Video game franchises seem to come and go like clockwork, and many fail to make a lasting impression. However, there are certain franchises so iconic that they’ve stood the test of time, with decades of subsequent releases charming entirely new generations of fans. These are the gaming brands that bridge the gap between young and old, alike.
Some of these series started out as a basic premise that nobody thought would succeed, yet here they are, decades later. Others are rather obscure, yet have somehow managed to cobble together a diehard fanbase that keeps coming back for more. If only all video game concepts could achieve this level of success.
10 Microsoft Flight Simulator (37 years)
It’s hard to believe that Microsoft Flight Simulator has been around for nearly 4 decades at this point, but it represents one of the most revolutionary franchises in gaming history. In fact, MFS has done more for flight simulator games than any other at this point, and it continues to get better.
The latest release of the popular series boasts lifelike graphics and a jaw-dropping level of detail, allowing players to fly a plethora of aircraft around a virtual planet Earth, and land in almost any airport known to man. Players can even fly to a ton of cool locations and landmarks that are so lifelike, it’s hard to remember it’s just a game.
9 Bomberman (37 years)
Bomberman has always been known as a niche party game, but its formula is popular enough to have lasted a grand total of 37 years and counting. The idea is a simple one – trap enemies by strategically placing bombs, while unlocking power-ups to give the player an advantage.
The addicting gameplay and cheeky, fun aesthetics have been the driving elements of Bomberman throughout the years. It continues to be one of the most enjoyable multiplayer party games around and helped influence future icons like Mario Party.
8 Wolfenstein (37 years)
Most gamers don’t realize that Wolfenstein has been around a lot longer than 1992’s Wolfenstein 3D, the game that helped pioneer the first-person shooter genre, leading to a plethora of underrated 1990s FPS titles. Actually, the franchise began way back in 1981 with Castle Wolfenstein, a primitive take on the original concept, with a top-down interface.
It was a far cry even from the 3-dimensional shooter that followed 11 years later, but it did get the brand off to a good start. Over the years, the stealth elements of the original have been replaced with a run-and-gun formula designed to create as much carnage and mayhem on screen as possible.
7 Elevator Action (38 years)
For some odd reason, Elevator Action has survived the turbulent growing pains of video gaming and managed to stick around for the long haul. Its most recent release was Elevator Action Invasion, debuting in 2021. The series has been lauded for its approachable and friendly gameplay, which makes it easy to pick up and play.
Still, it’s quite a feat to see an arcade-style franchise borne out of the early 80s survive into the 2020s. The gameplay consists largely of using elevators to evade gunmen firing at the player. Invasion took that premise and added in a light gun-style formula reminiscent of games like Virtua Cop for a more modern take.
6 Frogger (38 years)
Deceptively simple yet ridiculously challenging, Frogger continues to be one of the most beloved video games of all time. Entirely new generations of gamers are still picking it up and trying to master their timing enough to stop the simple little frog from becoming red paste on the asphalt.
Many games would copy this formula, but Frogger remains the de facto standard. It’s so iconic that one of Seinfeld’s saddest and funniest episodes was devoted to it, just to pay homage. It’s been around in one form or another for 38 years, and its formula is still being found in titles like Terminator Resistance, which uses the same premise for its computer hacking mini-game sequences.
5 Space Invaders (38 years)
Space shooter coin-op games got their start way back in 1978 with Space Invaders, and it has become one of the most recognizable video game franchises in history. There’s nothing particularly special about it by today’s standards, and that’s the point. The gameplay remains its key selling feature.
Players still try to see just how far they can make it before they’re blown to smithereens, and that coveted high score remains elusive for many. It’s simple to figure out, yet very hard to master, requiring quick reflexes and even better timing in order to excel.
4 Galaxian (39 years)
Galaxian arguably achieved its iconic status due to a hardware limitation in the original arcade game, which prevented the player’s ship from firing more than a single shot at one time. Therefore, careful planning, practice, and strategy were absolutely vital in order to ascend to the higher rounds.
The original game was released in 1979 and saw its latest release in 2019 as Galaga Revenge. based on an offshoot of the original. It’s also one of the hardest classic arcade games ever released, which added to its notoriety.
3 Mario Bros. (39 years)
Nintendo’s ultra-popular mascot Mario made his debut in the original Donkey Kong arcade game, but he soon got a chance to stand on his own two feet, eclipsing the ape in terms of popularity. The original Mario Bros. arcade game came out in 1983, and felt more like a concept title as opposed to what it would later become.
The launch of Nintendo’s NES console in the 1980s not only revitalized a dying video game market, but made Mario a household name and a pop culture icon. It sold countless consoles and helped Nintendo rebrand itself as the premier video game company for an entire generation. It’s still going just as strong today, almost 40 years later.
2 Pac-Man (40 years)
There are arguably only a handful of people around the globe who have never heard of Pac-Man, and they probably live in remote jungles untouched by the modern world. The simple, iconic emoji-style character of Pac-Man created a frenzy of copycats while putting video games on the map as a mainstream entertainment option.
Pac-Man has seen a lot of evolution over the years, but the basic premise is still intact. Players need to gobble up all the pills on screen while avoiding certain death at the hands of several ghosts that pursue them relentlessly around each corridor. Pac-Man has become one of the best franchises on home consoles to date.
1 The Oregon Trail (51 years)
Few gamers have probably even heard of The Oregon Trail, but it is, without a doubt, the undisputed grandpa of video game franchises. The first installment of the series came out in 1971, and its latest release was April of 2021, proving that there’s plenty of life left in the franchise.
Originally designed to be an educational tool for children, The Oregon Trail soon mushroomed into new editions, ports to mobile platforms, card/board games, and a new chapter published by Apple. That’s quite an honor, and all gamers should check out what The Oregon Trail is all about so they can learn a bit about gaming history, and real-life history as well.
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