Products You May Like
You know you’ve got it made when your game is so successful that you get a spin-off — and plenty of the biggest games in the biz have done exactly that, from Musou crossovers and sports-playing alternate universes to rhythm and strategy games. And you know what? They’re usually pretty dang good.
We’ve compiled a list of the best of the best — the 8/10s and higher in the spin-off space, which are good for newcomers to the series and old hands alike.
If you’re wondering about our process of deciding what counts as a spin-off — like, why don’t we have Mario Kart 8 on this list? Or Persona 5? — we’re counting games that are the first, or second, spin-off of a popular series, and we’re also only counting the best one if there are two (like River City Girls over River City Girls 2).
If you think we’ve missed a gem, or if you want to argue about whether or not games like Super Mario Maker count as a spin-off, head into the comments!
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Brace Yourself Games
From the opening menu that uses not the rousing Zelda overworld music but the understated theme from Ocarina of Time‘s title screen, you know you’re about to go on a special journey. Cadence of Hyrule (we won’t bother with its ludicrously long official moniker) takes the music we all know and love and remixes it with the gameplay itself, sewing those tunes into the fabric of Hyrule in a way that feels totally natural, but also energetic and fresh.
Please note that some external links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you click them and make a purchase we may receive a small percentage of the sale. Please read our FTC Disclosure for more information.
If you were expecting this Atlus/Koei Tecmo crossover to be a straight-up Musou style spin-off, a Dynasty Warriors-esque effort with a fancy Persona skin hastily slapped on top, you’re in for a bit of surprise. What we’ve actually got here is a slick and exciting action RPG that manages to keep plenty of the Persona series’ signature conversations, characters and camaraderie intact while fusing it successfully with hack-and-slash combat that’s a little more strategic and varied than we expected it would be.
Publisher: CD Projekt Red / Developer: CD Projekt Red
Thronebreaker is less of a spin-off, and more of a cross-pollination of ideas between the main Witcher games, Gwent and other turn-based RPGs. Rather than following the exploits of pop culture man-of-the-moment Geralt of Rivia, the game instead centres itself around Meve, Queen of Lyria and Rivia, who faces an imminent invasion from the warmongering region of Nilfgaard. With The Witcher having created renewed interest in Andrzej Sapkowski’s vast fantasy world, this Switch port’s timely arrival offers the perfect opportunity to see another female warrior monarch deal with the onslaught of war and political intrigue.
Monster Hunter is a series with a longstanding tradition of being impenetrable to casual first-time players, with systems layered upon systems and tricky combat. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin may be a sequel, but it’s worth saying right away that you don’t need to have played this spin-off’s debut to jump into the new release — this is a welcome gateway for newcomers.
Wings of Ruin is full of charm and boasts depth that can immerse the committed or be dabbled with by those eager to simply experience the story. As a blend of Monster Hunter with a traditional RPG approach it’s an accomplished effort, and offers the sort of meaty experience that’ll keep most players busy for weeks.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Koei Tecmo
You know the Gerudo Valley theme from Ocarina of Time? It’s a kickass tune – probably top five Zelda tracks – and one that’s sure to get your blood pumping. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a Zelda-flavoured Warriors game, is all Gerudo Valley, a rousing number that’ll fire you up for the journey ahead. Age of Calamity very successfully co-opts many elements of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and delivers a satisfying, combat-focused spin-off with a whole bunch of content.
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: PlatinumGames
NieR:Automata is perhaps a story of the power of word of mouth. A sequel in an IP (that was itself a spin-off of Drakengard) with a devoted but modest following by Square Enix standards, it became a notable sales success over time as initial fans convinced neutrals that something special had arrived.
And they were right — NieR: Automata is a wonderful slice of sci-fi storytelling wrapped in an accomplished action adventure RPG. Like its predecessors, NieR:Automata continually upends your expectations as you play. For the most part a 3D action title, with a generous dose of RPG ideas, it nevertheless continually surprises you and introduces new twists. Sometimes that’s in the storytelling, but also in gameplay; we won’t spoil anything beyond the opening section, but you have elements of shoot ’em up, puzzle-solving, and more.
When Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was revealed to the world through a leaked image of a selfie-taking ‘Rabbid Peach’, it’s fair to say that not all reacted with joy. It seemed like a horrific bit of fan art, especially once follow-up artwork showed Mario and company targeting guns at foes; yet when the game was revealed plenty of eyebrows were raised and it became clear that Ubisoft had embarked upon an ambitious quest to combine Mario, Rabbids and turn-based tactical battles — and better yet, they succeeded.
Despite the game’s original working title of Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is far more a Shin Megami game than it is a Fire Emblem one. The inclusion of those Fire Emblem characters and the occasional burst of the familiar Fire Emblem theme is about as far as the game goes in terms of representing Nintendo and Intelligent Systems’ series, whereas there are far more links to Atlus’s games in here, not least of all the combat system.
However, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is still one of the most colourful, approachable and downright endearing RPGs you’ll find on the Switch. Its new story chapter, music tracks and character assists improve on the original to an extent, but not enough to greatly affect its overall quality. Thankfully, what was there was already fantastic, meaning those who missed out on it the first time around really have no reason not to get stuck in now.
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Square Enix
Though the Minecraft formula has been iterated on to hell and back, Square Enix managed to offer up an interesting take on the sandbox classic with Dragon Quest Builders. All the blocky aesthetics and open-ended crafting were present and accounted for, but these things were all couched within a wider narrative arc that included plenty of RPG trappings from Square’s storied franchise.
It takes a surprising amount of effort to beat Minecraft at its own game, but we’d argue that Dragon Quest Builders 2 in many ways surpasses its inspiration in fun factor and replayability. The melding of JRPG conventions with the open-ended and creatively focused sentiments of sandbox gameplay proves to go over much smoother than you’d expect, especially now that Square Enix seems to know what it’s doing with this sub-series.