The Witcher's long and arduous journey is finally getting the traction it needs and deserves. Majority of that is thanks to CD Projekt RED's efforts and mastery of The Witcher games. They have crafted a trilogy from scratch that's so monumental, it became Poland's pride. Now, it's getting its own Netflix show to rival HBO's Game of Thrones (hopefully) and it's high time to replay the games to get familiar.
However, playing the third game only is a disservice to the franchise. The first two games, The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, while less refined than the third, enhances the magic of the trilogy. Without a doubt, you're going to miss plenty of things if you went straight ahead for The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt. Here are some of those pretty significant references that will make you feel lost in the third game.
10 ROMANTIC TENSION BETWEEN GERALT AND TRISS
The third does make this pretty obvious, but if you've seen firsthand the sexual and romantic past of these two lovebirds, you'll understand better why they can't look into each others' eyes platonically anymore. Triss basically took advantage of Geralt's amnesia and the fact the Yennefer (her best friend) disappeared to snag Geralt. The two fell madly in love and were pretty much like rabbits in the second game.
It does seem Geralt didn't mind the trickery and deception too much (no matter how much you reject Triss in the third game). Probably because Triss really did love him; she was Geralt's primary love interest in the first two games, even. Then came the third game and they had to split abruptly after Yennefer's reappearance. Even so, the passion remain bright and burning, waiting to be rekindled.
9 GERALT'S BEST FRIENDS
Those who first see both Zoltan Chivay and Dandelion in The Witcher 3 might be a bit stumped with their familiarity and overt friendliness with Geralt. There is the in-game glossary for information of course, but nothing beats getting to know the background of these two through the first and second game. As it is, Geralt, Zoltan the Mahakaman dwarf, and Dandelion the womanizing bard go way back.
If there are two people in the world whom Geralt can be sure will never betray him, it's these guys. As such, seeing them again in the third game after having played the first two is a warm friendly feeling that the glossary just can't replace.
Shani, like Zoltan and Dandelion, is an old "friend" of Geralt, though Shani is a lot more... intimate with the Witcher. She was one of the main characters in the first game (but was absent in the second) and can also prove vital to the plot depending on your choices. In fact, the first game even lets you choose between the two redheads, Shani and Triss.
Her reappearance in the Hearts of Stone DLC is a pretty sight and does bring back memories. She's the same medic who pursued academic titles and occasionally gets in trouble wherever there are half-dead humans around. If you've played the first game, you'll know why she's already close to Geralt, especially if you went to the trouble of finding the right flowers for her.
7 VERNON ROCHE
Ah, Vernon Roche, or as fans of the trilogy refer to him, Broche. He's a true comrade to Geralt; Roche was also one of the main characters in the second game and is a pivotal narrative choice. Moreover, he's Geralt's "friend in high places" after having served as the special forces commando of Temeria under King Foltest.
His appearance in the third game, however, is less grand after his band was reduced to mere rebels in hiding. Despite his situation, Roche still lends you a helping hand in Kaer Morhen. After all, he owes Geralt a heap after Geralt helped him uncover and solve the most intricate regicide plot ever in video games.
6 LETHO OF GULET
Speaking of regicide, Letho of Gulet is also present in The Witcher 3 as a cameo character and a recruitable help for Kaer Morhen. He will only appear if you answer that you spared him while being interviewed in the Nilfgaardian court or if Letho is alive in your Witcher 2 exported save. How and why Letho was a fugitive could be confusing if you started with The Witcher 3.
You see, Letho owes Geralt a lot for sparing his life (depending on your choices) and for forgiving his crimes. Letho was almost single-handedly responsible for the turmoil in the world of The Witcher 3. He's the bomb which set it off and it seems only a few people know of that. Of course, there's also the fact that Letho's an interesting character in his own right and only agreed to be an assassin because he loved his Witcher school.
5 PHILIPPA EILHART/MAGIC USER WITCH-HUNT
As for the whole regicide scheme, part of it was concocted by the sorceress Philippa Eilhart. She's part of the main quest in The Witcher 3; why she and her kind are being hunted down to oblivion and why she's also blind is can be puzzling in the third game. This began after King Radovid V discovered that they were partly to blame for the regicides back in Witcher 2.
Hence, Radovid locked up and blinded Philippa in the second game for treason while also hunting down members of her Lodge of Sorceresses. Eventually, that became a full-blown witch-hunt as you can witness in the third game.
4 KAER MORHEN'S DAMAGES
Upon arriving at Kaer Morhen for the first time in The Witcher 3 you'll notice that it's more of a ruin than a home. That's because apart from the mere handful of witchers maintaining them, they have also withstood some tough sieges. The most recent one happened at the beginning of the first Witcher game (the tutorial section, actually).
An assassin named the Professor and a sorcerer named Azar Javed led their own private army called Salamandra to besiege Kaer Morhen with the intention of stealing their mutagens. Prior to that, numerous peasant lynch mobs and other factions have also tried and failed to take Kaer Morhen.
3 THALER'S FOUL MOUTH
Wander around a bit outside Novigrad in The Witcher 3 and you'll encounter a quest featuring some trolls who make shoes and also know how to speak English with a pretty rectal vocabulary. You soon find out that an acquaintance to Geralt named Thaler taught them.
Thaler is an old character in the first game who gives you a series of main and side quests and his mouth is every bit as vulgar and dirty as it should be. Oh, he's also a fence, shady guy who buys stuff from thieves who also happens to be a spy and a cobbler.
2 THE POLITICAL TENSION
While you could read about the various political factions in the game's lore, we can summarize it right here for you.
The royal chaos began at the end of the first Witcher game: assassins tried to kill a king; assassins eventually succeeded; turns out it was a plan for invasion from Nilfgaard; Nilfgaard invades; Lodge of Sorceresses is blamed because they had a hand in the regicide; all hell breaks loose. Oh, and Geralt is also busy finding his adopted daughter on top of that.
1 TEMERIA'S IMPORTANCE
You're probably familiar with Velen, right? Otherwise known as No Man's Land? It's the most northern part of Temeria, which used to be King Foltest's kingdom before Letho killed him. In the third game, it's no more than a satellite for Nilfgaard after they conquered Temeria.
The palace where Geralt meets with Emperor Emhyr, called "Vizima" is actually the main city of Temeria and used to be King Foltest's palace down to the last stone. Knowing this does help you better understand why the populace around Vizima (White Orchard, Velen) are unruly and rebellious. Their king was just murdered and their kingdom destabilized-- something way above a Witcher's paygrade, but you have to deal with it anyway.