December 4, 2006 - The videogame industry is built on franchises. Whether it's Lara Croft, Mario or Madden, franchises dominate store shelves. Though some may complain that there are too many sequels, many of the greatest games in history are one piece of a larger franchise. To honor the importance of these ongoing sagas, the IGN editorial brain trust has voted for the Top 25 Videogame Franchises of all time.
When voting, editors were asked to consider the overall importance of the franchise, the strength of its library of titles and the excitement for future games in the series. None of the editors agreed completely, as personal favorites earned higher votes from some. When it comes to games, what you love (and have fun playing) is always going to have some sway in your vote.
Each day this week we'll reveal five more games on the list, leading up to Friday's crowning of the #1 videogame franchise. We hope our list sparks as much debate amongst gamers as it did among the editors. If you're really riled up, post your thoughts on [Register or Login to view links].
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When Virtua Fighter hit the arcades, jaws dropped. The fighters lacked any true definition by today's visual standards, but this was in 3D. Over time, the series evolved into the most demanding of brawlers. The button-mashing of Dead or Alive and Soul Calibur did you know good in Virtua Fighter. You needed to know your combos, fight intelligently and practice, practice, practice. Technically, Virtua Fighter was responsible for Shenmue, as it was initially planned as a Virtua Fighter RPG. To date, no other 3D fighter has equaled VF in terms of difficulty and depth.
When Gordon Freeman shot up the PC scene in 1998, he proved the First-Person Shooter genre could consist of more than mindless running-and-gunning. Half-Life's variety of gameplay mechanics and disregard for genre conventions revolutionized the single-player FPS experience, while Counter Strike and Team Fortress did the same for multiplayer. The latter extensions of the franchise were excellent fodder for the homebrew/modding community. Half-Life 2 continued Valve's standard of excellence, and now the Episodes are making strides in episodic gaming, giving us a new way to consume videogames. The newest addition to the Half-Life family, Portal, looks to extend the franchise even further, and should provide gameplay possibilities never seen before.
Donkey Kong has always walked a fine line between a life of crime and a life of do-goodery. Originally catching the public eye in 1982 for kidnapping a certain plumber's girlfriend, an apparently reformed DK then devoted his time to helping children learn math. The 90's saw the big ape return with a serious makeover for the Donkey Kong Country series, and he's always up for a friendly game of soccer/golf/baseball/tennis/kart racing/boardgaming/basketball. Apparently tormented by inner demons, the big ape often finds himself engaged yet again in criminal activities, as in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong handheld series.
Deceptive in its simplicity, Tetris became a phenomenon. At first glance, Tetris sequels appear as little more than polished ports of the original. While that may be partially true, the little variations created new strategies for one of the most addictive games ever made. Take Tetris Attack, which offered multiplayer competition. It may not seem like much, but it helped to fuel not only the continuation of the Tetris franchise and inspired new puzzle games for years to come.
Westwood Studios' Dune II really broke the real-time strategy genre out into the gaming spotlight but their next series, Command & Conquer, helped give the genre the charmed existence it lives today. Modern weaponry mixed with futuristic designs to create an exciting theater for gaming. One of the most interesting thing about the franchise is its diversion into three unique universes. Tiberium is set in a world ravaged by an alien substance and religious fanatics, Red Alert brought megalomaniacal villains into a wildly imaginative modern sci-fi combat setting, and Generals rounded the franchise out with the most "realistic" take on combat. Also fondly remembered are the corny live-action cutscenes from Tiberium and Red Alert. If it wasn't for the disappointing Command & Conquer: Renegade first-person shooter, the franchise would have a clean sweep with some superb real-time strategy titles.