Certain games will always mean the world to me, providing euphoric memories and offering up some of the best experiences the medium has to offer. But more than just individual titles, a series of games can create a whole new sensation. These can stand for something, share an identity, or create the expectation for a certain style of gameplay or world, setting an exciting precedent for future titles.
However, these franchises are greater than the sum of their parts. In almost every instance, there are entries that are just plain bad, but regardless, I’ll be jumping on the next installment at launch.
The purpose of this list isn’t to explore franchises that are set and done. Bioshock is one of my favorite trilogies ever, but that’s a finished series. Even if a new Bioshock game was announced, there’s no guarantee I’d buy it day one on name alone. Instead, this list focuses on games that I will always be super excited for, regardless of how many times they’ve wronged me.
Uncharted is a franchise that understands its presentation is its greatest asset. Every line of dialogue oozes with sarcastic wit and character interactions are excellently directed, giving it the feeling of an adventurous live-action film. Each actor’s performance makes these games stand out, and although the story is usually not great, it’s how each character’s personality contributes to the plot that makes this series work.
The climbing sequences and explosive platforming sections are linear, but the smooth animation and gorgeous vistas provide a feeling you can’t find in most games. This style of game isn’t for everyone, as it essentially blends the cinematic quality of film with a third-person shooter. But this is a series I have loved for over a decade.
And if a new Uncharted game got announced, I’d play it day one. Nathan Drake’s story capped off in an epic finale with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but it’s evident that this series can outlast him. Chloe Frasier and Nadine Ross starred in their own spin-off entry, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, effectively proving these games can still be plenty of fun without Drake.
Ratchet & Clank
Ratchet & Clank is a third-person shooter franchise that promises ridiculous weaponry, futuristic environments set on alien planets, and a dynamic duo that is often bickering while saving the world. Villains are over the top, almost every game features an arena full of challenges, and each weapon can be made mega-powerful through frequent use. These little details are some of the staples that always get me giddy. I’d often replay these games over and over to enhance the strength of my weapons on Challenge Mode, and I absolutely love the way it controls.
After all, this is a game series I’ve followed since the earliest days of my gaming life. I’m not entirely sure if I played the original game at launch, as I would’ve been four years old in 2002, but I do recall being sat in front of a white box TV, struggling to get through every level. And for the past 20-or-so years, the launch of a new game in the series guaranteed I’d be there day one. Excluding spin-off entries like Secret Agent Clank or Size Matters, I’ve purchased (or got my parents to purchase) every Ratchet & Clank game at launch ever since the PS2.
When a new Ratchet & Clank is announced, I’ll be there. Especially after replaying and ranking every game in the series last year, including the spin-offs I missed, I’m more than ready for any new entry Insomniac Games might be working on.
Devil May Cry
The beauty of Devil May Cry is that most of its world is designed without its protagonists in mind. Each demon is pretty creepy, there’s a distinct lack of vibrancy (which is uncommon in other stylish hack-and-slashes) and the environments are derelict enough that they could be seamlessly woven into a horror game. Its sense of humor and stylishness comes from the demon hunters themselves, as Dante’s silly jokes, constant shouting, and awesome combos lighten up the world.
The reality of the game’s setting is that the demons of Hell are nightmarishly sinister as they murder innocent people, but Dante and Nero can easily turn any one of them into a pathetic joke. And of course, each character is a perfect mix of lovingly badass and attractive. These games are probably a big part of why I adore gothic aesthetics, monster designs, and horror games in general.
Not only is this a series I love, but it’s also responsible for my earliest gaming memories. I recall watching my brother playing Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64, but Devil May Cry is the first game I experienced with a controller in my hands. Thinking back to the first title’s breathtaking world that took me through massive cathedrals, intricate courtyards, and grimey sewers while battling bizarre mannequin demons or running away from a giant lava spider is so immensely valuable to me. This labyrinthian, gothic castle has so many brilliant secrets, vividly designed rooms and memorable ideas.
Most people gag when they learn my introduction to the Resident Evil franchise began with Resident Evil 5, a game I still like and defend today. And back when Resident Evil 6 launched, I was a fan of its multiple campaigns and had a blast running through each of them with a friend. Those were my only two experiences with the franchise until 2018, when I finally played Resident Evil VII in VR. Of course, it was wonderful and terrifying, easily making it one of the scariest games I’ve played in my video game career.
But it wasn’t until Resident Evil 2 Remake that this series turned into something that I wanted to dive into from start to finish. Not only is it a brilliant survival horror game, but it perfectly encapsulates the elements of what make this genre stand out. My fate was sealed shortly afterwards, as I played both Resident Evil 3 Remake and Resident Evil Village at launch. I also played Resident Evil 4 for the first time, and am in the middle of playing the first Resident Evil.
The focus on resource/inventory management, intricate level design, and little puzzles scattered throughout distinctly detailed rooms is what I look forward to between each entry. Resident Evil has always had an atmosphere that perfectly balances a ridiculous story, abandoned environments, and grotesque creature designs. It’s absolutely awesome and I look forward to every new entry.
Halo 3 is one of the greatest first-person shooters I’ve played throughout my gaming career, and it began my obsession with the franchise as a kid. Halo games feel above and beyond their competitors in gunplay, nailing the feeling of “fun” perfectly. I didn’t continue the franchise until much later, although I vividly recall enjoying Halo: Reach and ODST.
But last year, I committed to a binge of every Halo game with a close friend of mine, and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing co-op, especially on the Legendary difficulty. Running through large valleys as Covenant Banshees bomb the area while you and your friend attempt to park the Warthog behind a tree to pelt it with machine gun rounds in Combat Evolved is awesome. Halo 2, with its tightly constructed arenas and chaotic gunfights, makes up my favorite Halo campaign overall.
Halo is a series I will continue to play with every new entry that launches, especially because of how much I love the franchise’s cooperative campaigns. In fact, I have a feeling that my lukewarm perception of Halo Infinite will improve once the ability to play through its campaign with friends is available. I’ll still never get over how underwhelming its environments are, but jumping through this world with buddies will be an absolute blast.
Out of every franchise on this list, Final Fantasy is the most guilty of being greater than the sum of its parts. Some of these games are absolute doozies, but the feeling of this series is impossible to get anywhere else. They have a rabid fanbase for good reason, and at least to me, it’s about the atmosphere.
Beyond Chocobos and Moogles being absolutely adorable, the presence of specific abilities, jobs, magic types, summons, creature designs, and even character archetypes all contribute to that feeling of Final Fantasy. And hearing the classic series theme in the main menu is enough to make me tear up. Nearly every entry is beautifully bittersweet, simultaneously presenting a magical world to get lost in while boasting this inexplicable sadness woven throughout every moment. This is a franchise that possesses an unreasonable hold on its fans, but it’s not all just smoke and mirrors. Final Fantasy VII in particular tells the most potent tale in the series, one that’s full of tragedy in a near-dystopian world where corporate greed brings about the end of the world. It’s easily one of the saddest games I’ve played throughout my video game career.
Final Fantasy continues to prove it can adapt to modern expectations, especially after Final Fantasy VII Remake completely knocked it out of the park. And with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and Final Fantasy XVI on the horizon, I could not be more excited for the evolution of this franchise, even though I still have a lot to catch up on. Also, Final Fantasy XIII is incredibly underrated and I’m still in love with it.
World of Warcraft
Although World of Warcraft might not count as a “franchise” as it’s actually just one game with a ton of expansions, it’s something that I look forward to every two years. And even when this series and I have a less than great relationship, it’s still one of my favorite games of all time.
Although they’re far from popular in the public eye, every expansion does pretty well with its dungeons, raids, zones and questlines, and these make up a bulk of the content. World of Warcraft is absolutely gorgeous, and there’s a lot to love in its presentation and dungeon/raid design. But it’s always the endgame that determines the staying power for most players. Yet the way I experience World of Warcraft is very particular, as I enjoy running through each bit of content meticulously without getting caught up in the grind.
And with WoW: Dragonflight coming sometime this year, I’m eagerly anticipating having a whole new slew of zones and questlines to engage with. I’ll never get tired of exploring this gorgeous world.
Soulsborne is an amalgamation of what most compels me in gaming. This series masterfully blends brutal difficulty and a dying dark fantasy world that presents itself with a powerful somberness. Nearly every bossfight is memorable and soundtracks frequently jump between solemnly beautiful to bluntly epic. Players are encouraged to explore these desolate worlds to find secrets and emerge victorious.
I love how clever the level design can be, interconnected in a way that makes every part of the world come together like a puzzle. And most of all, these games require a balance between wit and reflexes to get through its most daring encounters. I adore how calculated the combat feels and how even the slightest move is important in determining your victory.
And unlike other games on this list, Soulsborne is something that has not missed. Dark Souls 2 is my least favorite in the franchise, but I still adore the game overall. And Elden Ring, even with all of its flaws, once again knocked it out of the park. Every game in this series is one of the best I’ve ever played, so it’s appropriate that this is at the top of the list for my favorite franchise.