Ah the spin-off, the art of taking something that is readily established and turning it on its head to deliver something brand new and innovative yet is familiar enough to get fans excited. Video games are no strangers to the spin-off as a whole, with many game franchises even getting multiple layers of side-stories that have evolved into full series in their own right. So for this week’s edition of Link-Cable’s countdown series we’ve decided to check out the best spin-offs that gaming’s ever given us. The only rule we’re going by is only one entry per franchise is allowed to make the list.
10 – Metroid Prime
Before the release of Metroid Prime very few people had heard about Austin Texas’ Retro Studios but that all changed in 2002 when the small studio released their new take on the long dormant Metroid series. Somehow the developers managed to turn something that would seemingly only work in 2D and make it match perfectly with 3D gameplay giving birth to a whole new genre in the process – the first person adventure.
9 – The Typing of the Dead
If you were caught in a zombie apocalypse what would be your weapon of choice? An axe? A gun? Maybe a bat? How about a keyboard? Not to bash into the brains of the undead but to type as fast as your clickers can clack. The Typing of the Dead’s unique premise of typing words as fast as humanly possible on the screen in order to stay alive is one so clever and innovative yet so seemingly obvious and fun that it easily slots into spot #9 on our list here.
8 – Fallout Shelter
What if the Fallout series and The Sims got together and had a baby? Well you would get Fallout Shelter, an adorable, dystonia survival sim where you must guide your little vault dwellers through life’s little moments like dealing with toxic gasses and man-eating monsters while also navigating the more compelx aspect of social interactions and romance. Life sure can be hard,
7 – World of Warcraft
Remember when the Warcraft series was a real-time strategy franchise? Ya neither do we, and that’s mostly because of how World of Warcaft completely changed the MMORPG landscape, with its massive world, endless amounts of content and gameplay that only seems to get better with each update. While it would be nice to revisit the series’ roots one day we’re perfectly ok with keeping on exploring Azeroth on our super-rare mounts we spent hundreds of hours grinding for.
6 – Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
Choosing the best spin-off that grew out of the Final Fantasy series is a challenge worthy of the series’ legacy itself but at the end of the day we decided that the nod should go to one of the franchise’s more lighthearted titles. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy celebrates one of the most important and iconic elements of the series, the music and makes the wonderful cords and melodies that have accompanied us on countless adventures a challenge to overcome and one of the best music collection found in any game… ever.
5 – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Hey look! Another game whose title makes no sense! Odd nomenclature aside, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an excellent hack and slash game set in the politically charged Metal Gear universe. As the cyborg Raiden it’s up to you to cut, slash, hack, and chop your way to victory and along the way, stop to uncover a plot for world domination. Its silly, its fun and gratuitous and its one of the best spin-offs ever made.
4 – Persona 4
Born out of the Shin Megami Tensei series, the Persona franchise has quickly climbed the ranks to become one of Atlus’ biggest and most respected series, thanks to the absolutely incredible stories that are found within each and every game in the series. At the end of the day though, despite a strong push by Persona 5, we settled on including the sublime Persona 4 on this list thanks not only to fantastic storytelling but for the fact that the game spawned spin-offs of its own which seems fitting for this list.
3 – Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Choosing just one of Mario’s countless spin-offs proved harder than we though. Do we go with the sweet multiplayer action of Mario Kart? Or how about the endless hours of partying we did in Mario Party? Arguable the hardest decision on this list came down to one question – which game would we want to see more of and to that the answer was pretty clear. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door still stands as the high point of all Mario RPGs ever released, what with its excellent gameplay, hysterical story and hours upon hours of content to sift through. No other Mario game outside of the main platformers can hold a candle to this GameCube classic and that’s good enough to crack the top three spot on this list.
2 – Mega Man X
When it came time to bring the 8-bit Mega Man franchise over to the 16-bit world Capcom had two options. Either they could play it safe and release another game in the core series or they could with something totally different that changed the very way Mega Man games are played. Thankfully the elected to go with the latter as Mega Man X still stands today as one of the best games the series has ever delivered (and there’s a lot of Mega Man games). Faster, edgier, prettier, louder – these were all themes that defined the new Mega Man and set the X series apart from what came before.
1 – Portal
When deciding what the best spin-off of all time would be the choice was actually quite clear from the beginning since our choice for the #1 is not only one of the best games of all time but the game it’s based on is also worthy of that title. Portal is a sublime puzzle/platformer, unlike anything that was ever seen before, full of creativity and challenges that gave players something brand new all while being steeped in the rich Half-Life universe. GLaDOS – you earned this one.
What are your favorite spin-offs? We want to know! Let us see your picks in the comment section below!