What makes a video game great? Certainly it’s more than just the characters and world they inhabit. Likely it includes the intricate storylines woven together between friend and foe. Many time it stems from the game’s stellar soundtrack setting the scene for what’s to come. Perhaps it’s the pedigree of the development team behind the game itself, crafting something epic from start to finish. No matter how you define your favorite games, they are just that: your favorites.
“What’s your favorite video game?” is a loaded question. If you’ve spent a decent amount of time playing games, you’ve likely played dozens of “favorite games”. What’s your favorite video game is like asking someone what their favorite branch on a tree might be. Sure, this person might really love trees, but it doesn’t make sense when to ask them which part of this smaller object makes the bigger whole better.
“What’s your favorite video game?” is a
It’s the same with video games. It’s hard to pinpoint just one game that stands out as my favorite. To quantify which games are the best gets a bit easier when you group games together to make the playing field a bit more grounded. “I like The Legend of Zelda series” become a much easier statement to make than “Wind Waker is the best Zelda ever”.
That being said, I wanted to showcase my favorite video game franchises. It was actually kind of fun making this list! I just had to think of which games came to mind when I thought of all my years playing games. The games that persisted in my mind, the games that left an impression, and the games that I just couldn’t get enough of were the ones I knew were the best. The ones I knew were my best. The ones I wanted you to know you should play.
These aren’t in any particular order. In my mind they’re all kind of equal for what this question is asking. Enjoy!
Dance Dance Revolution
If I had to pick out one franchise that defined my high school experience it would come down to Phantasy Star Onlineand Dance Dance Revolution. I’m putting DDR on top here because it wasn’t just me that played: all of my friends got sweaty and gross dancing to ridiculous songs. A way of life is probably the best way to describe how much we would play: Even after intense swim practices we would get together at someones place to play. We threw around the idea of purchasing an actual DDR arcade machine we loved the game so much. Not just a console experience, we also played a various arcades throughout the area. Hell, I even joined my college’s DDR club my freshman year! If you haven’t played the series yet, even if it’s on a controller and not actually a dance mat, I highly suggest doing so. There’s a reason the games have been around for seemigly ever. Catchy music is never a bad thing!
Man, do I love me some Professor Layton. Holding the high distinction of being one of the only multiple-entry series in which I’ve completed every game released, the Professor Layton series of puzzling adventures is unlike anything else I played. The charming and charismatic Professor Layton is only matched by his apprentice Luke Triton. The two scholars (somehow) get caught up in absolutely massive adventures while asking everyone they see if they’ve heard of this random brain teaser. The series takes full advantage of the Nintendo DS/Nintendo 3DS’ system features, and each game packed a ton of content on the tiny cartridge. The series also has a truly memorable final puzzle in it’s second game, an incredibly heart-warming epilogue to the third entry, and a very satisfying end to the whole adventure after 6 mainline titles! If you’re a puzzle fan and you have a Nintendo DS/3DS, you must play these games.
When I’m asked what my favorite game character might be, or if someone actually asks what my favorite franchise is, I usually answer Mega Man. The Blue Bomber has a special place in my heart as being one of the earliest video game memories I can recall. I remember renting Mega Man III from a local rental store multiple times and falling in love with the music, the challenge, and the ability to copy the attacks of the Robot Masters. Ever since then, I had more than a passing interest in Mega Man’s adventures. Even his ridiculous side stories were intriguing: Mega Man playing soccer for some reason? Sign me up! Then the Mega Man X series came out and just blew me away all over again! Unfortunately Mega Man’s heyday seems to be over, but the somewhat warm reception of his classic style gameplay in Mega Man 11 give me hope for a second (third? fourth??) coming of the little robot.
Dracula – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami, 1997 – PlayStation)
“What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets! But enough talk! Have at you!”
Much like probably everyone that likes the franchise, my reasons for loving Konami’s Castlevania are musical. I think the series has such an iconic soundtrack! So many tracks are absolute classics it’s crazy to think about. That’s saying something considering one of the other entries on this list is literally a dancing video game all about music. Couple the soundtrack with some incredible side scrolling action RPG elements and you have a winner. There’s a reason the genre is called “Metroid-vania”. For my money Aria of Sorrow is the breadwinner, but I cannot discredit the truly awesome moments in Symphony of the Night. Hell, even the animated series on Netflix is worthwhile!
The Legend of Zelda
Not so much a cop-out as it is recognizing greatness. I debated on making this a list of the non-traditional video game franchises I enjoyed most, but I realized that was only an excuse to remove The Legend of Zelda from a list it 100% deserves to be a part of. The oft-heralded Ocarina of Time, the artful whimsy of Wind Waker, the multiplayer madness of Four Swords Adventures, or even the very first adventure on the NES have their place in many a gamers’ hearts. My first experience with Link was on the NES with Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. I don’t know why this game isn’t a revered as others: it’s a damn fine adventure with fun gameplay and some kickass music. Let’s not even talk about the near perfect A Link to the Past or Breath of the Wild for fear of making this list one sided. I’ll leave you with this comment on the series: whenever a new game comes out, I’ll debate on if I want to play it right away or wait. But with Zelda games I know I’m buying them the first week!
… Without a shadow of a doubt that I had finally found a game I was better than my brother at for a change.
I’ve always played fighting games. My brother introduced me to the genre when it was getting big when he brought home a copy of Street Fighter II for the SNES. That was followed up by games like Mortal Kombat II and Killer Instinct. Once we had our own PlayStation I found Tekken 3. Something about that game just clicked: While I considered myself decent enough at those other games, it wasn’t until Tekken that I thought I was “Good” at a competitive game. Maybe Eddy Gordo resonated with me on a spiritual level, but I loved the capoeira brawler and mained him first. After the amazing Tekken Tag Tournament on PS2, I found myself diving way too deep in to Tekken 4 before landing at my most-played game in the franchise: Tekken 5. Hot damn I still have fond memories of playing that game in local tournaments, destroying the computer on the highest difficulty, and saying without a shadow of a doubt that I had finally found a game I was better than my brother at for a change. So thank, Tekken, for giving me that confidence!
Computer games were never my main cup of tea. I primarily call myself a console gamer, but I do still have some computer games I enjoy. Not the least of which being Blizzard’s phenomenal hack and slash RPG series. I debated putting all of Blizzards games here in one slot, but after some more scrutinizing realized Diablo is the game series I had enjoyed most over the years. The lasting effects the game has on me stem from the lore: I just ate up the storyline of the first two games, and was so excited when Diablo III was announced. While the launch wasn’t as epic as I had hoped, the game eventually blossomed into a truly magnificent action RPG in its own right. Diablo II and Diablo III are also some of the only games I have multiple max level characters on, and Diablo III is in a very exclusive club of physical games I own multiple copies of on different consoles! I have also read some of the supplemental lore books and original stories for the series as well!
If I would call myself a snob/gatekeeper/hipster for any game franchise it would have to be Fallout. I played literally every game in the series from start to finish, first enjoyed the games when they were PC-only strategy RPGs, and fell in love with the action driven gameplay of the Bethesda age. The wastelands are still my go-to image when I hear the phrase “post-apocalyptic”. Like Diablo above, the storyline really hooked me. The ending alone to the first game was reason enough to remember the series, but the astounding transition made in Fallout 3 can’t be understated. Even the colossal failure of Fallout 76 has hope in my mind if some very specific changes are made! While I’m skeptical the series is on the downfall, I’m still very happy with the experiences I’ve received thus far from a future where we’re somehow permanently stuck in the 1950s.
Street Fighter (extended universe)
Though I haven’t played much of the newest game Street Fighter V, I still enjoy me some 2D Capcom fighting! Ever since SFII on SNES I have chucked fireballs and tiger-knee’d my way through dozens of games. My personal favorite Street Fighter is easily Third Strike, but I actually really enjoyed Street Fighter IV as well. The entire Vs. series was amazing too, with Marvel vs. Capcom 2 being my, and everyone’s, favorite. Even the offshoot games like Darkstalkers (which I now is NOT a Street Fighter game) had their limelight in my gaming history, and I am happier for them! The King of Iron Fist might be Tekken, but the king of fighting games has always, and will always, be Street Fighter.
When I define my tastes in games, I usually say something like, “I like a lot of games, but I think my favorites are RPGs and fighting games.” When I’m saying RPGs I mean more than just Final Fantasy’s, but more often than not when I recall my RPG gaming memories, I inevitably think of some Final Fantasy game. My favorite RPG overall? Final Fantasy IX makes a very strong case. A memorable gaming moment was beating the first six FF games in college in the span of three months, including beating an emulated version of Final Fantasy V at 200% speed in just one weekend. My greatest PS2 moment was purchasing the console damn near 4 years after it launched and solely wanting to play Final Fantasy X despite dozens of other classics being available (and loving it!). Oh, and want to talk about another series with a bomb soundtrack? Let’s just say Final Fantasy is the only video game franchise that has a traveling orchestral concert I actually went to! As one of the oldest representatives on this list, the RPG series would not be what it is today without the influence of the behemoth that is Final Fantasy.
Those were ten of my favorite video game franchises. When I think about my time with games, and especially when I think about the games that I enjoyed the most, it’s usually one of these that comes up. Sure, I love me some Mario and definitely liked God of War, but these previous franchises have delivered countless memorable gaming experiences for years and years. Here’s hoping they can deliver even more in the future! And here to a future where even more series’ spring up that deliver quality content such as these!