Superior Successor

"While it's true that my work is based on you
I'm a supercomputer. You're like a TI-82!"

A fictional phenomenon where a younger generation, a younger sibling, or some other form of successor proves to be smarter, more capable, or much more powerful than the preceding generation.

This can be used in several ways:
  • A parent who has some sort of gift or talent gives birth to a child with even better gifts.
  • A successor masters work that his predecessor spent their entire life trying and failed to, or completes it in a much shorter time period.
  • The new generation is more accomplished or successful than the older, attaining a higher standard of living or prestige.
  • An inheritor takes what was left to them and improves upon it.
  • The successors destroy the Sealed Evil in a Can rather than re-sealing it.
  • They solve difficult moral, political or philosophical problems, or stop a Regularly Scheduled Evil, that their predecessors couldn't.
  • Or, more simply, they make better use of resources or powers their predecessors had, even if they are no more powerful (or perhaps even less powerful).

The easiest explanation is that the new person is better talented. Another is that they're able to approach old problems with new ideas and/or a fresh perspective. Perhaps the older generation specifically raised the new generation to surpass them (or to bring hope where they'd failed). Maybe the old generation just ran out of time.

Another explanation is that advancement doesn't need to be linear. It can be geometric or exponential, and when a sufficiently powerful discovery or achievement is made, it automatically boosts what comes after. For example, every single person reading this has likely surpassed the geniuses that discovered fire and the wheel.

Do not confuse for Replacement Mooks or cases where someone or something inadequate was swapped out for something better. Making machines more powerful or capable than the last, or replacing someone or something that was a failure, makes sense. What makes this phenomenon notable is that there's a smidge of uncertainty. At least ONE person (the predecessor or successor) has to achieve their talent. If the predecessor was manufactured or cultivated, the successor needs to achieve it, or vice-versa.

Super Trope to:

Often overlaps with

Contrast Super Prototype, Lost Technology, Ancient Astronauts and Stronger with Age.

The polar opposite of Sketchy Successor and Inadequate Inheritor.

Quite often a staple in Shounen and Comic Books. Is quite common in cases of a "Well Done, Son!" Guy.

Thanks to Mythology, this trope also happens to be Older Than Dirt.

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • In Dragon Ball:
    • Goku masters the Kamehameha in a few seconds despite the fact that it took its creator, Master Roshi, his whole life to figure it out.
    • Gohan, who is only half-Saiyan, is far more powerful than his full-blooded Saiyan father was at the same age. Much more powerful. Unfortunately, he got nerfed a bit in-between the Cell and Buu arcs, since he slacked off on his training.
    • After having spent most of his life training in hopes of becoming a Super Saiyan, Vegeta isn't entirely thrilled to learn that both his own son Trunks, and the late Goku's son Goten are both capable of going Super Saiyan without much effort before even turning 10.
    • Future Trunks either initially averts this or plays it straight, depending on the source: In the anime adaption, his master Gohan taught him to fight and tried to teach him to achieve Super Saiyan status well into Trunks' teenage years, but Trunks couldn't manage it until after Gohan's death; when he still fails to defeat Gohan's killers, his mother sends him back in time to find another way. However, in the manga, a flashback is shown of Gohan and Trunks sparring, and Trunks was shown to already be a Super Saiyan despite being a young child.
      • Regardless of origin story, he still ends up becoming more powerful than his mentor ever was. Turns out all that time he spent training in the past (the time spent in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber really helped) not only made Trunks powerful enough to take down not only the Androids who killed Gohan, but also Cell himself. (He was in his weakest form, but still).
  • In Bleach:
    • Ichigo's reiatsu surpasses any captain's. Urahara holds the record for gaining Bankai - 3 days, until Ichigo gets one in 2.5 days. He masters his Hollow mask better than the Vizards, his hollow powers make him more powerful than even Espada, and when the Big Bad develops Ichigo's power to a level capable of moving Aizen into stratospheric power levels, Ichigo exceeds anything Aizen can understand and curbstomps him.
    • The Kenpachi is the title given to the strongest shinigami in any given generation of captains. The First Kenpachi (Yachiru) was never surpassed until Zaraki finally defeats her in a fight to the death, allowing him to finally genuinely earn the title Kenpachi. Kenpachi Yachiru was better known as Captain Unohana.
    • Yhwach is the Quincy Progenitor King and no quincy is his equal in power. However, the quincy he appoints his successor is the one quincy he believes is capable of surpassing him, Uryuu, who survived a direct confrontation with Yhwach's power when aged 8, becoming the first quincy in history to survive The Purge with both life and power intact.
  • In Naruto, this is a recurring theme, encompassed in an overarching philosophy called the "Will of Fire". The Will of Fire essentially believes that love is the key to strength and peace, and one of the ways of expressing that is by allowing children to surpass their predecessors. This is showcased in several relationships:
    • All of the Legendary Sennin become stronger than their teacher, the Third Hokage.
    • Nagato surpasses (and later kills) his teacher, Jiraiya.
    • Minato (the Fourth Hokage) becomes stronger than Jiraiya and the Third Hokage
    • Itachi is later surpassed by his younger brother, Sasuke.
    • Zig-zagged with the title character often:
      • Naruto learned to use the Rasengan faster than his predecessors, but at first only in incomplete form. It took the three-year Time Skip for him to fully master it (which was about the length of time it took its creator to make it). However, after he masters it, he's able to make far, far more effective and unique variations of it. (See page picture.)
      • Perfected Sage Mode, when his mentor could only use an imperfect version. Later, he even learns to do it while minimizing its Necessary Drawback.
      • Naruto's parents, teachers, and senior pupil have all said they believe he is the one that will find a way to fix the Crapsack World of the Shinobi System.
      • Unlike the previous jinchuuriki of the Nine-Tails, Naruto finally manages to befriend and "tame" it.
      • The above examples finally become justified in Part II in several ways. It's learned that using shadow clones allows one to learn faster, and Naruto also happens to be the only one capable of making clones for as long and in as many quantities. This is because he has the Nine-Tails Chakra, but that's only because his hereditary clan are gifted with exorbitant amounts of chakra in the first place. Also, his father intentionally put a small gap in the Nine-Tails' seal to allow Naruto to slowly access and gain control of it. And finally, his very name was given to him by his predecessors to mark him as the Chosen One.
    • However, the introduction of the Ootsutsuki clan, who are the alien ancestors of the Uzumaki, Uchiha, Senju, Hyuuga, and Kaguya clans ruin this theme. As they have planetry level Jutsu, superior techology, and Naruto/Sasuke's ultimate powers isn't something new that they innovated or made for themselves, but old powers that an Ootsutsuki gave them. They couldn't even defeat an Ootsutsuki without these powers from the older generation. An example of this is Kaguya Ootsutsuki's Eighty Gods Vacuum Attack, which the Hyuuga clan's Eight Trigrams Vacuum Palm is obviously based off of, is stated to be far more powerful. Kaguya was also fairing better against Sasuke than Madara was.
      • However, Toneri Ootsutsuki who is a descendant of Kaguya that has no human lineage surpasses her in a way. As his Byakugan is able to evolve into a Tenseigan, well her Byakugan eyes didn't. But only pure blooded Ootsutsuki can achieve this development, while her earthling mixed descendants got vastly inferior over generations as result of the mixing with humans.
  • In Fairy Tail, it's constantly said that the younger guild generations are continuing to improve and surpass the old ones. In particular, Erza remarks that Natsu has equaled or even surpassed her.

Comic Books
  • The entire point to mutants in X-Men is that they're an evolutionary adaption. So naturally, mutants are stronger than their Muggle parents. Usually. But even so, quite a few mutants are more powerful than their superpowered parents:
    • Professor Charles Xavier is a very powerful telepath. David 'Legion' Haller just as powerful if less experienced/skilled, and has a host of other Psychic Powers at a similar level.
    • Evilutionary Biologists specifically target the Summers family for this reason. Cable and X-Man are powerhouses compared to their parents Cyclops and Jean Grey/Madelyne Pryor. note 
    • Vulcan, the youngest Summers brother, is far more powerful than either of his brothers.
    • Hope Summers, trained and raised by Cable, is one of the strongest mutants to ever live.
  • Within the Marvel universe, the Weapon Plus program had this going, though it skipped a few iterations of the project, since they weren't really complete. Weapon I was Captain America, who was essentially the most Badass Normal you could get without being considered superhuman. Weapon X is Wolverine, who is indestructible (though not unkillable).
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Franklin Richards is a Reality Warper who sometimes makes universes for fun. By comparison, his father is a genius stretchyguy and his mother turns invisible and makes forcefields.
    • His sister Valeria is said to be smarter than her father (despite being about three) and has more control over her forcefields than her mother.
  • In continuities where Superman has a biological child, that child typically grows up to be more powerful than he is. Especially if the mother was Wonder Woman.
  • Otto Octavius attempts to invoke this trope when he becomes the Superior Spider-Man. He ultimately learns that he is not Superior in any way.
  • In a more positive way, Spider-Girl (May "Mayday" Parker) is shown to be somewhat superior to her father as she is much more athletic than he was at her age, and her wall-crawling powers are more advanced than his.
  • It's been noted that Tim Drake, the third Robin, is by far a superior Robin to his predecessor, Jason Todd. Not only is he far more intelligent (Batman himself has said that Tim will overtake his detective skills one day), he also has better leadership abilities and fighting style.
    • Similarly, Damian Wayne, the fifth Robin, is a much more effective vigilante than his predecessor Stephanie Brown. His fighting skills are top-tier in the DC universe, since he was trained by the top fighters of the DC universe, and he is much more intelligent (he's at child prodigy levels, though still below Tim). And he's not even a teenager yet. Stephanie, though, was never given a fair shake thanks to her being used as a Batman Gambit to try to get Tim back in the saddle.
  • The Batman identity itself had this. With the same guy. Twice. Dick Grayson filled in for Bruce Wayne after Azrael did, and was far superior in that... he wasn't a psychopath. Not really hard, but it's there. After that short stint, Bruce reclaimed the Batman mantle, but eventually died in Final Crisis. This forced Dick to become Batman again, and he was shown to be better than Bruce at the job, his happier attitude meaning that police preferred him, and he had already surpassed Bruce in leadership skills since his Robin days.
    • In the Nightwing books, Dick and Bruce are constantly compared and contrasted regarding how they adjusted to their lives after their parents' deaths. Bruce took their deaths hard and absorbed the pain and horror of losing your entire world, becoming a darker human being in the process. But, because Bruce stepped in for Dick, Dick was saved from falling down the same path. Not only did becoming Robin give Dick a more immediate and direct outlet for his frustrations, but seeing a reflection of what could happen to him in Bruce allowed Dick to step away from that path. Bruce has, on several occasion, said that he's proud of his son for leading a happier, fuller life than he himself ever did.
    • Inverted with the fourth (or fifth) Batman, Damian Wayne. While physically he is superior, being Nigh Invulnerable, he himself admits that he will never measure up to either Dick or Bruce, and that he had to cheat in order to get where he is. He is probably one of the worst Batmen we've seen, to the point where Gotham went up in flames on his watch.
  • The first three generations of The Flash had this dynamic going, averted with the fourth though.
    • In more modern depictions, Barry Allen, the second Flash, is much faster than Jay Garrick. Jay was fast, but Barry could easily reach the speed of light. However, this is more due to Jay's age than anything else, since in his own Golden Age series, Jay could easily reach and surpass the speed of light.
    • Wally West, the first Kid flash and third Flash, is the fastest Flash, being much faster than Barry ever was, to the point that he can't go at his limit, otherwise reality itself would tear apart. Not only that, but he can steal speed from anyone and anything, and grant superspeed to others, powers Barry never attained.
  • Like with the Flashes, the Reverse-Flashes have this dynamic going for them.
    • Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash to Barry Allen, is much faster than the previous Reverse-Flash, the Rival (Jay Garrick's), and is able to effortlessly time-travel.
    • Hunter Zolomon/Zoom, the Reverse-Flash to Wally West, can at the very least match Wally at his peak. How fast is Hunter? Wally had to leech the speed of both Jay Garrick and Bart Allen just to even have a chance of keeping up with Hunter and still saw Zoom as a blur. Wally was moving at the speed of light. The one downside is that Hunter can't use the more elaborate speed abilities that other speedsters use, since he technically doesn't have speed-based powers, but time-based powers. Regardless, he is at the very least one of the top two fastest beings in existence, with Wally barely beating him out with a trick that he can't pull anymore, so in terms of consistency, Zoom is the actual fastest man alive.
  • Thanos is a pretty badass character and all, being an absolute Physical God. But his son, Thane, is probably one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe, with just one of his two powers. His left hand has the power to rewrite reality. While he's untrained, this just means it kills everything within a certain radius of him. His right hand can trap anything in a state of "living death".
  • The Mighty Thor: Odin, All-Father of the Aesir, has been the most powerful god Asgardian for eons. Odin's son, Thor, is exceptionally powerful for his relative youth but is nowhere near his father's league. Odin has groomed Thor to one day be his heir, but due to the Ragnarok cycle, Asgard would usually be destroyed before that could happen. However, one incarnation of Thor (the one followed in the book) at one point managed to succeed Odin after the All-Father found a premature end. Thor not only attained his father's all-powerful Odinforce (renamed the Thorforce), but also Rune Magic and other sources of incalculable power. Thor used this power to destroy "Those Who Sit Above In Shadow", parasitic cosmic entities that feed from the life forces of the Asgardians via the Ragnarok cycle. By doing so, he freed Asgard after countless iterations of a Vicious Cycle and became perhaps the most supreme Asgardian to ever exist.

Fan Works
  • In The Bridge:
    • Godzilla Jr. is more powerful than his father. Godzilla Sr. could barely hold his own against Xenilla and needed M.O.G.U.E.R.A.'s help to beat him, while Junior can fight evenly against Xenilla. The author explained that Junior is more powerful than his father due to growing up into his mutation from childhood, as oppose to mutating as an adult.
    • By their very nature, each member of the Mothra line is more powerful than her predecessor due to Genetic Memory to draw on all the previous Mothras' experience, and inheriting the predecessor's power. The one in this fic, Mothra Lea, is vastly more powerful since she was born from a union between the previous Mothra and Battra (Mothra usually reproduces asexually), meaning she also inherited Battra's experience and power.

Literature
  • It's feared that this could happen in The Sword of Truth. Richard Rahl, the successor to a powerful line of mages, who also happens to be a War Wizard (capable of using both the "good" and "bad" sides of magic naturally), and the wielder of the Sword of Truth marries the Mother Confessor, who have the power of Compelling Voice. A child with these traits (although War Wizardry usually isn't heriditary) would be bad enough, but it's also stated that male Confessors always abuse their powers without fail.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Deep Thought is created as the most advanced computer in history in order to provide its creators the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, Everything. After receiving its task, Deep Thought tells the beings to come back in a few billion years. They do, at which point Deep Thought provides them an answer: 42. Seeing that they were disappointed, Deep Thought tells them that the Ultimate Answer is meaningless without the Ultimate Question. However, Deep Thought is not powerful enough to come up with it. Instead, it helps them design an even more powerful computer called Earth.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Tywin Lannister is clearly this. His father Tytos Lannister was a gentle, kind and pleasant man who lent generously but was perceived as weak, meaning some of his vassals refused to pay him back, leading to the Reyne-Tarbeck rebellion. His son and heir, Tywin Lannister, defeated them on his own initiative. When the remaining Reynes hid in their underground fortress of Castamere, Tywin had the place sealed and flooded. He goes on to become one of the most feared men in Westeros.

Live-Action TV
  • Star Trek:
  • In Game of Thrones Tommen is considered this, for reasons both cynical and idealistic. From a cynical perspective he's younger and less headstrong, and will be easier to manipulate. Idealistically, he's a nice boy who's actually interested in doing a good job, while his predecessor was a sadistic, cowardly, idiot with no interest in the position beyond what it let him get away with. Objectively, it's hard for Tommen not to be better than his older brother - though whether he will be a great king remains to be seen, as for the moment he's an underaged boy and controlled by regents.
  • In The Twilight Zone 2002 episode "It's Still A Good Life", Anthony Fremont's daughter Audrey is an even greater Reality Warper than him. She can bring back things that have been erased from existence, which Anthony cannot do.

Multiple Media
  • Star Wars:
    • Luke Skywalker eventually surpasses Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker in both power and achievement, becoming the greatest Jedi in history. But only in the Extended Universe do other authors actually invoke this trope.
    • Sith operate exclusively on this principle, seeing as how they follow the rule of Klingon Promotion. It's also their greatest downfall, compared to the cooperative Jedi.
      • Ultimately Defied, however. One Dark Lord once speculated that if the principles behind the "Rule of Two" were successful, eventually there would come a Dark Lord with no need for successors. This was eventually realized in Emperor Palpatine, who became the most powerful Sith in history. Palpatine's plans largely revolved around the belief that he would attain Immortality and amass enough power that no one would ever threaten him. The three apprentices he trained (Maul, Tyrannus and Vader) never even came close to achieving his level of power and he never bothered to teach them, or anyone else, the majority of what he knew. Palpatine once off-handedly remarked that Vader would succeed him in strength, but his loss to Obi-Wan on Mustafar ensured that would never happen.

Mythology & Religion
  • In Enûma Eliš, the Annunaki grew smarter, stronger, and more magically potent with each generation, culminating in Marduk or Ashur, Depending on the Writer.
  • In Greek Mythology:
    • Chronos was more powerful than his father Uranus, whom he overthrew.
    • Zeus and the Olympians were more powerful than their parents the Titans.
    • Zeus feared that this would happen to him a few times. Notably, when it was prophesied that Metis would father him a child that would overthrow him, Zeus ate her and later himself gave birth to Athena.
    • It was also prophesied that Thetis' son would be more powerful than his father. Upon learning this, Zeus and Poseidon, who had both desired her, realized sleeping with her would be a bad idea, so they married her off to the mortal king Peleus. She gave birth to Achilles, who was a great warrior more powerful than his father, but no threat to the Olympians.
    • Finally Subverted with the Giants: they were created by Gaia to overthrow the Olympians, but, after getting an initial scare because the Giants were more powerful, the Olympians won.
  • In The Bible, John the Baptist foreshadows Jesus's coming by stating that the next prophet will be far greater than himself.

Videogames
  • God of War:
    • Like his mythical counterpart, Zeus is afraid of fathering a child more powerful than himself, since he overthrew his father Chronos, and Chronos overthrew his father Uranus. This was why he tried to kill Kratos, and thus it becomes a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
    • Kratos himself takes the place of his master, Ares, as the new war god, and proves less controllable and more dangerous than Ares ever was.
  • Metal Gear: Big Boss gets his name by defeating his mentor, The Boss.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Commander Shepard succeeds where their mentor and superior officer, Captain/Admiral Anderson failed, becoming the first human Spectre.
    Anderson: My chance came and went. It's your time now.
    • Tali'Zorah can potentially take her father's place on the Admiralty Board and succeed where he failed: by taking back Rannoch, the quarian homeworld.
    • Krogan in general are all about this.
    • Aria T'Loak took Omega from her predecessor and transformed it from a generic Wretched Hive into the de-facto capital of the Terminus Systems.
    • Zig-zagged with the current cycle and their Precursors. In many ways, the current galactic civilization is highly less-advanced. In others, however, they have major advantages. This generation (thanks largely to Shepard) is the one that finally completes the Crucible.
      • Especially since the current cycle was supposed to have ended some time ago, but the remaining Protheans have sabotaged Plan A.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 2 at first appears to play this straight; the "Toy" versions of the main robots have several highly-touted features, and the original cast are quite literally broken-down relics. But then you learn that this is a prequel. The subversion comes in when the Toy robots are decommissioned and destroyed when management concludes they were malfunctioning, and the main cast are rebuilt. And they grow a lot smarter between the second game and the first. Especially Freddy himself.
  • In the backstory of Final Fantasy V, the Four Warriors of Dawn defeated the Big Bad but could only seal him away. When the seal breaks, as seals tend to do, the player's party manages to destroy him for good. Two of the player characters namely, Bartz and Krile are descended from members of the previous group.

Web Video