The video game industry is incredibly sequel driven. Some franchises even talk about their next game before they make the first one. Bioware, for example, decided that Mass Effect was going to be a trilogy before the first game even hit the market. Call of Duty is an annualized franchise where each one makes more money than the last. The fact is, it’s easier to sell a sequel to a game than make a new intellectual property. Fans already know what to expect, and the ideas from the previous game carry over to the next.
That’s not to say sequels are a bad thing, because often a franchise can be amazing. There are some video game franchises that I would like to see carry on forever. Some consistently put out a quality product, and each one just seems to leave you wanting more. Those franchises are the ones I am going to discuss here. These are the best franchises in video game history.
I think this might be the single biggest no brainer in the history of video games. Nintendo always finds a way to inject new life in Mario with each release. They keep the core of the game the same, while changing enough to make it feel new and exciting.
Nintendo is also smart because they don’t go overboard with Mario. They don’t put out a new Mario game every year. This allows them to take the time to make the games special, and prevent gamers from becoming fatigued on the plumber.
While they don’t put out so many as to cause franchise fatigue, they do keep things fresh for Mario. Nintendo uses him in other franchises such as Mario Kart, the Mario RPGs and Super Smash Brothers. By breaking Mario away from his standard platforming, they keep him in front of people, but they do it in a different type of game that keeps things exciting.
The Elder Scrolls
Maybe it’s because Skyrim came out recently, but I can’t help but feel like The Elder Scrolls has a greater importance than just being a massive RPG.
They do the franchise right. There was a whopping six years between Oblivion and Skyrim, and they were both huge successes. It seems to me that Bethesda realized that they don’t have to shove a new game to market every twelve to eighteen months in order for gamers to be interested. They took that time to learn some valuable lessons, and because of this, Skyrim is better.
Each of The Elder Scrolls games left the same impression on me: “they just can’t make it any bigger than that“. Each time however, they find a way to make the game bigger, and to fill it with more content. They consistently force other developers to play catch up, and they generally push the action RPG genre ahead. This is why The Elder Scrolls is one of the best video game franchises of all time.
Halo isn’t for me. For whatever reason I just don’t enjoy playing it. But it is impossible to argue that Halo isn’t one of the best video game franchises of all time.
They took a genre that was almost entirely on the PC and brought it to consoles in a way that has never been done before. You could argue that Goldeneye was the first console shooter, but Halo was the first one that incorporated a more traditional control method.
The one part of Halo I liked was the story. Bungie did an amazing job of constructing a universe and cast of characters that gamers cared about. They kept them coming back for more than just the intense multiplayer action, which is more than many first person shooters can say.
Grand Theft Auto
GTA is arguably the most controversial gaming franchise ever. Between the over the top violence, and isolated incidents like the Hot Coffee mod, GTA always seems to be in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. However, for gamers, it is loved because of the way it revolutionized open world games for the better.
Grand Theft Auto showed gamers that it is possible to have a living, breathing city as your own playground. The shift from Grand Theft Auto 2 to Grand Theft Auto 3 was one of the most dramatic I can recall in video game history. They went from a top down, two-dimensional game to a full 3D world that was rich and alive.
Without question, Grand Theft Auto changed video games, and as a franchise, I always find myself looking forward to the next one.
Zelda brought “hardcore” gaming to the masses. Mario got people into gaming, and Zelda is where they graduated when they wanted something a little more advanced. Zelda melds action games and RPGs into the perfect mix that is both fun for the most hardcore gamers and understandable for casual gamers.
Zelda is successful as a 3D action game on the new consoles, and it sticks to the top down old school format on portable devices. This allows Nintendo to keep Zelda games consistently coming out, but in a different style game that always feels like something different.
Just like Mario, Nintendo doesn’t try to milk Zelda like so many other franchises. They leave enough time to make each game new and innovative. They even completely shook the foundation of Zelda games in a big way with Wind Waker. They completely changed the art style of the game, and while some gamers greeted this with disdain, many loved it, and still regard Wind Waker as one of the best in the series. In the end, Zelda has Ocarina of Time, which is generally regarded as the best video game ever made, and it is hard to argue with that.
There are so many great video game franchises out there, but these are the ones at the top of the heap. Mass Effect, Call of Duty, Metal Gear and God of War are all right there, but just a little behind. Some series give the idea of a franchise a bad name and come out too often. Some examples of this would be Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk. You could even say Call of Duty is on the verge of this (hmm, all Activision games. Coincidence? I think not.)
What are your favorite video game franchises? Let us know in the comments!