Top 10 Video Game Dynasties
10. Mortal Kombat
The eternal tournament set up by the Elder Gods to protect Earthrealm comes in at number ten on my Top Ten Video Game Dynasties list, and for good reason. Mortal Kombat, with all of the over-the-top violence and bloody dismemberment, brought forth a new ratings system. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) would not be around today had it not been for the controversy surrounding such acts as Sub-Zero’s classic spine-rip fatality or Johnny Cage doing a split and punching the other player between their legs.
Along with the Street Fighter franchise (not making the list on the basis that Mortal Kombat movies are and always will be better than Street Fighter movies), Mortal Kombat heralded in a new gaming staple: the fighting genre. There had been games done in similar style before, but they were not nearly as fluid, polished, or as controversial. Controversy breeds press, press breeds sales, and Mortal Kombat, most recently released in 2011, shows no signs of slowing down.
9. Metal Gear Solid
The first Metal Gear game was released in 1987 by Hideo Kojima for the MSX2 computer. The overhead view and game-recommended sneak tactics made the first entry in the Metal Gear Solid series arguably the first stealth action game ever made, and went on to have sequel after fantastic sequel.
While many dislike the Metal Gear games, citing their “weird humor” and unarguably long cut scenes, I have to disagree with their sentiments. Metal Gear Solid has given me some of the best gaming moments of my career, from fighting Psycho Mantis (a boss who could read your system’s memory card and comment on what games you had been playing), sneaking through a giant Arsenal Gear as a naked Raiden, sniping The End from two hundred yards in the woods, or simply hiding out in a cardboard box while guards cautiously search the area, question marks hovering above their heads. Hundreds of hours of excellently voiced characters and fluid motion captured video, arching plot lines that are more full of twists than ABC’s Lost and the Cube movie combined, and one other thing: Giant, killer robots. Oh, cybernetic ninjas too.
8. Elder Scrolls
To look at Bethesda Softworks now, you wouldn’t think that the company got their start making sports games primarily. It wasn’t until Elder Scrolls: Arena that Bethesda finally found their true calling: In-depth RPG adventures where player choice and progression have everything to do with experience.
With five main games, six expansion packs and four spin-offs, Bethesda has built a world that’s as richly detailed as it is beautiful. Scattered everywhere are books, notes and clues to the past, fleshing out the game’s history for anyone who cares to look. Games like Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim are constantly referenced in “best games of all time” conversations.
The level of player choice is unparalleled. You can make any type of character imaginable using the races and sliders provided, and live out that character’s life in any way you choose. Personally, the last time I played Skyrim I made a simple Breton blacksmith. He wasn’t a hero, he never answered the call of the Greybeards, he simply traveled from cave to cave with his pickax and mined for ore. The ore was either turned into armor and sold, or simply traded away for goods such as furs or food. It was a simple life, until my Breton was attacked in the woods by a Frost Troll. That was the day he faced death for the first time…the story could go on and on. That’s what is beautiful about the Elder Scrolls: You make your own story.
7. Grand Theft Auto
Speaking of re-defining genres, where would we be today without Grand Theft Auto? Specifically, where would we be today without Grand Theft Auto III?
Grand Theft Auto III was a triumph, plain and simple, a mastermind’s anthology produced by the enlightened folks at Rockstar Games and the formerly-titled DMA Design. Taking Grand Theft Auto 2’s top down view and replacing it with a third person perspective, Rockstar Games wrote the formula on the open world third-person way of presenting games.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas both made large strides to improve on the formula, and inspired dozens of copycat games, including the True Crime series and the Saints Row franchise.
Grand Theft Auto V is due out September of this year, and promises to be the most ambitious GTA game yet. With three main protagonists, the largest land area Rockstar has ever created, the ability to switch characters on the fly, the return of planes, and so much more, it’s all but guaranteed that the next Grand Theft Auto will proudly continue the namesake’s legacy.
6. Call of Duty
When you go over to your friend’s house, what is he playing when he’s sitting straight up, yelling into his headset, and surrounded by discarded cans of Mountain Dew? Call of Duty, of course! This brand has spread like wildfire. Call of Duty has spread to all corners of the globe. Beginning on the PC, Call of Duty used to focus on World War Two, dropping the player in such situations as piloting a pontoon boat through Pearl Harbor while the Japanese drop bomb after bomb, exploding carriers all around you. Since 2008, however, the series has switched focus to Modern Warfare, a theme encompassing all the modern conflicts of the times.
The most impressive thing about Call of Duty, and the reason it is on this list, is not the single player campaign, however, it’s the multiplayer. Besides World of Warcraft there is no stronger solid multiplayer entity than Call of Duty players. This can be attributed to many factors, such as strong multiplayer game variants, a rewarding leveling system, and fun, balanced maps.
While Call of Duty players are sometimes looked down upon because they are not “serious gamers,” it is hard to argue with the fact that if a game can sell a system to someone who doesn’t play any other games, it must be fairly good. The recently released Black Ops grossed over $500,000,000 within the first twenty-four hours of it’s release, making it the biggest entertainment launch of all time.
5. SimCity (The Sims)
SimCity was released in October of 1989 for various personal computers and game consoles. The brainchild of Will Wright (creator of the 2011 game Spore,) SimCity was the first ever city building game. Since then it has produced multiple sequels and spinoffs, including the best-selling franchise The Sims.
SimCity games speak to the inner god complex that lurks somewhere deep down inside of us. The ability to create entire towns from scratch, to build and destroy as you see fit, to govern over every city detail with an iron fist and reduce it to ruin at a moment’s notice, it’s a good, eerie feeling. Wright has been noted saying SimCity was inspired by reading ‘The Seventh Sally’, a story by Stanislaw Lem involving an engineer creating a small city with artificial citizens for a crazed tyrant to oppress, and sometimes that’s exactly how you feel.
If it wasn’t for SimCity, many games such as Age of Empires or Warcraft may have not ever been made. The idea of balancing your progression based on how fast you can acquire resources, a staple in most city building games, was not around until SimCity, and Will Wright created it. Let’s just hope EA gets the servers for the new, online and incredibly ambitious SimCity working right.
4. The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda is over 25 years old now, and it still doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. From the original game, to the stellar Super Nintendo’s A Link to the Past, to Nintendo 64’s Ocarina of Time, to Wind Waker and Twilight Princess and beyond, every game that is released with the Legend of Zelda title comes with an understood level of polish. Featuring catchy, majestically-themed music in each iteration, Legend of Zelda is the world’s best opera story.
Link, our voiceless savior, the Hero of Courage, has time and time again protected the Kingdom of Hyrule from the evil foe Ganon, usually with the help of Princess Zelda, heir to the throne. Helping him on his mythical quests are his trusty sword and shield, one forged by the goddesses themselves to defeat evil, the other bearing the crest of his ancestors. Along his journey he meets with many different races, helping each one to the best of his abilities.
Link is the quintessential hero, always on the side of good, always doing what he knows in his heart is right. Even when drawn into the strange land of Termina, where everyone was pretty much already dead due to the falling moon scheduled to land in three days time, Link’s pure spirit persevered, and he saved them.
The Legend of Zelda is a legend in the gaming industry in and of itself, and with the recent WiiU news of a Wind Waker HD release, a new Zelda game can’t be too far away.
3. Final Fantasy
The Final Fantasy series is one of the most renowned game dynasties worldwide, having sold over one hundred million units since its debut in 1987. While most of the games are stories that are independent of each other, each new iteration bringing new heroes and villains, each game features elements unique to Final Fantasy games. Recurring themes include character names (Cid!), the use of deadly summons to destroy your enemy in battle, and a large breed of ride-able chicken known as Chocobos.
Final Fantasy games are large in scope and in content. Often involving some sort of ‘random encounter’ system to facilitate unscripted battles, the game alternates between many different player views, including a world map, battle scene, and town or dungeon areas. These random encounters serve to ‘level up’ players who are not yet strong enough to beat the monster needed to proceed.
Published by the company Square Enix, formerly SquareSoft, and before that, Square, Final Fantasy has been turned into a multiplatform franchise that includes movies, CG television shows, comic books, and toy sets. Series fans will always argue over which game in the series is the best (personally, I like FFX the best, with VI as a close second, but no one agrees with me), but what everyone can agree on is that, after they’re done milking Lightning for all she’s worth, I can’t wait for a brand new Final Fantasy game on a next generation console.
2. Super Mario
This one is a no-brainer. Mario is so well known and the history of him is so entwined within gaming roots that it’s almost impossible for me to write anything about that little red plumber that hasn’t already been written a million times over. Suffice it to say, I love Mario games.
My favorite Mario game is Super Mario World for the SNES. I remember how much I tried to perfect cape flying, how I searched up and down for more ways to get to the secret star world, how INCREDIBLY HARD the bonus world was, and just how many expletives I could think of while trying to walk on ice levels.
Mario touches all of us in the way that Disney always wanted Mickey Mouse to do. The music, the sounds, the enemies, the inevitable kidnapping of Princess Peach, it’s all part of a plot that we already know, and we don’t want it to change too much. Super Mario Galaxy brought us into a whole new generation, and I will be interested to see what kind of brand new project is in the works to utilize the new dual-screen feature that Nintendo now possess.
The number one spot on any list is always a hard spot to fill. On a Top Ten Video Game Dynasties list, it’s almost impossible. I wrestled with this in my head for a long time, not wanting to choose Mario because it’s too obvious, and not wanting to choose my favorite game series of all time (Mortal Kombat) because that would be biased.
I chose instead to leave this space blank, and ask for readers to fill in their own number one in the Reply Box below. Should it be Mario, or Zelda, or another game I already mentioned? Should it be one that I left out? Madden, Need for Speed, Street Fighter, Tetris, and many more are all very valid choices, and I would like to know what you, the readers, think. Remember, this is all personal opinion. There are no wrong answers.
Except for Shaq Fu. Shaq Fu would be an example of a wrong answer.