People are often surprised to hear that the video game industry dwarfs the film industry in terms of popularity and revenue, but those people are generally the types that don’t purchase video games (for themselves or others). Considering that most games go for $60 a piece these days, it’s not hard to see why a popular video game will make a ton more money than a popular movie, even with the cost of seeing a movie getting higher and higher each year (thanks a lot, Avatar). Like Hollywood, though, the video game industry relies heavily on franchises to lower the risk involved in creating a game that takes hundreds of people years to create. So, with that, we here at BabbleTop wanted to break down the top 15 Video Game Franchises of All-Time in the hopes of finding the perfect balance between the amount of money it’s generated, the longevity of the franchise and how unique it was at the time it was first released.
While Doom may not really be as big a thing anymore (there have been subsequent releases but nothing that has garnered the fanfare and attention like the original Doom did) it deserves credit for creating an entirely new type of video game, the first-person shooter. Originally released back in 1993, Doom seems tame by modern standards but was still created a gigantic storm of controversy upon its release. While the follow-ups to it had been less and less popular up until the release of Doom in 2016, it’s still credited as creating its own style of game and because of that alone it makes this list (it also helped people think of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a serious actor, so it gets points for that as well!).
Castlevania was one of the best games for the original Nintendo Entertainment System and that’s saying something. Equipped with his trusty whip, the main character was Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter who… Hunted Vampires. Like many NES games, Castlevania was extremely difficult (which made up for the limited amount of space a cartridge could hold by making it next to impossible to beat in a first, second or third sitting) and that’s what endeared it to so many young video game heads. A game that’s found its way onto nearly every console since the NES, Castlevania has long been rumored to be in pre-production for a movie as well. Considering the history of video games as movies, here’s to hoping that they can do the impossible and make a decent film out of the games rich backstory (the fact that it wasn’t released during the post-Twilight vampire-a-thon is probably a good thing).
13. Star Wars
It was long rumored that E.T. the extra terrestrial was actually part of the Star Wars Universe (Despite the fact that ET wore a Yoda mask in the movie) and that’s what lead to his cameo during one of the galactic senate scenes in the prequel trilogy. Considering the fact that ET the Video Game is one of the worst video games of all time, that loose association alone should almost disqualify Star Wars from this list. However, the gems that are Knights of the Old Republic, the Lego Star Wars games, The Force Unleashed and even the Pod-Racing game that came out on the Nintendo 64, more than makeup for the landfill filled with ET Cartridges buried down in the desert somewhere.
Anyone that downloads Pac-Man on their new age console will come across the sheer amount of spin-off’s and old “new” versions of the ghost hunting, yellow muncher. One of the only franchises on this list (or period) to successfully jump from the arcade to early consoles (and beyond), Pac-Man took the world by storm in the early 80’s and has been a mainstay of pop-culture ever since. While some versions are a lot better others (we here at BabbleTop are fans of Ms. Pac-Man, ourselves), Pac-Man will forever represent the 80’s era of gaming and show that complexity doesn’t always mean progress when it comes to gaming.
Outside of The Brothers Mario, there were few games that represented Nintendo more than Metroid did in the late 80’s and early 90’s. One of the first games that followed a female protagonist in Samus Aran (even if people didn’t know that at the time), the game was a side-scrolling masterpiece that sent the player to far out worlds to hunt Alien-esque creatures called Metroids. While you’d think that Metroid would’ve been one of the main benefactors of new age graphics and first person shooters (and for the most part it was), the best games in the series are still the originals from the NES and SNES. Despite that, it’s one of the flagship Nintendo games and each iteration has been great enough to carry entire consoles, (along with Mario and Zelda games) and mostly without the help of third-party developers. That’s a testament to the love and care that goes into each game and that’s why it, like the other two main Nintendo games, are on this list.
10. Sports Games
Kids today don’t remember a time where there was more than one version of a game for each major sport. For every Madden football game there was the NFL2K series (which was arguably better, there, I said it). For every NBA2K there was Double Dribble or NBA Jam, and so on and so forth. It’s a testament to the quality of games behind EA’s Madden or 2K sports’ NBA 2K-series that the competition pretty much ceased to exist (or was bought up) around the turn of the century. While you’d think that these games were pretty cut and dry they can oftentimes be more complicated than playing the actual game in real life and so if there is a future for E-Sports you’d have to think that it’ll begin and end with sports games that have 15 different options for defense with the push of a button (or buttons).
9. Mortal Kombat
You knew that this list would contain a fighting game and despite that (or because of it) it was hard to choose between Mortal Kombat and it’s less bloody competitor, Street Fighter (or even Tekken). Mortal Kombat gets the nod because of the fact that it’s released more editions than Tekken and because it became a pop-culture phenomenon in the early 90’s thanks to the blood and gore (thanks to it’s fatality system) that Street Fighter continues to avoid. While the game was released on both Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, the Genesis version had all of the blood and gore of the arcade game and because of that, it became a system seller almost all by itself (Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t hurt). While the shock and horror surrounding the violence has mostly ceased, the fact that this game actually had a blood code back in the day means that it was a pioneer of the blood and gore we have today. So, we should be very thankful to the people at Midway Games for that and this gem of a game, even if it came with guaranteed blisters.
If not for Halo there wouldn’t be an Xbox 1 sitting on your mantle as you read this article. Originally, the Xbox wasn’t a huge success (thanks mostly to a terrible, terrible first controller), that is until people discovered Halo and it’s amazing multiplayer set up. Within a few months, every sleepover and college dorm room was obsessed with playing Halo and because of that the Xbox became a staple of gamers’ bedrooms from that point forward. While Call of Duty has surpassed it as of late in terms of multiplayer prowess, the mechanics that Halo introduced to people were the first of their kind and because of that it’ll always be considered a pioneer. It was the first time that many people played a game with two joysticks and the game really did feel (and still does) like an extension of the player’s hands. More than anything, it’s those mechanics that helped Halo, and thus the Xbox, take off.
7. Call of Duty
Call of Duty started as a game, or games, that surrounded military conflicts in the 20th century (mainly World War II). Think Halo in the past, with crappier guns. While the first player is always great, it’s the multiplayer that helped Call of Duty distinguish itself from most other first person shooters and become one of the, if not the, most popular game franchise(s) of the 21st century. The popularity of it’s multiplayer ability and the mechanics of the game have helped the Call of Duty brand expand beyond wars of yore to include present and future conflicts and different mini-games that include supernatural elements like Zombies. Because of it’s built in audience and willingness to adapt it’ll be awhile until another game knocks Call of Duty off of it’s pedestal as the top first person shooter.
6. Grand Theft Auto
Few kids these days remember that the original Grand Theft Auto games were actually 2D, top-down games that while filled with a lot of elements that exist in the games today, were more like the NES’ Dick Tracy than what the game has become since Grand Theft Auto III was released over a decade ago. That game, like Mortal Kombat, was extremely controversial and almost lead to the ban of games with a Mature rating thanks to overzealous politicians and school shootings that happened before and after it’s release. While the game was initially popular thanks to the controversy that surrounded it, it’s aged very well thanks to Rock Star Gaming’s willingness to adapt to the times by allowing (some) mods and a lot of great online play (that includes things like racing).
5. Sonic the Hedgehog
There was a time when Sonic the Hedgehog would’ve rivaled Mario as the top franchise in all of gaming. The original Sonic was essentially like playing Super Mario Brothers on cocaine, with high speeds and awesome loops that made Mario look sort of boring by comparison. Unfortunately, Sonic struggled to make the leap to 3D and because of that, its stock took a bit of a dip. However, after a few rough years, Sonic did find a resurgence and a few great Sonic games were released after the turn of the century. There is also a surprisingly active Sonic fan community where people argue pretty passionately about which is better, the new Sonic or the old Sonic. So, because of that this game gets a high spot on this list; had Sega maintained it’s crown jewel more properly, it would have been a lot higher.
4. Resident Evil
It was hard to not put Sonic the Hedgehog or Halo here, considering the fact that they’ve bled more into regular pop culture (despite the fact that Resident Evil did have a series of movies… That had nothing in common with the game outside of a few names), but the fact that it’s been around longer than Halo and has done a much better job at maintaining it’s quality than Sonic has, it ends up as third on this list. Resident Evil was many people’s first foray into the type of game that it pretty much invented, survival horror. While more recent games have gone for more action than survival horror, they’re all still amazing entries in the series that has scared the pants off of us for decades.
3. Final Fantasy
Typically in lists like these, Final Fantasy doesn’t usually rank this high. But considering the fact that it is responsible for the greatest game of all time in Final Fantasy 7, it’s not hard to see why it’s ranked in the top 3. Final Fantasy is one of the few series that never rests on it’s laurels and instead likes to change things up more often than not. Each game is more of an anthology that exists in the same universe as other games and is not really a direct sequel to the game(s) before it. This is rare, especially for a game as huge as Final Fantasy 7 was. While this franchise has expanded into more strategically based games and even feature films, it’s the core series that continues to bring millions of fans joy and is responsible for introducing the concept of RPG’s to a much wider audience.
2. The Legend of Zelda
While people constantly bash Nintendo consoles for their lack of third party support, what they do lack in new external games they more than make up for by having the best franchises in all of gaming. It was hard to decide which game was the top franchise between Mario and the Legend of Zelda. While Mario ended up winning because of his household name, the games surrounding Princess Zelda and her savior, Link, come in at a close second because of their complexity and open world style. One of the first open world games, Zelda has diversified more than Mario has over the years, introducing shell-shading and even MMORPG elements to her gameplay. Even the “bad” versions of this game are out-and-out classics (we’re looking at you, Windwaker) and in the day and age of multiple new/different games coming out every month, it’s rare that a single game can be good enough to sell an entire console and that’s what Zelda is right now (in the Nintendo Switch’s Breath of the Wild) and why she shows up so high on this list.
If there is one game or video game character that’s synonymous with the industry, it’s Super Mario (Brothers). Nintendo’s crown jewel; he aged right along with each new console that Nintendo has released and his games have actually gotten better as video game technology has improved (which always isn’t the case with games on this list). Expanding from a side scroller to the first real open world 3D game with the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64 (one of the greatest video games of all time), Mario has been one of the first characters that new generations of children are introduced to video games with. While his character appeals to younger people, his games are still difficult and entertaining enough to captivate the minds of adults as well. It’s because of his ability to do that, for going on thirty years now, Mario is the top video game franchise ever.