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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.


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.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Anime and 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 performed badly on its original run (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.
  • 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 

    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 four 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.
    • 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 characters' struggle to get home gave the series a structure, allowing it to conclude in a 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 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 better 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 SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water more highly than its predecessor - The SpongeBob SquarePants 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 agree that Toy Story 2 ended up better than the original. Some feel Toy Story 3 managed to top them both. The first two films have a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the other one has 99% (although the third also received many 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 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.
  • Despicable Me 2 is often regarded by many to be better than the first film as well as the best film of the franchise.
  • The Secret Life of Pets 2 is being hailed by many to be better than it's predecessor. Helps that it's audience score is in the low 90's compared to the first film's 62%.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Fistful of Dollars was a good movie. Its sequel, For a Few Dollars More, was an improvement in several ways. The third film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is even better than the second one and is often cited as one of the best films ever made.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is considered by a lot of fans to be the best in the series. Same with Wes Craven's New Nightmare, though some consider that a separate film from the main series.
  • While the original Alien is a great movie — interesting characters, creepy and horrifying designs for the alien, it introduced the xenomorph life cycle to an unsuspecting populace, and so on — the second movie, Aliens, is widely (though not universally) regarded as a better film. It also benefited from a Genre Shift from straight up Horror to Action Horror, which meant that instead of suffering from Sequelitis, Aliens was able to do things its own way.
  • Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (the titular comics live-action adaptation) was a lot funnier and better than the first, Asterix and Obelix Take On Cesar. Asterix and Obelix at the Olympic Games is said to be less good than the second but better than the first.
  • Batman Begins was the reboot everyone hoped for after the Neon Age of Schumacher, but it was The Dark Knight that won universal acclaim and a posthumous Academy Award for Heath Ledger.
  • Before Sunrise is widely considered to be a great romance film. Its sequels Before Sunset and Before Midnight are regarded by most people to be just as good as, if not better than, the original because of their exploration of different stages of Jesse and Celine's relationship and consequently more mature themes of growing up and long-term commitment.
  • Albeit Blade is not generally considered a bad film, it was also disregarded as just an "action flick" by many critics. But Guillermo del Toro's Blade II is regarded as an improvement from the first for the more harsh critics of the franchise and —by far— the best of the trilogy (especially in comparison to the third movie) for the fans and the more benevolent critics. It's also considered one of Del Toro's more memorable works (which is say a lot).
  • Downplayed example: Blade Runner is now widely considered such a cinematic classic that no follow-up could ever live up to its greatness. The announcement of a sequel was met with disbelief and incredulity, but the naysayers were proved wrong when Blade Runner 2049 received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, who found it at least as good as the original if not superior, despite the astronomical expectations. It quickly earned a spot on many lists of the best movie sequels of all time, and picked up two Academy Awards to boot. There's a small but devoted crowd that considers it better than the original thanks to its expanded world-building, deep and emotionally moving story and better writing of its female characters.
  • Bride of Frankenstein is often considered to be a horror masterpiece and even better than its predecessor, which is no small feat. In its retrospective of the 100 all-time greatest films, Time Magazine hailed it as "one of those rare sequels that is infinitely superior to its source."
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The First Avenger was considered a solid action movie by most critics and audiences, applauded for its fun characters and proper character development, but it had the second-lowest box office returns of the MCU's first wave of movies (only The Incredible Hulk did worse), and it was written off by numerous fans as nothing more than a simple prologue to The Avengers. To many people's pleasant surprise, Captain America: The Winter Soldier turned out to be one of Marvel Studios' most critically acclaimed films to date, garnering the strongest reviews for the series since The Avengers, and the fandom considers it one of the contenders for the best film in the franchise. It's also another one of the Genre Shift examples, as First Avenger was a WWII adventure while Winter Soldier was a Conspiracy Thriller.
    • In general, Phase 3 is seen as having fixed many of the problems that most of the films in Phases 1 and 2 had, namely their forgettable villains and formulaic nature, as well as Phase 2 focusing entirely too much on world-building and continuity.
    • Ant-Man was a decent, uneven film with solid performances, entertaining fight scenes and enjoyable sense of humor, but a boring villain, poorly written romance, awkward attempts at connecting itself to the larger MCU, and the fact that it was mostly a retread of Iron Man hamstrung it a great deal. Ant-Man and the Wasp, on the other hand, improved upon it greatly with tighter pacing, more entertaining dynamics between the main characters, connections to the MCU that came across as far less forced, and a more interesting, fun, and unique plot that featured a compelling, sympathetic antagonist in the form of Ghost.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron has its strong points, but it's generally seen as a step down from The Avengers (2012), which was a Tough Act to Follow. In particular, many reviewers criticized its overly complex plot, its over-abundance of new characters (not all of whom were properly developed), and its occasionally uneven blend of drama and comedy, as well as a few overlong action sequences that lacked any real pathos. Avengers: Infinity War is considered an improvement in every conceivable way, with many critics calling it one of the greatest superhero films ever. It boasts a tighter plot, a stronger villain, and more epic action sequences; it manages to effectively juggle dozens of superheroes in the same cast, and it's all capped off by an emotional gut-punch of an ending that nobody saw coming. Avengers: Endgame shattered everyone's expectations all over again, ending with a Grand Finale to end all Grand Finales.note 
  • Crank was somewhat over-the-top (mildly formulated) but enjoyable. The sequel cranked everything up, including the meta. Please have your ration of Bellisario's Maxim ready!
  • Drunken Master is a thoroughly beloved action-comedy, and a classic of Wuxia cinema that turned Jackie Chan into a movie star. Against all odds, its sequel Drunken Master II managed to surpass its high bar: Time Magazine ranked it one of the 100 greatest films of all time in 2005, and Roger Ebert called its climactic foundry sequence the greatest fight scene ever committed to film.
  • The Evil Dead series.
    • The Evil Dead was a cult film that was noted for its extreme violence and low-budget gore. Evil Dead 2, however, added a new element of slapstick comedy, which is apparently what Sam Raimi wanted all along. The action also focuses more on the character of Ash, who became something of a cult icon.
    • The third film, Army of Darkness, has the highest budget and is the most well known. It continued the trend toward increased slapstick violence and making Ash a wisecrack-spouting badass, which is generally what people remember most about the series.
  • Friday the 13th: Interestingly, the original film is not usually the one people remember. It doesn't even feature Jason, and on its own, is usually seen as a mediocre slasher at best. The following three films are the classics, with the fourth film usually being hailed as the ultimate Friday the 13th film. Part VI also has its fans.
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation is seen as this to people who enjoyed G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Others consider it to be a Surprisingly Improved Sequel.
  • Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was a pretty good reboot of a long-dead franchise. Gamera 2: Advent of Legion had a tighter script, deeper characters, better special effects, more action and more gore. Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys had less action but even deeper characterization and still better special effects with more effective gore, and a better script. It's still debated whether the second or third is the best, but everyone agrees they're both better than the first.
  • Some film buffs consider The Godfather Part II to be better than the original The Godfather, and everyone considers it to be at the very least comparable. This is partly because of the brilliant decision to tell as parallel stories the origin of Vito Corleone's criminal career, which was a part of the original Mario Puzo novel, and the tragic descent of his son Michael.
  • There does indeed exist a group of fans who believe Grease 2 to be superior to Grease for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to): a more relatable male lead, Michelle Pfeiffer being better looking and stronger-willed than Olivia Newton-John, funnier and less forced T-Bird humor, no ridiculously over-exposed songs like "Summer Nights" and "You're The One That I Want", the sheer inclusion of the "Reproduction" song, etcetera.
  • The original Gremlins movie is regarded as a classic '80s horror-comedy, even if it feels cliché by today's standards to some. Warner Brothers had tried to make a Gremlins sequel for years with no success before finally re-hiring director Joe Dante to helm it, which he did on the condition that he had final authority on the film's content. The result was 1990's Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which cranked the satire and metahumour Up to Eleven by mocking the very concept of movie sequels and taking a sledgehammer to the Fourth Wall.
  • For the third Harry Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Chris Columbus left the series and auteur Alfonso Cuarón stepped in. The end result is a film that many critics consider far more mature and stylized than the by-the-book adaptation approach of the first two films.
  • Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, while more obscure, is considered a superior film to the original Prom Night (1980) by those who have seen it. It's actually a sequel in name only, and has a more original premise that combines elements of both the slasher and supernatural horror genres, while also having a more self-referential tone, and it embraces its campiness to the fullest extent. It also pays homage to many, many classic horror films. The original Prom Night, while still fun to watch for its own reasons, stuck very, very close to conventional slasher tropes, and is considered one of the more generic films in the genre.
  • While The Hunger Games is good, its sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire improves on it in every way: a new director, less Jitter Cam, better performances from everyone, spot-on pacing, much improved effects, a darker and more mature story that remains completely faithful to the book, and a third act filmed in IMAX with a shocking and sudden Cliffhanger ending. While the first film had to skirt around violence involving children and teenagers, the adult cast for the special edition Hunger Games featuring past winners gave this one much more free rein with its action sequences.
  • James Bond: The first three films are generally considered to be progressively better than the one that came before it. Goldfinger is still regarded by some as the best Bond film ever.
  • Johnny English Reborn: Many viewers found Johnny's Character Development from lucky moron into Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass to make for much more interesting watching than the first film.
  • Mad Max
  • Mission: Impossible is a rare franchise where (after the third film, the first one regarded by a majority of people as actually being really good) each subsequent movie has gotten better reviews than its predecessor, partly because the films just keeping topping themselves in terms of increasingly insane and over-the-top stunts. After the standout first one the films fluctuated in quality, but by movie 4 and 5, some were beginning to see that they'd even reached greater heights than before. Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth entry, is touted by some as one of the best action films of The New '10s.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968) basically invented the entire zombie movie genre overnight, even while simultaneously destroying it with subtle undertones of social satire. For the sequel ten years later, George Romero wisely followed the ethos of "If ain't broke, don't fix it", and kept the core premise of characters trapped in one building that was besieged by zombies, but made the masterstroke of setting it in an urban shopping mall. The result, Dawn of the Dead (1978), is a gorier, scarier, funnier, and more intense film than the original, delivering more of what everyone liked in the original but adding more action and more zombies while upping the social attire to scathingly sharp levels.
  • Reviews of Paddington 2 frequently mentioned it was even better than the critically acclaimed first film. It also became the most-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes with a perfect 100% score, surpassing Toy Story 2.
  • The Pink Panther (1963) tends to be hit by this, at least for modern audiences. The original movie, while far from unpopular in its day, is essentially a typical (and somewhat dated) 1960s sex farce with a bumbling French policeman played by Peter Sellers popping up every so often. As the policeman — a certain Inspector Jacques Clouseau — proved to be the Ensemble Dark Horse even for contemporary audiences, the sequel A Shot in the Dark made him the central character, amped up the absurdist humour and structured the narrative to be more of a crime/murder-mystery spoof, which later sequels would for better or worse draw on more.
  • The third Police Academy film, Police Academy 3: Back in Training is considered by most fans as the series' peak.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes was considered a flawed but successful and enjoyable reboot to an ailing sci-fi franchise, with a groundbreaking performance by Andy Serkis helping to make up for its faults. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes improves on everything, with more complex characters, both human and ape, across the board, strong social and political themes that are deeply explored, and a career-best performance from Serkis, with many calling for an Oscar nomination. The result has been compared to The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight, been called one of the best and most emotionally powerful movies of 2014, and the kind of film other summer blockbusters should strive to be.
  • Scream 2 is considered by critics to be scarier and funnier than the original Scream (1996). Discussed in Randy's film class, where everyone discusses movie sequels, the frequency of sequels that are better than first installments, and which sequels achieve this.
  • Spider-Man 2 had a drastically improved plot and insight on the main character when compared to the first movie, as well as longer, bigger, and better fight scenes. And if anything, the knockout train battle against Doctor Octopus was the Spider-Man fight everyone had been waiting and hoping for.
  • Star Wars
  • Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!: Held against the original Super Size Me, this really shows Spurlock's maturation as a film-maker with vastly improved camerawork, editing, and scripting, as well as delivering a much more targeted and robust critique of the the fast food industry by focusing on its Very False Advertising and Big Chicken's abusive corporate practices against the regular farmers compared with the far more Anvilicious message of the original.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day got even more acclaim than The Terminator, and had a much higher gross than the already-beloved first film. Like the Alien series, it shifted from horror in the first installment (which was effectively a Slasher Movie) to a greater focus on action in the second. Incidentally, both sequels were directed by James Cameron, though unlike Alien, Cameron also directed the first Terminator.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring blew away all expectations and forever set the bar for what an epic High Fantasy film would look like. The Two Towers took everything that worked in the original film and cranked it way up, with better pacing, expanding the supporting cast while simultaneously giving the others more time to shine, and providing some of the most iconic moments in the whole series (the return of Gandalf the White, the Battle of Helm's Deep], Sam's lump-in-the-throat-inducing climactic speech to Frodo, and the march of the Ents on Isengard, among many, many others. A significant number of fans now consider it to be the best film in the trilogy (although its own followup, The Return of the King was no slouch itself, breaking box-office records all over the place and tying for a record-breaking 11 Academy Awards.)
  • The Thing (1982) is widely regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, remakes ever made, with many considering it to be superior to The Thing from Another World.
  • The Vengeance Trilogy by Park Chan Wook started with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which isn't a bad film, but relatively obscure. Oldboy (2003), the second film, is the one everyone remembers. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, the third film, was also well-received but is not as well-known as Oldboy. However, these are all stand-alone films linked only by the theme of vengeance.
  • Wrong Turn 2: Dead End received a far better reception than the original film, even though it was Direct to Video. Having Henry Rollins in it probably helped.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X2: X-Men United is considered an improvement on the already good original X-Men, fleshing out the characters and themes introduced in the first one, while providing more action. Bryan Singer said the strategy for X2 was to follow the Empire Strikes Back plot, where they split up the characters for purposes of development, then bring them together again for a fantastic finish.
    • While X-Men: First Class was well-liked by fans for bringing the X-Men series back on track, X-Men: Days of Future Past has been even more well-received and cited by a few reviewers as the best of the X-Men movies. It even currently has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score in the series at 92%, placing DOFP among the best-reviewed Marvel movies of all, Marvel Cinematic Universe or otherwise. The movie has also become the top-grossing X-Men film in terms of worldwide box office by far, usurping the position previously held by The Last Stand.
    • Among the Wolverine spin-off trilogy, the critically-bashed X-Men Origins: Wolverine was followed by a Surprisingly Improved Sequel with The Wolverine, which was itself followed by Logan, critically adored (92% on Rotten Tomatoes) and praised by many critics as "one of the best superhero movies ever" for its darker tone.
    • While Deadpool was a funny and well-liked movie, some fans consider Deadpool 2 to be a better film that has better humor and action scenes. Some critics have praised Deadpool 2's humor for satirizing Darker and Edgier superhero flicks like The Winter Soldier, Batman v Superman, and Logan.

  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV  
  • 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.
  • The second season of The Mole is generally liked better by the viewers than the first season due to an increase in cast size (fourteen players over ten players), a more or less superior cast, and host Anderson Cooper opening up and becoming more friendly and relatable than how he was shown during Season One.
  • 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 recieved by U.S. Fans for being a good natured jab at the franchise as a whole, and tossed out the interdimensional storyline from it's mediocre Japanese 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 it 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.

  • Daft Punk's Discovery 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 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 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.
  • 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 sold better.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 30 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 Crazy Sexy Cool 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, 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 E Ps, 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.


  • The initial "trilogy" (2001-2003) of LEGO's BIONICLE is the best-known 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 Mask of Life saga (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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
  • DCII is this for the Da Capo franchise. The original was a generic cuteness Eroge. The second one had some surprising twists and turns and a plot that was actually moving.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair features better cases and more bonus content that its predecessor, while keeping all the positive aspects from the original.
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was a fun adventure game with some neat character interaction, animations and puzzles with a compelling storyline. Last Window improved on all of that, as well as providing more insight and development into the returning characters.
  • Science Adventure Series: Steins;Gate is this to Chaos;Head. This seems to be the case with every new title, with Chaos;Child being the best entry in the franchise so far.

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • 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.
  • Metalocalypse did very well with ratings for [adult swim], but it started out trying to show as much Gorn as possible. Season 1 gave us the most terrifying image in existence, the end of "Dethkids." Season 2 was better, establishing continuity. Season 3 is even better, presenting the band in a more realistic light (they're in their Dork Age), and it's 22 minutes long instead of another Quarter Hour Short. It also has been light on the Gorn (so far), the first two episodes being rated MA instead of the usual MA-V.


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