Top Five Longest Running Franchises

By Andrew Ogley,
The recently announced original Xbox backwards compatibility got us thinking about really old games. Specifically, we wondered which series have been with us the longest and which of those franchises and titles are still alive and well on the Xbox One.

Naturally, we had to put some rules in place or it would be dominated by early arcade cabinet games, but we've not left them out totally. So we've decided to look at those long-standing franchises that have evolved with each iteration and are still played today — meaning that they have a recent release or have a planned release coming soon. With those simple qualifications in place, here are the top five most enduring franchises.

Shoutout to the Arcade Greats

It wouldn't be right to have a piece on longstanding franchises without giving mention to some of the titles that arguably help kickstart the home console market. Moving from the arcades into the home, those original titles drove the sales of such systems like the Atari 2600. Many of those titles are nearly 40 years old and are still played in one form or another today. Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Asteroids, and Frogger are still with us and can still provide an admirable gaming challenge. Admittedly aged and still played in their original form, we still owe a debt of gratitude to the titles. After all, who knows what would have happened without these successful progenitors of the industry.

Honorable Mentions

Bomberman Series

Bomberman was originally published by Hudson Soft for the home computer market in 1983. A quietly successful franchise, it has gone to spawn over 70 titles across various platforms including nearly all of the Nintendo consoles — the exceptions being the DS and Wii U. The maze-type puzzler has a simple premise, use bombs to escape the maze and enemies which became increasingly challenging and intense during multiplayer matches. Its last appearance on the Xbox was in 2010 with the release of Bomberman Live: Battlefest although this was made available to Xbox One players in 2016 through the backwards compatibility program. However, looking at its last actual publication date, it is a spritely 27 years old.

Mega Man Series

Mega Man first appeared in Japan back in December 1987 on the NES. Originally known as Rock Man, the title has gone on to reach world renowned status. Whilst there are only 10 entries in the numerical canon, the franchise contains over 50 games across just about every platform available. The franchise has also spawned a manga and TV series. The Mega Man Legacy Collection arrived on the Xbox One in 2015, giving it an age of 27 years (and eight months) currently, although Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 has been announced but not yet published.

Castlevania Series

Fans' interest in the Castlevania series has not waned since its original release back in September 1986. The vampire hunting family, the Belmonts, and their arch-nemesis Alucard inspired numerous titles, comics, graphic novels and feature in the brand new Netflix series which premiered just days before this article was published. The last installment of the game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 was in 2014, making it 27 years (and ten months) for the franchise so far.

The Top Five

Giana Sisters Series

Another title that could be considered a little unexpected in the list. The original title, The Great Giana Sisters appeared in 1987 on the Commodore 64 and was then ported to a number of popular home computers of the time. The game received extremely positive reviews, however, the title bore an uncanny resemblance to Super Mario Bros. and although there was never a lawsuit, Nintendo was able to put enough pressure on the publishers to stop any further production of the title. A sequel was announced shortly afterward but by the time that it was released in 1989, both the protagonists and the title of the game had changed in order to prevent any further issues with Nintendo. It wasn't until 2009 when the franchise reappeared with the DS title, Giana Sisters DS. The sisters finally reached the Xbox One in 2013, with Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams and later with the sequel Giana Sisters: Dream Runners in 2015. The siblings boast a franchise lifetime of 28 years and two months so far.

RBI Baseball Series

Coming like something out of left field is another great American sport which has a long-standing video game history, although its roots actually lie in Japan with the original game, Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium appearing on the NES in 1986. Due to its success, Atari published the first R.B.I Baseball for the NES in 1988, with a sequel following in 1990 and subsequent titles appearing yearly until 1995. The franchise then went on an extra long sabbatical before returning in 2014 — a 19 year break. Since then, it has resumed its annual outings, with the most recent, R.B.I. Baseball 17 appearing on the Xbox One in March 2017, although if the reviews are anything to go by, it could be its last. At the time of writing, the franchise has been running 28 years (and seven months).

Final Fantasy Series

Final Fantasy is one of the most revered and most commercially successful franchises in gaming history. It introduced many elements that are common in RPGs and arguably rewrote the whole genre. The series has successfully moved into other media including movies, novels, anime and comics. Incredibly, the game was actually series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's last ditch effort in the games industry. He was considering heading back to university if it had failed. Fortunately, the launch of the first title back in December 1987 was a massive success and the series has gone on to spawn another 14 numerical titles in the main franchise and a number of spin-offs across various platforms. Final Fantasy XV arrived on the Xbox One in 2016, which brings the franchise to a ripe old age of 28 years and nine months. Though they've had some absurdly long development periods, the series shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Madden NFL Series

Whilst FIFA might well have gone on to become the more popular sports title globally, it was actually the Madden franchise the was published first, almost five years before in June 1988 under the title John Madden Football. Although the name has shortened and its connections to the titular former coach have all but vanished outside of box art name recognition, it remains a highly anticipated yearly title, with this year's upcoming installment,Madden NFL 18, including a story mode for the first time, and giving the franchise a lifetime of 29 years and counting.

Wolfenstein Series

Despite being hailed as the granddaddy of shooters, it is hard to believe that the only franchises older than Wolfenstein are cabinet arcade games. The title was first published by Muse Software back in September 1981 and was followed by a sequel in 1984. It was a simple 2D, maze-stealth title in which the player had to escape the titular castle. In 1991, iD Software decided to develop a 3D remake of the original game and in May 1992 the new game arrived in shareware form and the rest, as they say, is history. Wolfenstein has continued to evolve over each iteration and yet managed not to stray too far from the original concepts. It seems to get better with each installment with The New Order and The Old Blood arguably being the best yet. With the latest title allegedly being the second part of a trilogy — with New Order and Old Blood considered as one part — there may yet be more to come, but currently, the franchise is an incredible 33 years (and six months) old — or young, depending on your point of view — and when Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus arrives in October, it will be an aged 35 years and 11 months old.
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.