You Gotta Know These Video Game Series
- Super Mario: The character Mario first appeared in the arcade game Donkey Kong, in which he was originally named “Jumpman.” Created by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario has since appeared in over 200 games, including the iconic Super Mario Bros., which launched with the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. Mario, along with his brother Luigi, his nemesis Bowser, and his allies Yoshi, Princess Peach, and Toad, have also appeared in numerous spinoff series like Mario Kart, Mario Tennis, Paper Mario, and Super Smash Bros.
- The Legend of Zelda: Also created by Shigeru Miyamoto. Games in the Zelda series star the green-clad Link, who typically must rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon (who sometimes appears in his humanoid form, Ganondorf). Recurring weapons in the series include the Master Sword, boomerang, bombs, and hookshot. Much of the series’s lore centers on the Triforce, a set of three golden triangles whose constituent parts represent power, wisdom, and courage.
- Final Fantasy: A long-running Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) series, whose 15th main installment was released in November 2016. Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997, was a massive success and (at the time) a technical marvel that helped popularize the Sony PlayStation. Some notable protagonists from the series include Cecil Harvey (IV), Cloud Strife (VII), and Tidus (X). The series is closely associated with composer Nobuo Uematsu, who created the soundtracks for the first nine games as well as part of the tenth.
- WarCraft: Series developed by Blizzard Entertainment that helped popularize the real-time strategy (RTS) genre, in which players fight against each other by constructing buildings and armies as quickly as possible. The first game in the series pitted Humans against Orcs; later games added Night Elves and Undead. The 2004 MMORPG (massively multiplayer online RPG) World of Warcraft, set in the same universe, has had over 10 million subscribers.
- Pokémon: RPG series about animal-like “pocket monsters,” and the basis for the long-running Japanese animated series about trainer Ash Ketchum. Pokémon games are typically released in pairs that differ in which Pokémon are available, such as Red/Blue, Gold/Silver, X/Y, and 2016’s Sun/Moon. Notable Pokémon include Pikachu, Charizard, Lucario, Greninja, and Mewtwo. A mobile version, Pokémon Go, was released in 2016 to massive success.
- Call of Duty: First-person shooter (FPS) series published by Activision. The first three games centered on World War II, while more recent editions—starting with 2007’s Modern Warfare—have largely taken place in contemporary and near-future settings, and have courted controversy for such things as a level in which the player kills civilians while participating in a terrorist attack. The series is celebrated for its multiplayer modes, including cooperative Zombie modes.
- StarCraft: Another Blizzard RTS series, with a science fiction theme. The game features three playable races: Terrans (humans), Zerg (a single-minded collective of insect-like aliens), and Protoss (strong, humanoid aliens with psionic powers). StarCraft II, the series’s latest entry, was split into three parts whose stories each focused on one of the three races. Major characters in the series include Jim Raynor, a Terran leader, and Sarah Kerrigan, a former Terran psychic corrupted by the Zerg.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Flagship Sega franchise, starring a namesake blue hedgehog that runs at high speeds. Sonic first appeared on the Sega Genesis console in 1991, and is accompanied in later games by allies such as Tails (an orange, two-tailed fox) and Knuckles (a red echidna). The series’s villain is Dr. Eggman, known as Dr. Robotnik in the early Genesis games. Though the series has maintained popularity for over two decades, more recent games have had considerably less success than the first three Genesis games.
- Grand Theft Auto: An immensely successful Rockstar Games series that has repeatedly drawn criticism for its level of violence. Grand Theft Auto games are played in open world “sandboxes” that give the player the ability to do virtually anything they want. The series is set in satirized versions of real U.S. cities, with GTA III and GTA IV taking place in the New York knock-off Liberty City, GTA: Vice City taking place in a fictionalized Miami, and GTA: San Andreas and GTA V taking place in Los Santos, a send-up of Los Angeles.
- Madden NFL: The Madden series (which, prior to 1993, was simply known as John Madden Football due to licensing issues), has featured yearly installments since 1990 and is published by EA Sports (which also publishes the FIFA soccer series). Madden NFL traditionally features a different player on its box art each year; an apparent string of injuries to and poor seasons by players on the cover of that particular year’s game has become known as the Madden Curse.
This article was contributed by NAQT editor Erik Nelson.