10 spiritual successors to great games


It’s not uncommon for video game developers to revisit the themes and mechanics of their earlier work. By incorporating what they have learned over the following years, they can innovate on creatively established formulas.

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A “spiritual successor” is a game that does not relate directly to an earlier game, but draws inspiration from and innovates from its predecessor. These games may or may not involve developers who participated in the original game. Sometimes creative teams create a twist on their previous work after separating from the original developer and losing access to intellectual property.

Balan Wonderworld / Nights in dreams

Split image showing the covers of Balan Wonderworld and Nights Into Dreams

Originally released in 1996 for the often forgotten Sega Saturn, Nights in dreams is an action game developed by Sonic Team. With the help of Nights, a jester-like creature, two teenagers explore and attempt to save Nightopia, the magical world of dreams. Players loved the game’s dreamy atmosphere and innovative flight mechanics.

Sharing the same producer (Yuji Naka) and character designer (Naoto Ohshima) as Nights in dreams, The wonderful world of Balan similarly follows one of the two children as they are guided through a series of magical worlds by a showman-inspired creature named Balan. Unlike its predecessor, Balan Wonderworld has been almost universally swept up for its controls and inconsistent frame rate.

Bayonetta / Devil May Cry

Split image showing Bayonetta and the cover of Devil May Cry

Crazy success The devil can cry The franchise is known for its exaggerated hack-and-slash mechanics and antihero protagonists. Created by Hideki Kamiya and published by Capcom, the game has been praised for its innovative combat system which emphasizes quick and elegant combos.

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Kamiya got another hit on her hands with Bayonetta, which is also a stylish action game in the same vein as The devil can cry (and plenty of Easter eggs for The devil can cry fans to find). With an even more exaggerated aesthetic and an iconic protagonist, the game has already spawned a sequel (with another in the works) and an animated film.

Mermaid / Silent Hill

Split image showing the covers of Siren and Silent Hill

The silent Hill The franchise has spawned a long list of sequels, spinoffs, crossovers, and adaptations, and has inspired many similar horror games. Known for its spooky, hazy atmosphere and nightmarish enemies, the franchise’s first game took a psychological turn on the then-young survival horror genre.

Made by former members of Team Silent (the developers responsible for the first four games of the silent Hill franchise), Mermaid the same takes place in an isolated rural town overwhelmed by a supernatural force. Or silent Hill follows a lone protagonist, Mermaid instead, alternates points of view between 10 survivors in a non-linear narrative structure. With stealth-focused gameplay and a unique sight-jacking mechanic, Mermaid provides players with a stimulating gaming experience.

BlazBlue / Guilty Equipment

Split image showing the covers for BlazBlue and Guilty Gear

With a roster of weird and extravagant characters inspired by the anime, a fighting game franchise Guilty equipment has maintained a cult alongside its most popular competitors for years. Guilty equipment made a name for itself early on with a then rare emphasis on air mobility. The franchise is also known for its sleek combos and move cancellations.

During a long break between games, Guilty equipment Arc System Works developer created BlazBlue, a fighting game remarkably similar to its predecessor on the surface. While it also focuses on vivid combos and the existence of living humanoid weapons, BlazBlue has established its distinct identity as a franchise. The game’s “Drive” mechanic gives each character a unique special ability, making them a very diverse roster of fighters.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night / Castlevania

Split image showing the covers of Bloodstained Ritual of the Night and Castlevania

Partially responsible for establishing the genus Metroidvania, the Castlevania franchise remains a massive influence on the gaming world to this day. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night himself was inspired by Zelda: A link to the past“focuses on exploring and defining what opens up the next area”, according to famous producer Koji “IGA” Igarashi.

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Directed by Igarashi, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign. It has all the attributes of a Metroidvania style Castlevania game: a gothic castle setting, exploration and flashback, and a collection of items. Classic mode, in which players can play through the game in the style of the original Castlevania, was even added as a DLC.

End of the World Club / Danganronpa

Split image showing blankets for World's End Club and Danganronpa

The sub-genre of media that Royal battle established and The hunger Games helped popularize is far from dead, with new additions to the battle royale genre coming out frequently. The Danganronpa The franchise takes a decidedly Japanese take on the genre as a mysterious visual novel rather than an arena for all. A happily sadistic teddy bear pits the students of a prestigious academy against each other in a murder game. Students must attempt to determine the identity of the killer, with deadly consequences if they fail to do so.

After leaving Spike Chunsoft, the developer of Danganronpa, former employees released End of the world club, a visual novel with puzzle elements. Although he originally appears to be a direct spiritual successor to Danganronpa, the gameplay quickly turns to that of a puzzle platform game.

Back to school / Clock Tower

Split image showing the illustrations of Remothered and the cover of Clock Tower

Released in 1995 for the Super Famicom, the original Clock tower has never been published outside of Japan. Despite this, the point-and-click game has built up a sort of cult following. Take the influences of slashers and giallo movie theater, Clock tower was an early entry into the survival horror genre, predating classics like resident Evil and silent Hill.

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Starting off as a fan remake of Clock tower, the Remarried trilogy is an independent project led by Italian artist and developer Chris Darril. Borrow names and themes from Clock tower, it is also inspired by other horror classics. While the first entry in the trilogy has garnered much praise from critics and gamers alike, the reception of its sequel in 2020 has so far been less than stellar.

One step from Eden / Mega Man Battle Network

Split image showing the covers of One Step From Eden and Mega Man Battle Network

With at least 100 games in the series so far, the Mega man frankness can seem impenetrable to beginners. Mega Man Battle Network takes on a different take on the franchise, taking place in a universe where networking technology (rather than robotics, like in the original games) has progressed to the point of integrating into almost any electronic device. Abandon the classic Mega man platform formula, the combat takes place rather in real time on a 6 by 3 grid.

Most often presented as “Mega Man Battle Network meets Kill the arrow, ” One step from Eden is a roguelike deck-building RPG that builds on the fast-paced, tile-based combat mechanics of its predecessor. Filled with artful pop culture references and memorable characters, it stands up to repeated repetitions.

Hometown History / Little Dragons Café / History of the Seasons

Split image showing artwork from Hometown Story, Little Dragons Café, and Story of Seasons video games

The Beloved Farm RPG Franchise History of seasons (formerly known as Harvest moon in North America and Europe) inspired a number of games like Valley of stars and Rune factory. Players nurture a budding farm to success while also building relationships with townspeople and eventually wooing the bachelor of their dreams. Gameplay has remained remarkably similar throughout the franchise.

The creator of History of seasons, Yasuhiro Wada, later created two titles in the same vein as his previous work. The main character of History of the hometown runs a shop inherited from their grandmother and befriends the townspeople as the population grows. In Café des Petits Dragons, two siblings must manage their mother’s coffee after she falls into a deep and mysterious sleep, while raising a dragon in order to wake her from her sleep. Contrary to the formula, neither of the two games has an NPC to romanticize.

Tell me why / Life is strange

Split image showing artwork for Tell Me Why and Life Is Strange

Known for his LGBTQ + characters and coming of age stories, Life is strange made waves with its original release in 2015. Although this episodic adventure game used an innovative and widely acclaimed time travel mechanic, many gamers weren’t happy with its dated portrayals of teenagers. The series continued with additional installments following new characters with mysterious powers.

Also from Dontnod Entertainment, Tell me why is another episodic game where player choices matter. Rather than the previously implemented time travel powers, Tell me why follows a pair of twins with the power of telepathy. As the first AAA game to feature a transgender man as the main character, it largely paved the way for how Life is strange made for LGBTQ + protagonists.

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