With the recent announcement of Borderlands 3, and being super excited about that, I figured now would be a good time to discuss some of the best gaming franchises that are still going strong today. Two things to address here before we get into it. The first being that it’s been awhile since we’ve done a 7’s list here so I apologize now if things come across a bit rusty in terms of the format. The second being that this list is completely subjective and of my own opinion. So without further ado.. here’s it is
DEVIL MAY CRY
I bet you’d be surprised to hear that this entire franchise was born out of Resident Evil. After Resident Evil 2 came out and killed it on the original PlayStation, Capcom studios was hard at work on multiple follow ups to the sequel. One such title was definitely more action oriented and strayed a little too far from the classic RE setup. Capcom was still pleased with the title’s development and as such decided to give birth to brand new IP and keep the production going and Devil May Cry was born. This is a series that perfects the hack and slash formula. Chaining together sweet combos with a variety of really badass looking weaponry is some of the most fun you can have in any game you’re likely to pick up and play. This franchise is like watching an Iron Maiden album cover come to life. The franchise has recently made a comeback with Devil May Cry 5 which proves there’s plenty of life left to be had in this series. The new game’s post-apocalyptic setting mixed with the varied and gnarly creature design of some of the monsters you fight along the way ensures that this is a stone-cold jaw dropper. The game play coupled with fantastic art design go a long way to ensuring Devil May Cry a spot in the pantheon of classic gaming series.
This is a franchise that is very near and dear to my heart. Fallout 3 is most definitely my favorite video game of all time. It is also one of the video games I’ve spent the most time playing. Last time I checked, I’ve spent very nearly 600 hours in game time with. You don’t spend that much time pouring over every nook and cranny with a game that doesn’t completely capture your imagination. That’s what this entire franchise manages to do with almost every title contained within its catalog. Despite some recent missteps with their latest Fallout 76, which let’s be honest is still a damn fun game to play, there is still plenty to be enjoyed here. The first few titles which are exclusive to PC are top down turn based classic RPG style game play mixed in with a country that has been ravaged by a nuclear bomb “fallout.” Once Bethesda gets the rights to the franchise and takes the game completely into the 3D FPS realm of current gen consoles at the time, all bets are off. This game in many ways revolutionizes what it means to be a role-playing game in this current world dominated by fast paced action style shooters. Then we jump to our current generation of consoles and get Fallout 4 and currently Fallout 76. Both of which are amazing games in their own right but offer up different ends of the spectrum in terms of game type. Which furthers prove how much elasticity this franchise has that it can be adopted to almost any format and still be a runaway success. Also, despite the negative press it’s getting, go checkout Fallout 76. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to play Fallout but in a multiplayer format, this game has you covered.
This one is a biggie. Final Fantasy is one of the longest running RPG series in all of gaming and with good reason. Despite the sometimes confusing numbering system in terms of determining what game takes place at which order canonically speaking, Final Fantasy defines the true role-playing experience in all of video gaming. The earlier generation games feature some of the most beautiful sprite and pixel-based art you’re likely ever to see in any retro games. Then when we cross into the PlayStation 1 era and the games go three dimensional with pre-rendered backgrounds, we get a whole other layer to the experience. Another thing this series does so well is the mixture of the realms of fantasy and magic with more tech-based science fiction to create wholly unique environment in which to play. Final Fantasy VII is often cited as the pinnacle of RPG gaming. An epic story that spans a totally of 3 discs while telling the tale of a ramshackle group of rebels trying to overthrow the oppressive government and free the people and save the planet before all of its resources are mined is both timeless and epic. Flash forward to more recent times and the latest title, Final Fantasy XV, takes everything across every title to date and mixes it into a melting pot of what makes a Final Fantasy game great while giving us something fresh. Namely, the combat makes the move from more classic turn-based action and becomes much more free forming like a lot of action adventure games popularized today.
This is one of the smaller franchises on this list, but no less important or badass. There’s 2 main games: a sort of sequel of Borderlands 2 that acts as a prequel at the same time and a Telltale game that acts more like a choose your own adventure than an actual game. But even across 3 mainline titles, this series from 2K gaming manages to pack more content and repeatability than most decades long running game series. The art style which is a light cell shading mixed with a very cartoonish sensibility adds to the wonder to behold. There is a wicked sense of humor throughout as the game that bounces between light and fluffy and dark sardonic. But what about the gameplay? It is a smashing together of many different styles of game to bring together one of the more inclusive experiences that has something for everyone to enjoy. It has awesome FPS mechanics mixed with the looting and discovery of dungeon crawlers mixed with the skill trees and a leveling system of a classic role playing. There is so much to see and do across these 3 games and that’s not even taking into account the bountiful amount of DLC. Even though this series does bring together a lot of classic gaming thematic and style of play, this is in all honestly one of the most wholly unique experiences you’ll ever partake in. First person shooters are a dime a dozen these days but Borderlands as whole is a once in a lifetime gaming experience you’re not likely to ever forget.
GEARS OF WAR
Gears Of War is the gaming equivalent of a Michael Bay action movie on steroids. This is a series that is all about the explosive bombastic tropes that come with something that is more concerned with thrilling and entertaining you than re-inventing the wheel. However, whereas a Bay film is just surface level pomp and circumstance with nothing really to sink your teeth into, this game has a deeper narrative and thematic structure than you would see on the very basest surface level. Its once again not as long running as some of the other titles on this list, but which as much that happened over the course of the 6 Gears games that currently exist, you’d never know it. Whereas a lot of series tell fractured narratives that don’t really tie into each other from game to game and act as more standalone entries, Gears is one LONG narrative that takes place across all of its current and future titles. With the exception of the Xbox One remaster of the original Gears game that started it all, each game is a new chapter in a long winding road in a tale of humanity’s struggle against an alien enemy that doesn’t come from the sky but from deep within their own planet. Gears has set the gold standard in terms of squad-based gameplay with industry changing cover mechanics and graphical fidelity in terms of epicness and scope. This tale of a motley crew of soldiers that have been to hell and back fighting the war all across the planet is at times both fast paced and very intimate. This is a story about brotherhood and family and sacrifices needed to make sure that a new day dawns for everyone. However, at the end of the day this is just a damn fun fast paced adventure that is the video game equivalent of a Red Bull chased with a Monster.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
No list talking about the greats of the gaming industry can be complete without mentioning the epic titan of the medium that is The Legend of Zelda. This has got to be one of the longest running series in all of gaming dating all the way back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Every subsequent system Nintendo has released whether it be full on console or portable system has featured multiple Zelda titles. What’s even more amazing is that despite the rather voluminous amount titles contained in this series they all manage to be in service of one long running story as well. If you include all the different ports across systems, HD remakes and even canceled titles, there is a total of 36 titles, with 19 of said games fitting within the main canon of the franchise. Zelda is the grandfather of classic platform action adventure gaming. Most of what we consider to be classic game play mechanics got their start within the walls of these games. Whether it’s the first foray into 3d gaming with Ocarina of Time or the reinvention of what it means to be an open world sandbox with Breath of the Wild. Zelda has time and time again proven to be a series that transcends even the video game medium to be something of a pop culture milestone and household name. Breath of the Wild, which is the most recent game, just might be the most critically and commercially lauded video game of recent memory. Anyone who sits down with this one for the first time is immediately drawn into its majestic and vast world. While the actual gameplay itself might not be revolutionary, the way it implements classic platforming of older titles with the looting and progression of character in more modern titles is something that blends perfectly together. Breath of the Wild and the Zelda series at large has proven to us that it is very much a gaming institution and it’s not going anywhere ever.
There is no game series that has gone through more change and upheaval than that of Resident Evil. Almost every production of every title is rife with interesting and troubled behind the scenes drama and yet the games themselves stand the test of time. Resident Evil is a franchise that evolves with the times and is evocative with the gaming landscape at the moment. The original trilogy of games during the PS1 age are a golden shining example of what true survival horror gaming can accomplish, even if the very first game is extremely dated. Then we flash forward to the GameCube age and the first Resident Evil gets a remake and again redefines what a truly horrifying gaming experience can be. It’s also during this era that the series gets its most dramatic overhaul in the form of Resident Evil 4. Gone are the tank controls, static backgrounds and traditional survival horror experience. They give way to a fully three-dimensional world with an over the shoulder camera angle. Also in lieu of a slower paced horror experience, RE 4 begins the march towards a more action paced flavor of the middle series of games in this series which peaks with Resident Evil 6. Once RE 6 hits and is widely considered to be the nadir of this once venerable series of games, something needed to change and yet again Resident Evil reboots itself in dramatic fashion but this time in a direction that brings it back to the franchise roots. RE 7 marks yet again several dramatic shifts in gameplay style. For the first time in this series we play from a first person perspective instead of the 3rd person perspective we’re used to. We also go back to a more solitary horror-based experience and Resident Evil becomes scary and almost too terrifying to play again. Most recently we’re treated to a top down remake of what many consider to be the high point and my personal favorite of the entire franchise in Resident Evil 2. This entry is the very traditional RE experience of solemn horror with a light flavor of propulsive action that rears its head towards the final few hours of the game. It is the perfect culmination of everything the RE franchise has experimented with up until this point and is in my opinion the best Resident Evil game yet.
So there you have it. This is my list of favorite game franchises that are running strong still today. I know there are several series that got left off of this list but also remember that this is completely subjective and this list doesn’t mean these are the ONLY games I enjoy. These are just some of my favorites and this represents the very best of what the gaming industry has to offer. Let us know in the coments what you guys think are some of the best games and series you’ve had the fortune of playing!