aka: Stealth Prequel
When a Sequel or Prequel to a work isn't actually stated or advertised as a sequel/prequel. At first, it looks like a Spiritual Successor, Continuity Reboot, Alternate Universe, or some other closely related universe tie-in but it turns out to be a direct sequel. This might just be hinted at, or expressed outright near the end. Canon Welding often uses this to tie multiple formerly independent franchises together. The work may have a Recycled Title. See also Broad Strokes. As you might guess, there will be SPOILERS.
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Anime & Manga
- Rozen Maiden Tale started out as a What If? manga that shows what would happen if Jun decided not to wind. Then the story transitioned into where the original continuity left off. *
- Devilman Lady at first seems like an Alternate Continuity retelling of Devilman with a Genderflipped protagonist, but it is revealed late in the story that the events of the original Devilman and Violence Jack are canon, but nobody remembers this thanks to a Cosmic Retcon that rebooted history. Devilman himself even makes an appearance to explain this to Jun.
- Shin Mazinger Zero seems like an alternate universe or retelling of the original Mazinger Z... until Kouji starts to have visions of events that happened in the original series, including a flashback of the death of Minerva-X, and it is revealed that this series is a sequel to the original anime, in the which the characters are locked in a perpetual time loop.
- Turn A Gundam takes this a step further: though in-story it doesn't state that much, it's out-and-out obvious that the Black History is comprised of the events of all previous Gundam shows. Official material draws the timelines as parallel lines with individual events of all the other Gundam series until finally merging to form the Correct Century (Turn A's universe) circle (Fridge Logic meaning it will never proceed any further) meaning Turn A is the Sequel to all of them because it has the power to merge timelines.
- Mai-Otome in the beginning seemed like a spin-off series and Transplanted Character Series to Mai-HiME, only with Magical Girls instead of Mons. But as the story progressed, maddeningly vague hints began insinuating that Otome is in fact set in a far future of HiME, and that the Otome and SLAVES themselves descendant technology of the HiME and Orphans. The manga (which is a separate continuity from the anime) explicitly confirms it's the future.
- For most of its run Stitch! seemed like an Alternate Universe to Lilo & Stitch, where Stitch landed in Japan instead of America. However in the fourth season it was revealed that it takes place after a Time Skip. Lilo pops up as an adult with her identical looking five year old daughter in tow.
- While not advertised as such, UQ Holder makes it obvious in literally the first couple pages that it's a sequel to Mahou Sensei Negima!. This is likely because Negima was ended by an especially bad case of Executive Meddling.
- Blood-C at first appears to be unrelated to Blood: The Last Vampire but is later revealed to be a sequel.
- Accel World is set in the far future of Sword Art Online. Although this is known to most fans of the author, it's not obvious until a later episode of Accel World, where the main character directly refers to the main Virtual Reality of SAO.
- Jaco The Galactic Patrolman turns out to be a prequel to Dragon Ball. Jaco's mission was to stop Kakarot/Goku's pod from landing on Earth. He fails, obviously. Also, Tights is Bulma's older sister.
- As Cracked pointed out, Jack Kirby threw in some subtle hints that his New Gods series for DC Comics was actually a continuation of his run on The Mighty Thor over at Marvel. And his later, creator-owned series Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers was clearly a lawyer-friendly sequel to the Fourth World books.
- When Peter David first began work on Fallen Angel, there were some strong hints that it was actually a sequel to his previous Supergirl series, and that the heroine, "Lee," was actually Supergirl herself. This was changed when the series was moved from DC to IDW, preventing any such revelation from ever occurring. A later named Lin was later introduced, and Word of God is that she's essentially a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo from the Linda Danvers version of Supergirl.
Films — Live-Action
- Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland isn't too stealthy about it since Alice is older, but she starts off her adventure in nearly the same way as the original book. A viewer could assume it's a Hotter and Sexier version until a scene where, while Alice is struggling with changing size, the Dodo remarks, "You'd think she'd remember all of this from the first time."
- The 2009 Star Trek film functions as both this and a reboot with Spock having arrived from the original timeline to provide continuity. The main stealth part comes from the fact that the movie is not a full reboot, but rather an Alternate Timeline, created by the Big Bad's accidental alteration of the past which generated a new, parallel space-time continuum that bypasses each of the preceding movies and shows except for one. It also offers a conclusion to the Federation's conflict with the Romulan Empire, which had been gradually developing for over 40 years since Star Trek: The Original Series. 8 years after Star Trek: Nemesis, just as the Federation is finally on the verge of peace with the Romulans, their home planet's star goes supernova and almost the entire species is wiped out.
- In some foreign markets, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was released as The Voyage Home: Star Trek IV, with "The Voyage Home" written in larger letters than "Star Trek IV". They were downplaying the fact that it was Star Trek film as Trek films were considered to perform badly overseas. There was also a prologue added (you can see it here) to explain the events of Star Trek III as it was felt that not enough people outside the U.S. had seen it.
- Catwoman is a stealth sequel to the Batman films, notably, Batman Returns. Her origin is identical to the one played by Michelle Pfeiffer, the Catwoman persona is said to be a Legacy Character, and in the pictures of former "Catwomen", we see Michelle Pfeiffer's original character.
- Basement Jack is a loose sequel to Evilution, the two film featuring the same old apartment building and creepy manager and his equally creepy display room of murderous artifacts, which he adds more weapons to at the end of both films (a vial of alien virus in Evilution, and the eponymous character's sword in Basement Jack).
- At the end of Final Destination 5 two of the remaining survivors die in Flight 180, revealing the film to be a prequel to the first film.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom takes place before Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it's only indicated by the date at the beginning of the film.
- The Good The Bad And The Ugly takes place before the first two movies in the Dollars Trilogy.
- The 1999 Disney film adaptation of My Favorite Martian features Ray Walston, the original "Uncle Martin", as a long-lost Martian named Neenert who's been stuck on Earth disguised as a human since before 1966 (when the show was cancelled). Add some Fridge Brilliance to this and Neenert could very well be the same "Uncle Martin" from the show. Although this may really be a Mythology Gag since the shape-shifting gum that alters the appearance of the one chewing it, wasn't in the original series.
- Likewise with director Richard Donner's 1996 film Maverick. James Garner's character, "Zane Cooper," is revealed to be the father of Mel Gibson's Bret Maverick. Garner played "Bret Maverick" in the original TV series.
- Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. The only connection to the first movie is revealed at the very end, when a doddering old lady is revealed to be the baby of the first family all grown up.
- The 21 Jump Street film is actually a sequel to the original TV series inducing Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome on Hanson and Penhall. Also, Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) turns out to be the son of the late Capt. Richard Jenko from the show's first season.
- Charlie's Angels is implied to be a sequel to the show by having the same person play Charlie and by the sequel showing that these were not the first Angels. It is confirmed in Full Throttle when Jaclyn Smith reprises her role as Kelly Garrett.
- A number of people really didn't expect Paranormal Activity 2 to be a direct prequel to the first film which only explicitly states that it is after the first 14 minutes. It later transitions into a sequel at the end which shows what immediately happened after the events of Paranormal Activity.
- Mission: Impossible is a sequel to the original series because it features the original protagonist in a senior role.
- The Scooby-Doo live-action movie takes place after the original series, as most of those villains re-appear in the sequel.
- The version of Shaft (2000) played by Samuel L. Jackson is the original Shaft's nephew. And while we're talkin' 'bout Shaft, according to Word of God, Django and Broomhilda are ancestors of both of them.
- Viewers are led to believe that the events of Saw IV take place after the events of Saw III. It isn't until the final few minutes that it is revealed that the events of both films were actually taking place at the exact same time.
- Inverted by Prometheus, which fans of the Alien films wanted to be a direct prequel but turned out to be more of a side story.
- Lots of weird behind-the-scenes drama resulted in Savage Vengeance being this to I Spit on Your Grave.
- The Thing (2011) was advertised like a remake of The Thing (1982), but ultimately turned out to be a prequel.
- Likewise, Evil Dead (2013) was advertised as a remake of The Evil Dead (1981), but The Stinger shows an aged version of Ash Williams, the protagonist of the original trilogy.
- Originally there was going to be a different post-credits scene which would have made this more explicit. The original idea was that Mia, the Final Girl, would be walking alone down a road while covered in blood from the encounter with the Deadites, only for an S-Mart truck to pull over next to her. The window would then roll down to reveal Ash, who would ask Mia if she needed help.
- If you did not pay attention, you may not have noticed that Jonas from The Giver makes an appearance in Gathering Blue, indicating that he's made it to Elsewhere (and that the latter takes place after the former). Word of God said that it was up to the reader to decide if it was Jonas or not, but Messenger overly hints that it was Jonas, and Son outright states that it is him.
- Although Iain Banks' Surface Detail is set in the same universe as the other Culture novels, it only becomes apparent that it is a Distant Finale to Use of Weapons upon reading the very last word in the book.
- Diana Wynne Jones' The Merlin Conspiracy is described on its own jacket blurb as being a stand-alone book, and its plot is not immediately familiar. However, reading further into it reveals that its main protagonist, Nick, is the same Nick from Jones' Deep Secret. However, while The Merlin Conspiracy is a young adult book, Deep Secret was written for a more adult audience.
- Peter S. Beagle's The Innkeepers Song includes an elderly wizard that in many ways seems to be an extremely old version of Schmendrick from Beagle's earlier (and more famous) book The Last Unicorn. This is never explicitly confirmed or denied, and when asked in person Beagle responds with a smile: "I don't know; what do you think?"
- The last episode of Newhart revealed that the entire series was the dream of the protagonist from The Bob Newhart Show.
- The protagonist of the Knight Rider remake is the son of the protagonist of the original show.
- Fargo appears to merely be a Spiritual Successor to the film of the same name until we see a flashback wherein a character discovers the money that was hidden in the snow at the end of the film.
- Tin Man intentionally fools viewers into believing that it's a Darker and Edgier science fiction retelling of The Wizard of Oz, with each of the main characters being a clear stand-in for a character in the original (the Scarecrow is a lobotomized Mad Scientist, the Tin Man is an ex-cop with a tin badge, Toto is a shapeshifting magician, etc.). After The Reveal, though, we learn that the siblings DG and Azkadelia are actually Dorothy Gale's great-grandchildren, and that Azkadelia turned to the dark side after being possessed by the spirit of the Wicked Witch of the West.
- Done humorously at the DVD alternate ending to Breaking Bad, which implied the entire series was the dream of Hal from Malcolm in the Middle.
- Planetfall has a few references to Infocom's previous sci-fi work Starcross that imply that it is set within the same universe several centuries later. And a grue appears, implying it is in the Zork universe as well.
- Narcolepsy by Adam Cadre isn't advertised as a sequel to Adam Cadre's previous work I-0, but it isn't long before you run across a place mentioned in the prior game. Also, I-0's protagonist Tracy Valencia makes a somewhat in-joky cameo.
- Dinner with Andre by Liza Daly has a twist ending where the PC turns out to be the same character from Liza's previous IF work Bloodline several years later and sees someone she knows from that time.
- Masquerade by Kathleen Fischer has a number of endings, one of them causing the game to become a prequel to her other work, The Cove.
- Shadow Hearts wasn't advertised as a sequel to Koudelka, and indeed some people still claim that they don't have any real story links, despite the recurring theme of the Emigre Document, the villain impersonating a character from Koudelka, the real version of that character turning up later, Koudelka herself playing a significant role, Koudelka's son being a party member, and the last chapter of Shadow Hearts taking place in the monastery Koudelka was set in.
- Shadow of the Colossus was a prequel to Ico, but you'd never realize until the very end. And even then you might not realize unless you were a big fan of Ico.
- Captain Commando is a futuristic sequel to Final Fight. The game is set in Metro City, Ginzu the Ninja is Guy's future successor in the ways of the Bushin school, and a bust of Mike Haggar can be obtained as a power-up.
- Dragon Quest III looks like a Continuity Reboot, but late in the game you find yourself on a very familiar world map, and the ending names you as the famed ancestor of the first two games' heroes.
- Dragon Quest VI has thematic links to the other "Zenithian Trilogy" games (IV and V), but there are hints that it's actually a prequel.
- Some things in the game hints that Hellsinker is this to Radio Zonde.
- Snatcher, being the second game directed by Hideo Kojima following the original Metal Gear, features several references to his previous work. Most notably Gillian Seed's robotic sidekick, who was modeled by his creator after the "Metal Gear menace from the late 20th century." Other references include Junker chief Benson Cunningham being a former FOX-HOUND strategist and the head of the Snatcher project being none other than Dr. Pettrovich Madnar, the creator of the original Metal Gear. However, numerous inconsistencies introduced in later Metal Gear sequels has made the series hard to fit into the Snatcher continuity anymore.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert was revealed to be a prequel to the Tiberium series when Kane appears at the end of the Soviet campaign, revealing himself as the mastermind of the war. This is somewhat complicated by the rather odd nature of the series timeline, but at least within Red Alert itself, it works.
- The sci-fi FPS series Marathon takes place in the far future of the horror-adventure-FPS Pathways into Darkness; the Jjaro and W'rkncacnter play a key role in both, and some even theorize that the protagonist of Marathon is literally Pathways's hero rebuilt as a cyborg. There's also a theory that, given the Theme Naming in place, Halo is also part of the same universenote , though this seems to have become far less likely since the franchise's change in ownership.
- Of course, Marathon: Infinity features both alternate universes and the death of a universe, with the fact that there's something after the death of the universe, since one can escape the death of a universe. Considering AIs work the same and many similar things in both universes, Halo is likely an AU of Marathon, or the next universe. Yes, they pulled a Bioshock a decade before Bioshock did it.
- The Persona series is implied to take place after Shin Megami Tensei If..., due to the appearance of If's female protagonist in the first two (well, technically three) Persona games.
- Bioshock Infinite has story-wise no connection with the earlier games whatsoever for most of the game, until at the very end it's revealed to be a prequel/sequel/taking place on an alternate timeline when the player character is teleported to Rapture, the setting of the first two games.
- The Burial At Sea DLC affirms this trope further, alternating between timelines of both the main campaign but also of the first Bioshock.
- Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 are implied to be a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, taking place centuries, or maybe even millenia, before VII, with the suggestion that Shinra from X-2 is a far off ancestor of President Shinra and Rufus.
- In the Fire Emblem series, the Jugdral games are implied to be a distant prequel to the Akaneia games, taking place many years earlier on a different continent. Loptyr, the games' Big Bad, is implied to be a member of the Earth Dragon tribe like the Akaneia games' villain Medeus, and the deity Naga is the same in both games. Likwise, while Fire Emblem Awakening is directly stated to be a distant sequel to the Akaneia games, the existance of Priam, who claims to be a decendant of Ike, also implicitly puts it as a sequel to Tellius games as well, though how distant is uncertain.
- The Williams Electronics game Blaster is suggested to be a sequel to Robotron 2084. The arcade games attract mode mentions something about the Robotrons having destroyed humanity. Given this much, it indicates that the player ultimately failed in their mission (or just ran out of quarters, the game got too fast, or the player got tired of playing. It would have to be one of these since games of this era had no ending except for you losing all of your lives). Incidentally, according to Electronic Games magazine, Robotron 2084 was a sequel to Defender and Defender II.
- The hero of Wolfenstein 3D, BJ Blazkowicz, is revealed to be the grandfather of Commander Keen in the hint book for the former. There's also a persistent theory that the protagonist of Doom is also a descendant of BJ; the mobile RPGs go with this, where the final boss of Wolfenstein RPG is the Cyberdemon minus cybernetic parts (complete with those parts being destroyed when you defeat it) and the protagonist of Doom RPG is given the name "Stan Blazkowicz".
- Project X Zone is this to Namco X Capcom, especially (and pragmatically) in areas that never got Namco X Capcom. It's no secret in-game, though, just outside of it.
- Tales of Symphonia turns out to be set in the same world as Tales of Phantasia. Just... back when it was two worlds instead of one.
- When Ciel nosurge, the first game in the Surge Concerto series, came out, it was believed to be a Spiritual Successor to Ar tonelico. Then Ar nosurge came and confirmed Surge Concerto to be a prequel series.
- Nier is a unusual example: It is hinted to be a sequel to Ending E of Drakengard, which in turn already had an official sequel based on Ending A. Thus, Nier is an alternate timeline to Drakengard 2.
- Ikaruga is generally thought of as a Spiritual Successor to Radiant Silvergun, but several aspects of Ikaruga suggest a solid connection, namely that Ikaruga is the iteration of Radiant Silvergun's "Groundhog Day" Loop where things have, after countless repetitions, finally gone through a drastic change. This is shown in Ikaruga's themes of enlightenment and ascendance, which ultimately lead the protagonists to victory, contrasting sharply with Radiant Silvergun's extremely depressing story and reinforcing the fact that the Downer Ending has been averted.
- Five Nights at Freddy's 2 doesn't look like this since it's a Numbered Sequel to the first game. Until Nights 5 and 6 reveal that it's actually a prequel. You can also notice by the lower pay, the fact that the Phone Guy is still alive, and the fact that animatronics used to walk around in the day in the first game, while they currently do in the second.
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was billed a Mario Spinoff based on the Captain Toad levels of Super Mario 3D World. However, The Stinger depicts a modified opening of 3D World, showing that Captain Toad was chasing a green star into the Sprixie Kingdom Pipe moments after Mario and co. went in there to chase after Bowser, making Treasure Tracker a prequel.
- Armored Core V was initially thought of as a Continuity Reboot (like the 3 and 4 series before it), but Verdict Day features several surprise appearances of elements of the 4 universe and the Forgotten Day text story strongly imply the series is actually set in the future of the Armored Core 4 universe.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy is a stealth prequel to the original game, ending where the first one started: a nameless warrior outside Corneria with a crystal in hand. However, due to the Timey-Wimey Ball of the series, it's a sequel from the perspective of Garland.
- Might and Magic X is set in Ubisoft's rebooted Might & Magic verse called Ashan, and is consequently forbidden from having explicit science fantasy elements. It also drops some heavy hints that Ashan is just one world amongst the many in the old setting, including featuring a character from the mid-90s novels... who in those novels confirmed that the distant place he came from was an interstellar polity he served as an undercover operative for.
- Mother 3 plays with this in an unusual way. Its title makes it clear that it is considered a sequel to Mother 2 (known in America as EarthBound), and it carries over certain gameplay elements from the previous games, but plot-wise it is still mostly fits this trope. It takes place in a time and place very, very different from the previous game and it's not until later in the game that it becomes clear that this setting is even in the same universe as the previous one.
- For quite a long time, Black Ops Civil Service webcomic Skin Horse by Jeff Wells and Shaenon Garrity looked to be the spiritual successor to Garrity's earlier Mad Science comic Narbonic, but readers suspected it was actually a sequel. It was three and a half years before the connection was officially made. The actual degree of continued story is pretty marginal, but Word of God confirms the connection was planned from the beginning and not just Ascended Fanon.
- After the events of To Boldly Flee, The Nostalgia Critic series ended with the titular character Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence and Doug Walker decided to go on to film new content, including a show called Demo Reel. When the latter proved to be mostly unsuccessful, and Doug decided that he wasn't done with the critic just yet, he made an episode where it was revealed that something went wrong with the Critic's ascent and he ended up being trapped in purgatory as Donnie DuPre, the main character of Demo Reel.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated mostly seems to be an Alternate Continuity to any other Scooby-Doo cartoon with some Broad Strokes indicating similar events had happened. Then the series finale has the ancient evil beneath Cystral Cove being Ret Gone, leaving the gang in an alternate timeline where the only other one who remembers the difference is Harlan Ellison, because he remembers every alternate timeline. He then explains "This has all happened before", it's just unusual for them remember it, and they end up going on a cross-country mystery-solving roadtrip—complete with Laugh Track. The implication is that every work in the entire franchise has been the result of multiple Cosmic Retcons of the same sort of they had just caused.