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Surprisingly Improved Sequel

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"Y'know, I want to write and direct the third installment of this franchise and make it the best thing anyone has ever seen, just so I can force critics to say "My God, you have to see Baby Geniuses 3!"
Ash, The Shitty Movie Night Podcast (talking about Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2)

So you've read a book, watched a movie, or played a video game, and you're underwhelmed. Maybe the story was clichéd and unoriginal, or it was difficult to follow. The characters were little more than a handful of personality traits. If it was a video game, the gameplay maybe had some good ideas, but they were handled poorly and the effort was wasted.

The book, film, or game may even have been pretty good. It's just that after reading it, you try out the Sequel and you're completely blown away. It's much better. The story is more original, the pacing was fixed, the characters who seemed so flat before are now more fleshed out and interesting in their own right. If it's a video game, the gameplay has been much improved and everything comes together more tightly. You weren't expecting the next product to be this good, but it seems the creator(s) did indeed learn from their mistakes. You're rightly impressed.

There are several reasons for the surprisingly good sequel: Franchises with more regular production cycles can help studios retain talent and acquire financial backing more easily. It can also allow the production team more time to hone the stylistic aspects of their works. In fact, many authors and directors claim that some of their first work in a series was a near miss and they didn't really hit stride until the sequel. Franchises which plan things beforehand are particularly able to take advantage of this because they're less likely to get caught in in the sort of death spiral an open ended series can fall into.

Note this can still apply if the original is utterly terrible and the follow-up is merely So Okay, It's Average — the improvement is still very much there, even if the end result isn't as notable.

The opposite of Sequelitis in many cases, though sometimes a great sequel can produce a bad third or fourth installment, which would make it the opposite of Sophomore Slump. One rule espoused by some fans of comic-book style movies is that the sequels will have a chance to be better films overall, due to not having to get the origin out of the way.

Growing the Beard is similar, but it deals with a television series that becomes remarkably better once it finds its stride.

See also More Popular Spin-Off, Sequel Displacement and Remade and Improved.

This is about the sequels to products that either sucked or were just average to begin with, but somehow magically improved a lot in the next installment. This is not about products that were already very good but got better. If the original was excellent to begin with rather than mediocre, then it's an Even Better Sequel. Naturally, examples will be subjective.

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


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Birdy the Mighty: Decode is widely regarded as a vast improvement over the original four-episode OVA.
  • The first entry in nitro+'s science adventure series, Chaos;Head, was not terribly well-regarded, especially in anime form. Both the Steins;Gate visual novel and anime, on the other hand, are regarded as high-tier science fiction.
  • Go! Princess Pretty Cure has been this for the post-HeartCatch Pretty Cure! era of Pretty Cure series in terms of story, ratings and sales as all three have been consistently better than its two predecessors, Doki Doki! PreCure and HappinessCharge Pretty Cure!, the former being accused of focusing too much on its lead while the latter suffered from a Romantic Plot Tumor.
  • Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE is the sequel to Gundam Build Divers, the latter which was considered neither amazing nor outright horrible. Re:Rise brings in not just Character Development for Hiroto and his team, but also cranks ups the stakes, tone and more to new heights, while also addressing some issues left unanswered by its predecessor.
  • Highlander: The Search for Vengeance is widely considered to be the best thing related to the Highlander franchise released since Highlander: The Series, following a very poorly received spinoff of said series (Highlander: The Raven), a very poorly received film, and and a poorly-received Western animated series.
  • Jewelpet (2009) was regarded as a So Okay, It's Average little girls' anime. Jewelpet Twinkle☆, the 2nd season, was praised for its likable characters and interesting (and surprisingly dark) plot.
  • Dragon Ball Super while still very popular having revived the series after decades of being dormant nevertheless caused a massive Broken Base and was frequently criticised for lesser quality animation, hit-and-miss humour, Flanderization of characters’ worst traits (especially Goku and Chi-Chi), underutilisation of a lot of the cast and regurgitation of well-trodden ideas like Time Travel and Tournament Arcs. Super's two follow up films Dragon Ball Super: Broly and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero are much more unanimous positively received thanks to vastly superior animation and fights (especially in Broly), better characterisation, funnier jokes, more stakes and in Super Hero’s case genuinely giving characters other than Goku and Vegeta a chance to shine. This also applies to Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' which is oft-considered one of the weakest films with Broly and Super Hero being a top to bottom improvement.
  • MD Geist was a mediocre OVA from The '80s given popularity in North America due to a widespread advertisement campaign by those who licensed it. This popularity managed to sway the director of the OVA to make a sequel after ten years; those ten years of experience are very evident.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
  • Transformers: Energon is commonly regarded as one of the worst series in the franchise for its lazy plot, flat characters whose development is continuously nullified, amateurish CGI work and a horrendous American version with a nonsensical script and enormous plot holes. Transformers: Cybertron is mostly seen as So Okay, It's Average, but it's an improvement in all areas: the characters are more memorable, the CGI's much more polished (if still not stellar), the story has pacing problems but at least doesn't run out of steam halfway through, and the dub had a lot of effort put into it. And it's fun.note 
  • Transformers: ★Headmasters was usually regarded as a complete slog - despite being a much-prized G1 continuation, it suffered from terribly bland characters, a repetitive structure, and the pacing of a drugged tortoise. Compared to The Headmasters, the cast for Super-God Masterforce is smaller and hence there is more time to focus on the individual characters, making them more engaging/interesting (heroes in the first half, villains in the second half). In particular, for many Transformers series, fans are often annoyed by human kids being shoehorned into the episodes, but Masterforce for the most part avoided the shoehorn feel by its own premise of humans becoming Transformers. The individual episodes and especially the series' various overarching plots are better written too, with surprisingly more mature themes alluded to (For a kids series). Across the western fandom, it is generally regarded as the best Transformers anime that Japan has offered to date, despite the atypical premise for a Transformers series.
  • Apparently, Stratos 4 falls under this trope, what with Advance having a better, more sensible plot that the original.
  • Vampire Hunter D was basically another cheesy 80's Gorntasic OVA/movie with a terrible dub. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, on the other hand, is far more serious, the story and aesthetics are much improved, and the art and animation are vastly better.
  • The first season of the Uma Musume anime, made while the game was deep in Development Hell, was widely seen as a So Okay, It's Average mobile game advertisement, with most criticism focused on its bland protagonists and story that couldn't seem to figure out if it was a goofy parody of sports anime or a silly but straight example of the same. The second season, released after the game, aligned itself firmly with the latter tone by getting rid of most of the tongue-in-cheek elements, resulting in many reviewers praising the depth that the characters and dramatic arcs gained.
  • W'z is the sequel to Hand Shakers, an anime largely considered one of the worst ever made and is even downright unwatchable in some cases (the poor compositing of CGI-heavy shots and wild camera movements have even been reported to give some viewers motion sickness and headaches), but it managed to clear the very low bar set by it. While it still suffers from many of the same mistakes its predecessor also committed, the fact that it reined in the crazy camera movements and the technology behind its production to make itself watchable was a surprise improvement to viewers.

    Comic Books 
  • The comics based on Avatar: The Last Airbender. Beginning with the So Okay, It's Average The Promise, the subsequent volumes are each generally regarded as improvements on the arcs which preceded them, up through North and South, the author's final story before departing the series.
  • Similarly, Venom (Donny Cates) follows up Mike Costa's run, generally considered to be So Okay, It's Average, and also uses Eddie Brock rather than Flash Thompson, who had only recently died. Not only that, but it was also worried the series would be too much of a tie-in to the film. Instead, the run so far is considered one of, if not the best Venom series (to the point that it is joked that this run is better than DC's Watchmen).
  • Secret Wars (2015) is generally considered this. The original Secret Wars (1984) though iconic and full of great moments is still largely an excuse for a load of Marvel heroes and villains to fight and in a greater sense to sell toys. Secret Wars II is only really known for characterising the Beyonder and giving him a human form (a guy with a mullet in a white suit). The 2015 Secret Wars has vastly improved writing and is a big Win Back the Crowd particularly for the Fantastic Four and undos Doctor Doom’s years of Villain Decay.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Carl Barks created Scrooge McDuck and introduced the character in Christmas on Bear Mountain (December 1947). But this version of Scrooge was little more than a geriatric misanthrope who wanted to play a cruel joke on his nephews, and the story was a Christmas comedy with plenty of misunderstandings between the characters involved. When Barks decided to turn Scrooge into a recurring character, he wrote the sequel story The Old Castle's Secret (June 1948) with Scrooge in a co-protagonist role. It was a horror-mystery story set in Scrooge's ancestral castle in Scotland. It featured a redesigned Scrooge who was healthier, more physically fit, and carried a handgun. He was also a bit smarter and braver than the previous depiction on him. The story was considered far more memorable than Christmas on Bear Mountain, and established Scrooge as an interesting character in his own right. By 1952, Scrooge was popular enough to get his own comic book series from Dell Comics. Several Disney writers have since written sequels and prequels to The Old Castle's Secret, while few have bothered with revisiting plot points from Christmas on Bear Mountain.
  • The Immortal Hulk is very much considered this compared to the previous big Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines. While both sagas are popular and full of grand scale action and drama, Al Ewing’s run managed to blow them out of the water being one of the most popular Marvel, let alone Hulk runs in decades. Rather than just focusing spectacle of Hulk’s life and strength with him smashing enemies while generally ignoring/downplaying Banner all together like the Planet and World War storylines do, Immortal Hulk does some excellent Revisiting the Roots of Hulk’s original billing as a Terror Hero while also upending the usual Marvel conventions allowing for a greater character study of both Bruce and the Hulk as individual — yet distinct character. And it gives Hulk’s supporting just as much attention and care rather than as an afterthought like alot of previous storylines often treated them. Such was the success of Ewing’s run, a good amount of fans weren’t pleased that Donny Cates’s Hulk run just went back to lower-brow power battles Hulk is known for.
  • Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters was criticized during its publication for its slow pacing, unpleasant artwork, overly cynical tone, lack of focus or momentum, shallow and mean-spirited social commentary, and excessive pop culture references that became dated within months. Its sequels, Godzilla: Ongoing and Godzilla: Rulers of Earth surprised fans by fixing all the problems present in the first series, and most readers now skip Kingdom entirely due to how little it contributes to the overall storyline.
  • Frank Miller's 1986 title Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is by all means a classic, being a watershed work for both Batman stories and the superhero comic industry as a whole, but the 2001-02 sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, was a heavily polarizing mess, with widespread criticism towards the rushed, highly inconsistent artwork and its convoluted, borderline nonsensical plot, featuring a bizarrely cavalier depiction of the titular character. Fortunately, the following 2015-17 installment, Dark Knight III: The Master Race, while nowhere near the monolithic heights of Returns, is considered a solid improvement, reviving the subtle moodiness of Miller's artwork (he's no longer the sole penciller, but the art team does a damn fine impression), featuring a much more comprehensible plot, and restoring the characterization of its heroes back to familiar, beloved ground.
  • The New 52 is generally regarded as a well-meaning but ultimately failed attempt to revamp The DCU. The initiative was plagued by poor planning, ill-conceived attempts to be Darker and Edgier, and a general sense of being directionless. Sales plummeted. Than DC Rebirth happened. Not only did nearly every book that suffered under The New 52 recover spectacularly, but sales skyrocketed and many feel that Rebirth has brought DC into a new golden age. However, it was replaced in 2018 by DC Universe, which depending on who you ask, either keeps it up or trips and falls into Sequelitis.
  • Volumes 1 and 2 of Uncanny Avengers suffered from controversy and uneven writing. The third volume saw a change in the creative team and managed to fix nearly every problem people had with the first two.
  • Many Venom comics are criticised for being everything wrong with The '90s, with a thoroughly unlikable protagonist steeped in edginess, with directionless plots. The 2011 series, starring Flash Thompson as Venom, is the first to be critically and commercially successful, and is praised for its mature writing and depiction of Thompson as a complex veteran and alcoholic, with an addiction to his role as Venom.
  • X-Men:

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Bruce Coville:
    • My Teacher Is an Alien is a decent standalone science fiction story. The three sequels, however, are an epic, philosophical, and surprisingly deep look at the human condition through the eyes of extraterrestrials. When people praise the series, it is almost always the sequels they are talking about, with the original being more like a pilot episode that sets up the characters.
    • The Rod Allbright Alien Adventures books follow the same pattern.
  • An older literary example, is that Anthony Trollope's celebrated novel Barchester Towers is actually the sequel to the lesser-known The Warden, both from the series The Chronicles of Barsetshire.
  • R.A. Salvatore's The Crystal Shard reads, especially in its first hundred pages, like it was written by a sixteen-year-old who'd just read The Lord of the Rings. His later novels are a marked improvement in comparison.
  • Even Stephen King admits that The Drawing of the Three was a huge improvement on The Gunslinger.
  • The first two books of The Dresden Files, Storm Front and Fool Moon, are considered to be okay, if nothing special. Depending on who you ask, either Book 3 or Book 4 are where the books begin to get far better.
  • Eragon is often mocked for being A New Hope in fantasy medieval times. Eldest and Brisingr start getting a little bit more original, though depending on who you ask they may not actually be all that much better.
  • The first Culture novel, Consider Phlebas, is a passable science fiction novel. The next, The Player of Games, is the first in which the whole impact of what the Culture is like can be felt, and is usually the one recommended to read first. The key problem being that in Consider Phlebas, the Culture are the antagonists, with the hero of the story being an enemy soldier, more or less, who is obviously none too fond of them. The criticisms he raises of this society are a lot easier to understand and ponder on when you actually know more about just what the Culture is.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: The first book The Lost Hero was considered rather lackluster, with flat protagonists in Piper and Jason, a by-the-book quest, Strangled by the Red String romance and excluding characters from the previous series. However the second book Son of Neptune introduces the badass Roman Camp, brings back the universally-beloved Percy as a narrator and better-developed new characters (Hazel, Frank, Reyna, Octavian). The third and fourth book fall into Even Better Sequel. As all the books are a Sequel Series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the improvements saved the overall series from Sequelitis.
  • Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, sequel to The Da Vinci Code - he breaks away from a lot of the cliches that had bogged down his earlier books (the formulaic opening sentence, the first good guy mentioned dying, a Token Romance) - and spins a thriller that ends up not postulating a likely incorrect view of history, but one that hinges on the idea that wisdom lives inside us.
  • The Sword of Shannara has some rough patches and comparisons (justified or not) to The Lord of the Rings abound. The later books found more solid footing. Brooks has stated that The Elfstones of Shannara (the second book) needed a lot of editorial work, but it's his favourite as a result. In fact, when the TV series finally got off the ground, Elfstones was the first book adapted as Sword is considered far too similar to LOTR to even attempt.
  • The first two Sherlock Holmes books are fairly middling; Sherlock and Watson are used more as a framing device for other stories that don't really involve them except at the very end, and the mysteries aren't possible to work out beforehand or even overly interesting or clever. It's when Conan Doyle makes the switch to short stories you begin to see how Holmes has been a pop culture icon for so long. Of the twelve stories included in the first anthology, five of them are considered some of the best crime stories ever written.
  • Star Wars Legends: The original Jedi Academy Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson (1994) is generally rated as middling schlock among Legends fans, having generic and weak villains and an infamous case of an Easily Forgiven Karma Houdini. I, Jedi (1998), Michael Stackpole's P.O.V. Sequel to the trilogy starring Corran Horn, is consistently rated as one of the best single novels in the entire Legends continuity.
  • Although Brave was a financial success and did well with critics and fans, many generally regard it to be one of Pixar's weakest films and So Okay, It's Average at best. The 2022 sequel novel, Bravely on the other hand, despite being a novel written without Pixar's direct involvement, is regarded by fans to be a marked improvement over the film due to the book having a less predictable plot, better pacing, and a more consistent tone compared to the films, while also giving the characters (especially Merida) more depth and development.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant has a first book that is very hard to get through. The rest of the series is much, much better.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Season 5 of Arrow was considered a major improvement and Win Back the Crowd moment of the show by fans and critics after its divisive season three and four.
  • Stranger Things Season 4 is considered a vast improvement over the second and third seasons which suffered from some meandering Seasonal Rot and Character Derailment. Season 4 by comparison introduced compelling new characters, a spectacular villain who was retroactively there all along and managed to give greater depth to a lot of the characters particularly Max with her scene with the Big Bad in episode 4 being considered the absolute high point of not only the season but by far one of the greatest moments in the series as a whole.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O is this to previously Kamen Rider anniversary series Kamen Rider Decade. Decade was heavily criticized for using alternate versions played by different actors of the Riders it was paying tribute towards and having a plot that was incredibly incoherent and borderline nonexistant at times. Zi-O has... a coherent plot and brings back actual characters from each of the previous Rider series. Even if it's not without its own share of problems, it's definitely an improvement.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers suffered a lot in Seasons 1 and 2 with stagnant characterization, lack of plot, and a LOT of filler. Season 3, however, had a continuing plot all the way through and a significant amount of setup for Power Rangers Zeo, which itself improved even more with greater characterization for the non-Tommy Rangers and numerous status quo changes.
    • Power Rangers Turbo divided fans a lot. Both the movie and TV season were based on a comedic Sentai and were themed after cars, which was considered a downgrade compared to the more mystical and animalistic themes of seasons past. That season also had a number of Replacement Scrappy characters for those viewers had come to love in previous seasons. Zordon and Alpha were changed out for Dimetria, who only spoke to the Rangers in questions for the first half while being a boring Zordon-expy in the second half, and Alpha 6, who talked almost exclusively using "hip slang." Rita, Zedd, and the Machine Empire were also changed out for Divatox, who constantly whined and was not very threatening at all. But the biggest change was changing out all the Rangers (Rocky in the movie, the others halfway through the season) with brand new people, only two of which had any build up. To make matters worse, the new cast almost immediately slotted into the roles of the old Rangers, as if they had been a part of the show the entire time. However, its successor season, Power Rangers in Space, drove the franchise to new heights. The story became fully serial. All of the Rangers had heavy character development. The villains were (save for one returning villain from Turbo) great. The addition of a spaceship and the Battilizer were genuinely cool. And the season finale had a massive invasion involving every ally and villain from across the franchise at that point. Virtually every season thereafter would always becompared to In Space from then on.
    • While nowhere near as bad as other seasons Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue was considered So Okay, It's Average, a stumble after the well-received In Space and Lost Galaxy seasons previous. Then Power Rangers Time Force aired and it became one of the most well-loved seasons in the franchise. The cast was well-loved and had relationships unique from other seasons. The villains were back to US-exclusive ones and were loved. The story and plot had a lot of great twists and turns thanks to the time travel concept and changing the future.
    • Power Rangers Wild Force and Power Rangers Ninja Storm had their fanbases, but they had a large hatedom after the lauded Time Force. Wild Force had shaky acting (even for Power Rangers) and a contentious arc involving Animus, while Ninja Storm was hated for its non-threatening villains and an emphasis on comedy. Power Rangers: Dino Thunder brought back Tommy Oliver from Mighty Morphin to be the team's mentor, the show had a much better balance between action and comedy, and the core Rangers had excellent chemistry with each other, allowing for natural character development. There were also a lot of celebratory and fan-favorite episodes, one of which celebrated the entire franchise up to that point, another poked fun at how wacky the source material Sentai can get, and another had Tommy face his first three powersets during a mental test.
    • After the divisive Power Rangers Mystic Force, which seemed to focus more on the side characters and the Red Ranger instead of the rest of the team, and the loathed Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, which is often considered the worst season of the show, Power Rangers Jungle Fury was considered a return to form and Power Rangers RPM was considered one of the best seasons of the show to this day.
    • Once Saban regained the license, they hit the ground flopping instead of running, with the mediocre Power Rangers Samurai that tended to hinge too closely to the original Sentai without accounting for cultural settings of Japan vs. America as well as a late season shakeup that was completely botched. Then, they made Power Rangers Megaforce which was supposed to be a big celebration of the franchise but resulted in two different Sentai smushed together and practically every wrong decision regarding the anniversary aspect being made. Saban then brought back one of the showrunners from the old days for Power Rangers Dino Charge. Dino Charge had a heavy emphasis on plot and characterization, an entertaining original villain, lots of original fight scenes, and a setting that, despite its dinosaur theme, wasn't slavish with trying to copy Mighty Morphin. Sadly, that existed only for its first half.
    • The second half of Dino Charge stumbled heavily, with an emphasis on filler and a truly bewirldering season finale. Power Rangers Ninja Steel was seen as So OK, It's Average to a tee, offering nothing truly good or truly bad, being almost entirely forgettable. Once Hasbro brought the franchise, their first series Power Rangers Beast Morphers was warmly welcomed by fans. The cast had great chemistry, the development was great, there were some natural callbacks to previous seasons, and the second half involved crossovers with RPM, Dino Charge, Mighty Morphin, and even Space Sheriff Gavan, with fans calling the season a better celebrating than Super Megaforce was.
  • Among the Star Wars Disney+ spin-off shows while the first two seasons of The Mandalorian are well-liked whilst The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi have their positives despite being far more maligned, Andor has gotten the highest critical acclaim. The fourth spin-off’s nuanced and convention defying take on the universe have quickly made it a fan-favourite with showrunner Tony Gilroy getting Creator Worship. Such was Andor's immense reception for being high-brow that Mandalorian Season 3 and to lesser extent Ahsoka had a hard time following in its wake.
  • Morgan Spurlock's documentary series 30 Days can be considered this to Spurlock's earlier documentary Super Size Me. Like Super Size Me, each episode explored a social or political issue via a 30-day experiment with a different lifestyle, but it lacked the former film's Anvilicious nature and questionable scientific methods, since it was about honestly examining people's reactions to dabbling in different ways of life. It helped that most episodes featured a volunteer participant living out the experiment (rather than Spurlock himself), meaning that it came off as much less preachy than many people perceived Super Size Me to be.
  • Young Sheldon: Reception for this show is miles more positive than The Big Bang Theory. Due to the differences in formatting and jokes (dramedy angle, plots based on family, single-camera Mockumentary style), it's seen as more accessible to viewers that either have never heard of Big Bang (thus making it easier to get into) or don't care for it and its comedy style.

  • In the vast, musically varied catalog of the late David Bowie, Hunky Dory and 1. Outside are generally regarded as this in regards to their immediate predecessors.
    • In the case of Hunky Dory, it came on the heels of an unsympathetically produced, cheesy first pop album, an oft-overlooked second folk rock album, and a third that, while a decent example of early Heavy Metal, is not really seen as the best representation of what Bowie was capable of. Hunky Dory, meanwhile, is typically regarded as the first truly excellent Bowie album, demonstrating the man's songwriting prowess in a way previous efforts couldn't express.
    • As for 1. Outside, it was the first to be unanimously regarded as a strong album since Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) 15 years prior; 1983's Let's Dance is generally seen as a good pop-rock album, but is by no means considered his best, Tonight and the original version of Never Let Me Down are more often than not seen as dull and overproduced, the two albums with Tin Machine were outright despised in their time (though have since become Vindicated by History), Black Tie White Noise was and still is hugely divisive in terms of its quality, and The Buddha of Suburbia was so badly overlooked that it was outright taken out of print until 2007. Knowing that, the sheer amount of acclaim and recognition that 1. Outside got blindsided the music scene, who had generally felt until then that Bowie had lost his touch as an artist. While his next two albums would also be fairly divisive, it's generally agreed upon that 1. Outside (if not Black Tie White Noise) was the point where Bowie finally got back on his feet and came out swinging.
  • 1969's Empty Sky was a fairly competent, psychedelia-infuenced debut album, but it barely hinted at Elton John's talents, save for the ballad "Skyline Pigeon", which Elton would re-record as a B-side in 1973. Elton's 1970 Self-Titled Album with "Your Song", "Take Me To The Pilot" and "Border Song" would be Elton's Breakthrough Hit album.
  • This actually happens quite a bit with the classical composers. For example, listen to the first piano sonatas of Chopin, Scriabin, Prokofiev. They don't really have the "je ne sais quoi" you expect from those composers, do they? Now listen to their second piano sonatas and suddenly, all is well with the universe.
  • Kelly Clarkson's first album Thankful, made just off of her winning American Idol, was a modest hit. Its success was credited to the popularity of the show more than to her. Her second album Breakaway, featuring such hits as "Behind These Hazel Eyes", "Walk Away", "Since U Been Gone" and the title track, was huge and established her firmly as a pop star.
  • Similar to the Radiohead and Van Morrison examples, Jethro Tull and Rush have parallel origins: Their first albums, This Was and Rush respectively, were basically just rip-offs of Cream and Led Zeppelin, again, respectively, then their second albums, Stand Up and Fly by Night were considered improvements, their third albums Benefit and Caress of Steel received mixed reviews(though more so in the latter case), and their fourth albums, Aqualung and 2112 are considered their breakouts, establishing them as legends of Progressive Rock.
  • Van Morrison's first album, Blowin' Your Mind, was a compilation of earlier singles, including the Black Sheep Hit "Brown-Eyed Girl", and was disowned by Morrison. His second album, Astral Weeks, is usually regarded as his best.
  • Radiohead got a significantly more sophisticated sound with The Bends than they had in their debut, which was criticized as overly derivative of Nirvana. Even more so with OK Computer. Their sound has continued to evolve, but that one's generally considered their best.
  • It's generally accepted that Blur's debut Leisure has its moments, but is overall a rather patchy late-"baggy" era album. Without the benefit of hindsight, there's nothing to indicate that three years later they'd be one of Britain's biggest bands of the mid-90s with the iconic Britpop release Parklife. (The change in direction- and improvement- started with Modern Life is Rubbish, but that wasn't a major success on its first release).
  • The Slits. Though their early work was never officially released, an appearance in The Punk Rock Movie, various high profile gigs supporting The Clash and The Sex Pistols, and a Peel Session (which is more than many of their peers ever got around to doing) firmly established them as a shambolic but enthusiastic Punk band, most notable for being one of the very few all women line ups of the time. When they eventually recorded an official first album, 1979's Cut, they'd learned how to play their instruments and veered wildly off into Dub and Funk territories. It was a landmark release in Post-Punk history, but was such a radical shift in style and playing ability it prompted accusations of hiring session musicians and never actually playing on the record.
  • Collin Raye's first two albums were relatively safe, unremarkable mainstream country of the early 1990s; while most of the singles were fairly successful on the charts, none had a lasting impact other than "Love, Me". But his third album, Extremes, won critical acclaim and commercial success thanks to better-written, career-defining songs such as "That's My Story", "My Kind of Girl", and especially "Little Rock", all of which shaped the sound he would carry for the rest of The '90s.
  • Very few people rated Eurythmics' first album In The Garden - it was largely ignored at the time, spawned no hits, and although still in print, nevertheless remains pretty obscure today. Their second album Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), on the other hand...
  • Even as far back as the mid-1980s, Faith No More showed an amazingly promising, interesting and unique sound brought down by inconsistent songwriting, lack of direction, and a "singer" by the name of Chuck Mosley who was little more than a Wesley Willis-esque novelty act that could only take the material so far. With The Real Thing the band's sound and vision became much more cohesive and realized, and they jackpotted on a replacement you might have heard a few glowing things about (and who brought in his luggage the eclectic influences of his previous band). Oh and there's also the thing where it had a hit song and sold a lot of copies. And then came the next album...
  • Who would have thought that one of the '80s' many interchangeable Glam/Heavy Metal bands that couldn't get arrested would later become one of the pioneers of the '90s post-thrash sound?
  • Imagine if, tomorrow, Tiffany released an award-winning, angsty, introspective, multi-platinum-selling album that would become one of the defining albums of the decade it was released in. Got that picture in your head? Good, because that is exactly what happened in 1995, when a Canadian Teen Idol by the name of Alanis Morissette switched from cheesy bubblegum pop to chick rock and released Jagged Little Pill. There's a reason why nobody mentions the first two albums in her discography.
  • Katy Perry was just an unpopular pop wannabe with One of the Boys (with the exceptions of "Thinking of You", "Hot n Cold" and "Waking Up in Vegas"). But then she released "California Gurls". Catchy, sexy, but nothing special. But then the song "Teenage Dream" came. And the whole album came. It changed her music career forever, with a string of #1 hits it gained a legion of fans. Prism, the next album, managed to be alright with critics, getting a 61 on Metacritic.
  • Killswitch Engage's first titular album mostly went unnoticed. Their second album Alive or Just Breathing, however, achieved cult success. Then front man Jesse Leech was replaced with baritone singer Howard Jones, and the rest was history.
  • Madonna (1983) was So Okay, It's Average. For a debut it's not bad, but it received mostly mixed reviews at the time. The follow-up, Like a Virgin (1984), changed Madonna into a superstar.
  • The Moody Blues' debut, The Magnificent Moodies, is generally considered forgettable at best, but their follow-up with new addition Justin Hayward, Days of Future Passed, is considered one of the best albums of the late 60s, and laid the template for Progressive Rock.
  • Mötley Crüe's debut album, Too Fast for Love, was a decent glam metal album, held back by inexperience on behalf of the band and rather inept management. Their next album was expected to be more solid, but when Shout at the Devil was released it blew said expectations out of the water. This happened again later, twice. After Vince Neil killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle in a car crash and served a jail term, no one expected much out of the Crue, but Girls Girls Girls ended up being a great album. Unfortunately, the band's well-publicized substance abuse problems made the tour complete crap, and between Tommy Lee and Heather Locklear's marriage, Nikki Sixx's near-fatal heroin overdose, Mick Mars' struggle with alcoholism and ankylosing spondylitis, and Vince Neil effectively leaving the band for a time, they were dismissed as washed-up former stars. Then, they released Dr. Feelgood. In just over a month they were number one on the charts. Dr. Feelgood is still considered their best album by critics and fans alike.
  • Mozart wrote his first few symphonies when he was eight and nine years old. Now granted, writing symphonies at age eight is very impressive... but you still don't hear those symphonies performed in the concert hall very often, especially compared to his last two.
  • Naked, the eighth and final Talking Heads album, is seen as this, coming after the much-despised True Stories (itself the only Talking Heads album to near-consistently receive middling to negative reviews).
  • Nirvana's Nevermind. The band's first album Bleach is a muddy sounding and sporadically brilliant album (compare "Blew", "Negative Creep" and "About a Girl" with the less distinguished songs like "Big Cheese", "Swap Meet" and "Downer"). Few people at the time saw any reason why Nirvana were any more promising than other Seattle bands like Mudhoney, TAD, and Mother Love Bone.
  • There's nothing particularly bad about the first three albums by Queen — at their worst, they're So Okay, It's Average — but their fourth album, A Night at the Opera is regarded as one of the best albums they ever produced and widely seen as one of the best albums of The '70s. (Rolling Stone ranked it at #231 in their top 500 albums.) Their later album The Works was also a great improvement on its predecessor — although this has more to do with the fact that the predecessor in question, 1982's Hot Space, barring the David Bowie collaboration "Under Pressure", is a point of contention within the fandom and among critics.
  • New Order's first album Movement has its fans, but it was their more synth-based second album Power, Corruption & Lies (and the non-LP singles issued around the same time) that established them as something more than the rump of Joy Division.
  • Some people might wonder why Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's three symphonies are numbered 4, 5, and 6. That's because his first three symphonies aren't nearly as good and are usually ignored.
  • Rachmaninoff's first symphony was a complete critical failure and flopped so hard on its first (and only, during Rachmaninoff's lifetime) performance in 1897 that it almost destroyed Rachmaninoff's career, launching him into a severe depression during which he composed almost no music for over three years. When he finally started composing again in 1900, he started with his Second Piano Concerto, which is now one of the most famous pieces of music in the entire repertoire. He also wrote a second symphony in 1906-1907 which met much greater success than his first.
  • Simple Minds' first album is... Well, let's just say that "Simple Minds play Three Chords and the Truth" is at best a flawed proposition. Had they not made Reel to Real Cacophony but a year later, it's doubtful that any but the most devoted punk fan would have had the slightest recollection of them.
  • The first three R.E.M. albums released after drummer Bill Berry quit the group, Up, Reveal and Around the Sun, are often considered the band's Audience-Alienating Era. Up and Reveal, while generally regarded as some of the band's weaker material, at least have their share of fans, while not even the band themselves liked Around the Sun. Their disappointment with that album led them to take extra time and care into crafting its follow-up, the much harder-rocking Accelerate, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and is often thought of as the best album of the post-Berry era.
  • The Score (1996) by The Fugees was a bestseller which met with more critical acclaim than their poorly received debut album "Blunted On Reality" (1994). Even the band themselves saw this record as a failure, because of all the Executive Meddling.
  • Most of Scott Walker's 70s albums were uninspired, contractually obligated covers albums. 1984's Climate of Hunter was only relatively well-received, but in retrospect it was a dry run for a loose avant-garde trilogy of critically acclaimed albums released across three different decades: Tilt (1995), The Drift (2006) and Bish Bosch (2012).
  • Shania Twain's first album was mostly-forgettable and mostly-forgotten mainstream country of the early 1990s. Her second and third albums, The Woman in Me and Come On Over, are two of the best-selling country albums of all time by a female artist, and both were loaded with extremely popular singles.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins's first album Gish was a weird mashup of pre-grunge, post-80s Hard rock, and shoegaze. By comparison, Siamese Dream is considered on par with Nevermind when it comes to 90s alternative.
  • Slint's debut album, Tweez (1989), was a decent if unremarkable Post-Hardcore album. Their followup album, Spiderland (1991) kickstarted two whole genres and is a landmark in underground music.
  • Supertramp had two badly received albums before ditching almost all band members, and the result, Crime of the Century, marked their critical and commercial breakthrough.
  • After the release of their first album, Talk Talk was dismissed as a cheap Duran Duran knock-off band. With each successive album, however, their sound matured and they ventured into more experimental territory, eventually dropping the New Wave genre completely and becoming an influential Post-Rock vanguard, culminating with their final album, 1991's critically adored Laughing Stock.
  • Tears for Fears' debut album The Hurting (1983) received some good reviews, had a few of its songs released as minor hit singles, and got the band noticed. Their follow-up album, Songs from the Big Chair (1985), went all the way to number one in the U.S. and had several hit singles that are still played regularly on the radio to this day.
  • Tori Amos' original band, Y Kant Tori Read?, paled in comparison to her first solo album, Little Earthquakes.
  • Similarly, Icelandic pop-rock band The Sugarcubes, while well-regarded by critics, were quickly eclipsed by the solo career of their frontwoman, Björk (especially starting with Post, her sophomore effort).
  • Ke$ha hasn't really been known for thought-provoking lyrics. However, her second full album, Warrior, was praised by critics for being a bit more edgy and meaningful than her recent efforts, giving the album a 71 on Metacritic.
  • Wilco's first album, A.M., which was meant to be radio-friendly and sounded similar to predecessor band Uncle Tupelo, did not sell very well and received So Okay, It's Average reviews from critics. For Being There, the band decided to ignore the radio, write a double album, and include songs that stretched outside their comfort zone. The result, Being There, sold in much better numbers than A.M., received positive feedback from critics, and is considered by fans to be the moment where they grew the beard.
  • Alter Bridge is widely seen as this to Creed, since the newer band is basically the older one with a different singer. Also an example within an example: although their debut One Day Remains still had the taint of its members' association with Creed, Blackbird was widely seen as a much stronger effort, with Alter Bridge finding its own new identity.
  • New Kids on the Block's second album Hangin' Tough (1988) fared far better commercially and critically than their 1986 self-titled debut. On the debut, producer and songwriter Maurice Starr tried to have NKOTB appeal to black and white audiences by carefully curating their sound and image and choreographing their every onstage move. Starr realised his mistakes, and made Hangin' Tough a more collaborate effort (particularly regarding the choreography) and having everyone play to their strengths.
  • Eminem's Revival became a social media punchbag in 2017 and 2018, an abrasively produced Pop Rap album at a time when the style was outdated, coming off the back of seven years of increasingly poppy music that suggested he'd internalised his Glurgey crossover aesthetic — seen by fans as a betrayal of the sarcastic, Subverted Kids' Show rap which had made him famous. Major music outlets began running articles begging him to retire. Em's followup was Kamikaze which, while not getting a universally positive reaction due to being about the criticism of Revival, was called a massive improvement on Revival within hours of its release, with better rapping, funnier jokes, tons of rage, only a couple of well-deployed pop hooks (courtesy of Jessie Reyez, Mario Resto (the older brother of Eminem's session keyboardist Luis Resto) and a reluctant Bon Iver), and songs combining modern Trap Music elements with the playful, classical-inflected Signature Style of the old Slim.
  • Aaron Fraser-Nash's series of A.I related song tend to be rather so-so, with Cursed Woody Sings A Song being noted for its Uncanny Valley feel due to inconsistent usage of A.I visuals combined with clips from Toy Story using a filter, the character A.I voices sounding rather off and for being overly edgy by having Woody decide to kill all of his friends over a hypothetical situation where he ends up tortured by Sid. The sequel Cursed Buzz Lightyear Sings A Song fully embraces the A.I imagery, has far better lyrics that feel and sound more natural, and reveals that Buzz had actually been poisoning Woody with rabies and using Gaslighting and manipulation to make Woody snap and attempt to kill everyone, re-contextualizing the events of the previous video to better justify Woody's sudden change in character.

  • The first pinball machine themed on The Simpsons, made by Data East and sharing the same name as the show, is widely considered a competent but unremarkable table, with simplistic rules that have nothing to do with the show, a tendency to lose the ball even when playing well, and a sparse sound package with minimalistic quotes or clips taken from the show. 13 years later, Stern released The Simpsons Pinball Party, with a complex set of rules deeply integrated with the show, more things to do on the machine with nothing aimed at the drain, and extensive voice work from the actors recorded just for the machine. The Simpsons Pinball Party is considered by pinball fans to be one of Stern's greatest pinball machines, if not one of the greatest pinball machines ever made.

  • Microsoft Windows has a rather colorful history of this.
    • Windows ME was torn apart by critics and fans alike due to its low security, lack of stability, and being incompatible with legacy software; these issues caused home users to use the professionally-oriented Windows 2000, jumping ship to macOS, or staying with Windows 98. Two years later, Microsoft released Windows XP, which addressed most of these issues. Windows XP ended up becoming a smash hit, becoming so successful that it was the longest-supported Windows version of all time (with support lasting until 2014), and still has over half of the market share in some countries despite its age.
    • After the extremely successful XP came Windows Vista, which was widely chided for its high price, fairly demanding hardware requirements, security issues, and being pre-installed on many computers that could barely run the system, giving it a reputation for being slow and a battery drainer. Three years later, Microsoft would come out with Windows 7, which addressed most of these complaints while keeping the well-received Aero interface. Windows 7 remains the fastest-selling operating system in history (reaching a 4% market share in three weeks, a mark that Vista only passed in seven months) and is generally considered to be the best version of Windows even to this day.
    • Windows 8, while not outright hated like ME or Vista, was a very polarizing iteration of Windows due to its numerous UI changes, the new Metro apps, and coming off the heels of the much-beloved Windows 7 (which it removed several features from). Soon after, Microsoft released its Updated Re-release Windows 8.1 to address its detractors' complaints. While still not considered as good as 7, it's near-universally considered to be an improvement over 8 for expanding functionality and tweaking the user interface to be more desktop-friendly.

  • Association Football: The first three World Cups were mostly small affairs, with little press coverage outside their host nations, suffering from poor planning and political meddling, and as such received such bashing from FIFA. It was the fourth event, held in Brazil in 1950, after World War II, where the World Cup began to be recognized as a true sporting event and draw a huge worldwide press coverage beyond the host country.
  • The revival of the Olympic Games in 1896 was a success, but the next two, done simultaneously with a world's fair, did not earn that much attention or notice. Then came the 1906 Intercalated Games that returned to Greece and attracted more public attention and interested athletes (though the IOC no longer considers them official Olympics), the 1908 Games that in spite of the world's fair brought in huge crowds, and finally by 1912 the Olympics were cemented as a big deal for the whole world of sports.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Most of Matt Ward's 5th edition codexes are rather divisive among Warhammer 40,000 fans. The Space Marines codex has some divisive fluff. The Blood Angels Codex has several Game-Breaker elements, while the Grey Knights codex has both. The reaction to the news that Ward would be writing the 5th Edition Necrons codex was... less than stellar. But when the codex was released, it turned out that Necrons Codex was mechanically well balanced, and while it did introduce several massive retcons to the existing Necrons fluff, most fans agree that those changes were long overdue and rescued Necrons from being a Generic Doomsday Villain.
  • Magic: The Gathering: The original Kamigawa sets from 2004-05 weren't well received, due in large part to having unintuitive game mechanics and weak cards, although the block would later become Vindicated by History for its feaudal Japan-styled setting and some cards becoming useful in formats such as Modern and Legacy. Still, Wizards understandably wrote the plane of Kamigawa off as a failure, to the point that, when the time came to revisit it years later, they briefly considered simply creating a new Japanese-themed plane to replace it note . Instead, they took advantage of the fact that the Kamigawa block was set over 1200 years prior to the current point in the game's timeline to reimagine it as a technologically advanced plane, which more directly paralleled modern Japan and which shamelessly aped common Anime, Manga and Tokusatsu tropes, while honoring the past sets with saga enchantments depicting major events from that block, and the plane's new theme would be a confict between tradition and progress. The pitch was good enough that the team felt it was worth the risk, and the resulting set, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, was a smash success and quickly deemed one of Magic's best ever sets, in the process giving hope to revisiting planes also previously deemed unsalvagable. The fact that the set's story contains one of the game's biggest Wham Episodes note  was just icing on the cake.

    Video Games 
  • 2 is, according to Word of God, better than its predecessor Craz'd! And it shows with the more polished gameplay and aesthetics, the latter of which feel more cohesive and charming despite still being erratic.
  • Ace Combat. The localization of Electrosphere had its entire plot surgically removed. Shattered Skies fared better, and had a better plot to begin with, but its strength was in the delivery. The Unsung War brought everything together with sympathetic characters, a clever plot, and the astounding, epic presentation the series is known for, which continued on to The Belkan War, except bigger. Fires of Liberation, however, took a step back with a textbook, straightforward plot, and a cast consisting of only supporting characters, none of whom get much individual screen time or, indeed, even matter until the very end. But then came Skies Unknown, which is considered a return to form for the franchise.
  • While Advance Wars was decent, it was plagued with idiotic AI, balancing issues, absurdly unbalanced COs, and unfair difficulty that outright required abusing the stupid AI to finish the game. Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is seen as the best entry in the series bar none for correcting every single one of these issues as well as adding new units and properties, allowing the player to choose which missions to play, and vastly refining the CO Power system.
  • Advanced Variable Geo is a clean remake of a PC-98 eroge that was little more than a waitress porn knockoff of Street Fighter II. The cast of characters was expanded and the storyline fleshed out to compensate for the toned-down sexual content.
  • The first Age of Empires game, while stood out, was released to generally lukewarm reviews. The second game was released with critical acclaim and is considered one of the greatest RTS games ever, with its legacy still enduring after more than two decades.
  • After Angel of Darkness and the last game or two before that (along with the second movie) many considered the Tomb Raider franchise beyond saving, especially after its developer, Core Design, was stripped from the rights to the title. But a change to another developer brought the series back again with Legend which went on to be the fastest selling (note, not highest selling) game in the series so far and got high critical acclaim. Depending on your feelings about many of the changes in Legend this can also extend to Anniversary and/or Underworld. The 2013 reboot also won back those who felt Underworld failed to deliver.
  • The first Arc the Lad is a fairly average SRPG: The battle system is fast-paced but flawed, while its characters are likeable but severely underdeveloped; and to top it off, the game is criminally short. The sequel, on the other hand, has a much more detailed (and darker) plot, more characters with more interplay amongst themselves, a relatively revised battle system and a longer campaign. As for the first, fans usually recommend it on the grounds of "well, it's the first in the series, and the second one is a direct sequel."
  • While the earlier Armored Core games had their own fandom, the games had really problematic graphics, confusing storylines, and really, really laggy controls. It wasn't until Master of Arena that the arena system even came in, and until the 3 series that the graphics and controls received good reviews.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Assassin's Creed had really good Le Parkour gameplay and the beginnings of an interesting Ancient Conspiracy story, but was burdened with boring characters and levels, padding, and repetitive side quests and assassinations. Assassin's Creed II had a likable main character, levels that were memorable, and missions that were actually fun.
    • After the terrible reception ending of Assassin's Creed III received, along complains about boring setting and bland characters, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag decided to go in completely different direction. Since the only thing that didn't caught any flak in III were the ship sections, Black Flag is build entirely around that. And what could be better than delivering a pirate game that takes a step back from the increasingly convoluted Ancient Conspiracy and focuses on engaging gameplay and spoofing just how silly the whole Assassins vs. Templars plot became during the last few add-ons. The game is so refreshing some players even consider it was a missed opportunity for Ubisoft to launch a new franchise, dedicated to piracy.
  • Astonishia Story was an RPG originally made for PCs in the mid-1990s and remained exclusively a Korean property until 2006, when the game was remade for the PSP and distributed worldwide. The port hadn't aged well at all, and the lackluster localization effort by Ubisoft didn't help. Three years later, Astonishia Story 2 (titled Crimson Gem Saga in non-Asian countries) was released to a much warmer reception, with tighter character development, a retooled battle and skill system that emphasizes combination attacks, much less Forced Level-Grinding, and a better translation by the team at Atlus.
  • Backyard Basketball on the PS2 improved on everything Backyard Basketball on the PC, released two years earlier, had. There were no glitches, the game never freezes, there are NBA teams, and there are 9 more playable characters (while removing 1). There are even unlockable powerups!
  • Blinx was a decent 3D Platformer that was heavily criticized because of its insane difficulty and janky gameplay mechanics. Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space heavily dials back the difficulty and fixes most of the issues with the gameplay, and is generally better received as a result.
  • Bloody Roar was an obscure, poorly balanced mess of a game, with overly simple but awkward controls, poor AI, and a wannabe SNK Boss, thus the only appeal of the game was its relative simplicity and novelty, and possible pandering to furries (or Alice). Bloody Roar 2, however, was an excellent improvement, fixing the system into something much less cumbersome and easy to play. The Story mode was introduced, alongside the game's back story improving tenfold, and the AI was also dramatically improved.
  • Bombshell was an unimpressive and mediocre shooter that was remembered for its remarkably bad trailer. Its prequel, Ion Fury, is considerably better-regarded, ditching the top-down look in favor of being a Retraux Genre Throwback to Build Engine shooters, and doing an excellent job of it.
  • Borderlands was relatively well received and had fun gameplay, but the storyline was non-existent note , the characters weren't all that developed, and it tended towards Real Is Brown. Borderlands 2 addressed basically all the weaknesses; the storyline was much more complex, the characters (both the PC and NPCs) were much more developed, and the settings were far more varied. In general, the production values were ratcheted up in every way, though at the same time the second game also marked an increase in meme and pop culture humor that drove a wedge into the fanbase.
  • Castlevania:
    • The Adventure had unresponsive controls, Fake Difficulty in losing whip power after only one hit and extremely slow gameplay. Sub-weapons and such were absent, and hearts, normally used for sub-weapon power, restored energy. Belmont's Revenge rectified this in many ways, with only losing whip power if you die or get hit by the snake tower's fireballs. Christopher Belmont still moves slowly, but nowhere near as slow as his first adventure. The much more responsive controls, a non-linear level select format, like in Mega Man, even better music and a password system were welcome additions. The sub-weapon system reappeared, albeit it's only limited to the Cross (or Axe in the non-Japanese versions) and the Holy Water.
  • Conflict FreeSpace: The Great War was a fun space combat simulation game with a nice game engine and a solid storyline, but it wasn't outstanding in any field. The sequel, FreeSpace 2, was darker, with a far more gripping and surprising storyline, vastly-improved combat, visuals that still impress today, and a jaw-dropping and somewhat ambiguous ending that has provoked debate ever since. FreeSpace 2 was such an awesome space-combat game it killed the genre stone dead by making every other game in the genre redundant... a problem that was exacerbated by it being an Acclaimed Flop.
  • Contra 4 came after four consecutive installments that sat poorly with fans of the series (two lame PS1 releases and two so-so PS2 releases) and whipped the series back into what it should be.
  • Crazy Cars, one of Titus Software's earliest games, had hideously ugly graphics and boring course design. Crazy Cars II had much cleaner graphics, but the roads remained strangely empty and the controls were annoyingly hard to use. Crazy Cars III made its predecessors look like an Obvious Beta in comparison.
  • Crusader Kings: The original game, while it had its fans, was definitely a flawed game, with a Troubled Production and quite a lot of bugs. Crusader Kings II, on the other hand, has received by far the smoothest launch of any Paradox Interactive game to date, and received almost universal acclaim from the fans. Expansions like Sword of Islam, Legacy of Rome and The Old Gods have only served to make it even better.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Arena wasn't bad for its time, featuring things like day/night cycles, seasons (with changing weather), holidays, and an advanced lighting engine, but despite having a rather large world, there wasn't anything particularly interesting to see or do, with a fairly generic setting and a clichéd plot (evil chancellor usurps emperor, have to collect 8 magic staff pieces to beat him). Then along came Daggerfall, which expanded the world (both in size and in richness) by several orders of magnitude, and added tons of things to do (dozens of factions to join! Vampirism! Lycanthropy! Real estate!), one of the most detailed character creators seen in a CRPG, and a well-written plot with twists and political intrigue galore (as well as bugs and glitches galore). And then Morrowind happened, picking all the good bits of Daggerfall and multiplying them ten-folds. It also included Wide-Open Sandbox that filled the world with dozens of things to do and places to walk to, rather than just making it huge, while excellent mod support allowed the somewhat dodgy game to survive for years thanks to modders support and secure Bethesda's position in the industry.
  • Darius Gaiden is widely regarded as a massive improvement over Darius II. It ditches the Awesome, but Impractical multi-screen layout in favor of a single-monitor setup, making it much more palatable for players and more economic for arcade operators. Power-down penalties have been made more lenient, so that the player won't be rendered helpless just from one death in the last few zones, and the player gets much more powerful weapons to play with, not only being able to get the wave shot as early as the second zone but also being able to upgrade to an extremely powerful mixed wave shot by the end of the game. The graphics and level variety have been greatly improved, boasting some of the best 2D visual effects of the game's time and an excellent selection of challenging, but fair bosses. It also introduces a Smart Bomb mechanic into the series, giving the player an out against difficult-to-dodge attacks in addition to the series-standard Deflector Shields. The end result is a package that not only saved Darius from a reputation of questionable design decisions, but one of the most critically-acclaimed side-scrolling shmups of The '90s.
  • By many accounts, the second Dark Cloud (Dark Chronicle overseas) is an immense improvement over the original. One area is the fact that the weapon system was fixed. In both games, weapons break if you use them too much without repairing them. In the second game you could fix broken weapons, but in the first, they'd be gone forever. Several other things were fixed as well.
  • Dementium: The Ward, although enjoyable, had a number of flaws. The most known one being that when you die, you go ALL the way back to the beginning of the chapter. Dementium II had numerous improvements, like an omnipresent minimap, the ability to crouch and jump, the ability to save up health-restoring items, more fluid controls, and more balanced and varied levels.
  • Devil May Cry 2 was widely considered a disappointment. Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening managed to Win Back the Crowd by being closer to the original game in tone and gameplay.
  • Games based on Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku for the Game Boy Advance was, for lack of a more inventive word, terrible. The combat controls are stiff, the plot is impenetrable to all but the most seasoned DBZ fans, and the game is way too short (beatable in about 6-8 hours, ending after Goku's battle with Frieza). Its sequel, Legacy of Goku II, corrected almost all of these flaws, as well as giving the player the ability to control characters other than Goku. And then, the relatively few flaws and lack of depth found in Legacy of Goku II were completely gone in Buu's Fury, which added an expanded range of special moves, such RPG basics as equipment and shops, and the ability to block.
    • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai was generally considered a playable-if-nothing-special fighting game that captured some of the essences of the series, but also was criticized for the blocky graphics, simplistic combat, and tedious method for unlocking extras. Budokai 2 did improve several things (namely the graphics), but it wasn't until Budokai 3 where Dimps truly started to step things up. Budokai 3 was not only a much better DBZ game than its predecessors, but it was quite popular with gamers in general, due to vastly improved fighting mechanics, more individualized physical combos for each character, greater variety in special moves (which you could do on the fly), gorgeous cel-shaded graphics, unlocking extras being made much easier and much less tedious, a single-player campaign titled Dragon Universe that gave the game near-infinite replay value, the inclusion of Beam Struggles and the actual ability to fly into or from the air, and a roster that not only spans throughout the entirety of the main DBZ story, but also from the original Dragon Ball, the Broly and Cooler movies, and some of GT as well.
    • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi had a creative enough idea for a fighting engine, but it didn't really work that well; Camera Screw was a recurring problem and the whole thing felt a bit unwieldy. The second game tightened up the fighting mechanics a lot, expanded the roster, restored the popular Dragon Universe campaign-style, and added more options... and then the third, after tightening them up a little more, proceeded to make basically every character ever associated with the series playable, while adding in a big pile of quirky "recreate the series" elements. It's a close race between those two games and Budokai 3 for the title of "best Dragon Ball game."
    • Ultimate Tenkaichi and Battle of Z had good ideas (faithful recreation of the anime's aesthetics and custom characters in the former, four-on-four team combat in the latter) that were poorly executed. While made by a different developer, Dimps's Dragon Ball Xenoverse is a marked improvement over those games, with improved combat, a new story that puts a twist on the DBZ mythos, and expanded character customization. It's also an improvement over Dragon Ball Online, of which this game has many similarities to.
  • While the original Dragon Quest scores points for being the Ur-Example for many Eastern RPG tropes, it's aged terribly compared to the first installments of Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star. Dragon Quest II fares worse since it can't even play the innovation card. Dragon Quest III on the other hand takes the basic job class system and expands on upon it. It also most likely contains the Ur-Example of the Monster Arena and building a new town. The Game Boy Color remake is even better, adding a new job class, a Bonus Dungeon, a redone localization, and a whole lot more.
  • Dynasty Warriors 1 and 2 were bashed by reviews and many gamers alike, but from the third game onwards, the line was well-received for a while. After a while the series ended up being mocked by reviewers (but still maintains a base of hardcore fans) because it remains a similar game in every incarnation. It's also agreed that Dynasty Warriors 7 was a vast improvement over the previous installment (which was certainly a step back from the other games).
  • Warriors Orochi had a surprisingly improved third game. While it stays true to the Warriors formula of "kill as many bad guys as possible", it also added a level editor, cooperative and online play, a single overarching story arc in place of the usual faction-based approach, and a ginormous cast of characters from the series' history.note 
  • EarthBound Beginnings (Known as Mother in Japan): Despite its interesting story and quirky take on the RPG genre, was a total grindfest due to having a lack of direction with its gameplay, on top of some insane spikes in difficulty at times (such as in Mt. Itoi). Its sequel, EarthBound, fixed many of the problems the original had; Random Encounters were replaced with Pre-existing Encounters, making it so that they can be more easily avoidable, the difficulty was eased up, the gameplay was more straightforward, and the story overall took itself much less seriously (for the most part).
  • Fallen Enchantress, the second game in the Elemental series, was a deliberate attempt by Stardock to fix the numerous problems that plagued its predecessor, Elemental — War of Magic — namely the busted A.I. opponents (who could do nothing but attack) and the mountains of other bugs. It still lacks an online multiplayer component, but the overall reception to Fallen Enchantress has been much better than War of Magic. It was done again with Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes, which added new stories and factions.
  • 50 Cent Bulletproof was trashed for all the bugs and bad gameplay. (The PSP version was by a different developer and fared slightly better.) 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand received above-average scores due to great control based on established shooter conventions, and a story that's praised as hilariously So Bad, It's Good.
  • The original Fighter's History was an average fighting game, only really known to most people for the fact it got its creators sued by Capcom for being so thoroughly derivative of Street Fighter II and the resulting ruling over whether gameplay mechanics were copyrightable. Its Neo Geo sequel Fighter's History Dynamite was considered an improvement for its overhauled fighting system that allowed for more creative and elaborate combos, toning down the cheating habits of the A.I. opponent and being a generally smoother and better-playing game, enough to earn it a cult following still playing it in tournaments as of 2019.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Due to the Final Fantasy franchise and its Broken Base, Final Fantasy XIII received a lot of venom for fans for its linearity. Then came Final Fantasy XIII-2, a game that not only doesn't feel like a narrow corridor, but has side-quests more evenly spread throughout the adventure as opposed to collected in one specific portion of the game, like the original had.
    • Final Fantasy All the Bravest is usually regarded as the absolute nadir of the entire franchise, and a microcosm of everything terrible about mobile gaming in general. By comparison, Final Fantasy Record Keeper, its Spiritual Successor, is generally seen as a pretty solid mobile game.
    • The original 1.0 release of Final Fantasy XIV had horrendously unoptimized graphics note , unintuitive controls and user interface, and a grind to rival that of the worst free-to-play MMO. So abysmal was its failure that it nearly tanked Square Enix, got the lead developer fired, and was deemed a lost cause by the new lead developer. The relaunch and continuation of the game's narrative, subtitled A Realm Reborn, was practically a different game altogether, and was better in nearly every way imaginable: graphics that looked good and ran well on even a mid-tier PC, and controls so streamlined that it is possible to play even on a gamepad, helped to ensure the game would not only bring Square back from the brink but become a fixture of the MMO scene for years to come.
    • While Final Fantasy Tactics Advance wasn't a bad game overall, it was met with a mixed reception by the fans due to the overall tone being Lighter and Softer compared to Final Fantasy Tactics; Tactics was about war and betrayal while Advance deals with a group of adolescents that use escapism to avoid life's problems while the main protagonist tries to get them to face reality. The overall difficulty was also broken beyond recognition thanks to many of a Game-Breaker (stealing abilities without having to learn them the normal way and making attacks so accurate that instant death skills made battles a joke, for example). The law system was widely hated due to how restrictive it made battles, even with the ability to manipulate said laws. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 addresses all of the problems of the previous game and deals them out in a nice package; the story is treated as just an adventure to have a good time on with some darker themes mixed in, the Game Breakers were nerfed (while some do still exist, they aren't as easy to abuse as they were before), and the law system was simplified and made less punishing for those who break the rules.
    • Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015) was a tepidly-received sequel to the original Dissidia Final Fantasy and its direct sequel Duodecim as it was an arcade game ported to home consoles. Instead of a dedicated story mode, it had a limited number of cutscenes unlocked using the ingame battle currency, and its gameplay was criticized as too focused on player-vs-player online play, with single-player mode quickly becoming repetitive and character customization too limited. 2017's Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia, despite being a gachapon spinoff, became much more popular by revamping the Brave - Hit Points battle system into a turn-based model and reintegrating the story mode into gameplay progression with a continuation of the Dissidia plotline and cutscenes highlighting many characters in the series, even ones from older or more obscure titles. Although it still has points of contention (not least being a gachapon game), it's still going strong while the game it was meant to promote stopped updating in 2020.
  • The first Final Fight was what it was. Final Fight 2 was a Mission-Pack Sequel with somewhat more well-worked graphics, Suspiciously Similar Substitutes for Guy and Cody, even more of an Excuse Plot than the originalnote  and repetitive BGM. Final Fight 3, on the other hand, massively expands upon the combat formula, with running and Dash Attacks, an elaborate grappling system, the ability to perform Limit Breaks, and divergent routes adding replayability. The problem is that the revamped combat made the game so much easier, many fans didn't like it, and it came out very late into the SNES's useful life.
  • The first Frogger game from Hasbro, Frogger (1997), received a mixed-to-negative response from critics due to the game's high level of difficulty, which can largely be chalked up to the gameplay being an awkward mix of the original arcade game's rules (three lives, One-Hit-Point Wonder, no checkpoints) imposed onto a puzzle platformer (the frogs the player has to collect are scattered in maze-like levels, filled with all sorts of deadly hazards). Also owing to the difficulty was the game's realistic Jump Physics controls and occasional bouts of Event-Obscuring Camera. The sequel Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge, developed by Blitz Games (the first game was made by SCE Cambridge), retooled the gameplay into a more conventional platformer (the maze-like levels are now streamlined into a linear direction so players no longer have to search for the frogs) and toned down the game's difficulty (the frogs now act as checkpoints, and lives are easier to obtain). The game also had better controls, a better camera, and added collectible coins, which unlocked more characters and multiplayer modes. The result was Frogger 2 being much more positively received by reviewers.
  • The first GG Aleste is not too shabby, but it feels relatively barebones and the stages seem to drag on, and the Final Boss is a pushover; you get the impression that the developers were being overly cautious about the Game Gear's hardware. You can set the difficulty to Special to make enemies release "revenge bullets" upon defeat, but it feels like artificial difficulty that doesn't really flesh out the game. GG Aleste II: Lance Bird is significantly beefed up, featuring a faster pace and more intense firefights with enemy waves and bosses, reducing the amount of time that the player is doing nothing besides hold down the 1 button.
  • The first two Grand Theft Auto games were mild successes that garnered mixed reviews due to somewhat dodgy gameplay and older style graphics. The only real reason why they attracted much attention was because of the controversy that they caused — which had been largely whipped by the developers for exactly this reason. With the jump to 3D in Grand Theft Auto III, the game garnered near-universal acclaim, kicked up a firestorm of controversy and changed the entire industry with its Wide-Open Sandbox gameplay.
  • The Gundam Vs Series went through Sequelitis (AEUG vs Titans and Gundam vs Zeta Gundam, which were little more than Fed vs Zeon with new machines) before swinging back around into this trope's territory with the Alliance vs ZAFT games (which refined the game engine by speeding things up, making melee more viable, and adding in new tricks like boost dashing and shield defense) and the Gundam vs Gundam games (which continued the refinements while bringing in mecha from the Gundam franchise's 30-year history rather than focusing on just a single show at a time).
  • Saints Row was your stereotypical Wide-Open Sandbox, released to faint praise for having a solid, fun game, but still being a shameless GTA clone. Only one thing really changed between its release and its sequel—GTA decided it wanted to be taken seriously, and we got GTA IV. Saints Row 2 went the other way—the main character became an over-the-top Heroic Comedic Sociopath and the game took Refuge in Audacity. Critics loved it, as did players. Then The Third pushed it even further. Although some people bash it for being outright strange, a lot of players enjoyed it for the pure insanity and strangeness they gave you to play around with in an open world, in a more stark contrast to GTA which is serious in nature.
  • Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming is a Surprisingly Improved Sequel to the confusing and disappointing earlier Harvest Moon Puzzle Game, Puzzle de Harvest Moon.
  • The first four Harvest Moon (Natsume) gamesnote  garnered mixed-to-negative reception from critics and fans. The Winds of Anthos is considered by many to be a step up over the previous entries, with its transition into a Wide-Open Sandbox being met with approval.
  • Deus Ex fans, following the lukewarm reception to Deus Ex: Invisible War, were rightfully skeptical that Human Revolution could live up to the original, with the long time frame and the closure of Ion Storm with a new development team taking over. It's an almost unanimous opinion that the original game will never be matched, but many agree that Human Revolution is the worthy followup that Invisible War wasn't.
  • The original Hyperdimension Neptunia had an interesting concept — the whole series is a metaphor for the Console Wars — but was critically panned for its awkward pace, Schizophrenic Difficulty, and frustrating game mechanics, including the inability to sell old equipment or even use items during battle as in most RPGs. Idea Factory and Compile Heart took these criticisms to heart with Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, reworking the game almost from the ground up with a new battle system, Item Crafting, and better implementations of some of the systems used in the first game (such as quests and the "Shares" system). While still not a critical hit, some reviewers who hated the first game were pleased with the improvements in mk2, saying that mk2 actually came close to being a "good" or even "great" game. The first game was also given a pseudo-Updated Re-release (technically both the original and the remake take place in separate universes) with gameplay based on Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory that is widely considered to be the superior version.
  • The first TimeSplitters was an average, plotless, mildly quirky Fetch Quest game. The series really took off to its cult status at the second installment; a fun, badass, and most importantly HILARIOUS Spiritual Successor and Affectionate Parody of the behemoth that was GoldenEye in its day, courtesy of Rare veterans. Think of everything that made GoldenEye good, add monkeys and zombies with guns, and you're not even close to the utter craziness this series embodies. Then, the third game has a much stronger, inter-connected storyline that culminated in the reveal of the series villain. Whilst not quite as fast-paced and insane as the previous entry and with a weaker multi-player, the faults of both games balance each other out and they're often considered on par with each other, with which is better depending largely on one's personal preferences (most fans do consider them both great games however).
  • The first Initial D Arcade Stage had a poorly done multiplayer mode which, among other problems, required the second player to insert his/her coin(s) within 9 seconds of the first player, and had no incentive whatsoever to play a head-to-head battle over just playing Time Attack mode. Initial D Arcade Stage Ver.2 significantly improved the multiplayer mode.
  • Just Cause was a Wide-Open Sandbox game with a few nice ideas (like giving you a parachute you can use at almost any time) some beautiful vistas, and a gargantuan open world to explore, but had clumsy controls, kind of boring characters, the world was fairly bland and repetitive, and it was definitely not something you'd want to pay full price for. Just Cause 2, however, vastly improves your ability to use the grappling hook in conjunction with the parachute, all but allowing you to fly around the landscape, and has tons of things for you to blow up whenever you want, literally thousands of collectibles, and a much more interesting and varied world, making it a solid A-list title. It's worth noting that the first Just Cause was Avalanche Studios' first ever release, and they obviously spent a lot of time learning from their mistakes for the sequel.
  • Even the most staunch defenders of the franchise will find it difficult to deny that the very first Just Dance was practically the epitome of Shovelware, with barebones gameplay and extremely dodgy motion detection. Then the sequel came around and fixed all of the flaws of the original while adding in a boatload of new features (most notably DLC and Duet dances). Each sequel from then on has generally been regarded as an improvement over the previous installment.
  • The original Killzone was a heavily hyped PS2 shooter that ended up falling quite short of expectations, though it wasn't bad at all, just mediocre. Killzone 2, on the other hand, has been well received by both critics and gamers, and "lived up to the hype".
  • The King of Fighters:
    • The King of Fighters '94 was a very good game with awesome music, but The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard and the controls are tough to get used to. '95 had some improvements, but the A.I. is even worse. The King of Fighters '96 is widely considered the point where everything really took off.
    • KOF 2001 is not well-regarded, being the point at which the Striker feature became outright broken, having rather low-quality music by the series' standards and its newcomers (especially K9999, which got on SNK's own shitlist for his unoriginality) being mostly on the "miss" side of the hit-or-miss reception starting from '99. Then we got KOF 2002, which got the gameplay back to basics, brought back many fan-favorites (such as Rugal), and is overall much better-regarded. Its Updated Re-release Unlimited Match is even more well-received for bringing back a few who missed out on the vanilla version (and K9999's More Popular Replacement Nameless), having some very high-quality tracks both new and remixed, and its 2020 PC Polished Port having incredibly sophisticated online.
    • KOF XIII made up for KOF XII's deficiencies in a major way, keeping the high-definition visuals and bringing back some of the fan-favorite characters that were left out of XII, as well as a tutorial mode and a story mode that chronicles the final events of the Tales of Ash Saga.
  • Knack was a divisive game when it launched with the PlayStation 4, seen largely as a mediocre showcase for the new console and an inferior successor to Mark Cerny's previous work with the Crash Bandicoot series. Despite the odds, it sold well enough to warrant a sequel four years later. Knack II smoothed out the previous game's difficulty and made it more forgiving, and gave Knack greater variety in combat options, resulting in a more enjoyable experience overall.
  • LEGO Island 2 is mostly a Contested Sequel, but the most common opinion on it is that it was killed by long load times, dull and lifeless voice acting, poor animation, glitchy physics, low replay value, and poorly explained mini-games. Lego Island Xtreme Stunts on the other hand fixes nearly all of these problems, mostly by adding far more replay value, shortening the load times, explaining the minigames better, and having far fewer glitches.
  • Lufia & The Fortress of Doom was a bog-standard RPG. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals added puzzles, a more compelling storyline, one of the first randomized bonus dungeons, fun-to-use and not-too-rare random drops that give you special abilities... and created one of the best SNES-era RPGs. Had the developers not run out of budget or time for a couple of towers late in the game (the only puzzle-free dungeons), it would be perfection.
  • Luminous Arc for the DS was a Cliché Storm of an SRPG with a particularly Narmish voice acting in every. Single. Chapter. The next game, Luminous Arc 2 moves the story to another world with a better plot, vastly improved voice acting, and a more streamlined user interface. The fact that they added a fast forward button, as well as bringing in Multiple Endings (which are further expanded in Luminous Arc 3) helps a lot.
  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time isn't considered a bad game, but it's viewed as bit of a step down from its predecessor, with criticism aimed towards the more linear gameplay, sluggish pacing, and not really utilizing its premise all that much. In contrast, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story has a far more engaging story, balanced difficulty, and expanded gameplay.
  • MechWarrior 1 for PC in 1989 was underwhelming at best. It was a polygon-based mech combat simulator, but calling it 'primitive' would've been somewhat generous. Mech models barely resembled their parent designs, gameplay was a slog, and the non-combat elements were underdeveloped or absent. Mechwarrior 2, on the other hand, blew all expectations out of the water with impressive graphics (especially for 1995), much better sound, actual music playing during missions, voice samples, more complex and interesting missions, two full campaigns, a kill-the-bots free play mode, multiplayer, and the much-beloved Mechlab where players could Min Max 'Mechs to their heart's delight. There was a reason it became a Killer App for PC in the early Pentium era.
  • Mega Man:
    • The very first game in the series, while certainly decent, was riddled with sketchy controls and Fake Difficulty aplenty, making it an ultimately forgettable experience. Naturally, sales more or less floundered, to the point that Capcom demanded that the dev team make the sequel in their spare time, as they didn't think it worth the investiture otherwise. When said sequel finally released, it fixed nearly all of the problems with its predecessor, featuring tighter controls, much more polished level design, a far more memorable cast of Robot Masters, and one of the best soundtracks on the NES. Mega Man 2 is to this day considered to be one of the best games in the NES library, cementing the Blue Bomber as a gaming icon on par with Mario and Sonic. Even today, 2 serves as the benchmark against which all future installments in the Classic series are measured.
    • Mega Man II on the Game Boy was developed by a different team than the well-received Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge, and it showed in its low difficulty, subpar stage design, and cacophonous music that sounded nothing like the NES games' original tunes. Mega Man III saw the return of the developers from Dr. Wily's Revenge, and the improvements over II were apparent from the get-go with improved stage design, a return of the series's challenging difficulty, and faithfully recreated music from the NES games.
    • Mega Man X had a nearly universally despised seventh game (an unusual instance in the extremely divided fanbase that Mega Man has); but the eighth game is considered a vast improvement.
    • Mega Man Battle Network had shades of Obvious Beta as Capcom was still experimenting with fine-tuning the battle system. The second game refined many mechanics on top of better writing, such that it, with the third game, would be fondly remembered as the best of the Battle Network series. The fifth game is this to the fourth by virtue of actually having a plot, while the sixth game does this to the fifth with even better writing and mechanics.
    • Mega Man Star Force's second game was hard to take even for the people who liked the first one, but the third game made up for it in incredibly unexpected ways, to a degree that some consider it the best in the entirety of the Battle Network/Star Force continuity.
  • The fangame Mega Man: A Day in the Limelight had a really clever idea (take Mega Man 2 and let you play as the Robot Masters from the first game), but it wasn't well-executed at all; the Robot Masters were either too similar or too weak, the level design was either barely-changed from the first game or just incredibly tedious, and the design was overall shoddy. A Day in the Limelight 2 (Robot Masters from 2, levels from 3) fixed all these problems, making the Robot Masters all distinct and playable in their own right, allowing you to switch between them, and heavily reworking the levels to accommodate their abilities or just add some polish. It's generally seen as having delivered on the promise of the original, and in some ways even improved on Mega Man 3.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Ac!d was ambitious, but very unrefined, with potentially broken gameplay. Metal Gear Ac!d 2 sharpened the graphics, tidied up the engine, made the story more coherent, and added a lot of depth and spontaneity to the gameplay. AC!D 2 also played to the fans of the first by bringing back what many would acknowledge as the first game's best moment - as the final boss of that game comes back (and, in a masterful bit of foreshadowing, you run on top of it without noticing unless you really paid attention), only tightened and with a potentially nasty time limit to make it harder.
    • Later in the series, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was a competently made game that showed great potential with its army building mechanics. However, the controls suffered on the PSP, the story (despite a great villain) felt more like a side-story, and the army building mechanic showed potential, but didn't quite live up to it with a lack of variety and frustrating issues. Then came Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Under Kojima's direction (unlike Portable Ops), Peace Walker's controls were more refined, its story felt more connected to the overall picture (particularly with Big Boss' Character Development) and the potential that Portable Ops showed with its army building mechanics were thoroughly lived up to, with an entire, constantly-growing, base of operations, a variety of options that expanded over the course of the entire game, and with the frustrating features simplified or removed. All that along with being the biggest Metal Gear game ever made at the time, meant it blew Portable Ops away.
  • After the pinnacle of the Metal Slug series with Metal Slug 3, the series suffered from SNK's bankruptcy and transformation into SNK Playmore. While the gameplay didn't suffer too badly, 4 ended up with recycled backgrounds and Tarma and Eri getting replaced with two new characters, and 5 was rushed out the door before it was finished, resulting in a game devoid of a story and most of the series' personality (especially egregious with the Final Boss, who's a giant winged, a silhouetted demon who comes right out of nowhere with no foreshadowing or explanation) and a lot more linear than previous games. Not only was Metal Slug 6 released in full and with no recycled backgrounds, but it gave every character unique perks (like Fio starting every life with a heavy machine gun and getting more ammo from pickups, and Tarma having several vehicle-related perks) and includes Ralf and Clark from Ikari Warriors as playable characters. 6 is considered by many to be the proper revival of the series.
  • Mighty Gunvolt (a Retraux game released alongside Azure Striker Gunvolt as a crossover between it and the then-still-in-development Mighty No. 9) was an interesting curiosity, but also easy to play through and fully finish in an hour or so. The sequel, Mighty Gunvolt Burst, makes better use of its Gunvolt/Mighty No. 9/Gal*Gun crossover potential by featuring more playable characters from all three series (via DLC) with their own unique play styles, as well as offering numerous attack configurations for each character.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam did not have a pleasant entry to the world of 3D PS2 gaming. Journey to Jaburo was aimed fully at the fanboys with loads of FMV and well-done audio, but horrible in-game graphics and controls combined with lackluster melee combat ruined the game even for many fans of the series, and worried fans were concerned that the series would be abandoned or left as schlock. Federation vs Zeon managed to make a surprisingly good VirtualOn knockoff with a worthwhile campaign mode and decent replay value. Zeonic Front actually made an enjoyable squad-based tactics game with actually memorable original characters and strategy, and Encounters in Space was likewise playable even for those that weren't already into the series.
  • Motor Toon Grand Prix had a lot of promise for a Mascot Racer, such as the incorporation of realistic driving elements like working suspensions and slipstream, but it was brought down by a lack of content and a wonky physics engine. The sequel made the physics a lot better and added plenty of new content such as tracks, secret characters, and mini-games, all while improving the graphics.
  • Compare Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem to the original Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. While the latter was a good game that helped establish an entire genre it was plagued with a terrible inventory system, staves didn't give EXP, and some classes couldn't promote despite their promoted versions existing (Armor knight/general and Hunter/horseman for example). Then the former comes and fixes most of the gameplay flaws as well as much needed character and story development and wraps it up with a more streamlined version of Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light.
  • While the original MÚSECA is a decent game, it suffers from some needlessly complex mechanics pertaining to Graficas that are not easily understood, especially by players in US arcades as many of them don't speak Japanese well. MÚSECA 1 + 1/2 rectifies this by making Grafica mechanics more simple (you only need to worry about one stat and one of five elements, and their unlocked effects if any don't affect your score or mess with the interface), making it easier to unlock Grafica (instead of a sequence of objectives or a random pull, just find the Grafica in the Mission mode list and use Graficas with high enough attack power to complete the mission), and finally, making Grafica completely optional (there's a "simple" mode where you just play songs for a score like in other music games, charts are unlocked simply by purchasing them from the song list, and even if you decide to use a Grafica all it does is decorate the interface and gain EXP for leveling up).
  • For all the praise NieR gets for its story, cast, and interesting gameplay ideas, most people agree the actual gameplay is serviceable at best and outright obnoxious at worst. NieR: Automata improved on almost all regards in the gameplay department thanks to the involvement of PlatinumGames and maintains the fantastic narrative and cast that the first game was known for, making it Yoko Taro's most critically acclaimed work to date by a wide margin, such that the remake of the original NieR borrowed heavily from the gameplay of Automata to its emmense benefit.
  • While Naruto: Ninja Destiny was not very well received due to the lack of content outside of story, single player, arcade and multiplayer modes, a small roster, very short story mode, very little replay value, muddy graphics and poor gameplay mechanics, the sequel, Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2 fixed all the problems the first game had, by having over 30 playable characters (including all the characters from the first game), more replay value, a longer story (complete with an exploration element, RPG style encounters and even side quests where you can unlock characters), better graphics, improved gameplay mechanics and tons of extra modes, like a dungeon crawler mode and even an endless survival mode. Due to all of the improved changes, the game was rather well-received by many.
  • While it's a little muddy as to what exactly DJMAX Respect is a sequel to (SUPERBEAT XONiCnote , DJMAX RAYnote , DJMAX Portable 3note ), many agree that it surpasses all of them in quality, due to the expansive songlist that continues to grow thanks to DLC updates and the return and refinement of traditional DJMAX Portable gameplay (4-, 5-, 6-, and 8-button modes, and scoring that is now more focused on accuracy than building a huge combo). It also shows that good Rhythm Games can exist on traditional consoles without needing expensive peripherals that are only used for specific games to be enjoyable (although it hasn't stopped makers of arcade-style controllers from designing Respect-specific controllers anyway, for those who still wanna go the extra mile).
  • NES Remix is a decent Minigame Game that had a somewhat undercooked selection of classic NES games—genuine classics like Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong feature prominently, while Nintendo's early sports titles (Baseball, Tennis, Golf, etc.) are included almost as an afterthought. However, the game was successful enough to spawn a sequel in NES Remix 2, which features a higher-quality selection of games (including Kirby's Adventure, Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3), more creative remix stages, and the ability to view replays of other players' best times.
  • Nickelodeon Kart Racers:
    • The original game was criticized for a lack of online multiplayer, the scant amount of Nicktoons represented (Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), which somehow results in only 12 playable characters), no voice acting whatsoever, and uninspired gameplay. The sequel, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix, while still not getting spectacularly high marks from critics and retaining some of the original game's flaws such as no voice acting, is still considered a massive improvement over the first game. Among the improvements in NKR2GP are online multiplayer, new modes, and a good deal more playable characters from 12 Nicktoonsnote  and JoJo Siwa, plus many others through the Pit Crew mechanic.
    • Slime Speedway improves on Grand Prix in every conceivable way, with more characters and tracks, an expanded kart/bike customization system, far more content across the board and full voice acting for the entire cast.
  • While Tecmo Cup Soccer Game introduced a fair hybrid between soccer and RPG, the game is still a loose adaptation of Captain Tsubasa with rather clunky menu systems and controls. Then comes Captain Tsubasa Vol.II: Super Striker, the sequel that makes huge improvements. It fixed all problems with the menus, has better interfaces, has a faster pace, has its own interpretation of the series' plot, and is satisfyingly challenging.
  • The Onechanbara series was known for cheap not so good or mediocre games that were like a weird cross between Devil May Cry and Dynasty Warriors until Z: Kagura came out and became more DMC-like/Bayonetta-esque. While not perfect, it had two new characters, better level design (previous games were full of padding in stages), bosses that put up a fight, and an enemy variety other than just zombies. Z2: Chaos took it even further with four playable characters that you could switch on the fly at any time and new power-ups that were useful.
  • Outpost was a turn-based colony management game that was well-hyped before its release, but it turned out to just be Simcity IN SPACE! Not only that, but it also had several bugs and was basically unfinished. Outpost 2 on the other hand, took some of the key plot elements from the first, and made it into an enjoyably complex real-time strategy game with a heavy focus on colony management. The story (which ignored the first in almost every conceivable fashion) was very detailed and interesting, becoming a tale told from the point of view of two factions, both trying to survive and avoid extinction. The inclusion of the story in the form of a novella, along with all the well-researched science (the game leans heavily towards hard science fiction), makes the game more enjoyable than one would expect from its predecessor.
  • Paper Mario:
    • Paper Mario: Color Splash, while not without its own flaws, was considered to be an improvement over the poorly received previous installment Paper Mario: Sticker Star and fixed a number of (albeit not all of) Sticker Star's problems. It's far from being considered better than the first three games, however.
    • Paper Mario: The Origami King would go on to be even better received than both the hated Sticker Star and Contested Sequel Color Splash, due to the game being regarded as having finally found an identity for the post-Super Paper Mario games with more intuitive, practical, and (most importantly) fun Puzzle Boss gameplay, doing away with the gimmicky Things that made most battles a pushover, many more interesting and likable characters, and a more compelling story than the fairly thin plots of the previous two games.
  • Phantasy Star III was an ambitious sequel in terms of its narrative scope, but is by-and-large considered a major downgrade from Phantasy Star II when it came to gameplay, and the game's setting seemed completely divorced from the mythos built up over the previous games (at least at first). Phantasy Star IV, conversely, is a direct continuation from II, both in narrative and in gameplay, with the game's battle mechanics expanding upon those from II while the story, played out in manga-style cutscenes, build up to an amazing climax.
  • Phantasy Star Universe did a lot of things well, including a fully-featured single-player campaign, and an expansive character creation system. Unfortunately, it also stumbled in many respects: the gameplay was criticized for being stale and boring, the single-player campaign had a fairly laughable story, and the international localizations were missing content from the Japanese version. It would not be until the move to the Playstation Portable, with Phantasy Star Portable, that the series Growing the Beard: what the series lost in online multiplayer, it made up for in improved narratives and fine-tuned mechanics which would serve as inspiration for Phantasy Star Online 2.
  • Record of Agarest War, another Idea Factory/Compile Heart series, experienced this with Agarest War 2. The clunky strategy game-type battle system from the original game and its prequel was replaced by a new system that while somewhat quirky, is also easy to control and makes the game's difficulty curve look less like the Swiss Alps. This is probably also one of the only game series that was improved with the addition of Random Encounters, as opposed to having to fight three to eight long strategy battles of random difficulty before reaching a safe spot.
  • Red Dead Revolver was a regular game at best. Red Dead Redemption is basically Revolver plus the GTA formula, with next generation graphics and a much richer plot.
  • Red Steel was an ambitious shooter/swordplay launch title for the Wii marred by bad swordplay controls and an overall rushed presentation. With the implementation of the Wii MotionPlus allowing for more precise controls, Red Steel 2 is being hailed as what its predecessor should have been and even being regarded as one of the best-looking Wii games.
  • The original Street Fighter was a broken mess, with bad controls being the one huge problem that brought it down. By turning the Good Bad Bugs into gameplay features, removing the truly bad bugs, and generally improving the controls, Street Fighter II is credited with popularizing the one-on-one tournament fighter genre and becoming a phenomenon.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard marked the return of the Resident Evil series' horror roots, right after Resident Evil 6 went too far with the over-the-top action.
    • As far as side games go, the little-respected Gun Survivor series was mostly known for being insubstantial fluff among its first three installments (Survivor, Survivor 2, and the non-RE Dino Stalker), but then the fourth and final one, Dead Aim, was praised as surprisingly playable and fun.
  • Robot Arena 2, while not a well-known game was a massive improvement over the original game. The sequel had much more customization options in regard to the chassis and weapons you could use, better AI, and an actual physics engine.
  • The first Sengoku game on the Neo Geo is a sub-par brawler with some cheap enemies, stiff controls, and power-ups that are likely to transform you into a worthless character. The sequel is an improvement, but not by much, and still bears several of the major problems the original game had. It wouldn't be until Sengoku 3 that the series came into its own with multiple unique playable characters, refined combat, and an improved stylized art style.
  • The original Shining Force, while still a fun Strategy RPG, was riddled with exploitable bugs and poor class balance while having too gradual a difficulty curve. Later entries have not only fixed these problems but also introduced new concepts, such as summoning and weapon skill levels, to add to the variety of the gameplay.
  • Hitman:
    • Hitman: Codename 47 featured a good concept but had very twitchy AI, a buggy disguise system, and no ability to save during missions; Silent Assassin added the ability to save as well making improvements on the shortfalls of the original, as did each installment afterward.
    • Hitman: Absolution was met with a polarising response to audience and critics; it did genuinely improve upon mechanics, but the linear gameplay and the broken Instinct meter really left a bad taste in players' mouths. The sequel to it; Hitman (2016), was seen as a the series getting back to form, with wide open sandboxes, much more freeform gameplay, and the story is much less prominent.
  • SnowRunner is a driving simulation game, and a sequel to Mudrunner. While the original game was well-liked by its' fans, the sequel takes the core gameplay and fleshes it out significantly with new features such as more varying tasks, terrain types and map interactivity.
  • Söldner-X: Himmelssturmer was a serviceable side-scrolling shoot-em-up with excellent visuals, but was mainly held back by its sluggishness and brevity. Its sequel, Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype improves on both of these aspects while adding more playable ships and weapons, a revamped power-up and combo system (no more power-down items), and assorted challenges and an expansion pack to keep the game fresh even after completion.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic Unleashed. While the games still suffered from significant flaws (with Secret Rings having a lousy motion control scheme and Unleashed having the Werehog brawler levels), they were generally agreed that they weren't as bad as the widely-panned Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic '06.
    • Sonic Colors managed to be the first Sonic game to actually avoid incorporating (blatantly) gimmicky mechanics into the game, and was praised as the first solid Sonic game in years (and for those who aren't fans of the pre-Unleashed 3D titles, the first 3D Sonic game to make a successful Video Game 3D Leap and be genuinely good).
    • While Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice does have its detractors and isn't considered a great game, many journalists and fans are in agreement that it's certainly a step up from the previous two Sonic Boom games, Shattered Crystal and especially Rise of Lyric. It helps that Sega delayed the game from its intended holiday 2015 release to nearly a year later to give the developers more time to work on it and ensure it doesn't suffer the same fate as its predecessors.
    • Sega's first attempt at Revisiting the Roots with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was heavily panned by the fanbase of the original games as an awful successor to what is still considered the series' best games; and while it wasn't received with as much vitriol from reviewers at the time of release, they later agreed in retrospect that the game was a misfire. Like the Skyfall example above, Sonic 4 was subsequently ignored by Sonic Mania, which was not only praised as a proper sequel to the original games by both critics and fans but garnered wide acclaim as the series' first truly exceptional entry in decades. Sonic Mania was also the first Sonic game on consoles released after the aforementioned Rise of Lyric, which is considered a top contender alongside Sonic 2006 as the worst Sonic game in the series.
    • The general consensus on Sonic Frontiers is that while the game isn’t perfect and has its weak spots, it is considered a step in the right direction for the series after the polarizing reception towards the last two main games by Sonic Team, Sonic Lost World and Sonic Forces, owning mainly to its improved writing and more in-depth “open zone” gameplay.
    • As far as fan games go: the original Sonic Robo Blast was considered a great fan game for its time, being ambitious in its scope, albeit stymied by the primitive Game Maker programs it was made on. By comparison, Sonic Robo Blast 2 is several major steps up, being a standalone total conversion Game Mod of DOOM that fans and critics alike claim actually surpasses Sega's official games.
  • Gameplay-wise, the original SOUND VOLTEX is pretty neat for its time, with its use of analog knobs to bring something new to "falling notes" Rhythm Games as well as sound effects that give the impression of mixing the track in a live set. However, its tracklist mostly comprises remixes of existing BEMANI songs of questionable quality (let's put it this way: LamazeP of "PoPiPo" fame personally apologized for his remix of "Second Heaven"), So Bad, It's Good Vocaloid songs, and a handful of Touhou Project arranges. Sound Voltex II -infinite infection- is when the series started to pick up, introducing a lot of new songs at launch that were much better received, many of which are originals, helping to give the series a better sense of identity.
  • Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly was an Obvious Beta that was Christmas Rushed and only had seven levels and very strange design decisions because of it. The following game; Spyro: A Hero's Tail was a vast improvement, adding in new breaths that had actual use, and was more in line with the quality set by the original Insomniac developed trilogy of games. Many even consider it a case of being Vindicated by History, especially given the franchises' later games.
  • Spec Ops was a middle-of-the-road shooter franchise from the PlayStation 1 days, perhaps only notable as being one of the first franchises set in the modern-day while World War II was the standard setting for a military FPS. Flash forward about a decade, and the series is revived with Spec Ops: The Line, considered one of the best examples of storytelling in gaming ever.
  • The original Star Control was a 2D space combat sim with hardly any story elements (at least not in the game.). Star Control II kept the good parts (the space combat, aka Super Melee) and added a surprisingly complex and fun story mode.
  • Stuntman was a PS2 title that featured realistic handling physics and an interesting twist on the driving genre, but ultimately received meager popularity due to its punishing difficulty. Stuntman: Ignition, released as a console-generation-bridging title (PS2, PS3, and 360) featured a completely overhauled game system that kept the games difficulty nearly-intact but made it much fairer for the player. Didn't hurt that it was also a much better looking game.
  • Styx: Master of Shadows wasn't really a bad game, but it was a generally janky and rather unpolished one with a lot of flaws. Styx: Shards of Darkness took everything that didn't work in Master of Shadows and either changed it for the better, or removed it completely. The levels are much bigger, but not divided into four parts, so there's little to no Padding; the second half of the game isn't the first half backwards; the cutscenes and animation looks much better and less stiff/uncanny; the tone is much more fun and darkly-comical instead of being straight and humourless; and numerous quality-of-life changes and improvements to the way the character handles have been made. Even reviewers who didn't love the game still acknowledge that it's at least better than Master of Shadows.
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • The original game on the Nintendo Game Boy was clunky, with minimal plot and a lot of Guide Dang It! moments. Each game's taken steps since then, with its first sequel actually using the pilots and storylines from the series in question, and producing Banpresto's first Original Generation batch, featuring Masaki Ando, Bian Zoldark, and Shu Shirakawa.
    • The first Super Robot Wars: Original Generation was fairly clunky compared to the earlier SRW games on the Game Boy Advance, with a pretty basic story and minimal animation and effects. It feels a lot like a side-project Banpresto wasn't ready to commit to (it was, after all, essentially a crossover without the crossing over). Compare to Original Generation 2, which featured more plots and better animation and effects that nearly match the first Alpha game on the PS1.
    • On the localization front for Super Robot Wars X, at any rate. While X is not the first SRW to get an English option but not an official release in most Anglophone territories, previous efforts at putting an English option in could best be described as "serviceable". The team Namco Bandai assembled for X, however, was made up of a number of long-time SRW fans, and it really shows; as much as the actual plotting can be kind of bad (as noted above), the quality of the English script is considered a high-water mark for the entire franchise and contributed heavily to X becoming an underground success and growing the English SRW fanbase and bringing lapsed fans back in.
  • The first Super Smash Flash was made in four months, and it shows by being practically unplayable by modern standards — with only five moves per character, atrocious hit detection making almost every move a One-Hit Kill, numerous Game Breaking Bugs, unfunctional items, only being able to support two players and having the camera always follow Player 1, and a pithy stage roster of eight stages. Super Smash Flash 2, on the other hand, greatly improves on the flaws of its predecessor; with its high quality graphics, more balanced gameplay, and fidelity to its source material, it has been widely acclaimed as one of, if not the best Super Smash Bros. Fan Game.
  • The first Tekken was not a particularly remarkable game, and was seen as a Virtua Fighter clone, featuring blocky graphics, cheap music, and boss characters who were direct clones, as well as not many special moves. The home versions did not have any extra modes apart from Versus and Options modes. Tekken 2 addressed all the issues and added a lot more cool characters and many modes.
  • The first game in the Momodora series, while made as a tribute to games like Mega Man and Cave Story, had some annoying issues that kept it from being a great game. Even rein, the sole dev of the game, agrees because it was his first game project. Then came along Momodora 2, which fixed most of the issues 1 had and adds an Metroidvania aspect to the game. The two other games, Momodora 3 and Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, are considered to be even better than 2.
  • Thunder Force III was a huge improvement over its rather average predecessor Thunder Force II, they got rid of the annoying overhead scrolling stages (which were all that the obscure first Thunder Force game had to offer), improved the graphics and music, and made the gameplay a lot better. Thunder Force IV and Thunder Force V continued on the tradition of awesomeness and were the peak of the franchise. Unfortunately, Sequelitis took effect after that.
  • The original Titanfall was an online-focused shooter that, although it did feature some interesting and unique mechanics, was deemed by many to be a merely OK shooter with some significant issues. Its sequel was much better received, earning high scores from players and critics alike for its short-but-sweet single-player campaign, compelling multiplayer, regular updates, and, to the relief of many, its player-friendly business model. Despite not selling well, the game still has a decent-sized player-base.
  • The original There Is No Game, while a fun experience, was only a few minutes long, provided you knew what you were doing. Its sequel, There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension, however, drastically increases the playtime of the game to a few hours and has a much deeper story than its predecessor, including Game reminiscing about its lost companion, GiGi, due to the Creator removing them from Game's code... which also consequentially spawned Mr. Glitch, who seeks to wreck havoc in the real world.
  • While all of Wave's games based on Tomorrow's Joe are fairly obscure, the Super Famicom one is seen as the best one of them all; not only cutting out the Filler beat-em-up sections of Legend of Success Joe and having much better graphics and sound than the first installment, simply Success Joe, but also, after the previous two did not, having the manga's famous ending.
  • The original Top Gun for the NES was very slow-paced and boring, lacked dogfights, was extremely hard to land the plane (made famous thanks to The Angry Video Game Nerd), and difficult refueling scenes. The sequel, titled Top Gun: The Second Mission, however, was much more action-packed and fast-paced, has a much easier landing, no refueling scenes, and dogfight sequences. Not only that, but the game also gave you the ability to perform barrel rolls to dodge missiles.
  • Touhou Project: In-between the standard danmaku games, which have been slowly improving, ZUN has done a bit of experimenting. The concepts he reuses tend to be much better the second time around:
    • Touhou Yumejikuu ~ Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream is, bluntly, terrible, suffering from cheating AI, little plot, ugly graphics, and boring battles. Touhou Kaeidzuka ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View still isn't great, but is at least reasonably passable. The AI cheats less blatantly, a fairly interesting story, it's fairly pretty, and you're actually dodging your opponent's patterns instead of stage enemies.
    • Touhou Bunkachou ~ Shoot the Bullet was mostly made for the sake of having a game to go with the fan books release, and it shows. The game is fairly short, has a lot of very similar patterns (Spinning! Streaming! Spinning while streaming!), mostly fairly ugly patterns, an unpolished UI, and is really hard, even by Touhou standards. Double Spoiler ~ Touhou Bunkachou is longer, has more variety, fixed most of STB's annoying issues, and is reasonably clearable by the average Touhou player.
    • Then there is the fan game Koumajou Densetsu — where the second game has received massive improvements over the first as well as added really well-done voice acting.
  • Among the Twisted Metal games, Twisted Metal III, Twisted Metal 4, and Twisted Metal: Small Brawl are generally considered the weakest. Twisted Metal: Black is seen as better than both III and 4 and is hailed as one of, if not the best game in the series, while Twisted Metal: Head-On is seen as a major improvement from Small Brawl.
  • Two Worlds II fixed everything in the first game while retaining the What Could Have Been elements, including an innovative spell system. The first game suffered from numerous glitches, missing animations, and extremely cheesy dialogue, and its Xbox 360 port was a disaster, which turned a buggy but playable game into a trainwreck. The second game is mostly remembered for its HUGE amount of content and a variety of multiplayer modes.
  • The first two Wangan Midnight arcade games were basically just Tokyo Xtreme Racer with Wangan Midnight characters and stage-based gameplay, with few players remembering or thoroughly enjoying them. Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune, on the other hand, gave Initial D Arcade Stage a run for its money.
  • The original Warcraft was an unimaginative Real-Time Strategy with two cosmetically different sides, slow, clunky and unbalanced gameplay, muddy graphics and little backstory. Then came Warcraft II, still with very similar sides (except for mage spells and archer enhancements) but much smoother, more-polished, better-balanced and vastly expanded gameplay, cleaner, more detailed graphics, one of the greatest RTS soundtracks ever recorded, and a fairly well-developed backstory. Along with Dune II, Warcraft II is considered to be one of the progenitors of the Real-Time Strategy genre. Warcraft III has 4 very different sides and an even richer backstory, the success of which prompted Blizzard to make the most successful MMORPG in history.
  • The general consensus for Watch_Dogs 2 is that it's surprisingly much better than the mediocre first game in the series. It has a more likable cast of characters, improved controls (especially while driving vehicles), new ways of solving hacking puzzles, and it doesn't take itself so seriously.
  • WWE Video Games have generally ranged from average to positive reviews, but it reached a nadir with WWE 2K20, which — as a result of the abrupt departure of longtime development studio Yuke and their heavily-expedited replacement with Visual Concepts — turned out to be an infamously buggy and unpolished mess. The critical thrashing and record-low sales left little to be excited about for the future of WWE games, especially when it was announced that Visual Concepts would be sitting out 2K21 in order to focus on the following year. However, they made on their promise, and 2K22 was released to vastly improved reception, addressing most major criticisms of the previous entry, including technical stability, graphic fidelity, and overall flow of the gameplay, giving the franchise a much-welcomed second wind.
  • Yooka-Laylee was mostly positively received, but, while not without its fans, suffered from obvious issues with polish and was criticized for feeling like a rehash of the Banjo-Kazooie games. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair not only starts carving out its own niche for the series by going in a side-scroller direction similar to Donkey Kong Country, but also substantially improves on the controls, level design and all-around polish, earning near-unanimously positive critical acclaim upon release.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories is usually seen as basically unplayable, with monotonous mechanics, a ridiculous amount of Level Grinding, and positively obnoxious difficulty, though it sold well due to being the only console Yu-Gi-Oh! game at the time. Its sorta-sequel, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Duelists of the Roses, cranked down the difficulty quite a bit, reworked the Level Grinding to be actually satisfying and sensible, and completely overhauled the gameplay to add actual strategy besides "play the strongest monster and hope you can make a fusion."
  • Zone of the Enders sold well mostly because it came with a demo for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The game itself was decent enough but suffered from repetitive battles, criminal shortness, and whiny and cliched characters, leading to a somewhat mixed reaction. As such, many people who liked the original concept were happy to see the sequel tighten up the controls, give you twice as many options in battle and include a long and interesting plot to follow. They were even more surprised to see whiny and annoying characters in the first game return in style, having leveled in badass in the intervening time between games.

    Visual Novels 

  • The 'sillies' that run alongside Ctrl+Alt+Del have fewer panels (so the punchline comes at the end), stylized art (a complete lack of B^U), and a steadily rotating roster of secondary characters including the Grim Reaper. On the other hand, they don't have a set schedule.
  • Platypus Comix's "2008 Character Strike" series brought some comics that relied heavily on old material, as well as a simplistic Family Guy parody. These provided a few giggles, but not enough to hide the fact these ranked among the cheapest stories on the website. Then, the Head Executive decided to hire Spider-Man to replace the usual characters, resulting in True Believers. Released a few weeks after Marvel's polarizing One More Day, True Believers sent Spidey and Mary Jane Watson on a suspenseful, emotionally-driven adventure to prevent Joe Quesadilla from forcefully ending their contented and iconic marriage. Peter Paltridge went on to declare this one of the best comics he ever wrote.
  • The Bad Webcomics Wiki took this view of Cheer!. The comic it spun out of, The Wotch, received a scathing review for being seen as ugly, fetishistic, offensive, and badly-written, with special attention being paid to the arc that introduced the characters in Cheer! for being among the worst in its run. By contrast, the review of Cheer! was a lot kinder, claiming that the comic was nothing spectacular, but it was better-drawn and better-written, with likable characters and clear attempts to avert or even deconstruct the sexism and perversion of its roots.

    Western Animation 
  • The early proto-Bugs Bunny short "Elmer's Candid Camera" was a total disaster, suffering from poor characterization, mediocre gags, and positively abysmal timing and pacing, and as such received such bashing from Chuck Jones, the director of the short, in his autobiography. Tex Avery learned from Chuck's mistakes, and promptly remade the cartoon as the first real Bugs Bunny cartoon "A Wild Hare".
  • Book Three: Change of The Legend of Korra is considered to be a major improvement by fans and critics from the fan-polarizing Book Two: Spirits.
  • Ghouls Rule, the first Monster High DVD movie isn't terrible, but it suffered from a lot of writing and plot problems. Its sequel 13 Wishes was a vast improvement in every way and is considered by many fans to be one of the franchise's high points. And while Frights, Camera, Action was pretty mediocre and had a bad case of The Scrappy, Freaky Fusion is delightfully weird and introduced several Ensemble Dark Horses to the fandom.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an unbelievable improvement from the previous generations of My Little Pony, especially the third one.
  • Paradise PD is a Creator-Driven Successor of Brickleberry, using similar characters, style and comedy. Even the latter's fans often mention that despite Paradise PD not being great, it is still much better than its predecessor, with better jokes, characters that are much more likable and a few better songs in the soundtrack.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel got a mixed reaction from fans, while the next hour-long special, Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, was much better received. Watching them, one gets the impression that the creators didn't really know what to do with the Marvel properties but are big Star Wars fans, given the number of in-jokes and Easter Eggs that the latter included.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power is considered to be much better both story and characterization-wise than He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983). It also featured subtly improved animation and character art. Unfortunately, it didn't last as long due to its toy line not selling well.
  • The general consensus is that SpongeBob SquarePants suffered from Seasonal Rot sometime between the first and second movies, starting with either Season 4, 5 or 6, depending on who you ask. But starting with Season 9 (especially the second half), the series redeemed itself, toning down the overly mean-spirited humor of those seasons, and largely reverting the characters to their pre-Flanderized selves. Some fans consider Seasons 9B and 10, in particular, to rival the first three seasons in quality.
  • Season 5 of Voltron: Legendary Defender is considered to be a major improvement over the filler-heavy season 4, due to revisiting storylines such as Operation Kuron, Pidge's search for her father, Keith's Galra lineage, and Haggar's memories. Lance and Hunk being de-flanderized was also well-received.