Any person that has been a gamer for any significant amount of time will have opinions about what their favorite game franchises are. If you’ve been gaming for a very long time, narrowing down your list of favorite game franchises to just 10 can prove to be a difficult task. To what criteria do you judge your favorites? I had to sit down and think about my list of favorite game franchises for a while. I decided that I would judge my list according to the following criteria:
- Which franchises have made the biggest impact on gaming in my opinion?
- Which franchises have games that I’ve spent the most time playing?
- Which franchises have games that would end up on my top games of all time list?
- Which franchises do I have the most positive and/or nostalgic feelings toward?
Based on that list, I was able to cobble together a list of what I would call my favorite franchises of all time. We all have our own thoughts and opinions on this topic, but here is MY list of my favorite video game franchises to date (subject to change as more and more great games are released).
10) Grand Theft Auto
The Grand Theft Auto franchise left an impression on me early on. I remember a friend in high school telling me about it and I later got to play it on the PC. I thought the game was alright, but it definitely had a unique idea behind it with a lot of potential. I later picked up GTA 3 for the PS2 and it blew my mind. Open world games changed forever and each entry of the series has been a joy to play. The storytelling, different mechanics of the game (driving, shootouts, flying, etc), and ability to ignore the point of the game and simply travel around causing chaos makes these games some of the best!
9) Mortal Kombat
There are a lot of great fighting games out there to choose from. Since Mortal Kombat came to the arcades and my Sega Genesis back in the day, it has been my most loved and most frequently played fighting game. I remember spending many quarters on the Mortal Kombat machine at the arcade in the mall as I was blown away that the game was not only a very good fighting game, but the brutal nature of that game was something I had never witnessed before. As soon as I learned that you could get it on Genesis I had to have it. All the controversy that later surrounded the graphic nature of the game only added to its appeal. Fatalities, pre-rendered graphics done in an interesting way, and bizarre characters further separated the game from the rest too. A few of the later Mortal Kombat titles hit some lower points, but overall each entry into the series has been a slight evolution or iteration on the high points of the game. With Mortal Kombat X being the fighting game most played when a friend comes over and Mortal Kombat 11 just around the corner, this game had to be on my list.
I was late to the Xbox party as I was very much team PlayStation, but Halo was the big draw to the Xbox that kept me interested. Once I finally picked up a used Xbox with Halo and Halo 2, I ignored all the other games I owned until I completed the campaigns in both games. Once the next generation of consoles showed up, I purchased a PS3 but was always eyeballing the Xbox 360 just because I wanted to play the new Halo games. To this day, it remains one of my favorite FPS franchises. A few months ago I completed the campaign in Halo 5 and, from time to time, my son and I play on a co-op campaign in Halo 1 via the Master Chief Collection. The sci-fi nature and story of the game, excellent graphics and gameplay, and ability to play cooperatively make this game stand out from the pack for me.
7) Mario Kart
I’ve always liked racing games. From the time a race begins to the time you finally cross the finish line, your level of focus and intensity is at a 10. I small mistake made at any point in a race can be what costs you the win. In the Mario Kart games, this paradigm is at its most extreme as the power-ups and weapons can cause the outcome of the race change at a moment’s notice even when no mistakes are made. That said, Mario Kart games are still extremely approachable for gamers of all ages and skill levels. The split-screen multi-player aspect of the games makes this series a staple for all social gatherings while the long list of unlockables keep you playing single player circuits so you can unlock all the stages, items, and characters. Throwing a shell at your buddy is strangely satisfying and smile-inducing. Conversely, getting hit with a blue shell allowing to pass you right before you cross the finish line is unbelievably frustrating. These highs and lows coupled with the intensity of a race make this game one of the best local multi-player experiences you could ever hope to have!
6) Call of Duty
The market is flooded with military FPS games that take place during some kind of war, some that actually happened and some that are made up for the sake of the game. I ignored these types of games until Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released for the PS3. The campaign was short but kept me entertained. Once I fired up the online multi-player I was beyond hooked. I made it to prestige level 4 in that game and, for the next several years, I purchased every Call of Duty game that came out and sunk ridiculous amounts of time into playing them. Once Ghosts was released, I kind of hit a level of burnout and ignored the series for a few years. Last year I purchased Call of Duty: Black Ops IV and played it obsessively for a couple of months. I’ve tried other military-style shooters and enjoyed some of them, but the Call of Duty series remains my favorite and I can see myself purchasing new entries into the series for years to come.
5) God of War
I wasn’t immediately interested in the God of War games and didn’t purchase my first GoW title until the original game was a PS2 Greatest Hits title. I don’t remember why I wasn’t interested in the series right away, but as soon as I played God of War I was hooked! Hack and slash games have always been something I enjoyed, but the GoW series left an impression on me that has lasted to this day. Kratos is a character whose story is filled with tragedy and injustice and you get to control him through his attempt at revenge. The action in these games is only interrupted by stylistic cut scenes that play out in the most cinematic and entertaining fashion. The quick-time events sometimes feel overused but are still a strangely satisfying way to finish off a foe. When I got my PSP, GoW: Chains of Olympus was the only game I owned for about a year before I felt the need to get another game. I had been following the news surrounding the latest release in the series for a couple of years and, even with all the hype, I was blown away by this game and agree 100% with those that deemed it “Game of the Year” for 2018. I even suggested to my wife that we name our next big dog Kratos.
4) Tony Hawk Pro Skater
The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series was an immediate success when the first game was released. For years, each iteration saw the addition of new moves, new ways to string together long combos, additional customization, new professional skateboarders, and more. I spent countless hours with friends seeing who could get the highest score in a level and taking turns to accomplish all the goals for a level. With the release of Project 8, the series introduced a new, somewhat open world aspect to the game which allowed you to skate around and talk to people to find new goals to attempt keeping the game fresh. The later entries in the series were buggy and unimaginative, but I like to pretend that these titles don’t exist as there are plenty of Tony Hawk games that were solid gold. I still sometimes throw in a Tony Hawk game to kill time.
3) Sonic the Hedgehog
“Sega does what Nintendon’t!”. If you remember these ads, then you might also remember how Sega had commercials that talked about “blast processing” and they always showed clips from Sonic the Hedgehog. When the day came that I grew tired of my old NES and wanted to get a new console, I opted for the Sega Genesis and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t at least a little bit because of my interest in Sonic games. I must have beaten the first 2 games in this series a dozen times each. The replay value of the first several Sonic games was high enough to keep me coming back for more even after having completed every stage multiple times. This series could do no wrong for quite a while with Sonic 3 being one of the best games I have ever played and Sonic & Knuckles being something the gaming industry had never seen before. I even enjoyed Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic Spinball. The Sonic Adventure games introduced the franchise to 3D graphics and were solid games regardless of their problems. Sega was doing a great job with their mascot. It didn’t last forever though. Within hours of purchasing Sonic 2006, I took the game back to the Hastings location where I purchased the game and accepted a fraction of what I paid for it as store credit toward a different game. It was unforgivably buggy and cheesy. For a while, this became somewhat of a norm for the franchise, and I lost all hope for the series. Thankfully we later got Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania. Even with all the craptastic Sonic titles out there, I still hold a special place in my heart for Sonic the Hedgehog and feel it left its mark on the video game industry.
2) Super Mario Bros
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know of the Italian, mustachioed plumber that is Mario. Nintendo’s success with Super Mario Bros for the NES was a huge factor in making video games popular in America again after the video game crash of 1983. Mario has been the Nintendo mascot through every console generation since then and the franchise has seen an incredible amount of titles over the years. I’ve yet to encounter a Mario game I didn‘t immediately love. The Mario games have taken us to space, had us clean up the Island Delfino, and allowed us to transform into a wide variety of different things with unique abilities via power-ups. I consider many of the Mario games to be masterpieces and system sellers. Nintendo probably wouldn’t be the gaming juggernaut it is today without this series. Super Mario Bros changed video games forever, and still, Nintendo finds new ways to keep the series fresh and ever-changing with each additional release. I will buy new Mario games until my hands are too old and arthritic to play video games anymore!
1) The Legend of Zelda
There‘s nothing I can say here to properly express my love for the Legend of Zelda franchise. I love this franchise so much that I have a separate shelf on my wall to display my Zelda games and collectibles. I’m even getting a triforce tattoo on my calf in the next couple of months. These games are full of action, adventure, RPG elements, captivating stories, interesting characters and enemies, addictive puzzles, and so much more. The variety of different scenarios you get to take Link through is unparalleled by any other franchise. Whether you are fighting through a dungeon, searching for a specific item to enable a new area of the game, completing a puzzle to unlock a door to the boss fight, jumping from a cloud to enter a different area on the map, or playing as wolf link with Midna on your back, I can guarantee one thing and that is that you will be entertained. I have small complaints regarding the motion controls in Skyward Sword and the touch screen gestures in Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, but even with those annoyances I still have enjoyed every Zelda game to date. My son completed Breath of the Wild a couple of months ago with very little help from me and he now loves the series just as much as I do. Completing every Zelda game is one of my bucket list items (don‘t judge me) and I intend on achieving that goal in the next couple of years and will continue to play and complete every Zelda game released until my last breath!
That's All, Folks!
Well, there you have it; my top 10 game franchises/series of all time. Every gamer will have a different list, but I have to imagine that at least a couple of the games I have mentioned would show up in a large percentage of those lists. The best part of being a gamer is that every year we are introduced to new titles and franchises that take us to new places and show us different types of game-play. That said, I feel like this list will probably evolve. I look forward to whatever the next big game franchise might be and hope we continue to see releases that become timeless classics like the games listed above.
Surely, you have a list of your own. Feel free to leave it in the comments section below!