As the generation winds down, we’ve looked at the best developers, best games, and biggest flops, but now it’s time to focus on the best overall franchises of this past generation. While several new IPs launched this generation, this list will look simply at what franchises offered the best overall experiences over the course of the last eight years. Sure, many of them are new IPs, but a few familiar faces make their ways onto our list.
As with all of our lists in this series, we stress to you that while the list strives for objectivity, the selections on the list are based on the personal preferences of our staff. We pride ourselves in having a very diverse set of tastes within our staff, but it’s impossible to hit on the interests of every gamer in one single list. That said, check out what we came up with and let us know your thoughts on our list in the comments below!
This is part four of a six part series getting us ready for the next generation to start. Check out the other pieces from this series below:
Part I – Top 10 Developers of the Generation
Part II – Top 25 Games of the Generation
Part III – Top 10 Biggest Flops of the Generation
Part IV – Top 10 Franchises of the Generation
Part V – Top 10 Most Underrated Games of the Generation
Part VI – Top 15 Original Soundtracks of the Generation
Extra – Top 10 New Video Game Clichés
Extra – Eleven Great Experiences This Generation has to Offer
10. Halo (2007 – 2012)
Bungie, 343 Industries, Ensemble Studios
The Halo franchise is an interesting case, seeing as how it was one of the most successful franchises from the previous generation. This time around it not only lost its claim to the first-person shooter crown, but also changed hands from Bungie, the original developer of the series, to 343 Industries. The move proved to be a good one, as 2012’s Halo 4, 343 Industries’ first exclusively developed entry into the series, received critical acclaim and has become a favorite of Xbox 360 players.
Even before Halo 4, however, the franchise was experiencing a strong and diverse run in the current generation. Players experienced the traditional Halo experience in 2007’s Halo 3, different stories set in the same universe in 2009’s Halo: ODST and 2010’s Halo: Reach, and even an RTS experience developed for consoles with 2010’s Halo Wars. Players of the original Halo were also treated to a stroll down memory lane with an HD re-release to celebrate the ten year anniversary of its release with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.
9. Call of Duty (2005 – 2013)
Infinity Ward, Treyarch
As mentioned before, the Halo franchise was firmly the king of the FPS genre prior to this generation, so it took something truly special to dethrone it. That something came in the form of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. While Call of Duty 2’s launch-day supremacy on the Xbox 360 grabbed players’ attention, it wasn’t until the advent of the Modern Warfare trilogy that it became the biggest franchise in the world. The game, which released in 2007, has remained one of the most beloved titles released in the past decade.
Following up a game like Modern Warfare without some disappointment was nearly impossible, as Treyarch found out with World at War and Infinity Ward found out with Modern Warfare 2. Both were very strong entries, but fans longed for something more. Games like Black Ops, Black Ops 2, and Modern Warfare 3 also received fan backlash, but in all truth they remained very solid entries into the series. It wasn’t until 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts that fans and critics both seemed to be underwhelmed by the offering, putting an end to the franchise’s hot streak. Despite losing its sales record to Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto 5, the Call of Duty franchise remains the biggest franchise in the industry, but it will be interesting to see how that claim is tested as the next generation approaches.
8. Mario (2006 – 2010)
Probably the most familiar face in the industry, Mario had some pretty excellent offerings this time around. While we won’t lump the likes of the Mario Party and Mario Kart games in under this umbrella (though we totally could), the platforming titles released were enough to secure a spot on our list for the portly plumber and his colorful cast of friends. The headliner here is Super Mario Galaxy, but with the sequel to that, as well as the New Super Mario Bros. series bringing the nostalgia to fans on both DS and Wii, the Mario platforming franchise saw some of its best years since its run on the NES and SNES.
Even as the next generation began, players were able to enjoy similar titles such as New Super Mario Bros. U on Wii U, as well as New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS. Because there was such a big gap between the end of the Wii’s dominance and the beginning of the next generation, many would write off Nintendo franchises as irrelevant during this previous generation, but with such outstanding entries into the most established series in the industry, the Mario franchise makes its way onto our list of the top franchises of this generation.
7. The Elder Scrolls (2006 – 2011)
Bethesda Game Studios
As one of the first major titles to release on current generation consoles, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expanded upon the successful formula of the franchise, but it wasn’t until The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that the series truly evolved to the next level. Both entries offered unparalleled exploration combined with a fantasy setting that was impossible not to become immersed in, providing players with some of the most memorable experiences of this generation.
With Skyrim, every element found in Oblivion was expanded upon, as well as a few new ones, but no hardcore Elder Scrolls player could have foreseen how much the addition of dragons would do for the overall feel of the world. With these mighty leviathans flying around, poised to attack at any moment, exploration became cautious, and even the slowest of moments had the potential to become adrenaline-pumping. The leap from Oblivion to Skyrim felt like the jump from one generation to another, but both games were well worth the playthrough.
6. BioShock (2007 – 2013)
Irrational Games, 2K Marin
The first BioShock burst onto the scene and forged a new path for what video game storytelling could accomplish. The setting was just as important as the gameplay, if not more important to the overall experience. The crack team led by Ken Levine created a new standard for immersiveness in video games, causing the title to take home VGW’s “Game of the Generation” award.
Sadly, the follow-up to BioShock was outsourced to 2K Marin, and by most accounts fell way short of the brilliance brought on by the original title. Luckily, Irrational Games resumed control of the franchise and put out BioShock Infinite, a game worthy of being called a sequel to the original BioShock. Had the second entry in the franchise been better, the BioShock franchise would have placed much higher than it did. As it stands, however, it BioShock still remains one of the defining franchises of this generation.