The Top 7... Best new franchises of this generation

We’ve all read countless “best franchise of all time” lists, and while they’re fun to write and then to argue about, there’s an inherent problem with the “all time” part – you have to consider the 30+ years of gaming history before you get to the modern generation. Heavy hitters like Zelda, Mario, Halo, Warcraft, Metal Gear and GTA are virtually guaranteed a place on the list, so how can there be much room left over for games of right now?

That’s why we’re ousting the old guard and choosing the best of the current generation. No decades-old legacies to consider, just the stuff that’s been dreamt up since 360/PS3/DS/Wii took control beginning in 2005. Our only criteria: you gotta be a NEW game that’s blossomed into a full-blown series and will likely carry on for years. And before we even start, sorry Red Dead – you either began with Red Dead Revolver (last gen) or are a fresh start with Redemption, meaning you’re not quite a “franchise” just yet.

7 – Professor Layton

Why it’s better than the rest: Each entry in the Professor Layton series is like the best puzzle book you could imagine presented like a Studio Ghibli movie. Professor Layton shows that a so-called "casual" puzzle game can have just as much polish as any hardcore triple-A game. Not only is each puzzle in itself well-crafted as a true brain-teaser, requiring no special knowledge or skill aside from a sharp mind for puzzle solving, but the mix of puzzles in general is well-chosen and diverse. Layton's presentation complements its elegant puzzles, with cutscenes that push the DS hardware to its limits, gorgeous art and music, as well as charming stories and characters. Each game builds upon the last to tell a bigger and better story with even more puzzles than the last, and The Unwound Future is a fitting end to the first trilogy, with a mystery of epic scope and a truly touching look into Layton's past.

Above: Japanese trailer for Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney

Legacy: In the US, the first Professor Layton trilogy for DS is already complete (with The Curious Village, The Diabolical Box and The Unwound Future), but Japan is still well ahead of us – the first game in the prequel trilogy (The Specter's Flute) is already out and a second title (The Mask of Miracle) has been announced as a launch title for the 3DS. Japan also enjoyed a Professor Layton movie (The Eternal Diva), which was recently released on DVD/Blu-ray in the UK but has yet to see a US release. The biggest testament to Professor Layton's immense fan following though has to be Capcom Japan's recent announcement of Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney for 3DS. We don't know much about it yet, but surely it will be a clash of intellectual titans the likes of which gaming has never seen. Who could object to that?

6 – Assassin’s Creed

Why it’s better than the rest: Killling bad guys with a hidden blade is fun and all, but exactly three things set Assassin’s Creed apart from other franchises: the sense of speed and freedom offered by its free-running controls; the detailed, soaring medieval buildings you can climb; and its fantastically compelling “living history” presentation. While the first game was pretty good (we liked it, anyway), the series didn’t hit its stride until Assassin’s Creed II, which tapped a setting that’s been all but ignored in games – the Italian Renaissance – and made it seem vital and dynamic and real. At the same time, it infused that setting with its own unique, conspiracy-laden mythology based loosely on the medieval Hashshashin and Templar orders.

Action and visuals played big roles in that. But more than anything else, ACII’s narrative gave us reasons to care about its characters and world, and let us explore both in depth. At the center of it all was Ezio Auditore, a charming hero who we watched evolve from a naïve teenager to a suave killer. He proved popular enough that – unlike his dreary predecessor, Altair – he gets to star in a full-fledged console sequel/offshoot, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, due out next week. This is a world that’s easy to get attached to, with fantastic sandbox gameplay to match; that it also lets players unravel a puzzling conspiracy that implicates practically every prominent historical figure doesn’t hurt, either.

Legacy: It’s too early to say for sure; AC is a new franchise, and its real breakout hit didn’t come until late last year. Along with Red Dead Redemption, however, it may have helped usher in a new era of sandbox games set in painstakingly detailed reconstructions of historical eras. We can hope, anyway.


Top 7

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  • sleepyMexican45 - August 13, 2011 10:08 p.m.

    dead space instead of Assassins Creed.
  • 19Pakk99 - November 14, 2010 7:25 p.m.

    Fishow753 ... I agree. It was neither a good shooter nor a good RPG. And what was up with the (spoiler alert!) giant Terminator at the end? The game suddenly became the final stage of a Sonic game! Poor.
  • Sukharevskaya - November 11, 2010 10:54 p.m.

    Great list, except Left 4 Dead shouldn't be on here and Mass Effect shouldn't be first. Other than that heck yes!
  • philipshaw - November 10, 2010 11:18 p.m.

    I couldn't agree more with the Top 3, can't wait for ME2 to come out on PS3
  • Sy87 - November 10, 2010 7:09 p.m.

    I like how the trilogy franchises are starting and ending on the same console. A lot less fuss for gamers.
  • FanofSaiyan - November 10, 2010 5:43 a.m.

    While I agree that the list was good, I just have to ask why these games weren't mentioned: Crackdown, inFAMOUS, Mirror's Edge and Dead Rising. Before people criticize, inFAMOUS and Mirror's Edge are both franchises because sequels were announced for both of them (though for some reason NOBODY has new info. on Mirror's Edge 2!)... please GR, if you find out any info on Mirror's Edge 2 LET US KNOW!
  • michaelpreston - November 10, 2010 2:20 a.m.

    OKAMI? Guess it's not yet a franchise....:(
  • ComradeKhani - November 10, 2010 1:45 a.m.

    good call on all of these. especially mass effect, best game of all time :D
  • BoondockSaint54 - November 10, 2010 1:04 a.m.

    I gotta say I agree
  • Albireo6972 - November 10, 2010 12:03 a.m.

    Screw Mass Errect, that game was horrible, did not care for em one bit.
  • kmdeftones - November 9, 2010 10:55 p.m.

    Good list. My only disappointment is that Bioshock is a franchise. I loved the first one, but it had a finite end. Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed built a longer story into their first games, but Bioshock didn't (shouldn't) have anywhere to go. I will never play Bioshock 2 because of this. Having said that, I'm not sure what I would replace it with. @AncientCanada97 I agree with you. I really want to see where they take Dragon Age. I really liked most of the characters in the first one and I cared about the choices I made. I love Bioware!
  • Gkicker2 - November 9, 2010 10 p.m.

    I'm sure 3 Xbox 360 exclusives aren't going to make PS3 owners very happy. No Crackdown?? No Army of Two?? Just kidding... Thats a joke people!
  • InstantTitKill - November 9, 2010 9:40 p.m.

    I sure can't wait to hear them discuss this list on the next Tdar, I pretty much could not agree less with this list...
  • ColonelKc - November 9, 2010 8:47 p.m.

    Im not trying to be mean, but i dont like this list. Not one bit.
  • monsterhunter3rox - November 9, 2010 7:15 p.m.

    No more heroes is going to get a third game next generation.and mass effect has 2 games too
  • HitmanSB07 - November 9, 2010 5:37 p.m.

    Completely agree with the number one, one of the greatest franchises of all time.
  • babyhenchy1 - November 9, 2010 5:05 p.m.

    The only reason Bioshock didn't get here was because Bioshock 2 was a big disappointment for me. Still a good game but nowhere near as memorable as the first Bioshock.
  • babyhenchy1 - November 9, 2010 4:53 p.m.

    Mass Effect is one of my Top 3 franchises of all time along with Metroid and Metal Gear. The story is probably the best in gaming, the characters are so good, the universe so deep, and in Mass Effect 2 we had the same strengths plus excellent gameplay and design. Nearly all of these franchises deserves this list. My top 5 ( only franchises that have more than one game released) 5. Gears of War 4. Dead Space 3. Assassin’s Creed 2. Uncharted 1. Mass Effect Soon Portal will be on here too.
  • JADENkOTOR - November 9, 2010 4:27 p.m.

    @ Everyone who is stupid and didn't read the article including you digitaltheorpy and the guy above me: LAST GEN GAMES AREN'T ON THE LIST!!!! BEFORE YOU GET BUTTHURT LEARN HOW TO READ
  • Gahmah - November 9, 2010 4:10 p.m.

    I really have to disagree with mass effect, that second game was a pretty substantial letdown story wise, and overall interaction with equipment and things felt too shallow. I mean c'mon, roboskeleton? the other reapers all look the god damn same but humanity gets a robo-skeleton? Not to mention hardly anything really happened in the story, you recruited a few guys, you flew through one mysterious gate, you blew up a ship, the game is cool and rather fun, but I guess as a franchise for the decade is pretty alright. As much as I dislike saying this, I would say COD is a better franchise, don't settle for hackneyed stories like mass effect 2 if you're going to beat on heavy rain folks, it's hardly much better.