A franchise or series has an entry end on a major climactic moment or shocking event that indicates that things are going down in the next installment. Yes, coming up next is a huge shake-up in the Status Quo, or the Final Battle, or the answers to one of the biggest mysteries of the series.
Except... no. The next video game, book, or film isn't about any of that. Actually, the next few stories aren't about any of that. Instead of a proper sequel, we get prequels, interquels, spinoffs, and remakes. The creators just don't want to resolve the storyline they left their audience on years ago, and so leave them staring at a Cliffhanger Wall.
The reasons for this may vary. Maybe the creators just want to flesh out other elements of the world first, to better setup the resolution. Perhaps they have a serious case of writer's block and can't think of a satisfying resolution, so they're stalling until they can. Or they wrote themselves into a corner, but like the story too much to actually retcon the events.
To qualify for this trope, a series should have a minimum of two entries released after the cliffhanger installment that don't pick up where that story left off, or at least some combination of a prolonged Sequel Gap and a plot unresolving entry. Either way, the creators must have released other works in that franchise afterwards. If they didn't, you've just been Left Hanging instead. Can overlap with Non-Linear Sequel if a series that started off going in chronological order starts to permanently jump around the timeline.
Subtrope of Anachronic Order. Can overlap with Sequel Gap, where a significant amount of time passes between any releases. Compare and contrast with Stillborn Franchise, as the franchise does continue, but it nevertheless neglects to further the storyline. Not to be confused with Capcom Sequel Stagnation, where the intervening time is filled with a multitude of Updated Rereleases rather than any new stories.
- Ever since Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force was quietly canceled in 2013 (in the middle of a chapter, no less), the primary timeline of the Lyrical Nanoha series has never advanced past its last chapter. Instead, the creators have only published interquels like ViVid Strike! and outright alternate timelines, like the Reflection and Detonation movies and the INNOCENT games.
- The Fast and the Furious: The third film in the franchise, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, was followed by three interquels —Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6— leaving it chronologically the last film for nine years. It wasn't until the release of Furious 7 that the timeline moved forward again.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe films have generally been released in chronological order. However, Avengers: Infinity War ended on a massive cliffhanger in which Thanos successfully uses the power of the Infinity Stones to wipe out half of all life in the universe. Between that film and Avengers: Endgame, there are two movies (Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel) set before Infinity War.
- George R. R. Martin released the last mainline A Song of Ice and Fire novel A Dance with Dragons in 2011. Since then he's released no fewer than six books set in the universe but fans are still waiting for him to release the last two planned mainline novels The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
- Foundation and Earth ends with half of the path to the Second Empire yet to come, and reflections about how humanity might have to face new threats. However, Asimov never continued further, and instead wrote two prequel novels.
- The Kingkiller Chronicle has not received a proper sequel since 2011. Instead, Patrick Rothfuss seems content with publishing side stories, like the short stories "How Old Holly Came To Be" and "The Lightning Tree", the novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things, and even a podcast mini-series — all while assuring the waiting fans that he is working on the next (and final) full installment of the Kvothe trilogy.
- Lampshaded in Sledge Hammer!. At the end of the first season, the producers were sure the show would be cancelled so they decided to literally go out with a bang. At the end of the last show of the season, Sledge accidentally detonated a nuclear bomb. Then, much to everyone's surprise, the series was renewed. The first episode of Season 2 started with a repeat of the season one ending where Sledge blew himself up, before showing a "Sledge Hammer: The Early Years!" Title Card; the remainder of the series would nominally take place five years before the events of season one.
- For 18 years, the last entry chronologically in the Star Trek franchise was the final "TNG" film, Star Trek: Nemesis. After that, the franchise saw the Ultimate Universe "Kelvinverse" films based on a reboot of the Original Series, before returning to the "Prime" timeline with the Star Trek: Discovery television series. Even then, Discovery was a prequel to the original series. At least until the third season, which would Time Skip to the late 32nd century, moving the timeline forward once more. Star Trek: Picard, set several decades after Nemesis, would also debut around the same time.
- After the cancellation of Twin Peaks left the show with a massive cliffhanger, David Lynch decided to follow up the show with a movie. Infamously, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me decided to focus on the events leading up to the series premiere, barely alluding to the show's finale, leaving events unresolved for twenty-five years before The Return finally put it to rest. Sort of.
- Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere had quite a mindfuck of an ending (basically casting doubt that anything that happened in the game had any basis in reality), and no game from the core "Strangereal" continuity of Ace Combat has ever advanced the timeline beyond the third game to clear up just what exactly happened afterwards.
- The Assassin's Creed zig-zags this quite frequently; the 5th game Assassin's Creed III is followed by Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag which focuses on the previous protagonist's grandfather, before Assassin's Creed: Rogue takes place between the two games note , the next two games occur chronologically in order, before Assassin's Creed Origins depicts events that occur around a millennium before the events of the first game, with the subsequent Assassin's Creed: Odyssey occuring 400 years before thatnote , amd Assassin's Creed: Valhalla following, set between Origins and I. This is zig-zagged because this only applies to the historical segments with the modern day segments continuing in chronological order.
- Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, the chronologically last Castlevania game ended with two possible endings, one of which had Soma lead a normal life, and one which saw him take up Dracula's mantle. The franchise produced only prequels after that, before being completely rebooted with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
- Devil May Cry: The second game ended with the protagonist, Dante, in hell and without a way to escape back to the human world. The following game Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening was a prequel to the series. The following game after that used to be an example as well, taking place between 1 and 2, but was retconned into being a sequel to 2, though it still did not explain how Dante made it back out of hell, which was simply given a Hand Wave in a Devil May Cry 5 prequel book.
- Half-Life 2 is legendary for having its "Episode 2" expansion (2007) end on one of the most well-known cliffhanger endings in gaming, with developer Valve promising that an "Episode 3" would be coming soon. It didn't. It would be followed-up after 12 years with the interquel Half-Life: Alyx, which only partially resolved the cliffhanger with an In-Universe Retcon of Eli Vance's death via Alyx's deal with G-Man that essentially moved past the cliffhanger by mere minutes to end on yet another cliffhanger; this one once again promising that Half-Life 3, the whole deal about Aperture Science's Borealis ship, the impending Combine reprisal against Earth, and now rescuing Alyx from the G-Man will get addressed. Eventually.
- Metal Gear: Metal Gear Solid 2 ended in a big Twist Ending concerning the overarching villains, the Patriots. Instead of explaining right away, Kojima decided to make the next game, Metal Gear Solid 3, a prequel, itself followed by another prequel by another production team. MGS3 did not explain the ending of 2 in any way, and in fact seemed to contradict it, until Metal Gear Solid 4 came out and revealed the Twist Ending was a total lie.
- Metroid Fusion ends with Samus causing the destruction of the B.S.L. station and the planet SR-388 in order to stop both the Federation's secret cloning research on Metroids and the spread of the deadly X Parasites, leaving her future relationship with the Federation unknown beyond an in-universe acknowledgement that she will most likely have to face trial for her actions. Fusion would remain the last chronological entry in the Metroid series for almost two decades (2002-2021), with the time between it and Metroid Dread being filled with a bevy of interquels (five Metroid Prime games and Metroid: Other M), remakes (Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid: Samus Returns), and even a pinball game.
- The Ogre Battle series kept hinting that there was going to be a confrontation with The Man Behind the Man; who was behind the troubles of all the games. Actually, two of them, the Sage Rashidi and the country of Lodis. And... they don't.
- The third game in the Professor Layton series, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, ended on a To Be Continued sequel hook about mysterious happenings at Luke's home, but the next three games ended up being a prequel trilogy. In an odd turn of events, the timeline does move forward after this, with Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy, but said game is a distant sequel starring Layton's daughter whose story doesn't address that plot point at all.
- Quake series: the last canonical game is Quake IV (2004), which ends with the sergeant telling Kane "Kane, you have new orders". The next games in the seriesnote would be Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (2006), a prequel Gaiden Game based on the Enemy Territory series. Quake Wars would be followed by Quake Champions (2017), a Massive Multiplayer Crossover Hero Shooter with Arena FPS features, and A proper sequel to IV has yet to be developed.
- Between Resident Evil Code: Veronica and Resident Evil 4, there was Resident Evil 0 (a prequel to the first game), as well as a remake of the first game and several spin-offs like Gun Survivor and Outbreak.
- With the exception of the 3D games (one of them being the Distant Finale) and SSVI (Dream Match Game), all the Samurai Shodown games are set before the events of SSII.
- Canonically-wise, the last Serious Sam game in the timeline is 2005's Serious Sam II. Afterwards there have been spinoffs, lots of ports and remakes and two mainline prequels in 2011's Serious Sam 3: BFE and 2020's Serious Sam 4, but a sequel of IInote has yet to materialize.
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, the third game in the series, takes place 400 years after the events of the first two games. It gained notoriety for having a rather infamous plot twist that breaks the immersion of the hi-tech Space Opera setting the entire franchise has built up, and also has a highly confusing ending that is lampshaded by the characters themselves. The general negative response of the game's events resulted in the fourth game, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, being a prequel to the entire franchise, and the fifth game, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, is an Interquel that takes place 200 years after the second game. This still leaves plenty of room in the timeline to develop future installments before the developers have to address the plot twist of the 3rd game.
- Street Fighter III is considered the last chapter of the Street Fighter story. Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter V both occur after the events of Street Fighter II, but before III, even though the very tight time frame of events between games lead many to consider it more as Retcon of the events of III.
- No games go past Suikoden 3 in the Suikoden series; despite its loose ends, all subsequent games are Alternate Universe or prequels.
- Valkyria Chronicles 2 indicated that there was going to be a second war with the East European Imperial Alliance; the villains of the first game. The next two numbered entries took place at the same time as the first game; Valkyria Revolution was an Alternate Universe Gaiden Game.