There’s no questioning that the majority of high-profile games are made up of sequels, spin-offs, and unoriginal stories—however, this is far from a new thing, and sometimes can bring out amazing games. Here are five spin-off games that took on a life of their own after their success.
5) Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon took several liberties to make Pokémon compatible with a dungeon-crawling setting. While everything is still turn-based, everyone takes their turn at the same time, so it seems to be real-time. The dungeon generation is similar to older Diablos’ and Dark Cloud’s generation system. The attack system was completely revised, and the way the plot was approached changed entirely. The result was a dungeon-crawler that allowed you a huge variety of party members that looked at the personalities of Pokémon and how world-changing events are dealt with when humans aren’t around. Technically, the game takes place in the same universe as the main games, but with talking Pokémon everywhere it’s hard to tell.
4) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona takes a lot from the main series. You still deal with strange creatures at night and strange dreams, but the story focuses on a group of teenagers and throws in quite a bit of psychology. Instead of general demons, you are fighting with a reflection of your own mind. Later Persona games added in a dating SIM element, which meant that your relationships with people during the day would change their power and abilities later that night. This spin-off is so successful that the ‘Shin Megami Tensei’ at the start of it was dropped for Persona 4 Arena. It’s likely that future games will also have just the Persona title.
3) Final Fantasy Tactics / Ivalice Chronicles
Turn-based action was always the forte of Final Fantasy games, but transitioning into 3D on a 2D system was something its developers wanted to accomplish. The result was one of the first high-quality isometric games. While it wasn’t truly 3D, you still had to navigate three-dimensional obstacles and take into account your placement on the field when you made attacks. The plot itself is much more realistic and can deal with deeper themes than the main series. It also takes place in the same general setting—Ivalice. This has led to a spin-off series called the Ivalice Chronicles, which generally have the same isometric or tactical approach to its graphics and battle system.
Mario was originally the main character of Donkey Kong, but that doesn’t change the fact that his future games were spin-offs. Having a game centering on Mario rather than Donkey Kong was like having a Link game with no Zelda. It’s a spinoff. The Mario series explored what platforming could do and ultimately went on to become the prime example of successful platformers (as well as games in general). Super Mario Galaxy recently became the highest-rated game on Metacritic, surpassing Ocarina of Time—not bad, for a spin-off.
Believe it or not, this game is a spin-off. It takes place in the same universe as the Half-Life series, although its role in the main part of the game is still unknown. Portal was a bit of a design leap for the developers and a test to see if certain mechanics and play styles would be successful. Portal changed the landscape of puzzle games and allowed developers to explore odd physics as an option for puzzle games. Aperture Laboratories might have lost to Black Mesa, but its Portal gun and the game based around it remain two of the greatest things to happen to the puzzle genre.