Gaming has a long and proud tradition of releasing as many sequels as possible to popular games. It’s a low-risk strategy, after all. With video game budgets now regularly running into the hundreds of millions, why take the risk on an entirely new property when you can continue to make the most out of a game people have historically enjoyed?
Some titles, like the Call of Duty: Black Ops series have released virtually direct sequels which have amped up modes and features, whilst keeping the same formula intact.
Others have been a little more adventurous with their properties, releasing games which are linked to their classic properties but change the ruleset, format or even the mechanics entirely.
It’s a tradition which began with casino games like blackjack, which have seen games like Progressive Blackjack, Spanish 21, European Blackjack and more hit tables around the world. You can even play Blackjack Perfect Pairs at Aspers Casino these days – in which wins are awarded when the first two cards form a pair – pointing to the sheer popularity of game variants.
But what are the best game spin-offs and variants ever? Join us as we take a look at some of our favourites.
The Typing of the Dead
The House of the Dead is an arcade light gun classic, but it’s bettered by a curious variant launched on PC in 2000 – The Typing of the Dead.
Taking the classic zombie-killing formula and transplanting it into a frantic typing game, The Typing of the Dead has you tapping out increasingly difficult words and phrases to kill zombies. Improving your typing skills and slaughtering the undead between hilariously bad cutscene acting? Outstanding.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
[Source: BagoGames on Flickr]
Far Cry 3 set new heights for the Far Cry series, laying down a template that they’re still following slavishly today. But what did developers Ubisoft Montreal do once they’d built it? Blow it all up, of course!
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a bizarre and hilarious homage to 80s action movies which takes the relative realism of Far Cry 3 and abandons it for neon dinosaurs, robots and lasers, backed by a ridiculous synth soundtrack. Sometimes, developers just need to cut loose.
Super Smash Bros
Nintendo are the masters of spin-offs and variants, and we could fill a whole list with just Nintendo games like Donkey Kong Country, Mario Kart and Super Mario RPG, but we’ll stick with one for now – Super Smash Bros.
Released in 1999 on the Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros brought characters from Nintendo’s best-loved games together for one purpose – to knock ten bells out of each other. Twelve playable characters including Mario, Pikachu, Link, Ness and Samus were included, each with character specific move sets. The formula worked and in 2018, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Nintendo Switch became one of the biggest games of the year – despite launching in December!
Imagine a time where nobody realised Half-Life 2: Episode 2 would be the last we would see of Half-Life in over a decade, it’s in that period when Portal was introduced to the world.
A spin-off of the Half-Life series, Portal was included in the Orange Box – a collection of games for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Set in the same world as Half-Life and, specifically, the Black Mesa facility (if you know, you know), Portal shifts the focus to puzzles and humour, with no shortage of dark intrigue.
Today, both it and its sequel are arguably more popular and influential than the game it spun off from. Not bad for a game Valve had little confidence in, ey?
What’s your favourite spin-off or variant? Let us know in the comments below.