Video games have existed since the 1950s, enjoying rapid development and popularity as decades pass. It’s truly staggering to think how far we’ve come in the industry, from two-dimensional to photo-realistic video games. Hell, we haven’t even seen the pinnacle of gaming yet with virtual reality still in its infancy. Video games are ever-expanding and hyper competitive as they begin to transition into a broader medium. Gone are the days of consoles functioning exclusively as a video game device. They now come equipped with Netflix, YouTube, social media apps, and much more. In fact, consumers can feasibly purchase a console nowadays and get their money’s worth without ever playing a video game.
Pertaining to games, some series have endured the test of time and continue to enjoy critical acclaim. They are among the elite in gaming for a reason, but new series have also staked a claim for this honour with ground-breaking innovations that push the medium forward. We’ll preface this list by stating that it saddens us deeply to exclude such classics like Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, The Sims, Gears of War, Diablo, Devil May Cry, and more. It’s not a simple task compiling a list of the best video game series, and that’s because so there are so many to choose from.
So sit back, get your geek on and prepare to be upset over the exclusion of your favourite series. Drop a comment below with your own top 10 picks and let the debates begin.
From a personal standpoint, Microsoft has rarely succeeded in capturing my interest with their exclusive titles…but it’s difficult to argue with the Halo series. It revolutionized first-person shooters with intuitive controls and ground-breaking online modes. What’s more, it remains one of the best series today and it’s been active for over a decade, with Halo 5: Guardians set to release soon. Master Chief is an iconic character as well, with the recent Master Chief Collection paying homage to one of Microsoft’s most popular mascots. With the newest addition in the series likely to be another classic, this series continues to be a model of consistency.
If your childhood wasn’t at least partially occupied by Pokémon cards and Nintendo Game Boy games, you missed out. The Pokémon games successfully replicated the addictive nature of the card games and anime series and crafted some of the most fulfilling and incredible video games ever. Booting up Pokémon Red or Blue yielded hours upon hours of fun as players attempted to catch them all and show off new Pokémon to their friends. The series continued from there and consistently release great titles, the latest being Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Pokémon Omega Ruby. These games won’t stale any time soon with its characters continuing to be staples in other classic series, like Super Smash Bros.
8 Resident Evil
Despite regressing in the newest entries, Resident Evil is one of the most influential video game series ever made…and for good reason. The original title on PlayStation flipped the video game community on its head with a haunting experience that scared the bejesus out of gamers. Its sequels enjoyed similar reception as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis remain video game classics. Resident Evil 4 went so far as to change the classic, albeit aged control scheme in favour of a behind-the-shoulder view that revolutionized many third-person games. While the entries that followed dropped in quality, Resident Evil has done enough to warrant a spot among the video game elite.
Half-Life is undoubtedly the best first-person shooter series ever made, and it’s unlikely it’ll ever be dethroned. Forget the fact that Half-Life and Half-Life 2 remain classics to this day; the series also spawned the likes of Counter-Strike and Team Fortress, two games that branched off into series of their own. Counter-Strike is still one of the most popular online shooters ever made, so there’s that. Valve expertly crafted one of the most intuitive and atmospheric experiences in the genre. And the original was released in 1998 when the likes of Quake, Duke Nukem, and Doom dominated the market. Impressive.
6 Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto is a series that just cannot spawn a below-average or ever mediocre game. Rockstar Games ensures it churns out nothing but masterpieces as they slave over every detail, filling their virtual playgrounds with colourful characters and vehicular and on-foot mayhem. It’s no wonder why this series is renowned for its consistency and impeccable presentation. Rockstar shrewdly uses comedy to make their protagonists—anti-heroes?—relatable, and it always pays dividends in the form of a complete package: a game brimming with memorable characters, an engaging story, top notch graphics, and revolutionary gameplay that blows the competition away. What’s truly remarkable about Grand Theft Auto is the best is yet to come. They only get better with time.
From the Nintendo Entertainment System, to the Super Nintendo, to the Nintendo Game Boy, to the Nintendo 64, to the Nintendo GameCube, to the Nintendo Wii, and finally the Nintendo Wii U, Super Mario just refuses to wither away with time. There are countless classics in series, including the originals on NES and the memorable Super Mario 64. Super Mario Galaxy has enjoyed critical acclaim while the newly released Super Mario Maker has also received glowing reviews. People absolutely love Mario and there’s no reason to believe he’s going away any time soon. He’s perhaps the most iconic character in all of gaming, so love him or hate him, he’s here for the long haul.
Uncharted is the epitome of high-octane action with superb presentation. Each entry in the series displays top notch graphics that few games are capable of matching, and the voice acting and gameplay are unparalleled in the genre. It has become PlayStation’s crowning achievement, with developer Naughty Dog becoming one of the best in the business. If The Last of Us becomes a series as well, it may well propel itself toward the top of this list. With Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End set to release soon, there is little doubt that Naughty Dog will release yet another masterpiece to extend their legacy.
Fallout prides itself on post-apocalyptic settings full of quirky characters and moral choices that can drastically change the outcome of the game. It’s these choices that allow Fallout to shine, presenting players with robust customization options and character interactions that breed wholly satisfying outcomes. It’s a subjective experience, for the most part, and that’s why Fallout is so special. It’s an eccentric, ironically beautiful wasteland full of possibility, and you never know what you might run into next, whether it’s bounty hunters after your head or a wandering survivor seeking help—or luring you into a trap. Expect Fallout 4 to be nothing less than a classic.
2 The Legend of Zelda
Whether you’re on Team Xbox, Team PlayStation, or Team PC, Nintendo deserves praise for its crown jewel, The Legend of Zelda. If you’re not a fan, well, you’re probably a bad person. Nearly every entry in the series is a masterpiece. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask still stand as the best in the series, in this writer’s opinion, but there are so many quality titles within The Legend of Zelda. The series boasts memorable musical scores and gameplay with challenging dungeons and subsequent bosses. The newest entry, The Legend of Zelda Wii U, will be the first in the series that runs natively in high-definition—The Wind Waker had an HD remake. Sold.
1 Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid is the best video game series ever made. Period. Konami and creator Hideo Kojima have consistently released masterpieces under the Metal Gear Solid nameplate for well over two decades. Let that sink in for a moment. Metal Gear Solid is renowned for its colourful characters, convoluted yet engaging plot, and superb stealth action gameplay. Solid Snake, Liquid Snake, Big Boss, Raiden, Volgin, Gray Fox, Psycho Mantis…these are just some of the characters in the series who are chock-full of detail and bursting with life. The sheer lunacy brazenly presented in the series is one of its most charming traits as it effortlessly shifts between silliness to emotionally charged moments. When you boil it down, Metal Gear Solid is as its best when it forces you to invest in its larger-than-life characters, making you beg for the series trademark cut scenes, which can run for the better part of an hour at times.