An argument can be made that beyond literature, film and television, it’s video games that hold the strongest franchises. These are titles that consistently release new content on a routine basis, and evolve their brands in interesting ways.
Video game creators are quite creative at taking a character or a storyline, and spinning it into something new. RPGs can become actioneers, or puzzlers or even something else entirely. This is how these franchises build into monumental properties.
The very first Halo game kicked off the Xbox era, and rightfully so. It was a great sci-fi shooter with strong characters and story. Later, it’s anticipated second installment ushered in a new age of online gaming, coinciding with the rise of Xbox live.
From there, Halo exploded with comics, novels, and various live action adaptations. It’s possible the quality of the games has diminished over time, but their place as a multiplayer staple isn’t going anywhere, especially with the popularity of esports.
9) Assassin’s Creed
When the first Assassin’s Creed game was released, it was hard to imagine that it would grow as large as it did. In a world where multiplayer gaming dominates the landscape, Assassin’s Creed survived through single player storytelling wrapped in historical intrigue.
The franchise has slowed down recently as it releases bigger and more complex games, but there was a period where Assassin’s Creed regularly released a strong new game almost every year. It might not be the most popular franchise, but its fanbase is very loyal.
8) Grand Theft Auto
It’s no surprise that Grand Theft Auto is immensely popular. It allows players to live out their most degenerate fantasies and has caused plenty of controversies along the way, despite the entire nature of the franchise acting as a lampooning parody of Western culture.
What’s even greater is that previous installments of Grand Theft Auto are regularly touted as fun games to revisit. Plus, as Grand Theft Auto invests more into their multiplayer system, the game still has plenty of fans who consistently play new content in the form of heist, and other storylines.
7) Metal Gear Solid
The cool history surrounding the very first Metal Gear game is that it was designed around the concept of stealth, simply because they could only have so many characters on the screen at one time. Fast forward decades later, and the series has exploded beyond that humble idea.
Although it has yet to truly branch out into other media, Metal Gear Solid has dominated the stealth action landscape. Its games are smart and well-designed, creating a mythology around interesting characters and concepts that fans can’t get enough of, even if the chronology has become a tad convoluted over time.
6) Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy is a very interesting franchise, as its name comes from the fact that the first installment was meant to be a final game for its creators. It’s funny that the series has been so successful at revolutionizing role-playing games that it still continues to this day.
The Final Fantasy series has always been about telling great stories with interesting characters, while experimenting with different kinds of gameplay. Some installments have worked much better than others, but the franchise as a whole deserves respect for the innovations it has come up with.
5) Call of Duty
Many video game enthusiasts complain about Call of Duty‘s effects in the industry, but it’s hard not to respect what it’s done. The series has pumped out tons of different installments for years, all while cultivating a loyal fanbase.
The series has focused on the future, as well as the past when creating realistic warfare-like settings. It’s also worth noting that the multiplayer aspect of the game has helped build a strong online gaming presence, and contributed to the popularity of esports.
Pokémon has become such a phenomenon it’s hard to remember that it first started out as a simple video game. It now dominates film, TV, comics, and every type of merchandising idea imaginable.
Another great thing about the franchise is that it’s very versatile as far as what type of games it can produce. There are standard Pokémon games, as well as photography games, puzzle games, and even an extremely successful AR game that’s played all around the world.
Minecraft is a franchise that’s had incredible growth, considering that it’s a simple building game with blocky graphics. However, it’s this simplicity that’s contributed to its success.
The game is extremely accessible to all types of gamers, and along with its success, it’s branched out into other types of games that focus on the IP. Currently, Minecraft is the best selling game in the world, thanks in large part to just how basic it is.
2) Sonic the Hedgehog
Although as a franchise Sonic might not be as high selling as some of the others, this speedy hedgehog has still withstood the test of time from the very early days of console gaming. He’s also bled over into the mainstream, as even non-gamers can recognize him.
Lake Mario, Sonic’s brand goes beyond just his own line of games. His cast of characters have been featured in pinball games, racing games, and even an an Olympic game where he shared the spotlight with Nintendo’s Italian plumber.
1) Super Mario
It’s hard to think of a video game character that has done more for pop culture, and the industry at large, than Mario. Nintendo has built their entire brand around this one character, and his supporting cast has kept them going for decades.
He hasn’t branched off into other media as well as some other characters, but he doesn’t necessarily need to. Mario’s games cover adventure, racing, sports, and anything else that Nintendo can possibly throw him in. His growth and likability as a character will probably never be topped in the industry.