At first glance, Castlevania doesn't really seem to be original at anything; jumping from platform to platform, backtracking to find news areas, gaining experience to strengthen yourself.... but wait, that's just it! Castlevania is a very successful combination of non-linear gameplay with platform elements and an RPG stat building system. Ever since Symphony of the Night, Castlevania has successfully been able to combine these elements. While the series has had it's bumps (let's face it, Castlevania 64 is NOT a game you'd want to start the series with), the game series has maintained an ultimately smooth ride, providing a great experience for gamers all around.
Dance Dance Revolution is probably the smartest move Konami has ever made. The arcade hit, after being successfully transferred to the home console, has sold millions, and created a base of competition as real as any other competitive sport. The game - easy to learn, difficult to master - grabs you the moment you set foot on a dance pad to play that one song everybody knows - Maxx, End of the Century, Paranoia - we see 'em all the time and we can't get enough of them.
Before Pokemon, I don't think anyone wanted to admit to liking a Japanese anime creation that looked like every other one out there. But obviously, Pokemon did something right in that it became the phenominal success it is today. But beneath all the trading cards, television shows, toys sets, and comic books, Pokemon is simply a fresh take on an RPG experience; and boy does it deliver. Who can forget the thrill of finally catching a legendary bird, or using their Gamesharks to get that elusive white fluff, Mew? Pokemon has remained the same throughout its games, and while the amount of Pokemon may be getting out of hand, the classic adventure/RPG elements of the series still remain terrific to this day.
Let's face it. Sonic has seen better days. His recent spin-off titles, as well as the clunk transition from 2-D to 3-D, could have fared much, much better. But who can forget the old genesis days, when Sonic was about speed, speed, and more speed? The brililance of Sonic has been the fact that a gamer could take sixty seconds rushing through a level, and twenty minutes exploring it. And while the cast of characters may have gotten too large, the old Sonic team - Tails, Knuckles, Robotnik - remain some of the coolest sidekicks created in a franchise. Besides, Sonic is blue. Now who can argue with that?
#6: Metal Gear Solid
Before Metal Gear Solid, shooter games consited of large hoards of enemies charging at you, and you blasting them away with your gun. Reload, pick up a new weapon, enter the next room, repeat. Then Metal Gear Solid game, and that changed. It's new take on an espionage shooter, with heavy emphasis placed on stealth, was a wild success. Aside from the core element, the game features just about everything else that makes a series great; music, plot, and even voice acting that surpasses any other video game I've seen. I love it.
Metroid was certianly an odd one. A weird dude (GIRL!) in a space suit running around and blasting jellyfish? Hmmm... however, the brilliance of Metroid lies within its non-linear gameplay; a trademark for the series. Traveling to the end of the planet to grab a lousy missile upgrade, only to head all the way back to the beginning to open a door to grab an item that requires you to head all the way back to the end of the world to grab a lousy Missile Expansion? Somehow, they made it terrific fun. And let's not forget the stellar boss fights, another brilliant staple of Metroid. Whether it was fighting Ridley in Metroid to Meta-Ridley in Metroid Prime, to the Mother Brain or Dark Samus? Now, if only they'd bring Kraid back...
Ahhh... Mario. The game that defines the platforming genre. Whether it's fixing a leaky pipe, driving along rainbows, whacking others in tennis, or even painting a picture, Mario has done it all. At at the basis of the Mario games, the formula is simply: Jump from one platform to the next. So how in the world, after all these years, can Nintendo continue to make something like that entertaining? Perhaps the answer remains a mystery, but there's no denying the fact that Mario is The Platformer. Just take another spin through Super Mario Bros. - you'll see what I mean.
#3: Resident Evil
When Resident Evil was released, there was a moment in which every game developer just slapped themselves on the forehead and said, "Why didn't I think of that?" Resident Evil is, and always will be, survival horror. That's it. Since the game was first introduced on the PlayStation, gamers have always been able to enjoy the thrill of walking down a dark street or hallway only to have a zombie dog jump at them. Aside from the scares, Resident Evil is also quite story driven series, full of refrences to previous games, plot twists that make no sense unelss you've played past titles, and characters that just keep on returning, looking more and more worn out as the zombies invade their life. And with the recent Resident Evil 4 taking the franchise in a whole new direction, it looks like Resident Evil will keep the franchise going in new, interesting, and probably terrific ways.
When Zelda was first released, no one had ever seen anything like it before. A massive adventure with dozens of items to use, find, and interact with? How unheard of! Fortunately, people took a leaf out of Zelda's book, and now adventure games are full of the magic and excitement that The Legend of Zelda series has brought. The folks over at Nintendo have continuously shelled out one great sequel after another - who can forget the brilliance of having two worlds to travel through in A Link to the Past, or watching as the hero scrwed around with time in Ocarina of Time? The Zelda games have always stuck to their roots - light on plot, but big on exploration, interaction, and breathtaking environments.
#1: Final Fantasy
Well, duh. Final Fantasy has revolutionized and re-revolutionized RPG gaming since the release of the first game. With every game comes a new take on battling, storytelling, characters, and overall gameplay. And success always comes bundled with this package. Final Fantasy introduced many of the common elements of RPGs today: the Active Time Battle, the massive, uber-powerful "summoning" attacks, or the large, sprawling overworlds, if it's in another RPG, chances are it's in Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy itself has spawned its own spin-offs, and the results have been quite spectacular. Final Fantasy may not be able to offer everyone something - but it certainly has something to offer.
So that's it. Another list of the top ten franchises. There are hundreds of franchises, many of them great, so I obviously couldn't include them all (Halo, Grand Theft Auto, and Silent Hill were of the notable ones), but the series below have all changed their genres in one way or another, making them the REASON franchises such as Halo, GTA, or Silent Hill exist.
List by me frog (07/24/2006)
Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.