Top Ten Video Game Franchises
by Gregg Dietz
We’ve all been there, a sequel is announced and you know you are already going to buy it because of the title alone, regardless of a trailer. This feeling is put upon us by the fact alone we know the franchise in which it comes from and we trust it implicitly, this is why we are always excited for a new Sonic the Hedgehog game (He’s not on this list by the way). As a quick disclaimer, this is MY top 10 list, these are franchises I have the best and most memories with, whether its by myself or with friends. If there is one that is not on here that you would have put on yours ( I’m sure there is because there are hundreds of franchises), leave a comment and let us know. With that being said, let’s get this started.
10. Gears of War
I thoroughly enjoyed all 4 of these games. When the first one came out, I was living on my own for the first time and I remember having my roommate system link with me and we beat it in a night. I also remember being at a lan party with at least 14 people. Another aspect of this game for me was the amazing B-movie style story.
Every turn was an awesomely bad sci-fi plot device, coupled by a Schwarzenegger-esque line, and this was all in the first game. I understand this series wasn’t for everybody but I found a lot of redeeming quality in the both story and gameplay. I have always been excited for the next installment and will continue to be as long as they keep making them.
9. Kingdom Hearts
Ah, Kingdom Hearts, everyone remembers where they were when they heard the announcement that Squaresoft (a year before merging with Enix) and Disney were to release a game combining both rich universes into one cohesive plot all because of a chance meeting in an elevator. I remember being so excited for this that all I could do leading up to it’s release was talk about it and bring my magazine to school to show my friends at lunch.
After it’s release, I didn’t stop playing it till I beat it, and I’m in no way a completionist but I remember helping my brother find all 99 dalmatian puppies to get that secret ending. I specifically went out of my way to buy a Gameboy Advance just to play Chain of Memories, which admittedly, I didn’t like as much because of the overly complicated card system but it was still a good game. I was in line for Kingdom Hearts 2 with other fellow KH fans and wanted to play this game so badly, and that’s a big reason it’s on my list. The wonderful community of fans this game has, they love the game and love others who feel the same. Now it’s just a slow wait for the 3rd installation.
I adore the Lego games, every one of them. When I played the first Lego Star Wars, It was a bit taboo because it was supposedly designed for children, but I saw more than that. It had a fresh sense of humor that other games couldn’t accomplish, the ability to be self aware without over doing it. It was a fun, relaxing experience because you couldn’t die permanently, and this goes for all the Lego games.
They were able to pull from other pop culture franchises that I love and that helps immensely with the fun factor. The most recent Lego games have even started adding voices (Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes Unite, Lego Lord of the Rings, Lego Marvel Super Heroes) which lends to the comedy to evolve and become stronger. I will always look forward to what game they have coming out next.
I am such a fan of this franchise that I even went out of my way to get a hold of Lego Rock Band, which leads me to my next Franchise...
7. Rock Band
2006, Activision acquires RedOctane (publisher of Guitar Hero 1&2) and this led to Harmonix (developer of Guitar Hero 1&2) becoming a widely sought after developer. After a short period of time, Harmonix was acquired by MTV networks and EA to produce the first Rock Band. The day this game was released, I had made sure that I had the day off from work so I could play it as much as possible. I had invited a group of friends over, bought a multi tap usb port so I could connect all 4 instruments, and we played this for a grand total of 13 hours.
Needless to say, I was exhausted afterwards but it was so worth it. I spend probably a total of $500 on this franchise over the course of it’s lifespan, between downloadable songs, new instruments and 5 different versions of the game. Unfortunately, those days are over, people became bored of the games, and this included Guitar Hero. The market was flooded with too many peripherals and different versions of the game. It was too much for the ship to handle and she sank, at least we have the memories.
This franchise comes for the twisted mind of Ken Levine, well, the first and last games. I wasn’t too keen on playing the first BioShock when it was released because I'm not a fan of horror games, which is weird because I love horror movies. It wasn’t until a friend had told me that it was a thriller and not scary at all, just Incredibly eerie.
What I didn’t know until I started playing it was that the world created around you was inspired by Ayn Rand’s and George Orwell’s utopian and dystopian writings. I have always loved the idea of a utopian society crumbling underneath its own weight. This game was the aftermath of that and was beautiful in a demented sort of way. BioShock 2 was more of an experiment to give the player a more entertaining gameplay experience, the first game was intentionally difficult in the firearm and powers department because the developers wanted to immerse the player into a panicked state of mind. BioShock 2 was much more forgiving by letting the player control both firearm and powers at the same time. Unfortunately, this is where the good marks stop. The story is completely forgettable, it made strides in the wrong direction and Ken Levine knew it would have been a bad idea to revisit Rapture, so he worked on his latest title, BioShock Infinite. This game is a perfect example of how to tell a story without hand feeding it to the player. I will stop here for fear of spoilers but trust me when I say that it is a wonderful game and you should definitely pick it up.
5. Super Smash Bros.
There’s a plethora of things I could say about why this series is so great. If you don’t know what Super Smash Bros is, then here’s a quick explanation; a set list of Nintendo characters battle on a 2 dimensional arena, there are items to use at your disposal, each iteration of the game adds new characters to play that feel different than the last. This was one of the last games I played on the Nintendo 64, mainly because I was busy playing the PlayStation and didn’t own a 64. I had made a friend who owned the console and brought it over one night in 2000, we ended up playing it until the sun came up. When Super Smash Bros. Melee was released, I didn’t have a GameCube but I wanted to play it so badly. The Christmas of 2002, my brother had gifted me a special edition GameCube with The Legend of Zelda bundle.
Along with that, someone had gotten me a copy Super Smash Bros Melee. and I don’t think that game came out of my console very often. I had bought 3 extra controllers just to accommodate the amount of people I had over at any given time. I remember setting up a tournament bracket with 8 of my friends just for fun. The 3rd installment was fun if you had used a GameCube controller. I found the using the wii remote or the combo of that with the nunchuck wasn’t as fun, and maybe that's because I played Melee for so long that I was jaded but it was still a great game and I have very fond memories playing it.
This was a series of games I wasn’t supposed to play because It was “for children”. I was in high school when the first couple of games came out and I was teased by not only my peers but my siblings as well. I then found others who also shared the same passion for the games as I did and to this day, some of them are still my friends. I loved the RPG style of the game and the sense of exploration that worked really well because you never knew what monsters you were going to face. I’ve spent hours playing these games, to the point of exhaustion. Yellow was my first foray into the world of Pokemon. I remember thinking that there are so many of these creatures that I didn’t know anything about them, so I would read about them, talk about them with friends who had captured them and even battle them via system link so I could learn more.
I admittedly haven't played the last 4 iterations and that’s only because I don’t own a Nintendo DS, and I would love to spend more time playing these games. I’m excited for X and Y mainly because it’s finally in more of a 3D space, I know Black and White was but now its more so. I think the only way forward would be a Pokemon MMO, but then again, that might destroy the world.
3. Grand Theft Auto
I know what you must be thinking, “You only put this on the list because of how amazing Grand Theft Auto 5 is”. As I agree that the game is amazing, I have a very long, clear history with this franchise. I was quite young when my friend introduced me to Grand Theft Auto, I was blown away by what you could do. It was unlike what I had ever seen in a game. When I was able to get my hands on the sequel for the PS1, I have no idea how by the way, I would sit and laugh at both my friends and brothers when getting destroyed by the cops. I don’t remember much of a story, I know there was one but we didn’t explore it much. I was reading a Gamepro (rest in peace) at a supermarket when I found out about GTA 3. I had gone to my brother and exploded with excitement and I even remember the explanation I had given him for the game, “Dude, it’s like Driver except you can walk around and shoot people”, thats right folks, I compared the original PlayStation 1 game ”Driver” to what we would recognize as the pinnacle of free roam gaming today.
Every version of this game has had the same result though out my gaming life, Play until cops annihilate you then pass the controller and let them see how far they can get. The story of each of these games is very well done, each game has a singular plot that works well in the world in which it takes place. Each version also pushes the limits of its predecessor, by either adding land space, more story, an online mode, whatever it may be, it never ceases to amaze and impress me. I will always look forward to what comes out next for this franchise.
I used to be a big ol’ annoying fan boy that would let my loyalism get in the way of something new. Halo: Combat Evolved was a fresh eye opener that I shouldn't judge a book, or game in this case, by it’s cover. I had made a conscious effort to avoid anything Xbox, I was that much of a loyalist fanboy. It wasn’t until one fateful night when a “rich” friend of mine brought over his xbox with Fuzion Frenzy, Dead or Alive 3 and Halo: Combat Evolved. We played Fuzion Frenzy for maybe 30 minutes before laughing/ogling at CGI boobs in Dead or Alive 3, but then Halo was put in and that was the game for the remainder of the night. A year later Halo 2 was released, my brother and I had bought a brand new xbox with Halo 2 and beat it within a very short amount of time. This was also my first game I truly played online. I had bought Xbox Live time through my friends credit card and continued to pay him for months. It wasn’t until 2 years after the release of the Xbox 360 that we saw the final instalment of this trilogy. I can’t count how many hours I clocked in on Halo 3, between playing on legendary with friends or spending hours in the online multiplayer.
It was just such a fun experience for me personally, I even made a few really good friends playing it. As much as I enjoyed the trilogy, the next 2 games had better stories. Halo 3: O.D.S.T. was easily my favorite told story. I couldn’t get enough of the dark ambience the destroyed city of New Mombasa gave when you played as the Rookie. I loved the noir-esque feeling you achieved when finding the next piece of the puzzle of what had happened to your lost squad, it was fun and very immersive.
Halo: Reach is Bungie's swan song for Halo. They added so much to what was loved about every game before it and gave the fans a glimpse of the fall of the planet Reach which you were only told about in small increments throughout each of the games. Halo Reach was a huge part of my social gaming life, I played this game online exclusively, other than that one LAN party. Halo 4 is the most recent title to be released and I will admit, it’s not the best nor did I expect it to be, but I will continue to play this series as each game comes out due to my love and devotion to this fantastic franchise.
1. Super Mario
Where do I start with this franchise? This WAS my childhood. Many people will tell you what they remember most about their childhood and all of them are good things but this one was mine and always has been. I've never met anyone who played these games as hard as I did as a kid. The first time I got to play Super Mario Bros was Christmas of 1988, my Dad had thrown a pair of shoes and chains on the roof to simulate Santa Claus. I jumped out of my bed and ran to the door with my brothers, when I saw that Nintendo Entertainment System sitting on the door mat, i freaked out. I couldn't play until the morning but when I did, I didn't stop. I battled my way to King Koopa and I beat him only to find out that it wasn't the end of the game. I was proud of myself but now more determined to beat the game. That was a unique feeling as a 5 year old, I never had that happen before. I had always learned that when I finished something, I got a reward and I was done. Not this time little Gregg, you have a long road ahead of you.
I had the opportunity as a kid to rent a game if I received 100 percent on my spelling test each week. During one two month span, all I rented was Super Mario Bros 2 because it was so difficult. I couldn't figure out how to beat the level one boss, Birdo (Mistakenly labeled as Ostro in both the manual and credits, fixed in later remakes of the game). It wasn't until I overheard a conversation from some kids in class that all you had to do was stand on his...her...shims eggs, pick them up and throw them back. That was a breakthrough for me as a kid, I eventually beat that game over weeks of renting it. I was watching cartoons one Saturday morning and saw the commercial for Super Mario Bros 3, I was so excited that I grabbed a VHS tape and waited for the commercial to show back up so I could show my Mom. Shortly before the games release, The Wizard with Fred Savage came out showing the game early. As an 8 year old, this was the greatest thing I had ever seen. I remember my mom running into the Toys ‘R Us in the rain to get me this game. The memories I have from this game are some of my favorite, finding all the secrets that no one else knew about was so satisfying. Playing this with someone else, feeling that real accomplishment from beating an area with a partner. This particular Super Mario game is my favorite game of all time and will always have special place in my heart.
I always loved how every new Nintendo system came with a new Super Mario game, for the Super Nintendo, it was Super Mario World. This was the introduction of Yoshi as a pivotal assistant to Mario and Luigi. It was so original and unique in every way, each world was so different than the last and you felt that throughout the game. The secrets were also as much fun to discover as they were in Super Mario Bros 3. This was also the first game that King Koopa is referred to as Bowser. Speaking of Bowser, his boss battle at the end was so much fun, I even remember beating it so many times that I would line Mario up just right to have him kiss Princess Peach in the center of the screen. I didn't get to play Super Mario 64 right away due to not ever owning a Nintendo 64, but a few years later and a good friend (seems to be a trend here), I was able to play this masterpiece. It was a very different experience I then what I was used to, this new free roam Mario was something that took time to get used to but once I did, bowser was toast. I've played every main Super Mario title that's been released since and I do enjoy them but somethings been slightly off about them. I feel the uniqueness and creativity of the other games is lost on these new Mario titles. I will continue though to be excited for each new iteration and look forward to beating bowser as many times as needed.