The dual release of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X will be the biggest thing to happen in video games this year and is certain to throw shoppers into a Black Friday frenzy as they try to get their hands on the future of gaming. But it's always good to remember the classics which got us here, which is why we've ranked the best video game franchises of all time, based on longevity, quality, sales, and overall impact. Note: We may receive a commission on qualifying purchases.
Halo hasn’t been around as long as most of these franchises, hasn’t grossed as much money, and has even had a couple of underwhelming entries in its relatively small oeuvre. But even so, this franchise’s legacy is cemented for two reasons.
First, it single-handedly carried the Xbox to relevance in the console’s extremely uncertain early days. Second, Halo 2 was arguably the first blockbuster console game to give fans a polished, online multiplayer experience, which changed the way we game.
• System requirement your device must meet all minimum requirements to open this product OS Xbox One architecture x64
Pac-Man might not have aged quite as gracefully as some of his contemporaries, but we have to give credit to the godfathers of video games where it is due, and Pac-Man is the original godfather. Along with Pong, the Pac-Man franchise helped bring gaming into mainstream culture, and for a time in the ‘80s, there wasn’t a hotter video game around.
• Rankings on PS4 and Leaderboards on Xbox One • 1080p Resolution • Trophies and Achievements
If Halo was the FPS perfected, Doom was one of the pioneers that introduced an entire generation to 3D gaming in the early ’90s. Since then, the fast and frenetic gameplay of each successive Doom release has been met with excitement and adoration, proving there’s still a place in the world for FPS games that aren’t team-based.
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There might not be another video game franchise that switched lanes as hard as Warcraft and came out better for it. After occupying the throne for real-time strategy games from 1994 to 2004, indirectly spawning a spinoff hit in the form of the fan mod DOTA, Blizzard released the MMORPG World of Warcraft and never looked back. The franchise has generated over $11 billion in revenue to date, solidifying the idea of “games as a service.”
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7. EA Sports
This might be cheating, but if Mario Kart and Paper Mario fall under the Mario franchise, then all of the EA Sports games can be lumped together, and together they are one of the best video game franchises. While the ‘90s were a golden age for the franchise, giving us games such as NBA Live ‘95, NHL ‘94 (look at little Wayne’s legs shaking!) and Triple Play ‘98, the two most relevant and enduring sports games EA has made are its annual installments of Madden and FIFA.
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Tetris is something of an outlier among the best video game franchises because The Tetris Company, run by the game’s creator Alexey Pajitnov, will license out the rights to outside developers or publishers who want to attempt their own take on the game (of which there have been MANY). As a result, dozens of Tetris variants have surfaced over the years, which has led to more than 495 million copies of the game being sold.
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You can argue that the idea of Pokemon is greater than the sum of its individual titles when it comes to the best video game franchises, but what you can’t argue is how lucrative it has been since the Japanese release of Pokemon Red and Blue in 1996. Thanks to the movies, TV shows and endless waves of merchandise, the franchise has generated over $90 billion in revenue, which not even Mario and his theme park can scoff at.
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4. Street Fighter
If you were a child of the ‘90s, Street Fighter II is probably the first game that comes to mind anytime arcades are mentioned. Chock full of over-the-top (and occasionally problematic) characters that could teleport, levitate and conjure up energy blasts out of thin air, the quick and frantic 1v1 battles headlined by Ryu and Ken not only helped to define the concept of fighting games but also drained you of every last quarter you owned. It was the purest essence of arcade gaming in the ’90s.
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3. The Legend of Zelda
With games that are part-RPG and part-action/adventure, The Legend of Zelda is a major, major mood. Series godfathers Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aounma have spent the last 33 years deftly creating a world that’s as expansive and immersive as it is withholding and mysterious. As a result, every time you assume the identity of Link and take a romp through any of Hyrule’s many iterations, there’s always something new to discover.
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2. Final Fantasy
While very few Final Fantasy games share the same characters or exist in the same world, that doesn’t make it any less of a franchise. What unites all these games is its recurring philosophical approach inside and outside the game: grandiose narrative themes of power, corruption, injustice and the effect of technology on the natural world, along with an always-innovative approach to party-based battle systems which set the standard for all JRPGs that followed.
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This is the best video game franchise ever and it can’t be debated. Commercially, Mario games have generated more revenue than any other franchise and critically they have changed the face of gaming many times over, none more so than Super Mario 64. Even if you disregard the spinoff series here, which include Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Mario Sports and the Yoshi games, and the Mario franchise would only be topped in sales by Tetris and Pokemon.