Sophomore Slump

Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.

After a stellar first installment/season, a series has a second installment/season that either feels suspiciously like the last or just isn't as good. Tends to be more prevalent in dramas than comedies. A specific form of Seasonal Rot, though perhaps not always bad so much as just underwhelming when compared to what came before.

Sophomore Slump concerns shows that make it past an awful season 2 and into a decent or fantastic season 3. If the show doesn't survive the second season, it's a Second Season Downfall.

This happens in music with depressing regularity as well. Usually, it's because after the first album (which usually has a couple years of development under its belt and plenty of trial and error from live concerts to help the band determine what does or doesn't work), the record company wants a second album produced within a year. The second album is therefore very likely to consist mainly of the songs that were cut from the first album because they were considered inferior. Combine this with the fact that most bands popular enough to get a second album will also be constantly on tour and one can see why this happens.

This term as used in sports refers to players who become breakout stars during their rookie seasons, only to follow up with underwhelming second years, whether because of injury, changes within the team, heightened expectations and publicity leading to faltering on-field performance, etc. Some of them are able to figure out how to get back on track for their third years and beyond, while others end up skidding for a few years and then disappear, with varying levels of infamy based on how highly-touted they were before or during their freshmen seasons.

A related term, used in computing, is the "second system effect." This is like the sophomore slump in reverse; freed of the tight schedule and budgetary demands of the first system, the programmers attempt to "correct" everything that "went wrong" the first time, usually with disastrous effects.

This may happen when your first season is widely considered a Tough Act to Follow, but it's not a rule.

Compare Oddball in the Series, Sequelitis, and Seasonal Rot. Could cause a Broken Base if another portion of the fandom disagree with the opinion that the work is going through a Sophomore Slump. If it's inverted, see Growing the Beard, Surprisingly Improved Sequel, or Even Better Sequel.

Has nothing to do with what comes after the freshman fifteen.


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  • Pokémon, if one counts Kanto/Orange Islands as the first series and Johto as the second. The Johto arc was more or less a total rehash of the first, except with even more Filler and Suspiciously Similar Substitute Pokémon on Ash's team that just didn't live up in power, personality, or appeal to the ones he Put on a Bus after the Orange Islands. Of course, the Orange Islands arc itself has its own problems as well.
  • Digimon Adventure 02 is infamous for its Distant Finale, and in part due to a Kudzu Plot that left a lot of threads dangling. Also, having one of the most famous Big Bads in Digimon history be defeated by talking left a bad taste in many fan's mouths.
  • The first half of Code Geass R2 was a rehash of many elements of season 1, going so far as to have Lelouch reuse plots in suspiciously similar circumstances. It was purposely done this way to appeal to the new audiences in R2's new time slot.
  • Sword Art Online had one so bad huge swaths of the fanbase packed up and left when the second season Jumped the Shark. Mostly revolving around the switch from the first season's deep look at human mental fragility when subjected to stress, to the second season's "I'm a Damsel in Distress, save me! And start a harem on the way!".
  • The second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, while still entertaining, got some flak where it went back into the Universal Century formula and the romance between Saji and Louise overshadowed the rest of the characters.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Kevin Smith's much-loved first film, Clerks, was followed up by the much-maligned Mallrats, considered one of the weakest entries in his View-Askewniverse series by many fans.
  • The Temple of Doom was this in the original Indiana Jones trilogy, with some fans finding it less memorable than Raiders of the Lost Ark, not having the fun or heart of The Last Crusade and just being generally mean-spirited, squicky and not in style with the other films.
  • While Iron Man 2 was successful with both audiences and critics, many felt it was not as exciting as the first film.
  • Mission: Impossible II is the most reviled one of the M:I film series while the third was received better and the fourth and fifth are the best reviewed.
  • A Shot in the Dark could easily be seen in this light — it's actually a good movie, but aside from starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, being directed by Blake Edwards and featuring music by Henry Mancini, it has very little in common with The Pink Panther. However, people usually see it as where the series actually started Growing the Beard.
  • Quantum of Solace for the Craig-era James Bond. It suffered from the writers strike and didn't have the success of its predecessor, Casino Royale (2006), mostly because of the grimmer tone and being so different in style from other Bond films. The next installment, Skyfall, was much more critically acclaimed.

  • Also works with books. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets doesn't exactly have many new elements. Well, not many non-Chekhov's Gun elements, at least.
  • The Dresden Files was kind of this way with Fool Moon. It wasn't bad per se, it wasn't as good as Storm Front, but the series certainly improves with Grave Peril. Opinions vary, though.
  • Most of the Warrior Cats fandom declares that The New Prophecy, the second arc, just isn't as good as the original series, though many admit that the writing quality, if not the story as well, improves at the third arc.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Desperate Housewives had a decline in quality after season one. Some people say it returned to its premises in season three.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The second season wasn't bad, but it was one of the most uneven. It gave us a few wonderful episodes like "The Girl in the Fireplace," and "School Reunion" but also had some of the show's bigger clunkers, like "Fear Her" and "Love & Monsters". There was also a story arc that didn't give as great a reveal as other Series, and which many fans felt was there for Russell T Davies to set up his own show. Also despite many fans loving the Doctor/Rose romance, there is quite a group that felt it was becoming a Romantic Plot Tumour, even those who liked Rose in the first Series felt she became unlikeable here.
    • The sixth season is this, being the second season of Steven Moffat's tenure as show runner (with a new Doctor, new companion, and a lot of new people behind the scenes,) after an outstanding first season. Again, some of the show's best ("The Girl Who Waited", "The Doctor's Wife",) were alongside some of the show's biggest misfires ("The Curse of the Black Spot", "Let's Kill Hitler".) Additionally, many felt like Moffat was trying to do a little too much and the plot got tangled, and the characterization of River Song took a big hit. In a season review from the Nerdist (one of Doctor Who's biggest cheerleaders,) the writer even uses the term Sophomore Slump to describe it.
  • Elementary's second season was as enjoyable as the first as far as episodic plots are involved, but was marred by Conflict Ball-induced stupidity, Sherlock and Joan bickering rather than getting closer like fans wanted, and Mycroft's drawn out plotline, and a somewhat unbelievable romantic subplot with Joan. Season three, thanks to Kitty's terrific character arc, and a saner dynamic between Joan and Sherlock was a return to form.
  • Friday Night Lights had a number of implausible developments in its second season (including a murder perpetrated by two of the main characters) that did not fit at all with the realistic, muted tone of the show. The move to cable in the third season helped it to return to its previous feel.
  • The second season of Game of Thrones was, while still good, generally more uneven than the first season, since while the first book was mostly linear (with basically three main plotlines- the Wall, the East and Kings' Landing/related subplots) with a strong focus character (Ned Stark) and Driving Question (why was Jon Arryn murdered?), the second book A Clash of Kings suddenly had an explosion in the number of plotlines which were increasingly divorced from each other, and many which were not TV-friendly, which led to the TV writers making deviations that didn't quite work (Jon, Robb and Dany's plotlines were big offenders). These problems were mostly solved in the third and fourth seasons, as splitting the third book A Storm of Swords allowed the show to breathe, the writers became more confident with reducing the number of plotlines per episode, and the quality of TV original material improved massively.
  • The second season of Lost has its strengths, most notably introducing fan-favourite characters like Desmond and Ben, but also suffers from many stalls in the plot with little to no questions being answered. The writers apparently picked up on this, as although the third season had a rough start, the remainder of it really started kicking up the plot twists and actually started answering some major plot threads. It still has its detractors, but is often agreed to at least be a step up from season 2.
  • Fans of Saturday Night Live endlessly bicker over which era represents the show's golden age, but one thing that brings everyone together in perfect harmony is the opinion that the early 1980's seasons were the show's nadir, producing only a tiny handful of breakout stars (one being Eddie Murphy, granted) and practically no memorable or even especially funny sketches or characters. The quality would only pick up again in the latter half of the decade.
  • The second season of The Walking Dead is often considered its weakest due to a considerably slower pace and little plot development, with most of the episodes confined to Hershel's farm. Most people agree that Season 3 was a significant improvement.
  • The second season of Once Upon a Time was considered a major step-down from the first, particularly in the second half, due to a sudden glut of new plotlines and characters reducing focus from the plotlines and characters the show already had.
  • Many fans agree that season 2 of Victorious saw a noticeable decline in quality, mainly due to the massive Flanderization of Ensemble Darkhorses Cat (from a Mood-Swinger Cloud Cuckoo Lander to The Ditz) and Jade (from a Jerk with a Heart of Gold Noble Demon to The Sociopath), the Ship Sinking of Cat and Jade's popular Odd Friendship, and the excessive Character Focus on Tori, when in season 1, each of the characters had their own Days In The Limelight.
    • Season 3 broke the fanbase — it's either funnier than ever, shows some nice development all around and doesn't just waste characters, or even worse to the point where the show has Jumped the Shark.
  • Homeland's second season tossed away the cat-and-mouse game between Carrie and Brody in the middle and made the latter as The Mole for the CIA at the former's urging along with some characters holding the Idiot Ball. But at least, the season finale paid off with Abu Nazir's Thanatos Gambit by killing majority of the CIA personnel with a bomb and pinning the blame on Brody.

  • MGMT tried to avert this by following up the synth-heavy, well-received Oracular Spectacular with a totally unexpected surf-rock inspired album, Congratulations. However, this got slightly more mixed reception precisely because of this.
  • Meat Is Murder by The Smiths is a famous example of this. It's actually pretty good outside of the title track and contains a few of their best known songs, but it received very mixed reviews when it was first released and is frequently regarded as their weakest album.
  • Starflyer 59's second album, Gold, is an interesting case. Fans initially disliked it enough that they would tell Jason Martin to his face that his new album was terrible. Then the fans started warming up to the album. Nowadays, the old-time fans are the ones most likely to cite Gold as Starflyer's best album ever.
  • Razorblade Suitcase by Bush. A highly commercial grunge band cashing in on the state of popular music at the time probably shouldn't have chosen Steve Albini as a producer (a man who, given his history with unconventional acts, probably shouldn't have chosen Bush as a client).
  • Don't Look Back by Boston. For proof, look at their Greatest Hits album, which essentially contains half their first album, plus a handful of other songs. Then again, it does happen to be the second highest-selling debut album of all time.
  • Van Halen II, while not a bad album and has its share of classic songs, is still essentially a retread of their first album, making it one of the band's more forgettable Diamond Dave-era releases.
  • The concept of sophomore albums essentially being a slapdash retread of a debut album's concepts/styles gets lampshaded with the title of Talking Heads' sophomore album More Songs About Buildings And Food. The album itself is a subversion; it's generally considered to be much better than their debut.
  • Interestingly, the original liner notes to The Beatles' second album With The Beatles have the band's PR guy Tony Barrow not only openly admit that the album is a blatant attempt to recreate the formula of Please Please Me, he uses it as a selling point. Then again, when the band in question is The Beatles...
  • U2's second album October. In their defense, the band had to hastily re-record many of the songs because the original tapes were either lost or damaged.
  • Franz Ferdinand's second album, You Could Have It So Much Better, while still quite good, is considered to be considerably worse than both their debut Self-Titled Album and their third album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. Most critics attribute this to the fact that they sort of rushed it (releasing it about eighteen months after their debut) in order to prove that they weren't just a flash in the pan, while they could take their sweet time on their debut and the third album (which was released nearly four years later and was something of a New Sound Album).
  • Mogwai's second album, Come On Die Young received lukewarm reviews upon release in opposition to the universally acclaimed Mogwai Young Team.
  • Since Appetite for Destruction is the best-selling debut albums of all time, it's only natural Guns N' Roses would have a tough time following up. Their second release, bundling an old EP with some acoustic numbers, did not reach the popularity of their first album. Even the Use Your Illusion albums were following a very tough act.
  • Manic Street Preachers' second album Gold Against The Soul is largely regarded as an awkward album, as it is half commercial songs intended to appeal in America, and half ones with intentionally controversial lyrics and somewhat abrasive melodies.
  • The Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope. The album is not bad, it just fails to deliver. This is because it contains a cover version of a well known song ("English Civil War"), a song with the same riff as a previous single ("Guns On The Roof", the single in question being "Clash City Rockers"), and "Drug Stabbing Time", which may be the worst thing (lyrically) the band ever recorded. The "commercial" production touches of Sandy Pearlman (best known for his work with Blue Oyster Cult) also pissed off a lot of punk purists. However, the album's variety did pave the way for London Calling, their most popular album.
  • Puddle of Mudd's Life on Display, their second major label album was lambasted upon release. Part of the reason for this is that their previous album, the commercially successful Come Clean, consisted of re-recorded versions of what they considered the strongest songs from their first two independent albums, so the material on that album was already what the band considered their best material.
  • Gogol Bordello's second album Multi Contra Kulti Vs. Irony has always seemed like somewhat of a rush job. Before it came out they released a single "When The Trickster Starts A Poking/Occurance On The Border" which attracted some indie attention. Presumably this was intended as a stop gap but they included both songs on the album anyway. A few of the other tracks on the album like "Let's Get Radical", "Punk Rock Paranada", "Through The Roof And Underground" and "Baro Foro" are also loved by fans, but the rest of it has the air of filler and failed experiments. The band rarely play anything from the album these days except "Baro Foro".
  • Fairweather Johnson by Hootie & the Blowfish sold decently, but it got rather average reviews and quickly fell into obscurity. Granted, their debut album, Cracked Rear View was a Tough Act to Follow, what with it being the second best selling debut album of all time at the time.
  • Nick Lowe's above-quoted twin songs were inspired by how his previous band Brinsley Schwarz flamed out due to record label mismanagement. Amusingly enough, both the album with them (Jesus of Cool) and its successor (Labour of Lust) performed more or less equally: they both got acclaimed and spawned a hit single ("I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass" for the former, but only in the UK, and "Cruel to Be Kind" for the latter, in the UK, USA and Canada).
  • Chumbawamba attempted to follow up their smash-hit major label debut "Tubthumping" with "WYSIWYG," whose lead-off single ("She's Got All The Friends") was quite obviously an attempt to mimic the shouty-pop of "Tubthumping." No one cared, and Chumbawamba returned to their previous preference of independent releases. (These days, the group would rather pretend that the "Tubthumper" era never occurred.)
  • Milli Vanilli actually attempted a second album, believe it or not. After their twin 'debut' releases ('All or Nothing' outside of the USA, and the far more commercial 'Girl You Know It's True' in the USA) hit it big, they immediately recorded a follow-up album ('Keep On Running') using the same gimmick - middle-aged guys on vocals, dreadlock guys on the cover. Shortly after the title track was released as a single, however, the controversy erupted. The new album was retitled 'The Moment of Truth' and credited to The Real Milli Vanilli, showing the actual singers on the cover. In the end, the retooled album was somewhat of a success in Europe, as the group still held popularity there. America, unfortunately, hated the group at this point, and the album never saw a US release. (At least, not in its original form - the vocals were later re-recorded by other singers, and the album was released under the band name Try 'n' B. This version bombed completely.) They even made an album of the two stars themselves singing under the name Rob and Fab. It didn't do so well.
  • Green Day's Insomniac (though their mainstream sophomore, as it's their fourth) was not as well received as Dookie, particularly for being Darker and Edgier.
  • Likewise, after breaking out with Smash, The Offspring failed to deliver the same commercial success with Ixnay on the Hombre, even though it was praised critically, some actually considering it superior to the album prior.
  • According to an article in the LA Times, Drake tried hard to avoid this with his second studio album, Take Care (hence the title). It was successful, as Take Care is his most commercially successful album.
  • Referenced by Fall Out Boy with their song "Sophomore Slump Or Comeback Of The Year".
  • Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, is often regarded as a masterpiece of psychedelic rock. However, their second album, A Saucerful Of Secrets, was at the time generally dismissed as an inferior imitation at best, partially due to the departure of Music/SydBarrett.note  Should someone discover Pink Floyd today, the Sophomore Slump is barely noticeable as both albums are far inferior compared to their later ones.
  • Jennifer Lopez narrowly averted this with her second album, J.Lo. While the album and lead single "Love Don't Cost a Thing" started off strong, her follow up singles, "Play" and "I'm Real," both underperformed. It was only after her now-famous remix of "I'm Real" with Ja Rule that things got back on track.
  • The Jam's second album This is the Modern World is generally regarded as a rushed and very much inferior gap-filler between their pretty good debut In the City and the widely-hailed classic third album All Mod Cons.
  • Deep Purple Mark II(a) released two classic albums, Deep Purple In Rock and Machine Head. Sandwiched between them is a little lost album called Fireballnote , which has a couple of great songs and a lot of failed ones that attempt to get out of the formula established by In Rock but end up nowhere. Interestingly, one of their greatest hits, "Strange Kind of Woman", was recorded during the same sessions but not included on the UK album (on the US or Japanese versions of the album, SKOW is included, making it somewhat stronger).
  • Suffocation's Breeding the Spawn, which is almost entirely down to the production - and hoo boy, is it a mess. The reason is that the band got a pittance from Roadrunner Records, who were too busy chasing mainstream success to give a crap about Suffo or any of their other death metal bands. As a result, not only could they not get down to Florida to do another session at Morrisound (where they recorded Effigy of the Forgotten), they apparently didn't have enough money to get a half-decent production job. This led to other complaints, namely that they failed to evolve in any meaningful way from Effigy (although either a really good ear or a listen to any of the re-records placed on later albums debunks this and reveals the album as being one of the most technically complex albums not only of their catalog, but in the genre as a whole). Mercifully, they came back with a vengeance on Pierced from Within, which paired the complexity of its predecessor with far better production, courtesy of a return trip to Morrisound.
  • Jason Aldean's second album, Relentless, was his only one not to produce a Top 5 country hit (although "Johnny Cash" and "Laughed Until We Cried" both just missed, at #6). It's also his weakest-selling album to date. However, he bounced back nicely starting with the third album and ascended to A-lister.
  • Jerrod Niemann had a strong start with his first major-label album, Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury, which produced a #1 hit in "Lover, Lover" and a Top 5 hit in "What Do You Want". His next album, Free the Music, performed dismally — its lead single barely made Top 20, and the followup barely made Top 40, and the album only sold eight thousand copies. However, he seems to have bounced back quickly with the third album, High Noon, whose lead single "Drink to That All Night" quickly became his second #1 in April 2014.
  • Rick Trevino, a minor country music singer in The '90s. His self-titled first official albumnote  was certified gold and had two Top 5 hits ("She Can't Say I Didn't Cry" and "Doctor Time"). The next album (Looking for the Light) had three singles, but the only one that even made Top 40 was the poorly-received novelty "Bobbie Ann Mason". The third album, Learning as You Go, brought him back to form, with three straight Top 10 hits (the title track, followed by "Running Out of Reasons to Run" — his only #1 hit — and "I Only Get This Way with You") before the hits tapered off again. (However, he did win a Grammy in 1998 as part of the supergroup Los Super Seven.)
  • Randy Houser. His first album had the fan favorite "Anything Goes" (his debut single) and a big Top 5 hit in "Boots On". But his second album was delayed repeatedly due to its singles underperforming, with the second single ("I'm All About It") not even making the final cut of the album. The album was released to little fanfare and nothing else from it went anywhere. He was prepared for a third album, but when its lead single ("In God's Time") went nowhere, he left the label. Then he signed to Stoney Creek Records, where he released How Country Feels. The title track became his first-ever #1 hit in 2013, followed by a second #1 in "Runnin' Outta Moonlight" and additional Top 10 successes with "Goodnight Kiss" and "Like a Cowboy".
  • Cat Stevens' second album, New Masters, fared so poorly that he wouldn't release his third album, Mona Bone Jakon, until 1970 (although Stevens' three-year absence was due mainly to contracting tuberculosis). Then again, New Masters has one of his most famous songs, "The First Cut Is the Deepest."
  • SHeDAISY's first album, The Whole SHeBANG, was certified platinum and produced three straight Top 10 hits on the country charts. They followed it up with Knock on the Sky, which underperformed and had only two singles, both of which barely made Top 30. Their third album, Sweet Right Here, brought them back up to speed with gold sales and the hit singles "Passenger Seat", "Come Home Soon", and "Don't Worry 'Bout a Thing". The last of these mocks their sophomore slump twice with the lines "Ever knocked on the sky and had it fall on your head?" and "Ever found your last record in the bargain bin?"
  • This doesn't just apply to albums — singles can fall victim to this, too, as The Byrds did this with "All I Really Want to Do," released between their two #1 hits, "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Beaten by Sonny and Cher's cover of the song, The Byrds' own version peaked at #40, just barely qualifying it as a hit.
  • Canadian country music group Emerson Drive. Their self-titled American debut albumnote , for DreamWorks Records, produced two big hits in "I Should Be Sleeping" and "Fall into Me". What If? completely tanked stateside, with none of its singles doing anything on the U.S. country charts, although "Waitin' on Me" was a minor hit in Canada and Lonestar later Covered Up the album cut "You're Like Comin' Home" to Top 10 success in 2005. On top of that, DreamWorks Records closed in mid-2005. Two years later, they signed with the small independent Midas Records and released Countrified, which brought the semi-hit "A Good Man" and their only American #1 hit to date, "Moments". Although their momentum dropped off again with the next album, they have continued to be successful in Canada.
  • For the First Class, whose self-titled debut album featured the #4 hit "Beach Baby," their second album, SST, doubled as both a Sophomore Slump and a Creator Killer.
  • The Times They Are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan, released as his third album, did not really please critics and listeners for the Darker and Edgier feel it had compared to his first two albums. The title track is the only highlight of the album and the only track from it that normally appears on his "best of" compilations.
  • While still a good album, Led Zeppelin II is often considered the weakest of Zeppelin's Atlantic Records period.
  • Jamie O'Neal got hit with this pretty hard. Her first album had back-to-back #1 hits with "There Is No Arizona" and "When I Think About Angels" (in fact, the former made her beat out Keith Urban by one week to become the first Australian with a #1 country hit in the States). The lead single to her second album underperformed so badly that the album didn't even get released, and she was dropped by the label. But her third album (and second released) got her additional hits with "Trying to Find Atlantis" and "Somebody's Hero", the latter her first Top 5 hit since her debut, before her momentum dropped off again.
  • While Jack Ingram had been independently releasing albums since 1995, his first to contain a hit was Live: Wherever You Are, a mostly-live album Book Ended by the studio tracks "Wherever You Are" and "Love You". The former was a huge hit, becoming the first #1 for the Big Machine label (which would later have phenomenal success with a young Pennsylvanian named Taylor Swift). Ingram's second Big Machine album was a flop, led off by a country-rock cover of Hinder's "Lips of an Angel". His third album seemed to be headed for a flop too, but in 2009, he scored his second and final Top 10 hit with "Barefoot and Crazy".
  • Like the Byrds, Dusty Springfield had two big hit singles early in her career, "I Only Want to Be with You" and "Wishin' and Hopin'," and a less memorable single between them, "Stay Awhile."
  • Ash's first full-length album, 1977, was very well-received, containing such hits as Kung Fu and Girl From Mars. (The preceding mini-album, Trailer, was also well-received). Then came Nu-Clear Sounds, the second full-length album, which nearly left them bankrupt. After a rethink, they came back with Free All Angels which contains such hits as Burn, Baby, Burn and Shining Light and is considered by many to be their masterpiece.
  • Giuseppe Verdi followed up the success of Oberto with his first (and penultimate) comedy, Un Giorno di Regno (written, as it turns out, when he was suffering from Creator Breakdown, having lost his wife and two infant children). Since it was pulled after a single performance, it is understandable why it isn't in the operatic repertoire.

    Video Games 
  • Devil May Cry 2 was the video game equivalent of being booted in the crotch by a large angry golfer. Devil May Cry 3 was aces. These days, Capcom has taken to pretending the second game never happened; 3 was a prequel, 4 is set between the first and second, and the characters frequently comment on having no memory of the second game when they appear in other media (such as Viewtiful Joe or Marvel vs. Capcom 3), the only exception being Dante's guest appearance in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne Maniax (based off of his DMC2 appearance, as it was the most recent release at the time of the game).
    • A great deal of this most likely stems from the fact that neither Hideki Kamiya (the creator of DMC) nor Team Little Devils (Kamiya's personal dev team for DMC) were involved with 2, the project instead going to a different team under the direction of Hideki Itsuno (director) and Tsuyoshi Tanaka (producer). That being said, this same group of developers was responsible for the third game, which handily proceeded to Win Back the Crowd (critically, at least; sales were hurt somewhat by consumer wariness due to the second game's poor reception).
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Among the Persona, Persona 2 Eternal Punishment, the second half of the Persona 2 duology, is considered this; the main character from the first half ursurps the female lead's position about 2/3 of the way through the game, there's a lot of reliance on throwbacks to the first game, and the lore isn't quite as intriguing (or outright batshit insane) as Innocent Sin's. The main liking factor for it, though, is the well-developed adult cast (the only adult cast, whereas every other game stars high school students).
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is considered by many to be an example of Darker and Edgier Gone Horribly Wrong. The Two Thrones goes so far as to Retcon the Prince's behavior in that game into being a curse.
  • The second Unreal Tournament game, Unreal Tournament 2003 was such a disappointment that Epic gave out rebates to owners who traded it in for the much better Unreal Tournament 2004. Turned Up to Eleven with Unreal II: The Awakening, which Epic outsourced to a third-party developer, and ended up being so badly received that it was an outright Franchise Killer for the single-player Unreal games.
  • Dizzy II: Treasure Island Dizzy is rampantly the least popular of the series, due to the extraordinary Fake Difficulty of Dizzy spending the entire game as a One-Hit-Point Wonder.
  • On the NES, Zelda II The Adventure Of Link gets heck for being a radical departure from the rest of the series. A reason was because the usual conventions and mechanics of the franchise weren't fully defined yet, hence why the developers had tried to expand the gameplay features. Though later games returned to more classical formats, it did leave a legacy (for example, it introduced elements to the Zelda games like magic, towns, Dark Link, and character names like Saria or Nabooru),
  • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest was criticized for opting for a different gameplay approach to that of the original game, but its gameplay style would later become the series' bellwether after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night perfected the formula.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid II: Return of Samus suffered this due to some gameplay changes and a more linear progression. And since the game was never remade (unlike the first one), it feels very dated visually.
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is considered a bit of a slump for the Prime trilogy. While it's generally agreed to be a good game, the brutal difficulty, key collection, and ammo system tend to draw ire. It's also criticized for having many of the same upgrades and weapons as the original, with the only really new upgrades being the Seeker Launcher, Screw Attack, and the Echo Visor. Another point of debate is the multiplayer mode.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All didn't quite match up to the first game, mostly due to its widely despised third case, and the new health system being rather punishing at times. Fortunately, the next game, Trials and Tribulations got the series on track, mostly thanks to having a better overall storyline (Justice For All is the only game without an over-arching storyline.) On the other hand, Justice For All has chapter 2-4, "Farewell, My Turnabout", widely considered to be one of the best cases in the series.
  • Echo Bazaar has a quasi-example, once you start the story line to become a Person Of Some Importance. All the POSI content requires either huge amounts of time and in-game resources or Fate (bought with actual money) to achieve, and are mainly cosmetic awards. Contrast to the earlier game, where things were much more reasonably priced.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War turned off many fans, who felt that it sacrificed much of the complexity and freedom that made the original so enjoyable. Human Revolution has been received significantly better.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man X2 borders on being this. While certainly not a bad game overall, it added virtually nothing to the first game's gameplay, dropped its dark, stylish visuals in favor of a style more akin to the Mega Man (Classic) series, and was just generally somewhat forgettable. Mega Man X3, while a Contested Sequel, made more of an effort to distinguish itself from the first game, and then Mega Man X4 ended up being a major return to form.
    • Mega Man II for the Game Boy was very underwhelming due to its extremely easy level design, horrid soundtrack and a generally half-hearted feel. The following three Game Boy entries, however, got successively better.
    • Mega Man Star Force 2 was poorly received, probably due to discarding most of the first game's stellar themes. It also had much less nuanced Villains of the Week (From sympathetic individuals possessed by manipulative beings in the first game to already evil villains who fuse with almost mindless Blood Knight entities in the second}. The easily broken battle system probably didn't help either. The third game was better-received, but doesn't seem to have been enough to save the series.
  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, while considered a good game in the Mario & Luigi series, is generally not as well-received as its acclaimed predecessor or its successor.
  • The second Nancy Drew PC Game, Stay Tuned for Danger, suffered from this, since Her Interactive was still working out the kinks. It had a rather frustrating Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence (namely, you started off the game picking a lock with a credit card; later on, other doors, which are identical and in the same building absolutely have to be opened with keys,) a pretty bad loophole (if you enter a certain room before picking up two necessary tools, you are unable to leave again to get them and Game Over,) a final game that was so frustratingly difficult they had to release a patch to ease the frustration, a pretty clumsy overworld map (where you had to click on a location, listen to Nancy hail a cab, talk to the driver, then arrive, which is frustrating after several repetitions; the other early games all took place in one location, avoiding the problem.) It's telling that, thanks to Technology Marches On, the first two games were discontinued because of issues with newer sound and video cards. The first, Secrets Can Kill was later remastered and re-released in 2010, but there seems to be no indication they plan to do the same with Stay Tuned for Danger.
  • Whereas Battlefield 1942 was both a commercial and critical hit, its immediate sequel, Battlefield Vietnam got unspectacular reviews and sank without a trace in the sale charts. Nowadays, most people forget that particular Battlefield game ever existed, and those that do remember it generally rank it as the worst game in the franchise. However, the series' third entry, Battlefield 2 was a return to form, and an even bigger hit than the first game.
  • Kaos Studios was formed out of the core developers for the "Desert Combat" mod of Battlefield 1942. They went onto create Front Lines Fuel Of War, which was an extremely mediocre effort that didn't rise to any great heights, certainly not anything close to the love their Desert Combat mod inspired.
  • Drakengard was hit with this for its second game but not from the usual stuff. In fact the gameplay was vastly improved over its predecessor. What happened was that the first games director, Yoko Taro, was not part of development of the second game leading it to have a fairly standard idealistic JRPG plot as a result in stark contrast with the first games Crapsack World setting and nihilistic tone.
  • Xenosaga Episode II was hit with a bad case of They Changed It, Now It Sucks. So much so that many of the changes were reversed in Episode III, including the voice acting.
  • Dragon Age went through this with Dragon Age II. While many consider it decent for reasons such as its excellent companions, it fell short of Dragon Age: Origins in almost every other way, with Cut-and-Paste Environments everywhere, tons of bugs and many of them game-breaking, overly-simplified gameplay, and an extremely small world to explore. Despite some porting issues and a few other complaints, Dragon Age: Inquisition has been widely hailed by critics and fans as an excellent return to form for the franchise, attempting to correct almost all of the problems mentioned above, in addition to taking numerous seemingly unimportant plot points and items from Dragon Age II and making them major plot elements in Inquisition.
  • Final Fantasy II is likely the least popular game in the series. At the time, it was one of the most experimental Role Playing Games, with a very intricate leveling system as opposed to the original's "EXP = Level Up" model, and the plot was very intricate for an NES game, but it had many Game Breaking Bugs (Ultima did nothing whatsoever, most infamously) and the leveling system was so badly-implemented that many players wound up ordering their characters to attack each other to train them up. The game didn't make its way out of Japan for years, which denied it even the Nostalgia Filter, and by the time it was released to other regions (thankfully fixing many of the game's faults in the process), nobody thought it especially innovative anymore.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s):

Second Album Syndrome