The end of a console generation is always an exciting time. Everyone begins to daydream about what the next round of hardware will bring and what improvements will be made. As Microsoft and Sony (Nintendo has already got the jump with the Wii U) prepare their next round of consoles, we thought this would be a good opportunity to take a look back at some of the best franchises this generation has given us. It’s no far stretch to say that this generation has been one of the best and most exciting in the history of gaming, and we’ve been given some fantastic franchises which will no doubt carry on into the next cycle of consoles.
Before we go on though, let’s make clear the criteria for making this list. The game has to have at least one sequel and it HAD to have started in THIS generation of consoles. Fair enough? Good. Let’s get this party started!
Assassin’s Creed – 81
Assassin’s Creed 2 – 91
Assassin’s Creed 3 – 85 – Read our review here
Ubisoft took a big chance on this franchise. Mixing the weird sci-fi angle with actual historical accounts must have sounded strange on paper but somehow they pulled it off. Spawning several sequels, a comic book run, live action DVD’s, action figures, and a feature film in the works, it’s safe to say that Assassin’s Creed is truly one of this generations biggest success stories. There is no doubt that this series will carry on into the next generation. The only question is what time period will they pick next? My fingers are crossed for the 1980’s. Just imagine the possibilities…
Dead Rising – 85
Dead Rising 2 – 79
Remember that George Romero movie about all those people trapped in that mall during the zombie outbreak? Yeah? Well, somebody at Capcom remembers it too because the original Dead Rising is either the biggest rip-off of that movie or the greatest homage. Whatever your feelings on that may be, there’s no denying the appeal of this franchise. Zombies are everywhere right now and by this time we have all slaughtered countless hordes of them, but mowing down the undead in Dead Rising with the vast array of weaponry was among the funnest. Dead Rising 2 continued the trend, and audiences and critics alike agreed that it was a worthy successor to the original. I can’t wait to see what new method of zombie genocide we’re allowed to perpetrate once the new consoles get here.
Rock Band – 92
Rock Band 2 – 91
Rock Band 3 – 91
Guitar Hero may have done it first, but Rock Band did it better. Building upon the well-established timing based formula, Rock Band added in more instruments and vocals to make an already addictive experience even more enticing. There was barely a dorm room or man cave in existence that didn’t have a it set up at some point. Besides the numbered sequels, Rock Band saw an assortment of spin-offs like Lego Rock Band and even a few band-specific entries like Green Day and The Beatles. Although the music game craze died off almost as quickly as it started, we’ll always have those fond memories of jamming away with our friends and hearing that same annoying Weezer song for the umpteenth time.
Mass Effect – 91
Mass Effect 2 – 95
Mass Effect 3 – 93
Oh Mass Effect, what a tangled web you weave. What started out as a sci-fi rpg that was exclusive to the Xbox 360 turned into a multi-platform juggernaut that both thrilled and enraged fans. Taking video game storytelling into new heights, the Mass Effect series put players in the middle of a dark, mature, and complex world of political unrest and big, bad space battles. The visceral reaction and hate-fueled outcry that many fans displayed concerning the ending of the trilogy only cemented the fact that Mass Effect reached many fans on a personal level that few games had before, or have since.
Borderlands – 84
Borderlands 2 – 90 – Read our review here
What began as just another gritty, realistic first person shooter set in yet another post-apocalyptic wasteland soon turned into a cel shaded, over-the-top loot fest that sucked in thousands of unaware gamers. Combining uncountable amounts of loot to pick up and a staggering array of customizable weapons, Borderlands carved out its own unique place in many a gamers hearts. The sequel carried on the tradition set by the original and upped the ante in every conceivable way making Borderlands one of the most unique and addictive franchises of this generation.
Batman – Arkham Series
Batman: Arkham Asylum – 92
Batman: Arkham City – 95
They said it couldn’t be done. They said that it was impossible to create a good Batman video game, and for many, many years they were right. Until developers Rocksteady Studios took a crack at it. Nobody saw Batman: Arkham Asylum coming, but when it did, it hit the video game world like a batarang to the head from which we still haven’t recovered. Finally hitting all the components of what makes Batman so awesome, Rocksteady crafted an experience that was dark, creepy, epic, but most of all, fun. Batman: Arkham City was a mega hit of a follow-up and continued the series’ fantastic storytelling, pitch-perfect voice acting, and rock solid gameplay.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village – 85
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – 84
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future – 86
Professor Layton and the Last Specter – 83
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – 83
Scratching an itch for gamers that most console games ignored, the Professor Layton series was equal parts puzzle, adventure and fun. Spawning several sequels, a cross-over game with Ace Attorney, and even a feature film, the Professor Layton series quietly became one of the biggest success stories of this generation not only for Nintendo’s DS systems, but for video games on a whole. The whole premise of the titles is deceptively tricky as what appear to be simple puzzles quickly turn into head scratching brain busters. Each game includes some greater mystery for Professor Layton and his sidekick Luke to solve, and each mystery comes with its own assortment of brain teasers that audiences could apparently not get enough of.
Gears of War
Gears of War – 94
Gears of War 2 – 93
Gears of War 3 – 91
I dare say that there has never been a more testosterone-driven idea than to attach a chainsaw to the end of a freaking machine gun. No matter how ludicrous the idea may seem, we’re all incredibly lucky that the good people at EPIC Games came up with it because the Gears of War series is one of the most insanely fun trilogy of games that you’re likely to find. Players control Marcus, Dom, and the rest of the cogs to quell an alien invasion that is quickly destroying the world. The action came fast, furious, and over the top in ways that we had never seen. As the series progressed, the storytelling improved to the point that by the end, gamers were as anxious to see what was to become of our heroes as they were to massacre more waves of locusts. With Gears of War: Judgment on the horizon, it looks like the war against the invasion is still going strong.
No More Heroes
No More Heroes – 83 – Read our review here
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle – 83
Without a doubt, No More Heroes is the quirkiest franchise on this list. While it probably doesn’t have the sales numbers that most of these other games have, it has quickly become a cult favorite. Grasshopper Manufacture is no stranger to quirky titles, and the adventure of Travis Touchdown are some of their best offerings. Getting their start as Wii exclusives, the original title sold well enough to get a port onto Xbox 360 and PS3 with an HD sheen. Here’s hoping that unique and niche titles like these continue to find a console home in the next generation.
Bioshock – 95
Bioshock 2 – 88
Most of the time video games can excel in one area or another, but few are able to perfect almost every aspect of their makeup. Bioshock came as close as any game has before it. Storytelling? Check. Gameplay? Check. Graphics? Check. Being freaking awesome? Check, check, check! The underwater city of Rapture invited players into a world that seemed almost as tangible as our own. Critics and players alike have agreed that there is nothing quite like Bioshock. While its sequel was typically thought of as more of the same, the upcoming Bioshock: Infinite is a good indication that this series still has a lot of creativity hidden within its mysterious walls.
Saints Row – 81
Saints Row 2 – 82
Saints Row: The Third – 84
Getting its start as little more than a Grand Theft Auto clone, Saints Row eventually garnered its own identity as a zany, over-the-top descent into unrestrained madness. Giving players an open world to play around in was nothing new when Saints Row came out but the manner in which you were allowed to misbehave in these worlds was unprecedentedly crazy, especially by the time Saints Row: The Third hit the shelves. Gamers the world over apparently appreciated the no-holds-barred style of gameplay because Saints Row has quickly become a fan favorite. Despite the liquidation of THQ, its publishing company, the recent acquisition of the Saints franchise by Koch Media will ensure that the Saints will still be marching in.
Dragon Age: Origins – 87
Dragon Age 2 – 82
What Mass Effect was to sci-fi fans, Dragon Age was to fantasy buffs. Bioware has established themselves as masters of storytelling and they didn’t disappoint with Dragon Age. Fusing action with traditional RPG elements, Dragon Age told a dark and multilayered story with realistic, complex characters set against a deep and immersive fantasy world. Some people had issues with certain aspects of the game, especially the sequel, but the game did well enough to garner several rounds of DLC and a much anticipated third entry, Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Dead Space – 89
Dead Space 2 – 90 – Read our review here
Quality horror games were a little harder to come by during this console run, but EA’s Dead Space series was doing its part to keep us terrified. And terrified we were. The first title was an unexpected success and harkened back to claustrophobic sci-fi horror films such as Alien and Event Horizon. Ammo and health packs were once again something to be hoarded, and walking around that next corner was always an exercise in sheer terror. The terror of the hideous Necromorphs was second only to the horrors that plagued your own mind as you were never sure if what you were seeing was really there or if it was all in Isaac’s fractured psyche. Action ramped up a bit in the two sequels, but unlike the Resident Evil franchise, more action didn’t mean less horror. There’s plenty of room for both in one of this console generation’s greatest franchises.
Scribblenauts – 79
Super Scribblenauts – 81
Scribblenauts Unlimited – 79
If nothing else, Scribblenauts is one of the most creative games to come out in this generation. The game plays like a puzzle game, but instead of finding things in the game to help solve the problems, you just write in what you think you need and BOOM, it’s there in the game for you to use. Scribblenauts included a staggering amount of words that it would recognize. Just sitting around thinking up words to try was as fun and addictive as conquering each puzzle. The sequel, Super Scribblenauts added adjectives for even more creative fun, and Scribblenauts Unlimited upped the ante for just about everything. Creativity is king in the Scribblenauts universe, and it stands alone as a triumphant piece of creative interactive media.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – 88
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – 96
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – 92 – Read our review here
Not content to let Lara Croft have all the tomb raiding fun, Naughty Dog introduced the world to one of the most endearing and likeable protagonists we have ever played: Uncharted’s Nathan Drake. On par with any big budget Hollywood adventure movie, Uncharted had it all. The writing, voice acting, graphics, playabilty, and cinematic scope have been unmatched since, and each entry into the series raised the bar in every area. It’s not hard for a game to excite you, but when it can excite you while making you feel connected with the characters in the way Uncharted did, you have something special on your hands. Here’s hoping that Drake, Sully, and the rest of the gang will continue to find new treasure to hunt in the future.
Portal – 90
Portal 2 – 95
Portal was first released as part of a three game pack known as The Orange Box alongside Team Fortress 2 and Half Life 2. First thought to be a fun little addition for people who bought the pack for the other two titles, Portal quickly became a fan favorite and took the video game world by storm. It did an amazing job of combining challenging yet addictive puzzles with smart writing and humor that was actually funny—a rarity in video games. The original did well enough to warrant a standalone sequel, and the formula only improved and widened in scope the second time around. Portal is one of the best surprises from this console generation and one that will certainly carry on into the next.
Darksiders – 83
Darksiders 2 – 83 – Read our review here
Oh, Darksiders… will we ever see you again? As of this writing, the future of this franchise is in limbo thanks to the liquidation of THQ. But no matter what the future holds, the world of Darksiders was a fascinating and addictive world to play around in. The original came out of nowhere and surprised everyone with its rock solid gameplay which borrowed heavily from several established genres. The sequel took the foundation of the first and built upon it, improving on everything the original had done and then some. Vigil Game’s take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was interesting to say the least, and even though we only got the chance to experience two of the four, our time with them was well spent. Here’s hoping some studio somewhere will rescue this franchise and allow us to continue to save the world from destruction.
LittleBigPlanet – 95
LittleBigPlanet 2 – 91
The platformer genre seems to have lost some of its luster these past few years, but LittleBigPlanet has been doing its part to keep it alive. In a generation that seems to have been dominated by gritty first person shooters, LittleBigPlanet shined all the brighter for its innovation. The core game and its adorable protagonist Sackboy would have probably been enough to carry the game, but the good people at Media Molecule added in a hefty, easy-to-use level editor to allow users to create their own levels and share them with the world. The cross-platform sequel continued the tradition of encouraging creativity, spurring a staggering amount of DLC and a very active community . LittleBigPlanet was a unique experience in this generation of consoles and one that we will undoubtedly be experiencing in the next.
Just look it up. There are too dang many of them.
Nintendo’s DS found a lot of crazy things to do with that stylus and touchscreen, but few ideas paid off quite like Nintendogs. No matter how cold hearted and cynical you may be, no one could resist those adorable little puppies pawing at your DS screen, begging to be played with. If you don’t believe me, just look at the sales numbers; these babies sold like tissues at a Nicholas Sparks film fest. What makes Nintendogs such an intriguing success story is how simple the core mechanics of the game really are: you get a dog and then you take care of it. That’s really it. Sure you could play dress-up and take a bath, but the core game stayed the same: take care of your puppy. I suppose cleaning up pixelated turds is just more appealing than doing it for real.
Resistance: Fall of Man – 86
Resistance 2 – 87
Resistance 3 – 83
Sony had several top tier exclusives for the PS3, and while Resistance didn’t quite reach the level of quality as some of their other titles, it still did well enough to be a worthy addition to this list. Telling, yet again, the story of mankind’s struggle against a deadly alien race, Resistance took players on an emotional, interstellar adventure through a war-torn universe. Killing off the original protagonist mid-trilogy was a bold move on Resistance’s part and added to the complexity of the story the game was trying to tell. If nothing else, the first entry deserves credit for helping Sony get the PS3 off the ground as it was easily one of the system’s most compelling launch titles.
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead – 89
Left 4 Dead 2 – 89
If there was one thing that we were in no shortage of this console generation, it was zombies. With the undead seemingly permeating almost every other game to come out, zombie fatigue certainly set into the minds of many fans. So many games watered down the once terrifying notion of the zombie outbreak, but Valve’s Left 4 Dead kept things fresh. Putting a heavy emphasis on cooperative multiplayer, Left 4 Dead was able to capture a sense of frantic action and white-knuckle terror that no other game has. Left 4 Dead’s unique multiplayer setup allowed for you and up to three friends to join forces as either zombies or survivors and compete against other players for online supremacy. Coordinating attacks and escape routes was instrumental in success and survival. This kind of gameplay wasn’t exclusive to Left 4 Dead, but no one else did it quite as well.
As with any list, there will always be a modicum of opinion within. That being said, I welcome your suggestions for further entries into this list. Which franchises should have been included and why? Let us know!