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Spiritual Successor
aka: Spiritual Sequel

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"In any event, recently I noticed that there were certain movies which, although not designed to be, are like sequels to earlier, unrelated films. Movies that show you what would have happened years later if only you use a little imagination and poetic license..."

A Spiritual Successor is a type of sequel that is not part of the same world or story as its predecessor, but is nonetheless considered to be a successor because it shares common themes, styles, and elements, and may even be made by the same creators. In other words, it’s a sequel "in spirit".

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The reasons for this are varied. Sometimes creators are unable to retain the rights to their original work, which makes a direct sequel impossible. A creator may strongly echo another's work as a sort of "professional Fanfic", implying a connection or parallel while keeping a respectful (and copyright-avoiding) distinction from the original. Other times, they may not want to directly continue the original work (and risk Sequelitis), but their distinctive style and thematic interests remain. Producers may try to adapt a different work following the model of a previous success of theirs, while maintaining a prudent separation between the two Canons. And then sometimes it occurs completely by accident.

Present in all sorts of media, although the term "Spiritual Successor" may have originated within video games (also known as companion games), because developers might own the engine and game code with publishers owning the trademarks to the franchise.

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A spiritual successor may succumb to Better by a Different Name.

The series version of an Expy. Often overlaps with Serial Numbers Filed Off. Compare Spiritual Adaptation. Contrast They Copied It, So It Sucks!, Dolled-Up Installment, In Name Only, Dueling Shows, and Thematic Series. See also Production Posse.

The opposite is Spiritual Antithesis, though it is possible to be Spiritual Successor to one work and Spiritual Antithesis to another at the same time.


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    Fan Works 
  • Skyhold Academy Yearbook seems to be this to the Dragon Age: Inquisition medieval AU duology "The Lions of Grand Forest," written by the same authors. However, it's actually the reverse; Skyhold Academy, the first story in the Yearbook series, was written before The Lady and the Lion, the first half of "Lions." The authors initially had no intention of publishing Skyhold Academy, so the similarities between the two stories weren't considered a problem. Just For Fun, therefore, the later installments of Yearbook contain a number of vague references which imply that The Lady and the Lion is actually a Real-Person Fic written by two of the school's students. It's entirely up to the reader which is better.
  • For Love of Magic has enough parallels to Partially Kissed Hero to be called this. Both are fanfics with a sociopathic Harry whose racist against Muslims (and others), attracts women to him like flies, has the masquerade be shattered wide open, and to top it all off potentially interesting ideas are sprinkled in between all of the above. Both fics spend a lot of time tearing into aspects of the Harry Potter community (though while the former goes after canon the latter goes after fanon).
  • Ghost Of You is one for the infamous My Immortal, since it features the same Emo Teen motifs and the eternal war of goths and preps and was in fact Tara Gilesbie's and Raven's final collaboration.
  • Luminosity is doing to the Twilight universe what Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality did to the Harry Potter universe—that is, take the main character, make him/her intelligent and rational, and write the story from there. Bella isn't quite as much of a Self-Insert, though.
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic is considered this to Sonichu. However, while the first installment of Unicorn is considered So Bad, It's Good (the rest of the series, not so much), Sonichu... isn't.
  • Animegx43's Twilight Sparkle: Ace Attorney series has been described as a spiritual successor to Turnabout Storm, by one of the people who worked on Turnabout Storm.
  • Warriors Redux is a Fix Fic based on Warrior Cats but the dramatic changes make it more closer to the 1980s book Tailchaser's Song (even more so than the source series). The writer was inspired by Watership Down, which also inspired Tailchaser's Song, thus making Warriors Redux into essentially "Watership Down but with cats".
  • J-WITCH Season 1 is this to Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, both being crossovers between Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. that involve the Chan Clan being brought in to train the new Guardians. The author of the former even directly references the latter as an inspiration.

    Pinballs 

    Podcasts 
  • The Dick Show is considered by many fans to be this to The Biggest Problem in the Universe, since it shares one of the latter show's co-hosts.

    Radio 
  • Gloomsbury to The Wordsmiths at Gorsemere: a BBC Radio 4 slice-of-life sitcom written by Sue Limb about an exaggerated version of a well known group of writers (the Romantic poets and the Bloomsbury set), filled with punny names.
  • Hello Cheeky was this to I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again. Both were sketch shows with a surreal bent, a cast that played exaggerated versions of themselves, No Fourth Wall, a shared actor in Tim Brooke-Taylor and, early on, a shared producer in David Hatch. The main difference was that Hello Cheeky was a lot quicker and looser, with sketches not needing a punchline. (Actually, the first season of Hello Cheeky ran parallel to the last season of I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, which resulted in playful potshots by the latter to the former.)
  • In the 1940s, Ruth Park wrote a children's radio serial called The Wide-Awake Bunyip, about an amiable but foolish bunyip and his best friend, Mouse. The serial was cancelled in 1951 after the death of the lead actor, then rebooted as The Muddle-Headed Wombat, about an amiable but foolish wombat and his best friend, Mouse, with the same writer and production team and the same cast apart from the title role.
  • Not a programme, but an entire station: 96.3 Radio Aire in Leeds, West Yorkshire, could be considered as a spiritual successor to 103.2 Power FM in Hampshire. Similar playlist, emphasis on personality/music, rather than "more music less talk", and emphasis on dance music at the weekends, whilst retaining an air of locality; in fact they only network 7pm-10pm and 1am-6am weekdays, from 6pm-10pm Saturdays and weekend overnights; otherwise, they're pretty much local.
  • Same could be said for UKRD's takeover of the former TLRC [The Local Radio Company] stations; they sound like live and local stations of the 1990s, with emphasis on the local part. Plus, there were few if any rebrands, except in the North East, and no networking — so it feels local in content terms.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The design team of City of 7 Seraphs has cited Planescape as a major influence. The City, a planar hub metropolis at the centre of all realities, is Sigil with the serial numbers filed off. Colin McComb, co-creator of Planescape and writer of Planescape: Torment, is one of the designers working on City of 7 Seraphs.
  • Cheapass' Games Kill Doctor Lucky is a spiritual prequel to Clue.
  • Magic: The Gathering Arena of the Planeswalkers is the successor to Heroscape as it is made by the same designers and basically just takes Heroscape and puts it in the Magic: The Gathering universe and adds magic cards but is 90% the same game. It even has compatable terrain and some even say armies and almost everyone that has both games has tried mixing them.
  • Hordes/Warmachine by Privateer Press is considers by many to be a better version of Warhammer Fantasy and 40,000, as many Games Workshop designers left to start Privateer Press for the purpose of not only making a better game but in their opinion a better game company.
  • The OGL fostered many of these for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons First Edition: Among them are Castles and Crusades, OSRIC, and Labyrinth Lord.
  • Pathfinder is Paizo's refinement of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition rules, made after Wizards of the Coast released Fourth Edition and upset a lot of fans because it was completely incompatible with 3.5 and was a sharp change in play-style.
    • Dreamscarred Press has made a habit of taking Dungeons & Dragons's alternate magic systems and porting them to Pathfinder.
      • Psionics were revamped in their Ultimate Psionics book, with significant chunks being outright conversions.
      • The controversial Tome of Battle was revamped in Path of War. Notably, while the system is a Pathfinder version of Tome of Battle's, none of the Tome of Battle classes or disciplines have counterparts, so as to avoid rights issues.
      • Magic of Incarnum's meldshaping was reworked into the veilweaving of Akashic Mysteries. Like Path of War, it avoids having direct counterparts to its predecessor's classes. Unlike Path of War, the fluff around Akasha is considerably different to that of incarnum.
    • Kobold Quarterly, from Open Design/Kobold Press, which ran from 2007 to 2012, was essentially a Dragon magazine for 4th ed and Pathfinder. It even had an advice column by Skip Williams, the original Sage of Dragon's "Sage Advice".
  • Frontier Space, released in 2017, is a Dolled-Up Installment of TSR's 1982 classic sci-fi RPG Star Frontiers.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 Gaiden Game Necromunda is a heavily streamlined version of the early 90s game Confrontation with fleshed out background. Serialised in White Dwarf, Confrontation dealt with running underhive gangs in small scale skirmishes and what went on in the downtime between them. The game was known to be exceedingly complex and terrifyingly lethal (roll up a gang in a few hours, have the first guy killed within a minute of starting to play) but interesting nonetheless.
  • Rex: Final Days of an Empire is the original Dune but given a Twilight Imperium reskin.

    Theatre 
  • Director-writer Franco Dragone helmed the bulk of Cirque du Soleil's shows through 1998, and has since struck out on his own. Two of his solo shows, Le Reve (2005, Las Vegas) and The House of Dancing Water (2010, Macau, China) can be seen as spiritual successors to one of his last Cirque efforts, "O" (1998, Las Vegas), if only for the fact that they're all stylized fantasies that take place in, around, and upon enormous pools that can be converted to conventional stages as needed. (Le Reve, which was competing directly against "O", was initially poorly regarded by critics for being little more than a grim recycling of the Cirque effort, and substantial retooling resulted.)
  • Henrik Ibsen had a number of successor plays: An Enemy of the People follows up the political themes from The League of Youth, with a character from the former play showing up in the latter. Also The Master Builder, who follows the same pattern as a sequel to The Lady From the Sea. Both The Master Builder and When We Dead Awaken have themes in common with Brand.
  • Hamilton can be compared to 1776 for a few reasons. Most obviously, it's a musical about the Founding Fathers trying to create America. Although 1776 is a Government Procedural about the efforts to declare independence and Hamilton is a full biography, both have songs about their leads grappling with principles and the need to compromise to accomplish their goals. While 1776 portrays the Founding Fathers as griping, mopey, bored aristocrats who painstakingly earn their "Mount Rushmore" stature by learning to compromise their ethics and rise above their flaws, the Founding Fathers in Hamilton are a mixture of the previously-described aristocrats and young, poor revolutionaries who have a fire lit under them, yet are no less flawed and taken a bit more soundly to task for it. Where 1776 alludes to the fickleness of historians through John Adams' lament that he'll be forgotten and Franklin's ironic "What will posterity think we were, demigods?", Hamilton turns it into a central theme as its principal characters struggle to define and control their legacy. Both Adams and Hamilton were also "forgotten" Founding Fathers in spite of their zeal and accomplishments, whose profiles were raised dramatically by the plays, and had a tendency to piss off everyone around them. (Including each other, in fact; "despised" would be a mild way of describing their mutual feeling.)
  • William Shakespeare used a limited number of themes in his works, to the point that some of his plays are almost identical in mood. For example: King Lear, Timon of Athens, and Titus Andronicus are all dark and heart-wrenching tragedies with Bittersweet Endings about great and powerful men who are reduced to insane beggars because of a single decision which was idiotic in retrospect.
  • The work of Peter Fenton is full of Spiritual Successors, most notably Abandon All Hope as one for No Exit, which is lampshaded in the script.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is considered to be the Spiritual Successor to Another Code (Trace Memory in the United States), and is set in the same universe. Again!! is in turn the Spiritual Successor to Hotel Dusk: Room 215.
  • Snatcher and Policenauts, both of which are sci-fi graphic adventure games directed by Hideo Kojima.
  • The Tokimeki Memorial series got, during its 15 years-long run and ongoing, three Spiritual Successors:
    • Mitsumete Knight in 1997, which used Tokimeki Memorial 1's game engine and most of its mechanics, with several twists such as easier girl management, an expanded battle system, and a rich medieval/heroic-fantasy storyline where Anyone Can Die ;
    • Meine Liebe in 2001, using too the same game engine than Tokimemo but in a Gender Flipped version, making it the predecessor of the Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side branch of the series ;
    • Love Plus in 2009, reducing the datable characters to a measly three of them, but with lots more development around them and an After Story of sorts where the player can interact with the girl long after having they have confessed their feelings (a system which got a lot of controversy, especially with some Otaku pushing the thing a bit too far).
    • In 2007, Konami released Brooktown High in English. It was an In Name Only successor to the Tokimeki Memorial series. It received mixed reviews and weak sales.
    • Shira Oka: Second Chances was meant to be an unofficial fan-made spiritual successor to Tokimeki Memorial, but in English. It began development around 2005, but the full game was not released to the public until December 2010. Therefore, the title of "first fan-made spiritual successor in English with a commercial release" goes to the independent game Summer Session.
  • Umineko: When They Cry is a spiritual sequel to the two-installment Higurashi: When They Cry. It shares many elements with Higurashi: written by the same person, "Groundhog Day" Loop that loops at the beginning of each new arc, and spikes from happy scenes to horrific scenes; however, it's in an entirely new setting: instead of a small, secluded village, it takes place on an island owned by a multi-million-yen family with new characters. It does have a couple Continuity Nods, however, in the form of Bernkastel and Lambdadelta. But that hasn't stopped the fans from theorising that there is a connection between the series, especially since Bernkastel has been confirmed to be an amalgamation of all the Rikas who never made it past June of 1983, plus Higurashi was labeled When They Cry 1 & 2 (Higurashi and Higurashi Kai) while Umineko is When They Cry 3 & 4 (Umineko and Umineko Chiru). This might indicate a closer connection between the series.
  • The Zero Escape series can be seen as a spiritual sequel to the Infinity series (which includes Never 7 and Ever 17), including similar themes about existence and involve a shady pharmaceutical company.

    Web Animation 
  • Crossing with Music, Buffalaxes are the spiritual successor to Animutation. Both runs on Mondegreens, but while Animutation creators create trippy animation to go with what they mondegreened, Buffalaxes tend to be more straightforward and use the real music video wholesale, with the humor coming from over-the-top expletive-laden mondegreens of the song lyrics instead being shown as the song's subtitles. Buffalaxes started surfacing a few years after the animutation craze has died down.
  • DC Super Hero Girls is Super Best Friends Forever meets the unused Gotham High pitch. DC Superhero Girls is a Lighter and Softer High School A.U. where the protagonists are mostly several female DC Comics characters in a Superhero School. It features teenage versions of Supergirl and Batgirl, though it uses Wonder Woman rather than her sister Wonder Girl.
  • Super Mario Bros. Z received a spiritual successor in the form of Super Mario Bros. GT: The Grand Adventure, this one being a crossover with Kirby.
  • Wolf Song: The Movie is a wolf-centric animation that takes some inspiration from licensed works. There's a clear Warriors influence, but with the characters as canines instead of cats, and it's also similar to Warriors' sister-series Survivors, but with more wolves. Some of the designs look awfully similar to Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, as does the fighting. Similarily to Wolf's Rain, wolves are near extinction.

    Web Comics 
  • The Accidental Space Spy is a spiritual successor to Hitmen for Destiny by the same author. The setting and characters are different, but they both explore how Bizarre Alien Biology might come about through evolution, and rely on farce.
  • Anti-Heroes openly acknowledges right at the top of the page that it was inspired by Rich Burlew's The Order of the Stick, and uses a similar stick-figure style as well as medium-aware gags, and even a few breaking-the-fourth-wall-references to Burlew's style. The overall plot and universe differ significantly, though.
  • A Softer Sea is a comic drawing direct inspiration from A Softer World, down to the formula of three or six panel strips juxtaposed with poetry, created by two people. The main difference is that A Softer Sea seems to adhere to a loose canon, rather than a wider variety of content from its inspiration.
  • Girly by Josh Lesnick is... kind of a Spiritual Successor to his previous webcomic Cute Wendy. The two main characters from Cute Wendy are the mother and father/mother of Winter from Girly, but the stories are separate and unique enough to be considered a league of its own.
  • The characters of Precocious share a lot of traits with Ozy and Millie — as do the adults, who generally seem content to leave them to their own devices as long as the damage is kept at a minimum.
  • In John Allison's own words: Bad Machinery "is son of Scary Go Round in the same way that Scary Go Round was son of Bobbins''."
  • Shaenon Garrity's Skin Horse is a bit of an odd duck here — it was the spiritual successor to Narbonic. A group of misfits providing each other with emotional support; one or two non-human sentients trying to find a way to fit into the world; and a dash of UST. Now, however, a Narbonic character has made an appearance in Skin Horse, promoting it (retroactively?) to actual sequel. It's been confirmed by Word of God that UNITY is what the military did with the samples of Mell's DNA that Helen sold them. If that wasn't planned from the start it fits together very neatly.
  • Three Panel Soul is the Spiritual Successor to Mac Hall. The relationship between the two comics is not dissimilar to the relationship of one's life during college, and one's life after college (and not without good reason, either, since that's what they're about with regards to Matt and Ian).
  • We Are The Wyrecats is technically a sequel to Ruby Nation, but it focuses on an (almost) entirely new cast of characters. What the two comics share is the same setting and the same set of themes.

    Web Original 
  • New York Magician: Compare the writer's earlier Ethereal Park Ethereal series, which also features magical elements in an otherwise normal New York, along with some Urban Exploration influence. However, the protagonists are very different; Michel is a rich man experienced at all this magic stuff, while the narrator of PE is a broke homeless guy who can't remember his name or past and has no real idea what's going on.
  • Discussed in SF Debris' review of Star Trek: Nemesis. Like many Trekkies, Chuck Sonnenberg feels that a major problem with Nemesis is that it tried way too hard to be a Spiritual Successor to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a film often cited as the best of the Star Trek movies; it features a genetically modified human villain who's framed as the Evil Counterpart of the heroic Captain, an experimental doomsday weapon figures into the plot, it climaxes with a one-on-one starship battle, and it even ends with Data pulling a Heroic Sacrifice to save the crew à la Spock. But as Sonnenberg argues, the producers didn't realize that they had already unintentionally made a much better Spiritual Successor to The Wrath of Khan with Star Trek: First Contact. Both films are follow-ups to classic episodes of the TV show ("Space Seed" and "The Best of Both Worlds", respectively) that feature Kirk and Picard attempting to come to grips with their Fatal Flaw while battling their most personal enemy, and they feature them confronting the legacy of the brutal 21st century in the personage of Khan Noonien Singh and Dr. Zephram Cochrane. note 
  • TikTok could be considered a successor to Vine in several aspects; both are online platforms where users can share short videos with each other, and both have had trends that have reached Memetic Mutation levels of popular.
  • The Whateley Universe is the spiritual successor to the Of Masks and Marvels universe. The author of the latter is one of the key creators and main authors of the former, and they are both superhero universes with transgender protagonists. The main character and main superhero team of the Masks and Marvels world even have expies in side characters at Whateley Academy.
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone Company, which provides bots designed to waste the time of telemarketers and other unwanted callers can be said to be this to "Lenny." Lenny is a set of recordings designed to sound like an old man which have enjoyed some popularity on YouTube and which is also engaged to waste the time of telemarketers and other undesirable callers. However, Lenny is only one bot with a very limited repertoire, and no A.I. to customize the routine to engage. Jolly Roger, on the other hand, provides a number of different bots and has added new features over time, including the ability to pass from one bot to another when material runs out, as well as detecting certain scams and engaging custom routines.

    Web Videos 
  • Alex Albrecht's show 4Points on the Nerdist network can be seen as a successor to Diggnation as it more or less picks up on the same format but with an additional two hosts.
  • The YouTube channel AOK is a spiritual successor to the FOX ADHD channel and television block. The type of content on both channels is very similar, not to mention that two of ADHD's writers, Heather Anne Campbell and Eric Moneypenny, are the writers for AOK.
  • Crossed was a series of short video by Karim Debbache where he reviewed movies based on — or talking about — video games. The series ended after the 28 episodes negotiated with JeuxVidéo.com, the website which hosted his videos. After negotiations with the website and other potential partners failed, Karim launched in 2016 a new, crowdfunded show called Chroma. The new show doesn't just have a similar title and subject as Crossed but also the same length and format, the same humor, Karim's friends Gilles and Jeremy coming back, and generally feels like a season of Crossed that doesn't focus on videogames.
  • Diggnation and TWiT are both spiritual successors to The Screen Savers
  • Richard Michael Alvarez, creator of Stupid Mario Brothers, announced that a spiritual successor to SMB called That Stupid Video Game Show. It will feature generally the same characters as SMB but will not have an overarching storyline like its predecessor. Each episode will be self-contained.
  • The Totally Rad Show is a spiritual successor to Geekdrome and Burt Monroy's Pixel Perfect can be seen a spiritual successor to Bob Ross' The Joy of Painting
  • TV Trash could be seen as this to Benthelooney's 2009-2011 run of rants, because of The Rowdy Reviewer's characterization, the way he voices his opinions (Fair and less harsh when compared to other caustic critics), less focus on jokes, and more focus on the subject at hand with an occasional joke thrown into the picture. (Especially so, since Benthelooney took a different direction to the way he was before cancellation, when his rants restarted production.)
  • World War II: The series is one to The Great War following the same Real Time format, the same host, and some of the same production staff but about World War II following on from the original series coverage of World War I.

Alternative Title(s): Spiritual Sequel, Spiritual Predecessor

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