Kicking off the countdown is everyone's favorite bear and bird team, Banjo and Kazooie. While they've had the least amount of games of any other series on this list, the games they've gone through together have mostly been nothing short of spectacular. The original Banjo-Kazooie is still one of my favorite 3D platformers of all time, even beating out Super Mario 64. Some didn't like the direction Rare took the series with Nuts & Bolts, but I not only welcomed the vehicle aspect but I loved the overhauled visuals as well.
Banjo-Kazooie - N64 (1998)
Banjo-Tooie - N64 (2000)
Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge - GBA (2003)
Banjo Pilot - GBA (2005)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts - 360 (2008)
9) Sonic the Hedgehog
The blue blur has had it rough over recent years. Sonic Team just can't seem to get it right most of the time. When they have the keys to success, they throw in an asinine gameplay mechanic that sours the entire experience. Let's not even talk about Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Regardless, with the classic Sonic games (1-3 plus Sonic & Knuckles) as well as the Sonic Advance trilogy, Sonic Rush and Rush Adventure, Sonic Colors (Wii version), and the upcoming Sonic Generations for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo 3DS, the future is looking bright for the world's most famous hedgehog. Here's hoping his next twenty years have much less turbulence.
Sonic the Hedgehog - GEN (1991)
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 - GEN (1994)
Sonic & Knuckles - GEN (1994)
Sonic Rush - DS (2005)
Sonic Colors - Wii, DS (2010)
8) Hot Shots Golf
Outclassing the Mario Golf series of games, Hot Shots Golf has it all. I'm absolutely frothing at the mouth for the upcoming augmented reality enhanced Hot Shots Golf 6 for the PlayStation Vita. Besides looking at the future of the franchise, let's look at the past. From its humble roots on the original PlayStation to its two terrific installments on the PlayStation 2 to its pair of portable entries on the PSP that allowed for character customization through equipping new clubs, balls, accessories, and costumes. Whether you're a scratch golfer or set to be Tiger Woods with his A-game, Hot Shots Golf is the ultimate golfing game on the market. No wonder it's so popular in the land of the rising sun!
Hot Shots Golf - PS1 (1998)
Hot Shots Golf 3 - PS2 (2002)
Hot Shots Golf Fore! - PS2 (2004)
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds - PS3 (2008)
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 - PSP (2008)
7) Ratchet & Clank
Ratchet and Clank are a platforming duo that obliterates any opponent that stands in their way. This is all the while dealing with the doofus known as Captain Qwark, foiling the plans of either Megacorp or Dr. Nefarious, and collecting gold, platinum, and titanium bolts tucked away in hidden locations. The fun comes from the splendid level design, upgradable weapons that grow more powerful the more Ratchet uses them, and the humor that Insomniac Games tosses in for good measure. There hasn't been a poor entry to the series yet even with a menagerie of games in the span of a decade. With the multi-player focused All 4 One due out later this month, the future of the franchise seems to be as strong as the lombax's close-ranged wrench.
Ratchet & Clank - PS2 (2002)
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando - PS2 (2003)
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal - PS2 (2004)
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction - PS3 (2007)
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time - PS3 (2009)
6) Donkey Kong
It's on like Donkey Kong, or so the saying goes at least. Donkey Kong was part of arcade boom, tossing a barrage of barrels down on an unsuspecting Jumpman whose goal was to traverse a tower of beams to rescue his girlfriend. The mad ape wouldn't become as popular as he is now without being a part of many Mario sports and spin-offs such as Mario Kart, Mario Party, and Mario Tennis, to name a few. He'd grow immensely huge with Rare's Donkey Kong Country trilogy, be put through some design tests with Jungle Beat and the King of Swing games, and eventually go full circle with Mario VS. Donkey Kong. Retro Studios would get their expert hands on the mean monkey and develop the brilliant Donkey Kong Country Returns which rivals all but DKC2. For a bloody good time, there's nothing better than getting funky with the main monkey!
Donkey Kong - ARC (1981)
Donkey Kong Country - SNES (1994)
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat - GCN (2005)
DK: King of Swing - GBA (2005)
Donkey Kong Country Returns - Wii (2010)
If you were a kid growing up in the eighties to early nineties, you probably at one time in your life called the famous bounty hunter "Metroid" instead of her real name, "Samus Aran." You probably also was surprised at finding out that the bad-ass bounty hunter was in actuality a full-blown woman. Regardless, Metroid introduced players to a world that was fully explorable. When new weapons and abilities were learned new passageways previously inaccessible were open for Samus to uncover. Retro Studios would shock the world when they successfully turned Metroid into a first-person shooter/adventure experience with Metroid Prime. While there have been some low points in the franchise (the recent botched story of Other M being one of them), it hasn't sullied the reputation of this glorious series... at least for me, that is.
Metroid - NES (1986)
Super Metroid - SNES (1994)
Metroid Prime - GCN (2002)
Metroid Fusion - GBA (2002)
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Wii (2007)
4) Mario Kart
Even though I declared that Diddy Kong Racing outperformed Mario Kart 64, I still prefer the immensely entertaining Mario Kart series as a whole much more than any other racer whether arcade or simulator. Everything from the colorful and familiar cast of Mushroom Kingdom characters (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Wario, Waluigi, Daisy, etc.), the excellent track design, the fast-paced action, the wealth of items, and the awesome local and online multi-player mayhem that is unleashed on players makes Mario Kart head and shoulders above any other racer. While Mario Kart Wii may have leaned more towards item abuse than past installments, the game kept its entertainment value with its sheer amount of content and terrific online.
Super Mario Kart - SNES (1992)
Mario Kart 64 - N64 (1997)
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! - GCN (2003)
Mario Kart DS - DS (2005)
Mario Kart Wii - Wii (2008)
3) Mega Man
While Capcom may have kicked the blue bomber to the curb in favor of rehashing the same old I.P.s and passing off their legacy franchises to Western developers to ill effects (Devil May Cry and Bionic Commando, anyone?), Mega Man still stands as my third favorite franchise of all time. Whether it's classic Mega Man earning new weapons from defeated Robot Masters to Mega Man X wall jumping and charging his X-buster to annihilate the sinister Sigma, the storied gameplay of this series is unwavering. Capcom may not care for Mega Man anymore (as evident by the cancellation of not one but two Mega Man games and his absence from Marvel VS. Capcom 3), but his fans sure as heck do.
Mega Man - NES (1987)
Mega Man 2 - NES (1988)
Mega Man X - SNES (1994)
Mega Man Battle Network - GBA (2001)
Mega Man Zero - GBA (2002)
2) Super Mario
"It's a-me, Mario!" Who hasn't attempted to imitate Charles Martinet's Mario voice? Mario has had an illustrious career that keeps going. Where does one even begin? There's the original Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and a plethora of RPG spin-offs. Mario is synonymous with gaming. He is the Mickey Mouse of the gaming world. In fact, he may be even more popular and more of a household name than Disney's round-eared rat. There's no telling what the future holds for Mario, but you can bet that as long as Nintendo is around they will continue to innovate and impress with the portly plumber's action and platform-packed adventures!
Super Mario Bros. - NES (1985)
Super Mario Bros. 3 - NES (1990)
Super Mario World - SNES (1991)
Super Mario 64 - N64 (1996)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Wii (2010)
1) The Legend of Zelda
This is it. The top of the heap. The king of the hill. The cat's meow. Number one, baby. It's none other than The Legend of Zelda. Solving puzzles, riding Epona across a sun-soaked Hyrule Field, earning new items like the bow and arrow, ball and chain, spinner, boomerang, megaton hammer, iron boots, light, fire, or ice arrows, and many more, venturing inside deep and dark dungeons, fending off Moblins, Octoroks, and Gohmas, and beating down big bad bosses is all the M.O. of The Legend of Zelda series. With so many adventures under his belt, Link's journeys seldom fail to exhilarate. Each one brings something new to the table, so calling an entry a rehash is just foolish talk. Where do I even start naming memorable entries in this illustrious and remarkable series? From the introduction of time in Ocarina of Time to the inclusion of masks in Majora's Mask to the open world venturing of the original Zelda to the multi-player mayhem of Four Swords Adventures, there's a Zelda game for everyone which is the reason why this oftentimes heralded franchise takes the number one slot on my list.
The Legend of Zelda - NES (1987)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - SNES (1992)
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - GB (1993)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - N64 (1998)
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - GCN, Wii (2005)
And so my list of favorite franchises is set in stone. Some honorable mentions include Final Fantasy, LittleBigPlanet, Kirby, Animal Crossing, Super Smash Bros., Castlevania, and Grand Theft Auto. Now it's your turn. Feel free to list ten (or less) of your personal favorite series. Let's compare and contrast opinions on the subject in our comments section.