Spin-offs provide a huge wealth of opportunities for developers, allowing them to explore further aspects of a series' universe that’s otherwise out of place within its original format.
A lot of these take existing support characters and move them into the role of the playable protagonist, developing their storyline further. Others will utilise the same setting but feature a completely new storyline and characters, often for the sake of convenience.
Sometimes developers simply wish to use their existing setting within a new genre, providing a completely different experience. Halo Wars is one example of this, moving the famous FPS franchise into the RTS genre.
This process has seen some shameless cash-ins too, leveraging a popular brand for extra money and resulting in some awful games, like Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corps, Metal Gear Survive and Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival.
But this is far from the rule and a lot of spin-offs went above and beyond, ending up as recognisable as the main brand, if not more so. Even better, sometimes these even surpassed their parent series in terms of quality and popularity.
Shin Megami Tensei is undoubtedly Atlus’ flagship series. First launching back in 1987 with Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, it’s seen a large number of spin-off series covering different genres, such as Tactical RPG series Devil Survivor and a Fire Emblem crossover called Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE.
Persona is undeniably its biggest spin-off however, with P5 becoming SMT’s best-selling game at 3 million sales. First released in 1996, it’s seen six main entries (Persona 2 had a direct sequel) and whilst they retain common elements, each story takes place with new characters and settings.
Focused on groups of high school students, each student can summon manifestations of their inner psyche called Personas, using them to fight supernatural forces known as Shadows. Every protagonist is assisted by Igor, master of The Velvet Room that helps them cultivate their power.
It’s been successful enough to warrant its own spin-offs, including dungeon-crawlers Persona Q, dancing games, 2D fighters and numerous multimedia adaptations.
Most SMT titles have seen positive reception but Persona goes beyond that. With P4 and P5 often considered amongst the best JRPGs ever made, there’s little doubt it’s surpassed its parent franchise.