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Prolonged Video Game Sequel

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When video games first started coming into their own, how long the game took to finish wasn't much of a concern. In fact, most early games didn't have in-game narratives, or even a defined "end" to the game. Since high scores were the only real "reward" for playing, games tended to loop over and over until players got tired of playing, ran out of lives, or scored so high the game crashed.

As video games began their journey from the arcade to the home, games with actual narratives and defined endings started to pop up. However, due to hardware limitations, many of these games were extremely short by today's standards: many could be completed in less than two hours, were it not for the high level of difficulty and/or unfair play mechanics common to games of that era.

Free of the limitations of the past, however, video game length is a major concern in game development today. Many publishers crow about how their game has "hundreds of hours of gameplay," and it's common practice to make sequels even larger and more involved than the original game. When this happens, you get a Prolonged Sequel.

Prolonging sequels is done for a number of reasons, such as:

  • It's a good marketing hook: If you liked the first game, wouldn't you love a game that gives you even more of what you liked?
  • The creative team had an excess of ideas. Sometimes developers have so many new ideas that they want to add to the game, they have to make the game longer just to give you the opportunity to fully experience them.
  • Developers and players alike tend to feel that a sequel should be longer, more content-rich, and more ambitious than the prior entry of the series — otherwise, what's the point of a sequel if it's just going to feel like an Expansion Pack of the previous game?

While a longer game is typically considered a positive by most people (if only for the perception that they're getting their money's worth), not all Prolonged Sequels come by their newfound length through an abundance of new content. Rather than come up with innovative ways to keep players engaged, it's become common for certain genres (most notably mobile phone games, MMORPGs, Sandbox Games, and "Games as Service" titles) to load up their games with excessive and endless grinding, busywork, Fake Difficulty (with or without Microtransactions), lootboxes and/or gambling mechanics, and other ways of artificially increasing completion time without actually providing new content or interesting objectives.

Sister Trope of Sequel Escalation. Can result in an Even Better Sequel, or at least a Surprisingly Improved Sequel. Depending on the original game, may or may not involve a Sequel Difficulty Spike or a Sequel Difficulty Drop.


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    Arcade/Action Games 
  • The Ace Combat series did this so often, it should be called "Sequel Longevity Sinusoid". Most games in the series have between 15 and 20 levels, with the exceptions of Ace Combat: Joint Assault (26 levels), Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (29), Ace Combat 2 (30), Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (32), and finally, Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere with a whopping 52 (Japanese) or a still massive 36 (NTSC/PAL) levels, the most of any series title so far. Note, however, that these "prolonged" sequels feature some degree of non-linearity, while the games of default length are mostly linear. In fact, despite having the most levels by far, Japanese Electrosphere doesn't even have more maps than a normal AC game per route.
  • Metal Slug:
    • Metal Slug 3 has five missions compared to six in the previous games, however, each mission has multiple routes that can increase the length to finish. The final mission has only one route, but it's full of lengthy autoscrollers, massive enemy waves, and multiple bosses, all of which can take longer than the previous four missions combined note . Doesn't help when a majority of enemies are bullet sponges. This is worse in the Western original Xbox port where losing all lives takes the player back to the beginning of the mission rather than on the spot.
    • Metal Slug: 1st Mission increases the number of missions to 17. Some of these missions are accessed by either screwing up in the vehicle missions or finding secret exits. Metal Slug: 2nd Mission increases the amount to 38. Like its predecessor, some missions are based on the player's performance and others are exclusive to the playable characters Gimlet and Red Eye. Unlocking the third character Tequila requires the player to complete every mission.
  • Games in the Notebook Wars series range between 13 to 20 levels. Notebook Wars Ultimate has 100, and all of them are still playable on three difficulty settings with three stars to earn for each.

    Action-Adventure Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed games. Especially the second one compared to the first. It added Sidequests, dungeons, equipment, factions and had a longer story. The world was also bigger.
  • Grand Theft Auto has increased in size with each game:
    • Grand Theft Auto III had three islands, various mission threads in addition to the main story, and collectible packages.
    • GTA: Vice City was a little bigger geographically, with some added video/audio capability and more nuanced gameplay.
    • San Andreas made the sandbox factor HUGE and increased the length even more, and topped off what the game engine could handle.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV brought in a new engine, a much larger Liberty City, and a darker, more realistic storyline (insofar as one man surviving multiple gunfights against multiple opponents all by himself is at all realistic).
  • Some The Legend of Zelda games were designed with this trope in mind:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has a longer main quest than the first two games, which is reflected in the presence of two overworlds, between which Link can explore up to 12 dungeons, tied with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for having the highest number of any Zelda game. It also features more sidequests (which, to be fair, were barely present at all in the previous titles), as well as more overworld activity.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has the same amount of dungeons as Ocarina of Time (nine), but the main quest is overall longer due to the exploration of the Twilight segments, the horse track battles, bigger landscapes, the dungeons themselves being longer and more maze-like, and other factors. In fact, prior to the game's release, Nintendo had advertised it by highlighting the longer campaign as one of the two major selling points, along with the Darker and Edgier story.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is larger than all the other previous Zelda titles combined. While it only has five dungeons, the world is enormous to the point that the starting area is as large as the Twilight Princess map, and there are tons of sidequests, over a hundred mini-dungeons and an endless list of collectibles. The following DLCs added even more content.
  • MDK: You play as Kurt, a janitor wearing an untested Coil Suit, in a game spanning 5 levels. The sequel to this game has you playing as Kurt, Dr. Fluke Hawkins and Max/Bones, and this one spans at least 10 levels (not counting the fact that the game lets you choose which of the three to play, allowing you to finish the final level in a different and get a different ending)!
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes: The game is noticeably bigger and longer than its predecessor, Metroid Prime (and is also longer than the succeeding Metroid Prime 3: Corruption). Not only are the main regions of Aether larger and more maze-like than those of Tallon IV, but the majority of individual rooms and areas have each their own equivalent in Dark Aether, so you have to explore almost twice as much terrain as you did in the first adventure. The boss battles are much longer as well, and there's a larger amount of collectibles (114, when combining the total of 18 Keys used to open the temples of Dark Aether with the 96 standard pickupsnote ) as well as a more extensive catalogue of scannable log entries.

    Fighting Games 
  • Entries in the Punch-Out!! series have become progressively longer over the decades.
    • The three arcade games, Punch-Out!!, Super Punch-Out!!, and the spin-off Arm Wrestling had only 5-6 opponents apiece.
    • The NES game features a whopping 10 opponents (plus 3 rematches, for a total of 13 fights) faced in three circuits, with a 14th challenger added for the Western versions serving as the final boss; depending on the version, it's either Mike Tyson or Mr. Dream. There's also a fourth circuit, accessible only by code, with the rather uninspired name "Another World Circuit." It doesn't contain any unique fights, but the fight order is different from the original World Circut, and losing to any opponent once triggers a Game Over.
    • In the SNES sequel, there are 16 challengers across four circuits — the most unique fighters of any Punch-Out!! game.
    • The 2009 Wii version has only 13 regular opponents, but each is fought a second time in completely remixed (and much harder) fights in the newer Title Defense mode. Additionally, a secret 14th challenger can be found in the Last Stand Mode, making for a grand total of seven circuits in story mode. Then, of course, there's Exhibition mode, which allows players to fight any previously defeated fighter individually to complete special challenges and unlock extra content. Finally, there's a super-secret mode within Exhibition for further challenge (though it requires players to endure through Last Stand long enough before three defeats to be unlocked, and it's subject to being potentially a Permanently Missable Content).
  • The Super Smash Bros. games started from humble beginnings, but the series' character roster has expanded wildly with each new entry:
    • Super Smash Bros. 64: 12
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee: 26
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: 39
    • Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U: 58 (51 in the base game, 7 as DLC)
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: 88note  (76 in the base game, 12 as DLC)
    • Furthermore, the single-player "Adventure" modes of the games have likewise grown. Melee has a 12-stage Adventure mode that can be played with each character. Brawl has "The Subspace Emissary," a huge, sprawling single-player mode with 31 stages that involves all of the playable characters and features different kinds of gameplay. Finally, Ultimate has "World of Light," an utterly massive Smash/board game hybrid that can take hours to complete, but it allows you to unlock characters and Spirits along the way.
    • Ultimate is also noteworthy in that, while the base game has 69 characters, only a paltry eight are available upon first play. While a handful of characters are available immediately as paid DLC, the other 61 can only be unlocked through play, which isn't a speedy process. While this delighted some fans, others were chagrined that their favorite characters required quite a bit of grinding to unlock, even in the best-case scenario.

    First Person Shooters 
  • Doom Eternal has the same amount of levels as its predecessor, but ups the ante by having said levels be significantly bigger and having additional side challenges to complete. This is on top of having a hub in between levels. With the two-part Ancient Gods DLC included (which Doom 2016 only had for its multiplayer), the game is 6 levels longer.

    Miscellaneous Games 
  • Glider: The original game's scenario was a single hallway of 15 rooms. "The House" of Glider 4.0 has 62 rooms. Glider PRO's main scenario, "Slumberland," has hundreds of rooms spread across multiple buildings and outdoor environments.

    Platform Games 
  • Banjo-Kazooie:
    • Banjo-Tooie: Despite having one level less than the first game, it is notoriously longer (and more difficult) due to the levels being much bigger (often approaching the gargantuan size of the Donkey Kong 64 levels), a higher number of minigames, bosses and puzzles, and the necessity of traveling between levels (literally, without going through the Hub Level). For a direct comparison, only the first game's ninth level (Click Clock Wood) can rival the complexity and diversity of the first four levels of the second game, and still lose to the likes of Terrydactyland and Grunty Industries.
    • Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts: The game is bigger than its predecessors as, despite having only five regular worlds, there is a ton of content in them as well as in the Hub Level (there's now a total of 131 Jiggies to collect, for example); it's also to be expected considering that it's a vehicle-focused game.
  • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest introduces a much larger world than the previous game, Castlevania. There are different paths, and different objectives, which contrasts with the previous game's "defeat a boss, then move on".
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has a few examples:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is longer than its predecessor, having eight full zones compared to the original's six. Sonic 3 & Knuckles takes this further, with twelve main zones, all of which are MUCH bigger in size and scope than the previous games, and even had to be Divided for Publication due to its size.
    • As Sonic Mania is meant to be a true sequel to the Genesis-era Sonic games, it features twelve zones, eight of which were from previous games in the series, and four of which were new at the time. The Plus expansion pack takes this one step further by adding an extra one-act level in Encore Mode, Angel Island Zone, where Sonic rescues Mighty and Ray.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros. 3 repesents a massive length upgrade compared to its three predecessors (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels and Super Mario Bros. 2), featuring 90 levels. While it's balanced out by the fact that most of them are fairly short (Super Mario World, the follow-up, has around 73 levels but the game is still around the same length because most of them are much longer and some have to be replayed to unlock the secret exits) it's still one of the longest platformers on the NES, enough so that one of the biggest complaints people had at the time is that there was no way to save the game (Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario Advance 4 and emulator save states have since mitigated that, at least.)
    • Super Mario Bros. Wonder represents the largest increase in level quantity for a 2D Mario platformer since Super Mario Bros. 3, with 131 levels. In comparison, its direct predecessors (the New Super Mario Bros. games) have a rounded average of 80 levels each.
    • Super Mario Maker 2 has 120 levels in Story Mode, whereas the original's 10 Mario challenge only has 56note  (though the 3DS version rose the amount to 88note ).

    Puzzle Games 
  • Chip's Challenge: The original game is already very long, with 149 levels. Then came Chip's Challenge 2 with a whopping 200 levels, and many of them have a more complex design due to the larger number of setpieces to deal with. This is also reflected in their respective fan sequels: The four Level Packs built upon the engine of the first game have each 149 levels, while the fan sequel to the second game bumps the total to 200.
  • Portal was initially treated by Valve as an experimental Bottle Episode; a short, but sweet experience that was part of The Orange Box, a compilation also including Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2. Once Portal ended up a surprise favorite, Valve invested a bigger budget and more personnel onto the sequel, Portal 2. Due to featuring a lot more game mechanics (gels, faith plates, excursion funnels, hard light bridges) as well as scripted story beats, it's about three times as long, consisting of more levels to give all the content room to breathe.

    Racing Games 
  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit has 40 tracks (20 new tracks, and 20 rearranged tracks from Super Mario Kart), whereas Super itself, 64 and the later Double Dash!! have only 20, 16 and 16 respectively. Mario Kart DS brought back the idea of Nostalgia Level cups, this time including retro tracks from all of its predecessors, ramping the amount to 32 tracks. This has been a steady amount for the following games until Mario Kart 8 (first by way of Downloadable Content and then with its Deluxe port on the Nintendo Switch) provided another major bump for a total of 48 tracks. The port's own DLC aimed to increase the number yet again, this time clocking at 96 courses.
  • Need for Speed:
    • Early games mostly focused on arcade-like gameplay and the fantasy of racing super cars. But with subsequent entries like Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Need for Speed Heat, this trope comes into play.
    • The first Underground introduced the concept of street racing and tuner car culture into the city, but the sequel Underground 2 expanded them with more gameplay options such as free-roaming and extensive customization beyond the bodykits and performance parts.
  • Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart features 65 tracks that you can play through either multiplayer or a time attack mode. Its sequel, Dr. Robotnik's Ring Racers, has a grand total of 152 tracks, which you can now experience through a full-fledged Grand Prix in addition to the existing modes. The game also includes a boatload of unlockable content to further extend playtime, unlike its predecessor which has almost all of its content available from the start.
  • The first Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune game has 60 stages in Story Mode, which is needed to full-tine your vehicle. Maximum Tune 2 ups the number of stages to 80, and Maximum Tune 3 Deluxe ramps it up to 100.

    Real-Time Strategy Games 
  • Pikmin: The first game has players collect thirty ship parts on a thirty-day timer. Even inexperienced players can get multiple parts in one day, and the days are short enough that you can generally beat the whole game in one day if you put some effort into it. However, Pikmin 2 is significantly longer than the first game as there are 201 collectible treasures, new underground cavern levels, new game modes, new Pikmin types, and a new captain, Louie.
  • Starcraft: The two campaigns for each race in the original game and its expansion Brood War had ten missions each, with the exception of the second Protoss and Terran campaigns, that had 8. The campaign of Starcraft II Wings Of Liberty is 29 missions long, eleven more missions than both Terran campaigns from vanilla and Brood War combined, while Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void have 20 missions each.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The first Arc the Lad's main story takes about 10 hours to complete on average; Arc the Lad II, however, can take up to five times as long at about 50 hours for the main story alone.
  • In Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest just featured one hero, Dragon Quest II had three, and Dragon Quest III had four that the player could customize with name, gender, and class. The series has since stabilized with a four-man party, which the player could either customize themself or select from around six to eight story characters. The games have gotten longer as well; I could be knocked out in a few hours but Dragon Quest XI is well over a hundred. Other expansions include things like skill trees and crafting.
  • Endless Frontier: The first game lasts about under 40 hours. The second lasts around 60, and it has sidequests, unlike the first game.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy: Each game in the main series is larger than the last, with Epic Battle Fantasy 3 being an especially large leap from its predecessor. The first two titles only consisted of set waves with enemies, a handful of cutscenes in-between, and shops midway through the game. The third game adds an overworld with five full-length areasnote  and changes the format to be more in-line with a traditional RPG, with sidequests, Item Crafting, leveling up, and much more equipment. Almost every enemy from the first two games is also present in the third, and many more are introduced. It can take longer to beat 3 than 1 and 2 combined, even when ignoring the optional content in the former.
  • The first five mainline Etrian Odyssey games have each six strata, while the Untold remakes of the first two games add one more for a total of seven. Etrian Odyssey Nexus? It has fourteen, as it not only has its own strata but also brings back many familiar ones for being a Megamix Game.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • While the main stories of Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII are roughly similar in length, the extra space provided by the Compact Disc format enables VII to have far more in the way of extra content, with the game taking significantly longer to beat than its predecessor when taking sidequests and other extras into mind in both titles (even when you're not getting Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer). Given that VII was designed as a way to flex the wider capabilities of CD-ROM technology compared to traditional cartridges, to the point where it needs three discs to store everything, this is most definitely an Invoked Trope.
    • Final Fantasy XII is notoriously longer than previous games in the series, having longer dungeons, and a ton more side-quests.
    • Of the Final Fantasy games for the SNES/Super Famicom, Final Fantasy IV had roughly 12 hours of gameplay, and Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI were significantly longer.
    • Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is much lengthier and larger in scope than Final Fantasy VII Remake. While Remake focuses solely on expanding the Midgar section of FFVII, which takes up a quarter of the game's first disc, Rebirth does the same to the rest of the first disc, meaning it contains triple its predecessor's content. To give you an idea, PlayStation 5 game discs can contain 100 GB worth of data, yet Rebirth still requires two discs to play (Remake also requires two discs on the PlayStation 4, but it is a single-disc game on the PS5).
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age is the direct sequel to Golden Sun. While the first game has an average completion time of 22 hours (if you only bother with the main story), the sequel clocks in at about 31h 30min, nearly ten more hours. Makes sense, as the first game occurs in an (admittedly dense) area that takes up less than 1/4 of the world, while the rest of it opens up in The Lost Age and has several worldwide fetchquests that are mandatory to progress. The third entry in the series, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, scales back a bit and lasts around 27 hours, halfway between the previous two.
  • The Mario & Luigi series. On average, the first two installments could be completed in about twelve hours of gameplay each, not counting sidequests, while the third was only slightly longer by about four hours or so. Meanwhile, the next two could take up to thirty hours to be completed (again, without sidequests) on average.
  • Persona 2: In both the original versions and the PSP remakes, the second part of the duology Eternal Punishment is much longer than its predecessor, Innocent Sin. Eternal Punishment has two alternative storylines halfway through the game (meaning that you must play both in different playthroughs to get the full picture), three extra optional dungeons, a Bonus Dungeon that is only available in New Game Plus, and in the PSP remake, a huge segment that runs parallel to the normal game. The whole thing means that you can pour over 100 hours into Eternal Punishment, while Innocent Sin takes around 50 to finish.
  • Pokémon Gold and Silver (and by extension Crystal) is slightly more than twice the length of Pokémon Red and Blue, since it features the entire region that Red and Blue was set in, as well as a brand new one for Gold and Silver. Although later games tend to be longer than Red and Blue, they're likely less extensive than Gold and Silver.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC features a prologue, 4 chapters with the last being significantly longer, and several sidequests with collectables, recipes, and 8 playable characters. Realistically, the game can be completed in 45 to 60 hours. SC, on the other hand, has a prologue, 9 chapters with 3 particularly long arcs among them, twice as many collectable books, a plethora of sidequests, 5 additional party members, a far longer and more in-depth plot, and significantly more challenging boss battles. The game can take anywhere from 60 to 90 hours to complete.

  • A full run of Gradius IV: Resurrection can take about 35-40 minutes, assuming no deaths. Gradius V takes an hour and a half per loop.
  • The original Tiger Heli takes about 15-20 minutes to complete its four stages, depending on how many times the player died and had to respawn back at a Checkpoint. Its sequel Twin Cobra, on the other hand, can take about 45 minutes to clear its ten stages, and that's if you either no-hit the Japanese version or play the Western version (which doesn't use checkpoints), with runs possibly taking over fifty minutes if one has to keep respawning in the Japanese version.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa has this as a tendency among the main games, with each game being considerably bigger and longer than the ones prior. This reaches its peak in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, in which the first trial alone can last up to three hours, not counting the rest of the chapter.
  • Paradise Lost, the first novel in the Shinza Bansho Series clocks in at about 30 hours to read through all the way to the end. This is in stark contrast to it's followup, Dies Irae, which is an 80+ hour behemoth start to finish. And that's before getting into the side stories that are included as well.
  • Cases in the Ace Attorney series have generally gotten longer and more intricate over time, with later games having mid-game cases of comparable length to final cases of earlier games. Naturally, this results in longer games overall. The final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice on its own is approximately the same length as the entirety of the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (excluding "Rise from the Ashes", which was added in an Updated Re-release).

    Wide-Open Sandbox Games 
  • LEGO Island was basically a very simple Wide-Open Sandbox game, set on a very small island, hosting 5 missions for each of 5 characters. LEGO Island 2 reduced the number of playable characters to one, and increased the linearity, but the payoff was that the game could be much larger and more structured, featuring several different islands that could be visited and explored to varying extents.
  • Dragon Quest Builders was made up of 4 self contained chapters. Dragon Quest Builders 2 has the four main chapters (which are significantly larger than in the ones found in the first game), and an ongoing plot on the main island in between them, and an extra mini chapter thrown in as well. All in all, the main story is around twice as long.