Dolled-Up Installment

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
If only they were this easy to spot.

This is the practice of inserting a work into a franchise which it was not originally intended for, usually because of the marketing value of the name. This is usually the result of Executive Meddling, or else a dangerous similarity between a work-in-progress and a published and copyrighted one. Usually easy to spot, since the setting or style is noticeably different.

If the decision to doll up the installment is made soon enough, attempts can be made to make the installment more like the series it's being installed into. The differences between setting and style will then be toned down.

If a Dolled-Up Installment is sufficiently successful and accepted, it can trigger Lost in Imitation: that is, later intentional installments of the series will take on characteristics that began with the Dolled-Up Installment.

It's common with Licensed Games. In some cases, all the programmers do is replace the sprites, for a game that ties into the source material In Name Only. A True Dolled-Up Video Game Installment will at least fit a bit more seamlessly into the franchise, such as with games dolled-up to fit into other, already established game franchises. Compare Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, to Yo Noid!

Might overlap with Market-Based Title, if the new title puts the work in a franchise popular in the country.

The opposite of a Spiritual Successor, where the official franchise may be different, but the installment has a clear heritage.

For when it's the box cover that makes the work look as though it's something it's not, see American Kirby Is Hardcore. See also In Name Only, Translation Matchmaking and Recycled Script. Divorced Installment is the opposite.

Examples of Dolled-Up Installment include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Italian Macekre of Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star dolled it up to be a sequel to its own Alternate Continuity, the original Futari wa Pretty Cure. Apparently, the reason Saki and Mai Nagisa and Honoka look different is because of a Plot-Relevant Age-Up... even though Saki and Mai are younger than the old heroines left off at the end of Max Heart.
  • Robotech was an amalgamation of three different series into one; Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. None of these have anything in common, other than Transforming Mecha and a similar artistic style.
    • The Robotech movie also added scenes from Megazone 23, tacked onto footage from Southern Cross (even Carl Macek thought this was a dumb idea at the time, and so did the handful of viewers who saw one of the test releases).
  • The first season of Voltron was the American adaptation of GoLion, while the second was an adaptation of Dairugger XV; they were unrelated, other than being Combining Mecha series involving a Five-Man Band (in the latter's case, three separate Five Man Bands).
    • Partially justified in that the two series were in the same universe, but not the same part. Lion Voltron was the Voltron of the Far Universe, Vehicle Voltron was of the Near Universe, and an unproduced third series using Lightspeed Electroid Albegas would have had Gladiator Voltron of the Middle Universe.
  • Ninja Resurrection wasn't a sequel to Ninja Scroll, but you could be forgiven if the box text and the distributor misled you. The only similarity was the main character's name, Jubei. Ninja Scroll's protagonist is an homage to Yagyu Jubei, one of the most famous ninja and folk heroes in Japanese history. Ninja Resurrection, based on the novel Makai Tensho, actually uses Yagyu Jubei as its protagonist.
    • It's not even called Ninja Resurrection in Japan. ADV Films, the US distributor, changed the title, added the subtitle "The Return of Jubei," and marketed it to make it look like a sequel. Many viewers were furious when they found out, but the deception made it a big financial success anyway. Ironically, it sold better than the real sequel to Ninja Scroll did.
  • The Italian version of the volleyball anime Attacker You made the main character You into the cousin of Kozue Ayuhara, star of Attack No. 1, another famous volleyball anime. The two shows have, of course, nothing to do with each other besides being about volleyball.

Comic Books

  • In the 1970s, Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart created Shang-Chi, a new Asian martial-arts character, for Marvel Comics. Because Marvel had recently acquired the rights to Fu Manchu, it was decided that Shang-Chi would be Fu Manchu's son.
    • And now that Marvel no longer holds the rights to the Fu Manchu character, it is unlikely that we will ever see an "Essential Master of Kung Fu" on the shelves. Drat.
      • Marvel never actually had the rights in the first place; they believed incorrectly that he was a Public Domain Character- this was half-true and a very complicated issue, but it boils down to certain Fu Manchu stories being in the public domain while others aren't, and the copyright varies from country to country.
    • Marvel's been using Shang-Chi's father as a villain again for some time—he came back in an early MAX version of the franchise, for example—but they avoid calling him "Fu Manchu" (using nicknames or supposed "real" names instead) and they never depict his face unless it's masked or, as in Secret Avengers, mutilated and rotting. They did much the same in the 1990s, using a visually altered version of Fah Lo Suee in a story but only ever referring to her by a newly-coined (Marvel-owned) nickname. Note that Nayland Smith and other Rohmer-original characters like Karamaneh, who did show up when Marvel had the license, simply don't appear anymore.
  • Astro City: The Dark Age started life as a sequel to Kurt Busiek's Marvels series. It was originally to be called called Cops & Robbers, and then Crime & Punishment. When Marvel ended up not going ahead, Kurt retooled the story to take place in Astro City rather than the Marvel Universe.

Fan Works


  • Adrift, despite maintaining its original title in Europe and Australia, was retitled Open Water 2: Adrift despite the only thing they have in common being that both feature people stuck in the middle of the ocean and the focus of the first film being sharks of which there are none in the "sequel".
  • Die Hard is in a unique position in that all of its sequels are based on completely unrelated source material. Die Hard 2 was based on a novel that was unrelated to the novel that Die Hard was based on, Die Hard with a Vengeance was based on an original screenplay titled Simon Says (which was also considered to be used for a Lethal Weapon sequel), and Live Free or Die Hard (also known as Die Hard 4.0) was based on a combination of a magazine article titled "A Farewell to Arms" and an original screenplay titled
    • Inverted with the original Die Hard, which was based on a novel titled Nothing Lasts Forever, which was a sequel to a novel titled The Detective, which was made into a film starring Frank Sinatra.[1] (No, really.) Die Hard was originally intended to be filmed as a sequel to the film version of The Detective, but when Sinatra turned it down, it was rewritten as a stand-alone film. (It was also briefly considered to be used for a Commando sequel.)
  • Ebirah: Horror of the Deep AKA Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster was originally going to feature King Kong instead of Godzilla. This becomes quite evident when Godzilla starts ACTING like King Kong. He is revived by electricity (like King Kong in King Kong vs. Godzilla, and very unlike the Godzilla of that movie). Yes, he even shows interest in a female human.
  • Averted by the Halloween series. Though Halloween III did not feature Michael Myers, it was the intent of the director to make a different horror movie each year.
  • The Haunted Palace (1963) was an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story, and was originally titled The Haunted Village. But because its director (Roger Corman) and star (Vincent Price) were better known for Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, the studio decreed that a few lines of Poe's poem be tacked onto the film, and the title changed to match.
    • The Conqueror Worm, a historical drama that contains one of Vincent Price's best performances, is an even more egregious case: known as Witchfinder General in the U.K., it was renamed for the American market and overdubbed with Price reading some lines of Poe's poem to seem to stitch it onto the Roger Corman series.
  • The 2004 film version of I, Robot was initially based on an unrelated screenplay, Hardwired, before being given the title and some surface features of |the story collection by Isaac Asimov. Granted, the dolling-up process did incorporate something like a Hollywoodized version of Asimov's Three Laws, and the final plot somewhat resembles a mish-mash of Asimov's "The Evitable Conflict" and The Caves of Steel. Still a painfully awkward fit with Asimov's stories, though, and nothing excuses making Susan Calvin into a hot young sidekick. (Contrary to what some have said, the film bears even less resemblance to Eando Binder's "I, Robot" than Asimov's story collection, except in the basic "robot kills someone" sense.)
  • Ocean's Twelve started out life as a stand-alone heist flick about two dueling master thieves that got the Ocean's Eleven gang shoehorned into it when the first film's massive popularity required a sequel as quick as possible. The role of the protagonist was split between Danny (master thief), Rusty (relationship with Europol agent), and (to a certain extent) Linus.
  • The Rage: Carrie 2 was originally written as a standalone film titled The Curse. It was retitled and rewritten presumably because somebody pointed out the obvious similarities to Carrie and decided that calling it a sequel would not only allow it to cash in on the success of the original, but would help it avoid accusations of Plagiarism.
  • The DVD release of the '90s made-for-video movie Robot Wars (no relation to the TV show of the same name) calls it Robot Jox 2. It doesn't take place in the same universe as Robot Jox, but has a similar look due to both being handled by the same effects company.
  • Saw 2 was based on an old script that was turned down repeatedly for being "too violent" and eventually picked up because Saw was a big hit and the script had similarities. According to writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman, the finished product bears little resemblance to his original script beyond character names.
    • Inverted when a script originally meant to be a Saw prequel was, due to lack of interest by the producers, altered into a stand alone movie, The Collector.
  • When A Shot in the Dark was adapted into a movie from a stage play (which was itself translated from French), the only seemingly Defective Detective Paul Sevigne was replaced with Peter Sellers's slapstick Detective Patsy, Jacques Clouseau. This sequel to The Pink Panther shares little more than the title and the premise with the play. The Artistic Title sequence of A Shot in the Dark also sets it aside from other movies in the PP series by featuring neither the cartoon panther nor the famous Instrumental Theme Tune (the movie has its own Instrumental Theme Tune).
    • On the other hand, the film actually introduced several major elements of the franchise not present in the first film (Cato, Dreyfuss and of course Clouseau as the protagonist), and is considered by many to be the best entry in the series.
      • Not to mention Clouseau's comic accent, which was absent in the original.
    • Then there's the animated Pink Panther theatrical shorts and television series which is about an actual pink panther.
  • Robert Rodriguez once planned a stand-alone movie about kids going inside a video game, which he later turned into Spy Kids 3. This should come as no surprise considering how the decidedly not spy-oriented premise was haphazardly shoehorned into the Spy Kids verse.
    • In Italy the film was promoted as "Missione 3D: Game Over", without any hint it was part of the Spy Kids franchise, perhaps for the better.
  • Starship Troopers had nothing to do with the novel it was allegedly based on until someone pointed out to the director that there were some vague similarities. The reason: the rights to the name were bought after the script was written.
  • The working title for Troll 2 was Goblins. For whatever reason, the distributors just slapped Troll 2 on the movie, despite the lack of trolls.
    • There are two movies with the name Troll 3, neither has anything to do with the first two.
  • Similarly, House III: The Horror Show was simply a haunting movie called The Horror Show, but the distributers wanted to cash in on the success of the first two films. That's why it's the only sequel without a pun title (e.g. House II: The Second Story, House IV: The Repossession).
  • All of the Watchers "sequels" are, in fact, remakes (save for part 3). This makes a Watchers movie marathon an exercise in redundancy.
  • Hellraiser Deader was originally intended to be completely unrelated to the series, despite there being a good bit of fan material on the disk related to it
  • Films in the Curse series have nothing to do with each other (aside from the body-horror element returning in at least part 2)
  • The TV movie Malibu Shark Attack was re-titled for some DVD releases as Megashark In Malibu, with the tagline "the legend returns", presumably an attempt to cash in on the dubious fame of Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. To make things even more unusual, the title card in the film itself reads Shark Attack of the Malibu in this version.
  • The Bruce Almighty sequel Evan Almighty was initially written as a completely separate script called The Passion of the Ark. After Universal spent a few million on the script, the script was reworked into a sequel due to the success of Bruce Almighty combined with Steve Carell's newfound fame. The final result shows that rewrites occurred.
  • Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky was released in some areas as Monty Python's Jabberwocky. Half of the group had nothing to do with the film.
  • Anchorman has a weird case with Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, a collection of alternate takes and deleted scenes released with the DVD as a "lost movie". The thing making it dolled up is the addition of a narrator who's trying to make it sound like this is a sequel, but it's painfully obvious that it's not.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is well known as a loose adaptation of the novel by Gary K. Wolf, but what is less known is that the plot line involving the highway and the dismantling of public transportation was originally meant to be used for a sequel to Chinatown.
  • The script of an unproduced movie Big Baby was rewritten to be a sequel to Honey I Shrunk the Kids, thus came Honey I Blew Up The Kid.
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was first just an After the End film with a colony of feral children. Then someone suggested for Max to meet them...
  • Bruno Mattei's shark Mockbuster Cruel Jaws is titled in some places Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws (then again, the film blatantly uses footage from the first two Jaws films...).


  • Orson Scott Card had already drafted an outline for his novel Speaker for the Dead before deciding to insert the protagonist from his previous short story "Ender's War" into the lead role. He expanded the short story into the novel Ender's Game to provide Backstory for Speaker for the Dead. Ender's Game became by far the author's most successful book, and launched a popular series.
    • He did it again with book 3, after his publisher forced him to write "the Ender trilogy." That bizarre business about the spirits that make up the universe was originally planned as a standalone, Philotes. Note that this was partially because the story was going nowhere, and he thought Ender could make it more interesting.
  • Leslie Charteris wrote several stories early in his career featuring protagonists very similar to The Saint. When he decided to concentrate on the the Saint as his main character, these stories were included in the Saint short story collections with the hero's named changed to Simon Templar.
  • William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom! is a sort of classic-literature version of this. The young people in the "present time" of the novel were originally going to be characters Faulkner had never written about before: one a Southerner and one a Northerner. However, Faulkner ended up giving these roles to Quentin Compson (a main character from his earlier novel The Sound and the Fury) and his Canadian roommate Shreve, thus giving Absalom, Absalom! intertextual relationships with other works involving the Compson family.
  • The Ian Fleming short story Quantum of Solace is largely simply about a doomed marriage and the power plays within it. However, Fleming also inserted a framing device of James Bond being told the story at a cocktail party so he could put it in a collection of James Bond short stories.
  • It is rumored that most, if not all of the stories Casshern Sebastian Goto writes for The Black Library are actually rewritten from original military SF pieces he had previously tried and failed to publish with other companies, which would certainly explain his cavalier attitude towards 40k Canon.
  • This happened to the work of Robert E. Howard, the inventor of Conan the Barbarian. Four novellas which originally had nothing to do with Conan and in fact had entirely different settings were posthumously rewritten into Conan stories. Indeed, Howard's The Phoenix on the Sword, the first Conan story published, started life as a rewrite of a rejected Kull of Atlantis story.
    • Relatedly, several of Marvel's early Conan comics were plots from the "Kothar" novels by Garder Fox, with the names changed.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith's Triplanetary originally had nothing to do with his later Lensman novels, but was heavily rewritten after their success to serve as a Prequel, with First Lensman written specifically to bridge the two storylines.
  • Somewhere between this and Poorly-Disguised Pilot, Rinkitink in Oz was intended as the beginning of a new series, but crossed over with Oz because the author was having a hard time getting anything published that wasn't an Oz book. Sadly for him, everyone preferred Dorothy and company, and he found himself writing yet more Oz books.
  • The fifth Artemis Fowl book, The Last Colony, originally had nothing to do with Artemis and centered around a new character, Minerva. However, since the new character was a lot like Artemis, another insufferable child genius, Eoin Colfer instead opted to focus the book on Artemis and include Minerva as a secondary character.
  • When a collection of James H. Schmitz's Federation of the Hub stories was republished by Baen Books, the non-Hub story "Planet of Forgetting" was rewritten as a Hub story, "Forget It". The theory here was that it may well have been a Dolled Down Installment in the first place.
  • When Douglas Adams needed to come up with a storyline for the third book of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, Life The Universe And Everything, he took an old Doctor Who movie script called Doctor Who and the Krikketmen and rewrote it to be about the Guide characters (with some difficulty; he would later say the problem was finding a Guide character who was interested in saving the universe - he eventually settled on Slarty and Trillian, who essentially become Expies of the Doctor and Sarah Jane).
    • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was likewise cribbed from a Doctor Who script that was never finished ("Shada"). Professor Chronotis was originally a Shada character, as is the fictional college he works at (St. Cedd's), his time machine (which very clearly resembles a Tardis in function, and he disguises as his lodgings), and his unnaturally long life (he is a Time Lord). The story itself borrows from another Adams penned Who story, "City of Death."
  • Tracy Beaker: The Dare Game was originally a play for a Manchester theater. Jacqueline Wilson was originally going to let Tracy rest, but the lead girl was very similar to Tracy. So when the theater rejected her play after a fire and some new management, she turned it into a Tracy book.
  • PG Wodehouse rewrote a few of his earlier stories around his more popular characters, such as Jeeves and Wooster.
  •'s "5 Little-Known Sequels That Ruined Iconic Stories" explains that Charles Webb admitted that his novel Home School, the sequel to The Graduate, had the old characters shoehorned into a new story.

Live-Action TV


  • When Michael Jackson released Off The Wall, it was such a monumental success that his previous record label, Motown, released an album of material—both unreleased and just kinda obscure—as One Day in Your Life in 1981, the pure schmaltz of which made "ABC" sound like ACDC. The following year, Thriller was released and by 1984, it became the biggest selling album ever, prompting Motown to remix some older songs—some being over decade old—and released Farewell My Summer Love the title song of which makes "The Girl Is Mine" sound like "Helter Skelter." This stopped happening, thankfully, however, future Michael Jackson album releases seemed to coincide with well-timed Jackson 5 hits collections.
  • Kinda of an example: in 1983, Yes had kinda reunited (only the guitarist was different) and recorded 90125, but had decided to rechristen themselves Cinema. The recording company said it would make more sense to keep the Yes name, and so they did (though the guitarist objected, as he wanted a new band instead of inadvertently joining a reunion).
  • Jay Z's song "Renegade" with Eminem off the The Blueprint was originally written and produced by Eminem as a song for Royce da 5'9". The part during one of Eminem's verses containing what sounds like vocalized record scratches was actually dubbing over a reference to Royce in the lyrics.

Newspaper Comics

  • Charles Schulz originally created the character of Peppermint Patty for a children's book he planned to write. He never got around to writing it, so he made her a Peanuts character instead.

Video Games

  • The Wonder Boy series. Hudson Soft bought the rights to the game itself, while Sega retained the rights to the "Wonder Boy" title and characters. As a result, nearly every installment of the Wonder Boy franchise received a dolled-up version by Hudson:
    • Adventure Island for the NES, a sprite-swapped port of the arcade Wonder Boy, which would go on to become its own franchise.
    • Bikkuriman World for the PC-Engine is a port of Wonder Boy in Monster Land with the Bikkuriman (a lineup of trading stickers) license tacked on.
    • Dragon's Curse, also for the TG-16, a port of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap—which, coincidentally, was titled Adventure Island in Japan.
    • The Dynastic Hero, again for the TG-16, a port of Wonder Boy In Monster World.
    • There was also a dolled up Famicom version of Wonder Boy in Monster Land called Saiyuki World. Its sequel, Saiyuki World II, was localized in the U.S. as Whomp 'Em (with the original Journey to the West motif replaced with a Native American one).
  • Contra Force actually began life as an unreleased Famicom game in Japan known as Arc Hound. The game differs from the previous Contra games by having altered play mechanics (including switchable characters, AI-controlled backup, and a Gradius-style power-up selection system), as well as a present-day setting and human terrorists as villains. Konami of America haphazardly attempted to establish a connection between Contra Force and the rest of the Contra series by claiming that the ruined city in Contra III was actually Neo City (the place where Contra Force took place) in the manual.
  • Donkey Konga and its sequel were both essentially dolled up sequels to Taiko Drum Master, replacing the taiko drumsticks with bongos and going on to win several awards for its innovative controls... for the exact same game that was already available on other systems and arcades without the Nintendo branding.
  • Dolled up versions of Puyo Puyo made their way onto the SNES and Sega Genesis in America as Kirby's Avalanche and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine respectively because both Nintendo and Sega thought that the Western audience would not accept the aesthetics of the series at the time. Disney Interactive also released Timon and Pumbaa's Bug Drop for the PC, which is a very stripped down Puyo Puyo.
  • The Record of Lodoss War game for the Dreamcast was not originally based on Lodoss.
  • Word of God claims that Silent Hill 4 was always going to be a game set in the Silent Hill franchise, but just as a Gaiden Game.
  • Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight is a futuristic spin-off of the first Street Fighter released for the NES in 1990, a year before the ultra-popular Street Fighter II hit the arcades. The game is a boss-centric action-platformer instead of a competitive fighting game and the plot in the Famicom version didn't even have anything to do with Street Fighter (nor with Final Fight, for that matter) despite inheriting its name. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the localization team took the liberty of changing the protagonist's identity from Kevin, a cyborg policeman, to Ken, who became a gifted scientist in the years since the first Street Fighter tournament. Capcom no longer counts this as part of the franchise (not even as a side-game) and it seems like a strange artifact today, since the franchise has since gone in a very different direction and the year 2010 passed with some of the game's predictions going unfulfilled.
  • The Western version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was essentially a sprite mod of the game Doki Doki Panic, which was designed by the same man as the original Super Mario Bros, but was otherwise unrelated. Though not as referenced as other games, and despite a tacked-on All Just a Dream ending, Bob-Ombs become recurring characters, and Yoshi's Island resurrected Shy Guys and most of the other memorable enemies, some of which became permanent staples of the franchise. It was also an obvious reference pool for later games, since it gave characters different gimmicks: Luigi is a loose-handling but high-jumping character taller than his brother. It also kicked off the sporadic use of Princess Toadstool in an action role for future games. Similarly, Peach's ability to fly/float has stuck around, but remains canonically unexplained.
    • The game also had several subtle but noticeable differences from its original counterpart. A few examples include being able to run, some animations having more frames for a smoother animation, being able to change characters after clearing a level or losing a life, etc. The game was even Recursive Imported to Japan as Super Mario Bros. USA.
  • Tetris Attack is a unique example in that not one but two Cash Cow Franchises' assets (characters from Yoshi's Island, and the Tetris brand name) were overlaid on the block-swapping action puzzler Panel de Pon (which, it should be added, contains almost no Falling Blocks whatsoever).
  • The first three SaGa games were released under the Final Fantasy name in North America (as the Final Fantasy Legend series). This was done during the period when Nintendo and Square believed RPGs had a very limited North American appeal, and American gamers would be more likely to purchase a new one if it had a familiar brand. (However, the first Mana game was not an example of this trope, even though it was sold as Final Fantasy Adventure in the US—it didn't start out as its own series, and was named Seiken Densetsu Final Fantasy Gaiden even in Japan.)
  • Dinosaur Planet, better known as Star Fox Adventures, was originally a completely separate game from the Star FOX franchise, as one might guess from it being of a different genre. Many changes were made to the plot, including replacing one of the main characters with Fox, changing Krystal from a second fully playable character to a Damsel in Distress, and adding a few lackluster space shooter missions mostly so they could say they were there. One might notice that Star Fox previously had no fantasy elements, and Dinosaur Planet had no science fiction elements before its reworking. Apparently, the only reason the franchises were merged was because during development, Nintendo noticed that the main character looked a lot like Fox and that there actually was a dinosaur planet in the Lylat system.
    • Cynics suggest that Nintendo may have insisted on the Star Fox license because Rare had recently been bought out by Microsoft, and Nintendo didn't want Dinosaur Planet to be the start of a successful franchise for their competition.
    • Rare did this again with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. This vehicle creation game started as an original idea, but was modified to make it into a third Banjo-Kazooie game with the addition of a few minor platforming sections. The fans were not happy.
  • Privateer 2: The Darkening, the "sequel" to Wing Commander: Privateer, originated as a non-Wing Commander-related game with a working name of The Darkening (as per an advert in the back of the Wing Commander IV manual). Due to several factors, including but not limited to Executive Meddling, P2D had Wing Commander touches added before the final release.
  • When Elevator Action EX was released in the United States, they put the Dexter's Laboratory license over it. The four secret agents you were playing as were replaced by Dexter in different suits, and the plot about searching for secret documents was changed into finding codes to deactivate a bunch of robots turned berserk by Mandark.
  • The sequel to the pirate-themed RPG Sea Dogs was repurposed as Pirates of the Caribbean late in development after money troubles led to shopping for a publisher. Aside from Keira Knightley narrating a cutscene and the plot involving a ghost ship called the Black Pearl, actual connections between the game and the movie are nonexistent.
  • Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2, an Interquel and sequel (Due to a Temporal Paradox) released after two original sequels to the Legacy of Kain franchise, Soul Reaver and Soul Reaver 2, began life as a sequel to the Sega Genesis cult classic Chakan before being converted into a sequel to Legacy of Kain, resulting in numerous deviations from the series' previous gameplay elements and the presence of some Chakan-esque background art.
    • It was even revealed that Soul Reaver itself was conceived as a standalone game which was turned into a sequel to Blood Omen, although the decision was made before any actual production work was done on the title.
  • In Japan, Dynasty Tactics is considered a Spin-Off of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series... but since that series isn't nearly as popular in the US, they relabeled it a spinoff of Dynasty Warriors to attract more interest.
  • Zork: Nemesis is a very enjoyable game in itself, but is completely different in plot, tone, and content than other installments of the Zork series. It's much darker, and though it has some very occasional moments of matching dark comedy, it's just not as funny as the lighthearted series. It also contains more realistic and disturbing violence and gore, as well as several very sexual subplots that go far beyond the usual mild Zork innuendo. Though each Zork plot is stand-alone anyway, Nemesis strays unusually far from the typical story subject matter. The uniquely "Zork" references seem thrown in as an afterthought so the game could be branded with the series, but none of these are integral to the plot or feel very organic. The game is extremely well-made and had high production values for the time, but would not be appreciably different if it wasn't tied in with Zork at all. The next title, Grand Inquisitor, fit in much better with the series, making Nemesis completely the odd one out.
  • Drawn to Life: SpongeBob SquarePants Edition. Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Nevertheless, it was built from the ground up as a Mission Pack Sequel (by a different developer to boot) and consequently, does differ from the preceding game (and while we're throwing the word "sequel" around, it is also a sequel to the SpongeBob episode "Frankendoodle", effectively making this a follow-up to two different things.).
  • Double Dragon II for the Game Boy has nothing to do with the arcade game Double Dragon II: The Revenge or its NES counterpart. Instead it's a localization of a Kunio-kun game titled Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun: Bangai Rantō Hen. The plot was changed, the River City Ransom-style backgrounds and character designs were replaced with more realistically designed ones, and the music is different as well. However, the play mechanics and level designs remained more or less the same, with only one boss getting a different attack pattern.
  • Super Spy Hunter was originally Battle Formula in Japan.
  • The Master System action shooter Ashura was released in the United States as a Rambo game (based on First Blood Part II) and then in Europe as Secret Commando (which combines elements from the other two versions). Actually a subversion since Ashura was always meant to be a Rambo game, but Sega's license was only applicable in America.
  • After Color Dreams became Wisdom Tree and started specializing in Biblical video games, they rereleased some of their earlier games with Bible tie-ins. Thus Crystal Mines became Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land and Menace Beach became Sunday Funday. They also took Id Software's Wolfenstein 3D and transformed it into the much Lighter and Softer Super 3D Noah's Ark, the only commercially released unlicensed title for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
  • Balloon Fight is an early '80s NES/Arcade Joust-clone, re-released in 2007 with Tingle from The Legend of Zelda as the balloon fighter. Box art even parodies it.
    • Balloon Kid, the Game Boy sequel to Balloon Fight, was ported to the Family Computer in Japan as a Hello Kitty game. Oddly, the original Game Boy version was not released in Japan until several years later as Balloon Fight GB.
  • Ninja Gaiden Shadow for the Game Boy was actually developed by Natsume as a port of their NES game Shadow of the Ninja: Tecmo bought the rights to the game and altered the graphics and story to make it into a prequel to the original NES Ninja Gaiden.
  • Kemco's Crazy Castle games is a series of nothing but dolled-up installments where the American versions somehow managed to be more consistent than their Japanese counterparts. The original NES version of The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle was actually a localization of a Roger Rabbit game for the Famicom Disk System, while the Game Boy versions of Crazy Castle and Crazy Castle 2 were originally Mickey Mouse games in Japan, though Japan also got them as Bugs Bunny games in a Compilation Rerelease. Crazy Castle 2 was released in Europe as a Hugo game. Crazy Castle 3 and 4 for the GBC were Bugs Bunny games in all regions (as was The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout), but Crazy Castle 5 was made into a Woody Woodpecker game.
    • Kemco's Mickey Mouse IV: The Magical Labyrinth became The Real Ghostbusters in America and Garfield's Labyrinth in Europe.
    • Kemco's Donald Duck game for the Famicom was released overseas with a different license as Snoopy's Silly Sports Spectacular.
  • Wario Blast is a dolled-up Intercontinuity Crossover. The Japanese version, GB Bomberman, was indeed a Bomberman game, but had nothing to do with Wario.
  • Narrowly avoided in the case of Brutal Legend. When Activision was slated to publish it, they were keen to tie it in to the Guitar Hero franchise ("Guitar Hero Adventures" was apparently kicked around as a possible title), but the creative team resisted. Activision dropped the game partly over this dispute, leading EA to publish it instead.
  • Ms. Pac-Man was created as a bootleg knockoff of Pac-Man called "Crazy Otto", got acquired by Namco's distributor Midway, and was released with the new name and graphics as an unauthorized sequel. Namco themselves have since made Ms. Pac-Man an official canon character, releasing games of their own starring her.
  • The European NES game Trolls in Crazyland is actually the game Doki! Doki! Yuuenchi: Crazyland Daisakusen with Trolls characters thrown in. The original had nothing to do with the franchise.
  • Quake II was originally supposed to be entirely unrelated to the Quake series, and was only given the Quake name when the original name iD wanted to give the game turned out to be unusable for trademark reasons. Since then, the Quake name has mostly come to be associated with the Strogg story arc, but that's not surprisingly given the disjointed, Random Events Excuse Plot that was the original Quake.
  • The Eastern European computer RPG Gorky-17 (released as Odium in the West) actually had 2 prequels made for it, but due to Odium's relatively obscure reception, only 1 of the games was released in the West, under the name Soldier Elite, with the names changed to do away with most references to the original Gorky-17/Odium.
  • Dragon's Lair: The Legend was a rebranded Game Boy port of Elite Systems' earlier ZX Spectrum title Roller Coaster (see it and other examples here). The Game Boy Color version, on the other hand, was a port of the original arcade game.
  • Parallax developed a space combat simulator, Free Space. Problem: a compression software with that name existed. Solution: put the name of Parallax's Descent series in the title. And that's why it's called Descent: Free Space: The Great War, even though it has nothing to do with shooting robots in outer space mines.
    • To complicate things it was called Conflict: Free Space in Europe, with no overt references to Descent. There was also a separate continuation of the Descent franchise, Descent³, which did involve shooting robots in outer space mines, but died a death in the marketplace.
  • Alex Kidd starred in two games that were not originally designed to be part of his series:
    • Alex Kidd in High-Tech World is a graphic hack made for the western market of a Japanese Mark III game titled Anmitsu Hime, which was based on a manga of the same name. The storyline was also altered for its localization. Alex's father appears in the game when he was supposed to be missing in Miracle World.
    • Alex Kidd in Shinobi World started development as an unrelated kid version of Shinobi titled Shinobi Kid.
  • Need for Speed: V-Rally and V-Rally 2 Presented By Need for Speed were dolled-up localizations of Infogrames/Eden Studios' V-Rally games, capitalising on the Need for Speed branding as rally racing isn't as popular in the States as it is in Europe.
  • A video game adaption of Americas Test Kitchen was released for the Nintendo DS. In reality, it's an America's Test Kitchen game In Name Only, as it is actually a Recipe Pack Sequel to Personal Trainer: Cooking.
  • The reason the PC version of PowerSlave (known in Europe as Exhumed) is so different from its console versions is because it was originally a completely different game titled Ruins: Return of the Gods, developed by 3D Realms as one of many titles to show off the then-fledgling Build engine. Eventually, they dropped the game and sold it to Playmates, after which it was modified to use PowerSlave concepts and resources, and then published.
  • The Deception game series is an entire dolled up series. In their original Japanese versions, they were thematically-related stand-alone games—the closest it comes to series ties outside of Kagero 2 is that the original Kagero had the subtitle Kokumeikan Shinsho, formally acknowledging its ties to Kokumeikan—but Tecmo decided to market them as a series in the US—presumably assuming Americans wouldn't be able to follow the idea of stand-alone games by the same company that are so much alike. Bizarrely, the only sequel in the "series" in Japan, Kagero 2, was marketed in the US as the stand-alone game Trapt. Even more confusingly, it's less a sequel to Kagero in any meaningful sense than a loose remake of Kokumeikan: Trap Simulation Game (released in the US as Deception: Invitation to Darkness) with a female lead this time.
  • The new 'X-COM' by 2k Games, developer of BioShock (series) 2, appears to be a First-Person Shooter, with mutated humans, a 1950s aesthetic, Steampunk inspired weaponry... given the name of a near future isometric turn-based strategy game. It's gone over about as well as you can expect.
    • Most likely because people haven't forgotten about X-Com: Enforcer, which A) had very little to do with the other games, and B) was a rushed bodge-job that combined elements of two other planned X-Com games (X-Com: Genesis and X-Com: Alliance), just so Hasbro Interactive could get one last game out the door before they closed up shop.
  • In the early 1990s, French developer Kalisto created a rather interesting teamwork-puzzle platformer called Fury of the Furries. Namco was interested enough in it that they actually bought the license to it, replaced the titular furballs with a single Pac-Man wearing many hats and the music with variations on the Pac-Man theme, and the result was Pac-In-Time. Well, except for the SNES version of it, which was a bit more than just a mere sprite swap of Fury of the Furries.
  • Monster Rancher Explorer by Tecmo for the Game Boy Color was simply Tecmo's old puzzle-platformer Solomon's Key with a new coat of paint.
  • Turrican II was ported to the Mega Drive and released as a Universal Soldier game after going through a few sprite-swaps.
  • Star Raiders II started life as a never-released Licensed Game based on 1984 movie The Last Starfighter. When the license fell through, the game was renamed into a Star Raiders sequel instead.
  • Kirbys Epic Yarn was originally planned as a completely unrelated game. Fortunately, it didn't suffer in quality.
  • The Game and Watch game Boxing was rereleased in 1988 as Punch-Out!!, though it has no resemblance to any other game in that series.
  • Dan Dare 3 for the ZX Spectrum. Programmer Dave Perry: "This was actually a game called "Crazy Jet Racer", then when Fergus saw it, he asked if we could change it to "Dan Dare III". So that's what happened. Crazy Jet was about a robot on a unicycle."
  • Red Faction was originally conceived as the cancelled Descent 4. Some elements were carried over, such as the textures, the protagonist's name (Parker) and the jet fighter combat level.
  • The first Alarm Fuer Cobra 11 game. It was a cheap game using the game engine, graphics and even levels from the cheap London Racer II. Obviously, being the latter a game of street racing, what's the plot of the Dolled-Up Installment? Infiltrate into a street racing gang. The only reason why pursuit is in the game is because it was already half-coded in London Racer II
  • In-universe example: in the .hack GU titles, the original version of the MMO "The World" was destroyed when its servers were caught in a fire on company property, resulting in the loss of most of the game's data. CC Corp merged what was left (including the Black Box folder, the core of the game) with another title they were working on to form "The World Revision 2", which the GU games take place in.
  • Out Run 2019 was originally planned as an unrelated futuristic racing game titled Junker's High, which was actually a converted version of a canceled Sega CD game titled Cyber Road.
  • There are many pirated games which amount to nothing more than an obscure game with a more popular character's sprite hacked in to replace the hero, which is, perhaps, this concept concentrated to its purest form (if lacking the power of Canon). For example:
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising originally wasn't planned to have anything to do with the Kid Icarus series. Nintendo and Sakurai were just working on a Nintendo 3DS action game involving sky and land combat when they suddenly realized that Pit would be the perfect character for such a title.
  • Yo! Noid, a side-scrolling platform game for the NES by Capcom starring Domino's Pizza's now-retired mascot (The Noid), was a graphic hack of a Famicom game titled Masked Ninja Hanamaru, which was originally about a boy ninja who attacks enemies with his bird.
  • Way, way back in the waning days of the Atari 2600, Atari changed their unreleased game Saboteur into a licensed game of The A-Team by changing around some text and replacing the hero sprite with... Mr. T's disembodied head. (The result was also unreleased.)
  • The unreleased Super Pitfall II for the NES was actually a scrapped localization of the Famicom game Atlantis no Nazo (Mystery of Atlantis).
  • When the computer game Sleepwalker created for the British charity telethon Comic Relief was released on the SNES in the US, it was changed into an Eek! The Cat game. Instead of playing as a dog trying to get his young boy owner back home without waking him up, you play as Eek and whoever you're helping depends on the level. Speaking of the levels, most of them are ripped straight from the original. Only the UFO level was original.
  • Konami's Castlevania: Lords of Shadow appears to have started off being developed as a standalone game simply called Lords of Shadow. Whether or not the Castlevania theme was intended all along, or shoehorned in later to boost hype, is unknown and still up for debate.
  • James Bond: The Stealth Affair was originally not a James Bond game, though it was practically a Spiritual Licensee to begin with. The publisher managed to gain the license for the James Bond name for video games, and all that was necessary to apply that to the game were some minor changes to the text.
  • Capcom's classic overhead run'n gun game Senjō no Ōkami (Wolf of the Battlefield) was released outside Japan under the name of Commando, while a later unrelated side-scrolling platformer titled Top Secret, was released overseas as Bionic Commando. Although the two games originally had nothing to do with each other, the developers of the NES version of Bionic attempted to strengthen the connection by adding Super Joe (the hero from Commando) as a supporting character, as well as overhead segments that play a lot like Commando.
  • The KOF Maximum Impact series is a spin-off of the main The King of Fighters series. However, that didn't stop SNK's US division from rebranding Maximum Impact 2 into The King of Fighters 2006.
  • When Shatterhand was imported to Japan, it was reskinned into a Licensed game of Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain.
  • In Australia, Beetle Adventure Racing is instead called "HSV Adventure Racing". It features HSV cars instead of VW Beetles and the announcer was changed to sound more like a stereotypical Australian.
  • Tec Toy, Sega's Brazilian distributor, replaced or added their own licenses to localized versions of several Sega Master System games:
  • The fourth and last game in Taito's Rastan series, Warrior Blade: Rastan vs Barbarian Saga, was a Japanese conversion of Barbarian, an unrelated arena fighter by Titus Software.
  • Data East's The Real Ghostbusters Arcade Game was an unrelated run-and-gun shooter released in Japan as Meikyuu Hunter G with some Ghostbusters elements pasted in.
  • The Urusei Yatsura game for the Famicom is actually a port of the Jaleco arcade game Momoko 120% with the arcade version's titular character replaced with Lum.
  • Variant: The game that became Super Smash Bros. was conceived as a unique title before eventually being converted into a Mascot Fighter.
  • Doraemon: Meikyū Daisakusen (Doraemon's Great Maze Tactics) for the TurboGrafx-16 is a port of the Nichibutsu arcade game Kid no Hore Hore Daisakusen (AKA Booby Kids) with the arcade game's original characters replaced with Doraemon and his supporting cast. When the PCE port was localized for the TurboGrafx 16, it was retitled Cratermaze and all of the arcade game's characters were brought back.
  • Konami's early MSX game Athletic Land was re-released as Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park, with the player character redrawn as Anna Lee and a few other minor changes.
  • Blaster Master Boy was developed in Japan as a sequel to Bomber King (otherwise known by the Market-Based Title Robo Warrior), but Sunsoft decided to release it in the U.S. and Europe as a sequel to one of their own games. This explains why it lacks platforming and vehicle action but does have a lot of blowing up blocks with bombs.
  • Solomon's Key was ported to the TurboGrafx-16 as a Licensed Game based on the Japanese samurai film Zipang.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: Space Cadet Adventures takes a few levels from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, such as those taking place in outer space, and replaces the R&B characters with Ren & Stimpy characters. Both Game Boy titles were developed by the same company, Imagineering, Inc., and published by THQ.
  • Die Hard Arcade was originally released in Japan as Dynamite Deka, which was completely unrelated to the movie. It was given the Die Hard license for the international release. The sequel, Dynamite Deka 2, averts this by being released as Dynamite Cop.
  • Hyundai, along with Samsung, manufactured localised variants of Nintendo and Sega consoles respectively under their own brand names. This was done to skirt around the trade ban imposed by Korea against Japanese products, which lasted until 1998. One such example is the first-generation Hyundai Comboy, which was based on the North American NES.

Web Comics

  • Kid Radd 2 (a fictional game within the comic) resembles the original Kid Radd in name and main characters only, to Radd's dismay. It somewhat resembles Super Mario Bros. 2, in that the "damsel in distress" is playable and the heroes can lift and throw enemies, and the physics are different in other subtle ways.
  • Spoofed when Platypus Comix featured a Mulberry comic with artwork taken from Shadowgirls.
  • Bobwhite: This guest comic shows young Cleo's distraught reaction to Mario 2.

Western Animation

  • The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Slaver Weapon" was cribbed whole cloth from Larry Niven's short story "The Soft Weapon". Niven was even hired to do a draft of the script.
    • The fact that the fearsome Kzin - at least, they were fearsome in Niven's Known Space series; thankfully they never show up in Star Trek again - were animated as being pink and fuzzy doesn't help matters. The Kzin are, however, present in the universe of the Star Fleet Battles tabletop game, which permanently diverged from mainline continuity in 1979 and takes the animated series as canon.
      • The reason why the Kzinti and the Tribbles on Star Trek: The Animated Series were pink is that the guy at Filmation whose job it was to choose the colors for things was color blind - he intended for them to be green. (This is from the DVD commentary.) Everything at Filmation was as cheap as possible.
  • Michel Vaillant, a French animated series based on a comic book of the same name, aired in the United States on the Family Channel (now known as ABC Family) under the title of Heroes on Hot Wheels. The show had nothing to do with the Hot Wheels toyline, other than the fact that Mattel sponsored the English dub.

Real Life

  • This is a common practice in the automotive industry, which is known as badge engineering - a company takes an existing vehicle, change the trim up a bit and sell it under a different marque. One such example is the Lincoln Navigator, which is an 'upmarket' variant of the Ford Expedition.
    • Malaysian automaker Proton is also infamous for selling licensed variants of Mitsubishi models, and Hyundai also sold similarly licensed Mitsubishi trucks under their brand such as the Grace and Galloper. In their case, this is likely a result of Mitsubishi being unable to directly market their vehicles to Korea, due to sociopolitical tensions between them and Japan during the latter part of the 20th century.
    • Toyota's revival of the Supra nameplate through the J29/A90 model was met with mixed reception among auto enthusiasts, who derided the new Supra as being essentially a BMW Z4 with a Toyota bodyshell. And it didn't help that BMW's dubious reputation when it comes to reliability have marred the new Supra's reputation as well.
  • Ditto with the electronics industry, where little-known Chinese original equipment manufacturers sell generic gadgets to upstart firms looking to market smartphones and other such devices but lack the research-and-development resources to develop one on their own. Nowadays, it isn't uncommon to see an Android smartphone of similar design being sold by more than one company at once, e.g. BLU, Wiko and Cloudfone selling nearly-identical handsets manufactured by the same OEM.
  • Prior to the release of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia had dabbled with touchscreen smartphones in the early 2000s. One of these was the Nokia 6708, which had essentially nothing to do with the Finnish firm apart from the name as this is a licensed variant of the BenQ P31 running off UIQ, a departure from the Series 60 UI Nokia used on their smartphones from the decade. Similarly, a number of Pantech-manufactured CDMA phones were sold by Verizon as Nokia models despite sharing next to no underpinnings as the Eurasian GSM offerings, as well as a company named Telson who manufactured Nokia CDMA phones for the Korean market under license.
  • Conversely, Nokia granted Brazilian electronics manufacturer Gradiente the licence to manufacture mobile phones in Brazil, especially considering the usual barriers to entry with foreign manufacturers selling electronics and other consumer goods in the country. The licencing deal also granted Gradiente the rights to sell localised variants of Nokias under their own brand name, such as the Gradiente Neo (a TDMA variant of the Nokia 8210), and the Gradiente Chroma, which was their own localised version of the Nokia 8810, so called because of the 8810's chrome-plated bodyshell.
  1. Who was in Pepe with Jack Lemmon, who was in JFK with Kevin Bacon.
  2. Translation: "Monica in the Castle of the Dragon"
  3. "Monica's Gang in: The Rescue"