games / Columns

The Top 8 Long Running Video Game Franchises

February 9, 2022 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Final Fantasy VII Remake Image Credit: Squaresoft

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about franchises, specifically ones that are still going on to this day that are old. I’m not talking Halo or Assassin’s Creed old, those are only about 20 or so, but ones that are around 30 or so. The basic rules were a franchise has to be over 25 years old, has to had a release on most consoles (either their own if first party, or a release if third party), must still be going on and lastly should still be good. So while Sonic the Hedgehog is a long running franchise, a lot of releases and is still going, there’s about a 15 year period where most Sonic games are garbage, hence why it’s not on this list. Metroid has a different issue, games are good, and is still going, but isn’t regular enough for inclusion. Those rules set, let’s begin:

#8: Tales

The Tales franchise has existed at least until the PS1, which is when the franchise first came to America. In actuality though, the series started off on the Super Nintendo in Japan. Tales is much more of a series I can appreciate from a distance rather than I actively like, aside from one. For me, I’ve played Vesperia, Zesteria, and Berseria and found the combat to be just awkward. Like, you’re locked onto a 2D plane and your Artes (special/magic attacks) are based on directional input, but you can also move around in a 3D space, so it made it really confusing for me. Thankfully, Tales of Arise ditches this concept and is way better for it. Arise was one of my favorite games of last year and even if I’m not a fan of most of the games, I’m happy the franchise is still going strong.

#7: Madden

I’ll be honest, I’ve never cared about football nor will I ever care about football. That said, Madden is generally a good representation of it. The franchise has been around since the Apple II and Commodore 64, so that’s a fairly long time. It was initially a computer franchise first released in 1988. Then it took a small break till 1990 when it hit consoles (Amiga, Genesis, a year later the SNES) and since then it’s been a non-stop ride for 32 years. I actually can’t think of any other franchise that has been continuous like this. I imagine that this year will be some type of commemorative edition since John Madden passed away, but at least the franchise will go on forever.

#6: Kirby

Kirby is what I’d call a B-tier mascot but that’s not entirely a bad thing. Nintendo has allowed HAL Laboratory to experiment a lot more with Kirby than the usual big Nintendo franchises (Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, etc.). Due to this, while Kirby games share elements between each other, like the basic copy ability, enemies, powerups, etc., a lot of them go off in pretty unique directions. Let’s not forget that the first Kirby game started on the original Game Boy and didn’t even have the copy mechanic in the first place. All Kirby could do in that game was just suck up enemies, spit them out and inflate himself and float around. I’m honestly pretty glad that there’s been a Kirby game on every main Nintendo console that Nintendo has made.

#5: Final Fantasy

I’ll be honest, like a lot of people I didn’t actually start playing Final Fantasy till FF7 on the PlayStation 1. I had a SNES but about the only RPG I played it back then was Mario RPG, so the really early Final Fantasy games didn’t make a dent to me. I know people generally consider Final Fantasy 6 (FF3 to Americans) the best of the early ones but I tried it a few times and I couldn’t get into it. Starting with the “modern” era of FF, I’ve played most of them but generally like the more off-beat ones. Final Fantasy 12, Final Fantasy 15, Final Fantasy Type-O and a few others. Final Fantasy is still probably the top RPG franchise in gaming today but another one on this list is closer to my heart.

#4: Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat

I’m kind of putting these two together because they are intrinsically linked. When Street Fighter 2 came onto the scene, it really helped to revitalize arcades with an actual good fighting game, Sorry Street Fighter 1 fans but it sucked hard, and helped usher in a new wave of arcade games. One of the competitors was, of course, Mortal Kombat, a more realistic and violent version of what Street Fighter 2 did. Since then, both games have been general competitors, Street Fighter from Japan and Mortal Kombat from America, both have had their ups and downs, but both are still going at it and remain strong. Well, MK is probably a bit stronger than SF at the moment, but that’s just me.

#3: Shin Megami Tensei

This is more the RPG franchise that I care about. Unlike with Final Fantasy, SMT has had a much bumpier road when it comes to “main” releases, the fact that Shin Megami Tensei: V hit the Switch should tell you that. The franchise originally started on the MSX and the original Megami Tensei game predates Final Fantasy by five months, coming out in July of 1987 while FF was in December of the same year. While Final Fantasy has had a hit or miss English history, the original SMT games only started hitting America with SMT: Nocturne (SMT: 3), two on the 3DS and one on the Switch. However, the core SMT franchise has launched a few other franchises like Persona, Devil Summoner, Digital Devil Saga and so on, while Final Fantasy has had a few one or two-off spinoffs, it’s had nothing like that. For me, I just generally enjoy the mechanics in a SMT game more than a lot of Final Fantasy games, but that’s a subjective thing.

#2: Legend of Zelda

When it comes to action-adventure games, The Legend of Zelda is still among the best in the genre. Not every Zelda game is perfect, but of the 25 or so “main” Zelda games, only one or two that are clunkers. Those are, of course, Adventure of Link and Twilight Princess. Combat always feels good in Legend of Zelda, there are elements of progression and exploration as you find a new item that helps unlock secrets and new paths for you to find even stuff in. Plus, most games generally do just keep a fairly simple story going, “Find Zelda, get Master Sword, rescue her from Ganon/Ganondorf, roll credits, the end.” While some Zelda games do tinker with this formula, they are generally follow it if you boil it down enough. Nintendo is still the king at making games for people of all ages, as you might expect with this and the next pick.

#1: Mario

The funny thing is, Mario isn’t the oldest Nintendo franchise, that would probably be Donkey Kong, and it’s not the most profitable, that’s Pokemon (by a LONG mile), but Mario is still probably the most popular and consistent franchise. To date, I think there’s only been one “bad” (I say bad because I didn’t like it) entry in the mainline Mario franchise and that is Mario Sunshine. Even play it on the Switch collection, I just didn’t like the FLUDD mechanics or a lot of the combat. That said, every other Mario game is on point, Super Mario World, Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Bros. 3, Galaxy 1 and 2, etc. There’s been a dozen franchise spinoffs like Mario Party, Golf, Tennis, Mario Kart, Tennis, etc., and most of those games are good to perfect as well. Mario is, and will forever be known as, the king, when it comes to video game mascots and most recognizable franchises of all time.

For comments, list which running franchises you like and why.

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Top 8 Worst Consoles (That I’ve Played)

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Marc Morrison