Every good saga has to begin somewhere. The greatest cowboy fantasies and sci-fi thrillers all offer fans compelling narratives that shed light on the universe that characters live and breathe in. In many ways, the best video game prequels help make these digital worlds more believable by fleshing out more backstory and lore (although, sometimes to a fault). The following list highlights those titles that have successfully immersed fans further into their pre-established worlds and galaxies, in hopes that they’ll engage with a series for time to come.
Best Video Game Prequels – Red Dead Redemption 2
Though fans know the fate that befalls Dutch’s gang through the original Red Dead Redemption, its recently released prequel offers a different take on every member of the crew, including its very own leader. In Red Dead Redemption 2, Dutch comes off much more as a father figure. He’s a glue that binds this ragtag band of criminals together, even as each person wrestles with modern civilization’s takeover of the Wild West.
The original game’s protagonist, John Marston, is also explored more. His solemn demeanor in the first title strongly contrasts with his rash personality in Red Dead Redemption 2. Seeing this character alone develop as this prequel unfolds is a rewarding experience for fans who had hoped to see Marston’s face one last time.
Best Video Game Prequels – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Set 30 years before the events of the first Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater sees fans take on the role of the infamous Big Boss during the height of the Cold War. It sheds light on who the character is through a poignant story of a teacher and her pupil. Somehow, the game gives Big Boss sound reason to be the main antagonist of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. His ideology simply makes sense given what players experience through his eyes.
It’s worth mentioning that aside from its narrative achievements, Metal Gear Solid 3 manages to bolster the stealth genre to new heights. The boss battles rival those of the first Solid entry, as each is well thought out and requires fans to think creatively. There’s also a survival system in place that challenges players to sustain themselves via natural resources like fruits and wildlife. Kojima pushed the PlayStation 2 to its limits back in the day, and it certainly shows in this masterpiece.
Best Video Game Prequels – Halo: Reach
Halo: Reach can be considered a tragedy, seeing as how players know from the outset that the series’ human world will succumb to the incoming Covenant invasion (thus setting the stage for the original Halo: Combat Evolved). With this in mind, developer Bungie makes sure that the game possesses a somber, toned-down quality compared to prior entries in the universe. Environments feel worn, as if they could crumble at any moment. Music and sounds are sad and brooding, as if they’re anticipating you and your squad’s demise.
What makes matters even more emotional is each character’s believable, human personality. It makes it easy for fans to become invested in every member of Noble Six. Players can create their very own Spartan, too, thus immersing them more in the overarching Halo universe. Though it ultimately won’t mean much by the time the game’s credits roll, it’s a nice touch that previous games in the series lacked up until this point.
Best Video Game Prequels – Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes place 25 years before the events of the original Deus Ex, where the ethics behind human robotic augmentation are still being questioned within society. There are people who make compelling arguments on either side of the fence, and the game forces players to make tough moral choices depending on their personal position.
While the original game in the series had already made up its mind, Human Revolution offers fans a platform to make their opinion known. This concept of choice is really the title’s core concept, as even its gameplay is contingent upon your preferred playstyle. Human Revolution represents a natural evolution of the RPG genre that developers today should still take note of.
Best Video Game Prequels – Metroid Prime
Taking place before the events of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, Metroid Prime reveals a bit more about the series’ protagonist and her origins, including her childhood with the Chozo aliens and how she got her famous power suit. The game represents a massive change in direction for the dormant Nintendo franchise, who had previously only seen 2D iterations.
In doing something new, Metroid Prime reinvents the formulaic first-person shooter model by encouraging players to interact with the world around them. It’s also unafraid to switch up perspectives, allowing players the ability to transform into a morph ball to navigate across levels. It’s really no wonder why so many fans are eagerly anticipating a fourth entry in the Prime series. It seems like Samus is always willing to try something new.
Best Video Game Prequels – Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Assassin’s Creed Origins allows players to take on the role of a Medjay named Bayek in hopes of finding out what began the centuries-old conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and The Order of the Ancients, or Templars. Though Bayek takes some time to get used to as a character, the time players invest into him is well worth it, as he gradually shows more depth and emotion as this war brews right before his very eyes.
Though a prequel, Origins builds upon all the gameplay fundamentals found in previous games in the series and ushers them into modernity. Gone are the days of scripted AI combat movements. This ancient Egyptian tale instead challenges players on offensive and defensive capabilities, oftentimes grouping together enemies of different archetypes just to put one’s skills to the test. Origins provides the Assassin’s Creed franchise with some much needed sophistication, the likes of which we hope to see in iterations after Odyssey.
Nowadays across popular media, it’s easy to give sequels all the glory. The list above is proof that prequels can contribute the same enticing and memorable stories, with or without familiar faces. It’s not hyperbole to say that shooters, RPGs, and other genres have seen reinvigoration thanks to the contribution each title here has made to the industry. Here’s hoping that other franchises are brave enough to explore the real origin of their stories with the same amount of care as those aforementioned games.