Friday, June 5, 2020

SuperPhillip Central Turns 12! ~ My 12 Favorite Video Game Franchises

It's a special night here at SuperPhillip Central. No doubt if you've gazed up at the top banner of the site, you've seen a special date posted: June 5th. Well, that day is today and that day also just so happens to be SuperPhillip Central's anniversary! Today, my blog celebrates 12 years online. It's thanks to readers like you who continue to read my articles and reviews, comment on them, and pass my writing along to others through various means and methods. Without you, this site is for nothing, so thank you, everyone, for keeping both my motivation and mojo going.

As my anniversary post for tonight and to help celebrate 12 years, I have something special to share. Tonight, I share my favorite video game franchises, and since it is the 12th year, I might as well make it my 12 favorite video game franchises. So sit back, and if you're old enough, take a sip of the bubbly, and celebrate with me!

Animal Crossing

Favorite Entries:
Animal Crossing (GCN)
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

We begin this list of 12 game franchises that I adore most with the quaint, cozy, and ultimately immensely charming Animal Crossing series. Many times the series is one that I can just lose hours to--whether it's chatting with the animal locals, going on the hunt for elusive bugs or fish, donating rare finds to the museum, building up an arsenal of Bells to spend on a variety of goods, furnishing my house to the best of my ability, and just enjoying the zen-like calmness of the series. From the series's humble Western beginnings with the GameCube game, Animal Crossing has always been a special series for me. It gives me a fine sense of nostalgia, and each entry has brought me hundreds of hours of gameplay. Thus, even by the time I've exhausted myself with a particular entry, I've gotten more than my money's worth.

Especially now with the pandemic going on, we're seeing just how special Animal Crossing is as a series. Players from all over the world can visit one another in ways that in a world of social distancing they otherwise could not. In this sense, and with the most recent game in the series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game is even more important now than ever before. It's more than a game. It's a tool to unite people together, have fun, and oh-so-temporarily take their worries and troubles away.


Favorite Entries:
Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)
Banjo-Tooie (N64, XBLA)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (360)

Banjo and Kazooie recently saw what many of us thought was impossible--their return on a Nintendo console--notably as a playable duo in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I'm not one to scream or yell, but I was shaking with excitement when that E3 announcement and subsequent trailer revealed themselves. I'm a huge fan of Banjo-Kazooie, and despite the series only having five total games (and let's face it, most of them aren't too notable), it says something that the bear and bird can resonate with fans like myself to this day. The original Banjo-Kazooie remains one of my favorite 3D platformers ever made. It's abundantly clever, successfully built upon the preexisting foundation created by Super Mario 64, and surpassed it, in my humble opinion. Its sequel, Banjo-Tooie, brought a "bigger is better" approach, but didn't have the same highs as the original--while having some much lower lows as well.

Meanwhile, Nuts & Bolts on the Xbox 360 completely disappointed lots of Banjo fans, as the teaser trailer promised a traditional collect-a-thon platformer, while the end product was a vehicle-based game. While it was a wonderfully creative and terrific title by its own merit, it felt like a sick bait and switch by Microsoft and Rare, pulling the wool over many a fan's eyes. Finally, the duo of Game Boy Advance games, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and Banjo Pilot brought the bear and bird to the small screen with one isometric traditional collect-a-thon adventure and one aerial racing game in the Mode 7 style. It's been more than a decade since we've last seen Banjo and Kazooie star in their own game, but I'm hopeful (and darn excited) to see the series return... someday! (...Please, Microsoft!)

Everybody's Golf (Hot Shots Golf)

Favorite Entries:
Hot Shots Golf Fore! (PS2)
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 (PSP)
Everybody's Golf (PS4)

When one thinks of favorite franchises, one might not consider a golf franchise like Everybody's Golf (formerly known in North America as Hot Shots Golf). Nevertheless, Everybody's Golf is a consistently great series of golf games that brings just the right mix of cartoon appeal with realistic physics to make one memorable round of golf, no matter which game I played. From its PS1 roots with deformed characters with giant heads to the PS2 era and its robust lineup of awesome courses and guest characters, to the current formula of an open world golf game, Everybody's Golf successfully sinks its putts and is a series that stays under par for this player.

Final Fantasy

Favorite Entries:
Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (GCN)
Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Of all the video game franchises that are my favorites and are on this list, Final Fantasy is the one where I've played the least amount of mainline games in its series. That fact notwithstanding, what keeps me engaged with the series anyway is the amazing amount of spin-offs that Final Fantasy possesses. Whether it's the terrific tactical goodness of the Final Fantasy Tactics series, the rhythm game-based celebration of the series's marvelous music with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, the real-time RPG multiplayer mayhem that is mostly the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series, or the Mystery Dungeon-esque Chocobo games, there's a lot to love with Final Fantasy as a series for me. Ever since I played Final Fantasy II on the Super Nintendo, I've been enamored with the games. My love rekindled with the fantastic remake of Final Fantasy VII, and now I look forward to playing some of the mainline games I missed out on like Final Fantasy X and XII.

The Legend of Zelda

Favorite Entries:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 3DS)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NSW, Wii U)

If I had to pick my favorite of the video games franchises I love most, The Legend of Zelda and Mario, which is coming up later on this alphabetical list, would both be up there. The series is fantastic at reinventing itself, much like Final Fantasy continually does. Perhaps that's why both series remain so successful and relevant to this day. The most recent entry in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, famously went against the traditional conventions of the franchise, offering an enormous open world, epic scale, and a level of freedom never before seen in the Zelda series. In a sense, the series went full circle, back to its NES original roots, where you were thrown into a world with no real sense of direction and all the freedom you could want.

A release in The Legend of Zelda series is generally a huge gaming event, and for good reason. Some games like the NES original, Ocarina of Time, and even Breath of the Wild, are revolutionary experiences. Others are games sure to offer a unique experience, a stirring, riveting, heartfelt adventure, and one that will stay with players for a long time. Each game blends old with new to a masterful degree. It's one of the most consistently well designed gaming series ever made. The continued sense of wonder I feel with each game, the excitement and sense of accomplishment I get when I solve a dastardly puzzle, and the swells I feel throughout my body during particularly emotional moments during each game stay with me after each and every release.

Mario Kart

Favorite Entries:
Mario Kart DS (DS)
Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

Because it'd be a bit unfair to take all of the Mario franchise's games and put them under one heading, I'm separating the Mario Kart series as its own thing. While not all of the games in the series have crossed the finish line as winners (I'm looking at you, Mario Kart Wii, with your obnoxious item spam and unbalanced bikes), the majority of Mario Kart games have taken top spots on my personal podium of favorite racing games. The level of accessibility present means everyone gets a chance to enjoy themselves, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the crown jewel of this, offering tools for steering assistance and auto-acceleration, for instance. Each Mario Kart generally adds something worthwhile to the winning formula, such as Mario Kart DS's online and retro cups, Mario Kart Wii's tricks, Mario Kart 7's underwater and aerial sections of races, and Mario Kart 8's anti-gravity sections. There's a reason Mario Kart is a multiplayer favorite for many, and that rings true for this blogger's household as well.

Mega Man 

Favorite Entries:
Mega Man 3 (NES)
Mega Man X (SNES)
Mega Man X4 (PS1, SAT)
Mega Man Battle Network 2 (GBA)

After splitting up Mario Kart from the general Super Mario series, it might seem like a double standard to keep this next series all together like I am doing here with Mega Man. My response to that? Just let me do this just once because it's my blog's anniversary, okay?

Mega Man features my favorite character designs of almost any other gaming franchise. While the classic series is iconic with their designs, my favorites have to be Mega Man X's and Zero's. Heck, I love the Battle Network renditions of the classic series's Robot Masters as well!

When it concerns the games themselves, nothing gives me more pleasure than booting up a Mega Man game and seeing a new array of eight Robot Masters or in X's case, Mavericks, to take on, venture through their levels, and discover each boss's weakness.

Mega Man was a lengthy hiatus that just about gutted me, but now it seems like we're in a new golden age for the Blue Bomber. With multiple new collections and the release of a new entry in the classic series with Mega Man 11, things are looking up for the first time in a long time for Capcom's mascot. Here's knocking on Wood Man that the positive upswing of Mega Man content continues!


Favorite Entries:
Super Metroid (SNES)
Metroid Prime (GCN)
Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

I was late to the party with the Metroid franchise. My first foray with the series was Metroid Prime, which remains one of my favorite games ever made. I also picked up Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance, as it was one of the best one-two punches in gaming history with both games releasing the same day. I then went back to the Super Nintendo courtesy of the Wii Virtual Console to play Super Metroid to see what I missed out on there. Turns out... it was a lot! Super Metroid is one of the most expertly crafted games of that style in 2D, and I felt somewhat ashamed as a Nintendo fan to have missed it for so long. My love for Metroid has only continued to grow since then, with me even tolerating (and dare I say, liking) the often trashed Metroid: Other M and Federation Force.

As a fan riding the wave of the Metroid series's momentum after the release of the excellent Metroid 2 remake on the Nintendo 3DS, it was a bit of a kick to the stomach to see Metroid Prime 4 get delayed, much more with a notice that development was restarting from scratch. Here's hoping the end result that is the fourth entry in the Prime franchise is worth the wait. For the franchise's future, I hope Metroid Prime 4's development is given all the time it needs to be truly terrific.

Ratchet & Clank

Favorite Entries:
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2)
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2)
Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time (PS3)
Ratchet & Clank (2016) (PS4)

Here's to another pair of heroes that unlike Banjo and Kazooie, have seen more than their fair share of adventures--and even still, I want to see many more! Ratchet & Clank is a 3D platforming franchise that sees our lombax and robot duo traveling around the galaxy from planet to planet on intergalactic adventures with an "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to its weaponry. Weapons come in all shapes and sizes with tremendous creativity, such as launching a tough-talking robot sentry of destruction named Mr. Zurkon or shooting out bouncing balls of ballistic destruction. The series' trademark humor, ability to level up weapons through continued use, and nonstop combination of action and platforming makes it one of my favorite platforming series ever made, and without question my favorite from the PlayStation brand.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Favorite Entries:
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (GEN)
Sonic Generations (PS3, 360)
Sonic Colors (Wii)
Sonic Mania (Multi)

It says something about Sonic the Hedgehog that with all of the duds that the series has accumulated for itself--and that is quite the number of duds--I, and many other fans, still enjoy the Blue Blur. It's a bit of a love and hate relationship, where the highs (Sonic 1-3, Sonic Generations, Sonic Colors, Sonic Mania) are elating and wonderful, but the lows are tremendously disappointing, depressing, and deflating (Sonic '06, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric). Still, even when the series is at its worst, there's usually some reason to hope for the best for the next entry, or finding hope with some positive qualities elsewhere in the franchise, such as successful spin-offs like the Sonic line of racing games or various handheld titles.

Even then, to be a Sonic fan is to suffer, and I've certainly done my share. While suffering is a quality of a Sonic fan, more importantly, so is having hope. And sometimes that hope is rewarded with an excellent game like Sonic Generations or Sonic Mania. So, yes, I will continue to support the speedy blue hedgehog for that reason, and wish the series the best as a new generation is upon us. Even if nothing good comes out of the future game-wise, at least I know we'll have some great soundtracks from Sonic Team to rock out to, right?

Super Mario

Favorite Entries:
Super Mario World (SNES)
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)

This one is no surprise, and not just because I mentioned Mario in my Legend of Zelda entry of this list either. It's freaking Mario--the plumber synonymous with gaming! It's a freaking platforming series--my favorite genre in gaming. You could bet I was going to put Mario on this list!

While I actually don't particularly care for (but I do appreciate) the original Super Mario Bros. or its Lost Levels equivalent (Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan), the series from there is everything to me as a gamer. From the pitch perfect 2D platforming majesty of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, to the magnificence of Mario in 3D with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, and Super Mario Odyssey (and that's not even mentioning the great Super Mario 3D Land and 3D World), the Super Mario series seldom fails to entertain or delight. It's platforming nirvana, delivering abundant creativity, amazing challenges, and fantastical worlds to run, jump, and play around in.

Super Smash Bros.

Favorite Entries:
Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN)
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW)

I recall playground arguments with my game-loving friends about who would win in a fight: Mario or Link. Never did I think that such a game would allow us to settle such a schoolyard dispute like Super Smash Bros. does. The game is an open invitation to fans of gaming, as it originally pitted Nintendo's most famous characters against one another. Now, pretty much anyone is fair play as a playable character, whether it be SEGA's Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter's Ryu, or even Final Fantasy's Cloud! The immense work that director Masahiro Sakurai and his team put into each and every Super Smash Bros. game is utterly incredible and borderline unbelievable to see. Between the copious amount of characters, stages, modes, music, unlockables, and more, the Super Smash Bros. series delights and delivers with each and every entry, and the latest game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the series in its final, immaculate form--one that won't be seen again for a long, long time.

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