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Video games as a medium are significantly younger than TV
, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a few classics of the genre.
Some games are memorable for their soundtracks
, turning MIDI beeps into a work of sonic art that is instantly recognized years later. Sometimes the story paints an epic that draws in the player until they suddenly come up for air at 3:00 AM wondering what happened to the day, or it just has that Just One More Level
effect that causes the same. Some games have a character that is like the imaginary friend that grows up with you, and is always ready to welcome you back for a visit.
And then there's those that have the total package. The winners of the test of time and advancing technology. Here we honor the Video Game Long Runners.
To be added, a franchise should have at least six games in its main series and span ten years. Sports games based on real-world leagues are generally disqualified, since they get an update every year.
The presence of Capcom Sequel Stagnation
is of course, up for debate.
Video Game Systems (10 years or above)
- Ace Attorney: Originally released for the Game Boy Advance in Japan in 2001, although not seen in the U.S. until the Nintendo DS port in 2005. Currently at seven releases, including two Ace Attorney Investigations games (the second of which is currently available only in Japanese), and two crossovers.
- Ace Combat: Starting with the two arcade games in 1992 and 1995, now up to 8 major console releases alongside five games for the Game Boy Advance, iPhone, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo 3DS.
- Armored Core - Chugging along since July 10, 1997 (16 years) with its 15th game in the "main" series currently in development, along with a few spinoffs like Formula Front, some mobile phone and PSP ports.
- Bemani games in general:
- beatmania IIDX: Launched in 1999 as a Spin-Off of the original beatmania (which started in 1997). The current version is beatmania IIDX 21 SPADA.
- Dance Dance Revolution: Launched in 1998. As of this writing, there have been 13 main series arcade installments released, plus countless console versions.
- Guitar Freaks was first released in February 1999, and its sister game Drum Mania came along in July that year alongside GuitarFreaks 2nd Mix. They're now up to 19 and 18 installments respectively and still counting.
- pop'n music: Launched in 1998, currently at 22 installments.
- While they don't use a continous naming pattern as Square Enix does with their Final Fantasy series, BioWare has created their own special type of western RPGs that share many major features, which are continously developed further. Starting with Baldur's Gate in 1998, they released 11 games with 5 additional ones developed by Black Isle/Obsidian Entertainment. note
- Bomberman - This little guy's branched out a lot. See That Other Wiki's entry for details.
- Bubble Bobble - Nine games in the main series, six more games in the Rainbow Islands spinoff series, and another dozen Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move Puzzle Game spinoffs.
- Castlevania - A franchise that started on the NES in 1986, and has been going ever since. The series has dozens of titles across myriad systems, and helped define numerous game and horror tropes.
- The Chessmaster series of computer games is on its eleventh installment, and dates back to 1986.
- The Civilization series has seen five distinct versions starting from 1991, beefed-up re-issues of Civ II and Civ IV, and spiritual successor Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. Also including spinoffs like Call To Power or Free Civ.
- Command & Conquer: As a franchise, it's been around since 1995 and has a grand total of nineteen games (counting expansion packs) and counting. Two of the three continuities also qualify in and of themselves.
- Konami's Contra series dates back to the coin-operated original in 1987. Although, the new games are not produced at the same rate as other Konami franchises, it has still managed to accumulate over twelve original installments thorough the years, the latest ones being Contra 4 for the DS and Contra Rebirth for Wiiware.
- There have been a total of 17 Crash Bandicoot including mobile phone games and & 15 excluding them since 1996. 7 of them are part of the "main" series developed for 3D platformers.
- The Darius series by Taito. Nine unique games since 1986, as well as multiple ports and remakes.
- Donkey Kong/Donkey Kong Country. Two series, but possibly the oldest franchise in much of video games. First arcade game released in 1981, which was also Mario's gaming debut, with Donkey Kong Country released in 1994 and the most recent game, Donkey Kong Country Returns: Tropical Freeze, released in February 2014.
- The DonPachi series by Cave: 6 games in the main arcade series since 1995, plus a bunch of spin-offs and ports.
- Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior) - 10 titles as of Dragon Quest X, plus spinoffs such as Dragon Quest Monsters.
- Dynasty Warriors and by extension, the whole Warriors/Musou franchise either started in 1997 with Dynasty Warriorsnote , a fighting game for the Playstation, or in 2000 with Dynasty Warriors 2note , a very early Playstation 2 hack and slash game which is the codifier of all other games in the franchise which spans over a dozen games.
- The Elder Scrolls series. The first game, Arena was released back in 1994. For the record, TES is the only Western RPG series that survived the genre's crash of the mid-90ies that killed off most of the Golden Age brands like Ultima, Wizardry (though admittedly it is attempting a comeback), and Might and Magic (well, the latter's death turned out to have been clinical).
- The Falcon hardcore F-16 flight sim series is a long runner in a different way. The first game was released in 1984, and the latest game, Falcon 4.0, came out way back in 1998. However, a dedicated community has maintained this up to the present day, with the latest mod package, BMS 4.32, coming out in 2011.
- Final Fantasy - Not Exactly What It Says on the Tin at all. Industry legend has it that it was named such because it was the last gasp of a struggling Square Soft. It was a hit, and the rest is history. The series celebrated its 25-year anniversary on December 18, 2012.
- Fire Emblem has been considered a mainstay of the SRPG genre since its debut in 1990, though the series didn't leave Japan until the seventh game was released in North America in 2003.
- Fire Pro Wrestling has a huge library of games, though most people outside Japan don't know about most of them.
- The original Game & Watch line lasted for eleven years, from Ball in 1980 to Mario the Juggler in 1991. This is not counting the Updated Re-release Gallery series, which ran from 1997 to 2002.
- The Gradius series
- The Half-Life series (1998 - ???) turned 15 in 2013. In that time we've had the first game (1998), three P.O.V. Sequel expansion packs* that have Valve's blessing as Ascended Fanon (1999 - 2001), a "remake"* of the first game (2004), a sequel (2004), two Episodic Games* (2006 & 2007), and a glorious fan remake of the first game (2012) — or at least the first 3/4 of it. Which is nothing to say of the Portal series (2007 & 2011), which is set in the same universe; the deathmatch games; or the Lost Coast tech demo. Hopefully, by the time Half-Life is 20 years old, we'll have Half-Life 3, Portal 3(?), the forthcoming fan remakes* of the first two expansion packs, and the last 1/4 (and multiplayer component!) of Black Mesa (not yet released as of fall 2014).
- The Halo series qualified with the release of Halo: Reach. Since the release of Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001, the series consists of the original trilogy, five gaiden games, Video Game Remakes of the first two games, and a fourth main game kicking off a new trilogy.
- Harpoon has existed in some form since 1989.
- Harvest Moon
- Kingdom Hearts - Seven titles, two remakes, and three updated rereleases since 2002.
- The King of Fighters, a rival series to Fighting Game giant Street Fighter (see below) created by SNK in 1994 by pooling together several of their series, all of which it outlasted. Up until the tenth installment (KOF 2003), there was a new game every year. As of the summer of 2010, there are thirteen iterations. This doesn't include Compilation Rereleases, Updated Rereleases (such as '99: Evolution, '98: Ultimate Match, and 2002: Unlimited Match), non-canon Spin-Off Neowave (essentially a reworked port of 2002), two Alternate Continuity series (EX and Maximum Impact; the former with two titles, the latter with three), a semi-canon RPG set inbetween '96 and '97 starring the series' protagonist (The King of Fighters: Kyo), several handheld ports, a quiz game (Quiz King of Fighters), a board game (The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise), a Bullet Hell (KOF Sky Stage), an upcoming MMORPG (The King of Fighters Online), and several niche titles such as pachinko games and mobile titles focusing on the female competitors...in bikinis...playing volleyball.
- King's Quest: Eight canonical games from 1984-1998 (The last one is a Contested Sequel), and Fan Sequel games continuing to the present day.
- Kirby turned 20 years old 2012. Pretty unbelievable considering it started out as just a game about a blob that ate and spit out things.
- Eight Leisure Suit Larry titles have been released since 1987. A ninth is supposedly in the works.
- The Legend of Zelda series - Started back in 1986 on the NES, and has had entries on nearly every Nintendo system in existence since.
- Madden NFL - If any sports series qualifies as a long runner, it's the Madden NFL series, with the first game being released in 1988 and, starting in 1990, at least one game per year.
- Mario - The Main Man, our very own God of Mascots and Fun, more well-known than Mickey Mouse, Mr. Video Game himself. He's only down here because of alphabetical order. Games in this series have a reputation for being top of the heap in design and innovation. Listing all the games associated with Mario would make for a ridiculously long list.
- Related is the Mario Party series, the first being released in late 1998 for the Nintendo 64. As of this writing, there are nine games in the main series with one each for the Game Boy Advance and DS (with a 3DS installment on the way), making for 12 games total over 15 years.
- MechWarrior, the Real Robot Genre Mecha Game simulator adapted from BattleTech had its first game, MechWarrior released in 1989 note . Eight games over 25 years, though with a large hiatus from 2002 to 2009. The series had two spinoffs (which were less successful, though both received a sequel) - Mech Commander and Mech Assault
- The Medal of Honor series first came out in 1999, and includes 16 games spanning the past 3 console generations and a variety of handhelds and other ports.
- Mega Man - The little blue Ridiculously Human Robot with the Arm Cannon, and the former Trope Namer for Power Copying we've all come to know. He's so prolific, the Sequel Series qualify as Long Runners themselves.
- The Metal Gear series, which started back in 1987 on the MSX2.
- Metroid - The earliest example of a strong female character in games, though we didn't know that at first. Now it's no secret that Samus is a Girl.
- Might and Magic. The main series consists of nine RPG games (first one being released in 1986 - nearly Older Than the NES), although it is mostly known for the spinoff series Heroes of Might and Magic that so far has six installments. Other spinoffs amount to 20 games, making the grand total of 35 games.
- The Monkey Island series (1990-2010); five installments and two remakes/updated rereleases.
- MORTAL KOMBAT!!! - The game that spawned a ratings system. Best known for sheer, balls-to-the-wall bloody freakiness.
- Need for Speed. Starts from 1994; has twenty main titles and is the oldest non-sports franchise of Electronic Arts.
- The Ninja Gaiden series consist of the original arcade game, the NES trilogy, Ninja Gaiden Shadow for the Game Boy, the two Xbox games, and Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword for the DS, as well as a Master System and Game Gear game.
- Pac-Man. Numerous spin-offs, sequels, re-imaginings, conversions, rip-offs...
- The Pokémon series qualified in 2012 with the release of Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, as these were sequels to the games that started the 5th generation, not "third versions" or Remakes like as happened in other generations. For those counting Pokémon Colosseum and its sequel,note it attained this in 2006note with Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.
- Pump It Up: A dancing game Launched in 1999. They're up to 24 games now with #25 coming out in December 2012.
- Repton. Started in 1985, the series suffered a hiatus with the decline of its original home platform, the BBC Micro, but has more recently been resurrected with remakes for the PC and iPod Touch. There's still a large community of fans who play the original versions via emulator, and a new game, Repton: The Lost Realms came out in late 2010. This was the eighth BBC Micro game in the series and the ninth overall, since Repton Spectacular is PC-only. Two more PC-only games are currently in the works as well.
- Resident Evil. The main series has numbered installments that goes from Zero (a prequel) to 6, as well as Code: Veronica. There's also a few sub-series such as the Gun Survivor and Outbreak games, as well as the Chronicles series for the Wii.
- The Romance of the Three Kingdoms series is an extremely long series which very few people outside of Asia have ever heard of and even fewer have ever played. There are currently 11 games in the main series and a variety of spinoffs including online games. The series spans 17 different consoles (including mobile phone).
- Ratchet & Clank with 11 games since 2002.
- The SaGa series, though not as legendary as some on this page, still has quite a few games under its belt since the time it evolved off of Final Fantasy II:
- The Shining Series which started off in 1991 as a first person dungeon crawler. It evolved into a Turn-Based Strategy with the popular Shining Force. That didn't stop the series from also releasing some action RPG's. While the series isn't Sega's most loved franchise it's still going strong with over 30 titles released across various platforms; with the last title released in 2012 for the Playstation Portable.
- Shin Megami Tensei predates Pokémon in the Mons genre, and has spawned a multitude of games. Most of the early games have not been exported, however, and the franchise didn't really have mainstream popularity in the West until the success of Persona 3 and Persona 4. Apart from the main series and Persona, other notable lines in the franchise include Devil Summoner, Digital Devil Saga, and Devil Survivor.
- Although many tend to forget, SimCity is in fact, the mother of all Wide Open Sandbox and Simulation games. With about 7 games on various consoles and the computer, it's become a world-loved game by many different people. It helped launch off the studio of Maxis as well as to create The Sims and Spore, and several other "Sim" titles.
- Sonic the Hedgehog - The other famous little blue guy. Has lots of titles.
- Space Invaders - One of the oldest franchises in video game history, running since 1978.
- The Street Fighter series - The series had many installments with numerous expanded versions to the point that Capcom considers each Street Fighter game to be its own sub-series.
- Super Robot Wars - A Massively Multiplayer Crossover between Humongous Mecha from various anime franchises that NEVER get old. Oh, and the Original Generation keep coming.
- The Tale of ALLTYNEX by Siter Skain started on the FM Towns computer in 1997 and has spanned 3 games and 2 remakes since.
- The Tales Series, which started with Tales of Phantasia back in 1995.
- Test Drive series.
- The Tekken series
- Tetris - While there are a crazy amount of versions of this game around, it is best known for having a version of the classic on just about any piece of hardware you can name, including keychains and entire office buildings. Geeks were doing "Can it run Tetris?" before Doom ever came about.
- Tokimeki Memorial - The founder series of the Non-H Dating Sim genre spanned over 15 years since the original on PC-Engine in 1994, and is still ongoing.
- Tomb Raider - Easily having one of the most recognisable protagonists, Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider games have been coming out since 1996, being one of the first 3D Action Adventure games. With over a dozen games to date, the series definitely has had its highs and lows. However, there's no denying that its first installment was revolutionary, establishing many of the conventions of the Action Adventure genre.
- Total War - A series of epic PC strategy games from British developer Creative Assembly (and published by Sega), which has around since the start of the 21st Century and still ongoing.
- Touhou Project - One of the most well-known Bullet Hell titles, made all the more amazing in that these games are made by a single amateur game designer. Touhou began in 1996 on the PC-98, then moved to Windows after five games. The main series currently boasts 14 games, with 7 official spin-offs and countless fan-made games.
- Ultima - Probably the single longest runner of them all. The series began with Akalabeth in 1980, and although the Avatar's saga concluded nearly 20 years later in 1999's Ultima IX, the adventuring still goes strong to this very day in Ultima Online, and a reboot in form of Ultima Forever has been announced in 2012. That's over 30 years of Ultima, folks.
- Wario Land - A spinoff of Super Mario Land, it was first released on the Game Boy in 1994 (15 years ago), with the last game released in 2008, albeit with only six games in the series.
- The Warcraft series began with Orcs and Humans in 1994. There have been two RTS sequels, with an expansion pack for each, an aborted adventure game, and an MMO with four expansion packs.
- Wing Commander: Although it's fallen on hard times since the bottom dropped out of the space sim market in late nineties, up to and including the release of Wing Commander Secret Ops there was, on average, no more than a year between new games following the original, including add-ons.
- Worms has been wriggling along since 1995 with over 10 games in the series.
- The X-Universe, which has been around since 1999, with seven games.
- Ys has been around since 1987, with the most recent game (Ys Seven) having been released in 2009 and '10 in Japan and America respectively. Nine games total.
- Zork (1977-2009)
- ''Nintendo Wars (1988-2008) 12 games.
- The Apple ][ family - 1977-1993. The first mass-marketed home computer platform, these machines were ubiquitous in school computer labs in The Eighties and The Nineties. Apple introduced more powerful machines like the IIgs, but the introduction of lower cost Macs spelled the end of the platform. Along with other major classic computer platforms, the Apple II series still has a devoted following over 20 years after the last Apple IIe rolled off the assembly line.
- The Apple Macintosh has also been going strong since its introduction in 1984. As the first affordable computer with a graphical user interface, it was originally intended as a serious business machine. The Mac's advanced graphics and sound for the time still attracted a number of game developers, even if it was only in black and white at first. Apple downplayed the presence of games on the system, but developers still made games for the platform and ported games popular on other platforms. The company suffered a major Dork Age in The Nineties, but Steve Jobs made a return toward the end of the decade and revitalized Apple, making it one of the most successful tech companies. In 2001, Apple released Mac OS X, a major overhaul to the aging Mac OS. The new operating system makes it impossible to run older Mac games unless using Classic mode on a PowerPC processor. The platform is mainly marketed to creative professionals (musicians, graphic artists, video editors) but still has some games available. The introduction of Steam to the Mac has awakened interest in Mac gaming.
- Atari 2600 - 1977-1992. The first widely popular console. Sold over 40 million, also holds much of the responsibility for the Video Game Crash of 1983
- Commodore 64 Computer - 1982-1994. Considered to be the best-selling personal computer model of all time, it even outlasted several of its would-be successors. Commodore discontinued the C-64 in North America in 1990, but it was still being produced and sold in Europe when the company went bankrupt in 1994.
- Family Computer - 1983-2003. Its counterpart, the NES, was produced from 1985-1994. Final official release Stateside was Wario's Woods in 1994. Including unlicensed games, the NES becomes a long runner as well since Sunday Funday came out in 1995. Adventure Island 4 was the last release for the Famicom.
- Super Famicom - 1990-2000. The Japanese version of the SNES managed to outlived its western counterpart by a few more years thanks to the Nintendo Power downloadable game service in Japan. The last game released for the console was a remake of the late-era Famicom game Metal Slader Glory.
- Game Boy - 1989-2001. While succeeded by the Game Boy Color in 1998, the fact that quite a few GBC games were designed to be backwards compatible between the GB and the GBC ensured an extended lifespan to the original monochrome system.
- Sega Genesis/Mega Drive - 1988-1998. Has had an interesting afterlife, however. Versions of the console, officially licensed by Sega, are still for sale today, meaning the argument could be made that its lifespan is still ongoing. And the system has had games released for it sporadically since its official discontinuation, the most recent being Oh Mummy in 2012.
- Neo Geo - 1990-2004.
- The king of them all: The PC (1981-present and going!) was created before AND has outlasted every other platform ever made to date. The birthplace of Doom and now-and-forever the de facto platform of independent developers. However, its hardware has been constantly updated and altered and new operating systems have been created to the point where there is an endless struggle to get any of your old games working on any of the new stuff. Like the Macintosh, it wasn't originally a gaming machine, but eventually picked up good graphics and sound.
- PlayStation - 1994-2005. Second best-selling home console ever, behind only its successor, the PlayStation 2. Games started to wane after the PS2's international release in 2001 - but over 7000 titles were released. Last in US: FIFA 2005 (2004). Last in Europe: Hugo: Black Diamond Fever (2005).
- PlayStation 2 - 2000-2013. Production ended in Japan on December 28, 2012 and worldwide on January 4, 2013. Coexists with its successor, the PlayStation 3, with hardware still being released. Lasted until a month and a half before the announcement of the PlayStation 4. Software releases have slowed to a trickle. As of 2010, one or two games are still being released per month in the US, with more in Japan.
- The much-loved British home computer the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Its commercial life lasted from 1982 until around 1993 when the last games were published and the last Spectrum gaming magazine (Your Sinclair) finally folded. It had quite a history - it was originally conceived as a hobbyists' computer (it had no dedicated graphics or sound hardware making its success as a gaming platform highly ironic) with only 16K expandable to 48K. In 1986, a 128K model with a dedicated sound chip (but still the same graphics) was released. It even survived the buying-out of Sinclair computers by rivals Amstrad who rebuilt the 128K Spectrum with a more professional keyboard a (rather plain) new case and a built in tape recorder or disk drive. Although the 128K Spectrum was more successful than similar "upgrades" for rival computers (e.g. the Commodore 128) and its abilities were usually taken advantage of the old 48K model was still supported by the game publishers right to the end. Even today the "Speccy" has a large fanbase and new indie games are still being published for it, at the rate of dozens per year.