In the video game world, creative teams often don’t retain the rights to their games. This means that they can’t make follow-ups to their greatest creations when copyrights or trademarks change hands, like when a publisher goes out of business or a developer is replaced.
Sometimes this results in end of an era, as the creative teams no longer have the legal right to continue developing sequels. Spiritual successors help developers get around this by not using any copyrighted or trademarked elements of the original game. Instead, they evoke the feel of the original by including themes and gameplay elements that are reminiscent of what fans loved about the game.
These seven spiritual successors bring some of the greatest games of all time back to life, and many were developed by the same teams that had a hand in the originals. Be sure to share your favorites in the comments below!
1. Axiom Verge (Metroid)
The Metroid games are widely beloved, but it’s been a long time since a comparable third-person action platformer has been released. Tom Happ’s Axiom Verge channels the series like few — if any — other games have successfully done, even though he wasn’t a part of the original Metroid team.
The gameplay evokes Super Metroid, with a large world map made of smaller connected spaces that you’ll need to explore. You’ll encounter dead ends and impossible obstacles, only to later find that an ability or weapon you’ve gained will allow you to pass; take on platforming puzzles that require the use of your special abilities; and face off against giant boss monsters. You even get to take advantage of “glitches,” where the game world seems to be misbehaving, with a device called the Address Disruptor.
While Metroid has always been a Nintendo series, Axiom Verge is available for for a variety of systems, including Playstation, Windows, Linux, and the Wii U.
2. Mighty No. 9 (Mega Man)
Another run-n-gun platformer series that has a huge fanbase, Mega Man also hasn’t seen a release in a long time (and the more recent X series wasn’t as well received as the originals). But that didn’t keep Comcept from making a spiritual successor that gives fans a modern-day run at the classic robot shooter.
Players control Beck, the only robot in a set of nine that wasn’t affected by a computer virus. In order to stop a robot uprising, you’ll need to use multiple types of weapons, as well as your 2D platforming skills. Like the original Mega Man games, you can defeat the bosses in any order and gain special weapons from them.
Mighty No. 9 is available for pretty much every platform out there, from game consoles to PCs to Shield tablets (though it didn’t get great reviews, so you might want to try it before you commit).
3. Yooka-Laylee (Banjo-Kazooie)
Banjo-Kazooie was one of the earliest games to take advantage of the power of the N64’s 3D graphics (it also ranked #3 on our list of the best platformers of all time). It was very well-received, and two sequels followed. But Chris Sutherland, Steve Mayles, and Steven Hurst, all originally involved in the creation of Banjo, decided that they weren’t done.
Yooka-Laylee is a “collectathon”-type game, where chameleon Yooka and bat Laylee will need to collect items and objects to progress through the different worlds. Like Banjo-Kazooie, players will put their 3D platforming skills to the test and use goofy abilities like tongue whipping and fire breathing to complete tasks and defeat bosses in each of the worlds.
If you’re a fan of N64-generation games, then Yooka-Laylee should be high on your list of games to buy. It’ll be coming out on Xbox One, PS4, Linux, Mac, and Windows early in 2017.
4. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Castlevania)
Although Castlevania games continue to be released (the latest was in 2014), few of them have received the acclaim of the early games in the series. Koji Igarashi, the producer of the series from 2001 to 2010, received a number of requests to follow up on the series after he left Konami. After some encouragement and an extremely successful Kickstarter, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was the result.
Bloodstained has many of the things that made Castlevania great. It has dark aesthetics, side-scrolling world exploration, the ability to craft weapons and armor, and as-yet-undetailed “RPG elements.” It’s likely that collecting experience points and nonlinear gameplay, like those seen in Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, will make an appearance.
You can still back the game on Kickstarter and get a copy on your platform of choice early in 2017 (they’re currently estimating sometime in March, but you know how Kickstarter can be).
5. Obduction (Myst)
There are plenty of adventure/puzzle games out there, but 1993’s Myst is the puzzle game. It’s calm, methodical, exploratory, and atmospheric. A number of sequels were released, but none of them were as revolutionary or important as the original. Obduction was created by the same team that made Myst, though the setting, story, and characters are different from Myst. But the same themes remain: complicated environments, the need for careful exploration and examination, tricky puzzle-solving, and a surreal atmosphere.
Obduction is currently available on Windows, with a Mac version coming soon. It was on our games not to miss in 2015, so be sure to check it out!
6. Prey for the Gods (Shadow of the Colossus)
Often regarded as one of the best games of all time, Shadow of the Colossus was a standalone game. As such, it never received a sequel. The upcoming release of Prey for the Gods, however, has fans of the PS2 original really excited.
Players begin on a frozen island with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They must find weapons, supplies, and everything else they need to survive. Like Shadow, players have choice to move through a non-linear story, and battle gigantic foes around the island. The developers call the gameplay a combination of Shadow of the Colossus, Deus Ex, DayZ, and BloodBorne.
This game is still a ways off, but you can back it on Kickstarter and hope to get your copy by the end of 2017.
7. Perfect Dark (Goldeneye 007)
We’ve focused on the games that are or will be available on current-gen consoles, but this is an exception. Goldeneye 007 was one of my favorite games in high school and college — partly because of the awesome levels — and Perfect Dark, also on N64, succeeded it.
Perfect Dark provided the single-player campaign that Goldeneye lacked without getting rid of the great shooting action. There are still tons of weapons, difficulty-based objectives, stealth challenges, and ridiculously fun multiplayer.
Perfect Dark also had a sequel, Perfect Dark Zero, and both are available on Xbox One via the Rare Replay (CA/UK) collection. This also includes games like Battletoads, Killer Instinct, and the entire Banjo-Kazooie trilogy. If you remember Perfect Dark — or Goldeneye — as fondly as I do, grab it.
Your Favorite Spiritual Successors
These seven games will help you experience some of the best games of all time — without having to buy an ancient console or figure out where to get a copy of the cartridge or CD. It’s a unique experience, playing an updated version of your favorite games, especially when the updated version is still in 8- or 16-bit style. There’s something satisfying about it in a way that new games just can’t quite match.
What are your favorite spiritual successor games? Which ones should have made the list? If you could choose a game to have a spiritual successor today, what would it be? Share your thoughts below!