These 10 Video Game Franchises Are the Best in History
From shooters to fighters to RPGs, gaming's most-legendary franchises.
There will always be one-off video epics eating up the play times of gamers everywhere—Bloodborne, Shadow of Mordor, The Witness. These singular excursions may borrow from a specific set of developers' previous releases, but the titles largely operate as standalone adventures.
But some game makers have done the equivalent of capturing lightning in bottles, creating long-running storied gaming franchises leading to year upon year of fandom and loyalty.
Let’s see who the best of the best is in video game franchises:
Super Smash Bros. (HAL Laboratory, Bandai Namco)
The number of friendships shattered by repeated matches is directly related to how amazing this franchise has been. From its initial release in 1999 to the most recent 2014 iteration on WiiU, Super Smash Bros. has cemented itself as one of the greatest party games on both sides of the THC divide. From international tournaments to casual Friday nights with friends, this series has been a mainstay in gaming for years. Its staying power has the potential to continue for generations.
Halo (Bungie/343 Industries)
If you haven’t ever missed a meal due to playing any Halo release for hours on end, you've missed out on far more than daily nutritional requirements. Growing up with Halo was a gift for millennials, from the innovative online gameplay and map designs to cooperative campaigns and haunting music. There’s something for every kind of gamer in Halo, and the transition to 343 Industries has pumped new breath into the franchise.
Street Fighter (Capcom)
The fighting game to beat all fighting games, Street Fighter is still going strong in 2016. The latest release—an exclusive on the PS4—has experienced its share of stumbles, but the game is as beautiful as ever on current gen graphics. While other franchises have seen substantial success (e.g. Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Virtua Fighter), the Capcom classic reigns supreme.
Legend of Zelda (Nintendo)
The music. The mechanics. The story. Pick an aspect of the Zelda series, and you’ll understand why it’s among the elite franchises in gaming history. The first entry, released in 1986, introduced the ability to not only explore an open world at your leisure, but save game files to record your progress. To this day, gamers line up for more Zelda releases to feed their need for epic adventures in Hyrule.
Final Fantasy (Square Enix)
In any informed, intelligent discussion of favorite franchises, there’s a strong likelihood Final Fantasy gets mentioned. These role-playing games from Square Enix revolutionized large-scale gaming, introducing an immersive and fantastical universe packed with memorable boss battles and deeply-sewn character relationships. With the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV, the studio looks to continue its run as a leader in RPG gaming.
Dark Souls (From Software)
Super Smash Bros. matches can ruin friendships; Dark Souls games can ruin a player’s psyche. Few if any franchises have been more rage-inducing than the Souls series, developed by From Software. While the one-off spiritual cousin Bloodborne introduced a faster-paced and forgiving game, the new Dark Souls 3 release dropped players back to reality. In fact, if you listen quietly at night, you can hear the sounds of 1,000 controllers being smashed to bits off in the distance.
Resident Evil (Capcom)
Resident Evil has spawned more than two dozen games, six live-action movies, and three animated films. Releases have appeared on 17 different consoles since 1996. And Capcom’s horror series continues to shock and awe the current generation of gamers. With a remastered version of Resident Evil 2 set for release on the Xbox One and PS4, this franchise is poised to accelerate its dominance of the third-person survival genre.
Metal Gear Solid (Kojima Studios)
Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus may be one of the most polarizing franchises yet. Some dismiss the game’s lengthy cutscenes and complex plot twists as self-serving schlock from Kojima. Many others wait in long lines on release nights to pick up the latest Metal Gear Solid entries. The ugly split between Konami and Kojima may threaten the future of the franchise. Nothing will shake its position as a leader in futuristic warfare and geopolitical strife.
Civilization (Sid Meier)
“Just one more turn” will be written on some gamer headstone in the near future. In fact, Civilization’s marketing campaigns should just feature a wide-eyed player staring at his screen in the dead of night. That exemplifies the long-lasting appeal of this franchise. The turn-based series blurs the line between arcade fun and formal lessons on globalization and international relations. Honestly, everything my college graduating class knows about the state of the world we learned through Civilization. Now if we could just get India to stop building and launching nukes...
Who would’ve thought an Italian plumber would spawn the most storied gaming franchise of all time? The Mario series needs no introduction. Even non-gamers know the Mario name and story. Even a disastrous 1993 live-action movie was merely a hiccup in the series’ history. Mario continues to be the most recognizable character in gaming. His popularity just might continue for generations to come.