The video game industry has had a huge impact on entertainment. While video games have existed for a while, the industry could be said to have arisen in the 1980s, when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) first made it big. Pretty soon, similar gaming consoles followed suit, most notably SEGA, PlayStation, the Xbox, etc.

Since the 80s, the gaming industry has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, and rivals film, television, and music. And we aren’t just talking about mainstream Triple A games. If we take a look at online gaming, gambling, and eSports, we will find that they all contribute to a vibrant and ever-developing environment.

Online gambling is especially quite popular. Popularly called “iGaming,” the industry has grown to a point that it generates billions of Euros in annual revenue. On top of that, gamblers can check out websites like NetBet and find all of their favorite games, from slots to poker.

Despite being relatively young, the video game industry has already produced some incredibly iconic characters and franchises. In this article, we are going to go over some of the most popular video game franchises of all time.

The Mario Franchise

There is absolutely no denying that the little, chubby, red-hatted plumber is the most iconic video game character of all time. The platformer series released by Nintendo is certainly most gamers’ first ever game. It is so popular, that describing the game seems redundant.

But, for anyone who may not have heard of Mario, the franchise spans decades, as well as dozens of games. It is largely a 2D platformer. However, installments also include 3D platformers, RPGs, and even a racing game franchise, which has become incredibly popular in its own right.

The Mario franchise has seen several adaptations, including an infamously bad 1993 film adaptation titled Super Mario Bros. More recently, an animated film starring Chris Pratt and Anya Taylor-Joy hit cinemas, to overwhelmingly positive fan reception, proving Mario remains incredibly popular to this day.

The Street Fighter Franchise

In the 1990s, Street Fighter II hit the arcades, as well as the gaming consoles. The game introduced an incredible innovation into the fighting game genre. Namely, players could select their own fighter, from a roster of diverse characters, each with their own unique skills. The innovation made Street Fighter II one of the most popular games in arcades. Today, the Street Fighter franchise remains incredibly important. Many consider Street Fighter II one of the best games of the 1990s.

The face of the franchise is Ryu, a karate practitioner who has mastered the magic of Ki in order to enhance his physical abilities. He competes against fighters such as Zangief, Blanka, M. Bison, and the demonic Akuma, each of which have their own ideals, motivations, and unique fighting styles. Street Fighter, like Mario, has been adapted numerous times. Most notable are the following adaptations:

  • A 1994 film which many consider “so bad, its good”
  • A 2009 film which most consider “so bad, its bad”
  • A 1994 Animated film which many fans seem to enjoy

The Pokemon Franchise

A list like this would be incomplete without the Pokemon franchise. By far one of the most important, popular, and beloved video game franchises, Pokemon has won the hearts of children from all over the world. Since the 90s, a new Pokemon generation has engrossed a whole new generation of kids into the fantastic world of the franchise.

Of course, what greatly contributed to the franchise’s popularity was the anime series that came along with it. Pokemon tells the story of Ash Ketchum (or Satoshi in Japan), who travels around the world, accompanied by his friend Pikachu, and collecting rare Pokemon. The anime’s popularity may have greatly contributed to the franchise. However, that doesn’t mean the games fall behind.

Today, they are some of the most sold, played, and beloved games in the world. Professional Pokemon tournaments are incredibly popular among eSports fans, and even casual gamers have had fun playing the games.

The Sonic the Hedgehog Franchise

We discussed Mario, so it is only fair to talk about his greatest rival. The supernaturally-fast, blue hedgehog has raced his way into the hearts of many SEGA fans. To many 90s kids, Sonic was the “cool Mario.” The 2D platformer incorporated complex level design and fast-paced gameplay to create a thrilling and incredibly difficult (for the time) game. Much like the Mario franchise, Sonic has spawned several offshoots, spin-offs, and of course, adaptations.

Possibly the most popular adaptations the blue hedgehog has had are the recent live-action films, starring James Marsden and Jim Carrey as the titular hero and the villainous Eggman/Robotnik. The films were surprisingly popular and fun, and many fans and critics felt the same way. And while the Sonic franchise has certainly had some duds, most fans remember the excellent games and characters in the franchise.

The Call of Duty Franchise

Finally, we are taking a look at the first-person shooter series, usually revolving around World War 2. Call of Duty began in 2003, with the first installment in the series heavily focused on WW2. The first couple of games all focused on the second world war, covering several battles from different Allied perspectives.

However, over time, the game franchise branched out, covering different wars, such as the Korean War, the Vietnam war, the Iraq War, and even some fictional wars. Recent installments also include a “zombie mode” which sees soldiers face off against zombie hordes.

Some fans feel that abandoning the historical accuracy of the early games has done the franchise a disservice. Others believe that the franchise was never all that historically accurate to begin with, so they might as well go all out. Whichever side you fall on, one thing is certain: These games are incredibly popular.

Honorable Mentions

The five franchises are certainly some of the most popular titles in the gaming world. However, they are far from the only ones worth mentioning. The following is a list of iconic and popular games that have had a major impact on gaming:

  • Tetris
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization
  • World of Warcraft


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