Trilogies are very common in media today and video games are no exception to that trend. Popular gaming series like Halo, God of War, Gears of War, and more have all utilized the trilogy formula but what happens after a trilogy? Do you prefer to see sequels, prequels, spin-offs, or no more games? We asked the VGU.TV staff and here is what they had to say.
Editor in Chief
Trilogies are a very common storytelling formula because they have been proven to work time and time again. Great film series like Star Wars tend to follow the trilogy formula and it seems to work in games as well. I don’t mind the trilogy formula by itself but I do mind the idea that a story needs to end when a trilogy is done. The story arc that is developed throughout the trilogy should be wrapped up by the third entry but that doesn’t mean the characters can’t have more to do.
Prequels and spin-offs are ok (and I usually eat them up for my favorite franchises) but what I really want to see is the continued adventures of the characters that I grew to love in the original trilogy. Characters like the Master Chief in Halo or Commander Shepard in Mass Effect are characters that I believe can drive all new adventures moving forward (and yes, I know Shepard isn’t coming back).
Moving the timeline forward, and seeing where else a universe can go is more compelling to me than rehashing events that were talked about in passing or fleshing out the back story of a character. Some stories do need to end after the third installment (Gears of War 3 was a pretty definitive end, for example) but many universes are too large and interesting to tie down by going back into already-established lore. Move forward with the story, let the characters stay but develop, and you can create a fantastic experience for gamers.
When a trilogy wraps up I tend think that the story is mostly over. But I know companies too well after spending years playing video games and covering the industry. If it makes money, they will make another one no matter what. Then the question comes into your mind, “if we’ve wrapped up the story where do we go from here?” Most people either continue the story somehow or make prequels. As fun and cool as prequels are I’m going to take a unique approach here and say that I prefer spin-off to both sequels or prequels.
I would rather see new characters in the same universe, and doing something completely different. If your favorite main character died at the end of the third game and came back in the fourth wouldn’t you think it was kind of cheesy? I know I would. I would rather play something that put me in the shoes of a new hero, possibly before the events of the first game or taking place within the universe. Halo 3 ODST was a really good example of this, it sort of tied into Halo 2 but it was at heart, its own game.
For example, in Mass Effect 4 I really would rather we go back to the events that took place before Mass Effect, without Shepard. Sure Shepard was great but give us a new character to play, and maybe this time let us be a different race. It’s much better than going back to that storyline after we’ve already wrapped everything up.
Executive Editor- Nintendo
Depends on Franchise
I’m sure at least one of the other contributors to this roundtable will have already said this, but it entirely depends on the trilogy. Specifically, it depends on how the trilogy ends. Most well-composed trilogies tie up loose ends and give closure to the story (see: Lord of the Rings, Jak & Daxter, Mass Effect, hopefully inFamous someday). For these elegant works of art, any subsequently released materials tend to feel like soulless cash-ins. However, most trilogies—especially in gaming—are only trilogies because the first game garnered enough revenue to produce a second and third. It’s totally arbitrary. Look at Halo 3, which promised a finish to the fight. Yet since then, we’ve seen ODST, Reach, Halo Wars and Halo 4. Obviously the fight is only over when my wallet says it’s over (I guess it ain’t over).
Expanding a trilogy can lead to some exquisite games. Imagine if Super Mario Bros 3 was the last Mario ever. No Super Mario Galaxy, no Super Mario 64 and, worst of all, no Super Mario World. But Mario was never intended to be a trilogy and neither are most games. Mass Effect is the only one that springs to mind, so I’ll finally answer this question for this specific franchise: Prequel. Please, prequel. Make us an alien Spectre charged with facilitating mankind’s assimilation into galactic society.
Let the Trilogy Stand
When it comes to trilogies, I prefer mine to stand alone. Three’s kind of a magic number when it comes to any sort of entertainment media, and if you’re going to keep pushing a story longer than its third installment, you’d best have a solid universe backing up your efforts.
Look at Halo, for instance. Sure, they pushed through to a fourth game in the core series, and even managed to tack a direct prequel, a side story, and something of an origin story (Halo Wars) onto the initial trilogy. Luckily for 343 Industries, however, there’s room to work with, given how much the Halo canon has been established and expanded upon in other media. Even without the backstory laid down, 343 was smart to drop a time gap in there, as a lot can change in four years. Shifts in the galactic climate have eliminated a lot of familiar faces, brought in many new ones, and switched up the balance of power in such a way that it feels like Master Chief’s undertaking a new journey, and this forthcoming trilogy of Halo 4, 5, and 6 stands alone.
Mass Effect has dodged the post-trilogy issue as well, with a great deal of story-expanding, downloadable content having been bolted onto the first three games, but still being tied directly into Commander Shepard’s journey. BioWare has even gone on record as of late that it would prefer the next Mass Effect game to not have the number four attached to it, as Shepard will not be featured in the next installment. BioWare seems to recognize it’s done all it can with the commander, and are likely the wiser for moving on.
Meanwhile, Ezio’s story in the Assassin’s Creed universe may have proven interesting and lengthy enough to warrant a trilogy-within-a-trilogy for his escapades, but that expansive saga also left some fans feeling a bit let down with the fairly closed and underdeveloped arc of Connor, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed III, now the fifth game in the series. Had the original Assassin’s Creed not laid down some essential plot points and tied things in with overarching protagonist Desmond, Assassin’s Creed II and its continuations could easily have stood on their own footing as a solid trilogy.
What it comes down to is avoiding “blood from a stone” syndrome. Pacing a story so that it works best in three parts is not that difficult, and seems to come naturally to many a narrative, so anything beyond that in a series had best shake things up. Be it a shift in game genre, characters, setting within the franchise’s overall setting, or what have you, game trilogies tend to be better served by new directions than they do by continuation. Games of three, let it be.
Depends on the Franchise
When you have a trilogy that you love, it’s difficult to decide whether or not you want them to keep going on the same track. I personally believe that a series should go as long as the story needs it to. If Naughty Dog thinks Nathan Drake’s story isn’t quite over yet, we should see an Uncharted 4. If Kojima believes there’s more to Snake’s tale, then roll out another Metal Gear Solid. As long as your series doesn’t get played out, then keep the games coming, but don’t keep making them because you need more money is what I say. Once a series has started getting stale, like Devil May Cry, it’s time to either call it quits or start fresh.
That’s what our staff had to say on the matter but what do you think? Let us know in the comments below and on our forums.