Non-Linear Sequel

"So any belief that Nintendo will make a sequel to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is deader than shit. They can't even make them follow consecutive order! We have a sequel to the original, a prequel to the original, a sequel to the prequel, a prequel to the prequel, and a sequel to the young Link of the prequel's prequel! WHAT THE FUCK!?"

Some video games do not have a strict sense of a linear sequel. The game may — may — take place in the same continuity, but not necessarily in the same time period. Occasionally the only thing similar is the system of play or shared tropes and references.

This is because video games, uniquely among media, have another dimension by which installments in a series can be interrelated, other than characters, setting, plot, or tone; that dimension being gameplay mechanics. Of course, this also means you might get an installment that isn't really one at all. Plus, it has the benefit of helping to avoid Continuity Lock-Out—with non-linear sequels, it doesn't really matter if you start with, say, An RPG Adventure 1 or An RPG Adventure 10.

This also avoids having to explain why the hero isn't at Level 255+ and where all his cool stuff went when he starts the next game.

Many series of this sort have Recurring Elements.

Compare and contrast to a Thematic Series, which is a series that follows themes as opposed to specific characters or settings.


Action-Adventure Games
  • The Legend of Zelda is the biggest example of this in video games, as fans attempted for years to find some coherent continuity between the games, with one of the bigger points of contention being whether there was a linear timeline or if the ending of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time actually split the timeline in two. When the official timeline was revealed for the series' 25th anniversary through the Hyrule Historia, it turned out timeline did split in OOT... into three branches.note  Since Nintendo is very much a "gameplay-first" developer, with story being one of the last things tackled in any of their games, the timeline reveal was prefaced with a request for fans to ignore any odd discrepancies the official order may cause as being a result of the games being "legends" that have been constantly retold and embellished.note 
  • The Legacy of Kain series plays around with the Timey-Wimey Ball and as a result only the first two, Blood Omen and Soul Reaver, are in normal order. Soul Reaver 2 picked up where Soul Reaver left off with the main characters travelling back in time to a couple decades before Blood Omen, then they travel forward to several centuries after Blood Omen, then back to centuries before Blood Omen. The fourth game, Blood Omen 2, takes place between Blood Omen and Soul Reaver in an altered timeline caused by the fifth game, Defiance (unless it's the original and Defiance erased it; there's evidence to support either). Defiance picks up right where Soul Reaver 2 left off and switches between the two heroes who are in different time periods, one is still in the time period centuries before Blood Omen and the other is exactly in the same time frame as Blood Omen, the events of that game occurring unseen at the same time as the events of Defiance. If you followed all that, congratulations, you just mastered one of the most complex time travel plots ever known.
  • Shadow of the Colossus and ICO take place within the same universe, with Shadow of the Colossus occurring earlier in the timeline.
  • Bubble Bobble makes no sense. You got three second-installments and two third-installments, and chronological orders and release orders don't match.
  • The sequel progression in Tomb Raider is linear (while each is self-contained, stuff like artifacts in Lara's mansion show the progression) until Chronicles, which is based around events at various times in Lara's life, and the position of some scenarios in the overall timeline is very hard to work out (not helped by the way some events seem to violate previous canon). The Crystal reboot makes things much more complicated; while the changes to backstory and canon suggest a Continuity Reboot, the majority of the previous games are referenced at points in the new games, suggesting that they DO still exist in the new timeline, which makes it difficult to work out where Legend and Underworld fit in. The series would then be rebooted again with Tomb Raider (2013), and there are also two spin-offs that have their own continuity, Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light and Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.
  • The third Ninja Gaiden game for the NES, Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, is an interquel between the original NES Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (since Ryu lost the Dragon Sword at the end of II, but still has it in III). Ninja Gaiden Shadow is a very distant prequel to the first NES game, while Ninja Gaiden for Xbox and its sequels (Dragon Sword and 2) are set before the NES series (and presumably after Ninja Gaiden Shadow).
  • The Metroid series isn't a particularly confusing chronology, especially compared to its sister series The Legend of Zelda. Nevertheless, the release order of the subsequent games still doesn't necessarily match the order in which they take place, mainly due to the Prime sub-series being an expanded Interquel. The order is: Metroid/Metroid: Zero Mission (1986/2004) > Metroid Prime (2002) > Prime Hunters (2006) > Prime 2: Echoes (2004) > Prime 3: Corruption (2007) > Federation Force (2016) > Metroid II: Return of Samus/Metroid: Samus Returns (1991/2017) > Super Metroid (1994) > Metroid: Other M (2010) > Metroid: Fusion (2004).note 
  • The games in Falcom's Dragon Slayer series are largely unrelated to each other. While Dragon Slayer VIII: The Legend of Xanadu is a sequel to Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu, and Dragon Slayer V: Sorcerian has tenuous connections to Dragon Slayer Jr.: Romancia, it's perhaps just as well that "Dragon Slayer" was stripped out of the titles of most of the localized versions and the later sequels and remakes.

Adventure Games
  • The games in the Atlantis series take part, in order: In prehistoric times, in the middle ages, in 2020, in the eary 20th century, and in 1937.
  • Mysterious Journey II is a far, far cry from what Schizm: Mysterious Journey was. It takes place on an entirely different planet called Saarpedon, bearing no relation to Argilus, and the 2-character playing mode is dumbed back to one. In fact, the only relation to Schizm is a Shout-Out to its living ships, as buildings in the ocean which look similar on the outside, but work and look nothing alike on the inside.

Fighting Games
  • Every 2D Samurai Shodown has been a non-linear sequel since Samurai Shodown II. III and IV are set after the original game but before II, V is a prequel to the first game, and VI is a "dream match" game with everyone from the previous numbered entries. Oddly enough, the 3D games are all set after Samurai Shodown II, although the PS version of Warriors Rage (which is a different game from the arcade version) takes place in the distant future of the other games.
  • The Street Fighter Alpha series (despite its Japanese title of Street Fighter Zero) is actually set after the original Street Fighter (and Final Fight) and before the Street Fighter II series. Street Fighter IV is an interquel between II and III, while the latest entry, Street Fighter V, takes place between IV and III. The Street Fighter EX titles are a non-canon series of spin-offs believed to occupy the same general time frame of Alpha and II.

First-Person Shooter

Hack and Slash


Role-Playing Games
  • The Final Fantasy series, with a few exceptions centered around Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X, essentially reboot everything with every new game and start fresh in a different setting with different characters, making its use of numbers somewhat strange.
    • Square Enix's Ivalice realm is a consistent world visited by the player at various different points in history, each time centered on completely unrelated protagonists. The titles are non-linear, consisting of the Final Fantasy Tactics games, Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII. But even Ivalice's continuity is a little haphazard. Back when they were new, the only indication of a connection between Tactics and Vagrant Story was a few small references. Tactics would receive its own sequel later on, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which also had very little to do with its predecessor. Making Ivalice a more explicitly consistent setting was a later development, and it's still a bit different than it started out since it took some retconning to fit things together.
    • Only afterwards, some games are now getting sequels, probably inspired by the success of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. For example, Final Fantasy IV has a cellphone/WiiWare game sequel, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.
    • As of Final Fantasy IX, the entire series takes place in a larger Multiverse, as did Final Fantasy X-2. The Ultimania notes that Shinra, the kid genius of the Gullwings, was the ancestor of Rufus Shinra. He even babbles about a concept remarkably similar to that of The Lifestream at one point in the game.
    • A Japanese guide for Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy IV Settei Shiryou Hen, for those curious) states that the Blue Planet is the same world as that of Final Fantasy II, only 100 years later. It also states that the Deathbringer that King Fabul gives to Cecil was left to him by Leon from II, who then renounced his status as a Dark Knight to become a priest (as a parallel to Cecil's own class change from Dark Knight to Paladin). However, this is possibly shot down again in The After Years, which reverts the whole "Kain being Ricard's son" thing back to a Retroactive Legacy Mythology Gag; there, Kain says that he was roughly the same age as Ceodore (17) when he heard news of his father's death against an evil empire, while the Kain seen in II is a young boy (not to mention that a difference of 100 years makes it difficult for the 21-year-old Kain to be the son of the already middle-aged Ricard).
    • Final Fantasy XIII was the first game in the series to be envisioned with other games (Final Fantasy Type-0 for example) sharing a continuity in mind, although from the get-go that "continuity" was outlined as a theme involving crystals steeped in mythology and nothing else, for the most part. While it eventually gained direct sequels, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the original vision changed quite a lot over the years, with Type-0, originally sharing the XIII title as Agito XIII, renamed before its release, and with the third game—the very well-anticipated Versus XIII—announced way back in 2006 along with the other two changing into a large, separate verse so much that it's finally been renamed Final Fantasy XV. The end of the E3 trailer that announced this even implies that, as "a world in the Versus epic" (quote), Noctis will have his own saga in Fabula Nova Crystallis (its title can be faintly seen at the beginning of the trailer), as Lightning has had.
  • There are only two continuities in the Tales series, non-canonical crossovers Tales of the World notwithstanding. The first is the "Aselia" timeline, encompassing two Symphonia games and Phantasia. All of them have different protagonists (the Symphonia sequel has a different protagonist, and both are set around 4000 years before Phantasia). The second is the Destiny timeline, the second game being about the son of the heroes of the first. In all cases, no Bag of Spilling is invoked.
  • Due to an unusual twist of plot involving Lezard time traveling from the end of the first game to the past of the sequel, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria comes both before and after Valkyrie Profile. And Covenant of the Plume is a prequel.
    • Things become even more confusing during the Seraphic Gate portions of Covenant of the Plume (i.e. the post-game), where recurring character Arngrim shows up. That Arngrim is the one from the original, unaltered version of the VP2 timeline (the one that leads into Covenant of the Plume and Lenneth), where the time-traveling Lezard wasn't there to bail Alicia, Rufus, and Dylan out of Dipan Castle and thus change the sequence of history. Like in VP2, Arngrim still ended up as one of Hrist's Einherjar, but was sent back into the cycle of rebirth as punishment for calling out Odin about what he did to Alicia, thus explaining how he can appear in the original Valkyrie Profile when it's (chronologically) set hundreds of years after Silmeria.
  • Breath of Fire has a remarkably similar situation going to Zelda, only complicated by two, possibly three, canonical Alternate Universe scenarios:
  • The first two Lufia games were placed in reverse order, with Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals happening before Lufia & The Fortress of Doom. The first game even started with A Taste of Power that eventually became the final conflict in the second game, creating a nice little loop of continuity. The third game, Lufia: The Legend Returns, is third chronologically, 100 years after Fortress of Doom and 200 years after Lufia II. The Gaiden Game, Lufia: The Ruins of Lore, is set twenty years after Lufia II (eighty years before Fortress of Doom).
  • The Suikoden games all take place in the same world (except for Tierkreis), but all take place in different regions and, more importantly, different times. To be specific, the first game to occur chronologically was Suikoden IV. One hundred and fifty years later, we experience the events of Suikoden V, then we get the original Suikoden I five years later, with Suikoden II following it up with the shortest time span between games (a mere three years), then we get Suikoden III 15 years after that. One strange thing about this series is the character Viki, who is well-known for not only teleporting to different regions, but through time as well (though this is not intentional, as she just has very bad luck and is a huge klutz). What's interesting is that she teleports through the games in numerical order, rather than chronologically. In other words, she teleports from the events of Suikoden I to Suikoden II, then to Suikoden III, and so on. Also, there are events that occur in Suikogaiden with Viki that, if she moved in numerical order, would imply her having knowledge of events that occurred (or knowing people she met) in earlier games. Her lack of knowledge of who Lorelai is in Suikoden V, even though they are both members of the Hero's army in I and II, is telling. And there are two different versions of Viki in III.
  • The Wild ARMs games were assumed to be non-linear at first, but Word of God says that they all take place on the same planet. This doesn't make much sense because, if that's the case, the games take place at least multiple millennia apart with Fridge Logic mass-reconfiguration of the planet's continental crust fragments. But hey, if the planet's center is filled with supernatural blue mud, you can Hand Wave just about anything.
  • The Elder Scrolls series all take place in the same world and are roughly chronological, but have different locations and, for the most part, characters. Except for the spin-offs. Battlespire takes place just before and during the first game, while Redguard takes place roughly 300 years before the first game. Skyrim takes place two centuries after Oblivion, but is more of a direct sequel events-wise.
  • Dragon Quest: Several titles take place in the same universe with similar past events. Dragon Quest III is the prequel of the first two games, which are collectively known as the "Loto Trilogy" or "Erdrick Trilogy" (depending on your translation).
    • The fourth, fifth, and sixth games are also part of their own saga (the loosely-connected Zenithian trilogy), albeit in Anachronic Order.
    • To date, only Dragon Quest VII, Dragon Quest IX, and Dragon Quest X seem to be standalone titles, as Dragon Quest VIII hints at a multiverse due to the Godbird Empyrea actually being one in the same as Ramia/Lamia from III. Torneko Taloon from IV also cameos as an opponent in Morrie's Monster Arena in VIII. Just to complicate matters, IX features character cameos and cosplay gear from all eight previous games and the Dragon Quest Swords spin-off, which may mean something or may just be Mythology Gags. Then there's the early Dragon Quest Monsters games — one's a prequel to VI, another had a VII character wind up in the Erdrick Trilogy world long after the events of I - III.
  • The continuity between the World of Mana games is rather loose. At least one game, Legend of Mana, has been declared non-canon by Word of God, and the mobile phone game Friends of Mana takes place in a totally different world.
  • Pokémon does this. Not counting Gold and Silver, which were direct sequels to the first games, Red and Blue, every iteration since has been part of a jumbled up timeline that can only be explained by in-game functions. Pokémon Red and Blue start off the series. At the same time that these are happening, the events of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, games released six years later as part of the third generation, take place. Three years later, the events of Pokémon Gold and Silver take place. Starting around when the red Gyarados business goes down, the events of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl occur. (It helps if you consider the remakes; Ruby and Sapphire and FireRed and LeafGreen are part of the same generation and take place at roughly the same time, as are Diamond and Pearl and HeartGold and SoulSilver.) And then, some unknown time later (possibly multiple years later; see the following note for more details) the events of Pokémon Black and White take place, followed by Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 (2 years later note ). Pokémon X and Y then takes place around the same time as Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. Pokémon Sun and Moon are a few years down the road from B2/W2 and X/Y, as Red (see the above note) is officially said to be in his early twenties. note  Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD go wherever you want them to.
  • Hidetaka Miyazaki (who served as director on Demon's Souls and Dark Souls) has stated that despite taking place in the same world, there will be no story connections between Dark Souls II and its predecessor.
  • Most of the Shin Megami Tensei sequels are like this, the major exceptions being Shin Megami Tensei II, Persona 2, Digital Devil Saga 2, and Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon. Some other games are hinted/confirmed to take place in the same continuity as their predecessors, such as Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, and Persona 3 and 4, but feature completely different plotlines and characters, with only a handful of Call Backs connecting them.

Shoot 'Em Ups
  • Contra 4 was titled as such to indicate its placement as a sequel to Contra III: The Alien Wars. It is actually the eleventh original installment in the series and the second one specifically made for a portable platform (following Operation C on the original Game Boy). The game got away with this due to the fact that none of the other Contra sequels between III and 4 were numbered (the actual game that followed Contra III was Contra: Hard Corps for the Sega Genesis).
  • The Aleste series kept a few main characters constant in its earlier installments, most of which could probably be linked together in order. Then there's Power Strike II for the Sega Master System and Robo Aleste for the Sega CD, each of which is set in a different historical time period with different characters.

Simulation Games

Stealth-Based Games
  • All the numbered Metal Gear sequels followed a linear chronology with one notable exception: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater serves as a prequel to the entire Metal Gear canon, being set decades before the events of the very first Metal Gear. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, both for the PSP, serve as sequels to the plot of MGS3 and follow Big Boss' further adventures before the first Metal Gear. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is another game starring Big Boss set years before Metal Gear Solid, or even the original Metal Gear for that matter, but is the fifth game in the MGS series to be numbered. Strangely, it is the first one to use a roman numeral instead of a numerical digit. It's also been confirmed by Kojima that Peace Walker was to be called Metal Gear Solid 5 at one point during development, but the number was removed mainly on the basis that the game was a handheld release.
  • The Tenchu series has been doing this as far back as the second installment, Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins- a prequel to the original. The order goes: Tenchu 2 (2000); Tenchu: Dark Secret (2006); the original Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (1998); Tenchu: Fatal Shadows (2004); Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (2003); Tenchu: Time of the Assassins (2005); Tenchu: Shadow Assassins (2008) and Tenchu Z (2006).

Survival Horror

Third-Person Shooter
  • Dead to Rights was released in 2002 and follows Jack Slate, a cop in Grant City. Dead to Rights 2 was released in 2005, and despite it being a numbered actually takes place before the original game. A third game Dead to Rights: Reckoning was released for the PSP shortly after 2. It also precedes 2. And then the fourth game, Retribution, is a re-imagining of the first game. So, four "sequels" and we haven't even got past the first storyline. Whoopie...
  • The Armored Core series is a great example of this. Each successive game takes place several years, sometimes even decades after previous one and casts the player in the role of a new AFGNCAAP with no connection to the previous one. Usually the presence of a number in the title indicates a Continuity Reboot. So far, Armored Core, Project Phantasma, Master of Arena, Armored Core 2 and Another Age take place in one continuity. Armored Core 3, Silent Line, Nexus, Nine Breaker, and Last Raven take place in a second continuity. Armored Core 4 and for Answer take place in a third. And Armored Core V takes place in a fourth continuity. There's also the Gaiden Game Formula Front, which uses elements from the Armored Core 3 universe, but it clearly not set in it. It's really just a Fighting Game with Robots... No, not that one.

Turn-Based Strategy
  • The Fire Emblem series has five different Verses, each with their own characters, settings, mythologies, and plots. The MacGuffin in each universe is almost always the titular Fire Emblem, although it's called something completely different except for one line thrown in about how some people (who you'll never meet) call it the Fire Emblem. Fire Emblem Awakening seems to tie everything together. The game definitely takes in the same universe as the Archanea games, but several thousand years later. From this we can assume that the Jugdral games are also in the same universe due to Word of God. One downloadable character is a descendant of Ike from the Tellius games, and the DLC confirms that the remaining two verses exist at least as legends within Awakening's world, if not explicit history that just hasn't been placed yet. The next installment similarly has a DLC chapter where the Avatar of that game meets the original traveling party in Awakening of Chrom, Lissa, and Frederick shortly before they encounter their game's Avatar, with Hoshido and Nohr described as "mythical kingdoms."
  • Disgaea, though there are a few recurring characters. The fact that all the games take place in different Netherworlds helps. Infinite messes some stuff up, but most fans agree that Mao and Beryl's appearances are before D3 even though the canon best ending of Infinite doesn't match up with why Etna was in D2.

Wide Open Sandbox

Non-video Game Examples
  • Chaos Fighters II has nothing to do with Chaos Fighters except for the magic and weaponry system.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia was written with each story assumed to be the last (as admitted by the author) so as such several of the later ones answer questions rather then continuing the story. As such The Magician's Nephew was written and published 6th but takes place first. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was first, is second. The Horse and His Boy was written fourth, published fifth, and set during a Time Skip in LW&W. With those three sorted out, however, the rest follow order of publication: Prince Caspian (set centuries after LW&W), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle. It helps that time shifts in-universe because Narnia is a parallel world not perfectly synced with ours.
  • The Scorpion King is a prequel to The Mummy Trilogy, the second film of which introduced the Scorpion King and showed his final fate. They then made The Scorpion King 2, which was a prequel to the prequel. There are also plans for The Scorpion King 3 which will be a sequel to the prequel of the prequel. There's also a video game of dubious canon that serves as a prequel to the prequel. Perhaps confusing things even more is that Word of God is that the Scorpion King featured in the prequel series is not the same Scorpion King featured in The Mummy Returns, but rather his Identical Grandfather. While this makes sense given their wildly different characterizations (the prequel Scorpion being far more heroic), it's never actually established in series.
  • The "Road Pictures" of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Hope, Crosby and Dorothy Lamour play different characters with different names in each, and at least one is set in a wildly different time period, but they all have the same cast, the same style of madcap humor, and much the same formula. It is common for there to be references to their past adventures, albeit usually during one of the many instances of Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Kamen Rider Agito explicitly takes place in the same universe as Kamen Rider Kuuga; the only on-screen references to this are a couple of off-hand mentions of the Grongi (Kuuga's enemies) and the G3 suit being built by the police based off of data taken on "Unidentified Lifeform #4" (the Tokyo Police's callname for Kuuga). There was also said to be a Great Offscreen War where the Grongi were killed off by the Lords, Agito's enemies.
    • This all gets referenced in Kamen Rider Decade, where the Alternate Universe Agito World they visit is also an alternate Kuuga World, with the Great Offscreen War actively happening and an alternate version of Decade!Kuuga's Cool Big Sis mentor showing up as the head scientist behind the G3 Project.
    • Kamen Rider is thought to do this because of how Superman Stays out of Gotham was law for the first ten years of its revival, to the degree that aside from the occasional mention of "#4" in Agito (in Kuuga, "Unidentified Lifeform #4" was the mundane authorities' name for Kuuga, as they didn't know him from the monstrous Grongi) there was no sign in any series that any of the others had ever taken place; the incoming season seems to replace the outgoing one rather than follow it, with no sign that monsters and Riders ever were a thing. Then Kamen Rider Decade comes along and presents Alternate Universes based on its predecessors (all but Den-O being different from the original series and very clearly not the worlds of the originals) and this somehow led to the assumption that the true series were also parallel universes (everything pre-revival going into one, Kuuga and Agito going into another, and everything from Ryuki through Kiva each having its own). However, with and after Decade, we enter an age of Massively Multiplayer Crossovers, smaller Reunion Shows, and future Rider characters and concepts debuting in the final episodes of the outgoing series. This has led to Epileptic Trees such as "Each series really is its own universe, but there's also a Summer Movie dimension and a Movie Wars film dimension and an All Riders film dimension!" You laugh, but stuff like this is taken as canon by many, and much discussion goes to explaining what fits where dimensionally. You're back to square one when a power-up from a Movie Wars film shows up in the series!
  • The Fast and the Furious film series is bookended by the original movie and Tokyo Drift (the third installment). The second movie (2 Fast 2 Furious) is a direct sequel to the first and the fourth (Fast & Furious), fifth (Fast Five) and sixth (Fast & Furious 6) follow that one and the post-credit scene of Fast & Furious 6 sets things up for the plotline of the eventual seventh film to potentially begin during Tokyo Drift and carry on from there.