"There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate — more blood, more gore. Carnage candy."
The Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force manga, the sequel to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, plays it straight again, by taking the old notion of Anti-Magic and turning it Up to Eleven. Where the old villains simply had Anti-Magic Fields, which amortized incoming attacks and made it impossible to cast magic from within (which was already treated as bad enough by the good guys), the new villains have Anti-Magic Beams that aggressively dispel any magic they hit. The Doylist explanation seems to be that since the heroes have already been established as the strongest mages in the multiverse back in season one, the only plausible enemy the writers can invent for them now is an Anti-Magic-wielding one, with a Bigger Stick if needed. The fans' reactions were... mixed.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann does this with its pre- and post-Time Skip seasons. While the pre-Time Skip episodes were like your typical Super Robot show, only with bigger explosions and more hot blood, the post-Time Skip episodes bring us galaxy-sized mecha throwing galaxies and big bangs at each other. And in the second movie, we get a mech that is not only a hundred times bigger than a galaxy, it's also on fire and designed after the resident Memetic Badass. Its attack clashing with an identical attack from its Evil Knockoffends and restarts the universe.
Boderline example: in the first generation of X-Men, the strongest person on the team was Beast, who was just, like, "two-normal-guys" strong. In the second generation, the strongest person is Colossus, the man of steel. Then we got Rogue, who for a long time was just as strong as Colossus, and could fly. Dunno where we're at now, but considering the current lineup includes Namor (who's stronger than the Incredible Hulk so long as he's underwater), Hope (who has All Your Powers Combined) and Magneto (who once almost destroyed civilization), safe to say that escalation has been maintained.
Peter Chimaera's Troll Fic, Digimon savez teh wrold has a sequel called Digimon 2: Return of Digimon. In the first story digimon has to stop the evil scientist from destroying the road, in the sequel he's up against an evil digimon who wants to destroy all the roads so no one can go on them. Also features FIGHTING IN SPACE!
The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Windfall is a short, fluffy fic showing the Mane Cast—all of whom have gone their separate ways and are now Older and Wiser—reuniting to witness the birth of Fluttershy's first foal. The sequel, Earth and Sky, has a much more detailed Story Arc, with multiple interconnected subplots, dealing with somewhat more serious themes and actual antagonists, and even ends up being four times as long as Windfall.
Pony fanfic Post Nuptials and its sequel Families are much like the above Pony fics in terms of how they escalate, except the first story is about the main cast dealing with immediate emotional fallout caused by Queen Chrysalis' invasion—namely by trying to reconcile with Twilight after they ignored her warnings—and the sequel deals with more serious ramifications of the invasion and everyone's actions prior to it, including psychological trauma and a conspiracy to mire Princess Celestia's public image.
Films — Animated
The more Toy Story movies get released, the more they become depressing and serious. However, it gets a lot more positive reception than many Disney sequels or the other Pixar sequels.
Cars 2. The original was about an egotistical race car getting lost in a small town and learning humility, while the sequel is about his tow truck friend Mater being mistaken for a spy and having to stop a large crime ring's evil plan. And one car DIES (off-screen, mind you, but still). And there's lots of explosions and gun fighting. This movie is rated G, right?
While the original Kung Fu Panda centered on a small mountain valley, and the villain had mostly personal motivation and acted alone, Kung Fu Panda 2 involves a big city and a villain who wants to Take Over the World and has an army of wolves, gunpowder cannons, and a freakin' river fleet at his disposal.
Films — Live-Action
The second and particularly the third Pirates of the Caribbean featured more and more insanely over-the-top CGI and action sequences, epic plotlines and 300-million budgets. The fourth movie, however, was intentionally scaled back, returning to the more modest and character-driven style of the first film.
Some comic book movie sequels are considered superior by escalating the characterization and themes of the first film, that made the comics hits anyway. When they falter, it's often from adding new villains at the expense of the characterization and themes.
The Avengers plays it straight - after all it's living up to five movies' Sequel Hooks. If Joss Whedon is to be believed, though, the second Avengers movie will actually invert this trope.
"[It should be] smaller. More personal. More painful. By being the next thing that should happen to these characters, and not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time. By having a theme that is completely fresh and organic to itself."
The Matrix sequels seemed to choose the right elements: the Wuxia martial arts and the philosophy. What the Wachowski brothers missed was that the martial arts were mixed with suspense, and the philosophy was mixed into the story, not just spouted out of nowhere.
James Cameron decided to escalate the numbers of Aliens when he made that sequel, but since one was dangerous enough, the characters would have to be soldiers just to have some kind of chance. But he did not let that get in the way of the suspense, even with turning it into part action film.
Jaws 2 ramped up the body count. Also, they tried to increase the shark's "scariness" factor by scarring it with fire. Jaws 3D increased the size of the shark from the still-believable 25 feet of the first two films to an impossible 35 feet. Jaws: The Revenge had the shark be 35 feet long and have a vendetta against the Brody family as well as psychic abilities.
The Godzilla series often does this. The first film was a dark and down-to-earth. (Or at least as down-to-earth a movie about a giant dinosaur could get) The sequel added another monster, but the realistic tone remained for the most part. However, King Kong vs. Godzilla not only gave the series a much larger scale, and a bigger budget, but it was a lot lighter than the previous two. Mothra vs. Godzilla was bit darker, but the film did explore into fantasy elements. The next two films featured beings from space, and the tone on the two was light. The following two had no space elements, but were still very light in tone, and featured many monsters. Destroy All Monsters, originally intended as the finale, not only had aliens, but 11 monsters, and a fun, light, tone. The next film, brought the series to a whole new level, gearing it towards little kids, and having Godzilla be portrayed as a fictional character. The films from the seventies were filled with aliens and monster, and had over the top stories, and very light tones. However, 1975's Terror Of Mechagodzilla, while still had aliens, was given a far darker tone, and while the film has been well-received by critics, the film failed at the box-office, leaving Godzilla on a 9-year hiatus. To be continued....
Speed 2: Cruise Control was likely the worst choice of the element to escalate. Did it increase the suspense? The Danger? The velocity of the vehicle? Nope. It escalated the size of the vehicle, and actually downgraded the other elements.
The Karate Kid Part III inverted this, and got a lot of criticism for it, among...other things. After the first film ended with Daniel winning a tournament, the second film had him fighting for his life, even including the line "This is for real." Then the third film went back to ending with a tournament.
High School Musical 2 was a bigger and better sequel, and High School Musical 3 went even biggerer and betterer than HSM2 by getting a cinema budget and a cinema release. The dance scenes become almost absurdly more elaborate, and the sets improve noticeably. It's even partially lampshaded in the song 'I Want It All' when Sharpay notes that 'sequels pay better'
The Pink Panther's first follow-up, the Dolled-Up InstallmentA Shot in the Dark, proved that focusing on Ensemble Dark Horse Inspector Clouseau was a wise move. Once Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers revived the series in 1975 (The Other Darrin that was Inspector Clouseau went on without them), they in essence picked up where that movie left off and began escalating the best points of Shot in The Return of the Pink Panther: Clouseau's increasingly thick accent and odd disguises, his battles with manservant Cato, Dreyfus' insanity and murder attempts, and the overall level of slapstick. This worked very well, and two more films (...Strikes Again and Revenge of...) were similar successes, though they also shaded into Flanderization and Sequelitis.
Case in point, the primary focus of the first film was to just show the robots, make them believable, and make sex jokes. Good and done. For the second movie, there are several times more Transformers, explosions, and deaths, all manner of designs that go far beyond "car turns into metal human." note I give you Arcee (one Transformer with three bodies. Neither of the bodies look particularly humanoid), Demolishor (main body suspended between two giant wheels, one on ground and one in air, and can switch), "Reedman" (the preliminary name stuck 'cause they never bothered giving him an actual name. Anyway... thousands of tiny spheres roll their way through small spaces to get where they need to go, then combine and flatten out into a robot form that is so razor thin as to be nigh-invisible when seen head-on), and the tiny insectoid spies. Oh, and there's Devastator. (Ironically, people who complained there were not enough robots in the first film were now complaining about any time at all being spent on Sam.)
Thing about the new Devastator versus the old, as well as Transformers Energon's "Constructicon Maximus:" Once, no attempt was made to keep the robots' relative sizes consistent, or in line with their likely actual sizes given what they turn into. The Combining Mecha Devastator was at most twice the height of Optimus Prime. Not so in the film, where small vehicles turn into small robots, and large vehicles turn into large robots. So what happens when sevenvery largevehiclescombinetogether? As Michael Bay said, if you can make Steven Spielberg swear...
When people first saw pictures of the gigantic Demolishor with Prime hanging onto him, they thought he was Devastator. Nope, it turns out that he (or someone indentical in every way... Demolishor looks pretty much dead at the end of his of a ten-second Fight Unscene) is in fact one-seventh of him. You may leak lubricants now.
Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is a great example of both sides of this trope. Michael Bay threw in an almost impossible amount of robot violence, with half of the new villains being at least four times bigger than any of the heroes, along with much much more of the sex jokes and cool military stuff from the first movie. The people who liked these things had to change their pants at least three times during the course of the movie. The people who didn't like it tended more towards a murderous rage.
The third film had a)raised stakes, and b)about five million plot twists.
The first James Bond film, Dr. No, had the tight budget of $1 million - and sometimes it's easy to see it. The huge success of that movie allowed the next movie, From Russia with Love to double the budget, with more action scenes and locales to shoot. And many installments in the series try to top their predecessors since then.
One of the justifications Sean Connery had for quitting the Bond role after the effects-heavy You Only Live Twice was that "after blowing up the volcano, where do you go?"
In Episode IV, the Empire pursues Rebels in a Star Destroyer. In Episode V the Empire pursues Rebels in a Super Star Destroyer that is many times the size of a Star Destroyer and is the flagship of a fleet of Star Destroyers. Episode VI shows dozens of Rebel ships fighting the Super Star Destroyer, even more regular Star Destroyers, and the second death star.
The Death Star II was much larger than Death Star I.
Episode IV introduces TIE Fighters, Episode V introduces TIE bombers (with two cockpits), and Episode VI introduces TIE interceptors.
Each installment adds another climactic scene at the end happening simultaneously. In Episode IV, there was just the battle against the Death Star. Episode V had Luke confronting Darth Vader with the rest of the heroes escaping the Cloud City at the same time. Episode VI had Luke against Vader and the Emperor, Han, Leia and Chewbacca taking out the shield generator and Lando blowing up the second Death Star itself going on almost all at once. Episode I then goes a step further, with Padme infiltrating the palace to arrest Gunray, Anakin blowing up the control ship, the gungans fighting the droid army to keep them away from the city, AND Qui-Gon and Obi-Van's duel against Maul.
Even further, Attack of the Clones brought in just about every Jedi turning on their lightsabers all at once and a massive Clone Trooper/Battle Droid War Sequence. Then Revenge of the Sith gave us a huge Space Battle right off the bat, multiple simultaneous wars, the extermination of the Jedi, and almost as many lightsaber battles as the rest of the trilogy combined.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge was really aiming for this trope, as later described in interviews by the creators. The idea was that, if Freddy is really scary in his victims' dreams, then how much scarier would he be if he were in real life? Though the film had its moments, general consensus is "not very" and its often seen as the Oddball in the Series.
The Blues Brothers broke the record for most vehicular collisions in a single movie, and its sequel made sure to smash the record again.
The first Back to the Future movie was fairly low-key compared to its sequels. It's rather obvious they got bigger budgets after the first one became a hit.
The Resident Evil movies. In the first movie, the T virus was confined to the Hive. In the second movie, it had spread to all of Raccoon City. In the third movie, it infected the entire world, and there are tougher and faster Super Undead.
The Rambo series counts definitely, since the first movie's action was more about guerilla warfare, hunting and survival, while the sequels were pretty much just loads of machine gunning, shotgunning, bow-and-arrowing, explosive bow-and-arrowing and knife throwing with the occasional melee kill. All the strategy of the first movie is shrunk down to a single montage, and even then the kills are more flashy and improbable.
The best way to measure it is to look at the kill count. Rambo kills one person in the first one (which barely counts since it was an accidental death in self-defense). He kills 58 men in the second film.
Home Alone II: Lost In New York is very Recycled In SPACE in terms of plot, but the traps are much more brutal. One of them even ending in an explosion!
The third Home Alone movie was even worse about this, with one of the traps being a lawn mower falling on a man's face. They also changed the bad guys from petty thieves with big asperations to terrorists/smugglers and made the traps much more elaborate; at one point the main character has a budgie riding a remote-controlled car strike a match to light some dynamite to blow up the criminal's leader.
You can tell from the opening disaster alone that the filmmakers intended to take Final Destination 2Up to Eleven. And the sequels kept on growing and growing, to the point where the over-the-top deaths were parodied in Final Destination 5.
A Fistful of Dollars was a fairly low budget movie, with a small cast and a story confined to a single small town. For a Few Dollars More, its sequel, had much more action and featured several locations, as well as a larger cast. The prequel, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is nothing short of epic, with a cast of thousands, huge battle scenes, impressive set pieces, more elaborate music, a staggering body count, and nearly double the runtime of either of the previous movies.
Night of the Living Dead was a very low budget, low-key movie about some people in a farmhouse fending off a few dozen zomibes. Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead had two more groups of people, in a shopping mall and an underground base, fighting hundreds of zombies. Land of the Dead had an entire city defending itself from thousands of the undead. Also note that the level of gorn increases in each movie...by a lot.
Here's a little experiment you can do at home: go watch The Human Centipede, a film about three people who get sown together by their mouths and anuses. Note that its sequel has the subtitle The Full Sequence. Look at an actual centipede. Then look back at the three sown-together people. Do the math.
True to the title, Hellbound: Hellraiser II took a few of the same characters from the first film, which was essentially a haunted house story, and placed them in, well, Hell. The makers of the third film, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, tried to get around the problem of topping Hell itself by promising a film where the series' antagonists, the Cenobites, are unleashed in an urban setting. The end result was not well-received, to say the very least.
Scream 2 lampshades this trope as it pertains to horror movies, providing the page quote in the process. It also tops the original by having, among other things, a murder in a crowded movie theater and the killer crashing someone's car.
Many viewers who watched The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) forget that, for all the hype and controversy surrounding the film's content (a group of teenagers stumble upon a family of cannibals in the American backwoods), the violence and gore were almost all off-screen. The sequel, however, took Leatherface and his family from the farm into the big city, ramped up the Squick factor and added in a copious amount of dark humor and over-the-top violence.
Lampshaded in Last Action Hero. Fictional action movie star Jack Slater moans that his adventures seem to get tougher and tougher. Danny comments that the sequels are supposed to get harder. Jack's not amused.
The Saw sequels saw the traps and "games" becoming increasingly elaborate, and the violence much more explicit (most of the violence in the original film was offscreen: the two most gruesome acts in the film, Lawrence sawing off his own foot and Adam beating Zepp to death with a toilet lid, happen almost entirely offscreen). Curiously, the original film's twisty plot structure and use of Anachronic Order was something also escalated by the sequels, to the point that trying to synopsize the overarching plot structure is a very challenging task indeed.
The Lord of the Rings escalates in a way that works quite well with the progression of the story. Fellowship has a few fights, but focuses mainly on the beginning of the journey and the formation of the titular Fellowship. Two Towers brings us two large battles. Return of the King has the largest battle of the Third Age, and boy does it show. The number of effects shots for the Pelennor Fields battle alone was as high as the total for the first film.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is an adaptation of one of the most epic and ambitious storylines in the X-Men comic's history, upping up the stakes, action, and the sheer number of mutants.
Matthew Reilly has this trope as a self-stated aim. In each book, he tries to include more action, More Dakka, bigger threats... and tries to make it go faster.
After Scarecrow, he did a change of genre to escape from this, and immediately started all over again with his new trilogy.
With a few exceptions, the Honor Harrington series sees Honor move up to command a larger navy in a larger plot for larger stakes up to Book 12 at least.
The Lord of the Rings is this to The Hobbit, albeit not a deliberate example; it "grew in the telling". The Silmarillion is an even-more-escalated prequel with a scope that includes the creation of the universe, battles between angels with powers we would associate with gods, the rise and fall of multiple civilizations and the sinking of a couple major continents, although compared to LotR it's a mile wide and an inch deep.
Inverted in L. Sprague de Camp's "Johnny Black" stories. In the first story the titular uplifted black bear saves the world, in the final one he saves his creator from getting fired. In an afterword de Camp apologized to the readers for that, saying he had forgotten while writing them that the next story wouldn't seem as good if it didn't top the previous one.
The violence and level of dystopia seems only to increase with each Hunger Games installment.
Zig-zagged in the Harry Potter series. The second book downgrades the stakes (it's the fate of the school rather than the entire world), but upgrades the set pieces (encountering one creepy guy in the Forbidden Forest vs. encountering a colony of Giant Spiders in the Forbidden Forest, for example). The third book has the lowest stakes of any book in the series, as the danger is essentially only a threat to one specific individual (Harry) and even that turns out to be an illusion. After Voldemort returns to power, the stakes remain constant (the entire world, again), but with Voldemort's power constantly increasing. The last book itself is the biggest and most epic in the series.
The Dresden Files: The scale of just how powerful the people involved in the plot are increases over time. In the first book, Harry can channel lightning. Third book, he empowers an army of ghosts to fight for him. Seventh book, he raises a Tyrannosaurus rex from the dead, and in Changes, he genocides the Red Court of Vampires.
Ian Fleming's James Bond novels escalated very quickly in the beginning. The first novel, Casino Royale, essentially boils down to Bond playing a high-stakes game of cards with a communist agent followed by a car chase. By the time the third book, Moonraker, came about, Bond was battling Neo-Nazis planning on destroying London with a nuclear missile. Later Bond stories would weave back and forth between fairly mundane crimes like diamond smuggling and more extravagant situations like nuclear warheads being stolen.
The Heroes of Olympus seriously ups the stakes from its predecessor series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Instead of fighting the Titans to stop Olympus from crumbling, the second series involves fighting Gaea, the progenitor of the Titans aka the Earth itself.
Inverted by Sword Art Online. The series starts with ten thousand people trapped in an online death game. Then the sequel lowers the stakes to just a few hundred survivors of the first incident now stuck in a coma and being used as test subjects by a Corrupt Corporate Executive. The third arc lowers the stakes even further, focusing on a murder mystery with a relatively small body count. The fourth arc is simply a quest to obtain an in-game sword in a perfectly safe MMORPG.
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the Actionized Sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has a first half set in outer space as Willy Wonka and the Bucket family wind up in orbit in said elevator and manage to rescue most of the crew of a space hotel from carnivorous aliens. After a Halfway Plot Switch, the heroes are back in the factory, but the three still-bedridden grandparents have a misadventure with Fountain of Youth pills that requires an Orphean Rescue of Grandma Georgina. In both halves, the stakes are life-and-death and taken a bit more seriously than in the first book. As well, Willy Wonka is the protagonist this time rather than Audience Surrogate Charlie, and his eccentric hijinks are given a lot of page time (i.e. a stretch in which he basically trolls Earth by claiming he and his companions are aliens), and besides three new Oompa-Loompa songs, there are also several songs/poems for Willy Wonka and even one for the President of the United States's nanny/vice president!
Each subsequent season of The Wire explored a new element of Baltimore (in addition to the cops vs. drug dealers element introduced in the first season) while adding many, many new characters each year, many of whom stayed on the show till its end.
The locales for the first three seasons of Survivor became progressively harder for the contestants to live in. During Borneo, the contestants were merely very uncomfortable. During Australian Outback, Elisabeth almost died of starvation, Barramundi's camp was completely flooded out, and early on there were wild fires near Ogakor's campsite. During Africa, which had the most oppressive heat of any season by far, several contestants contracted various illnesses which took them months or even years to recover from, plus the extreme scarcity of water and the very likely chance that one of the players could have been eaten by one of the wild animals roaming around. Season 4, which was supposed to take place in Jordan(apparently it was supposed to be called ''Survivor: Arabia") would have continued this escalation, but the events of September 11th stopped this dead in it's tracks.
The first season of 24 had Jack Bauer fighting to prevent an assassination that also tied in with a personal vendetta being carried out against him and his family. The following season has him trying to stop a nuclear bomb from eradicating the entire city of L.A. and then preventing global war.
Cyclone is Comet with a circus, a ferris wheel, and two rollercoasters!
Hurricane is Comet with two rollercoasters, two ferris wheels, and a LOT of clowns!
Portal started out as a simple proof of concept with some witty writing and some brand new game play. In other words a test. Now look at Portal 2, the full length single player campaign is 3-4 times longer than the original, has a lot more areas to explore, a very well written story without telling us outright what happened, some very memorable characters, and some scenery that will make any other laboratory feel insecure (admit it, Lower Aperture Laboratories took quite a few elements from fictitious 1960s nuclear bunkers, the Modern Laboratories have bottomless pits (still above the older labs) and the testing rooms where they might remind some people of the floating mountains from Avatar.) Now this is just single player, the co-op missions have two players with two portals of their own to shoot, and as a result, the puzzles are a lot more complicated.
Grand Theft Auto started a Sequel Escalation after taking the jump to full 3D. GTA III and Liberty City Stories take place in a very small Liberty City, Vice City and Vice City Stories take place in a larger Vice City, and San Andreas finally upped the ante and placed the action in an entire state. Then it seemed to have crossed something akin to the Bishonen Line and shrank back down to a Darker and Edgier version of the small Liberty City with Grand Theft Auto IV. GTA V has been promised to be bigger than the maps of San Andreas, IV, and Red Dead Redemptioncombined, however.
The GTA4 version of Liberty City was of comparable size (but not quite as big) as San Andreas, though, but with greater detail in the area depicted.
The first Gran Turismo had atleast 150 cars. Then Gran Turismo 2 came out and they added a whooping 500 cars to the list. Gran Turismo 3 however invert this due to the Generation Jump, but 4 does it again. Then 5 came up and managed to have a total of 1000 cars. AND THEN 6 got released and had 1200 cars. There are some drawbacks of this, such as in 5 they imported alot of the cars from the previous games with no change at all and most of the cars being Japanese and from Nissan.
Hideo Kojima did this semi-purposely in the Metal Gear series to keep it from getting stale. The villains in the games up to the original Metal Gear Solid were basically just extraordinary soldiers. In order to keep fans interested he gave the villains in Sons of Liberty super-powers. In the next installment, Snake Eater, the player fought World War legends, one of which attacked the player with bees. This maybe an accidental subversion as well since in Snake Eater the player takes control of the future Big Boss, the antagonist of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, meaning that Solid Snake already beaten the toughest character in the series all along.
There were super-soldiers in the first game too, in fact if anything FOXHOUND were more impressive than Dead Cell, as only Vamp had genuine super-abilities (and Fortune isn't technically a "boss fight" in any meaningful sense). In FOXHOUND, Vulcan Raven is a giant Shaman, Psycho Mantis is a powerful psychic, and Liquid is a literal super-soldier genetically engineered for the purpose (Solidus, from the second game, is also a such a person but Liquid was designed to be the superior). You also have to take on a cyborg ninja version of another legendary soldier, whereas in the sequel a lesser version of this character actually helps you out. As far as the villains go, the first lot were superior to the second, in terms of supernatural abilities.
Don't forget that the latest model of Metal Gear itself was always the penultimate boss in each game up until Metal Gear Solid. In Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden fights not just one, but a whole bunch of them that were built to overpower the last model from the previous game. In Metal Gear Solid 4, Old Snake fights a pseudo-Metal Gear model called Gekko as a common enemy in the very first level.
Gears of War did this to phenomenal effect, largely because the first game was already over-the-top, but it also left many fans wanting so much more. For example, the first game hinted at a major boss battle featuring a bipedal dinosaur like creature called a brumak, but you never got to fight it until the PC version. In the sequel, one level has five of these...at once. But they not only ramped up the scale, they also included a surprisingly powerful character story with Dom searching for his wife.
Gears of War 3 keeps things rolling by fleshing out an entire new faction only previously mentioned (the Lambent Locust). It also shows humanity to be in widespread disarray and on the verge of collapse with no real government remaining. The final parts of the campaign are the resolution of the question of which of Sera's three sentient species will annihilate the other two—and it's a very close race.
Halo slowly ramped up the events of the plot. The first game had more in common with Die Hard in that Master Chief was the right person in the right place to deal with these event. Even still, the scale of the flood threat was more implied then actually seen. Halo 2 made Master Chief to be humanity's only hope, and featured the scarab, an enemy vehicle that took half a level to destroy. Halo 3 gave you four of those to destroy.
The scale of threat was practically exponential. First you're exploring a new territory and defending an alien star system, then you're back home defending the Solar system, then in Halo 3, as one character points out, "the fate of every sentient being in the galaxy rests in your hands!" But y'know, no pressure.
Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach both scale things back a little: the former because it's a Lower Deck Episode focusing on a squad of Marines, and the latter because it's a prequel to the whole trilogy detailing the destruction of one planet.
Tetris The Grand Master peaks out in speed and difficulty when pieces start dropping instantly. Tetris: The Grand Master 2 made the game even faster and more Nintendo Hard than its predecessor by gradually decreasing the delays for piece appearance and piece lock delay, shortening the line clear animation after you reach instant-drop speed, and adding an invisible credit roll challenge to get the titular Grand Master rank. Tetris: The Grand Master 3 shortens these even more, and scores you on finesse during the credit roll challenge, in addition to requiring you to get a Grand Master-worthy score 4 out of 7 games before giving you the Promotional Exam in which you can actually earn the rank.
Supreme Commander was fairly involved in terms of creating and managing your army, with the final mission putting you up against one of the Aeon experimental units as a sort of Boss Fight. The Forged Alliance standalone expansion sics a Serphim experimental on you in the very first mission, and it only gets more intense from there.
The console installments of the F-Zero series crank up the maximum speed with each new installment. In the first installment, you normally can't go faster than 478 km/h, but dash arrows allow you go up to about 970 momentarily. F-Zero X sets the norm to 700-800 km/h, with boosts enabling you to reach about 1,300-1,400. F-Zero GX brings average speeds to the 970-1,100 range, with boosts speeds going beyond 2,000.
Kid Icarus is the story of Pit the angel fighting to defeat the evil goddess Medusa. Kid Icarus: Uprising features more-or-less the same story...for the first third of the game. After Medusa's defeat, the Bigger Bad Hades promises to make Medusa look like "a cute, cuddly bunny" compared to him. From there, Pit must butt heads with a nature goddess with an arsenal of Fantastic Nukes at her disposal, an alien race determined to consume the world, an ancient monster that possesses his goddess Palutena, and various members of the Greek pantheon of Gods on his way to fight Hades.
Ace Combat: The first superfighter, the XFA-27 in 2, didn't have anything particularly OTT apart from being able to launch four missiles in one salvo. If we skip over the planes from 3, the X-02 Wyvern from 4 is next, still not OTT in weapons although it has switchblade wings now. The ADF-01F Falken from 5 was the first (ignoring 3, as aforementioned) to mount a laser weapon. The ADFX-01 Morgan from Zero added the nuke-like MPBM. Then the CFA-44 Nosferatu from 6 swaps the MPBM out from the cluster missile ADMM. X may fit in there somewhere...
It does, the Fenrir has the ungodly LSWM, which if you hit the missile at a specific target, the blast radius will be enough to destroy all the targets and win you the match, in theory...
When it comes to the amount of enemies and the scale of battlefields, the series has zig-zagged all over the place, but 04 and especially 6 both played this trope straight (being the first installments for the PS2 and the Xbox 360 respectively is no coincidence), and both also had the followinginstallment heavily inverting the trope. However, when it comes to the amount of flyable aircraft, they invert it, particularly 6 which has the lowest amount of aircraft in the main series.
The first Glider was a 15-room adventure (1 room = 1 screen). "The House" of Glider 4.0 went on for 62 rooms. Finally, Glider PRO's "Slumberland" filled 403 rooms, including outdoor areas which previous games had nothing like.
Rhythm games tend to do this with their "boss" or "extra" songs:
DDRMAX (6th Mix) introduced the Extra Stage system, with MAX 300, a song with a tempo of 300 BPM (beats per minute) with 555 steps (18 of which were jumps, and 2 Freeze Arrows) in a minute and a half, which initially had to be played at 1.5x Reverse scroll and a life bar that wouldn't replenish, and was later assigned a 10-foot rating. Completing MAX 300 with a grade of AA or better would earn you the One More Extra Stage, which was Candy, a normal song but played on 3x Reverse, and you fail if you get less than a Great on any step or release a Freeze Arrow too early.
DDRMAX 2 (7th Mix) added MaxX Unlimited with 555 steps 45 jumps, and 56 Freeze Arrows, which started at 300 BPM and would speed up and slow down many times, eventually screeching to a halt before jumping to 320 BPM and staying there for the rest of the song, and was to be played on 1.5x Reverse Dark (couldn't see the gray arrows that told you when to step). The One More Extra Stage song became Kakumei, which was slightly significantly more complex than Candy.
DDR Extreme set the bar even higher with The Legend of MAX, at 333 BPM and 1.5x Reverse, plus a faster-depleting lifebar. One More Extra Stage was a song titled Dance Dance Revolution, which was actually not any harder, but rather a tribute to previous DDR songs.
DDR SuperNOVA had Fascination MAXX and Fascination -eternal love mix-, both of which went up to 400 BPM and would repeatedly halve or double its speed, down to 100 BPM, in addition to pausing briefly at certain points. Extra Stage retained 1.5x Reverse. The One More Extra Stage was CHAOS, which turned the Interface ScrewUp to Eleven with its pauses, in addition to disallowing modifiers (no 3x Reverse, either), which actually made CHAOS harder to read.
DDR SuperNOVA 2 changed the Extra Stage to use the Oni Mode lifebar, where you lose one segment every time you get less than a Great on any step or release a Freeze Arrow too early, and you fail when you lose the last segment. In addition, the Extra Stage system was slightly overhauled - you actually have to EARN lifebars for it!note If you just barely earned the Extra Stage, or you're only getting to play Extra Stage because the other player earned it, you get the Encore Extra Stage lifebar - break your combo and fail instantly. You also had to get an A or higher on a stage before your final stage to get Extra Stage, although this is a piece of cake for anyone who could get Extra Stage at all with the old requirement. (However, it does allow picking mods.) And of course, there's Pluto, Pluto Relinquish, and Dead End Groove Radar Special.
DDR X made a well-needed adjustment to the difficulty scale by re-rating every chart on a scale that goes up to 20. Thanks to how it was done, existing "non-flashing" 10's were ranked around 15 and 16, and the harder "flashing" 10's now got actual difficulty counts, usually either as 17's or 18's. No songs had been introduced that rate as a 19 or 20 yet.
DDR X2 adds Replicant-D-Action on top of the usual extra stage system for even more boss song unlocking goodness, including the nasty New Decade, which is a 17 on expert and runs at 400 bpm. After you're done with all 6 of those boss songs, you immediately take on Valkyrie Dimension, which is an 18... on expert. Yes, Challenge difficulty was DDR's first 19! Plus the requirement to get Extra Stage was increased to getting a AA rank on every stage, not just the final stage.
DDR X3 vs 2nd Mix adds Paranoia Revolution and Tohoku Evolved. In the former, it had to be unlocked in 2nd Mix mode, which meant 1x, Flat (no colour difference between 4th and 8th notes etc.) and difficulty unheard of in the source game. A Nostalgia Level with its Expert chart made of the hardest parts of older boss songs, it doesn't seem to warrant an 18, until you notice that it ends with the steps of Challenge Fascination Eternal Love Mix, Pluto Relinquish and Valkyrie Dimension. It's Challenge chart is the only other 19 footer and breaks the DDR record of fastest interval between notes - 16ths at 360bpm! The latter breaks the record for highest reading speed - a random corner jump at 1020 bpm.
beatmania IIDX started with a 1-7 difficulty scale. 5th Style had the kanji for "forbidden" for some harder 7's, which were later displayed as "flashing 7's" and even later named as "7+". Eventually, the 7+ difficulty became an 8, and the 8+ was introduced. The scale now ranks up to 12.
For most of the series' history, Guitar Freaks and Drum Mania have had a scale with a 2-digit number for difficulty, with the boss songs usually having a rating in the 90's on Extreme difficulty. In V5, performing well on the Extra Stage earns you the Infinity Stage, with the song Rock to Infinity, which is rated infinity on Extreme and gives Through the Fire and Flames a run for its money.
For those only familiar with Guitar Hero or Rock Band, a note on how Guitar Freaks works, which will help appreciate the video: even though there are only three buttons on the guitar, you must never be holding extra buttons, even for single notes (forget about hammer-ons and pull-offs). Also, those white icon things on the rightmost side of the track are where you are required to raise your guitar neck into the air. Finally, there is no star power equivalent, and your accuracy is graded in a similar manner to Beatmania or DDR, adding another level of difficulty to the game.
Rock Band 2 upped the ante by having more metal than the first game, pushing the boundaries for drums and guitar, but the maximum difficulty was really pushed in Rock Band 3, which introduced the pro modes (while keeping the normal ones). The number of buttons on the guitar fretboard jumped from 5 to 102 (68 for bass), with the other hand handling six (four) 'strings' instead of one. Drums just added cymbals, jumping from 5 inputs to 8, and Keyboard, which was new anyway, jumped from 5 keys to 25. Moreover, some of the drum charts in RB3 (pro or not) are just insane.
The Ace Attorney series keeps upping the odds and the drama with each case. The first of the Phoenix arc is simply rescuing your long-lost best friend from a false murder charge, the second involves intrigue in show business and the kidnapping of your assistant/friend Maya as insurance against the (guilty) client being found guilty., and the third has Phoenix facing off against the vengeful spirit of his serial killer ex-girlfriend before the true murderer is even found. Apollo Justice deals with a seven-year-old Batman Gambit and pushing through a completely new trial system, while Investigations puts Edgeworth against a smuggling ring that is responsible for or connected to every murder in the game.
If the rumors are true, Investigations 2 starts off with the assassination of the Zheng Fa president. And since it probably only ramps up from there, the end case will probably involve Miles Edgeworth saving the world.
In fact, Investigations 2 does begin with an unsuccessful attempt on said president. It ends with a successful one.
Also, the combos. Getting a 100 combo in DoDonPachi is an achievement, while in DoDonPachi it simply takes some effort. DoDonPachi dai ou jou's Hyper system makes that trivial, and in DoDonPachi Dai-Fukkatsu? Come back when you get a 10,000 combo.
In an inversion of this trope, most players regard Dai-Fukkatsu's first loop as easier than those of its predecessors. No one's listening, though.
The main Rock Band games present an inversion of this trope. The final challenge (barring the Endless Setlist) in the first game has you playing to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, whereas the second has you playing to be featured in Rolling Stone magazine.
Final Fight 2, the straight-to-Super NES sequel to the original Final Fight, changed the setting from Metro City to various cities around the Eurasian continent. Despite this, the game is barely that different in terms of gameplay compared to the original game and was mostly made to make up for the lack of a 2-Player Mode in the original SNES port.
Mass Effect 2 is kind of an aversion: the first game has the fate of all organic life in the Milky Way at stake, whereas the second focuses on attacks that only target humanity; sure the Collectors kill hundreds of thousands of people, but if Sovereign had succeeded, the death toll would have been at least in the hundreds of billions. Played straight when comparing 3 to its predecessors: while the threat to the galaxy is the same throughout the series, it's much more direct, and the odds of success much worse, in the third game.
In Devil May Cry 1, the Kick13 move was a single roundhouse and its Devil Triggered version was a punch-kick combo. In 4, the combo is now standard and the DT version has even more hits. In 3 the Drive move was a single, somewhat slow shockwave, while in 4 it comes out faster and Dante can use three in a row. In 3, the You Will Not Evade Me move was only available as a situational part of the Stance System, while in 4 it becomes integral to the combat
In going from Modern Warfare to Modern Warfare 2, the killstreak rewards got bigger and better. There's also the fact that America gets invaded, you get to play as more people and the plot takes you to locations all around the world. And of course, the Twist Ending.
In the first Metal Slug, basic enemies were limited to the usual Rebellion Army soldiers, the only Slug you used was the basic tank, and the final boss was Morden in a helicopter. By the time Metal Slug 3 rolls around, that very same final boss and level are only the halfway point of the game, and you've already fought zombies, mummies, man-eating plants, and the Mars People. The final fight of 3 takes you to space to battle the Mars People mothership, and to even access the interior you have to fight Metal Slug 2's final boss again. The actual final battle is a free fall to Earth versus Rootmars, the alien commander.
Final Fantasy drove this to an insane degree. In the first game, the main characters had about 30 HP to start, which grew to about 500-750 by the end. The final boss here had exactly 4000 HP. In Final Fantasy VIII, the starting HP is about 500 and it's about 2500-3500 HP near the end. This game's final boss has over A QUARTER MILLION HP, and you can only hit four digits of damage. And that's not even counting the latest release, Final Fantasy XIII - There are trash mobs with health in the millions.
The magic and summon animations also have gotten flashier and longer as the series progressed. What used to take nothing more than a few seconds to watch Bahamut blast every enemy on the field in the earlier games evolved to an extended sequence showing Bahamut flying up high in the sky, charging his attack, and then watching the attack shoot down to the ground and explode on all enemies. Depending on the game, some players may find it easier and faster to level grind and just smash everything with swords than to use powerful magic that takes a while to finish its animations.
Kingdom Hearts does this to a smaller extent than Final Fantasy. The first game has bosses that have about 300-1500 HP (according to the Guide) which are represented by bars. A boss with four was considered a lot, and the Bonus Boss Sephiroth has about six. Meanwhile in Birth By Sleep? There are enemies with a lot more than just four health bars, even if the health bars deplete faster after II. (this includes Chain of Memories)
Compare any of Sora's limits from the KHI or KHII to what Ven, Terra, or Aqua can do with their normal fighting styles. Sora's Trinity Limit almost pales in comparison to some of their attacks, and it was the strongest move in the original game and took all Sora, Donald, and Goofy to use, the BBS trio travel alone all the time, and perform moves that make the Maleficent dragon boss battle seem like a cake walk compared to her first dragon encounter from the first game. This is at least justified since Aqua is a Keyblade Master, Terra is only a few good deeds short and all three got training from an actual Keyblade Master, where as Sora learned from his own experience.
During Nintendo's E3 2010 Presentation, while Reggie Fils-Aime mainly placed emphasis on the social element of Dragon Quest IX, he does have this to say about the rest of the game's content:
"You could describe it just by the numbers: with 120 mini-quests and additional wi-fi mini-quests, over 300 monsters, over 900 items to customize your character, and an infinite number of randomly generated treasure maps. But that would be selling it short."
The SimCity series was originally developed with this in mind. While the games share a lot of the same core gameplay elements, the range of facilities that could be built and the size of land at the player's disposal grew exponentially, peaking in VideoGame/SimCity 4, where utterly large regions containing significant numbers of connected cities could be created. Will Wright would later comment that the series has ended up being inaccessible to new players due to its sheer complexity, which led to the reformulated but simplified VideoGame/SimCity Societies.
In that vein, The Sims changes significantly with each sequel. Even customization options and the way the Sims can change themselves is dramatically different: in the first game, there are adult Sims and child Sims, and never the twain shall meet. In the second game, your Sims age and die, and can also gain and lose weight in a "pop" effect. In the third game, your Sims can age and die and changes due to weight gain and loss, muscle gain and loss, and pregnancy are subtle and incremental. And that's not even including the expansion pack options...
BioShock is an interesting case. The sequel has an equally good story, but the villain has the opposite philosophy as the first one. The combat, on the other hand, is so far escalated to be ridiculous. Dual Wielding, playing as a Big Daddy with equally scaled up weapons (from crossbow to spear gun for instance), and the plasmids... The Incinerate alone goes from tossing fire, to tossing exploding fire, to being able to shoot a solid stream of fire. Word of God even states that Jack wouldn't have survived Rapture if he came at this time.
Pokémon Black and White scaled things back a bit as far as Platinum is concerned, but having the main villains actually catching and keeping either Reshiram or Zekrom (depending on your version) and fighting you with it and practically taking over the Elite Four is pretty huge. It also introduced some fairly adult themes.
There's also the mechanics and the number of Pokémon that are catchable in each generation. Pokémon Red and Blue were good games, with a total of 151 Pokémon, which was considered many at the time. Pokémon Gold and Silver doubled the size of the map, upped the ante with 100 new mons and added much depth to the gameplay. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire temporarily reversed the tide as for the number of mons and total playable area, but when Generation III is taken as a whole it became huge, defining many aspects of modern gameplay. Generation IV was softer concerning new mechanics, and went back to a regional Dex of only 150 (210 in Platinum) but it included a much longer post-game that made it really easier to catch previous generations' Pokémon. Not even counting new mechanics, the series escalated further with Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver and its many starters and legendaries, Pokémon Black and White and its 156 brand new Pokémon, Pokemon Black And White 2 and its expanded region with 301 Pokémon in its Dex, now culminating with Pokemon Xand Y which, according to early leaks, features 450 Pokémon in its three-part regional Pokédex alone.
Not necessarily a "sequel", per se, but the continuation of the Spider-Man set of games: In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, the final mission revolves around blowing up a single S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, an aircraft roughly the size of a small building, to take down Venom once and for all. In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, the Carnage level has one Helicarrier pre-crashed as an integral part of the first fight with Carnage, and Ultimate Spidey has to outrun another crashing Helicarrier later in the stage.
Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening has a smaller scope story-wise than the original game (the Wardens are mopping up the stragglers from the already-defeated hellish legions), but the Power Levels of everything are through the roof—regular bandits in Awakening have more HP than endgame Origins bosses.
Dragon Age: Inquisition takes it right back to the epic lands, with the new protagonist building up an international power base (the eponymous Inquisition) to uncover the mystery of why every major faction on the continent suddenly stopped taking its meds and went to war against everyone else all at once.
Bug Too! to the original Bug!. It did take out certain elements (especially the zap cap) but added many new ones in, such as curved platforms, ability to run and hover for the characters, and level selection for each world. It may not have been a good thing, though.
Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter will start in the Cruiser-Fusion era and have a "tech forest", multi-planet systems, even bigger ships and generally lots more options to play with.
Paper Mario has enemies with HP averaging from 10-20 points for most of the game while bosses hovering around the 50s more or less and the Final Boss and Bonus Boss having 99 HP. Mario's HP and FP can only max out (without the use of badges) to 50. The sequel, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, ramps this up greatly; Mario's HP and FP can reach higher than 50 thanks to the level cap being raised, but boss enemy HP is beefed up as well, pushing near 70 by the last quarter of the game. The Final Boss has 150 HP and the Bonus Boss has 250 HP! In Paper Mario standards, that's a crapton of HP. It's stretched even further in Sticker Star. All bosses after the first have at least 300 HP, and the final boss has 500 HP!
The plots of the game were also escalated. The original had a fairly standard Bowser-kidnaps-the-Princess plot, and other than Mario none of the characters were in much danger (though the Star Spirits were concerned this might change if Bowser kept the Star Rod for too long). Thousand-Year Door featured a group of scientists trying to release an Eldritch Abomination, believing she will reward them with money and power, but who really just wants to Take Over the World (and can rule alone). Super Paper Mario featured a villain who wanted to destroy the entire multiverse.
In the first game, you're a nobody in a downtrodden neighborhood who gets caught in a gang fight, joins a new gang and buys a pistol to "clean up the hood".
The second game features lots of explosives, radioactive waste, chainsaws, a gang boss with a minigun, and eventually you fight a private military contractor.
The third game features regular mooks with miniguns, airstrikes, hoverbikes, battles against entire enemy platoons of tanks, laser guns everywhere and you blow up two aircraft carriers, including a flying one that's bombing the city into rubble.
The fourth game features a full-scale alien invasion where you play as the president of the United States who gets kidnapped by the aliens, is put in The Matrix and then fights them with superpowers.
Generally speaking, Fighting Game sequels—especially those created within a couple of years of each other—like to increase the number of fighters from one game to another. Street Fighter Alpha is a perfect example. There are exceptions—the Soul Series seems pretty consistent at around 20 characters per game, and the Marvel vs. Capcom series stayed between 15 and 16 non-pallete swap characters for the first 3 games—but an increased headcount is usually on the menu for a sequel.
Banjo-Tooie is this compared to its predecessor Banjo-Kazooie: The latter was a kind of enhanced Super Mario 64, with more transformations, more collectibles, the ability to shoot eggs, and some other moves. Then Banjo-Tooie retained (almost) all the old moves of the first game since the beginning, introducing more new moves than the total number of moves in the previous game, five new types of eggs, transformations in every level, and these aren't even all the new gimmicks of the game. The size and scale of each stage also increased dramatically, making the first game's stages feel claustrophobic by comparison.
The second Devil Survivor game is this. While the first one started its gameplay with the protagonists suddenly being attacked by demons spawning out of their COMPs, the second one kicks off the main storyline by having a subway de-rail and nearly kill off the main characters (after showing them their horrific deaths before it happens). The second game also has FAR more on-screen deaths (one instance being the Eldritch Abomination-of-the-dayincinerating four bystanders), a more epic scope (complete with a shadowy underground organization dealing with Japan's paranormal issues over the years and Eldritch Abominations wreaking havoc), more characters, more locations (taking place in multiple cities as opposed to the first one's single place), more cursing, more difficulty, and bigger cup sizes.
Quest for Glory I has few particularly powerful threats for you to deal with. There's the Kobold Wizard and Baba Yaga, but the ominous Brigand Warlock turns out to just be the local court jester, who has little real magical power and left the castle to find the Baron's missing daughter. There's not even really a Big Bad to speak of, unless you count Baba Yaga, as the Brigand Leader is the Baron's enchanted daughter, and is "beaten" with a dispell potion.
In Quest for Glory II, the Hero must square off against four powerful elementals, each of which can destroy the city of Shapier, before confronting the wizard attempting to release an evil djinn on the world.
Quest for Glory III raises the stakes even further, with the plot of the game being manipulated by a demon attempting to cross its master over into the world (the Quest for Glory series is RIFE with Sealed Evils attempting to be released). Notably, the Coles have specifically said that Wages of War was not part of the original story, and was added specifically because the Hero would not have been strong enough to face the enemies of the next game.
Quest for Glory IV, in which the Hero now faces undead in spades, the resurrected Ad Avis and his Dark Master, the vampire Katrina. Oh, and now he's trying to stop a full-blown Eldritch Abomination from being freed! Notably, Baba Yaga, who in the first game pretty thoroughly outmatches the Hero, by the fourth is no longer quite so menacing.
Quest for Glory V at first seems like it's going to be an inversion, as the Hero arrives to effectively investigate a murder plot. At least until the world-destroying Dragon of Doom is unleashed by the Big Bad (have we mentioned the series' love of Sealed Evils?)
There are exactly two things which New World Computing did not escalate between Heroes of Might and Magic I and II: the number of campaigns (four to two — but see below) and the scale of the war (the sparse story of I was a free-for-all war over the throne of Enroth between four contenders, II was a war over the throne of Enroth's succession with two claimants). Everything else — the number of towns, how many artifacts there are, how much actual story there is in the campaigns, how different the campaigns are from each-other (I's were literally the same except for your starting town and each campaign lacking the map about attacking your own stronghold), the number of creatures, the complexity of the skill system, how many spells there are, etc — gets escalated.
Sonic Lost World takes a step back by returning to Sonic saving animals and maintaining the beauty of the world, but still manages to escalate that by having Sonic now saving animals in the hundreds and thousands per zone instead of dozens and magnifying the threat to the planet from Eggman building resource-destroying factories to the entire world being sapped of its life energy by the Zeti, killing it and everyone on it including Sonic's friends, and the plan actually goes off without fail to the bitter end before Sonic can fix things.
Borderlands had a lot of neat boss fights, decent story with an OK villain, an intimidating final boss, and a neat Bonus Boss in Crawmerax. Then Borderlands 2 came along and... totally blew it out of the water. The boss fights were more intense, often had hazards littered about them with extremely inventive fights, a story that plays out amazingly (so much so you'd swear they purposely wrote everything very basic in the original just to expand it further with its incredible plot twists, a Big Bad to top all Big Bads, Handsome Jack, the manipulative sociopathic monster who is always two hundred steps ahead, a final boss that is far harder to kill and is NOT a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, and a new bonus boss in Terramorphous, who makes Crawmerax look like a chew toy. They increased the guns, increased the areas, and total went balls out on making everything new.
This applies to the DLC as well. General Knoxx, Island of Dr. Ned, Moxxi's Underdome, and the Claptrap invasion were okay, but Captain Scarlet's, Campaign of Carnage, Big Game Hunt, and Assault on Dragon's Keep clearly had way more effort put into them, and the last one especially seems to be taking the game engine and what they can do with it as far as they can, playing with the characters themselves and just having fun exploring how nuts the gameplay can get when they go all out on it, along with trying out how silly objectives can get. Additionally, the four campaigns from two seem to be more generally received by critics on websites like IGN and Game Informer, whereas General Knoxx had the unfortunate inability to make multiple fast travel stations in the DLC, forcing you to painstakingly make your way back to where you were every time you needed to get there, and Moxxi's underdome was often far too difficult for a solo player to handle, giving an individual much less incentive to play it unless with friends... and they dragged on and on.
Metroid Prime invokes this trope in regards of the scale of the adventure. The first game is about Tallon IV, the second is about Aether and Dark Aether, and the third is about an entire galaxy. The threat of Phazon (The Corruption) increases considerably upon each game, as well.
A meta-example with Blizzard games- with every new game, the game engines' capacities have increased, and thus the Level Editor has gone from Map Editor (War Craft II), Campaign Editor (Starcraft), World Editor (War Craft III), to Galaxy Editor (Starcraft II). For the games themselves, WarCraft II featured Cosmetically Different Sides, a Good/Evil divide, missions consisiting of "kill the enemy base", and Isometric Perspective. WarCraft III had four completely different factions, some murkiness on the good/evil, extremely varied missions and a lot more dungeon crawls, cutscenes, leveling hero units, mercenaries, and was in 3D.
The Shockwave games increase in scope with each installment:
Invasion Earth is a defense of Earth against an invading force; the Omaha does not go further than the moon.
Operation Jumpgate sees the Omaha traversing the solar system to go on the offensive and fight the aliens back through the jumpgate before they finish preparing for a second invasion.
Shockwave 2 opens twenty years after the Omaha has been lost been lost through the jumpgate, and has the crew of the Cortez exploring other solar systems, searching for the jumpgate code that will send them home.
The Litigation Jackson movie franchise in the Homestar Runner universe. The poster for the first movie showed the main character diving out of an exploding building with a box that said legal documents.'' The sequel's poster shows a similar poster only now the box says important legal documents. Clearly the stakes have been raised.
And then, for the third anniversary, they make a 2 hour and 10 minute fantasy film called Suburban Knights, with roughly the same amount of people, but with more plot!
And the Forth (To Boldly Flee) is even longer and with even more plot, more character development and more references.
In the first Llamas with Hats, Carl killed a man. In the second, he sinks a cruise ship. In the third, he topples a South American government (after pushing the resistance leader into a giant vat... for trying to stop him from pushing other people into it). In the fourth, he tracks mud on the carpet. And nukes an entire city.
The Cartoon Man is a live action comedy with some animated effects near the end. The sequel has a more complex plot, animated effects throughout, and an over-the-top cartoon chase scene as its climax. The third is a straight-up epic that mostly takes place in an animated world, and concludes with the biggest cartoon battle yet.
PONIES The Anthology. The first one was conceived as an epic compilation of AMV Hell-esque sketches, to the point of releasing its own intro scene ahead of time as a teaser. It's 24 minutes long. The second is almost an hour longer, including an extended parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the end. And this was coming on the heels of the show's own hard-to-top second season finale.
Total Drama is an example of season escalation. The first season was a parody of reality shows, and the cast did standard Survivor-style challenges on an island. The second season, Total Drama Action, put them on a larger abandoned film set where the challenges were based on movie genres. The third season, Total Drama World Tour, was about (you guessed it) the contestants going around the world, and every episode had a song along with the challenge. The fourth season, Total Drama Revenge of the Island, had a new cast on the same island as before, but this time everything was radioactive and there were mutant animals all over the place.
Chris McLean, the host of the show, also gets gradually more sadistic as the series goes on. Case in point: Season 1's eliminated contestants left the island by boat. Season 4's left by catapult.
World War II: Although calling it a sequel might be a bit disrespectful, World War II followed as a consequence of World War I, which itself had the Franco-Prussian war as a background precursor due to France's involvment in both conflicts, and was fought on a scale that will hopefully never be seen again. Most of the world had a connection to a conflict during the time period, be it by way of occupation, direct involvement in the primary conflict, resuming old rivalries, or simply having colonial garrisons reinforced to protect against other colonial powers' opportunism. World War I, by comparison, was mostly fought in Europe.
Evel Knievel, famed daredevil of The Seventies, built his career on this trope; each successful Ramp Jump he performed would inevitably be followed by another, bigger one.