Sequel Escalation

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Randy Meeks: "There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate -- more blood, more gore. Carnage candy."

Scream 2

Sometimes a Sequel is just the same story as the last one (Capcom Sequel Stagnation), or downgraded by being Direct to Video (Starship Troopers II), or a different story set in the same world (The Godfather II, the Star Trek films), or just the next part in an ongoing series (Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings books and movies), or even a Dolled-Up Installment (Super Mario Bros. 2).

This trope, on the other hand, is when a sequel is made to be "bigger and better" than the last film, by taking one or more elements from the first film and expanding upon it. The film makers feel a need to "top themselves" in a sort of way.

Take an action sequel, which has more explosions and fist/gun/martial arts fights than the previous film. Or a slasher sequel, which has more deaths, in more gory (and less realistic) ways.

How often this works depends on if the expanded element is the one the audience liked. Choose the wrong element(s), and it will be at the expense of the right element(s), and the audience will not be pleased. Wrong elements can often be the toilet humor, sexual situations, Flanderization or meaningless action sequences.

However, choose the right element(s), and the sequel may even be considered superior to the first film. Usually these elements involve the human element, expanding on the characters we care about, telling a dramatic (or hilarious) story, and making the action sequences revolve around that.

Usually, the result is somewhere in the middle, often debated upon by the fans.

To avoid just rehashing examples from Sequelitis, examples here should discuss the expanded element(s) of the sequels.

Compare Actionized Sequel, Sequel Difficulty Spike, Send in the Clones, Serial Escalation, Up to Eleven, Sorting Algorithm of Evil, Power Creep. Big Damn Movie is this trope applied to a film adaptation of a serial.

Contrast Lensman Arms Race and Plot Leveling (both of which could be seen as symptoms of this trope's presence), Sequel Difficulty Drop (difficulty getting lowered, although that doesn't preclude this trope in other ways).

Examples of Sequel Escalation include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Magical Chronicle Lyrical Nanoha Force manga, the sequel to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, seems to have taken the old notion of Anti-Magic and turned it Up to Eleven. Where the old villains simply had Anti-Magic Fields, which amortized incoming attacks and made it impossible to cast magic from within (which was already treated as bad enough by the good guys), the new villains have Anti-Magic Beams that aggressively dispel any magic they hit. The Doylist explanation seems to be that since the heroes have already been established as the strongest mages in the multiverse back in season one, the only plausible enemy the writers can invent for them now is an Anti-Magic-wielding one, with a Bigger Stick if needed. The fans' reactions were... mixed.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann does this with its pre- and post-Time Skip seasons. While the pre-Time Skip episodes were like your typical Super Robot show, only with bigger explosions and more hot blood, the post-Time Skip episodes bring us galaxy-sized mecha throwing galaxies and big bangs at each other. And in the second movie, we get a mech that is not only a hundred times bigger than a galaxy, it's also on fire and designed after the resident Memetic Badass. Its attack clashing with an identical attack from its Evil Knockoff ends and restarts the universe.

Comic Books

  • Boderline example: in the first generation of X-Men, the strongest person on the team was Beast, who was just, like, "two-normal-guys" strong. In the second generation, the strongest person is Colossus, the man of steel. Then we got Rogue, who for a long time was just as strong as Colossus, and could fly. Dunno where we're at now, but considering the current lineup includes Namor (who's stronger than The Incredible Hulk so long as he's underwater), Hope (who has All Your Powers Combined) and Magneto (who once almost destroyed civilization), safe to say that escalation has been maintained.

Fan Fic

  • Peter Chimera's Troll Fic, Digimon savez teh wrold has a sequel called Digimon 2: Return of Digimon. In the first story digimon has to stop the evil scientist from destroying the road, in the sequel he's up against an evil digimon who wants to destroy all the roads so no one can go on them. Also features FIGHTING IN SPACE!


  • Some comic book movie sequels are considered superior by escalating the characterization and themes of the first film, that made the comics hits anyway. When they falter, it's often from adding new villains at the expense of the characterization and themes.
    • The Avengers plays it straight - after all it's living up to five movies' Sequel Hooks. If Joss Whedon is to be believed, though, the second Avengers movie will actually invert this trope.[1]

"[It should be] smaller. More personal. More painful. By being the next thing that should happen to these characters, and not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time. By having a theme that is completely fresh and organic to itself."

  • Parodied in Machete: "Machete will be back in... Machete Kills!... and Machete Kills Again!."
  • The Matrix sequels seemed to choose the right elements: the Wuxia martial arts and the philosophy. What the Wachowski brothers missed was that the martial arts were mixed with suspense, and the philosophy was mixed into the story, not just spouted out of nowhere.
    • In The Matrix Neo fights Agent Smith who (almost) kills him. In Matrix Reloaded Super-Neo fights dozens of Agent Smiths who almost kill him. In Matrix Revolutions Super-Neo fights Super-Smith who (almost?) kills him.
  • James Cameron decided to escalate the numbers of Aliens when he made that sequel, but since one was dangerous enough, the characters would have to be soldiers just to have some kind of chance. But he did not let that get in the way of the suspense, even with turning it into part action film.
    • Cameron also did it with Terminator 2, which was the highest film budget at the time. And is widely considered as good or better than the first film.
  • Jaws 2 ramped up the body count. Also, they tried to increase the shark's "scariness" factor by scarring it with fire.
  • The immediate sequels to Scary Movie and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle upped the raunchy humor. Fans are split as to whether this was a good idea.
  • Speed 2 Cruise Control was likely the worst choice of the element to escalate. Did it increase the suspense? The Danger? The velocity of the vehicle? Nope. It escalated the size of the vehicle, and actually downgraded the other elements.
  • The Karate Kid Part III inverted this, and got a lot of criticism for it, among...other things. After the first film ended with Daniel winning a tournament, the second film had him fighting for his life, even including the line "This is for real." Then the third film went back to ending with a tournament.
  • High School Musical 2 was a bigger and better sequel, and High School Musical 3 went even biggerer and betterer than HSM2 by getting a cinema budget and a cinema release. The dance scenes become almost absurdly more elaborate, and the sets improve noticeably. It's even partially lampshaded in the song 'I Want It All' when Sharpay notes that 'sequels pay better'
  • The Pink Panther's first follow-up, the Dolled-Up Installment A Shot in the Dark, proved that focusing on Ensemble Darkhorse Inspector Clouseau was a wise move. Once Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers revived the series in 1975 (The Other Darrin that was Inspector Clouseau went on without them), they in essence picked up where that movie left off and began escalating the best points of Shot in The Return of the Pink Panther: Clouseau's increasingly thick accent and odd disguises, his battles with manservant Cato, Dreyfus' insanity and murder attempts, and the overall level of slapstick. This worked very well, and two more films (...Strikes Again and Revenge of...) were similar successes, though they also shaded into Flanderization and Sequelitis.
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen had this trope in abundance given that Michael Bay has managed to convinced the Department of Defense to provide him not only with top of the line military hardware and personnel, but managed to get them to sign off on what the DOD is calling the single largest collaboration with a Hollywood movie ever.
    • Case in point, the primary focus of the first film was to just show the robots, make them believable, and make sex jokes. Good and done. For the second movie, there are several times more Transformers, explosions, and deaths, all manner of designs that go far beyond "car turns into metal human." [1] Oh, and there's Devastator. (Ironically, unpleasable people who complained there were not enough robots in the first film were now complaining about any time at all being spent on Sam.)
      • Thing about the new Devastator versus the old, as well as Transformers Energon's "Constructicon Maximus:" Once, no attempt was made to keep the robots' relative sizes consistent, or in line with their likely actual sizes given what they turn into. The Combining Mecha Devastator was at most twice the height of Optimus Prime. Not so in the film, where small vehicles turn into small robots, and large vehicles turn into large robots. So what happens when seven very large vehicles combine together? As Michael Bay said, if you can make Steven Spielberg swear...
        • When people first saw pictures of the gigantic Demolishor with Prime hanging onto him, they thought he was Devastator. Nope, it turns out that he (or someone indentical in every way... Demolishor looks pretty much dead at the end of his of a ten-second Fight Unscene) is in fact one-seventh of him. You may leak lubricants now.
    • Transformers 2 is a great example of both sides of this trope. Michael Bay threw in an almost impossible amount of robot violence, with half of the new villains being at least four times bigger than any of the heroes, along with much much more of the sex jokes and cool military stuff from the first movie. The people who liked these things had to change their pants at least three times during the course of the movie. The people who didn't like it tended more towards a murderous rage.
    • The third film had a)raised stakes, and b)about five million plot twists.
  • The first James Bond film, Dr. No, had the tight budget of $1 million - and sometimes it's easy to see it. The huge success of that movie allowed the next movie, From Russia with Love to double the budget, with more action scenes and locales to shoot. And many installments in the series try to top their predecessors since then.
  • Averted by the Star Trek movies, which seem to go up and down in the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat.
  • Several instances in Star Wars:
    • In Episode IV, the Empire pursues Rebels in a Star Destroyer. In Episode V the Empire pursues Rebels in a Super Star Destroyer that is many times the size of a Star Destroyer and is the flagship of a fleet of Star Destroyers. Episode VI shows dozens of Rebel ships fighting the Super Star Destroyer, even more regular Star Destroyers, and the second death star.
    • The Death Star II was much larger than Death Star I.
    • Episode IV introduced TIE Fighters, Episode V introduced TIE bombers (with two cockpits), and Episode VI introduced TIE interceptors.
      • Although the Expanded Universe treats TIE bombers as mostly slow jokes that might do some damage but die in massive numbers to a single X-Wing.
    • Each installment adds another climactic scene at the end happening simultaneously. In Episode IV, there was just the battle against the Death Star. Episode V had Luke confronting Darth Vader with the rest of the heroes escaping the Cloud City at the same time. Episode VI had Luke against Vader and the Emperor, Han, Leia and Chewbacca taking out the shield generator and Lando blowing up the second Death Star itself going on almost all at once.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge was really aiming for this trope, as later described in interviews by the creators. The idea was that, if Freddy is really scary in his victims' dreams, then how much scarier would he be if he were in real life? Though the film had its moments, general consensus is "not very" and its often seen as the Oddball in the Series.
  • The Blues Brothers broke the record for most vehicular collisions in a single movie, and its sequel made sure to smash the record again.
  • The first Back to The Future movie was fairly low-key compared to its sequels. It's rather obvious they got bigger budgets after the first one became a hit.
  • The Resident Evil movies. In the first movie, the T virus was confined to the Hive. In the second movie, it had spread to all of Raccoon City. In the third movie, it infected the entire world, and there are tougher and faster Super Undead.
  • The Rambo series counts definitely, since the first movie's action was more about guerilla warfare, hunting and survival, while the sequels were pretty much just loads of machine gunning, shotgunning, bow-and-arrowing, explosive bow-and-arrowing and knife throwing with the occasional melee kill. All the strategy of the first movie is shrunk down to a single montage, and even then the kills are more flashy and improbable.
    • The best way to measure it is to look at the kill count. Rambo kills one person in the first one (which barely counts since it was an accidental death in self-defense). He kills 58 men in the second film.
  • Crank, big time. While Crank was already over-the-top, they pulled all stops on second one and included more violence, sex, Squick and general absurdity in the second one.
  • Home Alone II: Lost In New York is very Recycled In SPACE! in terms of plot, but the traps are much more brutal, one of them even ending in an explosion!
  • You can tell from the opening disaster alone that the filmmakers intended to take Final Destination 2 Up to Eleven.
  • A Fistful of Dollars was a fairly low budget movie, with a small cast and a story confined to a single small town. For a Few Dollars More, its sequel, had much more action and featured several locations, as well as a larger cast. The prequel, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is nothing short of epic, with a cast of thousands, huge battle scenes, impressive set pieces, more elaborate music, a staggering body count, and nearly double the runtime of either of the previous movies.
  • Night of the Living Dead was a very low budget, low-key movie about some people in a farmhouse fending off a few dozen zomibes. Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead had two more groups of people, in a shopping mall and an underground base, fighting hundreds of zombies. Land of the Dead had an entire city defending itself from thousands of the undead. Also note that the level of Gorn increases in each a lot.
  • The Toy Story films just get more and more Downright heartbreaking as the films go by... and somehow that makes them AWESOME.
  • Here's a little experiment you can do at home: go watch The Human Centipede, a film about three people who get sown together by their mouths and anuses. Note that its sequel has the subtitle The Full Sequence. Look at an actual centipede. Then look back at the three sown-together people. Do the math.
  • Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure sent the characters through time, but Bill and Teds Bogus Journey sent them through the afterlife. There were no more movies after that, although Bio-Dome was originally written as the third film. It was probably for the best that the movie ended up being its own movie, since a follow-up in a simple conservatory would have been a huge letdown.
  • True to the title, Hellbound: Hellraiser II took a few of the same characters from the first film, which was essentially a haunted house story, and placed them in, well, Hell. The makers of the third film, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, tried to get around the problem of topping Hell itself by promising a film where the series' antagonists, the Cenobites, are unleashed in an urban setting. The end result was not well-received, to say the very least.
  • Scream 2 lampshades this trope as it pertains to horror movies, providing the page quote in the process. It also tops the original by having, among other things, a murder in a crowded movie theater and the killer crashing someone's car.
  • Many viewers who watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre forget that, for all the hype and controversy surrounding the film's content (a group of teenagers stumble upon a family of cannibals in the American backwoods), the violence and gore were almost all off-screen. The sequel, however, took Leatherface and his family from the farm into the big city, ramped up the Squick factor and added in a copious amount of dark humor and over-the-top violence.
  • Lampshaded in Last Action Hero. Fictional action movie star Jack Slater moans that his adventures seem to get tougher and tougher. Danny comments that the sequels are supposed to get harder. Jack's not amused.
  • The Saw sequels saw the traps and "games" becoming increasingly elaborate (arguably to the point of contrivance), and the violence much more explicit (most of the violence in the original film was offscreen: the two most gruesome acts in the film, Lawrence sawing off his own foot and Adam beating Zepp to death with a toilet lid, happen almost entirely offscreen). Curiously, the original film's twisty plot structure and use of Anachronic Order was something also escalated by the sequels, to the point that trying to synopsize the overarching plot structure is a very challenging task indeed.


  • Matthew Reilly has this trope as a self-stated aim. In each book, he tries to include more action, More Dakka, bigger threats... and tries to make it go faster.
    • After Scarecrow, he did a change of genre to escape from this, and immediately started all over again with his new trilogy.
  • With a few exceptions, the Honor Harrington series sees Honor move up to command a larger navy in a larger plot for larger stakes up to Book 12 at least.
  • The Lord of the Rings was arguably this to The Hobbit, albeit not a deliberate example; it "grew in the telling".
  • Inverted in L Sprague De Camp's "Johnny Black" stories. In the first story the titular uplifted black bear saves the world, in the final one he saves his creator from getting fired. In an afterword de Camp apologized to the readers for that, saying he had forgotten while writing them that the next story wouldn't seem as good if it didn't top the previous one. In his defense the final story is arguably funnier than the first one.
  • The violence and level of dystopia seems only to increase with each Hunger Games installment.
  • The first season of Stationery Voyagers is set to end with the heroes trapped in a space launch center, where a lone psychopath and a few robots are the only threat standing between them and simply leaving the Crapsack World of Neothode behind. In the second season, they have to handle a delicate situation where terrorists disguised as sex ed teachers have taken an entire school hostage with Buliod's disease-laced condoms, which could render an entire world infertile if it ever got out! Meanwhile, their counterparts back on Statios have to battle an entire terrorist organization, destroy two drug fronts, and keep themselves from getting killed by the interference of a relentless Obstructive Bureaucrat.
    • By the third season, they have to deal with Strawman Political armies out for their hides, while exposing the Gambit Pileup and Ancient Conspiracy that's controlling everyone. And they have to deal with Mosquatlons!
    • And by the fourth, they have to prevent Armageddon, plain and simple.
    • Inverted by Caloric Attitudes, where all they have to do is rescue one of their own from a vindictive Grimplite.
    • And then played straight again when in Final Hope, the new generation merely has to survive until Judgment Day while the universe's resident Complete Monster takes over and immediately goes on one genocidal murder spree after another.
  • Zig-Zagged in the Harry Potter series. The second book downgrades the stakes (it's the fate of the school rather than the entire world), but upgrades the set pieces (encountering one creepy guy in the Forbidden Forest vs. encountering a colony of Giant Spiders in the Forbidden Forest, for example). The third book has the lowest stakes of any book in the series, as the danger is essentially only a threat to one specific individual (Harry) and even that turns out to be an illusion. After Voldemort returns to power, the stakes remain constant (the entire world, again), but with Voldemort's power constantly increasing. The last book itself is the biggest and most epic in the series.

Live Action TV

  • Each subsequent season of The Wire explored a new element of Baltimore (in addition to the cops vs. drug dealers element introduced in the first season) while adding many, many new characters each year, many of whom stayed on the show till its end.

Newspaper Comics

Video Games

  • Arkham Asylam --> Arkham City
  • Portal started out as a simple proof of concept with some witty writing and some brand new game play. In other words a test. Now look at Portal 2, the full length single player campaign is 3-4 time longer than the original, has a lot more areas to explore, a very well written story without telling us outright what happened, some very memorable characters, and some scenery that will make any other laboratory feel insecure (admit it, Lower Aperture Laboratories looked took quite a few elements from fictitious 1960s nuclear bunkers, the Modern Laboratories have bottomless pits (Still above the older labs) and the testing rooms where they might remind some people of the floating mountains from Avatar.) Now this is just single player, the Co-op missions have two players with two portals of their own to shoot, and as a result, the puzzles are a lot more complicated.
  • Resident Evil 2 upped the scale from one mansion to the whole town.
    • RE2 mostly takes place in the city's police station, but RE3 allows you to visit more places such as the Downtown and Uptown portions of the city, a Hospital, and a Park.
    • Ditto House of the Dead 2.
  • Grand Theft Auto started a Sequel Escalation after taking the jump to full 3D. GTA III and Liberty City Stories take place in a very small Liberty City, Vice City and Vice City Stories take place in a larger Vice City, and San Andreas finally upped the ante and placed the action in an entire state. Then it seemed to have crossed something akin to the Bishonen Line and shrank back down to a Darker and Edgier version of the small Liberty City with Grand Theft Auto 4.
    • The GTA4 version of Liberty City was of comparable size (but not quite as big) as San Andreas, though, but with greater detail in the area depicted.
  • Hideo Kojima did this semi-purposely in the Metal Gear series to keep it from getting stale. The villains in the games up to the original Metal Gear Solid were basically just extraordinary soldiers. In order to keep fans interested he gave the villains in Sons of Liberty super-powers. In the next installment, Snake Eater, the player fought World War legends, one of which attacked the player with bees. This maybe an accidental subversion as well since in Snake Eater the player takes control of the future Big Boss, the antagonist of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, meaning that Solid Snake already beaten the toughest character in the series all along.
    • There were super-soldiers in the first game too, in fact if anything FOXHOUND were more impressive than Dead Cell, as only Vamp had genuine super-abilities (and Fortune isn't technically a "boss fight" in any meaningful sense). In FOXHOUND, Vulcan Raven is a giant Shaman, Psycho Mantis is a powerful psychic, and Liquid is a literal super-soldier genetically engineered for the purpose (Soldidus, from the second game, is also a such a person but Liquid was designed to be the superior). You also have to take on a cyborg ninja version of another legendary soldier, whereas in the sequel a lesser version of this character actually helps you out. As far as the villains go, the first lot were superior to the second, in terms of supernatural abilities.
    • Don't forget that the latest model of Metal Gear itself was always the penultimate boss in each game up until Metal Gear Solid. In Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden fights not just one, but a whole bunch of them that were built to overpower the last model from the previous game. In Metal Gear Solid 4, Old Snake fights a pseudo-Metal Gear model called Gekko as a common enemy in the very first level.
    • In Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake fights a HIND helicopter piloted by Liquid Snake. In Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden fights a Harrier Jet piloted by Solidus Snake.
  • Gears of War did this to phenominal effect, largely because the first game was already over-the-top, but it also left many fans wanting so much more. For example, the first game hinted at a major boss battle featuring a bipedal dinosaur like creature called a brumak, but you never got to fight it until the PC version. In the sequel, one level has five of once. But they not only ramped up the scale, they also included a surprisingly powerful character story with Dom searching for his wife.
    • Gears of War 3 keeps things rolling by fleshing out an entire new faction only previously mentioned (the Lambent Locust). It also shows humanity to be in widespread disarray and on the verge of collapse with no real government remaining. The final parts of the campaign are the resolution of the question of which of Sera's three sentient species will annihilate the other two—and it's a very close race.
  • Halo slowly ramped up the events of the plot. The first game had more in common with Die Hard in that Master Chief was the right person in the right place to deal with these event. Even still, the scale of the flood threat was more implied then actually seen. Halo 2 made Master Chief to be humanity's only hope, and featured the scarab, an enemy vehicle that took half a level to destroy. Halo 3 gave you four of those to destroy.
    • The scale of threat was practically exponential. First you're exploring a new territory and defending an alien star system, then you're back home defending the Solar system, then in Halo 3, as one character points out, "the fate of every sentient being in the galaxy rests in your hands!" But y'know, no pressure.
    • Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach both scale things back a little: the former because it's a Lower Deck Episode focusing on a squad of Marines, and the latter because it's a prequel to the whole trilogy detailing the destruction of one planet.
  • Turrican II took the first Turrican's already large levels and made them ludicrously enormous. It worked amazingly.
  • Tetris the Grand Master peaks out in speed and difficulty when pieces start dropping instantly. Tetris: The Grand Master 2 made the game even faster and more Nintendo Hard than its predecessor by gradually decreasing the delays for piece appearance and piece lock delay, shortening the line clear animation after you reach instant-drop speed, and adding an invisible credit roll challenge to get the titular Grand Master rank. Tetris: The Grand Master 3 shortens these even more, and scores you on finesse during the credit roll challenge, in addition to requiring you to get a Grand Master-worthy score 4 out of 7 games before giving you the Promotional Exam in which you can actually earn the rank.
  • The console installments of the F-Zero series crank up the maximum speed with each new installment. In the first installment, you normally can't go faster than 478 km/h, but dash arrows allow you go up to about 970 momentarily. F-Zero X sets the norm to 700–800 km/h, with boosts enabling you to reach about 1,300-1,400. F-Zero GX brings average speeds to the 970-1,100 range, with boosts speeds going beyond 2,000.
  • Ace Combat: The first superfighter, the XFA-27 in 2, didn't have anything particularly OTT apart from being able to launch four missiles in one salvo. If we skip over the planes from 3, the X-02 Wyvern from 4 is next, still not OTT in weapons although it has switchblade wings now. The ADF-01F Falken from 5 was the first (ignoring 3, as aforementioned) to mount a laser weapon. The ADFX-01 Morgan from Zero added the nuke-like MPBM. Then the CFA-44 Nosferatu from 6 swaps the MPBM out from the cluster missile ADMM. X may fit in there somewhere...
    • It does, the Fenrir has the ungodly LSWM, which if you hit the missile at a specific target, the blast radius will be enough to destroy all the targets and win you the match, in theory...
  • Giga Wing: 14-digit scores. Giga Wing 2: 17 digits. Giga Wing Generations: 20 FREAKING DIGITS.
  • Left 4 Dead intro video. Left 4 Dead 2 intro video.
  • Sony's Resistance 2 and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves are bigger than their originals in every way.
  • The first game in the Super Robot Wars Original Generation sub-series deals with civil war between The Federation and a Well-Intentioned Extremist, while throwing in an extraterrestrial invasion in the second half of the game. The sequel throws in the first again, but adds in an Alternate Universe faction deciding to perform War for Fun and Profit and an Eldritch Abomination bent on committing a Kill'Em All scenario on a planetary scale.
  • The first Glider was a 15-room adventure (1 room = 1 screen). "The House" of Glider 4.0 was 62 rooms long. Finally, Glider PRO's "Slumberland" went over 300 rooms, including outdoor areas which previous games had nothing like.
  • Rhythm Games tend to do this with their "boss" or "extra" songs:
    • Guitar Hero II had Free Bird. Guitar Hero III upped the ante with Through the Fire and Flames.
    • Dance Dance Revolution started with a difficulty scale from 1 to 8 footprints. Then came the escalation:
      • DDR 3rd Mix introduced 9-foot ratings.
      • DDRMAX (6th Mix) introduced the Extra Stage system, with MAX 300, a song with a tempo of 300 BPM (beats per minute) with 555 steps (18 of which were jumps, and 2 Freeze Arrows) in a minute and a half, which initially had to be played at 1.5x Reverse scroll and a life bar that wouldn't replenish, and was later assigned a 10-foot rating. Completing MAX 300 with a grade of AA or better would earn you the One More Extra Stage, which was Candy, a normal song but played on 3x Reverse, and you fail if you get less than a Great on any step or release a Freeze Arrow too early.
      • DDRMAX 2 (7th Mix) added MaxX Unlimited with 555 steps 45 jumps, and 56 Freeze Arrows, which started at 300 BPM and would speed up and slow down many times, eventually screeching to a halt before jumping to 320 BPM and staying there for the rest of the song, and was to be played on 1.5x Reverse Dark (couldn't see the gray arrows that told you when to step). The One More Extra Stage song became Kakumei, which was slightly significantly more complex than Candy.
      • DDR Extreme set the bar even higher with The Legend of MAX, at 333 BPM and 1.5x Reverse, plus a faster-depleting lifebar. One More Extra Stage was a song titled Dance Dance Revolution, which was actually not any harder, but rather a tribute to previous DDR songs.
      • DDR SuperNOVA had Fascination MAXX and Fascination -eternal love mix-, both of which went up to 400 BPM and would repeatedly halve or double its speed, down to 100 BPM, in addition to pausing briefly at certain points. Extra Stage retained 1.5x Reverse. The One More Extra Stage was CHAOS, which turned the Interface Screw Up to Eleven with its pauses, in addition to disallowing modifiers (no 3x Reverse, either), which actually made CHAOS harder to read.
      • DDR SuperNOVA 2 changed the Extra Stage to use the Oni Mode lifebar, where you lose one segment every time you get less than a Great on any step or release a Freeze Arrow too early, and you fail when you lose the last segment. In addition, if you had less than a AAA rank (99%) on your final stage, you'd start with less than the full 4 segments. (However, it does allow picking mods.) And of course, there's Pluto, Pluto Relinquish, and Dead End Groove Radar Special.
      • DDR X made a well-needed adjustment to the difficulty scale by re-rating every chart on a scale that goes up to 20. Thanks to how it was done, existing "non-flashing" 10's were ranked around 15 and 16, and the harder "flashing" 10's now got actual difficulty counts, usually either as 17's or 18's. No songs have yet been introduced that rate as a 19 or 20 yet.
    • Beatmania IIDX started with a 1-7 difficulty scale. 5th Style had the kanji for "forbidden" for some harder 7's, which were later displayed as "flashing 7's" and even later named as "7+". Eventually, the 7+ difficulty became an 8, and the 8+ was introduced. The scale now ranks up to 12.
    • For most of the series' history, Guitar Freaks and Drum Mania have had a scale with a 2-digit number for difficulty, with the boss songs usually having a rating in the 90's on Extreme difficulty. In V5, performing well on the Extra Stage earns you the Infinity Stage, with the song Rock to Infinity, which is rated infinity on Extreme and gives Through the Fire and Flames a run for its money.
      • For those only familiar with Guitar Hero or Rock Band, a note on how Guitar Freaks works, which will help appreciate the video: even though there are only three buttons on the guitar, you must never be holding extra buttons, even for single notes (forget about hammer-ons and pull-offs). Also, those white icon things on the rightmost side of the track are where you are required to raise your guitar neck into the air. Finally, there is no star power equivalent, and your accuracy is graded in a similar manner to Beatmania or DDR, adding another level of difficulty to the game.
    • Rock Band 2 upped the ante by having more metal than the first game, pushing the boundaries for drums and (arguably) guitar, but the maximum difficulty was really pushed in Rock Band 3, which introduced the pro modes (while keeping the normal ones). The number of buttons on the guitar fretboard jumped from 5 to 102 (68 for bass), with the other hand handling six (four) 'strings' instead of one. Drums just added cymbals, jumping from 5 inputs to 8, and Keyboard, which was new anyway, jumped from 5 keys to 25. Moreover, some of the drum charts in RB3 (pro or not) are just insane.
  • The Ace Attorney series keeps upping the odds and the drama with each case. The first of the Phoenix arc is simply rescuing your long-lost best friend from a false murder charge, the second involves intrigue in show business and the kidnapping of your assistant/friend Maya as insurance against the (guilty) client being found guilty., and the third has Phoenix facing off against the vengeful spirit of his serial killer ex-girlfriend before the true murderer is even found. Apollo Justice deals with a seven-year-old Batman Gambit and pushing through a completely new trial system, while Investigations puts Edgeworth against a smuggling ring that is responsible for or connected to every murder in the game.
    • If the rumors are true, Investigations 2 starts off with the assassination of the Zheng Fa president. And since it probably only ramps up from there, the end case will probably involve Miles Edgeworth saving the world.
  • Each game in Don Pachi progressively gets crazier with even more Bullet Hell and a True Final Boss that takes Bullet Hell to progressive levels of insanity.
    • Also, the combos. Getting a 100 combo in DoDonPachi is an achievement, while in DoDonPachi it simply takes some effort. DoDonPachi dai ou jou's Hyper system makes that trivial, and in DoDonPachi Dai-Fukkatsu? Come back when you get a 10,000 combo.
    • In an inversion of this trope, most players regard Dai-Fukkatsu's first loop as easier than those of its predecessors. No one's listening, though.
  • The main Rock Band games present an inversion of this trope. The final challenge (barring the Endless Setlist) in the first game has you playing to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, whereas the second has you playing to be featured in Rolling Stone magazine.
  • Final Fight 2, the straight-to-Super NES sequel to the original Final Fight, changed the setting from Metro City to various cities around the Eurasian continent. Despite this, the game is barely that different in terms of gameplay compared to the original game and was mostly made to make up for the lack of a 2-Player Mode in the original SNES port.
  • In the first Double Dragon, the player's mission is to rescue Marian; in the second game, the objective is to avenge her death.
  • Mass Effect 1 features cool teammates, action cutscenes, epic badassery, emotion and geek humor. Mass Effect 2 features more teammates, more action cutscenes, More Dakka, more epic badassery, more emotion and more geek humor. You may guess the results. Mass Effect 3 is taking this even further by starting the game with the massive invasion of a race of Eldritch Abomination Abusive Precursors by the thousands who have wiped out all galactic civilization countless times before, who are very angry with the player character.
  • In Devil May Cry 1, the Kick13 move was a single roundhouse and its Devil Triggered version was a punch-kick combo. In 4, the combo is now standard and the DT version has even more hits. In 3 the Drive move was a single, somewhat slow shockwave, while in 4 it comes out faster and Dante can use three in a row. In 3, the You Will Not Evade Me move was only available as a situational part of the Stance System, while in 4 it becomes integral to the combat
  • The "Meet the Team" videos in Team Fortress 2 become a lot more ambitious as they go. Compare Meet the Heavy and Meet the Spy for the best example.
  • In going from Modern Warfare to Modern Warfare 2, the killstreak rewards got bigger and better.
    • Not to mention the fact that America gets invaded, you get to play as more people and the plot takes you to locations all around the world. And of course, the Twist Ending.
  • In the first Metal Slug, basic enemies were limited to the usual Rebellion Army soldiers, the only Slug you used was the basic tank, and the final boss was Morden in a helicopter. By the time Metal Slug 3 rolls around, that very same final boss and level are only the halfway point of the game, and you've already fought zombies, mummies, man-eating plants, and the Mars People. The final fight of 3 takes you to space to battle the Mars People mothership, and to even access the interior you have to fight Metal Slug 2's final boss again. The actual final battle is a free fall to Earth versus Rootmars, the alien commander.
  • Final Fantasy drove this to an insane degree. In the first game, the main characters had about 30 HP to start, which grew to about 500-750 by the end. The final boss here had exactly 4000 HP. In Final Fantasy VIII, the starting HP is about 500 and it's about 2500-3500 HP near the end. This game's final boss has over A QUARTER MILLION HP, and you can only hit four digits of damage. And that's not even counting the latest release, Final Fantasy XIII - There are trash mobs with health in the millions.
    • The magic and summon animations also have gotten flashier and longer as the series progressed. What used to take nothing more than a few seconds to watch Bahamut blast every enemy on the field in the earlier games evolved to an extended sequence showing Bahamut flying up high in the sky, charging his attack, and then watching the attack shoot down to the ground and explode on all enemies. Depending on the game, some players may find it easier and faster to level grind and just smash everything with swords than to use powerful magic that takes a while to finish its animations.
  • Kingdom Hearts does this to a smaller extent than Final Fantasy. The first game has bosses that have about 300-1500 HP (according to the Guide) which are represented by bars. A boss with four was considered a lot, and the Bonus Boss Sephiroth has about six. Meanwhile in Birth By Sleep? There are enemies with a lot more than just four health bars, even if the health bars deplete faster after II. (This includes Chain of Memories for the PlayStation 2)
  • During Nintendo's E3 2010 Presentation, while Reggie Fils-Aime mainly placed emphasis on the social element of Dragon Quest IX, he does have this to say about the rest of the game's content:

"You could describe it just by the numbers: with 120 mini-quests and additional wi-fi mini-quests, over 300 monsters, over 900 items to customize your character, and an infinite number of randomly generated treasure maps. But that would be selling it short."

  • The SimCity series was originally developed with this in mind. While the games share a lot of the same core gameplay elements, the range of facilities that could be built and the size of land at the player's disposal grew exponentially, peaking in SimCity 4, where utterly large regions containing significant numbers of connected cities could be created. Will Wright would later comment that the series has ended up being inaccessible to new players due to its sheer complexity, which led to the reformulated but simplified SimCity Societies.
    • In that vein, The Sims changes significantly with each sequel. Even customization options and the way the Sims can change themselves is dramatically different: in the first game, there are adult sims and child sims, and never the twain shall meet. In the second game, your sims age and die, and can also gain and lose weight in a "pop" effect. In the third game, your sims can age and die and changes due to weight gain and loss, muscle gain and loss, and pregnancy are subtle and incremental. And that's not even including the expansion pack options...
  • BioShock (series) is an interesting case. The sequel has an equally good story, but the villain has the opposite philosophy as the first one. The combat, on the other hand, is so far escalated to be ridiculous. Dual-Wielding, playing as a Big Daddy with equally scaled up weapons (from crossbow to speargun for instance), and the plasmids... The Incinerate alone goes from tossing fire, to tossing exploding fire, to being able to shoot a solid stream of fire.
  • We Cheer 2 in terms of the Virtual Paper Doll and Character Customization.
  • Mega Man 2 upped the number of bosses and special items, but also gave a massive increase in the size and variety of the regular enemies you fought. Compare the Mooks of Mega Man 1 to Mega Man 2.
  • Back in Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Gold and Silver, the villains were a bunch of common thugs, the focus of what little plot the games had was on beating the Elite Four in Gen1 and Red in Gen2, and the Legendaries, while conceptually interesting in some cases, generally stayed Out of Focus in favor of the To Be a Master, Gotta Catch Em All stuff except for Suicune in Crystal. Then we hit Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, where the villains were out to expand the land or sea, and where the Legendary Pokémon began to play a role in the plot. But it wasn't over yet: Cyrus, head of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl's Team Galactic, was actively out to destroy the universe and remake it in his own image. Beating him involved, depending on your version, catching either the god of space, the god of time, or the Eldritch Abomination personification of antimatter who had a few parallels to Satan. And then you could catch God Himself, if you attended a Nintendo event or used a cheating device.
    • Pokémon Black and White scaled things back a bit as far as Platinum is concerned, but having the main villains actually catching and keeping either Reshiram or Zekrom (depending on your version) and fighting you with it AND practically taking over the Elite 4 is pretty huge. It also introduced some fairly adult themes.
  • Not necessarily a "sequel", per se, but the continuation of the Spider-Man set of games: In Spider-Man Web of Shadows, the final mission revolves around blowing up a single S.H.I.E.L.D. Helecarrier, an aircraft roughly the size of a small building, to take down Venom once and for all. In Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions, the Carnage level has one Helecarrier pre-crashed as an integral part of the first fight with Carnage, and Ultimate Spidey has to outrun another crashing Helecarrier later in the stage.
  • Inverted in the Dragon Age franchise. The first game was focused on fighting the Legions of Hell led by an insane god bent on wiping out all life on the planet. The second game is a more personal quest that revolves around the protagonist Hawke finding a place in the world after Lotharing was destroyed. The horrible things that happen in this game have little to do with ancient evils and dark gods except for the lyrium idol though things arguably would have gone to hell even without it -- they happen because different people with different ideas of right and wrong are unable to let go of their inner demons for the sake of peace.
  • Bug Too! to the original Bug!!. It did take out certain elements (especially the zap cap) but added many new ones in, such as curved platforms, ability to run and hover for the characters, and level selection for each world. It may not have been a good thing, though.
  • Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter will start in the Cruiser-Fusion era and have a "tech forest", multi-planet systems, even bigger ships and generally lots more options to play with.
  • Paper Mario has enemies with HP averaging from 10-20 points for most of the game while bosses hovering around the 50s more or less and the Final Boss and Bonus Boss having 99 HP. Mario's HP and FP can only max out (without the use of badges) to 50. The sequel, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, ramps this up greatly; Mario's HP and FP can reach higher than 50 thanks to the level cap being raised, but boss enemy HP is beefed up as well, pushing near 70 by the last quarter of the game. The Final Boss has 150 HP and the Bonus Boss has 250 HP! In Paper Mario standards, that's a crapton of HP.
    • The plots of the game were also escalated. The original had a fairly standard Bowser-kidnaps-the-Princess plot, and other than Mario none of the characters were in much danger (though the star spirits were concerned this might change if Bowser kept the Star Rod for too long). Thousand Year Door featured a group of scientists trying to release an Eldritch Abomination, believing she will reward them with money and power, but who really just wants to Take Over the World (and can rule alone). Super Paper Mario featured a villain who wanted to destroy the entire Multiverse. We'll see if the upcoming DS game can top that.
  • The Saints Row series.
    • In the first game, you're a nobody in a downtrodden neighbourhood who get caught in a gang fight, joins a new gang and buys a pistol to "clean up the hood".
    • The second game features lots of explosives, radioactive waste, chainsaws, a gang boss with a minigun, and eventually you fight a private military contractor.
    • The third game features regular mooks with miniguns, airstrikes, hoverbikes, battles against entire enemy platoons of tanks, laser guns everywhere and you blow up two aircraft carriers, including a flying one that's bombing the city into rubble.
  • Generally speaking, Fighting Game sequels—especially those created within a couple of years of each other—like to increase the number of fighters from one game to another. Street Fighter Alpha is a perfect example. There are exceptions—the Soul Series seems pretty consistent at around 20 characters per game, and the Marvel vs. Capcom series stayed between 15 and 16 non-pallete swap characters for the first 3 games—but an increased headcount is usually on the menu for a sequel.
  • Banjo-Tooie is this compared to its predecessor, Banjo-Kazooie - the latter was a kind of enhanced Super Mario 64, with more transformations, more collectibles, the ability to shoot eggs, and some other moves ; then Banjo-Tooie retained (almost) all the old moves of the first game since the beginning, introducing more new moves than the total number of moves in the previous game, five new types of eggs, transformations in every level, and these aren't even all the new gimmicks of the game.
  • The second Devil Survivor game is this. While the first one started its gameplay with the protagonists suddenly being attacked by demons spawning out of their COMPs, the second one kicks off the main storyline by having a subway de-rail and nearly kill off the main characters (after showing them their horrific deaths before it happens). The second game also has FAR more on-screen deaths (one instance being the Eldritch Abomination-of-the-day incinerating four bystanders), a more epic scope (complete with a shadowy underground organization dealing with Japan's paranormal issues over the years and Eldritch Abominations wreaking havoc), more characters, more locations (taking place in multiple cities as opposed to the first one's single place), more cursing, more difficulty, and bigger cup sizes.
  • The Super Mario series:Super Mario Bros.==>Super Mario World==>Super Mario Galaxy
  • Present and accounted for in the Quest for Glory series:
    • Quest for Glory I has few particularly powerful threats for you to deal with. There's the Kobold Wizard and Baba Yaga, but the ominous Brigand Warlock turns out to just be the local court jester, who has little real magical power and left the castle to find the Baron's missing daughter. There's not even really a Big Bad to speak of, unless you count Baba Yaga, as the Brigand Leader is the Baron's enchanted daughter, and is "beaten" with a dispell potion.
    • In Quest for Glory II, the Hero must square off against four powerful elementals, each of which can destroy the city of Shapier, before confronting the wizard attempting to release an evil djinn on the world.
    • Quest for Glory III raises the stakes even further, with the plot of the game being manipulated by a demon attempting to cross its master over into the world (the Quest for Glory series is RIFE with Sealed Evils attempting to be released). Notably, the Coles have specifically said that Wages of War was not part of the original story, and was added specifically because the Hero would not have been strong enough to face the enemies of the next game...
    • ...Quest for Glory IV, in which the Hero now faces undead in spades, the resurrected Ad Avis and his Dark Master, the vampire Katrina. Oh, and now he's trying to stop a full-blown Eldritch Abomination from being freed! Notably, Baba Yaga, who in the first game pretty thoroughly outmatches the Hero, by the fourth is no longer quite so menacing.
    • Quest for Glory V at first seems like it's going to be an inversion, as the Hero arrives to effectively investigate a murder plot. At least until the world-destroying Dragon of Doom is unleashed by the Big Bad (have we mentioned the series' love of Sealed Evils?)

Web Animation

  • The Litigation Jackson movie franchise in the Homestar Runner universe. The poster for the first movie showed the main character diving out of an exploding building with a box that said legal documents. The sequel's poster shows a similar poster only now the box says important legal documents. Clearly the stakes have been raised.


  • Ciem 1 had one girl protecting three cities from an alien invasion while saving her usually-absent boyfriend and defeating a lunatic in a metallic shrew costume. All while coming of age as a woman, getting married, losing a child shortly after labor, etc. Ciem 2 had that same girl pregnant again. With nuclear war about to break out if she failed to save herself, her sister, and a few others from an Ax Crazy mutated aardwolf-man. And the costume got quite an upgrade too! As did the story page image resolutions.
    • Ciem 3 planned to have an even higher story page resolution, and the story involved the girl plus some new friends battling what little remains of the evil aliens' organization on Earth, whilst also conquering their inner demons. And a giant millipede that planned to destroy an entire city with the aid of a plant demigod.

Web Original

  1. I give you Arcee (one Transformer with three bodies. Neither of the bodies look particularly humanoid), Demolishor (main body suspended between two giant wheels, one on ground and one in air, and can switch), "Reedman" (the preliminary name stuck 'cause they never bothered giving him an actual name. Anyway... thousands of tiny spheres roll their way through small spaces to get where they need to go, then combine and flatten out into a robot form that is so razor thin as to be nigh-invisible when seen head-on), and the tiny insectoid spies.