Remakes and sequels are trending in the gaming industry, but spin-off titles have proven to be just as popular. Whether by shifting the spotlight to a supporting character, narrating a story set in a different time and place, or imagining alternate scenarios to the established canon, many game creators take the spin-off route to experiment with new creative directions for their franchises. Sometimes, these fresh ideas polarize long-time fans. Other times, they add to their series’ lore in such an organic way that said spin-offs become instant hits. So, let’s check out some beloved spin-offs that dared take risks in brilliant fashion.
The Legend of Zelda is possibly the most unanimously praised franchise in history. Last year, Tears of the Kingdom was universally deemed a perfect video game. While Hyrule Warriors may not reach the lofty standards set by the twentieth mainline installment in the iconic action-adventure saga, this crossover between the gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series and the characters of the Legend of Zelda takes the kingdom of Hyrule into a brand-new direction.
In this hack-and-slash title, a young Link faces an onslaught of monsters unleashed by a sorceress consumed by her desires for the long-defeated Ganondorf, who is plotting his own resurrection. As familiar as this storyline may sound, the plot quickly takes a back seat to the action as Link and his fellow warriors join forces to prevent Cia from conquering Hyrule.
Diehard fans of the original games can have a blast using signature weapons like bombs and swords, while newcomers can simply jump in on the melee action blind to some otherwise exciting Zelda fan service.
Like a Dragon Ishin!
Following the release of a Kiryu-centric story in late 2023 and the upcoming launch of a much-anticipated Hawaiian chapter, the Like a Dragon series is on a roll. Sega played on that hype by bringing a 2014 Japan-exclusive spin-off to international fans. Revolving around the story of samurai Sakamoto Ryōma, Like a Dragon Ishin! unfolds during the tumultuous Bakumatsu period. Ryōma finds himself entangled in a nationwide conspiracy and wrongfully labeled as an assassin. To clear his name, he will fight with both his fists and wits as he travels to the capital of Edo Japan.
True to the series formula, this samurai tale involves many side quests and minigames scattered across seedy red-light districts, ranging from bounty-hunting missions to late night entertainment. Seasoned players can explore online platforms wherever they live and grab lofty rewards to keep their games going.
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The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
The Ace Attorney series has had multiple spin-offs over its two-decade-long history. In the late 2000s, a game centered on prosecutor extraordinaire Miles Edgeworth added a touch of third-person investigative gameplay to the series. Unfortunately, the sequel to Ace Attorney Investigations remained exclusive to Japan. Similarly, the crossover between Ace Attorney and Professor Layton was never ported from the Nintendo 3DS to more recent consoles.
Needless to say, hardcore fans of the series were up in arms when Capcom chose not to localize the period courtroom drama of the Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. This international uproar might have played a part in the Japanese publisher’s change of heart, since the adventures of Phoenix Wright’s ancestor finally headed West in 2021.
Set in the Meiji Era, this prequel revolves around rookie attorney Ryunosuke Naruhodo, who learns the ropes of his newfound trade at the Old Bailey as an exchange law student in London. This historical romp often feels more history lesson than comedy, as it delves into the actual relationships between the British Empire and Meiji Japan to weave its overarching story. Written by Shu Takumi, the creator of the original Ace Attorney trilogy, this historical spin-off remains a heartfelt homage to the franchise’s early days, whose modernized mechanics and memorable characters bring a new freshness to the series.