Enough With The Prequels Already!

Enough With The Prequels Already!

The tepid critical and commercial reaction to this year’s God of War and Gears of War prequels will hopefully send a message that I’ve been wanting the powers that be in all of entertainment to receive for years: Many of us who like a thing don’t care about what happened before in the thing we liked. Prequels — who asked for them?

For all the grumbling that sequels represent some sort of bankruptcy of imagination in video games, Hollywood and Presidential terms, I’ll happily take a part two or even a part five over a part zero. I’ll even take a remake if that can spare me the backfilling and shoehorning that is the seldom-entertaining prequel.

It’s not that I don’t care why Kratos really is angry or how that guy got his scar or what her mum was like as a kid or who built C3PO, but, really, you could tell me in a Tweet and I would be A-OK. I don’t need to see it. I have no desire to pay money for it.

Sadly, we are living in an age of prequels that waste everyone’s time and that seem drenched in desperation.

We are in the time of The Hobbit, an old book turned into a new movie a decade after the books that followed it already were turned into movies. Surely, people who enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies and who were dying to know the back-story had time in the last 10 years to just go read about it. Surely, the filmmaker behind the Rings movies didn’t just want to return to his greatest success and stretch it into that second-shadiest of marketing gimmicks (after prequels): the trilogy.

The prequels that aggravate are the ones answer the already-answered questions.

We are in the age of Before Watchmen, the prequel to the most popular graphic novel of all time. This prequel, published over the objections of the original’s author, is a sprawling mediocrity. It’s also a prequel to a book that was itself a remix of earlier work, a testament to the triumph of a re-thinking over a re-milking. The talented creators DC Comics enlisted to create Before Watchmen bandied together to produce blandly-written if occasionally beautifully-drawn stories that fill in such irrelevant blanks as why Watchmen‘s smartest man in the world has a mutated cat and which sexual dysfunction plagued the second guy dressed as the owl. The Before Watchmen prequels are, collectively, three times as long as the better work they anticipate. I’m not sure if they’re a third as good.

In gaming, the prequels are coming fast, furious and mostly full of disappointment. God of War Ascension, which I played through in March, tells fans a little more about why Kratos is sad about his wife, but the very first God of War explained that quite well already. Gears of War Judgment fills in the back-story of Baird, a character whose background I never wondered about, despite having played all three previous Gears of War games. Was it you who demanded Baird back-story? Lego City Undercover on Wii U was neat. I played it in March. What did April bring? A 3DS prequel. No thanks.

In October, we get a new Batman game. Guess what? Prequel. We’re getting a new Assassin’s Creed in October. It’s Assassin’s Creed IV and it mostly takes place when? Before Assassin’s Creed III, of course.

There have been good prequels. My favorites: Metal Gear Solid 3, Metroid Prime, Halo Reach, Batman: Year One and the Robert DeNiro part of The Godfather Part Two. There have been works that I guess are technically prequels but mask it so well that I hardly notice: Knights of the Old Republic and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, to name a pair. Even this years’s Tomb Raider prequel/reboot was enjoyable. These prequels manage to be good on their own by avoiding an obsession with fan service, by refraining from making constant references that demystify the work they precede.

The prequels that aggravate are the ones that over-tell, the ones that reduce the magic of the work they precede by not just explaining how the trick was down but by showing us what the magician had for lunch when he was 14.

The prequels that aggravate are the ones that follow a long line of sequels and seem designed to revive a franchise by making it safe for new fans to jump on board (you’re starting at the beginning!) and for old fans to trudge back once again (we’re going to make references only you, the loyal old-timers will get!).

The prequels that aggravate are the ones answer the already-answered questions.

Prequels didn’t save the once-great Battlestar Galactica. They didn’t resuscitate Star Trek. I enjoy the Clone Wars cartoon, but the net outcome of all the Star Wars prequel material sure feels like a loss. I don’t need to see the X-Men young again. I need back-story on any of this stuff about as badly as I need to know what god said before “Let there be light.” Actually… I would read a prequel to the Book of Genesis. The rest of the possible prequels out there? I could live without them. It’s time to move on.


  • The easy answer to all of this is that Corporate Greed is to blame. When you can’t continue the story forwards through sequels, then it’s easy to go back into a character’s past and make the stories from back then. It’s all about squeezing every last dollar from a franchise, nothing more.

  • YES!!! THANK YOU TOTILO!!! SO fucking sick of this ‘Prequelitis’ bullshit!!

  • I don’t mind a prequel if it actually adds something interesting to the existing storyline. But too often they don’t. God of War: Ascension is a case in point. It was fun to play, but from a story point of view it was completely unnecessary and added absolutely nothing. And while I enjoyed playing it at the time, I’d be hard pressed now to actually describe any of my favourite parts to you. Unlike God Of War 3 which had many, many awesome moments that are permanently seared into my memory.

  • Planned prequels can be absolutely brilliant. This is of course because they are planned from the beginning, not hastily constructed to capitalise on success of a franchise. But I agree sometimes they’re unnecessary and can be told just as easily through the core of the franchise (see Harry Potter, which successfully details the significance of past events and characters without needing a book that comes before the first one).

    • Careful, few years down the road ol Rowling might just do that…Telling the story of Harry’s dad perhaps.

  • A thing I personally don’t like in prequels is when it’s obvious they have scoured every single mention of a history, address it and bring in every character that was named into a neat little package. In the original, when a lot of history is mentioned it brings about a general idea, it colours the universe and lets your mind wonder. Most prequels completely undermine this and trivialise the mysteries surrounding events.
    I wish all prequels were a different storyline to what you saw/played and nothing but a nod and a wink connect the stories.

  • the prequel which really annoyed me was Darksiders 2
    i really enjoyed Darksiders 1, was looking forward to 2 which i assumed would follow on from 1’s awesome ending
    couldnt believe what a pathetically bad decision someone made to make the 2nd game of a series a prequel when they hadnt even finished the main storyline after ending it on a cliffhanger

  • It just doesn’t make sense to have prequels for Assassin’s Creed and Arkham franchises. The technology the protagonists use will be taking a step backwards, instead of showing us something new.

  • I really wish that if you’ve played out your main story arc and the great world-threatening evil is resolved, you didn’t have to go do sequel/prequel town, but could instead go tangental.

    I think that’s why I liked Dragon Age 2 so much. It wasn’t about the horrible end of the world and the Chosen One working for a higher purpose. It was about very local, political machinations and people being bastards at each other in incredibly mundane ways, all getting fucked up royally by someone horrifically competent who was acting out of self/family interest. It was a smaller story, more intimate. And part of it happened while the world was ending, and you DIDN’T GET INVOLVED.

    Of course, the game had other flaws, but I will never understand the people who panned it for the reasons I just praised it. There were people who were actually pissed off that they weren’t the one true hero to SAVE ALL THE THINGS(!).

  • Prequels (like all continuations of a story) are only a problem when they’re poorly written, shoehorned in and/or directly contradict the source or abandon the tone. This is another one of those articles that really just boils down to ‘stop sucking’, as opposed to stop making them. As for the upcoming Batman and AC games, what is the actual problem there? I’m assuming they’re only ‘prequels’ in that the time period is before the other games. If Batman has no direct story links at all, like any of the million Batman comics not in the main titles, then does it really count as part of the problem? AC has the door for this built in to it’s mythology. There was no reason at all for the ancestor periods of the previous games to be in chronological order, except that they were tracing a particular artifact. With no effort at all they could come up with reasons for the present day to advance chronologically each game, and the ancestor time periods to jump all over the shop, hell… I’m still waiting for the South American and Asian assassin’s they were hinting at by the end of the first game.

  • I love prequels when they’re done right, for the same reason a well done flashback can be the best part of the story. It’s that feeling of everything falling into place.

    The have to be planned ahead of time to work though.

  • I pretty much don’t play prequels. They just disinterest me because he already know how it turns out. This is why I never ended up playing MGS 3, despite loving the prior games. I came back for game four, and I tell you that my inability to tell what was going on had nothing to do with the prequel.

    • You should go back and give it a go. Best game in the series.

      Yeah, you know how some of it ends up, but the interest is more in finding out where they came from, not where they’re going to.

    • While I wouldn’t say MGS3 is the best game in the series, it’s pretty damn excellent. Even if you know the ending, most prequels tend to be about the journey rather than the ending.

      • Then which is the best in the series?
        No other game in the series balanced gameplay, storyline and graphics better than MGS3.

        • I meant it as on a personal level. The gameplay was great, certainly. I liked the storytelling, and the game had some of the best cutscenes in the whole series, though the fact that the story was more straightforward was something I found disappointing, and graphics don’t mean anything.
          MGS3 might be the best game in the series as far as overall quality go, but I have much more fun and am much more entertained with MGS on PS1 and MGS:PW on 360 or PS3.

  • Metal Gear Solid 3 took a back seat with the technology aspect, and arguably, the game was better for it. As much as MGS’ future-tech is cool, there was something immensely satisfying about relying on analog technology to achieve the same effect as glancing as the top right of the screen in 1, 2, and 4.
    They don’t need the in game technology to be … well, overly technical. So long as it achieves the same effect in terms of gameplay, they can package it in tin cans connected by string as far as I’m concerned.

  • Most games don’t have enough content(Story and gameplay wise) to make a prequel or sequel out of it . How many of us cares about Kratos or marcus past, but games like MGS have enough plot points and characters to make 3 games for each characters. Im fine with prequel as along as u can keep in interested in the story and improve the gameplay.

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