The Top Ten Franchises in Video Game History

By James Hawkins in Lists!, Reviews
Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 9:15 am
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The Best of the Best

Highly-acclaimed and massively popular video game franchises are the cornerstone of the gaming industry. Each year numerous sequels, prequels and spin-offs take the market by storm -- a seemingly endless flow of new entries to series that come in all shapes and sizes, spanning genres and platforms. It is in these games that we, as gamers, are met with something new and something familiar at once, which leads to some of the most moving and involving experiences we encounter throughout the medium. So, with that, I give you the official Joystick Division list of the best and most influential video game franchises in history. Please enjoy!

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Fear. My. Mustache.

10. Metal Gear Solid (1987)
Copies Sold: 26.5 Million
When Konami came out with Metal Gear for the NES in 1988, it created a whole new genre -- stealth. You took on the role of Solid Snake, a Special Forces badass who has been tasked with taking out a giant, two-legged machine called Metal Gear. It could essentially shoot nukes off from anywhere in the world, which made it one bad bot. The game was complete with innovative gameplay, great production, and an engaging story. Now, some two decades and over half a dozen games later, Metal Gear Solid remains one of the most lauded franchises of all time. Known for highly-developed, thought-provoking plot lines and memorable characters, the impact of the series on the industry is undeniable. Expect this series to please its giant cult following (as well as newcomers) for many more years.
Notable Media: Eight games including Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, The Twin Snakes, and Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of the Patriots, comic books, documentaries, toys, and a film (rumored).

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9. Madden NFL (1989)
Copies Sold: 75 Million
EA Sports could probably subsist solely off of the profits this franchise brings in every year. I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to bet some of my hard-earned ducats on it. Since the first release in 1989, Madden NFL has spawned thirty-some 'sequels,' most of which are updated yearly and released a short time before the beginning of the correlating NFL season. Thanks to a licensing agreement with the NFL, these games are now the ONLY ones to bear the players' and coaches' names, the official mascots, and the stadiums -- and this will continue as long as the big money is being made. Talk about eliminating the competition. Luckily for fans, the developers at EA have been producing a quality product year in and year out. The gameplay keeps improving (despite a few stumbles along the way) and incorporating new mechanics. The graphics are getting pretty damn good, too. As long as there is football, and as long as consumers keep paying full price for an updated version of the last year's game, there will be Madden NFL.
Notable Media: Tons of games -- Madden '95 (though I hate them, I gotta admit those Cowboys were GOOD), Madden '97 (Franchise Mode), Madden '09. Also, indirectly, the Turducken.

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Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "Pocket Monster."

8. Pokemon (1996)
Copies Sold: 193 Million
With Pokemon, Nintendo put a unique, high-quality RPG in the hands of literally millions of kids. It was a fairly simple concept -- capture and train these little animals to fight against each other so that you can become the best trainer in the land. Then, after the kids (and adults, frankly) were hooked, folks from all different walks of media came out with new ways to make money: a popular TV show, a couple of straight-to-video movies, and trading cards, to name a few. Not to mention even more "color" games released in pairs by Nintendo every few years. Thus was the explosion of Pokemon. Video gaming may never see another phenomenon like it. And hey, maybe that's a good thing. But for now, Pokemon will continue to play a huge part in the video game moneymarket, and in the integration of video gaming into the mainstream culture.
Notable Media: Everything. Trading cards, numerous games, comics, costumes, TV shows, you name it.

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Does it weird you out that we have the same bangs?

7. Resident Evil (1996)
Copies Sold: 40 Million
It would be unfair to say that Resident Evil invented a genre when it first dropped in 1996. That would be taking credit away from those few games that decided to try out survival-horror first. What it did do, though, was create a wildly imaginative and horrifying title that was just begging to be franchised. Look at the recipe: an evil corporation, a fleshed-out back story, zombies, outbreaks, and beautiful people with guns. Add a great production into the mix, and there you have it. And though it had been marred by dated gameplay for much of its run, the developers at Capcom have been able to forge a new, innovative style for the last two games. As influential as it is successful, Resident Evil has continued to evolve with the changing game environment, producing fun, scary, high-quality games for millions to enjoy.
Notable Media: Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, lots of spin-offs, the popular movie series, novelizations.

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Lockin' and Loadin'

6. Halo (2001)
Copies Sold: 30 Million
Love it or hate it, you have to admit the Halo series has done just about as much for the FPS genre as a franchise can do. With fantastic gameplay, awesome graphics and Master Chief, Bungie has managed to create a series that had solidified its name next to the very greatest in video gaming history. In a relatively short time, too. It seems that as each game is released, the boundaries for production in the medium as a whole are pushed farther and the bar is raised. And on top of that, the games have pioneered online multiplayer gaming, both competitively and cooperatively. Imagine what Xbox Live would be like today if Halo 2 and Halo 3 hadn't come out. It would be very different world. That, in and of itself, is a monstrous achievement.
Notable Media: Numerous novels, five games (soon to be six), a movie (rumored), some giant statues.

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