I asked System Wars to vote for the greatest video game franchises of all time, and boy, did you guys deliver. With over 150 votes gathered, spread out for 74 franchises represented, it was clear that System Wars likes a whole host of franchises- your preferences are as colorful and varied as you all yourself are.
Nonetheless, in spite of such a multitude of franchises being represented, there was a surprising consensus near the top. Above all, 10 franchises rose as the greatest franchises of all time, in your opinion. Here's what you thought were the best gaming had to offer:
10. DARK SOULS (From Software)
The newest franchise represented in the Top 10 (seriously, it's the only one that isn't nearly a decade old), Dark Souls' inclusion in this list was a no-brainer. With just two games, From Software has crafted a breathtaking reminder of what video gaming really is for the world- in Dark Souls, the focus is squarely on game design, and nothing else. Tasked to navigate a dreary world, you will die, and you will die again, but each time you die, it will be your fault, and you will have learned a little more about the rules of this world, learned a little more that will, hopefully, make it easier and possible for you to trudge onwards. From Software's Dark Souls games stand as a monument to tight game design, and really, there has been nothing else like them in a very long time now.
09. POKEMON (Game Freak, Nintendo)
Handheld gaming's premier franchise, that Pokemon was going to be in the top 10 was a foregone conclusion. I mean, Pokemon is the bastion for portable gaming- it was the gateway to proper video games for so many of us, and over the years, there have been those of us who have grown up and moved on, those of us who moved on but then came right back to it, those of us who stuck with the games no matter what, and those of us who came to the games much later, but one thing has not changed. Pokemon games are an adventure, and each new release is an event. With the enormous success of Pokemon X and Y, and the upcoming highly anticipated Ruby and Sapphire remakes later this year, one thing is for sure- for as long as there are portable games, Pokemon will be there to bear the standard.
08. METROID (Nintendo)
Metroid is the darkest, most brooding, most gritty of Nintendo franchises- it is the one Nintendo franchise that is like nothing else on the market. It is also a singular example, on a consistent basis, of pure game design, and what can be accomplished with it, and nothing else. In Metroid, the would you are in is everything, and how you interact with it determines everything as well- your progress, you triumphs and failures, and even the story of the game, which is told, amazingly, via your interactions with the world. As video games go, it's hard to get more perfect than Metroid at its top form. It's also hard to just be like it at all.
07. MASS EFFECT (Bioware)
Mass Effect was a glorious experiment of storytelling in video games, where everything that you did had a choice, a consequence, choices and consequences that mattered not just within this one game, but into its sequel and beyond. The three Mass Effect games came together to tell a stunning science fiction story, a pulpy space opera that gave gaming its own sci-fi epic. Mass Effect is truly an example of franchise cohesion- none of the three games stand out all that much on their own (the closest is perhaps Mass Effect 2), but together, as a trilogy? They provide one of the most unforgettable experiences of last generation.
06. METAL GEAR (Kojima)
The products of Kojima's mad genius, the Metal Gear series of video games was obviously going to be here- in fact, the surprising thing is not that it made it into the top 10, but that it didn't rank higher. The video games are an exercise in video game narration, and meaningful narration at that, as each game stands as a commentary on so many relevant current day political and social issues. But the strength of Metal Gear Solid isn't just in the story or storytelling (though that's definitely its key attraction)- on a pure gameplay level, Metal Gear does stealth like absolutely nothing else. From the sterile facilities of Metal Gear Solid 2 to the jungle of Metal Gear Solid 3, to the upcoming, staggering, open world of Metal Gear Solid V, this is one series that will always stand as required reading for all video game players.
05. FINAL FANTASY (Square)
Final Fantasy's star has fallen in recent years (and by that, I mean seriously fallen), but none of that can detract from what a tour de force this franchise was in its heyday, at its prime. Arguably the franchise that sold the PlayStation, Final Fantasy was once synonymous with role playing games. It set graphical standards, with beautiful soundtracks, incredible characters inhabiting mysterious worlds that were just waiting to be discovered, all the while telling deeply involving and moving stories. Over time, the franchise lost sight of what made it great to begin with and became a self fulfilling parody of itself, but what it did can never be undermined, never be negated.
04. HALO (Bungie, 343, Microsoft)
The only first party franchise on this list that doesn't belong to Nintendo, Halo was a revolution. Back from the very first game, which not only showed that shooters were possible on consoles, but also made an indelible impact on video game design, to Halo 2, which set a gold standard for console multiplayer gaming that arguably still hasn't surpassed, to Halo 3, which synthesized the strengths of the first two games, to beyond- Halo is the mascot, the face of Xbox, and as long as Halo exists, people will have a reason to buy an Xbox. Halo 4 may have been a stumble, but 343 Industries look like they are listening to feedback, and eager to restore Halo to its former prestige. Under their watch, this franchise should hold on to its position of one of the greatest franchises in gaming for a long, long time.
03. GRAND THEFT AUTO (Rockstar)
This is gaming's breakout moment. This is the moment in time that gaming grew up. Grand Theft Auto III was a landmark game, and it forever changed our understanding of what games could do and achieve. And while a whole host of me-toos sprang up in its wake, over the years, the only thing that has come close to the glory of Grand Theft Auto is more Grand Theft Auto. And sure, fans will moan and bitch about how GTA 4 was underwhelming, or how GTA 5 was ultimately disappointing, but with industry wide critical acclaim, and staggering sales under their belt, I don't think Rockstar really cares what some jaded gamers have to say- GTA is awesome, they know it, their fans know it, everyone else knows it. That's all that matters.
02. SUPER MARIO (Nintendo)
He is the mascot. He is the face. He is synonymous with gaming. The world over, people may not play video games, or know what a Nintendo or a PlayStation is, but they damn well know Mario. And they have every reason to. Nintendo's mascot almost single handedly revived and then built the modern console gaming industry back in the 1980s, and over the years, he has maintained his reputation for excellence with a series of platforming games that represent nothing but pure, distilled game design at its finest. From the paradigm shifting Super Mario Bros and Super Mario 64 to the genre perfecting Super Mario Bros. World and Super Mario Galaxy 2, one thing is for sure- you may not like the kind of game he has to offer, but if Mario is on the cover of a platformer, chances are, in will be one of the greatest games ever made. And really, that's why he will continue to reign over gaming.
01. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (Nintendo)
Let's be honest here, of course Zelda was going to win. Of course. Gaming's gold standard, gaming's premier franchise, with each release an occasion, a series of games that consistently blazed a trail for all else to follow, a series of games that has consistently, over twenty five years now, represented nothing but Nintendo's absolute mastery over game design. That, coupled with some charming graphics, iconic characters and locales, a soundtrack for the ages, and a story that grows with every single re-telling, make this, undoubtedly, the single greatest game franchise of all time- something that System Wars has agreed on not once, but twice now. Truly a legend.