What Were The First Successful Video Game Franchises And Iconic Characters?

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Top 10 Video Game Franchises and Iconic Characters

Over the past decade, video games have reached new audiences through mobile device and social media gaming titles. Rovio’s Angry Birds franchise alone has generated nearly $18 billion through both its mobile game and subsequent animated film releases.

Many video game characters have become household names over time – from Mario’s iconic mustache to Final Fantasy’s dragon from Skyrim.

Metal Gear

Hideo Kojima first released Metal Gear Solid back in 1987 as an unconventional game, unlike many of its contemporaries at that time. While most action games focused on shooting through everything – with Crash Bandicoot being an exception – Metal Gear put more of an emphasis on subterfuge and stealth.

The franchise was an instantaneous hit, garnering notoriety for its intricate story and challenging gameplay. It tackled issues as diverse as memes, censorship, manipulation, patricide and the flaws of democracy while exploring grander concerns like the nature of reality itself.

Since its debut, Konami’s popular franchise has expanded into many mainline games, spin-offs, novelisations, comic books, radio dramas and live action film releases. Sales for the franchise now exceed 58 million worldwide; other notable titles in its fold include Command & Conquer real-time strategy games series; Devil May Cry hack and slash video game series; Total War strategy video games series and Katsuhiro Harada’s own Tekken series of fighting games.

Resident Evil

Resident Evil has been one of the most influential video game series ever since its initial debut back in 1996. Now at 21 main titles and counting, its legacy remains strong even today.

The game is widely credited with revitalizing zombie culture and cementing Capcom’s position as the leading publisher of horror games worldwide. Since its debut, its franchise has expanded into films, comic books, novels and more – serving as inspiration for an entire film series and comic book series as well.

Modern developers may question what Resident Evil, with its low-end graphics, could do, yet the game was able to instil fear into players like no other game had before it. Dogs jumping through windows, monstrous creatures lurking everywhere and player decisions having serious repercussions was an impressive feat of storytelling which continues to impact gaming today.

Grand Theft Auto

Since 1997, Grand Theft Auto has sold more than 405 million copies worldwide and become synonymous with carjacking and criminality – becoming one of the most-played video game series of all time. Furthermore, it remains one of the most controversial video game series.

Rockstar Games, the creators of GTA, were not afraid to push boundaries and take risks with their franchise. Hiring celebrities such as Samuel L. Jackson, Tyler the Creator and Burt Reynolds to voice characters gave GTA an irreverent pop culture vibe not found elsewhere at that time.

Grand Theft Auto’s initial two games were widely criticized for glorifying violence and being related to real-life crimes; nevertheless, its franchise has proven immensely popular and each new version has improved on previous ones. Despite all of this criticism and controversy surrounding GTA games, they remain cultural icons and staples in gaming – not simply focused on cars and guns but with great stories that define its characters that bring this fantasy world alive.

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong was an iconic videogame that revolutionized the industry. It launched the career of one of Nintendo’s greatest creative minds, Shigeru Miyamoto, pioneered the jump-and-run platform genre and put Nintendo on what would become their longest path of success.

Radar Scope was an unqualified success in Japan, yet failed to capture an American audience. When Nintendo’s American arcade division ran out of funds to purchase more units of Radar Scope, they hired an engineer to modify both cabinet and software so as to capture American audiences more successfully.

Donkey Kong was created, inspiring an entire generation of gamers to help him rescue Pauline from being hit by barrels or falling off platforms. Timing Jumpman’s leaps precisely ensured a sense of achievement upon beating it, keeping players coming back for more! Additionally, Donkey Kong birthed iconic characters such as Mario with his red cap and mustache who would go on to appear in other Nintendo titles as well as even grace Saturday morning cartoon series!

Lara Croft

The 1996 release of “Tomb Raider” introduced Lara Croft to a worldwide audience, as her combination of sexual attraction and action-hero bravado resonated strongly with gamers eager to prove video games weren’t just meant for children. Thus the series quickly established itself as one of the most successful game franchises ever, becoming one of the first with an adult, cinematic aesthetic.

The original game achieved success in 1996 thanks to a brilliant combination of gameplay, stunning visuals that fully utilized PS1 graphical capabilities, and an aggressive marketing campaign targeting Britpop culture – Girl Power in particular – along with lad mag culture of that time. Gard spent countless hours perfecting Lara’s animations, even adding her signature handstand on his own without telling his fellow developers so people would discover it on their own.

Tomb Raider games introduced Lara Croft as an archaeologist with an avid fascination for exploring ancient tombs to unearth treasure. Her confident acrobatic abilities and clever intelligence helped break gender barriers within gaming.


Pac-Man was an instantaneous hit upon its initial debut four decades ago. Its nonviolence and goofiness set it apart from other games, while its appeal went well beyond video gaming itself; becoming a cultural phenomenon with its own television show, cereal box, and hit song!

Toru Iwatani wanted to design something females would also enjoy playing at arcades, so he focused on designing games around eating as this activity is something everyone can relate to. Additionally, he made ghosts more kawaii with vibrant colors and large doe-eyes to appeal more directly to girls.

Pac-Man was an instantaneous hit thanks to its addictive game play and catchy tune. Since its introduction, its franchise has endured multiple generations and platforms; even appearing as playable guest characters in other titles! Today, its legacy stands as one of video gaming history’s most enduring.