What is the definition of “Spiritual successor”? a spiritual successor is a successor to some sort of work of fiction wither it’s a movie or a TV show or a game, this succession doesn’t take the exact same characters or story or the world so it won’t be a prequel nor a sequel. Instead this succession takes few elements from the original work like the style, atmosphere and even the source material.
There are many reasons behind the uprising of spiritual successors, one of them is the desire of the successors to develop the same work but in a different way, but the main reason is mostly due to not being able to obtain the legal rights of the original work from the original creators, because publishing any work that contains the title or the characters of another work will result in a major legal affairs no one wants to be involved in, so the successors publish their work as spiritual successor to avoid these problems. It is quite useful to attract a specific audience who’ll love the succession as they will try the work they love but in a different way and that will help the successors gather the right audience to their succession.
A lot of spiritual successor games have emerged lately for the reasons mentioned before, and while some weren’t as good as we hoped others quite succeeded in being a faithful spiritual successor. Here we will show you the 10 best spiritual successor games.
(Note: this list has no particular order.)
Bioshock- system shock 2:
One of the best last gen games, Bioshock won multiple awards for its great story, unique atmosphere and the semi survival horror gameplay. Despite the game’s setting in the 1960’s, many players saw the similarities between this game and the futuristic System Shock games particularly the second game.
Let’s talk about System Shock 2 for a bit, when it first came out as a sequel to the first system shock, critics acclaimed it as one of the best and most perfect sequels to its first game. The game depends on two basic elements: the element of survival and the element of horror, as well as some supporting elements like RPG’s. the general atmosphere also adds a lot more horror to the game, because everything in this abandoned spaceship wants to kill you one way or the other. There’s also this weird feeling you’re being watched and that you’re being indirectly controlled throughout the game. Sounds familiar?
Eight years separates between Bioshock and System Shock 2 but the same elements of survival horror and RPG’s and the frightening creatures that wants you dead by any means are still there. Let’s address how Bioshock is different from it’s source material. The biggest different is city of Rapture, the underwater Utopian city which I think we can all agree that it gives a much more elegant atmosphere than an abandoned spaceship, even if we can also agree that this “Utopia” is horribly out of control. The gameplay has shifted to a first person shooter much like the original game except it’s more fast and action based as well as some amazing superpowers extracted from the ADAM substance. And do you remember when we mentioned the unusual feelings of being watched and used indirectly? Both games share this in their amazing stories. I won’t spoil the events but I’m pretty sure we all get conflicted feeling when we hear the two sentences “Would you kindly?” and “I am Shodan”.
At the end of the day, Bioshock managed to out best System Shock 2 as a spiritual successor which you can enjoy both of them separately and it well also teach you to be extra careful when hearing calm voices asking you to do whatever from afar…
The year 2015 was one of the best and strongest year of gaming to date! Many games like The Witcher 3, Bloodborne and Rocket League have conquered the court of gaming for that year. But who will ever thought that an indie game will enter this race and also be one of the best games of that year? That game was Undertale, the RPG game with the comedic yet serious vibes as well as a special charm that affected many players.
When Undertale first showed up, many people drew the connection between it and the “Mother” series, particuarly the second enstaltmen of the series knows as Earthbound, their connection wasn’t pointless as the Undertale’s developer, Toby Fox, made the game after being inspired by earthbound, because when earthbound first showed up it changed the way the world view JRPG game and turned it from games that relies on old European-like style in fighting monsters to reach the final boss to a more cheerful game in the modern era about a group of children fighting anything that cross their path, from mice and mad dogs, passing by weird shaped worms and even policemen all the way to unusual yet funny aliens. Despite the game’s comedic commentaries, a lot of weird yet mysterious and disturbing things happen at the same time. This what made people adore Earthbound, and the same things happens in Undertale almost, because behind all these funny characters and the overall atmosphere of the game there’s a darker side to balance things out represented by the game’s story and the player’s option to either kill or grant mercy to any monster they see.
Despite Toby fox never exactly mentioning that Undertale is an actual spiritual successor to the mother series, many fans will say that Undertale is the earthbound they were always waiting for, and I personally agree with them.
Shadow of the colosuss- Ico:
It seems like there’s a unique charm to story driven games, those games that rely on their atmosphere to captivate their players and making them submerged in their worlds without relying on too many dialougues. There has been many games of this sort that showed up recently but for a lot of gamers the best one of them all is shadow of the colosuss.
As we mentioned before, shadow of the colosuss amazed both players and critics with its general atmosphere and its gameplay as well as its story that changed the prespective of the traditional hero. What many people don’t know is that shadow of the colosuss was almost going to be a sequel to a game from the same developers and the same idea that uses atmosphere and puzzle solving, and that game was Ico from team Ico.
Although the style and general atmosphere of both Ico and shadow of the colosuss are kind of similar the gameplay between them is drastically different, this has made the developers team to cancel the idea of making the game a sequel to Ico and instead turn it to a spiritual successor to Ico where it will be inspired by the general atmosphere and the style from said game. Both games receive many awards and critical acclaimed, and both proved that story wise general atmosphere is much better than regular dialougues.
Bayonetta- devil may cry:
There are many games that are connected to the genre they are representing by definition. For example when you hear horror game the silent hill games will most likely come to mind first thing, and when you hear fighting games the street fighter games will definitely come to mind first as well. For many fans out there, hearing about hack and slash games will usually come with two games: devil may cry and Bayonetta.
This won’t be so unusual once you knew that both games were directed by the director Hideki Kamiya. Hideki Kamiya turned a game that was supposed to be a new sequel to one of Capcom’s best franchises, Resident Evil, and maid it to one of the best games in its generation one of Capcom’s best games with the title of Devil May Cry. The game was famous for its fast and energetic fighting style, its dark mysterious world, its terrifying over the top monsters and its protagonist Dante, the Demon hunter with the carefree attitude against the dangers he’s facing. Even after Kamiya left Capcom and went to Platinum games, he still wanted to use the same style but make it more crazier than his previous game, and that’s how Bayonetta came to be, a fighting style much faster and more energetic, a much more mysterious world where the forces of light and dark collide, a much way over the top monsters who are way more crazier and terrifying than before, and last but not least the game’s protagonist the fancy witch Bayonetta who pretty much destroyed the stereotypical image of regular witches with her charming style and sarcastic nature which I personally prefer it over Dante’s. it’s like Hideki Kamiya have put all the rules he used to make devil may cry and made Bayonetta break all these rules and fly away to the moon just like the song “Fly me to the moon”.
Stardew Valley- harvest moon:
Let’s move from a fast based action packed games to a more slow yet cheerful ones, and from Bayonetta the spiritual successor to devil may to Stardew Valley the spiritual successor to harvest moon.
I never would have imagined that with all the action and adventure and shooter games that came out recently, a game such as Stardew Valley would shine among them! Perhaps the biggest reason is that it’s a spiritual successor to the harvest moon series but personally I wasn’t expecting there were this much fans of the series at all…
Since it’s first release on the SNES, gamers were introduced to a new method of gameplay very different from what they were used to at the time. Who would ever thought that a game about managing a farm and living a simple life would be so fun? The series made a big success relying on it’s simple gameplay and its devoting fanbase who loves this simplicity to the point where it has its own spin-off games with the title rune factory. Yet despite the series big success, many fans noticed that it started to slowly move away from its basics and roots that made it was it is now. One of those fans must have taken it upon himself and start making the harvest moon game he always wanted to end after 5 years of developing the game by himself and making it one of 2016 best games, and that fan is Stardew Valley’s developer Erik Barone.
Barone added a lot of things to the game so it will became independent from the series, for example instead of the game ending after the second in game year, Stardew Valley can last many in game year or until you get bored of it, Barone also added the element of crafting stuffs like fences and chests after being inspired by Minecraft that uses the same element, in addition to the mines system that added the element of combat inspired by the same combat system as legend of Zelda a link to the past and many other elements that made Stardew Valley the Harvest Moon fans always wanted.
Dark Souls- Demon souls:
We have here an exceptional case of a spiritual successor that is almost an exact copy of it’s original source material representing in the two games dark souls and demon souls, and yes while at first glance these two games are awfully similar to each other as they are using the same style and world almost and the same level of difficulty which are both famous of. They also share the same director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, and the same developer company, from software. But before we start I’d like to grab your attention that it seems like from software has a thing for spiritual successors, because demon souls itself is a spiritual successor to a game called king’s field from the same company that was famous for its level of difficulty that was transferred to demon souls with changing the camera angle to third person, and dark souls is also a spiritual successor to demon souls albeit with many similarities between the two even in the title, and let’s not forget Bloodborne which also considered a spiritual successor to dark souls with slightly different world and somewhat new mechanics. It almost seems like from software is following a repetitive pattern for some reason…
And yet all these games do share one thing in common: the brutally hard difficulty. Let’s return to dark souls and demon souls, despite them looking very similar at first glance any fan will notice their differences immediately. The biggest one is that the amount of contents is dark souls is much more than demon souls in terms of weapons, environments, missions and monsters, balancing some weapons and adjusting the magic system that was overpowered in demon souls, introducing the poise system in dark souls as well as some aesthetics like the music and the sceneries that reflect the state of depression in the world and adds a dark atmosphere that fits the darkness of this world but remains beautiful nonetheless.
With all the reasons we mentioned, the biggest reason why dark souls is unique from demon souls is that dark souls managed to be one of the most influential games in the history of gaming, it has become an example in the level of difficulty in modern gaming, and many of its elements are used in other games like bonfires and the element of throwing the player directly to the world without giving a specific goal or a destination. The success of dark souls is the biggest clue why it has surpassed demon souls in every way.
Perfect Dark- GoldenEye 007:
When you look at the games in our current era, many of them follow the trend of online first person shooter like Overwatch and Battlefield who both are using almost the same trend. The reason behind this massive fame of trend goes all the way back to 1997 with the release of one of the best shooter games and one of the best games ever made, GoldenEye 007. A licensed game from the James Bond movie GoldenEye, this game was revolutionary on the Nintendo 64 by presenting a smooth gameplay and inventive stages and lots of options for weapons like hand guns, submachine guns and even throwing knives. But what made the game especially unique was the multiplayer mode where you can play with up to four people with different in game characters in special stages in this mode. This was the beginning of shooter games and its focus on online mode, because although the story mode in GoldenEye 007 was great many will say that the multiplayer mode was the much more fun in game.
Although that the developers behind GoldenEye 007, Rare, wanted to start making a new sequel to the game, Nintendo had lost the rights of James Bond to EA, this hasn’t stopped Rare from making another first person shooter experience much better than their last one, so they have made a spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007 with the title of perfect dark. The two games might share the same first person shooter mechanics but perfect dark surpassed GoldenEye 007 in many ways, first off the same engine that was used to develop goldeneye 007 was upgraded and added many enhancements to make the game look much better and it worked because perfect dark looks better in terms of graphics and that helped the gameplay becoming more smoother and adding a layer of realism to the game. The weapon options became a lot more because in addition to the traditional weapons there are alien weapons (they are the main core of the game’s story), and instead of James Bond we have the game’s protagonist agent Joanna Dark who was famous for her strong personality and her ways of dealing with problems around her. Last but definitely not least, the online mode was upgraded with many option and more fun that the latter, in short what GoldenEye 007 started, perfect dark upgraded and enhanced it.
In the end rare managed to out best themselves, perfect dark received slightly higher reviews than GoldenEye 007 and many fans saying it’s much better and “perfect” in many ways.
Shovel Knight- Ducktales, Megaman, Super Mario Bros 3:
We mentioned before that the basic definition of “spiritual successor” is a work inspired by another work. However in few time some spiritual successors may not get inspired by just one work and instead takes many elements from many other works to become something special like what we saw in the game Shovel Knight.
One of the most successful games of 2014 and undoubtfully the most successful kickstarted campaign for a video game thus far, shovel knight is not technically a spiritual successor to a bunch of games as much as it is a spiritual successor to a certain era of gaming, specifically the era of the NES and the platform games that was quite popular at that time. Shovel Knight took its inspiration from the three most popular NES games back then:
Ducktales; and it took the application of using an unusual tool to jump in levels and on enemies, like scrooge mcduck uses his walking cane jumping on objects and enemies, Shovel Knight also uses his shovel to do the exact same things except he can block the enemies attacks and use it to dig treasures from the ground.
Megaman; and it took from it the level design and enemies especially the bosses and how each level represent a boss. For example one of the bosses specter knight and his level that was a cemetery, polar knight and his level that was a snowy icy mountain with northern lights in the background, and plague knight and his level that was an alchemy lab and so one with the rest of the bosses.
Super Mario Bros 3; and it took many of the traditional platforming elements from it as well as the ability to choose which level to go to next via a large world map that appear after finishing each stage and gradually expanding with every stage you finish.
All and all, shovel knight managed to combine all these elements with each other to give us the best traditional platforming experience we’ve seen in a long time. The level design and the enemies in addition to the music gives a nostalgic feeling to the era of NES and its simple games. Shovel knight is a fine example of a game made with love and passion, and unlike other games I can almost be assured that most of those who kickstarted it have no regrets.
Freedom Planet- Sonic The Hedgehog:
Some might not believe this right now, but there was a dark time in the life of one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, sonic the hedgehog, as some of his games have dropped in quality. Luckily this has changed with the series going back to its roots with the release of sonic mania and receiving many positive reviews. But before that and in the same year that one of the worst sonic games, sonic boom, another sonic game that isn’t a sonic game was released, that game is freedom planet.
And indie game from the independent studio GalaxyTrail, this game depends on many elements from traditional platforming and increasing speed and momentum in addition to level exploring and some action elements by fighting enemies and bosses that are spread throughout the level exactly like old sonic games in the 90’s. The game itself is considered as a love letter to all the fans of old sonic games with it’s characters and graphics which uses the modern 2D style which makes the stages design absolutely gorgeous. Yet despite this Freedom Planet managed to out-best Sonic in not only reviews but by also being its own separate game where it’s not an exact clone of old sonic games as there are many factors which makes it a unique game. Let’s start with the three playable main characters: the dragon Lilac, The wildcat Carol and the basset hound Milla. At first glance they seem like just female characters similar to the other three playable main characters in sonic games: sonic, knuckles and tails, but they’re the complete opposites of them, each of these girls have their own personalities that are different from sonic characters. The level design is more detailed that old sonic game as it’s inspired by old Chinese aesthetics which gives it some kind of originality in the stages. The gameplay itself is fast and fitting to the stages and last but not least the voice acting that no one expected how good it is or even expected it in the first place! For a game about anthropomorphic animals, alien invasion, dragons, legends and all that talk, the voice acting is so good and realistic more than half the games out there in the market currently and I highly recommend buying the game to listen to it and decide how good it is. There’s also a story mode but many weren’t a big fan of it, luckily there’s a classic mode where you can play the entire game without listening to dialougues or the story in general.
All these elements combined together managed to bring to freedom planet many positive reviews and critics even more so than a sonic game from Sega in the exact same year. Although freedom planet isn’t technically a spiritual successor as much as it is a fan game to old sonic games, it did perfected the method in a unique way. Even after sonic mania’s release and the return of sonic to the court once more, fans still waiting for the new freedom planet game in 2018 and we hope it’s better than the last one.
Before the fallout series became a first person shooter with RPG elements, it was purely an RPG games from the late 90’s with a gameplay style similar to that of games like Diablo at the time. Everyone praised the first fallout for it’s role on modifying the concept of traditional RPG back then and making it transfer from the fantasy and legend settings to futuristic sci-fi post apocalyptic settings. But it wasn’t fallout who started it in the beginning, but it was a game from last century’s late 80’s that was one of the most influential games in our current generation which helped to popularize post-apocalyptic survivor RPG games, and that game was Wasteland.
From the same company that developed fallout, wasteland was released in 1988 for the Apple II devices before it was re-released for the Commodore 64 and MS-DOS. The game made a huge success at the time relying on it’s gameplay, story and world. Many fans describe as a sci-fi Dungeons & Dragons for personal computers. After its success, the developers wanted to develop more games like wasteland, an after war post apocalyptic sci-fi with RPG elements, but they have faced major issues when EA refused to grant them the legal rights of the game. This hasn’t stopped them from trying something completely new and making a game that surpassed wasteland in every way after nine years of development.
The first fallout, that was released in 1988, had the biggest amount of critical acclaims and positive reviews. Fallout also managed to be an amazing spiritual successor to wasteland by preserving the general atmosphere and gameplay in addition to adding a lot of new factors like the noticeable improvement in graphics that was revolutionary at the time, adding the Charisma element and befriending characters instead of fighting them, and since it’s a game about the aftermath of nuclear war, you have to watch out for some areas with dangerous nuclear radiations along the way.
Even after the system in fallout games have changed, fans haven’t forgot about its simple yet strong beginnings as a faithful spiritual successor that manifested the true meaning of life after war in a style that is still used to this day.
This was in our humble opinions the best spiritual successor games currently. As we’ve seen fans dedication, their love and passion for a certain game can create an outstanding experience much better than the source material, and despite some of the failures of these projects like mighty no 9 or not being completed at all like unsung story, we shouldn’t be depressed and we should still support gamers and developers in making something similar to the thing we like but in a unique way. Share your opinions in the comments and tell us about your favorite spiritual successor games!
And a quick question to all game developers out there: if you were giving a chance to develop a spiritual successor game, what is the said game and how will you improve upon it?