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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  • sofaku - November 8, 2010 9:31 p.m.

    first ya thats right i said it.
  • Eliath - November 8, 2010 9:31 p.m.

    Good top 7. I'm not a big fan of Gears or Left 4 Dead, but I know a ton of people are huge fans. Still, I have a hard time of thinking of anything else I would have preferred up there. Maybe Puzzle Quest.
  • sofaku - November 8, 2010 9:32 p.m.

    anyway ive always wanted to get into bioshock but never had the time or money
  • mockraven - November 8, 2010 9:34 p.m.

    Great list and loved the video for Mass Effect! I always played a female good commander shepherd and, well, she was pretty boring compared to this version. I definitely agree with the majority of the picks! :)
  • HankVenture - November 8, 2010 9:34 p.m.

    Alright now lets see if the 3rd game messes up any of these or brings it to glorious hall of fame forever
  • ithurtstopoop - November 8, 2010 9:34 p.m.

    Cool top 7, Id have liked to see rock band in there somewhere
  • Fishow753 - November 8, 2010 9:38 p.m.

    I still hate ME2 with all my heart
  • WoodyWoodrowAndThePanfluteOfDestiny - November 8, 2010 9:40 p.m.

    ^ I hate you, troll
  • EAC73 - November 8, 2010 9:41 p.m.

    I agree with this list but i didnt like assassins creed that much but it is still a big franchise and i see why u put it other than that great article
  • cronoman66 - November 8, 2010 9:42 p.m.

    Mass Effect totally deserves first place, I may have put Gears of War higher because of it's impact on third person shooters
  • batman5273 - November 8, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    Very good article. I am pleasantly pleased that Gears of War made the list.
  • D0CCON - November 8, 2010 9:44 p.m.

    I saw ME on the picture that came with the article and got more hopeful each time another game let it get closer to number one. I totally agree with it being number one. It is (or was) the best reason to own a 360 (glad to those who only have a PS3 get to join in on half the action now too). I'm already super pumped about the third game and will preorder it ASAP (which would still be in a couple years). The character choice, characters, story, action (especially in the second one) and voice acting are all spectacular. Glad to see GR agrees. And Uncharted is defiantly number 2. I replace Assassin's Creed with one of the games that didn't make it, especially Portal, LBP, or Rock Band.
  • taco12324 - November 8, 2010 9:45 p.m.

    @ ithurtstopoop Rock Band was included, look at the end of the 3rd page. @ Fishow753 GTFO, ME2 was amazing!
  • bonerachieved - November 8, 2010 9:47 p.m.

    Agreed, Bioshock and Mass Effect definitely deserve to be in here.
  • stuartramone - November 8, 2010 9:47 p.m.

    good list up to #1. sorry but IMO biowares way overhyped.
  • db1331 - November 8, 2010 9:50 p.m.

    Agreed with all except Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, L4D, and Gears.
  • db1331 - November 8, 2010 9:52 p.m.

    Oh and I don't know enough about Professor Layton to pass judgment, so I guess what I'm saying is I agree with BioShock and Mass Effect.
  • n00b - November 8, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    i think mass effect 1 was overrated but mass effect 2 is worth game of the year. (even if they gutted out most of the rpg and stats elements)
  • AlpineGuy - November 8, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    I'm actually surprised you left out Rock Band, but all-in-all this is a great Top 7. I can't wait to hear Brett gush about Mass Effect this Friday. ME2 is suuuuch a good game.
  • BK-201 - November 8, 2010 9:58 p.m.

    Never got into most of those games, but I have heard of most of them from friends. Would like to see Assassin's Creed higher up the list as it told a compelling story as well as giving a lot of action that was fun, but got kinda repetitive, unless you began looking for ways to kill people that are out of the normal "rush in, create havoc, run for your life." And let me guess why Call of Duty didn't make it, Modern Warfare II and all of it's hacks and modders?

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