We’re living in a golden age of video games, where established franchises have roots that go back decades and gamers have more choice than ever to dive into epic, multi-game classics. According to the thousands of people who registered their votes on Ranker, here are the 30 best video game franchises of all time.
One of the bestselling PC series of all-time, Diablo’s action RPG, hack-and-slash gameplay have made it a fan-favorite for years and have helped keep Blizzard as a studio that is revered by gamers.
Sony’s Playstation-exclusive adventure series preys on our love for Indiana Jones-style adventures, but playing through huge actions sequences as we globetrot the world for treasure as the infamous Nathan Drake makes it so we don’t mind at all.
The classic puzzler has seen many iterations over the years, but the core concept almost always remains the same — use blocks to create full lines without getting overwhelmed. Tetris’ soundtrack alone should earn it a spot on this list.
27. Pac Man
What more can we say about this little yellow chomper and his wife, both of whom have remained staples of the arcade since the arcade was invented? When a video game character becomes a significant figure in pop culture, you know there’s something special about his franchise.
26. Star Fox
Nintendo’s foothold in the space fighting flight simulator is entirely thanks to Star Fox and his crew of animal kingdom pilots. Early games in the series feature a signature style of polygon graphics that made Fox’s space dogfights feel positively futuristic. Recent missteps with the series haven't kept fans from ravenously demanding more. With Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch, finding serious success, we expect to see more Star Fox in the near future.
Ken Levine’s reality twisting first-person adventures mix high sci-fi with touches of turn-of-the-century style. The end result is a series of hard-boiled shooters that will test your thumbs and blow your mind.
24. Resident Evil
Horror to the max, Resident Evil doesn’t just take the cake for cheap thrills, it’s also the pinnacle of zombie terror that you’ll keep with you long after finishing the games. The story of Alice, Umbrella and a huge cast of other characters gets fleshed out over the course of more than a dozen games and over two decades.
23. Call of Duty
Since its debut as a WW2 shooter, Call of Duty has taken us to almost every warzone of the past century... and even beyond. Not only have COD campaigns been set in every conceivable era and location, the franchise’s online deathmatches have set a standard in player-to-player combat, with COD Championships becoming a yearly event where pro players can make serious bank. Of course, if you’re looking for a few new ways to insult someone’s mother, the COD community is happy to oblige you on that front, too.
22. God of War
Sony’s mythologically inspired action-adventure series is held together by two things: fantastic, action-packed combat and a hulking, tattooed man-god named Kratos. Kratos’ story has brought us all the way through the time of the Greek gods and, with his upcoming entry into the series, looks like he’ll take a turn for the Norse. Consider us stoked.
Kirby’s one of the more oddball characters to grace this list, but Nintendo has put him to work for a long time, sucking up enemies and stealing abilities all along. His platformers have been a testament to Nintendo’s abilities for years, and he’s a badass in Smash Bros to boot.
20. Mass Effect
The sci-fi space saga continues having a devout fanbase despite some of its more recent missteps. Still, Commander Shepard’s story, regardless of how you chose to play it, took us on a galactic romp that we won’t soon forget.
19. Kingdom Hearts
Mixing Disney characters with Final Fantasy was a perfect formula for success, and the Kingdom Hearts games, regardless of how many “remixes” they make, are all top notch in terms of quality and how much time they’ll suck from your life. If only Square Enix would give us a date for Kingdom Hearts 3, this would probably be even higher on the list.
18. Tomb Raider
Lara Croft’s adventures have gotten all kinds of treatment in video game history. From the pointy boobs of the early years to the super realism of the recent reboots, Lara’s treasure hunting have been a delight throughout.
17. Street Fighter
One of the most revered fighting games ever made, Street Fighter sets the bar for one-on-one competition in the video game world. While innovations like combos and supers have enhanced the series over the years, the core gameplay remains largely unchanged and the cast of characters are still familiar. Good thing, too. Without Chun Li in our lives, we don’t know what we’d do.
16. Assassin’s Creed
The speed at which the Assassin’s Creed has grown from new IP to legitimate classic franchise is staggering. The original game, set in the crusades, was a novel piece of brilliance, blending history, open-world parkour, hand-to-hand combat and a terrific story told through great looking cut-scenes. When Ezio was introduced and the series jumped to the Renaissance, we were impressed. Now, several games and eras later, AC is a proper phenom and we’re glad to see Ubisoft digging deeper for the future of it.
15. Crash Bandicoot
Sony’s de facto mascot never quite reached the level of fame that a certain plumber has but, nonetheless, there’s a soft spot in many hearts of Crash and his antics. With a reissue of his games having just come out and reigniting the love for Crash Bandicoot, we’re hoping to see more from Crash soon.
14. Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong may have begun is video game tenure as a surly villainous version of King Kong, but his own outing in DK Country, along with the addition of his family, have made some of the best platforming games on Nintendo’s consoles throughout the years.
13. Mega Man
The game franchise that taught us the importance of using the right tool for the job, Mega Man’s story and wide cast of characters, including his boss nemeses, have been some of the most important and beloved games ever.
One of Nintendo’s best franchises also happens to be helmed by a badass woman. Samus Aran is one of the first female video game heroes and her adventures battling Mother Brain, among others, have stolen plenty of hours from us over the years. We don’t mind in the least. If Nintendo keeps giving us excellent Metroid games, we’ll sure as shit keep playing them.
The post-apocalyptic stylings of the Fallout series are enormous triumphs of video game design and gameplay. The vast world populated with countless NPCs and a dark humor have kept fans’ attention for years, and each new game is met with ravenous fervor from the gamers who love this franchise.
10. Metal Gear
Hideo Kojima’s brainchild has melded genetics and nuclear weapons in an almost soap-opera story that has more twists and turns than even the best season of 24. No doubt Kiefer Sutherland’s own presence in the most recent Metal Gear helped push this one into the top ten, but iconic characters and immersive, stealthy gameplay surely helped Metal Gear become a must-play game for most gamers.
9. Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat’s gore and violence made it the bane of parents in the '90s... which also made it a must-play game for every kid on the planet. The geniuses behind the game parlayed that infamy into a fighting game franchise with the staying power to persist for almost three decades. MK is still a series hallmarked by gore and its signature fatalities and still produces some of the most high-quality fighting games gamers can get.
8. Sonic the Hedgehog
Every console maker needs a mascot and, back in the days when Sega was making consoles, Sonic was their go-to guy… errrr... hedgehog. The spikey, blue speed-demon’s earliest games were instant-classics, building off of platformer conventions and taking them into the future by adding the challenge of speed and the sheer joy of loop-de-looping like mad.
The first must-have game for the original Xbox has yielded a franchise so important to gaming that people are still excited to play Halo: Combat Evolved with friends. Master Chief’s outings are always incredible, as the campaigns tell the ongoing story of a galaxy under siege and inevitably come with some of the most popular multiplayer shooting you’ll find on a console.
6. The Elder Scrolls
Fantasy fans know that, when it comes to their genre of choice, few games can hold a candle to The Elder Scrolls series. If you’ve ever fired up Skyrim or made a joke about taking an arrow to the knee, you know what we’re talking about, but the fact that people are still playing Morrowind speaks to the staying power that The Elder Scrolls are known for.
5. Grand Theft Auto
What started as a poorly animated top-down action game has become a fundamental part of the landscape of video games today. GTA, as a series, has pioneered so many of the mechanics that have become standard in games, from perfecting the 3D open-world to innovating online interactions (except for those pesky mods everyone’s so crazy about) that it’s no wonder this makes it to the top five.
MarioKart probably taught us more about grieving a loss than when our grandparents passed away. From the earliest iteration on SNES all the way through to Nintendo’s remake on the Switch, MarioKart’s shell-littered tracks were a playground for us from early on. Even now, taking on friends in three laps of rainbow road — and winning — are some of our biggest life accomplishments. Or maybe it just feels that way.
3. Super Smash Bros.
The game that could keep a group of four awake for days is nothing short of a masterpiece. Bringing together characters from across the world of video games to duke it out, it doesn’t matter which version of Smash you consider your favorite, there will always be a throwdown of legendary proportions when you fire up Smash with friends.
2. The Legend of Zelda
Say what you want about Princess Peach, if we could only save a single princess in our entire lifetime, Zelda would be our choice. Link may not have the same recognizability as Mario, but his games, even though there are fewer of them overall, are always wonderfully constructed with a terrific balance between head-scratching puzzles and balls out fighting. Mario's games may be crazy fun, but Zelda games make you feel like a goddamn hero.
1. Super Mario Bros.
There’s little surprise to see the plumber top this list. With the flimsiest of backstories, it’s Nintendo’s ability to put Mario into near-infinite set of circumstances that has kept the plumber fresh for fans over all these years. From his traditional platformers to innovative 3D worlds to frantic party games to sports titles as simple as golf or tennis, Mario is synonymous with video games as a medium and, with Mario Odyssey coming later this year, we imagine Mario will remain super for decades to come.