The Life Is Strange franchise is a collection of works, primarily video games, that all take place in the same shared universe. The games have been made by DONTNOD Entertainment and Deck Nine, and all of them have been published by Square Enix.
The first game, Life Is Strange, was released to critical and commercial success in 2015, kickstarting a new IP for SquareEnix. While complimentary to Telltale's revival efforts of the early-to-mid 2010's, Life Is Strange had a different style and thematic focus, and contrasted well as another direction to take the narrative adventure genre. It was DONTNOD's breakout hit after the underwhelming Remember Me, which was noted as having good ideas but poor execution.
In a similar way, the 2017 prequel Before The Storm established Deck Nine Games after their rebranding and company shift, and both studios partnered with Square Enix on future projects, LIS-related or otherwise.
As for what makes a Life Is Strange game, LIS 1 Co-Director Michel Koch described one as having "a set of relatable characters, facing real-life issues in a world which is as close as possible to the real world just with a twist of some supernatural elements that we can use to emphasize some story aspects."
These overarching themes and ideas have been present in all entries to the franchise. The games themselves are narrative adventure games that tend to feature ordinary people who are thrust into unusual but realistic situations in a world very much like our own, set up to make choices that will deeply affect the world and people around them. A touch of the supernatural is also present, in the form of an unusual power possessed by one of the main characters.
Other recurring elements include Queer Romance; an Everytown, America setting that takes place 20 Minutes into the Past; a gorgeous hand-painted art style; young adult protagonists, two or three of whom will be the central leads and share some kind of relationship; bereavement and grief (often related to the sudden and premature loss of a parental figure); animal motifs; a majority-indie soundtrack; deep and complex characterization; extremely difficult choices; and the Hawt Dawg Man mascot.
Official works in this franchise:
- Life Is Strange, developed by DONTNOD and released in 2015. It's about a high school senior named Max Caulfield who discovers she can rewind time after saving her former best friend, Chloe Price, from a fatal shooting.
- The Life Is Strange comic series, which ran from 2018-2021 for six volumes. It's about Max and Chloe after one of the two possible endings in the original game.
- The announced-but-not-yet-made Life Is Strange live action digital series, by Legendary Pictures. They've been pretty quiet about it since the 2016 announcement; though it does seem to still be ticking away in the background as of 2021, when Shawn Mendes was revealed to have joined the project as executive producer.
- Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, developed by Deck Nine and released in 2017. It's about Chloe Price and her relationship with the previously-unseen Rachel Amber, and is set three years before the first game.
- The Deluxe Edition of Before the Storm includes the Farewell DLC bonus episode (set two years earlier still). It's about the friendship between young Max and Chloe in the days before Max moves to Seattle.
- Life Is Strange 2, developed by DONTNOD and released in 2018-19. It's about Sean and Daniel Diaz, two brothers trying to run from Seattle to Mexico after a tragic accident uncovers Daniel's telekinetic powers.
- The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, released in 2018. It's about Chris Eriksen and his father Charles on a Saturday morning, and is a playable teaser for Life Is Strange 2. If played standalone before the main game, its choices have minor effects in Episode 2 of LIS2; otherwise, you're given the choice to play it as a side-story during that episode.
- Life Is Strange: True Colors, developed by Deck Nine and released in 2021. It's about Alex Chen, a former foster child with empathic powers, whose reunion with her estranged brother Gabe is cut short by his death under suspicious circumstances.
- The Deluxe Edition of True Colors includes the Wavelengths DLC chapter. It's about Steph Gingrich as she adjusts to her new life in Haven Springs in the year before Alex's arrival.
Unofficial but notable works in this franchise:
- Love Is Strange, a visual novel with characters from the first game made by Team Rumblebee. It jettisons all the sci-fi and tragic elements to focus purely on the Queer Romance aspects.
- Tell Me Why, a non-series game also developed by DONTNOD, with very similar themes. Due to having a different publisher it officially takes place in a separate continuity to Life Is Strange... but that hasn't stopped fans of the series from adopting it unofficially as an LIS title.