The current generation of gaming consoles is rapidly coming to a close. Both the PS4 and Xbox One are less than a month away from kickstarting the next evolution of gaming, which will surely offer deeper and more rich experiences than the current-gen machines for those gamers making the jump. With that being said the PS3 and Xbox 360 era should not be dismissed as just another stepping stone towards the future of gaming. For a time they were the future, and over the past 8 years both consoles offered some amazing gameplay experiences.
One trend that defined the current generation of consoles is the art of the franchise. Thanks to the turbulent environment of the game development industry a studio could release a game that sells 3 million copies and still get shutdown for budget issues. To avoid this painful process most developers and publishers opted for the safety of established franchises that could spit out sequel after sequel. Some gamers passionately despised this tactic, while millions of others embraced it with open arms and fistfuls of cash.
It’s safe to say that blockbuster video game franchises are here to stay and will undoubtedly continue in the next generation, so as the current generation comes to an end we’d like to take a look back at twelve of the best franchises that entertained gamers over the past eight years. There’s a great chance you’ve played at least one entry in all of the finalists below, so take a trip down video game memory lane and check out our rankings.
Games: Resistance: Fall of Man, Resistance 2, Resistance 3
Insomniac Games’ Resistance franchise helped to kick off the PS3 era and then continued to bolster the console’s lineup with two follow up titles. The game’s portrayal of an alternate history in which Allied Forces had to face off against an alien-like infestation of Chimeran invaders was a great setting that helped it to stand out from the pack of WWII era games. This crazy take on history allowed for all sorts of radical alien weapons to take a prominent role in the game, and they were needed to help defeat some of the game’s infamous bosses that could get as large as a city skyscraper. This is a FPS that bucked the system for its time, and the alternate take on one of mankind’s most horrific events helped to keep gamers coming back for more.
Games released: inFamous, inFamous 2
Sucker Punch’s inFamous franchise was one of the first open world games to buck the trend of criminal debauchery in favor of a superhero-like experience. Cole MacGrath may have not been the most exciting lead character, but harnessing his electrical abilities made him feel like a God by the end of the first game. Running up the sides of buildings and floating amongst the tops of skyscrapers was an exhilarating experience. The sheer amount of abilities Cole could master was impressive, and both games on the PS3 offered solid experiences. The game’s use of a karma system also ensured that both titles had strong replay value to keep you coming back for more action. The inFamous franchise will be making its way to the PS4, so it’s definitely a franchise that gamers and Sony hold in high regard.
Games released: Killzone 2, Killzone 3
The Killzone franchise from Guerrilla Games started on the PS2, but it spread its wings on the PS3. Both Killzone 2 and 3 offered amazing visuals and gritty gameplay set in a futuristic world where humanity had split into two opposing factions. Killzone 2 was one of the first games that really showcased the power of the PS3, and Killzone 3 only improved upon that feat. The story of the Vekta forces battling the Helghan was both intriguing and full of political backstabbing, which made you actually want to pay attention to well fleshed out and voiced cutscenes.
The single player campaigns were nothing short of a summer blockbuster film, and thanks to the sci-fi setting the Killzone games didn’t feel like just another wartime FPS. To compliment the campaign both console games offered deep multiplayer experiences that actually gave PS3 owners a reason to boast to their Xbox 360 compatriots. Killzone has done so well for Sony that the company made sure to kick off its PS4 with another title from the franchise, so it has legs and deserves to be recognized.
9. Assassin’s Creed
Games released: Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Assassin’s Creed 3, Assassin’s Creed 4
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise made its name on the Xbox 360 and PS3. The interesting story of a modern day man named Desmond who could relive the memories of his ancestors through a device called the Animus opened up all sorts of fun gameplay and moments. The game’s use of historical figures and settings exposed the World’s past better than a college history course. The parkour inspired gameplay motivated gamers to explore the huge cities that made up each game’s map, and the combo based attack made taking on groups of Templars a breeze.
The sheer amount of characters presented throughout the six titles is mind blowing, and the secrecy of the game’s plot definitely helped to keep gamers coming back to the franchise on a yearly basis. There’s no telling when Ubisoft will cease putting out AC games, but it’s clear that this is one of the premiere franchises of the current generation of consoles just based on the amount of games put out in such a short time.
Games released: Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Battlefield: Bad Company, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, Battlefield 4
The Battlefield franchise first started on the PC platform, but it further exploded on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The Bad Company games broke the trend of pure multiplayer action in favor of an interesting campaign full of character and destruction, but they also offered strong team based multiplayer. With the release of Battlefield 3 the franchise returned to its more serious roots and spread its wings in terms of multiplayer action. In a crowded genre of modern warfare based games Battlefield’s use of destructible environments helped it to stand out from the pack, and the visual prowess of each game was notable. This franchise may not be the COD killer that EA hoped it would become, but there’s no signs of it losing popularity as we move into the next era of competitive gaming.
7. Grand Theft Auto
Games released: GTA IV, GTA V
Thanks to the recent release of GTA V the Grand Theft Auto franchise helped to put an exclamation point on the current generation of consoles. This game made more than $1 billion in just three days, and it will surely be on most everyone’s GOTY watch list. GTA IV had similar success even though it featured a more serious tone, and is considered to be one of the worst entries in the franchise. Regardless, the street cred for this franchise is strong, and it continues to showcase why it’s the master of open world gameplay. With the astronomical sales realized during this era there’s no doubt that Rockstar will continue churning out GTA titles for both the PS4 and Xbox One.
Games released: Uncharted: Drake’s Forutne, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Sony needed exclusives to help persuade gamers to buy the PS3, and Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series was just what the doctor ordered. Voiced by the venerable Nolan North, Drake instantly became a classic video game character thanks to his Indian Jones attitude and quick wit. The use of seamless transitions from gameplay to cutscenes sparked a new innovation in game design, which led to other video game developers incorporating the technique into their own games. The lifelike visuals, iconic score, and interesting cast helped to glue all three games together to create one of the best trilogies of the generation. It would be very surprising if Naughty Dog doesn’t return to the series on the PS4, because Uncharted is hands down one of the greatest franchises to pop up this generation.
5. Gears of War
Games released: Gears of War, Gear of War 2, Gears of War 3, Gears of War: Judgment
Epic Games more or less created a new genre of shooter with its Gears of War franchise. The art of taking cover and popping off caps was perfected with Cliffy B’s baby, and the over-the-top gore and violence helped to score legions of loyal fans. The hulking characters and Locust horde provided interesting heroes and villains to pit against each other, and for a game that has chainsaws mounted on machine guns, it actually packed some heart. Fans will never forget Dom thanks to the emotional scenes he provided for them, and the entire cast of Delta squad is one of the most memorable groups of characters from this generation. It’s all about the Cole Train baby – Woo!
The Gears franchise is also responsible for inventing the horde modes now found in the multiplayer mode of most shooter based games. Taking on wave after wave of increasingly hard enemy types helped to bolster team play and multiplayer strategies. Gamers who didn’t feel comfortable competing against other humans also had a new way to maximize the value of their purchase. Epic may have lost the creative minds behind this franchise, but hopefully it’ll make its way to the Xbox One in some form or fashion.
4. Guitar Hero/Rock Band
Games released: Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero 5, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, Rock Band 1, Rock Band 2, Rock Band 3
Yes, these two franchises have been lumped into one for purposes of this list only because Harmonix is the brains behind them both. Without Guitar Hero there would be no Rock Band, so it made sense to keep these franchises together.
Both Guitar Hero and Rock Band motivated scores of gamers and non-gamers to get off the couch and become active with their gaming habits. There isn’t a better franchise for breaking the ice at a party, or giving drunks a reason to believe they could be superstars. Millions of gamers shredded plastic instruments to some of history’s greatest rock tracks, as well as modern artist’s tunes. These games helped to expose hundreds of new artists to music fans, and it served as a crash course on the history of rock. Guitar Hero and Rock Band were two of the first series to finally get non-gamers involved in gaming, which is always a positive for the industry as a whole. The annual release schedule eventually burnt out fans of both franchises, but there’s no doubt that there’s still some living room rock stars jamming on their plastic Stratocasters to this day.
Games released: Halo 3, Halo: ODST, Halo Wars, Halo: Reach, Halo 4
Many would argue that without Halo Microsoft would have never succeeded in the gaming industry, and the franchise definitely helped to bolster the tech giant’s credibility during the Xbox 360 generation. Bungie’s brainchild blossomed with a series of sequels and spin-offs that further detailed the world of the Master Chief, the UNSC, the Covenant, and even the Forerunners. Halo 3 offered an emotional tale that spawned a spinoff in ODST, which was the first Halo FPS to not feature the MC. Halo: Reach continued that trend and also offered a great story that promoted self sacrifice for the benefit of the greater good. The Halo Wars RTS experiment didn’t blow fans away, but it did offer a unique take on the franchise. Finally, Halo 4 set the bar for video game design on the Xbox 360 with its amazing CGI visuals, and compelling tale that opened all sorts of doors for future sequels.
Microsoft has already confirmed that the Halo franchise is continuing on the Xbox One, so it’ll be interesting to see how it grows during the next generation of gaming. One thing is for sure and that’s the fact that Halo will go down in history as one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time.
2. Call of Duty
Games released: Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: World at War, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Call of Duty: Ghosts
Love it or hate it, but the Call of Duty franchise has dominated in both sales and multiplayer gaming excellence this generation. COD 2 helped to convince gamers to make the jump to the Xbox 360 and Ps3, and the franchise only exploded from there. With Infinity Ward’s COD 4: MW, the franchise began an unprecedented run of financial success that kept fans coming back for more each and every year. Every new entry since the original Modern Warfare has gone on to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of copies in just 24 hours, and there’s no signs of it fatiguing its fan base. The rabid fans of the franchise’s highly touted multiplayer mode have logged hundreds of years of cumulative play time, and many gamers only play COD games because they’re that addicted to the competition each game offers.
The Bayhem inspired campaigns are always a blast, and each game has featured at least one moment that made you grin with pure excitement thanks to the insane action taking place on the screen. The yearly release schedule may make some gamers yearn for innovation in game design, but until Activision quits making billions of dollars on the COD franchise it isn’t going anywhere fast. COD: Ghosts is already slated for the next-gen consoles, and there’s no doubt that Treyarch’s next COD game will be headed for the new consoles as well. No gamer can deny the power of COD, so it’s easily one of the best franchises to grace the current generation of consoles.
1. Mass Effect
Games released: Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3
Bioware’s innovative space opera redefined what it meant to have choices in a video game. For the first time ever the decisions a gamer made in a game carried through to the sequel with dire consequences. The Commander Shepard you sculpted both visually and morally in the first game carried all the way through to the last. His or her decisions greatly affected the cast around them and the outcome of each game. The deep level of dialogue that every discussion presented helped to bring the world of the Mass Effect games to life, and the science fiction setting felt as expansive as Lucas’ Star Wars.
Each Mass Effect game featured the perfect balance of fun and addicting gameplay matched with an even better narrative. Nearly every bit of spoken text you commanded your Shepherd to speak had an effect on the character you spoke them to even if that character was a minor NPC. Spending upwards of 80 hours on each Mass Effect game wasn’t abnormal because they all packed so much content, and each offered reasons to replay as a new Shepherd to explore the renegade or paramour moral choices.
It’s a shame that the community lashed out at Bioware for the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, because the developer didn’t deserve the harsh criticism. What Bioware was able to do is nothing short of amazing, and it most definitely created a franchise that will live on in the memories of gamers and science fiction fans for many years to come. Mass Effect will be returning for a next-gen tour of duty, so it’ll be interesting to see if it can exude the same high level of polish as the first three games that make up the best franchise to appear on the current generation of consoles.
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