A Spiritual Successor is what you get when a developer makes a game which draws on the world, gameplay, story, or general feel of a previous title without making it a direct sequel. This is what many feel Shadow of the Colossus was to Ico. While not directly labeled a sequel, there was enough to join it to the previous game that most consider the two to be linked.
See, sometimes an honest-to-god sequel simply isn't in the cards. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps the studio that originally made the game is now defunct, and the rights are lost - in this case, the only choice is to create something entirely new. Perhaps the developer has already told the story they wanted to tell, and feel that it's time to move on to something new - all while retaining the feel of the series they've come to know and love as much as their fans.
Or maybe they were just inspired by someone else to make something grand. Whatever the case, there are quite a few games out there which draw heavy inspiration from - and are considered successors to - the games of yesteryear. Some you might know better than others.
Demon's Souls(King's Field)
It's obvious to anyone who's played both games that Dark Souls is a successor to Demon's Souls. The games share so much in common that you'd have to be a fool not to make such a connection. What many people might not know, however, is that Demon's Souls - and indeed, the whole "Souls" series (assuming another title is made) owes its existence to an old JRPG known as King's Field, also developed by From Software.
Have a look at the game, and tell me you don't see a few very obvious similarities between the free-roaming, open-world JRPGs and the brutal difficulty of the Action-RPG series. From Software laid the groundwork of their design style with King's Field, and perfected it with the Souls franchise.
Final Fantasy Tactics(Tactics Ogre)
The reason FF Tactics has made the list is mostly because of the developer, Yasumi Matsuno. Matsuno was one of the most prominent figures in the development of both Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre, and one of Japan's most acclaimed strategy developers. When Square hired him to make a Final Fantasy-styled tactical RPG, Matsuno took many of the elements which made the Ogre Battle series so popular and injected them directly into Final Fantasy.
Hence was Final Fantasy Tactics - Ogre Battle's successor in the strategy arena - born.
This is an odd one - and frankly, one that I found quite fascinating. While Nier doesn't have a great deal in common with Drakengard, it could be considered a sequel all the same - primarily because one of the endings of Drakengard has been directly confirmed to lead straight to the world in which Nier takes place. I'm not going to spoil too much - hey, even though Drakengard is a pretty ancient one, there might still be those among you who want to play it.
Basically, one of the endings of Drakengard leads to a massive battle over modern-day Tokyo with an eldritch abomination the size of a skyscraper. When defeated, the abomination crumbles into a fine dust which coats the entire city...then ends up spreading a world-ending plague which humanity has to genetically engineer itself to survive. These events directly set the stage for Nier.
Bioshock(System Shock 2)
This one's probably one of the best known on the list. The vastly underrated survival-horror-RPG hybrid System Shock 2 was a game well ahead of its time. It was a positively brilliant idea, with well-designed, hybrid gameplay and a perfectly tailored atmosphere and story. Co-developed between Irrational Games and the now-defunct Looking Glass Studio, System Shock 2 experienced extremely poor sales and caused many Looking Glass developers to seek employment elsewhere.
Irrational knew that the two studios had been on to something with System Shock 2, however. As a result, years later, they developed Bioshock...and a new franchise was born out of the ashes of a game that should have been far more beloved than it was.
Dragon Age: Origins(Baldur's Gate)
What many fans may not know is that Bioware designed Dragon Age: Origins with the same goals in mind that they had for Baldur's Gate. Truthfully, if they'd still had the licensing, Dragon Age might well have ended up being another D&D game. As it was, they didn't. Their solution was to craft an entirely new world in which players could immerse themselves in order to experience an epic, world-spanning story.
Those of you who haven't played Baldur's Gate yet should pick up the HD edition when you get the chance. You'll understand quite a bit about many of the design choices made in DA after you do. Plus, it's a brilliant game as it is, and part of RPG history. You're doing yourself a disservice by avoiding it.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory(Ghosts 'n Goblins)
This one might be the closest we'll ever come to a fully three-dimensional Ghosts 'n Goblins title, and Maximo's gone the same route as its predecessor. Created by one of Capcom's U.S.-based developers, Maximo garnered generally positive reviews and publicity. In spite of this, it somehow didn't sell, and faded into obscurity as a result.
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