Franchises

Passed Over, but not Forgotten: Lego Series, Rock Band, Resident Evil, Age of Empires, Bioshock, Dead Space, Donkey Kong Country, Batman Arkham Series

FFXII8. Final Fantasy
I love the story and name inspiration behind the original Final Fantasy on the NES. There is surely no way the developers could have imagined that the game they assumed would be their last would spawn a series of games spanning six generations of consoles and regularly sell in the millions of copies. The fact that there are regular debates over the best in the series and countless lists ranking each one is testament to the passion that still exists among the fan base. It is also unique that each entry is tucked inside it’s own universe, allowing the developers to explore new themes without restrictions, while also making sequels to a particular entry if they so desire.

R&C7. Ratchet & Clank
By the time I tried my first Ratchet & Clank game, three entries had already been released. While I had missed three amazing games, this meant that once I did find out just how great this series was, I had multiple games to keep me occupied. Ratchet & Clank combines third person shooter mechanics with clever platforming to produce both a unique and wonderfully fun game to play. In addition to spot on level design, the multiple weapons at your disposal means there is almost always something new to try out. Finishing the package is the writing. Ratchet & Clank has some of the funniest dialog I’ve ever encountered in a game, spoken by a cast of characters that I dare anyone not to laugh at. I only hope I can secure a PS3 soon so I can discover the sequels there that I’ve yet to play.

Mega Man6. Mega Man/Mega Man X
Initially, I was going to separate these two franchises, but I feel that the play style and mechanics were so similar that it made no sense to split them up. The original Mega Man series on the NES defined tight platforming and challenging, yet fair, level design. Both the ability to choose your next level and take the power of a defeated boss were groundbreaking when introduced. With the X series, Capcom advanced the plot and introduced a new Mega Man capable of more fluid and quick movements, while staying true to the roots of the franchise with the ability to pick your next foe as well as take their power upon their defeat. While the X series made Mega Man X easier to control in many ways, the levels were also designed accordingly, meaning that the challenge and tightness remained, combined perfectly with X’s new move set.

Pokemon5. Pokemon
Maybe it’s the slight touch of OCD I suspect I have, but Pokemon pulled me in after only a few minutes of play in Pokemon Red. The premise is amazingly simple. Capture wild monsters, then use them to fight other wild monsters, all the while exploiting a rock/paper/scissors weakness cycle based on each Pokemon type. Yet, that simple set-up is extremely deep once you advance further into the game. Attempting to “Catch ’em all” is only part of the appeal. Building the perfect team and taking on the Elite Four (no easy task) becomes quite a challenge in and of itself. There is a reason that this series still moves millions and can be counted on to move systems, and that reason is a simple premise combined with exceedingly deep gameplay.

Mario World4. Super Mario
I think that, as more Mario titles are released, it’s easy to forget just how well each of these games are made. Even the original, while dated, is still playable and fun today. The same can be said of each entry that has spanned Nintendo’s consoles. From Super Mario Brothers 3 to Super Mario World to Super Mario Galaxy, the Super Mario series can always be counted on to be at the peak of platforming games. Each game starts out easy enough, with levels best described as a cakewalk, but soon enough throw clever gameplay twists and tricky level design at you on a regular basis. Whether you’re playing the relatively open levels of Super Mario Galaxy, the left to right design of New Super Mario Brothers U, or the linear 3D designed levels of Super Mario 3D World, each game has its own quirks and feel while still managing to maintain a sense of familiarity from past games. No easy task considering how many excellent Mario games Nintendo has produced since that first entry so many years ago.

Twilight Princess3. The Legend of Zelda
There’s not much left to say about The Legend of Zelda that hasn’t already been said. I can think of no other franchise that consistently delivers the extreme high quality that Nintendo delivers with this series. Whether it’s the first two games on the NES system or the more recent Wii entry, whose story sets the beginning of the land of Hyrule as well as series antagonist, Ganon, each game stays true to the series while also telling its own story with its own unique mechanics and attributes. I can also think of no other franchise in gaming that creates such anticipation and rumors regarding its next entry, be it the art style (realistic or cel shaded), the story, or what will set it apart from previous entries. The reason for such anticipation is simple, the series has yet to disappoint or fail to deliver. Until that time happens (and I doubt it ever will), we’ll take each new Zelda title with joy and immediately begin anticipating what will come next.

Castlevania2. Castlevania
I’m hard pressed to say what it is about the Castlevania series that so appeals to me, but when I was compiling this list I had no question about placing it this high. Much like the Zelda series above, Castlevania consistently delivers high quality with each new game. While the game style has evolved over time from level based platformers to open world exploration titles to 3D environments, each game continues the tale of the Belmonts and their allies always working to take down Dracula and his minions. This story, while sometimes a bit convoluted, has always been one of my favorite aspects of Castlevania. Taken as a whole, it chronicles multiple generations of the same family working to continue their ancestors work. While I’m sure that Konami didn’t have this entire story mapped out from the beginning, they have done well to connect and continue the narrative with each successive entry. Along with the story, the core gameplay and combat are stellar as well, and have remained mostly unchanged as time has passed. Whether it be with a whip, sword, or magic, taking down Dracula feels just as good now as it did in the very first Castlevania.

Metroid Prime1. Metroid
Part of the reason I love the more recent Castlevania titles is the fact that they have taken on the Metroid open world style of play. Still, as good as those games are, no game perfects the exploration aspect of a game the way that Metroid has. Seeing ledges and doors that you can’t yet get to with your current abilities only drives you harder to find the necessary upgrades to find out what lies in those inaccessible areas. Metroid has also perfected the feeling of being alone and out-numbered, yet never overwhelmed, on a strange, alien planet, or in a space station. I also think that of all the games I’ve listed, Metroid took the biggest risk by shifting from a side-scrolling style to an FPS layout, yet despite how wrong that could have gone, it resulted in one the best games ever developed in Metroid Prime, not to mention the two stellar sequels that followed. Like many other games, I can detail the aspects of Metroid that I enjoy, but I can’t put into words just how much joy I get from this franchise. I just know that even Other M, which I consider the weakest entry, can still give me enjoyment. So, for the reasons I’ve listed and others I can’t, Metroid is my #1 gaming franchise.

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Comments
  1. TK says:

    If I would have made this list, I would have put Final Fantasy at #1. The real question is, which of all the Final Fantasy games is your favorite?

    • JAVGB says:

      I would have no issue with that. I might eventually bump it up myself once I catch up on a few entries.

      As for my personal favorite, that’s an easy one. Final Fantasy VI is the crown jewel of the series for me. There are some others that are great, but I haven’t played one that matched VI yet.

      • TK says:

        I just recently finished VI. I actually considered it my favorite for a few weeks. I have strong emotional attachment to IX though. I just can’t bring it down from #1 and saying they are tied seems like cheating

        VI is epic. I’d love to see what that game would look like on today’s consoles.

      • JAVGB says:

        A full fledged remake of some kind would be neat to see.

        I get your point about IX. VI was the first one I finished and is therefore the one I measure all the others against. Who’s to say that had I played IX, X, IV, or V first they wouldn’t hold that place in my mind.

  2. I would probably of had Final Fantasy a round the 3 mark, with Resident Evil in there too.

    I’ve never played a Metroid or Castlevanis game though!

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