The best and worst ‘4th’ videogames EVER!

See what I did there?

To celebrate this magnificent 4th of July holiday, I am going to do a myriad of things: I am going to eat more hamburgers and hot dogs than most people would think physically possible; I am going to light a sparkler, wave it around in my hand, and pretend that I am Harry Potter; and, most importantly, I am going to present to all of you the best and worst “4th” games in popular videogame series.

Surprisingly, there are many videogames that produce very strong sequels — some even getting better with age. Unfortunately, there are also many games that just seem to get worse and worse the longer designers choose to drag them out. By the time games reach the fourth game in their respective series, they are either thriving with a newfound creativity, or struggling to hang on to an already tired audience.

So which “4th” games are shining examples of sequels gone right, and which are sad reminders of what can happen when good videogame series go bad?

Hit the jump for a list of “4th” videogames that stand out as high points in their respective series … as well as some that, well, don’t.

And I am not kidding about that Harry Potter thing. EXPELLIARMUS!

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
(PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Before I played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare I had this completely ignorant impression in my mind that first-person shooters were nothing more than mindless games that had nothing else going for them outside of perfect headshots.

After playing this game, my opinion completely changed. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is easily the best game in the series, with some of the most well-designed action set pieces and mind-blowing story sequences of any game I have ever played, FPS or not.

Best of the best: The nuclear blast. In a word: wow.


Contra Force

Oh, Konami, what were you thinking?! After the perfection that was Contra III: The Alien Wars for the SNES, you decided to go back to the original Nintendo and create this weird, slowdown-riddled mess of a sequel that doesn’t even feel like a real Contra game. Shame on you.

At least the actual numbered fourth game in the series — the extraordinary Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS — made everyone forget about the dark times in the Contra timeline.

Worst of the worst: Just watch this and you will understand.


Final Fantasy IV

Now this is how you do a sequel! Final Fantasy IV truly revolutionized the series with a heavy (and successful) focus on story and characters. This, coupled with the new real-time battle system and some of the best music in a Final Fantasy ever, makes Final Fantasy IV an absolute masterpiece and my personal second favorite Final Fantasy game of all time.

Best of the best: Oh my goodness, where to begin?! There are almost too many amazing moments to count: Palom and Porom’s noble sacrifice; Cecil turning into a Paladin; the trip to the Moon; Golbez’s secret; Edward’s relationship with Anna. Really, the list goes on and on.


King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella

As far as the absolute best in the series, that crown (pun intended) goes to King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. But King’s Quest IV is still an incredible game and one of the crown jewels (again, pun intended) in Sierra’s pristine adventure game tiara.

For starters, the game was the first in the series to implement the text-entering feature that actually pauses the action on-screen and lets you take your time entering the tricky combination of verbs and nouns that are required to proceed. (For anyone that is a fan of these games, you know how wonderful this pause function is.) Also, it was the first King’s Quest game to star a female playable character (Princess Rosella) — a revolutionary move for the time.

Best of the best: For fans of details, the way Rosella’s braids swing as she walks is a charming graphical touch. The whole game features welcome additions like these.


The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
(Game Boy)

Following up the jaw-droppingly good A Link to the Past with a new Game Boy-exclusive Zelda using similar graphics and gameplay was a huge risk. But one that paid off in spades!

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a masterpiece in every way. The less powerful hardware didn’t even make a difference when bringing a series as epic in scope as Zelda to the Game Boy. From the well-designed bosses to the surprisingly dark and moving story, every aspect of what makes a Zelda game great stayed intact in Link’s Awakening — some even improved!

Best of the best: “The Ballad of the Wind Fish.” Still one of the best pieces of music in Zelda history.


Mega Man 4

Mega Man 4 is not bad by any means. It is a Mega Man game on the NES, for crying out loud — all of them were at the very least decent! But when you are the first sequel to follow the extraordinary Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, some form of disappointment is inevitable.

It also doesn’t help that Mega Man 4 has some of the strangest, most uninspired robot masters in the series.

Worst of the worst: Ring Man. Really?


Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PlayStation 3)

Any talk of the new Metal Gear Solid: Rising or rumors of a supposed Metal Gear Solid 5 game is always met with me covering my ears like a 5-year-old and singing “la la la” really loud to drown out any leaked noise. To me, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is not only a masterwork, but the perfect end to the wonderfully complicated Metal Gear Solid series. It makes me sad to think Konami would continue the series any farther.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is filled to the brim with extraordinary production values, clever boss fights, and one of the greatest climaxes in videogame history. I really can’t say enough good things about the game.

Best of the best: The scene when Snake returns to a familiar location is a defining moment in the series and one of the most beautiful and haunting videogame sequences I have ever experienced.


Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance)

All of the traditional Metroid games are amazing! That’s pretty much all I have to say.

Best of the best: Although the game is more linear than others in the series, the level design in Metroid Fusion is stellar.


Resident Evil Code: Veronica (Dreamcast)

Dag! If only the Resident Evil games were all numbered correctly, this section of the article would be dedicated to praising how Resident Evil 4 is the best iteration in the series and one of the greatest (if not the greatest) survival horror games ever created.

Instead, the true fourth game in the series is the odd Resident Evil Code: Veronica, originally released for the Sega Dreamcast.

Like with Mega Man 4, Code Veronica isn’t really a bad game. In fact, it’s actually a really good game, most notable for being the first Resident Evil game to use 3D backgrounds and a semi-first-person mode. But despite the game’s strengths, looking back, it comes across as a very awkward installment in the classic series. Again, not bad, just … different.

Worst of the worst: Despite using new, fancy 3D technology, the archaic Resident Evil control scheme still remains. *sigh*


Silent Hill 4: The Room (PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox)

Fellow editor Colette Bennett really likes Silent Hill 4: The Room. And, honestly, that is almost enough to make me love it as well. Heck, Colette could tell me she loved eating razor blades and you can bet there would be a bowl full of Gilettes sitting on my breakfast table the next morning.

But, sadly, I can’t bring myself to fall in love with this sometimes sloppy sequel.

The gameplay in this PlayStation 2 iteration is very similar to its predecessors, and the classic canon and creepy atmosphere is intact … but something about the weird “room” mechanic and confusing puzzles makes Silent Hill 4 feel off when compared to the rest of the series.

Worst of the worst: The camera. My God, the camera.


Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis)

Right before I started writing this feature I had a vague memory that Sonic & Knuckles was not a very good game. I don’t know exactly why, but I hadn’t played it in a while and something in my mind kept associating that troublemaker Knuckles with, well, trouble.

Once all the other editors started yelling at me that Sonic & Knuckles was actually good, I went home and played it again.

Boy, was I wrong. Sonic & Knuckles is amazing! To be honest, I think I even love it more than Sonic the Hedgehog 3! Chalk another one up for the “best” side!

What the heck is wrong with my memory? Am I going to find out that Two Men and a Little Lady is actually a masterpiece?

Best of the best: I never thought I wouldn’t miss Tails (I love the little guy!), but playing as Knuckles is awesome.


Star Fox: Assault (GameCube)

After the strange, but well-made Star Fox Adventures, you would think that gamers everywhere would embrace a brand new, classic Star Fox flying game for the GameCube. Anything invoking the greatness that is Star Fox 64 can’t be bad, right?

Sadly, Star Fox: Assault turned out to be a surprisingly blah entry in the usually exciting series. Even though three different modes of play were available — Arwing, tank, or on foot missions — only the Arwing levels (and the tank ones to a point) were tolerable.

Worst of the worst: The on-foot portions. These sequences suffered from sloppy control and, even worse, uninspired gameplay.


Street Fighter IV (Arcade, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

If you count all the special editions and re-releases, the technical fourth game in the Street Fighter series would easily have a “II” still in it. And that’s just really weird. So I am not going to count those and just go by the actual full game releases instead. It makes things less confusing.

For a “4th” game, Street Fighter IV is exceptional. Combining the best features of Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III: Third Strike, the anticipated sequel met its high expectations and managed to deliver arguably the most addictive fighting gameplay in the series.

Best of the best: A tie between Chun-Li’s massive thighs and Ryu’s massive package.


Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

While technically not the actual fourth game in the series — there was a mini Game Boy adventure released before it — Super Castlevania IV is referred to by many as the true successor to Castlevania III, so that’s good enough to qualify it for this list!

Fond memories alone will qualify this Castlevania sequel as one of the best in the series. Although it got rid of the non-linearity of Castlevania II and the ingenious character-selection of III, Super Castlevania IV is basically a beautiful reimagining of the original game, which is a wonderful thing in many gamers’ eyes. Also, the music! Don’t even get me started on the music!

Best of the best: Remember the Mode 7-centric sequence when Simon Belmont hangs from his whip while the screen literally rotates around him? Classic.


Super Mario World (SNES)

Some gamers call Super Mario World — the fourth console-specific Mario game (sorry for not counting you, Super Mario Land! XOXO) — the best Mario platformer ever made. Personally, I give that honor to Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, but I would be a fool to not understand why people would make that proclamation. Super Mario World is an outstanding game — one of the greatest 2D side-scrolling games ever created — and an absolute highlight in the Mario series.

Best of the best: Yoshi! Also, do you remember the pure joy you felt the first time you entered a Ghost House?


Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (PlayStation)

By the time Tomb Raider hit the end of its third game, people around the world were starting to grow tired of Lara Croft’s globetrotting adventures. Instead of reviving the series with brand-new gameplay and a fresh approach, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation for the PlayStation brought back all of the same old moves and locations Lara had visited three times already.

The result did not destroy the Tomb Raider series — you can thank The Angel of Darkness for that — but it didn’t do it any favors, either.

Worst of the worst: Nothing in particular. It is the lack of anything exciting that makes Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation so boring.


So, as you can see, it looks like most videogame series have many more great fourth installments than subpar ones. In your face, movies!

Obviously there are hundreds more videogame series with hundreds more “4th” games that I didn’t mention. Do any of these stick out as having particularly great or terrible fourth games? Of all the “4th” games ever made, which is your favorite? Your least favorite?

Once you sound off in the comments, go outside and grab yourself some potato salad and a cherry bomb. It isn’t very often you get to enjoy some amazing food while watching things blow up in front you.

Best holiday EVER!

About The Author
Chad Concelmo
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