June 2021
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Top 10 New Franchises

It’s easy to start thinking about the “good ‘ol days” of gaming and neglect what we have now. I find myself doing it from time to time. So with the next gen right around the corner, I decided to make a top 10 list of the best new franchises that debuted this gen. In order for a franchise to qualify for this list it has to meet 2 basic criteria: It has to have first debuted on the 360, PS3, Wii OR on the PC during that time frame and it has to have had at least 2 games released. Oh, and I have to have played the games in the series as well (sorry Mass Effect, I’ll get around to you one day…). So without further ado…

10) inFamous
inFamous 2
It seems this was the gen for developers to transition from talking anthropomorphic animals to humans. First up in that category is inFamous, a game by the developer of last gen’s Sly Cooper series, Sucker Punch. inFamous really delivers the goods in gameplay, even if the story does take the occasional misstep. inFamous 2 is also responsible for one of my favorite cut scenes this gen, a quiet moment between Cole and Zeke.

9) Resistance
Resistance 3

Number 2 on our animal-to-people transition list, Resistance saw Insomniac trading in the dynamic duo of Ratchet & Clank for a much darker setting of a world overrun by alien invaders. What they kept was their fantastic weapon design, which gave the Resistance series stand-out guns like the Auger which allows you to shoot through walls. The series dips a bit in the second game, mainly due to the temporary loss of the weapon wheel in favor of a “carry 2 guns at a time” system. The joy of these games is experimenting with the weapons and finding the combination that works for you, so the weapon wheel made a more than welcome return in the third game that ended the trilogy with a bang.

8) Rock Band
Rock Band: The Beatles

What can be said about Rock Band? It was the de facto party game for a couple of years there. Heck, it still receives DLC support after all this time. And even though Activistion may have beaten the genre to death with their barrage of Guitar Hero releases, Rock Band still stands in a class of its own.

7) Assassin’s Creed
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Assassin’s Creed was one of those early games this gen that promised a lot, and then promptly disappointed most everyone when the original game released. But UbiSoft was not giving up that easily, and they followed the original up with Assassin’s Creed II, a phenomenal game that’s one of the best released this gen. And while the formula might have been growing a bit stale by the time Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the fourth entry in the series, was released last year, this year’s Assassin’s Creed III looks to breath new life into the franchise once again with a radical new setting and new gameplay ideas.

6) Dead Space
Dead Space

Dead Space took all of the best parts of the Alien franchise and put you right smack in the middle of it, kicking and (usually) screaming. The game’s developers have a knack for creating atmosphere like few others, and cranked that to 11 with Dead Space 2. Visceral Entertainment has proved that action and horror can work together, and I fully expect them to remind everyone of that with the release of the third game in the series next year.  Another notable thing about the first Dead Space was how it fully integrated the HUD and menus into the game world, keeping you immersed in the setting no matter what.  No escape.

5) Batman: Arkham Asylum / City
Batman: Arkham City

Sure, it can be argued that Batman has been around forever, but never in games like these. The Arkham franchise has set the gold standard for superhero games, but even more than that they have raised the bar for action / adventure games period. The love the developers have for all things Batman shines through in the meticulous details hidden in each game – virtual love letters to the Bat. Anyone who ever dreamed of playing as the Caped Crusader in a video game was dreaming of these games.

4) Uncharted
Uncharted 2

Now we’re getting to the hard stuff – the ranking of the top 5 was pretty difficult for me, and I could see arguments for any of these being rearranged. The bottom line is they’re all fantastic and deserve to be played by all gamers. In the end, Nathan Drake climbed above others such as the Arkham games because without him, they probably wouldn’t have existed. Naughty Dog defined the action / adventure blockbuster game this gen with the Uncharted series. Every bit as much an experience as a game, they are all shining examples of what video games can be. Even my personal least favorite, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, is better than the majority of other games released.

3) Borderlands
Borderlands 2

Question: Why did it take so long for someone to combine the insanely addictive loot system of Diablo with a first person shooter? Better question – should they have? Because the addictive force they’ve unleashed by doing so is currently bringing gamers to their knees. This is only made worse by the twisted sense of humor of the games and the incredible cell-shaded style the world of Pandora is rendered in. It may not be the most thought-provoking entry on this list, but it’s hands-down one of the most flat-out fun. And in the end, isn’t that why we play games?

2) Portal
Portal 2

This is a triumph. There, now you’re singing the rest of that song, and probably even craving a piece of cake. So I ranked it at #2 because of the hugely popular memes it inspired, right? Hardly. Puzzle games are a dime a dozen, but it takes true artistry to construct puzzles in such a way that they aren’t overly frustrating yet you still feel like a genius once you discover the solution – as if you’ve done something that no one else has thought of doing. Now, imagine 2 games that do that consistently and are filled to the brim with some of the funniest, most clever writing seen in a video game…well, ever and you have a franchise that’s almost too good to be true. Oh, but it is!

1) Bioshock
Bioshock 2: Minerva's Den

Quick, who wrote Atlus Shrugged? That’s right, it was Ayn Rand. Now how many of you knew that before Bioshock came along? Ok, ok, put your hand down smarty-pants. My point is, thinking that a video game could condense the social and political commentary of a massive book like that and make something that was not only understandable and thought provoking but also wildly fun – well, that was just crazy talk. I mean, video games are all Pac-Man and Doom, right? They’re not supposed to make you think about anything real – are they? I know many considered Bioshock 2 a step down from the first, but I am not in that group – I loved every minute of my return to Rapture, and the fantastic Minerva’s Den DLC was just icing on the cake. Everything these games are – the wonderful, highly detailed setting, the interesting characters and thought-provoking storylines, the fast-paced action and RPG-like overtones – combine to make this my absolute favorite new franchise of this generation. And we still have Bioshock: Infinite to look forward to next year.

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