#3 Guild Wars Factions & Nightfall
It's really a technicality that puts these two Guild Wars franchise games onto this week's list. While most MMOs have traditionally expanded their worlds through either paid or free expansions, ArenaNet and NCsoft decided to package its Guild Wars follow-ups separately. Both Factions and Nightfall acted as stand-alone titles (you didn't need the original game to play them) and so are at least in concept, the first two sequels to the popular game.
When the original game launched in 2005, a gaming world that was used to MMO-style games carrying a subscription fee was curious as to how this new game would produce the continued revenue stream that made making MMOs such an attractive proposition in the first place. The answer came almost exactly a year later when they launched Guild Wars Factions, a game that provided an Eastern-inspired aspect to the game and again later in 2006 when Nightfall launched, adding an Arabian / Egyptian flare.
While I'm sure that an argument can be made for either side of a debate around classifying these titles as sequels, they do meet the basic criteria. They are stand-alone games that continue a franchise, two parts of the original Guild Wars trilogy.
#2 Lineage II
The original Lineage, from MMO giant NCsoft, has a place amongst the earliest MMOs. Launched on September 1st of 1998, Lineage provided players with an online fantasy experience that is still popular today with an existing PvE system and a focus on PvP. Its graphics, however, betray its age and so with a popular game on their hands, it isn't surprising that six years later NCsoft launched a sequel. The game remains supported today with a wide audience given its age.
Lineage II made use of the Unreal 2.0 engine, giving it a look that more than competed with its contemporaries. The game brought the franchise into the modern MMO market, adding classes to their races and evolving the strong PvP aspect of its predecessor.
Sequel in the making - Final Fantasy XIV
Perhaps the single most enduring video game franchise, Final Fantasy has left its mark everywhere. It seems only fitting that its legacy would continue through online play.
When it launched in October 2003, Final Fantasy XI brought something new to the MMO scene not only in the form of its unique gameplay and interface, but also in terms of medium. FFXI is perhaps the only successful and well known MMO to have ever hit consoles and PC audiences at the same time.
Recently, Square Enix announced Final Fantasy XIV, the next MMO in the long-lived franchise. Taking the concepts and ideas that made and continues to make the original game enduring, with a strong player base and bringing the game up to modern MMO standards is going to impress people. Combine that with an exclusive PlayStation 3 release shortly after the highly anticipated release of Final Fantasy XIII, and you have a recipe for an MMO that could capture the interest of old players and new at the same time.
#1 EverQuest II
EverQuest, which launched in 1999, is often credited with bringing the idea of virtual worlds to the general public. While there were certainly MMOs that existed before EverQuest's launch, some of great importance within the genre, it was EverQuest that carried the MMO banner in much the same way that WoW does today. "An MMO? Oh, you mean EverQuest."
Over the past decade, the original EverQuest has maintained enough interest within the gaming community to accommodate an astonishing 16 expansions, so it shouldn't be any wonder that it spun off into both a prequel and a sequel. First, in 2004, EverQuest Online Adventures, a PS2 exclusive prequel to the original game that failed to garner the same kind of attention as the original. Then, the next year, SOE launched EverQuest II to much fanfare.
Successful in its own right, this 500 years in the future sequel has spawned nine expansion packs of its own and is still running strong after nearly five years of operation. It even holds a place on our front page, still voted sixth most popular MMO currently released MMO.
Is there another sequel to on the horizon? Well, three have been hints that an "EverQuest Next" MMO might be in the company's future plans though the game has not been officially announced nor acknowledged.