games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Games in Big Franchises

September 14, 2021 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Final Fantasy XII

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about the best games in some of the biggest franchises in games. Since none of you bothered to actually suggest franchises in the comments in the last column I just picked franchises I liked and went from there. For this, I picked franchises that have to at least had 10 major releases over the year, not counting spin-offs. So, like Kingdom Hearts wouldn’t count, but Call of Duty would, if I actually wrote about it. Enjoy:

#8: Mortal Kombat 9 (Mortal Kombat)

There’s really only been one “bad” Mortal Kombat game, that was Mortal Kombat 4. The rest are either decent to great. For me though, I really enjoyed the 2009 reboot of Mortal Kombat, or Mortal Kombat 9 if you want. It was a decent, return to basics that the series kind of needed after the PS2 era of games: Deception, Armageddon, and didn’t have the toothlessness of MK vs. DC. Plus, it had a nice spin on the lore, weaving a new story based on the old canon. MK 10 and 11 are also quite good but I still dig the relative simplicity of this Mortal Kombat.

#7: Mega Man X4 (Mega Man)

There are…a lot of Mega Man games to pick from. Ten Mega Man games, 8 Mega Man X games, 6 Zero games, at least 10 Battle Network games, etc. Unlike with Mario or Sonic, Most Mega Man games tend to play the same, while there are more spin-off or ancillary titles, Mega Man Soccer comes to mind, a majority of the Mega Man franchise games, always play like Mega Man. I’m picking X4 because it was the first to actually allow you to play as either X or Zero from the start. Each had their own story campaign, different bosses to fight, and weapons to collect. While not entirely game-changing, Zero did play pretty different from X so you had to alter your strategy accordingly. Also, pound for pound but I think X4 has the best soundtrack of any Mega Man game.

#6: Kirby’s Adventure (Kirby)

This is actually a pretty close tie between Adventure and Dream Land 2. DL2 had about ten abilities you could get but with the animals all using them in different ways, it seemed like a more expansive game. I still think Adventure edges it out though in just the vast amount of abilities you can get. Some of them are completely overpowered like UFO or Freeze, while some are just gags, like Sleep or Bounce (partially, at least). Plus, it was just a fun game, it vastly expanded what Kirby can do by actually giving him the copy ability, which the first Kirby game didn’t have at all. The original Kirby’s Dream Land is a good game but Adventure is where almost all other Kirby games are based on.

#5: Ultra Street Fighter 4 (Street Fighter)

Man, they cranked out a lot of Street Fighter games over the years. If you go by just “Numbered Street Fighter Games”, it is 5, but if you add in all the incremental updated games and such, it’s over 20. For this one, I’ll just say Ultra Street Fighter 4 since it’s the most “complete” version there is. You never know with Capcom, they might decide to release an even more complete version later, like with Street Fighter 5, but I enjoyed the overall roster of Street Fighter 4, the look of it, and just the gameplay systems of it. Here’s hoping the eventual Street Fighter 6 is as good as Street Fighter 4 was.

#4: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Castlevania)

I have a pretty intense dislike of the early Castlevania games. They were either level-based games where you went through the castle in a (mostly) linear fashion, or more open-ended games but still had bad combat and cheap deaths. Like with Kirby’s Adventure, Symphony is the first “real” Castlevania game to me. One where you don’t immediately die if you fall off the stairs. Voice acting, amazing music, and real reasons to explore the entire castle help cement this game as, still, the definitive Castlevania experience.

#3: Sonic 3/Knuckles (Sonic the Hedgehog)

I’m kind of qualifying this as one game since it was originally designed to be a single game. Only later did Sega run into problems that necessitated it being split in two. The game lets you control three characters, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles and each has slightly different paths through the various levels. There’s also a fair amount of different levels, I think Sonic 3 has 6 zones with two levels each and Sonic & Knuckles has 8 zones but only 14 levels, meaning the game has 26 levels, give or take. There are also Emeralds and Super Emeralds to find as well, which can help lengthen the game even more. This is the height of 2D Sonic games, which means it’s the height of Sonic games, since all the 3D ones are bunk.

#2: Final Fantasy 12 (Final Fantasy)

This’ll probably incur some wrath but I don’t care. From a pure gameplay perspective I might put Final Fantasy 15 over 12, but the story is…well, “incomplete” is putting it mildly. And while I haven’t played the earlier (pre-FF7 ones) Final Fantasy games, the ones I have played have enough issues between either the gameplay or story that bugged me in one way or another. Final Fantasy 12 strikes a pretty good balance of having a decent story (if a bit slow in spots) with some really interesting gameplay. It’s not the traditional turn-based JRPG stuff but it does become really involved once you figure the Gambit system out. I actually own three copies of this game, PS4 digital, Switch physical and PS4 Collector’s edition, which should show how much I do enjoy it.

#1: Super Mario 64 (Mario)

Unlike with Sonic, Mario’s transition to 3D actually worked really well. The 2D Mario games are still great and timeless and most of the 3D Mario games hold up as well. For “the best” Mario game, I’d still give it up to Super Mario 64. It looks very primitive by today’s standards but the game is still so much fun to actually control and play. Plus, it keeps things relatively simple. I love Odyssey, don’t get me wrong, but at a certain point the levels are almost too big or complicated and it becomes a real hassle just trying to 100% them. Each environment in Mario 64 just has 7 stars, 6 to actually do, and one where you need to collect 100 coins in the level. There are other hidden stars in the castle but most of the actual stars are fairly easy to get since the game hints about where they are. I’ll always have fond memories of playing this game.
For comments, list your favorite games in a franchise and why.

Next Issue
Top 8 Recent JRPGs