albums, while quite good examples of Queen's musical talent, were not commercially successful. Their fourth album, A Night At the Opera, contained their single greatest hit (and first ever #1 song), "Bohemian Rhapsody", and the well-regarded "You're My Best Friend."
    • Arguably, a similar relationship holds for the clip to "Bohemian Rhapsody", which was the first Queen clip not to be just a performance of the song, and is widely regarded as one of the first true music videos.
  • Disturbed from The Sickness to Believe. The debut was considered simple but catchy, loaded with small hits and Signature Songs while Believe had the band stepping into stronger melodies, better writing and deeper, even introspective concepts.
  • The debut album for Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine, was well regarded, though some accused Trent Reznor of going Lighter and Softer and selling out industrial music. Five years, a nasty fight with his first label, and a Creator Breakdown later, The Downward Spiral was released, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made and silenced those who accused Reznor of being a sellout.
  • American Pop/Rock band Toto got off to a good start in their self titled debut album, but after their 2nd and 3rd albums ended up slumping, Toto IV was a smash hit, earning several awards (and giving the band their signature smash hits "Rosanna" and "Africa").
  • The band Sugar Ray reached mainstream fame with their second album, Floored. Critics expected the band to fizzle out, having gotten their "15 Minutes of Fame". The band responded with their third album, 14:59 (noticed the title?), which surpassed the first in number of sales, singles, and revamping their musical approach with a hefty dose of Pop.
  • Coldplay's debut, Parachutes, got some acclaim. But the follow-up A Rush of Blood to the Head sold better and is considered by many as their Magnum Opus.
  • Eminem's first canon albumnote , The Slim Shady LP received notable critical acclaim and had his breakout hit "My Name Is", but the follow up The Marshall Matthers LP is widely considered one of the best rap - if not overall - albums ever.
  • Oasis' {What's the Story) Morning Glory? is either this or just as good as the debut Definitely Maybe.
  • The Beastie Boys' debut album, Licensed to Ill, was loud and raw hip-hop with a frat-boy lining, with several good selections. The next album, Paul's Boutique, was a sudden departure from their Def Jam days. It's not hard to see why Paul's Boutique is regarded as the best of the Beasties albums - it's got significantly refined lyrical jive, and multi-layered, sample-rich beats by the Dust Brothers.
  • Amy Winehouse's Back to Black. Frank, her first album, was a best seller and was nominated for a number of prestigious awards including both a Brit award and an Ivor Novello award (which it won). Back to Black however is the best selling album of the entire 21st century in the United Kingdom, and won considerably more awards including five Grammies. It also had success in many other countries around the world too and is credited by many for kick starting a third British invasion in America paving the way for other artists such as Adele, Duffy and Jessie J.
  • Adele's first album, 19, was a pretty good record and was reasonably successful in both the UK and the USA (despite lacking a very strong hit single in the latter country), and it was released at a time when that kind of sound was very popular. After refining her sound on her tour in support of that album, she came back two years later with the enormously successful 21, which put out three number one singles in America and is currently one of the biggest selling and most acclaimed albums released in the 21st century.
  • Def Leppard's first album (On Through the Night) was alright. It sounded like a cross between T. Rex and Thin Lizzy, but it seemed kind of indecisive. Their fortunes improved with High 'N' Dry (their first album produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange) and Pyromania made them superstars.
  • Rilo Kiley's second album, The Execution of All Things was a sort of refinement of their previous work under the guiding hand of Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek Records.
  • Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain can be considered this, depending upon who you ask. Both this and their debut, Slanted & Enchanted are equally acclaimed indie rock records. However, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the album that flirted briefly with the mainstream and garnered them attention from major labels, despite the band's preference for remaining independent (which they ultimately did).
  • The last hit from Country Music group Lady Antebellum's debut album was also its first #1 hit and the biggest country hit of 2009. "Need You Now," the title track to the band's second album, was an even bigger hit and one of the biggest country-pop crossovers ever.
  • Dark Tranquillity's first album Skydancer was one of the first Melodic Death Metal albums, but generally not "understood." After trading singer Anders Friden to In Flames, and getting Mikkel Stane in return, they produced The Gallery, which is today considered one of the most influential Melodic Death Metal albums of all time.
    • In Flames' story goes the same. They first published Lunar Strain (which, though brave, wasn't that much of a success) and a couple years later (and with current vocalist Anders Friden) they released The Jester Race, the other Melodic Death Metal Trope Codifier along with The Gallery by DT and Slaughter of the Soul by At The Gates.
  • Mindless Self Indulgence's first album, Tight, is usually considered an excellent album by fans. Most, though, consider their second album Frankenstein Girls May Seem Strangely Sexy to be their best release.
  • A Tribe Called Quest's Peoples Instinctive Travels was critically acclaimed, but it was also criticized for a lack of focus and being repetitive. They followed it up with The Low End Theory, which is considered to be one of the best hip-hop albums ever. And then they followed that up with Midnight Marauders, which, depending on who you ask, is a second Even Better Sequel (and a lot of people who don't think it's better still think it's a damn good album).
  • My Chemical Romance's debut album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love may be well-liked by fans, but it was their sophomore album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge that gave them their first taste of mainstream success and is widely considered one of the band's best releases.
  • Almost every single member of the Wu-Tang Clan made a great solo debut album, and then failed to make anything as good again. The only exception to this rule is Ghostface Killah; there are plenty of people who say that Supreme Clientele is better than Ironman.
  • Progressive metal band Kamelot's concept album Epica was a beautiful, well crafted piece of music. However, the sequel album, note , The Black Halo, is a masterpiece and widely considered by fans to be Kamelot's magnum opus.
  • Tool's Opiate and Undertow (the former a rather obscure EP while the latter had songs with extensive radio play) were both excellent albums with a unique sound that didn't fall into the trap of the Post-Grunge-era alternative rock formula. Then came Ănima, which charted at number 2 in the U.S., spawned five hit singles, and broke the mold of what many people considered "mainstream" rock. The success continued with Lateralus, which debuted at number 1 in many countries and also had four hit singles. It's widely considered Tool's best studio album ever...not bad considering the first radio single was almost seven minutes long. Rather jarring to hear played alongside 3-minute pieces on Top 40 radio stations.
  • 30 Seconds to Mars' debut album is considered quite good but "A Beautiful Life" is where they really started to shine. Most of their well-known songs are from that album.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic had a self-titled debut album with parodies that included Toni Basil and Queen, but his second album, with his parody of MJ, made him a household name.
  • Taylor Swift's eponymous debut album was a fairly big critical and commercial success. Her second album, Fearless, launched her into global superstardom, was recognized by Billboard in 2011 as the top-selling album released between 2006 and 2011, and made her, at age 20, the youngest person ever to win Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.
  • Pantera's breakout album was Cowboys From Hell, where they defined their brand of groove/thrash metal (possibly after catching from hints from the likes of Dave Mustaine, if you can believe him), and is by far one of the most popular albums in Pantera's repertoire. It's not the second, the third, or even the fourth album they put out. Yep, Cowboys is their fifth album. You wouldn't believe the same band that did Power Metal in 1988 (they were young) also did Cowboys From Hell and, later on, Far Beyond Driven.
  • When you hear the name Slayer, what do you think of? More than likely, Reign in Blood comes to mind. This is yet another metal example. Reign in Blood was their third album. While Metallica and Megadeth were experimenting on their own, Slayer nailed their defining sound in one go (according to Kerry King), and it's widely regarded as the one of the best of the Big Four of thrash metal. It helps that they had legendary producer Rick Rubin working with them on it.
  • Nightwish was doing pretty good as a power metal band with Wishmaster. But the point where they really hit their stride was probably around Century Child, when they figured out that the best way to use their opera-trained soprano vocalist was to reduce the amount of extremely high-speed guitar, increase the amount of One-Woman Wail, and back her up with a whole freaking orchestra. Then they topped that with Once, essentially an entire album of the most over-the-top epic music you ever did hear, including "Ghost Love Score," infamous as the song of choice for making everyday things AWESOME.
  • Katy Perry's first mainstream album One of the Boys was a commercial success, but her second album Teenage Dream was an even bigger success, sold twice as many copies, received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, and yielded a record five number-one singles.
  • Radiohead did this in succession for their first four albums. Pablo Honey got decent reviews but wasn't widely acknowledged outside of its single hit ("Creep"); The Bends was the album that proved there was more to them than "Creep" and got rave reviews; OK Computer overshadowed The Bends in terms of both commercial and critical success- and then they did the same thing again with Kid A.
  • The first two albums by The Replacements usually get lukewarm to positive reviews. Their third album, Let It Be, has appeared on lists of the best albums of The Eighties, and it was listed as the twelfth greatest album of all time by Spin Magazine.
  • Elvis Costello's debut, My Aim Is True, was hailed as the arrival of a major talent, but as strong as the album was, the sedate backing band kept it from fulfilling its potential. Costello followed it up with This Year's Model, on which the Attractions gave him the kickass accompaniment he needed to put his music over the top. And then came Armed Forces, which was more textured and complex than the first two albums, and also introduced three of Costello's Signature Songs: "Accidents Will Happen", "Oliver's Army", and a Cover Version of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" that easily overshadowed the original.note 
  • TLC's first album "Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip" was a bonafide success with three top ten hits and was certified quadruple platinum, though critics thought the group would be a one-shot. Their second album Crazy Sexy Cool was released to universal acclaim, spawned the group's first number one singles, won two Grammys, and earned Diamond certification making it the best-selling album ever by a female group.

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  • Metalocalypse did very well with ratings for [adult swim], but it started out trying to show as much Gorn as possible. Season 1 gave us the most terrifying image in existence, the end of Dethkids. Season 2 was better, establishing continuity. Season 3 is even better, presenting the band in a more realistic light (they're in their Dork Age), and it's 22Min long instead of another Quarter Hour Short. It also has been light on the Gorn (so far), the 1st 2 Episodes being rated MA instead of the usual MA-V.
  • Justice League Unlimited managed to outdo the awesomeness of Justice League, thanks in no small part to two season-spanning Universe-shattering MythArcs. Oh, and The Question's transformation from an obscure DC character to an Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • The Simpsons:
    • While Seasons 1 and 2 are considered great, Season 3 is considered by fans to be the start of the Golden Age, when the series was in its prime. It was followed by Seasons 4 through 8, considered by many to be the greatest seasons of any animated cartoon ever.
    • "The Simpsons" itself is a spin-off of "The Tracey Ullman Show". While "The Tracey Ullman Show" has faded to obscurity, "The Simpsons" is a worldwide cultural phenomenon.
  • Beast Wars originally dealt with a huge backlash from the fans that were against animal-themed Transformers (at least those with organic animal modes), but somewhere by the end of the first season almost everyone else seemed to catch on that the series was better than the original in almost every way, and it's still usually considered the high point of the entire Transformers animated fiction.
    • A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that the people who grew up on G1 were ready for a Transformers series that escaped the ghetto. The producers knew this, and delivered in spades.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures was a great (if a bit flawed) show, but its successor Animaniacs is considered an improvement in nearly every way, and has aged much better to the point where it's considered one of the greatest cartoons of all time.
    • Some fans even consider Pinky and the Brain to be this to Animaniacs. It helps that it was based on what is generally agreed to be the show's best segment.
  • Book 1 and 2 of The Legend of Korra were pretty damn good in their own right but were plagued with Executive Meddling that caused some horrendous Romantic Plot Tumor and the early half of Book 2 to be rather disjointed. Book 3 was able to finally do away with those problems and quickly became acclaimed by critics and fans alike.


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