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.
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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.
While I'm not particularly fond of this franchise, I simply can't ignore the millions upon millions of gamers that absolutely love Grand Theft Auto. The open-ended go anywhere, do anything gameplay is absolutely overwhelming to me, but I can see why others can't help but salivate at the thought of so much digital freedom. When Grand Theft Auto III launched on the PlayStation 2, it took the gaming world by storm and forever changed game design.
Since that time, Rockstar has failed to craft an underwhelming entry in the series, only raising the bar with each subsequent installment. Grand Theft Auto V launches later this year, and the insane amount of hype around it is evidence enough that the series deserves a spot on this list.
I rarely ever get addicted to a game, but the first generation of Pokémon is most certainly my kryptonite. After pouring hours upon hours collecting and leveling up as many of the cute little monsters I could in Pokémon Blue, I couldn't wait to do it all over again after purchasing Pokémon Yellow. And then, when I heard Gold and Silver would be on the way for GameBoy Color, I was beside my 12 year-old self with joy.
Nintendo and Game Freak cooked up some magic formula with this series that has gamers hooked to this day despite the rather redundant game design. We're heading into the sixth generation of Pokémon with the release of X & Y later this year, and the franchise has yet to show signs of fatigue. There's also a bazillion episodes of the television series and a collectible card game that has been going strong since the late 90s. If that isn't a picture of success, I don't know what is.
Despite its convoluted plot and wacky over the top characters (including a diaper-wearing monkey), the Metal Gear Solid franchise has one of the most loyal and rabid fan bases in all of gaming. Is it the series' approach to stealth that has everyone bowing before Hideo Kojima? Probably not. Is it a combination of long-winded yet engaging cutscenes coupled with unforgettably insane plot twists? Absolutely.
Ever since Kojima revolutionized the stealth genre on the original PlayStation with so many unique and endearing oddities, gamers have been hooked on the ongoing tale of Solid Snake and his "father" Big Boss. With each subsequent installment, Kojima and his gang have managed to outdo themselves in virtually every way imaginable, and there's no doubt that he's on track to do so once again with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
You won't find many "greatest games of all time" lists that don't include either The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past. For many, these two games are the very pinnacle of game design. The SNES classic gave players a vast open world and an array of dungeons to explore, laying the very foundation for the future of the franchise and several copycats. Then, when the series made the jump to the Nintendo 64, just about everyone's mind was blown when they entered Ocarina of Time's Hyrule Field for the first time.
There aren't many franchises that have the heritage and selling power of Zelda, which is why Nintendo holds the series so dear. We may only get one new console entry every four or five years, but when it arrives, it's guaranteed to have that Nintendo seal of quality. This is the Big N's most epic franchise, and as such, has earned a spot so high up on this list.
Honestly, did you think the iconic Italian plumber wouldn't make it in the top spot? Mario and his (slightly inferior) brother make up the most iconic and recognizable duo in all of gaming. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't heard of Nintendo's most valuable and profitable franchise. Since the Super Mario Bros. series got its start on the NES, it has gone on to branch beyond the traditional 2D platformer to racing, party, puzzle, and several other genres.
Sure, Nintendo is guilty of milking the franchise for all it's worth, but consumers continue to buy more Mario games, so can you really blame them? After decades and decades of side-scrolling goodness, the series still has yet to lose its allure, and for that reason, it deserves the spot at number one.