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Even Better Sequel

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"Halo 2 is a lot like Halo 1, except it's Halo 1 on fire going 120 miles per hour through a hospital zone chased by helicopters and ninjas. And the ninjas are all on fire too."
Jason Jones, Official Xbox Magazine

The rule usually holds that the second work in a series, decent though it may be, simply can't stand up to the glory of the first. Indeed, for many a series, when all is said and done, a consensus forms that First Installment Wins.

The exception to this conventional rule is the Even Better Sequel, which are largely (if not unanimously) thought to top the already-good original. In many cases, this is either the result of or comes along with a genre shift, as instead of just trying to top the original, the makers will be trying something entirely new (see the Alien and Terminator examples). In addition, this seems to be common with sequels to superhero films. This may be because genre conventions demand (or at least, strongly encourage) a Super Hero Origin story in the first movie, which takes up a good chunk of the plot and screen time with a relatively uninteresting everyman character before we even get a chance to see any super-heroics. Sequels tend to work well if any change is organic, or a plot was built up in the previous installments.

It's possible that in the musical world, Even Better Sequel is the rule rather the exception, considering that an artist's first album (though still good) may have been recorded when they were still trying to figure out their style. Or it's simply that their first album was produced cheaply: all in one take using cheap instruments and cheap equipment. If a label isn't sure that a musician is a good investment, they aren't going to give him/her the best stuff to work with. A successful first album can mean access to better equipment, an instrument upgrade and getting more studio time: all of which can contribute to the second album just having better quality sound and therefore being better, even if it's essentially the same as the first one.

Also relatively common in video games, where the sequel is often built on the technological and fictional foundation of the first. This significantly reduces the time needed to come up with or adapt new technology or build the game's world, and allowing the developers to focus on enhancing the things that work and prune the things that don't. Not to mention having a library of visual, sound and script assets stored up, making development more like putting together a puzzle than like creating a world. Sequels in any medium may also benefit from the higher budget and greater creative freedom that are afforded to a proven franchise, provided the beancounters have the good sense to refrain from executive meddling. This also applies to literature, where an author's work is generally regarded to improve after their first published efforts. In fact, prejudice against sequels typically applies only to film, whether or not such an attitude is justified.

If the sequel becomes so influential and successful that it shapes future installments afterward, then you have a Franchise Codifier.

Not to be confused with Surprisingly Improved Sequel, where the sequel is "even better" only because the original wasn't all that good.

When it happens within individual seasons, that is Growing the Beard.

Compare Sequel Displacement, Sequel Escalation, More Popular Spin-Off. Contrast Contested Sequel, Sequelitis, Sophomore Slump. See also Remade and Improved.

A No Recent Examples rule applies to this trope. Examples shouldn't be added until six months after the sequel is released, to avoid any knee-jerk reactions.

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Other Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • CLANNAD ~After Story~ consistently gets better reviews than the excellent first season of the anime, thanks to a series of Wham Episodes and Character Development in the second half. It also frequently tops lists of the best anime series ever made.
  • The first Inuyasha anime was widely loved even with all the filler, but the last part of the manga (that hadn't yet come out when the anime ended) was shown in InuYasha: The Final Act, which was much more straightforward.
  • While the original Mobile Suit Gundam was an Acclaimed Flop (in fact, it was cancelled due to falling ratings... but became a smash hit on reruns, go figure), six years later, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was so popular that it spawned a direct sequel just two weeks after it was completed — a feat yet unsurpassed by any other Gundam installment. To this day, many Gundam fans consider Zeta the best entry in the saga.
  • While Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo is well-liked among Lupin fans, it's the second Lupin film, The Castle of Cagliostro, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, that's achieved widespread mainstream critical acclaim on both sides of the pacific.
  • A variant example with the Naruto series. The series itself has been continuous since the beginning, and thus has never had need of a true sequel. However, after the drought of Filler (over eighty continuous episodes, nearly two year's worth) after the animated episodes Overtook the Manga, there was a Retool to coincide with the series' Time Skip, leading into Naruto: Shippuuden. Much like the manga it derives from, it jumps in quality to become much more mature, relying far less on toilet humor and greatly emphasizing Character Development. The producers also learned their lesson from the Great Filler Drought, interjecting a filler arc in between every 1-2 Canon story arcs so that there's no chance of Overtaking the Manga. These filler arcs are worth mentioning, in that they are actual story arcs of fairly decent quality, unlike the pre-Time Skip episodes which were mostly stand-alone slapstick.
  • The Patlabor TV series (a separate continuity from the first OVA and the movies) was consistently decent, but the second OVA (which followed in the same continuity as the TV show) was much better, upping not just the production values but also the humor and the drama.
  • While the first season of the Lyrical Nanoha series was unexpectedly good (given its original premise), it's the second one that remains the most popular among the five televised so far, to the point it's used as the benchmark by which all others are judged.
  • Evangelion 1.0 was very well-received, but a common criticism was the fact that it retreaded familiar territory. While Evangelion 2.0 started off in the same manner, it stood apart from its predecessor by going completely Off the Rails and taking the story of Evangelion in a bold, if frightening, new direction.
  • Most fans agree that the second season of the Slayers anime, Slayers NEXT, is superior in all aspects, from story to character development, to the first season. Unfortunately, it declined shortly after that.
  • Rosario + Vampire Season II (not to be confused with the anime's Capu2) is regarded as much better than the original manga, thanks to a Darker and Edgier plot, amazing Art Evolution, more Character Development and The Hero Tsukune being more badass than he was in season I.
  • While the first season of Sailor Moon is undoubtedly a classic, Sailor Moon R and Sailor Moon S are the most praised among critics and fans. Unfortunately, they were followed by the panned Sailor Moon Super S and polarizing Sailor Moon Stars.
  • Out of all the various sequels and spin-offs of Saint Seiya, Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas is the most well-liked and second most popular after the original manga itself, due to being extremely well-drawn with a tight-plotted and exciting story, as well as improving some flaws the original had, such as making Saori's counterpart Sasha more of an Action Girl and Seiya's counterpart Tenma less of an Idiot Hero.
  • Season 1 of Sonic X is So Okay, It's Average at best. Season 2 introduced some more focused plotlines and more Character Development for the cast. The Darker and Edgier season 3 went even further and is widely considered by fans to be what the show should've been like from the beginning, with a solid Myth Arc and an awesome new Big Bad.
  • Stand by Me Doraemon 2 is considered by most Doreaemon fans and moviegoers an improvement from the original for having a more cohesive storyline, a beautiful relationship between Noby and his grandmother and lot of funny, heartfelt and tearjerking moments.
  • Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust (2000) got better reviews than the original Vampire Hunter D (1985), and is generally considered to be an improvement.
  • Depending on who you ask, Dragon Ball Z is this to Dragon Ball. Some people prefer it due to the more serious tone, the intense, over-the-top action, and higher stakes that only escalate with each arc, or simply because it gained a following in North America before its predecessor, and was thus the first part of the franchise most fans were exposed to. On the other hand, there are those who prefer Dragon Ball for its humor, its focus on adventure, and its martial arts battles that are more grounded by comparison.
  • The overall East Asian demographic (including domestic Japan) agree that, of the Mashin Hero Wataru Series, Wataru 2 holds the best visuals, character/mechanical designs and story execution fit for its world setting. To sum it up, while the first installment was fun, Wataru 2 was fabulously fun.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Mighty Little Defenders is the sequel to War of Invention. People tend to prefer Mighty Little Defenders due to it returning to the normal art style, having a better plot, and having more unique ideas.

    Comic Books 
  • Brian Michael Bendis's well-done run on Moon Knight was followed by Warren Ellis and Brian Wood's run which proceeded to basically reinvent Moon Knight from the ground up and is considered by many to be a modern classic.
  • Grant Morrison's New X-Men revitalized the X-Men and was largely praised by critics and fans, even after it hit some skids towards its end due to Executive Meddling. It was followed by Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men which was even more critically acclaimed, single-handedly rescued the X-Books after the tepid reception of House of M, and avoided the meddling that Morrison's run encountered.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is widely considered to be even better than James Roberts' previous work on The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers.

    Fan Works 
  • Hottie 4: Even Better Sequel, the sequel to Hottie 3: The Best Fan Fic in the World.
  • Intercom is a considerably rare example of a Fan Sequel being deemed better than the source material. Nonetheless, the story builds on the premise of Inside Out, continues to explore different directions in which to take the many characters, introduces new characters that aren't carbon copies of previous characters, shows the consequences of the film, and has a new premise which isn't just a straight rehash of the original.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ever since they've finally started Growing the Beard, DreamWorks Animation's rise in quality has also affected their sequels.
    • While the first Shrek movie is still regarded as a classic animated comedy, Shrek 2 is the most popular of all the Shrek franchise's four main movies. It had a bigger plot, much better animation, more and improved action scenes, several new characters (including Puss in Boots) and was a bigger smash hit during the time it ran in theaters than its predecessor.
    • The Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots (2011) got good remarks, but Puss in Boots: The Last Wish surpassed them handily by retaining the same comedy and likeable characters while adding surprisingly deep themes and the occasional Art Shift.
    • Kung Fu Panda 2 has been widely considered to be even better than the original, which is already considered one of DreamWorks's best films to date. This is because, as mentioned in the opening paragraph of this page about Alien and Terminator, it tried something new. The last story was about Po coming into his own and learning to be the Dragon Warrior. This film was about saving the world and finding out about Po's past. It wasn't a rehash of the same thing at all, which helped it a lot. Also, like the Terminator and Alien sequels, it featured a shift towards more action, which was available now that Po had completed the training from the first movie. No Bag of Spilling here! Likewise, there is more drama as Po learns some hard truths about the apparent fate of his family and his people and must struggle to come to terms with it. In turn, it sets the stage for the next with Po's biological father, part of a hidden village of giant pandas, realizing his son is alive. It also gave the Furious Five a much greater chance to actually show off their abilities against actual enemies and help Po in battle, something they didn't get to do in the first movie.
    • The Madagascar films received a giant jump in quality with each sequel installment. This was partly because the main cast's struggle to get home gave the series a structure, allowing it to conclude in an emotionally believable way that builds on the characters' growth and change with the third film.
    • How to Train Your Dragon 2 is considered by many animation fans and fans of the first film to be slightly better than the first, as it not only improves upon the flaws of the original (e.g. the derivative yet well-executed plot), but also expands the franchise's own world, and the characters that live in it (Hiccup in particular).
    • The Croods: A New Age earned as good if not better remarks than the original, mostly for giving more focus to the comedy.
  • The original My Little Pony: Equestria Girls wasn't bad, but it had its fair share of Broken Base, with complaints directed at the setting, cliché story, and an underwhelming antagonist. The sequel Rainbow Rocks was better received. Every aspect lacking in the original was improved to some degree; Sunset and Twilight get more character development, the story is stronger, the songs are better (and worked into the story more smoothly), the animation is improved, and the villains are memorable.
  • The Rescuers Down Under is often considered to be better-paced, better-written, and in general a superior movie to the original The Rescuers, though there is still some debate within the fandom about that.
  • As far as Rotten Tomatoes goes, critics have rated The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water more highly than its predecessor, The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie, which was also generally well-received.
  • Starship Troopers: Invasion, compared to the previous two, at least. The boarding of the John A. Warden manages to feel more suspenseful than the second movie's failed attempt at being Aliens, and even the brief screen-time afforded to the Marauder is better than what the third movie did with them. The bugs haven't looked this good since the original, either.
  • Most people agree that Toy Story 2 ended up better than the original. Many also consider that Toy Story 3 managed to top them both. The first two films have a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the third one has 99% (although it also received a lot more reviews in total). Toy Story 4 was more contested, though by the series' standards the reception was still positive overall (97%), and many were surprised how much it matched up to its predecessors.
  • The first of Disney's Winnie the Pooh featurettes, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, received critical praise when it was released in 1966. The second featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, released two years later, was received even better for its larger scope, memorable sequences, and the additions of Piglet and Tigger to the cast, topped off with an Academy Award win.
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West has definitely created a Broken Base, but there's a good portion of the fanbase who see it as better than the original An American Tail. It certainly has a lot more going for it than say, the sequels to other Don Bluth classics- it has some very solid animation for the time, and a few genuinely great songs.
  • Some have considered Cars 3 to be a better film than Cars, due to having even more Character Development, improved writing, a well-written female protagonist, as well as completely ignoring the events of the first sequel.
  • Some consider Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation to be the best of the franchise because of its colorful animation and reduced reliance on potty humor. This is due to Genndy Tartakovsky having more creative control over this film than its predecessors.
  • Some feel that Finding Dory managed to top Finding Nemo due to having Dory as the main character, its even more emotional story, and being one of the funniest Pixar movies overall.
  • The Secret Life of Pets 2 has been hailed by many to be better than its predecessor. Helps that its audience score is in the low 90's compared to the first film's 62%.
  • Many fans consider Sing 2 to be superior to the original, due to having a more memorable, fleshed-out antagonist, a consistently strong soundtrack, and the heartwarming character development that many of the returning characters have gained since the last film.

  • Homer's Odyssey is the even-more-famous sequel to The Iliad, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • Many A Song of Ice and Fire regard A Storm of Swords as better than the first two books. The third and fourth seasons of Game of Thrones adapted A Storm of Swords, and are likewise considered the strongest seasons of the show.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the latter being a fun boy's novel with some Coming of Age themes. The former delves more deeply into the world of the Deep South, with biting social commentary and powerful Character Development.
  • The Dark Tower really starts going with the second and third entries in the series; the first book being a compilation of five separate works ends up being a weirder and weaker installment compared to the next three books.
  • The third Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is generally seen as the best, or at least better than the first two.
  • The first two Discworld novels are enjoyable if somewhat generic fantasy-parodies. After that, Terry Prachett found his voice as an author, and the quality of the series continued to improve.
  • The first two books in The Dresden Files were Strictly Formula and didn't do much, even if they were enjoyable reads. As the series continued, it got deeper, began playing with tropes a lot more, deviating from formula, and developing characters beyond the stock modern fantasy character archetypes. Fans of the series will often warn new readers that the first two or even three books can be a rough entry into the series.
  • The original trilogy of Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series is a competent Dark Fantasy work, even if it brings little originality to the world. The three books that follow it, however, create much deeper characters and digs deeper into the setting's unique aspects. Each one is also a minor Genre Shift; while each book retains the Dark Fantasy that the trilogy played straight, Best Served Cold mixes in a swashbuckling action story, The Heroes is a war novel, and Red Country is a Western.
  • While Gardens of the Moon drawns many readers into the Malazan Book of the Fallen, it's agreed upon that the second volume, Deadhouse Gates, has even better writing, characterization and a better developed plot; and for many readers volume three, Memories of Ice, tops the second.
  • The Hobbit's sequel, The Lord of the Rings, is much more mature in tone and epic in breath with more dynamic characters and a great deal more at stake. It's partly a matter of genre, as well: The Hobbit was very clearly literature aimed at children, while The Lord of the Rings was a massive enterprise, intended to create an entire mythology.
  • While Logan's Run is a good book, Logan's World is much better seeing as it has an actual coherent plot and flows from one scene to the next. Plus it shows Logan is an even bigger badass then you were originally led to believe.
  • The first novel of the Honor Harrington series, On Basilisk Station, is a thoroughly enjoyable Military Science Fiction novel, but its sequel, The Honor of the Queen, is where the series really starts to find its stride.
  • Nancy Kress's Probability trilogy got better with each book (in contrast to her better-known Beggars in Spain series, which did somewhat the opposite). The final novel, Probability: Space was the award-winner, and many people refer to the series by the name of the last book.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Most fans agree that the series gets better with each book, as there is steady Character Development for the heroes and the plot becomes more complex.
    • The Heroes of Olympus: While the second book Son of Neptune was well-received (especially in comparison to the lackluster The Lost Hero), the third book Mark of Athena is even better with Percy and Annabeth reuniting and the Seven finally working as a group. The fourth book The House of Hades continues the trend and is often considered the best, due to its excellent Character Development, a truly insane Chekhov's Armory pulling from pretty much every corner of the story so far (Think Bob and Calypso), and the journey through Tartarus everyone had been waiting for.
  • David Brin's first Uplift trilogy - Sundiver is decent, but Startide Rising blows it out of the water (no pun intended), and swept the major SF awards.
  • Don Winslow's novel The Cartel is an improvement over The Power of The Dog. The stories are great but The Cartel being more about revenge and had more focus on its characters makes the novel much better.
  • The End of Atlantis is a good and solid enough Alice, Girl from the Future book, but there’s nothing outstanding about it. The City Without Memory, its Immediate Sequel, has a much more original premise, gets a Darker and Edgier upgrade from the usual fluffy adventure, and has colorful characters and extremely intriguing plotlines. Not only is it viewed as a ton of improvement over The End of Atlantis, but it’s considered by some the best book of the entire series.
  • Rats, Bats and Vats: Many readers feel that the Courtroom Antics, the villains' comeuppance, and the light shed on the non-battlefield parts of the fictional world make for better reading than the events of the first book.
  • The Grisha Trilogy is a well-received and commercially successful YA novel. Its sequel/Spin-Off, Six of Crows, however, is largely considered an improvement in all fronts, with a bit more action and well-developed characters. The second book of the duology, Crooked Kingdom, is considered still an improvement over the first, with deeper character, bolder schemes, and even more action.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It's not an uncommon opinion that the prequel series, Better Call Saul, is actually better than Breaking Bad, which is no small accomplishment considering Breaking Bad is widely considered a television masterpiece, although it's also a common opinion that Better Call Saul is "merely" just as good. Fans will point to its memorable Ensemble Cast, further development of secondary characters in Breaking Bad, and the argument that Jimmy/Saul is a more poignant and likable protagonist whose moral fallings are more complex than Walt's, and thus has a more pathos-filled Tragedy. Since it's conclusion, it has seen comparisons to the above mentioned The Godfather Part II, as a work that follows up a medium-defining masterpiece and, against all initial expectations, manages to be almost universally seen as equal, if not better.
  • The Blackadder series is subject to this, as Blackadder II is generally regarded as being better than The Black Adder. The first season was good in its own right,note  just not as good as the second in which Ben Elton took over writing duties from Rowan Atkinson, and the character of Blackadder became the iconic, witty Deadpan Snarker. This could also be considered a case of Growing the Beard. It continued with Blackadder the Third — which some fans consider slightly better than the second series, though others consider it a slight step down — and was definitely continued with Blackadder Goes Forth, which is near-universally regarded as the best Blackadder series.
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a rare prequel example. While The Dark Crystal's reputation has grown over the years to the point of becoming a Cult Classic, its story is still considered weak. Age of Resistance has been widely acclaimed and faces no such criticism, though having ten hours to develop a story vs one hour and a half surely helps.
  • NCIS is generally considered superior to (and is far more popular than) JAG. NCIS: Los Angeles as well.
  • The various Power Rangers series fall somewhere between sequel and spin off, but in general, while the first few seasons were good, the production team were still trying to hammer out the kinks of trying to write and film a story around already done Japanese source footage. The show hit its stride somewhere around Power Rangers in Space. Power Rangers Time Force had the benefit of numerous seasons before it to hammer out the kinks before the franchise was sold to Disney, making it one of the most solid entries. It was also extremely close to the original Mirai Sentai Timeranger.
    • Although not a hard rule, it's often seen that a beloved Super Sentai season will be a sub-par Power Rangers season while a sub-par Sentai will be seen as a superior Power Ranger Series. This is mostly due to the fact that Power Rangers benefits from having knowledge of what the response to the story in Japan is as well as the reaction and can change the plot to better fit American tastes if needed. Consider, for example, Power Rangers RPM which was well received by U.S. Fans for being a good natured jab at the franchise as a whole, and tossed out the interdimensional storyline from its counterpart's mediocre plot to instead tell a story that is basically Terminator's Robot War settings, vs. Power Rangers Samurai which was widely disliked in the States, despite being similar in story line to its Japanese counterpart, which was widely praised by Japanese and U.S. Fans alike.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series was a good television show that had some good lead actors and often made poignant insights into the human condition, but suffered from cramped production time and a low budget. Star Trek: The Next Generation had an actual budget, universally high-quality actors, a chance to use a Story Arc or three dozen, and consistent show continuity, and in fact is the only Trek show to get a Golden Globe nomination for Outstanding Drama Series. TV Guide also considers TNG to be one of the 100 best shows of all time. Things proceeded to escalate even further, in terms of critical reviews at least - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine earned even more critical raves than its predecessor, and pioneered the use of intensive Character Development and Story Arcs spanning multiple seasons in a time well before that became the norm.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess was also a spinoff but was easily more popular than Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, no doubt due to the obscene levels of implied lesbianism. It was also much more willing to be experimental in its stories, and considering how different Hercules could be, that's saying something. Though Xena did suffer from one of the worst cases of Seasonal Rot ever so improved might not be a completely accurate statement. Considering that Hercules was much better at being consistently good Xena may be the only example of a show being a Surprisingly Improved Sequel AND an example of Sequelitis.
  • While the series would try to retcon it into regular episodes' formula of the gang being in Junior High, the general consensus is that Saved by the Bell is this to Good Morning, Miss Bliss due to it being reworked into a Denser and Wackier teen sitcom and Zack being a more interesting protagonist than Miss Bliss.

  • Discovery (Daft Punk Album) is widely considered better than the already genre-defining Homework. Also, after the Contested Sequel Human After All and decently-received score for TRON: Legacy, their long-delayed fourth album Random Access Memories has become the robot duo's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful one, mostly due to them trying something new, with its Genre Throwback nature and large-scale production.
  • Nirvana's Nevermind. While Nevermind was a massive success and now ranks highly as one of the greatest albums of all time, Nirvana's first album, Bleach, is almost completely unknown by comparison.
  • The Pixies' second album, Doolittle. Their debut, Surfer Rosa, while failing to be a commercial hit, was well-received by critics, and has since been noted for being one of the greatest albums of all time. With the bar already rather high, Doolittle was released, and is regarded as even better than Surfer Rosa. Oddly, the band fared far better commercially and critically in Britain than they did in their home country of America.
  • Michael Jackson made Off the Wall, which was popular, critically acclaimed, and cemented him as the breakout star of the Jackson family by itself. Then he made Thriller, which came to be the biggest-selling album of all time.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins and Siamese Dream. Debut Gish was well received, but was totally displaced by the second record. And then Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness topped that one too.
  • Sehnsucht (namely "Du Hast") was what put Rammstein on the map in America, despite it being the second album.
  • A lot of people said this about Joy Division's second album, Closer, which came after the massive, genre-defining masterpiece Unknown Pleasures.
  • Led Zeppelin's first album, Led Zeppelin (1969) I was filled with blues-covers and was all around fairly good. But Led Zeppelin II was where they instead focused more on the rock aspect and really took off.
  • Cream was a Super Group whose first album consisted mostly of blues covers and was not as good as people hoped. For Disraeli Gears they added elements of psychedelia and it was better received.
  • Paranoid (Album) is generally considered the best Black Sabbath album. Guess which number it is.
  • Metallica's debut Kill 'Em All is a classic, but most consider Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets to be better. Which one is the best is the subject of many a Flame War.
  • Kyuss's first album Wretch is generally seen as little more than a curiosity for hardcore fans of the band. However, their second album, Blues for the Red Sun, is widely considered to be one of the best and most influential "stoner rock" albums of all time.
  • Queens of the Stone Age's rather excellent self-titled debut is largely overshadowed by the far more popular Rated R and Songs for the Deaf. While the band certainly sounds more evolved and distinct on those two albums, their debut is still a fine rock record in its own right.
  • Likewise, Megadeth easily topped their debut with the follow-up Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
    • And many agree their best album is Rust in Peace, their fourth.
  • Neutral Milk Hotel only released two albums... but In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is the second, and it's the one that everybody remembers.
  • Rush's Fly by Night is vastly more respected than their debut album, largely because of Neil Peart joining the band. Not that the original doesn't still have its charms.
  • Judas Priest: Their first album, Rocka Rolla, was utterly overshadowed by Sad Wings of Destiny, a universally avowed Adaptation Distillation of metal.
  • The B-52s - Their second album Wild Planet is widely considered by fans to be the one that best captures The B-52's spirit, as it contains their hardest rocking and lyrically weirdest material. It also opens with the best opening track they ever did "Party Out Of Bounds".
  • Joanna Newsom's first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, was a cute folky affair that garnered a largely positive reaction. Her second album, Ys, knocked everyone's socks off and is generally considered one of the best (if strangest) albums of 2006.
    • Her third album has managed to pull this off again. Successfully combining the best elements of the first two. Oh, and it's a triple album.
  • P!nk's first album was popular, even if it was considered 'more of the same' from LA Reid and Babyface, the producers. Pink did her second album Missundaztood herself, and it is outstanding.
  • Deep Purple's first three albums were cult classics; however, most people know of the band from their fourth album (Deep Purple in Rock) onward. This may have something to do with their then-new lineup and different sound.
  • Hawkwind came first. Then, one of them (Lemmy) was fired, and Motörhead was born. Also, Motörhead's self-titled debut album is less remembered than the other three which came after them: Overkill, Bomber and the classic Ace of Spades.
  • Iron Maiden recorded their first two albums with Paul Di'Anno, which are regarded as classics. Then he was replaced by Bruce Dickinson, and they recorded The Number of the Beast.
  • Helloween did well with their self-titled EP and Walls of Jericho with Kai Hansen on vocals and guitars. Then, he gets tired of singing and playing the guitars at the same time. Then they hire Michael Kiske. Then they record the first Keeper of the Seven Keys. Then came Keeper of the Seven Keys 2, considered the Power Metal masterpiece.
  • Dream Theater's first album was recorded with Charlie Dominici on vocals. Then after he was fired, the band hires James LaBrie. Then, they record Images and Words, which is considered even today a masterpiece of Progressive Metal. It also contains their first (and ATM only) number 1 hit. After that, the band kept on the road and released many great albums as well. And one of DT's songs was called "Metropolis—Part I: "The Miracle and the Sleeper"". After firing Derek Sherinian, the band went to record their second masterpiece, a Concept Album called Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, one of the best concept albums of the genre.
  • Dominici went on to make a series of prog concept albums called "O3: A Trilogy". The first one was a solo album, with Dominici on acoustic guitar, harmonica, and vocals. The second and third were epic amazing prog metal, similar to DT.
  • Vision Divine. Their original singer, Fabio Lione, left the band to concentrate on his solo career and on Rhapsody. Then, they've hired the unknown (to the metal world) singer Michele Luppi. The three recordings on his stance are still today regarded as the best the band made in their career, even after Lione's return.
  • Garth Brooks' first album held his breakthrough song, "The Dance", and won him enough acclaim to make him a CMA Horizon Award winner (now Best New Artist). No Fences topped that with his signature song, "Friends in Low Places", and won him his first CMA Entertainer of the Year award. Ropin The Wind topped that by becoming the first country album ever to debut #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
  • Frank Oceans' first album "Channel Orange" was well received and earned him a Grammy and two nominations, yet his follow up Blonde was regarded as an even better album by his fans and critics. It was far more advanced and experimental than his previous album and was regarded as being one of the best albums of the year, if not the whole decade.
  • The Beatles were incredibly popular and well-loved with their first few albums, and were breaking new ground with them. But there were still critics at the time convinced that The Beatles were nothing but a passing fancy for the ladies who would inevitably give way to the next big thing. The lads from Liverpool responded by churning out Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album and Abbey Road. The rest is history. Please Please Me, while being a popular albums coming from the UK in 1963, was undeniably topped by With the Beatles. And with "She Loves You" making them superstars in Europe and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" doing the same in America, it probably seemed the only way was down. Cue A Hard Day's Nightalbum, song and film.
  • Pink Floyd. There are many Floyd fans that not only hold The Dark Side of the Moon as a classic in its own right but also believe the following album, Wish You Were Here (1975), is even better still. At least 2 of the Floyd members, David Gilmour and Richard Wright, believe Wish You Were Here is the best Floyd album.
  • Although Bon Jovi's first two albums were popular, Slippery When Wet surpassed them by selling diamond in the US and topping the charts in seven countries. It is also their most critically acclaimed album.
  • Queen's first three albums, while quite good examples of Queen's musical talent, were not commercially successful. Their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, contained their single greatest hit (and first ever #1 song), "Bohemian Rhapsody", and the well-regarded "You're My Best Friend".
  • Disturbed from The Sickness to Believe. The debut was considered simple but catchy, loaded with small hits and Signature Songs while Believe had the band stepping into stronger melodies, better writing and deeper, even introspective concepts.
  • The debut album for Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine, was well regarded, though some accused Trent Reznor of going Lighter and Softer and selling out industrial music. Five years, a nasty fight with his first label, and a Creator Breakdown later, The Downward Spiral was released, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made and silenced those who accused Reznor of being a sellout.
  • American Pop/Rock band Toto got off to a good start in their self titled debut album, but after their 2nd and 3rd albums ended up slumping, Toto IV was a smash hit, earning several awards (and giving the band their signature smash hits "Rosanna" and "Africa").
  • The band Sugar Ray reached mainstream fame with their second album, Floored. Critics expected the band to fizzle out, having gotten their "15 Minutes of Fame". The band responded with their third album, 14:59 (noticed the title?), which surpassed the first in number of sales, singles, and revamping their musical approach with a hefty dose of Pop. Floored in itself was this trope as well - their first album, Lemonade and Brownies, with its Rap Rock/Hardcore Punk hybrid, never really made too many waves.
  • Coldplay's debut, Parachutes, got some acclaim. But the follow-up A Rush of Blood to the Head earned better reviews (it is still the band's highest rated on Metacritic), sold better and cemented them as superstars.
  • Eminem's first canon albumnote , The Slim Shady LP received notable critical acclaim and had his breakout hit "My Name Is", but the follow up The Marshall Mathers LP is widely considered one of the best rap - if not overall - albums ever.
    • Fans going off the music alone are not unheard of to find The Marshall Mathers LP 2 a better album than the original, especially when it first came out — it has Eminem rapping with superior technique, and lacks the Horrorcore experiments, homophobic blowjob skits, forced D12 promotion and repetitive Take That, Critics! theme that hampered the original. However, it has had far less of a social impact than the first album, with its most enduring song ("Rap God") being more of interest to people who rap themselves than to general audiences.
  • Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory? is this to their debut Definitely Maybe.
  • The Beastie Boys' debut album, Licensed to Ill, was loud and raw hip-hop with a frat-boy lining, with several good selections. The next album, Paul's Boutique, was a sudden departure from their Def Jam days. It's not hard to see why Paul's Boutique is regarded as the best of the Beasties albums - it has significantly refined lyrical jive, and multi-layered, sample-rich beats by the Dust Brothers. Funnily enough, it stalled out on its initial release, but it wasn't too long before it was Vindicated by History.
  • Amy Winehouse's Back to Black. Frank, her first album, was a best seller and was nominated for a number of prestigious awards including both a Brit award and an Ivor Novello award (which it won). Back to Black, however is the best selling album of the entire 21st century in the United Kingdom, and won considerably more awards including five Grammies. It also had success in many other countries around the world too and is credited by many for kick starting a third British invasion in America paving the way for other artists such as Adele, Duffy and Jessie J.
  • Mike Oldfield: Although they have never attained universal acclaim (as with all of Mike Oldfield's post Tubular Bells albums sadly), there is more than a few Mike Oldfield fans that consider Tubular Bells II and/or even Tubular Bells III (and/or even other Oldfield albums) lovingly and immensely better than the original Tubular Bells, which still is a universally loved classic itself.
  • Adele's first album, 19, was a pretty good record and was reasonably successful in both the UK and the USA (despite lacking a very strong hit single in the latter country), and it was released at a time when that kind of sound was very popular. After refining her sound on her tour in support of that album, she came back two years later with the enormously successful 21, which put out three number one singles in America and is currently one of the biggest selling and most acclaimed albums released in the 21st century.
  • Def Leppard's first album (On Through the Night) was alright. It sounded like a cross between T. Rex and Thin Lizzy, but it seemed kind of indecisive. Their fortunes improved with High 'N' Dry (their first album produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange) and Pyromania made them superstars.
  • Rilo Kiley's second album, The Execution of All Things was a sort of refinement of their previous work under the guiding hand of Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek Records.
  • Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain can be considered this, depending upon who you ask. Both this and their debut, Slanted and Enchanted are equally acclaimed indie rock records. However, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the album that flirted briefly with the mainstream and garnered them attention from major labels, despite the band's preference for remaining independent (which they ultimately did).
  • The last hit from Country Music group Lady Antebellum's debut album was also its first #1 hit and the biggest country hit of 2009. "Need You Now," the title track to the band's second album, was an even bigger hit and one of the biggest country-pop crossovers ever.
  • Dark Tranquillity's first album Skydancer was one of the first Melodic Death Metal albums, but generally not "understood." After trading singer Anders Friden to In Flames, and getting Mikkel Stane in return, they produced The Gallery, which is today considered one of the most influential Melodic Death Metal albums of all time.
    • In Flames' story goes the same. They first published Lunar Strain (which, though brave, wasn't that much of a success) and a couple years later (and with current vocalist Anders Friden) they released The Jester Race, the other Melodic Death Metal Trope Codifier along with The Gallery by DT and Slaughter of the Soul by At the Gates.
  • Mindless Self Indulgence's first album, Tight, is usually considered excellent by fans. Most consider their second album, Frankenstein Girls May Seem Strangely Sexy, to be their best release, however.
  • A Tribe Called Quest's Peoples Instinctive Travels was critically acclaimed, but it was also criticized for a lack of focus and being repetitive. They followed it up with The Low End Theory, which is considered to be one of the best hip-hop albums ever. Then they followed that up with Midnight Marauders, which, depending on who you ask, is a second Even Better Sequel (and a lot of people who don't think it's better still think it's a damn good album).
  • My Chemical Romance's debut album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love may be well-liked by fans, but it was their sophomore album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge that gave them their first taste of mainstream success and is widely considered one of the band's best releases. But it was topped by their next album, The Black Parade, which had explosive mainstream success and is still considered their defining work.
  • Almost every single member of the Wu-Tang Clan made a great solo debut album, and then failed to make anything as good again. The only exception to this rule is Ghostface Killah; there are plenty of people who say that Supreme Clientele is better than Ironman.
  • While Nas's first album Illmatic is generally considered so good none of Nas's subsequent albums managed to live up to it, his sophomore album It Was Written has since been Vindicated by History, with a couple people saying that it's actually better than Illmatic.
  • Power metal band Kamelot's concept album Epica was a beautiful, well crafted piece of music. However, the sequel album, note , The Black Halo, is a masterpiece.
  • tool's Opiate and Undertow (the former a rather obscure EP while the latter had songs with extensive radio play) were both excellent albums with a unique sound that didn't fall into the trap of the Post-Grunge-era alternative rock formula. Then came Ænima, which charted at number 2 in the U.S., spawned five hit singles, and broke the mold of what many people considered "mainstream" rock. The success continued with Lateralus, which debuted at number 1 in many countries and also had four hit singles. It's widely considered Tool's best studio album ever...not bad considering the first radio single was almost seven minutes long. Rather jarring to hear played alongside 3-minute pieces on Top 40 radio stations.
  • Thirty Seconds to Mars' debut album is considered quite good, but A Beautiful Lie is where they really started to shine. Most of their well-known songs are from that album.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic had a self-titled debut album with parodies that included Toni Basil and Queen, but his second album, [[In 3D, with his parody of MJ, made him a household name.
  • Taylor Swift's eponymous debut album was a fairly big critical and commercial success. Her second album, Fearless, launched her into global superstardom, was recognized by Billboard in 2011 as the top-selling album released between 2006 and 2011, and made her, at age 20, the youngest person ever to win Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.
  • Pantera's breakout album was Cowboys from Hell, where they defined their brand of groove/thrash metal (possibly after catching from hints from the likes of Dave Mustaine, if you can believe him), and is by far one of the most popular albums in Pantera's repertoire. It's not the second, the third, or even the fourth album they put out. Yep, Cowboys is their fifth album. You wouldn't believe the same band that did Power Metal in 1988 (they were young) also did Cowboys from Hell and, later on, Far Beyond Driven.
  • When you hear the name Slayer, what do you think of? More than likely, Reign in Blood comes to mind. This is yet another metal example. Reign in Blood was their third album. While Metallica and Megadeth were experimenting on their own, Slayer nailed their defining sound in one go (according to Kerry King), and it's widely regarded as the one of the best of the Big Four of thrash metal. It helps that they had legendary producer Rick Rubin working with them on it.
  • Nightwish was doing pretty good as a power metal band with Wishmaster. But the point where they really hit their stride was probably around Century Child, when they figured out that the best way to use their opera-trained soprano vocalist was to reduce the amount of extremely high-speed guitar, increase the amount of One-Woman Wail, and back her up with a whole freaking orchestra. Then they topped that with Once, essentially an entire album of the most over-the-top epic music you ever did hear, including "Ghost Love Score," infamous as the song of choice for making everyday things AWESOME.
  • Katy Perry's first mainstream album One of the Boys was a commercial success, but her second album Teenage Dream exceeding it, sold twice as many copies, received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, and yielded a record five number-one singles.
  • Radiohead did this in succession for their first four albums. Pablo Honey got decent reviews but wasn't widely acknowledged outside of its single hit ("Creep"); The Bends was the album that proved there was more to them than "Creep" and got rave reviews; OK Computer overshadowed The Bends in terms of both commercial and critical success. Then they did the same thing again with Kid A.
  • The first two albums by The Replacements usually get lukewarm to positive reviews. Their third album, Let It Be, has appeared on lists of the best albums of The '80s, and it was listed as the twelfth greatest album of all time by Spin Magazine.
  • Elvis Costello's debut, My Aim Is True, was hailed as the arrival of a major talent, but as strong as the album was, the sedate backing band kept it from fulfilling its potential. Costello followed it up with This Year's Model, on which the Attractions gave him the kickass accompaniment he needed to put his music over the top. And then came Armed Forces, which was more textured and complex than the first two albums, and also introduced three of Costello's Signature Songs: "Accidents Will Happen", "Oliver's Army", and a Cover Version of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" that easily overshadowed the original.note 
  • TLC's first album "Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip" was a bonafide success with three top ten hits and was certified quadruple platinum, though critics thought the group would be a one-shot. Their second album CrazySexyCool was released to universal acclaim, spawned the group's first number one singles, won two Grammys, and earned Diamond certification making it the best-selling album ever by a female group.
  • Green Day have done this a few times. Their debut, 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (a compilation of 39/Smooth, their actual debut, Slappy and 1,000 Hours, their first two EPs, and the song "I Want to Be Alone"), is seen as fairly average in comparison to their later, more poppy songs. Their second album, Kerplunk, was their first record with Ensemble Dark Horse Tre Cool, featuring additional focus on Pop Punk, and it's still a fan favorite to this day. They did it again with Dookie, which you might have heard of - it's sold over 20 million copies, made the band household names, and put Pop Punk into the mainstream for good. Their seventh album, American Idiot, reached new critical heights and received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
  • Although Penguin Cafe Orchestra's debut Music From The Penguin Cafe was acclaimed at the time, its reputation was far eclipsed by the self-titled follow-up, which is more representative of what would become their Signature Style. The first album is still well-regarded, but often seen as Early-Installment Weirdness in comparison.
  • Alice in Chains has done this three times:
    • Their debut album Facelift is very well regarded, and delivered one of the band's biggest Signature Songs in "Man in the Box", but it wasn't until Dirt that they found their sound. Facelift, while good, was a little too heavy on the glam influences. Dirt however is often considered one of the best metal albums of 90s. This was made possible by making the album seriously Darker and Edgier, bringing in elements of Doom Metal and writing lyrics more about drug addiction, depression, and failed relationships. It's the album most people think of when they think of the band
    • Sap was the first of their two acoustic EPs, and it had several brilliant songs on it. ''Jar of Flies" just happened to be even better in every way, bringing in a more diverse sound and making it sound more wistful and folksy, while still having the bands signatures.
    • Black Gives Way to Blue is generally considered a great comeback album, and helped win over unsure fans that William Du Vall was the right choice. The Devil put Dinosaurs Here took everything great about the album and tightened it up, and gave it an even clearer vision. It really helped solidify what the band's modern sound should be like.
  • Red Vox fans agree that Another Light is a huge step up from What Could Go Wrong.
  • While Madonna's debut album was a commercial success with three hit singles, it was her sophomore album Like a Virgin that truly made her a household name and proved herself that she was not a One-Hit Wonder.
  • Talking Heads' debut, Talking Heads: 77 was an instant critical darling and is still a hit with fans today, but in hindsight it's agreed that producer Tony Bongiovi's Executive Meddling held back much of the band's potential. 1978's More Songs About Buildings and Food, the first of three albums produced by Brian Eno, meanwhile, was Talking Heads unleashed; it was an even bigger hit with fans and critics and is generally agreed to be the point where the band came into their own as musicians.
  • While it may not have matched the sales and impact as her first album Pure Heroine, Lorde's second album Melodrama was regarded as this by various critics, even making it on lists of the Top Ten best albums of 2017 by various publications. Allmusic even gave it a 5 out of 5 star review compared to the 3 out of 5 stars of Pure Heroine.


  • While both of the Latibćr plays that LazyTown is based on are well-received, the latter, Glanni Glæpur Í Latabæ, is generally seen as an improvement over Áfram Latibær, due to it having more of a plot, having more stylized sets and costumes, and being the introduction of fan-favorite character Glanni Glæpur/Robbie Rotten.

    • The initial "trilogy" (2001-2003) is the most well-known era of the series for its unique premise and memorable characters and setting, but it was during the Metru Nui saga (2004) that the true world-building began and the characters were allowed to go beyond being one-note stereotypes. The story, up until then fairly linear and riddled with fantasy-clichés, also got more complex and serious, and the Big Bad was re-imagined as a complicated and realistic villain.
    • The Ignition Trilogy (2006-2008) is also liked for placing heavy focus on action, replacing troop-builders with well characterized, individual villains, and for loosening up some of the story's more worn-out "rules". This was also when the world was developed into an entire complex universe as the writers introduced several other islands.
    • The sets introduced from 2004 onwards are generally seen as vast improvements from their predecessors with improved articulation and more varied and complex builds.

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  • Caddicarus provides an in-universe example with his retrospective on the first three Sly Cooper games. He feels the third game is the best, because it distills the elements he enjoyed from the first two and largely eliminates almost everything he disliked about the first two. He also feels that the characterization and writing are a lot tighter, with Sly, Bentley, and Murray feeling more like friends.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars originally dealt with a huge backlash from the fans that were against animal-themed Transformers (at least those with organic animal modes), but somewhere by the end of the first season almost everyone else seemed to catch on that the series was better than the original in almost every way, and it's still usually considered the high point of the entire Transformers animated fiction. People who grew up on G1 were ready for a Transformers series that escaped the ghetto. The producers knew this, and delivered in spades.
  • Justice League Unlimited managed to outdo the awesomeness of Justice League, thanks in no small part to two season-spanning Universe-shattering Myth Arcs. Oh, and The Question's transformation from an obscure DC character to an Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • Wallace & Gromit: Their debut short A Grand Day Out was well received, won or was nominated for numerous awards, and is still popular... but that's nothing compared to the second short The Wrong Trousers, a technical tour de force with stronger storytelling and humour that is generally considered the best entry in the series.