[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Ghost of Tsushima. For more on the Sucker Punch Productions title, be sure to check out my review, basic tips for beginners, a breakdown of combat mechanics, and even a rundown of the game’s new patch, which introduces the brutal Lethal difficulty.]
Video game franchises aren’t a new thing to Sucker Punch Productions. After their initial title for the N64 Rocket: Robot on Wheels, the studio hunkered down and developed two solid franchises that would become their bread and butter for the better part of two decades. The first was Sly Cooper, a series of stealth / platforming games centering on the titular anthropomorphic raccoon, a master thief who is pursued by Inspector Carmelita Fox throughout their adventures. In less than four years, Sucker Punch Productions churned out three titles in the Sly Cooper franchise before giving the reins over to Sanzaru Games, who remastered the trilogy in The Sly Collection and continued the trend in 2013’s new title Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.
While Sly was in capable hands, Sucker Punch turned their attention to Infamous, an original IP that has spawned sequels, spin-offs, a prequel, standalone stories, and even browser games. So successful was the franchise, launched with the original title in 2009, that Sony Interactive Entertainment opted to acquire Sucker Punch Productions in 2011. Infamous had ultimately run its course by the mid-2010s, but the company was already hard at work on what would become Ghost of Tsushima. After six years in development, that title became “PS4’s fastest selling first-party original IP debut with more than 2.4 million units sold through globally in its first 3 days of sales.” It’s also a critical darling at the moment and a shoe-in for Game of the Year nominations, at least.
And it’s with all of that in mind that we point to what is almost certainly a sure thing: A sequel. Ghost of Tsushima 2 has yet to be officially announced or even unofficially discussed, but conversations have had to take place at some point in the process. So how will Sony and Sucker Punch approach it? Well, since we’re speculating here, we see two options: Keep it historically accurate or build off of their fictional world by exploring more original mythology.
A Historically Accurate Sequel
Back in 2018, Sucker Punch director Nate Fox told GameInformer:
“This is a game that is entirely grounded in reality. We’re trying hard to transport people to 1274 Japan. We’re inspired by history, but we’re not building it back stone by stone. We’re not trying to rebuild Tsushima island. Our protagonist is a work of fiction. We actually thought about using some historical figures, and we asked some people who are more culturally aware than us and they said that it would be insensitive, so we didn’t do it.
Ghost of Tsushima is certainly rooted in history and the real-world island that the title hero is named for, but it’s clearly its own fictional story as well. But that authentic feel to the place, its people, and its history is a big part of the game’s experience. Could Sucker Punch really take that off the table in a sequel? They could, but they shouldn’t, because not only are players invested in the story so far, there’s lots more history to explore and unpack in future titles. Spoilers follow from here on out.
When last we left Jin at the end of the game, his family’s clan was officially disbanded by the ruling shogun and Jin himself was branded a traitor. At the same time, Jin’s followers — whether they call him The Ghost or Lord Sakai — are amassing in Tsushima in rather large numbers; he did save the entire island from invading Mongols, you know, mostly without help from honorable samurai or the distant ruling shogun. Jin could conceivably train them all, along with his followers, as a nice parallel to his uncle being appointed by the shogun to train his own samurai; that’d be a nice tie-in to the potential sequel title Ghosts of Tsushima as well. But there are more Mongolians on the way and tensions are heating up between Jin’s growing army and the mainland forces who are now weighing the risk of fighting wars on two fronts.
Narrative possibilities include a sort of civil war between Jin’s clan-less Ghost Army and the feudal lords or daimyo, as well as other followers of the Shogun and the Emperor himself; a secondary invasion by another Mongolian force; or Jin traveling to Japan (or maybe even mainland Asia) to either assist or battle against some other foe. There’s a lot of leeway here. Historically, the Mongol invasion (with Korean support troops) continued from their landing and base-building on Tsushima to the nearby Iki Island, where some truly barbarous battles took place. From there, the invasion continued to Hakata Bay, the southern end of modern-day Japan. There are some incredible true stories that follow here, and it’d be a (literal) blast to see Jin and his closest followers take part in it.
However, Ghost of Tsushima 2 could also feature a time jump of sorts. After Japanese forces managed to repel the first wave of the invasion, they made efforts to prepare for the inevitable second attempt. Five years of preparation by Japan was one thing, but the Mongolian defeat of the Yuan dynasty during this time meant that they had plenty of resources — soldiers, ships, weapons, you name it — to throw at Japan in a two-pronged attack. This invasion followed a similar path to the first one, though with it came arguably more brutal and even swifter defeats of Tsushima and Iki island defenders. However, fierce battles at Hakata Bay once again forced the Mongols into a retreat, creating more legendary Japanese warriors in the process. Ultimately, it wasn’t strength of arms or military technology that won the day; it was a destructive typhoon — or kamikaze, a.k.a. “divine wind” — that forced the Mongolian fleet to retreat, destroying the vast majority of their ships, and killing most of their crew and soldiers.
The invasions and defenses against them were mostly wars of attrition, though plenty of culturally relevant advances and legends came out of them. Jin Sakai, a.k.a. The Ghost, would be a perfect character to step into one of these legends. But is Sony and Sucker Punch content with merely repeating history?
A Follow-up with More Creative Freedom
Sucker Punch carved its own path with Jin Sakai and followers of The Ghost like Yuna and Taka, Sensei Ishikawa (and the mysterious Tomoe), Norio, Lady Masako, Lady Sanjo, Kenji, and more. Some of these characters are based on real-life figures while others are inspired by samurai cinema, especially the work of the late, great Akira Kurosawa, and the legends that in turn inspired those movies. Ghost of Tsushima 2 could keep one foot on both paths: That of the honorable samurai (now a ronin, however) and that of the thief and assassin. There’s a lot of creative freedom to play with here; the narrative team could take the story in any number of directions. But for our money (and the dozens of hours we hope to put into the sequel), the best approach is a blend of history and fantasy.
For example, Tsushima has had an interesting history over the centuries, one that goes well beyond merely being a staging point for invasions and defenses against them. It’s been a hub and haven for pirates (Umugi Cove, anyone?), an important trading port and location for merchants, a naval base, and a prison for captured soldiers. The island also became a sort of melting pot for Japanese, Korean, and even Chinese languages, cultures, economies, systems, and traditions. That was all over the period of a few hundred years, but Sucker Punch has that vast historical tapestry to play with should they choose to do so with another entry in the Ghost of Tsushima franchise. Jin could slot into any number of side stories and narrative approaches as we see what Tsushima is like now that the Ghost has freed it from both Mongol invaders and rigid samurai tradition.
But we could also be introduced to a different character entirely. While Infamous and Infamous 2 were only a month or so apart, narratively speaking, and focused on the same protagonist, Cole MacGrath, Infamous: Second Son took place years later and introduced the new character of Delsin Rowe. Perhaps Ghost of Tsushima 2 wouldn’t focus on the Ghost himself (though it definitely should, as that’s what fans are expecting) but someone influenced by the legend of the Ghost, someone who sees the Ghost either as a hero or a demon.
Ghost of Tsushima didn’t offer much flexibility in the freedom of your character’s narrative; whether you walked the straight and narrow path or strayed into the shadows as a sneaky assassin, the story ends pretty much the same way. Maybe a follow-up title could rectify that by giving gamers a choice on which path their character takes with the aim of either following the Ghost or being the one to take them down, once and for all.
Ultimately, fans are going to want more Ghost of Tsushima in whatever form that takes. DLC, sequels, spin-offs, standalone entries, heck, even prequels; we didn’t get to learn much about Jin’s parents, after all. We’ll take it. We just hope that Sucker Punch puts as much effort and attention into whatever comes next as they did with the original Ghost of Tsushima, a game that’s certain to go down as one of the best ever made.
Dave Trumbore is Collider’s Senior Editor overseeing Games, Animation, and all those weird Saturday-morning cartoons no one else remembers. Test his trivia IQ on Twitter @DrClawMD