Other than certain franchises, like Pokemon and Mario, there are not that many spin-off games but what actually constitutes as a spin-off? Some companies try something new with the formula but are still direct sequels to a story, making it hard to differentiate between what qualifies as a spin-off or just a different style in the same series. Others that are clearly a spin-off, like Banjo Pilot, are just so bad they are better off forgotten. Baring that in mind I have omitted anything that links in directly with other games from the franchise too much, so games Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are not on the list. So here is the list of what I think are the best spin-off games.
5. Halo Wars
Halo Wars is set 20 years prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, but it offers no real link to that story and instead shows the story of Sergeant John Forge, this game could still survive without any other Halo games. This was a real-time strategy game, with an addictive and taxing online.
The game followed a very basic real time strategy format, with foot soldiers, land vehicles and air vehicles being the three types of units. There was a rock-paper-scissors system of battle, which helped to ensure the game was balanced. It was the online where the game really flourished, 3v3 was the ideal mode. You could be on the UNSC or the Covenant side, and there were three leaders on each side. All UNSC leaders had a special unit, for example they could all make scorpions but only Forge was able to upgrade them to Grizzly’s. The covenant didn’t have a specific upgrade but could go on the battlefield and had a special ability. Each leader had advantages which lead to close and intense games.
It was announced on Tuesday that there will finally be a sequel to this spectacular game.
4. Pokemon Snap
If you have ever wanted to become a photographer but couldn’t stand the hours of waiting for the right moment to take one picture, then Pokemon Snap is the game for you. The N64 game put 63 of the original 151 Pokemon in their natural environments while you explored them via your track based cart, taking sweet pictures. In some countries there were even booths in certain stores where you could print out yours snaps to show all your friends.
The game was on a track so you didn’t have to worry about getting into the right spot or worry about scarring them away. Instead you could throw apples at them until they did stuff, Professor Oak maybe happy with you doing this, but zoo keepers don’t show the same kind of tolerance. Past the initial fun of taking pictures of all your favourite Pokemon was finding out how to get new Pokemon, knocking Charmeleon into the lava to get him evolve, making an apple trail so slowpoke would put his tail into the water leading to Shellder biting it and becoming Slowbro. This was before the time where you could quickly go on the internet to find out how to do stuff and required trial and error or asking friends what they have found.
There is yet to be a second, though rumours have been rising about a Wii-U sequel. Having the gyroscope and game-pad screen it would only make sense, but who knows if there is any substance to the rumours.
3. Luigi’s Mansion
Now I only wanted to put one of the Mario world spin-offs in this list and it was tough trying to narrow them down to five let alone one, but in the end I settled for Luigi’s Mansion. This game was the second time Luigi, the better brother, was made the main protagonist, the first was a SNES game called Mario is Missing.
The GameCube launch title saw Luigi winning a mansion in a competition he hadn’t entered, so Luigi decided to check it out with Mario. As the story progresses Luigi becomes a ghost hunter, much to his dismay, in an attempt to save his older brother. The game was a brilliant new idea, with Luigi going inside the huge haunted mansion using a vacuum cleaner called the Poltergust 3000 to catch the various ghosts confined within its walls. In order to catch ghosts you had to stun them by shining the torch over them and then hoover them up. The game was executed perfectly, and hovering had never looked so fun.
The game eventually got its own sequel on the 3DS in 2013 but it didn’t have the same charm as the first, maybe it should have stayed as one game.
2. Portal 2
The portal games are set in the same universe as the Half-Life series, however Portal could easily be in its own universe. Portal 2 improved the series in every possible way, with better puzzles, funnier jokes and Wheatley being introduced.
Chell once again picks up the portal gun to progress through various thought provoking puzzles. The game is actually fairly difficult with many puzzles you will see yourself making it up as you go to see what works until you finally solve it. The game didn’t just rely on being a fun and tricky puzzler as its humour is what makes it memorable. GLaDOS is back with her constantly putting down Chell but Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant, adds even more laughs to the game, this is the funniest game you will probably play. A different story was added just for Co-op so you could solve new puzzles with your friends, it also helps you see which one of you is the smart one and who’s the lab rat.
With Valve’s apparent fear of the number three it is anyone’s guess if this is the last time will pick up that portal gun.
1. Final Fantasy Tactics
Now I could have easily said Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core as it is one of my favourite games of all time, and even though it uses a different battle system and the main character is Zack not Cloud, it is a direct prequel to FF VII and so it’s debatable if its spin-off. Instead I have gone for a game that is obviously a spin-off and equally deserving of its spot. Tactics was originally released for the PS1, but there was an updated version of the original Tactics game released for the PSP in 2007 called Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions.
Tactics is a tactical role-playing game where the battlefield is dissected into squares where you can only move so few per each characters turn. The game still retains its turn based battle system but has various differences to the battle system and as the title infers it takes more strategic planning in order to win. There were various different job classes, and like traditional Final Fantasy it means they have varying abilities. As with most Final Fantasy games, their stories are major aspects of the game, and it is no different here. I shall not try to give a short summary as that is a very difficult task, but basically there is a war for the throne, trust me it’s a lot more exciting than that pitiful sentence makes it seem. The game has everything you would expect from a Final Fantasy game and more.
There have been a couple more Tactics games, though they are not directly linked to this one, a spin-off of a spin-off.