Robin Williams (1951-2014)
Robin Williams was an absolutely exceptional comedian, talented actor, and holder of a special place in video game history: He was the first really famous gamer I know of. I’m sure there were others, but they kept a comparatively low profile, unlike one...
Some gamers find themselves loyal to a particular platform. Others to specific publishers, genres, or development studios. I, however, pledge allegiance to only one gaming specificity: franchises. I hate to use that word, as it only reinforces their money-generating purpose, but let's face it, the gaming industry is a business just like any other, and profitable IPs turn into franchises because they make money.
Fortunately, there's a whole lot of good that comes from series that prove to be cash cows. Developers get the chance to improve upon the franchise's formula, further flesh out its universe, and try out new concepts all thanks to additional funding. Now I won't deny that some series have taken a turn for the worst, but I'm feeling optimistic today, so let's take a look at some of the greatest franchises gaming has to offer.
Say what you want about the Chief and his fellow Spartan companions, but Bungie single-handedly made first-person shooters truly relevant on consoles with Halo. Ever since that fateful launch of Combat Evolved on the Xbox, Microsoft's sci-fi shooter series has proven to be the life blood of the company's exclusive lineup, and rightly so. There aren't many franchises that have a plethora of novels, toys, anime spin-offs, and even a short film that build upon the core game universe.
It's also worth mentioning that there hasn't been a single entry in the Halo series that one could justly call less than great. Even the Ensemble Studios-developed RTS succeeded in delivering a solid strategy-based console experience that has (for the most part) been strictly limited to the PC market. Even now that Bungie is out of the picture, 343 Industries has proven that the franchise is strong enough to live on and continue to be a relevant and engaging series in the years to come.
Sadly, I don't believe the same can be said for the beloved JRPG series Final Fantasy, which as of late, has proven to be an utter disappointment. However, that doesn't undo the incredible work of Squaresoft in the franchise's earlier days. Final Fantasy VII through Final Fantasy X get a whole lot of love by the PlayStation crowd because this string of games brought the series into 3D in spectacular fashion. It moved the role-playing genre forward and charmed the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the earlier classics like Final Fantasy VI, which is heralded by many as the greatest RPG (if not the greatest game) of all time. Sure, the graphics were limited back in the day, but the incredible creativity and genius storytelling still poured out of the game's sprites. Oh yeah, and how about that soundtrack? Basically everything Nobuo Uematsu puts together is absolute musical gold.