We were originally going to trot out what we considered to be the largest franchises in gaming, but that's a pretty obvious list. Instead, we're looking at games that marked the beginning of an unstoppable franchise. Our first batch secured their place in history the moment they first arrived - all they needed was one chance at bat to hit a home run. The second group are games that looked at their past efforts, said "eff that" and shook the franchise to its core, changing it for all time and ensuring its continued place in the world.
There is no Halo, no God of War on this list. They're too new to truly measure as successful franchises. Yes they're gargantuan titles that draw in millions at the mere mention of their name, but they have too few games to draw from at this time. Other series, like Doom, Tomb Raider or Silent Hill, are too spotty to be considered elite. Even Sonic the Hedgehog was pruned from the list because of the sad, sad state the franchise is in today. So, what did make the list? Let's look at the first five - the games that got it right the first time.
Pokemon Red and Blue (Game Boy - 1998 - 32 games total)
This engrossing RPG has attracted lifelong fans from all demographics on the planet. Catch, train, breed and battle hundreds of superpowered critters for nothing more than bragging rights and, of course, more Pokemon.
Why it soared
Aside from the deafening marketing blitz that accompanied the game's release, gamers were instantly attracted to the idea of amassing cute, cuddly and crazy looking animals. By making some critters exclusive to certain versions, players were forced to interact with each other to collect and trade every Pokemon on the planet. With two slightly different versions available from the start, the franchise became more than a game, more than a fad, more than something to kill some leisure time. It morphed into a bizarre social networking system, with plenty of Poke-merchandise on the racks to see that you're eating, drinking and dreaming Pokemon for years to come.
What it did for the franchise
Launch the entire Pokemon universe and the idea of collecting and trading hundreds of digital monsters with friends, plus a means to catalogue them (the Pokedex). Creating a social environment that enforced face-to-face interactions with - gasp - actual people to accomplish your goals. Even though Diamond and Pearl added a billion new things to do, Red and Blue established everything about the series that would enslave more than a hundred million minds from pole to pole.
Who it inspired
Innumerable collecting clones like Digimon, Spectrobes and YuGiOh! tried to ride the Poke-wave to success and never managed to catch on quite the same way. Several companies totally missed the point of having two versions of the same game, releasing confusing titles like Bomberman Max Blue Champion and Red Challenger. Even 2002's Bomberman Generation tried to add collectable monsters into the mix, perhaps the strangest addition to the series until last year's dreadful Act Zero.