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

1 – Mass Effect

Why it’s better than the rest: Most franchises take two, even three games to create a rich, multi-layered canon that you can lose yourself in. Mass Effect did it immediately, pulling you into an entire galaxy that was so well constructed and thought out, from alien civilizations to mythology to crushingly boring technical manuals, that you could easily mistake it for a robust, decades-old series. When you combine the conversational penchant of Star Trek with the lasers and doomsday machines of Star Wars, and mix them with stat-driven RPG elements and Gears-style gunplay, the result is a comprehensive franchise that’s almost better than its iconic inspiration.

Tossing aliens around with Jedi-like powers is brilliant fun, but the real joy of the game comes from the branching, repercussion-filled dialog trees. Fantastic voice acting brings the large cast to life, and even the low-level people you talk to have something to say or contribute. Naturally you can respond with politeness, but there’s always the Renegade option:


Above: Not the best way to save the galaxy

Legacy: 2010’s Mass Effect 2 should be the blueprint for all sequels. BioWare kept what worked, tweaked what didn’t and jettisoned everything that drove us nuts in the first game. The scope was bigger, the worlds were larger and more detailed, even the expanded cast rocked, somehow making an outstanding series even better. By the time the credits rolled, some GR editors fired up another save file right away, ready to dive back in and make different choices in the 40-hour quest.

And unlike many other games, the decisions you make can affect the rest of the story, or even story elements in subsequent entries – entire sections of ME2 change depending on how you played ME1, and we expect ME3 to continue the trend in even larger ways. ME2 also delivered on a promise BioWare made for ME1 – frequent DLC that continues the sweeping story. Since its January release we’ve already seen two substantial additions, plus a handful of smaller stories and weapons updates that kept the game in a near-constant state of play.


Above: Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC just came out and actually contains important plot points for ME3 – it’s not throwaway DLC 

It’s hard to specify games that are directly inspired by Mass Effect, as it’s such a herculean effort that only a few developers could even try, but there’s no doubt in our eyes it’ll go down as one of the biggest series of this generation and a high water mark for games as a storytelling medium. Now if BioWare could just make the body language as convincing as Uncharted…

And for the sake of “You forgot…,” know that we didn’t forget, we excluded. That said, these guys almost made the cut but either fell just shy of “best” or aren’t quite yet “franchise” enough to qualify:

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Top 7

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109 comments

  • 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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