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Franchise Codifier

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Most franchises, especially long-running ones, tend to have one particular work whose elements are borrowed by future entries in the same franchise; this is known as the Franchise Codifier. The franchise codifier is not the first work in a franchise; and indeed, a sign of a true franchise codifier is it departing from the original work. A franchise codifier, by the same token, also cannot be the last work. How can it inspire future entries if nothing is made after it?

A Franchise Codifier is a significant turning point in a franchise, and usually the point where it begins Growing the Beard to some fans, although fans of the older works may complain They Changed It, So It Sucks for the same reasons. An Even Better Sequel can become a Franchise Codifier, especially if it's very influential and successful.

It's common for these to be the third installment. Many series follow the pattern of the first featuring a lot of Early-Installment Weirdness, while still being somewhat recognizable as part of the series, the second being an Oddball in the Series, and the series finally finding its legs with the third installment.

Note that a work's status as a franchise codifier has little to do with its quality, rather its influence on future entries. That said, it may go along with Growing the Beard of the franchise codifier is considered a major improvement in quality over prior entries.

Compare with Breaking Old Trends. Not to be confused with a Trope Codifier. Going back to a work before the Franchise Codifier was made can cause some Early-Installment Weirdness.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball started off as a lighthearted action-adventure comedy. Then the King Piccolo saga came along, and its heavy dose of Cerebus Syndrome reoriented the series into an action-dramedy rife with Serial Escalation and Power Creep where Anyone Can Die, with the focus on hunting the titular MacGuffins declining in favor of fight sequences. Additionally, the formula established by the King Piccolo arc— major villains emerge, Goku's friends try to fight them off but are badly incapacitated or outright killed trying, Goku gets a new power-up and defeats the villain— would become standard for Dragon Ball.
  • The original Ghost in the Shell manga features a consistently comedic tone thanks to Shirow Masamune's art style allowing for easy and humorous expressions. It was Mamoru Oshii's film adaptation in 1995 that set the tone of the entire franchise by removing the comedy in favor of metaphysical philosophy in a cyberpunk context. Following adaptations have been suspenseful police dramas with only occasional comedic elements that happen naturally through the cast's personalities. Most people who know of the GITS franchise through the original movie's heavy impact on popularizing anime to the West might be shocked to learn that the original manga is an action comedy and probably could never imagine the usually brooding Major Motoko Kusanagi as being perky, greedy, angry, catty, bitchy, or bashful. Only the PlayStation video game would ever try to recreate the manga's more lighthearted tone.
  • The Jewelpet anime started off as a relatively normal Magical Girl show. Starting with the third season, Jewelpet Sunshine, the show started focusing less on the magical girl aspects and introduced the signature brand of wacky humor that the series would become known for.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure originally started life as a Fist of the North Star-inspired Fighting Series that traded out Apunkalypse goons for Gothic Horror villains. However, it was the introduction of Stands in Stardust Crusaders that truly established the series' hallmarks, gearing the action more towards carefully-balanced dramedy stories (following the mostly serious Phantom Blood and the mostly comedic Battle Tendency) that revolve around Monster of the Week Puzzle Bosses instead of conventional power scaling, a template that all later parts would follow.
  • Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire established the primary tone, formula, and trends for most future sagas of the anime. Ash leaves behind his current team at Professor Oak's lab, and travels each new region with a new outfit and friend group, now rotating in and out of focus with his companions (particularly the female ones, being the first series to seriously focus on the female lead's goal). It also puts a greater focus on arcs and Character Development for both Ash and his companions, over the wacky comedy of the original series.
  • Fresh Pretty Cure! laid down the blueprint that all future Pretty Cure entries would follow. The restrictive rules on who could become a Cure (resulting in Shiny Luminous and Milky Rose) were done away with and all series would be one-and-done in contrast to Futari wa and Yes! 5 both getting a second season. A consistent release schedule for the movies was established, with a Bat Family Crossover movie in mid-March and a more straightforward Non-Serial Movie in late October. The Ending Theme would now always be rendered in CGI. While some of the long-term conventions for the franchise began earlier or later (such as Yes! 5 being the first with a Pink Heroine and to not necessarily revolve around two main characters with Wonder Twin Powers), Fresh draws a crystal-clear line between "classic" and "modern" Pretty Cure.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: During The Silver Age of Comic Books, Batman and Robin were retooled as a wacky crimefighting duo that engaged in lighthearted, often comical, adventures. This was out of necessity to keep in line with The Comics Code, which especially targeted those two superheroes. However, Denny O'Neill's run in the 1970s did a lot to reestablish Batman as a dark, foreboding crimefighting figure, in turn introducing the characters Ra's al Ghul and Talia al Ghul, who would go on to be two of Batman's most iconic antagonists. This return to darker, more mature stories would finally coalesce into Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which to this day is considered the most definitive Batman story (aside from Batman: Year One and The Killing Joke, each released a year after the other).
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Marvel Universe as a whole codified its entire cosmology with The Infinity Gauntlet, a multi-issue epic which pitted the entire Marvel roster against the nigh-omnipotent Thanos, who had collected the six Infinity Gems and become the supreme being of the universe. This series has been referenced repeatedly since, with Marvel's pantheon of Cosmic Beings and other otherworldly powers remaining largely in tune with how they were established in Infinity Gauntlet. Further, every Crisis Crossover event thereafter has followed the basic model of Infinity Gauntlet. When Marvel Studios launched Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, the Infinity Gauntlet storyline formed the basic outline of the Infinity Saga, the Myth Arc of the series until 2019.
    • The Night Gwen Stacy Died is considered the definitive Spider-Man story, and has gone on to define the entire franchise — for better or worse. For better, because this story is largely credited with ending the Silver Age of comics and ushering the darker and more mature The Bronze Age of Comic Books. At the time, it was considered unthinkable that the hero's love interest would die in comics, but now all bets were off. Unfortunately, this also codified other things into the franchise, such as Spider-Man not being allowed to grow up too much or stay married, as Gwen was killed off for exactly those reasons. Also, her death helped usher in The Dark Age of Comic Books, in which shock deaths and twists became the rule rather than the exception. In fact, The Clone Saga, widely considered the worst Spider-Man storyline of all time, was a direct followup to The Night Gwen Stacy Died.
    • Two stories have forever defined the X-Men franchise: Days of Future Past and Age of Apocalypse. Both of these stories established Time Travel and Alternate Timelines as a massive part of the X-Men mythos, with almost every incarnation of the team learning of some sort of Bad Future in which Sentinels and/or Apocalypse has taken over the future, or a time traveler screwing up history so that they rule the present instead. Marvel has repeated the formula multiple times, including with the massive House of M, X-Men: Second Coming, and Age of X storylines.
    • The Dark Phoenix Saga is another major story that forever defined the X-Men. In specific, it expanded their exploits into space, and also introduced the concept of an X-Man becoming so powerful and/or unstable that they become a threat to the entire Earth or universe. Their complete failure to handle the situation well with Phoenix has led to multiple other stories where the team tries to catch the warning signs and resolve things before it's too late. To varying results.
    • Civil War (2006) was not a cosmic-scale crossover event, but it still managed to become Marvel's most successful one of all time. Its success opened the floodgates for many other storylines in the same vein, which pitted some or all superheroes fighting each other instead of supervillains. From this, events such as Schism, Avengers Vs Xmen, Secret Wars (2015), Civil War II and Inhumans vs. X-Men all featured teams or factions of heroes fighting against one another. Furthermore, 2020's Outlawed event would follow a similar story development, whereas some heroes (in this case, Kid Heroes) have become outlawed and must operate in the shadows or on the run.
    • The second volume of Runaways may not have originated the team, but it did include many of the franchise's most famous arcs (like "True Believers" and "Live Fast") and was the series that officially made Nico the team leader, and revealed that Karolina is a lesbian. It also codified the Anyone Can Die nature of the series; whereas the original killed off the villains in its penultimate issue, the second series killed off a major hero halfway through the run.
  • Teen Titans:
    • The entire "New Teen Titans" relaunch in the mid-80s completely reimagined the Titans and has gone on to define the franchise so much that various adaptations of the team have usually included some combination of Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven on the team, despite them not being on the original roster.note  This run's storylines, such as The Judas Contract and The Terror of Trigon, are usually also heavily followed up in later comic stories and incorporated in adaptations. It was in this series that Dick Grayson went from Robin to Nightwing, and that has remained his identity ever since. Even adaptations usually either quickly transition him into Nightwing or start with him already using the identity.
    • Teen Titans (2003) brought a second wave of franchise codifying, and is probably the most iconic and influential one. Almost all the comics, video games, animations and every other adaptation that came after took elements from the cartoon. The team rooster presented by cartoon is the most known version to the wide audience and is often copied by video games, animated movies, tv shows and even comics. And chances are that most of the Shout Outs from completely unrelated pieces of media about the Titans, are going to be inspired mostly by the cartoon.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alien: The first film, simply titled Alien, was a claustrophobic horror movie that aimed for slow, visceral terror and existential dread more than action or quick scares. It was well-received for its time, but it was the second film, Aliens, which codified how the franchise would be portrayed from then on. For starters, it was the first movie where the threat was multiple Xenomorphs, rather than a single one; it was also an Actionized Sequel that went for big shootouts, explosions, and characters dying off in waves. It also toned down on the sexual imagery of the previous film, to the point that some people no longer even realize that the alien facehuggers, the alien ships, and various other imagery, are meant to be allegories for sexual assault. For the most part, the franchise has become a big budget action-horror franchise with any themes involved as secondary.
  • The Avengers (2012) capped off Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, codifying many of the familiar elements introduced by Iron Man. Deadpan Snarker protagonist(s), a mixture of drama and humor, Mythology Gags and Easter Egg references to the comics, cameo(s) from previously seen characters, an Evil Counterpart to one of the heroes and a post-credits scene at the end that has massive implications for what comes next.
  • First Blood, the first Rambo film, is much less bloody than the subsequent films, with Rambo killing only a single person. The film is more of a tragedy than an action movie, focusing on Rambo's inability to function normally due to his Vietnam-induced PTSD. The bad guys are not scary foreigners, but local, American cops. From Rambo: First Blood Part II onward, Rambo is a Backed by the Pentagon one-man slaughter machine and fighting for the US government in foreign lands against America's enemies.
  • Friday the 13th: Part III is the first movie in the series to feature Jason Voorhees wearing his iconic hockey mask, which he will keep for the rest of the series. It's also the first film in the series to feature Jason crushing someone's head with his bare hands, and the first to feature Jason seemingly having the ability to teleport wherever he wants.
  • Goldfinger can be considered to be this for the James Bond franchise, as it introduced many of the elements that would become standard for the franchise, like an awesome title theme, the first Cool Car, and more outlandish plots filled with epic action sequences, death traps, villainous masterminds and their creative defeats. It's a strong contender for the title of the definitive Bond film, and the Bond movie most frequently parodied in pop culture.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban may be a bit of a sticking point for fans, but there's no denying director Alfonso Cuarón left his mark on the franchise. Standout features include a more chiaroscuro lighting design, a complex architecture for Hogwarts' grounds (including a covered bridge and clock tower which became series staples), and little character details such as Hermione's use of "Ronald!" and Fred and George Weasley Finishing Each Other's Sentences.
  • The MonsterVerse' version of Godzilla is this for the Japanese Godzilla. Ever since 2014, Monsterverse Godzilla strongly influenced most of Toho's projects regarding the kaiju in its design and powerset. For example, Godzilla Earth from the anime movie trilogy has a near identical design, and Godzilla Minus One got the blue atomic breath glow effect that charges from the tail through his dorsal scales.
  • Rocky: The original Rocky was a grittier, underdog story about a no-hope amateur boxer who gets a shot at fighting the Heavyweight Champion and the story was not about whether Rocky would win the fight but rather if he would "go the distance". Rocky II was the one where the formula of "Rocky is doing well, suffers a setback, has to go back to his roots and learn something from his trainer/mentor, then overcomes all the odds and wins the climactic fight" became the template for every film in the franchise until Rocky Balboa returned to the more basic story of the first film.
  • A Shot in the Dark, the first follow-up to The Pink Panther (1963), despite not having the Pink Panther in the title or feature the titular diamond (or its animated counterpart in the title sequence), introduces several elements that would define the franchise ever since. First and foremost, it makes Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau the protagonist, after being only a supporting character in the first movie. It also introduces two of its main recurring characters - Clouseau's assistant Cato, who stages surprise attacks to keep him in a state of readiness; and Clouseau's beleaguered boss Commissioner Dreyfus, who is gradually driven insane by his bungling, to the point of becoming a villain in later installments.
  • Terminator: The Terminator was basically a Slasher Movie whose gimmick was that the villain was a robot. The movie went for mostly dread and suspense, with action sparsely used throughout. The sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, was the one that really codified the franchise, with the iconic T-800 Terminator upgraded to hero, Sarah Connor becoming solidified as an Action Girl, and the story being more focused on action and cool stunts rather than the slow terror of being stalked by a Killer Robot. Nearly every single film in the franchise has more closely followed the T2 mold with a heroic T-800, a badass Sarah Connor, heavy doses of action with some new model of Terminator that is usually just an upgraded version of either the T-800 or T-1000, or both.

  • It's widely agreed (by Sir Terry, too) that Discworld moved beyond its parodic, picaresque roots with Mort, the fourth book in the series and still recommended as an intro for new readers.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga finds its main hero when Miles Vorkosigan takes over as series protagonist in The Warrior's Apprenticenote , which features the Bavarian Fire Drills, wild improvisation, Refuge in Audacity and moral dilemmas which the series is known for.
  • The Dark is Rising sequence takes its name from its second book, which introduces the concept of the Old Ones and a cosmic battle between good and evil which stretches across time. The first book, Under Sea, Over Stone is a simpler tale of siblings on a treasure hunt, with lower stakes and less magic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • While Doctor Who had already gone on for three seasons, the Second Doctor era did much to define what the show would become in the ensuing decades. Patrick Troughton's own three-season tenure as the Doctor would phase out pure historical stories, focus more on speculative sci-fi that saw the Doctor clash almost exclusively with alien menaces (typically in the form of a "base under siege" plot), and recharacterize the Doctor as someone who specialized in Obfuscating Stupidity to outwit his enemies, setting the basic template that all later periods of Doctor Who would build off of.
  • Although The Muppets had existed for two decades prior, it was The Muppet Show that would truly solidify and redefine it going forward. The show introduced many new characters (e.g. Fozzie Bear, the Electric Mayhem, the Swedish Chef, and Bunsen & Beaker, among others), redefined previously existing ones (such as Kermit being a Straight Man ringleader, Miss Piggy being a flamboyant diva obsessed with Kermit, and Gonzo being an eccentric stuntman), incorporated a bevy of prominent guest stars, and introduced a distinct blend of zany humor and serious/heartfelt moments. All of this would become the template that later Muppets material would follow up to the present day.
  • Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (the sixth series/eighth season) was the first Power Rangers season to be wholly self-contained, with characters from the previous season only appearing in the team-up episode. This would become the standard for almost two decades, until Hasbro bought the brand.
  • Super Sentai:

  • Following brief forays into art hall and folk rock, The Man Who Sold the World was, as producer Tony Visconti put it, the point where the David Bowie story truly began. The theatrical vocals and lyrics, eclectic mix of genres, themes of madness and social dysfunction, and androgynous visual presentation all became hallmarks of Bowie's work going forward.
  • David Byrne had already been making music for decades, but 2001's Look into the Eyeball set the template for all of his following albums. The eclectic art pop sound that mixed electronic and orchestral elements became the basis for subsequent releases in varying permutations, being mixed with Byrne's long-established lyrical eccentricity to craft a niche that he would spend the rest of the 21st century leaning into.
  • Depeche Mode's Some Great Reward set the definitive template for their later albums, shifting to a more aggressive sound and introducing introspective and sexually-charged lyrics in addition to Protest Song material. Subsequent albums would only ramp up these traits.
  • Dire Straits: While the band's self-titled debut made them an instant success, it was their third album, Making Movies, that established the tone of the majority of their output. The album combined the band's roots/pub rock sound with more elaborate arrangements and composition styles lifted from Progressive Rock. The band also grew more open to Epic Rocking songs to match, exemplified by the 8-minute opener, "Tunnel of Love". This template would be further explored on later material, which ranged from the outright prog album Love Over Gold to the commercially-inclined ExtendedancEPlay and Brothers in Arms.
  • Eminem's production on The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP are fairly minimalistic, with R&B and Turn of the Millennium Teen Pop elements. 2002's The Eminem Show, his first album where he was main producer, sets down the "default" Eminem Signature Style — bombastic, cinematic beats with piano, rock guitar, obviously artificial sampled horns, and sarcastically cheery, minor-key melodies; stiff percussion based on rock rhythms rather than hip-hop; a rock-inflected, double-tracked rap vocal; and sneering sung hooks with stacked vocals. He maintained this style, albeit with developments in production and (especially) vocal delivery, for the 8 Mile soundtrack, his D12 albums Devil's Night and D12 World, his 2003 mixtapes, his production and feature work with his Shady Records proteges such as 50 Cent and Obie Trice, Encore, his work during his career break, Relapse, and even for a few songs on his 2010s albums Recovery and especially The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
  • Peter Gabriel's first two albums, Car and Scratch, mostly continued what he'd started with Genesis, but his third album, Melt, did much to define his subsequent work. The World Music-infused art rock sound and themes of mental decay and social protest would become key elements of his output, and while the world elements eventually faded out in the 2000s, they still had a significant knock-on effect on his material. It's for this reason that Gabriel considered Melt his own Growing the Beard moment.
  • Genesis found the basis for their Progressive Rock era with Nursery Cryme and its shift to an eclectic and pastoral sound, while the band's later and more successful pop era would find its footing with Duke and its shift to bold, anthemic Arena Rock.
  • Although Michael Jackson's solo career saw success early on, much of his early output was very much rooted in standard '70s pop, with brief forays into Philly soul and disco. It wasn't until Thriller in 1982 when Jackson solidified his iconic blend of R&B and post-disco, creating the template that he'd build off of for the remainder of his career.
  • Following a trilogy of disco albums in the late '70s, Grace Jones formulated her Signature Style — both musically and visually — with Warm Leatherette in 1980. The mix of reggae and New Wave Music and the visual direction of Jean-Paul Goude that mixed fashion photography with French surrealism would all be further built upon by Jones' later material.
  • After a brief attempt at continuing the Post-Punk sound of Joy Division on Movement, successor band New Order found their new style as a band with Power, Corruption & Lies. The band had already become the Trope Maker for Alternative Dance through previous singles' marriage of the nascent Alternative Rock movement with Synth-Pop, but this album galvanized the blend, additionally shifting the lyrics from opaque literary brooding to sardonic Anti-Love Song themes. Even though later material became slicker in style, it's heavily indebted to the template that this album set.
  • Following a few years of musical soul-searching, Pink Floyd found the template for their later work with Meddle in 1971. The arena-friendly, jazz-influenced Progressive Rock sound would become the basis for its follow-ups in varying permutations.
  • Prince saw a one-two punch in the early '80s after an initial disco duology. Dirty Mind in 1980 introduced Prince's signature blend of New Wave Music and post-disco as well as his affinity for sexually explicit lyricism, while 1999 two years after that fully codified his signature Minneapolis Sound with the introduction of more eclectic influences— most dominantly Synth-Pop— that would follow Prince around on subsequent albums.
  • Queen's first two albums were religiously-influenced Hard Rock and fantasy-inspired Progressive Rock, but their third, Sheer Heart Attack, would immediately become the basis for their later material. Switching over to a Genre Roulette style based in hard-edged Glam Rock, the album is recognized by analysts as the point where Queen first leaned into their Signature Style.
  • After Radiohead's initial grunge experiments, The Bends acted as the point where they truly established the basis for their later work. The themes of decay, alienation, and pollution, the falsetto vocals, the orchestra-influenced instrumentation, the dour tone, and the accompanying surreal music videos would all become part of the band's Signature Style in the years to come. Likewise, the album was the first the band worked on with Nigel Godrich and Stanley Donwood, both major contributors to their musical and visual aesthetic.
  • R.E.M. already spent the '80s establishing themselves as Alternative Rock pioneers, but Lifes Rich Pageant set the stage for the bulk of their material. Its shift to a more Hard Rock-based sound, Michael Stipe's move to making his murky vocals clearer, and the greater focus on socially conscious lyrics would lay the groundwork for the 11 albums that followed it.
  • Bruce Springsteen's early career was marked by influence from Bob Dylan-style wordiness and Van Morrison's mixture of musical styles including jazz, R&B, folk, and soul. It was his third album Born to Run which made a turn towards Wall-Of-Sound-influenced rock n' roll and working class themes. Then, his fourth album Darkness On The Edge Of Town further cemented his focus on small towns, working class life, and in his words "judging the distance between American reality and the American dream". These would be the themes that he would devote the majority of his career to.
  • Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings and Food would quickly define the basis for the band's later output. Following the Early-Installment Weirdness of Talking Heads: 77, More Songs shifted away from bouncy, preppy art punk to more eclectic Post-Punk that took influence from genres far-removed from rock. The band's sound would only continue to diversify from there, mixing more and more genres with a punk core based on the path that More Songs carved.
  • Type O Negative's Bloody Kisses solidified the band's Goth/Doom style, following the thrash-influenced Early-Installment Weirdness of Slow, Deep and Hard and the fake live album The Origin of the Feces, and establishes or codifies many tropes appearing on subsequent albums, such as the use of the Album Intro Track, soundscape interludes, Darker and Edgier cover songs, Peter Steele's dark sense of humor, occasional vocals from guitarist Kenny Hickey, and many songs having No Ending.
  • Tom Waits had been known as a jazzy pianist and singer-songwriter in the 1970s, but the 1983 release of the more experimental Swordfishtrombones established the eccentric, darkly theatrical sound that came to define his output from then on.

  • Microsoft Windows: Windows 95 established the user interface that Windows by-and-large uses to this day. It introduced elements such as the Start Menu for launching applications, the taskbar for displaying open windows and programs, the notification area for communicating important information about the system, and the three button combination on the window title bars for minimizing, maximizing, and closing windows. Only Windows 8 did anything to significantly alter this paradigm, and that provoked such a negative reaction from the userbase that Microsoft went back to it with subsequent releases.

    Video Games 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All is this for the Ace Attorney series, with the introduction of variable penalties instead of a strict five-strike system(although the latter returned in The Great Ace Attorney and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice), new gameplay mechanics other than basic investigations and cross-examinations, limiting trials to a maximum of two days instead of three, longer trial days with save points during recesses, and presenting its cases out of strict chronological order. Each of these innovations would go on to become standard practice in future games, with some of them even being applied to the bonus case in the Updated Re-release of the first game. Storywise, it also codified the practice of having a brand-new prosecutor as the opponent for the defense for each installment, given that the original plan was to retain the same prosecutor from the first game.
  • Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies was intended to be a new beginning for the Ace Combat series, as indicated by the "0" in its title. After the arcade plotlessness of the original two games and the gritty cyperpunk trappings of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, 04 nailed down the series' "Strangereal" setting, plot formula, musical stylings and the basic controls and weapon mechanics every mainline games after would follow, including those not set in Strangereal.
  • Animal Crossing: Wild World introduced many new special characters and their functions to the series, such as players being able to change their hairstyle with Harriet and learn emotions from Dr. Shrunk. It also codified several pre-existing characters' roles; the Able Sisters now sell clothes instead of just custom designs (and the game has more customisation options), and Blathers can now identify fossils on his own. Finally, it introduced a continuous, rolling overworld with a visible sky, in stark contrast to the original's top-down perspective that flip-scrolled at acre boundaries.
  • Assassin's Creed II had a major impact on the Assassin's Creed franchise as a whole. Not only did it have an improved combat system but it had greater mission variety, a compelling main character who would become the Series Mascot, a deeper story with a more fleshed out modern day and a greater emphasis on "Historical Tourism" be it the inclusion of important figures in Renaissance-era Italy such as the Borgias and Niccolo Machiavelli or the lifelike recreation of Florence and Rome in the 15th century. Many fans consider it an Even Better Sequel to the first game. Every Assassin's Creed game after II would adopt its standard formula of story and gameplay until Origins replaced it with an Action RPG style akin to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
  • Burnout was defined by its third game. The first two games are straightforwarded racers with no combat elements (outside of a few "pursuit missions" in the second game), the main gameplay gimmick being the ability to chain Nitro Boost by "burning out" a full tank of boost without letting go. Burnout 3: Takedown shifts the focus to Vehicular Combat, incentivizing players to shunt, slam and t-bone other contestants to expand and refill their boost bar. A Channel Hop from Acclaim to Electronic Arts also lead to the soundtracks going from original instrumental compositions to a licensed selection of rock, pop and alternative hits. All of the following mainline games maintained the additions Takedown made to the series.
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare defined the series in many ways. Beside expanding the series beyond the World War II setting, Modern Warfare went for a more dramatic Hollywood blockbuster-style narrative compared to the sparse and disjointed narrative of the previous WWII games. Its biggest legs however would be found in the multiplayer mode, with its persistent experience-based unlocking system, class and weapon customization, and killstreak mechanic becoming mainstays of not only future Call of Duty titles, but countless other shooters in its wake.
  • Castlevania was always an action-platformer series known for being Nintendo Hard with brutal enemy and death pit locations, weapons with properties that required practice to fully master, as well as a game system that relied on the classic Video-Game Lives and continues, requiring a full playthrough to beat. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, however, decided to incorporate gameplay mechanics from The Legend of Zelda, such as searching for better weaponry/abilities and backtracking through the castle. The game received a linear plot along with NPCs and a shop, platforming elements with fear of instant death were almost completely done away with, and it also added RPG Elements such as gaining levels, upgrading equipment, or learning magical spells/transformations. This would go on to define the Castlevania franchise (aside from Retraux titles or remakes) from then on, including every "IGA"-directed game having some form of Plot Twist puzzle at the end which the player needed to figure out to avoid a Downer Ending.
  • The Devil May Cry series has always focused on Stylish Action from the beginning, but since the first two games have a lot of Early-Installment Weirdness, it's only until Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening where the series showed significant consistency. Subsequent games would all derive from the gameplay design, mechanics and features of this game; from having 20 numbered missions, the Stylish Ranks capping at SSS, an expansive main menu, a gallery, Real-Time Weapon Change for both ranged and melee weapons, Stance System, recurring combo animations, and even simple HUD elements such as the gauges being segmented into bars. Story-wise, it also set the foundation for Dante and Vergil's characterizations that are followed by the next games within the main continuity, even if it had to retcon some plot points from the first game.
  • Donkey Kong: It began life as a trilogy of arcade games, attaining strong success, but remained relatively obscure after Mario branched out until the release of Donkey Kong Country and its sequels, which have defined the franchise ever since. It spawned its own spin-off franchise that introduced the extended "Kong Family", including mainstays like Diddy and Dixie Kong, and DK's eternal arch-nemesis King K. Rool. Portrayals of Donkey Kong since then have taken more from the DKC series than the original games, such as the implication that the protagonist of the DKC series is actually the son of Donkey Kong Junior, with Cranky Kong being an older version of the original DK.
  • Dragon Quest III was not only the Trope Codifier for the Eastern RPG genre but also solidified the direction combat in the series would take. Dragon Quest was a simple game where you controlled one Magic Knight fighting against one monster at the time while Dragon Quest II experimented with the idea of multiple combatants, with the party leader being a Magically Inept Fighter with the other party members being a Magic Knight and a Squishy Wizard, who are both capable of offensive and support magic. Dragon Quest III solidified the combat roles of characters by introducing a Job System, having classes (or rather Vocations) with the main character being the Magic Knight "Hero" class along with providing iconic vocations such as the strong but slow "Warrior", support magic focused "Priest", attack magic specialist "Mage" and fast but fragile "Martial Artist". Even entries of Dragon Quest without the Job System have characters fulfil roles based on the established vocations.
  • The Elder Scrolls: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was the one that set the tone for the games to come. In a departure from the first two games, Arena and Daggerfall, it was the first one rendered in a 3D style, had a smaller but meticulously detailed world compared to the massive procedurally generated ones of the original games, had far more in-depth unique lore whereas the older games were more generic fantasy based on D&D, and was even the first one to use what is now the series' main theme music. Many of the design choices in Morrowind became staple parts of the Elder Scrolls games to come.
  • Fallout: The first two games, while well received at the time and considered classics, are markedly different from the later games. When Bethesda acquired the rights to the series they radically retooled the franchise into a first person perspective role playing shooter instead of the isometric pure role playing game the previous incarnations had been, repositioning the franchise from a modestly profitable niche seller to a multimillion dollar franchise selling tens of millions of copies around the world.
  • Far Cry: Far Cry 3 is considered to be the point where the series began to become what it is today, with a fully explorable sandbox, a truly dark story, and charismatic villains.
  • Final Fantasy IV influenced the franchise decades after its original release due to how radically different it was from previous entries, both narratively and gameplay-wise. On the narrative side of things, the game follows the story of several named, well-defined and speaking party members (unlike the first and third entry) and was the first Final Fantasy game to truly focus on the story and character interactions. On the gameplay side, the game was the first to use the classic ''Active Time Battle'' system for its turn-based combat, as well as being the first game in the series in which all characters have defined combat Jobs and skills that make them unique from one another. While the game definitely suffers from a case of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny nowadays, its impact on the franchise as a whole is undeniable, especially on the much beloved sixth entry in the series.
  • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, despite being the last game by the series' original creator, laid the groundwork for future installments of the Fire Emblem series. It introduced unlockable sidequest chapters, branching paths (though only 2 chapters long in Thracia, they would be elaborated on in later entries), letter-based weapon ranks that increased as each character used that weapon type, Fog of War, objectives besides seizing castles, rescuing and an approach to map design that would stick for the next several games.
  • Grand Theft Auto III: Earlier entries in the series featured a top-down view and an arcade-like structure with distinct levels and Scoring Points. Advancing from one level to the next required collecting a certain amount of points, which were awarded from completing missions. GTA3, in addition to bringing the series to 3D, introduced its signature Wide-Open Sandbox design with a single large map, doing away with the points system and the distinct levels.
  • Halo: While Halo: Combat Evolved is still recognizable as a Halo game, it is noticeably more limited in scope and has its share of Early-Installment Weirdness. The weapon and vehicle sandbox is more limited than later entries, the game uses Regenerating Shield, Static Health, and the game is missing several enemies that would become mainstays in later games. The Xbox version also lacked any form of online play due to the Xbox Live service not being available yet when the game released, and the original PC version used a traditional server browser for its online play. Halo 2, on the other hand would see the series take its present form, introducing series staple weapons like the Battle Rifle and Energy Sword, and enemies like the Brutes and Drones. It also gave players fully Regenerating Health. It also codified matchmaking-based online play for not only the series, but the industry as a whole. While a few later games like Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach would harken back to some elements of the first game like dropping the Regenerating Health, they would still retain many elements introduced in 2 such as the expanded weapon sandbox and enemy variety.
  • Kingdom Hearts II created a template for future games of the series going forward, both acclaimed and controversial. On the acclaimed side, the game expanded on the somewhat minimal platforming elements of the previous installments, created a much more well-balanced magic system (with different spells serving vastly different purposes and being viable even in the endgame), and postgame bosses that served as great challenges to the player. On the controversial side, this game also introduced the Plot Twists and plot contrivances that would show up in future games as wellnote , and it marked the point where the games began to take themselves far more seriously than one would expect a series focused on crossing Final Fantasy over with Disney to do.
  • While Kirby has long been known for its diversity in direction, it was the fourth main installment, Kirby Super Star, that defined the series going forward. Taking the basic Power Copying gameplay established by Kirby's Adventure, it introduced the series-staple hats for Copy Abilities and greatly expanded their movesets, setting the stage for more focus on combat and action. It also has a unique "compilation" format with multiple smaller games rather than one big game — while this format hasn't been repeated, the series would take inspiration from it to introduce additional side modes in later games. Lastly, it codified the series' recurring Boss Rush mode, The Arena, where you're given your choice of Copy Ability at the beginning and a rest area with healing items between each round. Later Kirby games would take heavy influence from the groundwork laid by Super Star, especially from Kirby's Return to Dream Land onward.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Two games share this role, as they introduced numerous elements absent from their predecessors and would serve as the primary models on which most future games would be based. Notably, while both introduced setting and character elements used by all future games, they each served as mechanical codifiers for a different branch of the franchise.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past introduced a number of structural, mechanical, and setting elements that have remained series mainstays ever since. These include dungeon-specific keys, a two-act structure consisting of two sets of dungeons separated by a big plot shift, Pieces of Heart to be tracked down to increase Link's health, Cuccos, an original, polytheistic mythology surrounding the Triforce (instead of a loose pastiche of Christian elements), and the Master Sword. Its gameplay would have a knock-on effect on most later titles, and its general look and style would set the template for the later 2D games that dominate the handheld side of the franchise.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time marked a shift to rendered models and more realistic character proportions, a style that, with one exception, would dominate the 3D home console games that would serve as the franchise's flagship titles. The game also defined set standards for Link and Zelda's character designs, applied the experiments with character-driven story in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening to a far grander scale, and introduced many important setting elements that would remain important in subsequent titles, including the Gerudo, Gorons, Zoranote , the Great Deku Tree, and the use of time travel. Most prominently, it properly introduced Ganon's human form, Ganondorf — who was only briefly mentioned in the manual of A Link to the Past. The Pig Man Ganon became his One-Winged Angel form, which most 3D installments of the series would take influence from, if not directly follow.
  • Mass Effect: While the original Mass Effect established the world and setting, as well as the game's unique gameplay as a Third-Person Shooter Action RPG, it was the second game, Mass Effect 2, that established the direction the franchise would go in for the rest of the series:
    • This game provided the player with various towns and cities to explore on various alien planets, focused heavily on the seedy underbelly of galaxy and the various species that populated it, and established Cerberus and their leader, the Illusive Man, as the prominent antagonist faction. It was also much more willing to poke fun at itself.
    • There was also a greater focus on Squadmate and crew character arcs throughout the story, culminating in a mission that served as a showcase climax of their arc, something all the later games did. While Squadmate-specific missions did exist in the first game, they were very minor and didn't feel part of the greater narrative.
    • Gameplay-wise, the game leaned further into the shooter mold: making damage based more on equipment/accuracy moreso than stats, cover-based firefights, and stat upgrades that came in larger, more meaningful boosts rather than the more granular ones from the original. The games which followed it up either further refined these mechanics or looked for ways to reintegrate them with the original RPG Elements, but Mass Effect 2 remained the core foundation from then on.
  • Super Metroid set the definitive template for later Metroid games. It introduced cinematic cutscenes, fleshed out Samus's character with internal narration and defined motivations, added an in-game map, made navigation more linear without sacrificing exploration, allowed Samus to keep all of her beam weapons and combine them simultaneously (instead of being forced to swap), and introduced various new items and skills that later games and remakes of previous titles would incorporate, most prominently the Speed Booster and Shinesparking.
  • It took several iterations for Pokémon to refine its formula:
    • First, Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced a slew of new mechanics, including held items, separate special attack and special defense stats, breeding, shinies, a day/night cycle, and two new types. They also set the trend of putting legendaries on the boxarts. Crystal then added the option to play as a female player character.
    • Then, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire established the formula for the series' plots from then on: each region is far away from the last, and the villains want to use the mascot legendaries as part of their plan. In terms of gameplay, they introduced abilities, completely overhauled the way Pokémon's stats are determined, and completely redesigned berries by giving them distinctive appearances, names, and flavours, and allowing players to grow them. They also defined the series' look from then on, such as making Pokémon Centers orange and Poké Marts blue, and the colours in Ken Sugimori's artwork became more vibrant.
    • Finally, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl marked the point where the series began to focus greatly on story, adding hidden details about the franchise's overarching lore and forcing the player to advance the plot in order to progress. While this was present in earlier games (usually enforced with a Broken Bridge or two), it was never quite as apparent as it was in Sinnoh. It also focused heavily on exploring side-routes and out-of-the-way locales that could be missed completely on a normal linear playthrough, something that later games would increasingly feature. Finally, this game separated physical and special attacks by move rather than by type, which completely rebalanced battles and led to a much greater interest in the competitive scene going forward.
  • Punch-Out!!: This boxing series debuted with two arcade installments (plus an Spin-Off based on arm wrestling) during the 1984-85 period, but it was the NES game released in 1987 (Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!) which premiered the format and presentation the series is known for: A longer roster of boxers ready to challenge the player, tiered by circuit (Minor, Major, World), plus a very powerful opponent (or an entire circuit hosting four such opponents in the SNES game) unlocked after earning the WVBA title belt. Most importantly, the NES game was the first in the series to actually end, since the arcade games were Endless Games.
  • Quake II started up as a Dolled-Up Installment of Quake, but it introduced a LOT of mainstays in the series later perfected by later games: the Railgun, the Hyperblasternote , the BFG10Knote , and the most important feature: the Human vs. Strogg arc, further explored in all of the other gamesnote  ever since.
  • Ratchet & Clank: While many of the tropes of the series were established in the first game, the second. Going Commando, refined the shooting mechanics so that the series went from platformer with shooting to a shooter with platforming. Movement was snappier and Ratchet could now strafe, intensifying the gunplay. Further, it introduced XP for health and weapons so that they would upgrade and grow stronger after killing enemies, long before this became a trend a decade later. As a testament to this, all future sequels bear a greater resemblance to Going Commando than they do to the original.
  • Resident Evil:
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • While the franchise had well over a dozen entries when it released, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne shook up the franchise significantly: it was the first entry in the series to use full 3D models both in the overworld and in battle, did away with first person dungeon crawling entirely, and was the first game to use the Press Turn System in its combat, of which variations would appear across both mainline games and spinoffs, including Persona. In fact, many of the demon designs and models from Nocturne would be recycled in many different spinoffs, such as Digital Devil Saga and Persona.
    • The Persona subseries also has one in the form of Persona 3: on top of being the first game in the subseries to use full 3D, it was the entry that first mixed life sim elements, such as managing your character's everyday life, as well as the iconic Social Links of the series. Games prior to Persona 3 were more akin to 'regular' JRPGs with high school students and psychological themes. It was also the first game to introduce the concept of the Wild Card, the unique ability for the protagonists to utilize multiple Personas at once. Prior to the third game, ALL party members could switch Personas at will.
  • The Sims 2 introduced aging (including the toddler, teen, and elder stages) and a system where fulfilling Sims' desires awards points that can be spent on various rewards, both of which would become mainstay features of the series.
  • Sniper Elite 3 introduced a lot of new features to the series formula that stuck in later titles, namely a number of Anti-Frustration Features such as the option to save mid-mission, and a Real-Time Weapon Change system in the form of a wheel HUD. In addition, this game was where maps became less linear and more open world, with optional objectives added in order to encourage map exploration, not to mention fleshing out the stealth mechanics to allow for quieter playstyles where players can stalk and quietly pick off every target, compared to Sniper Elite V2 where stealth mechanics were almost entirely restricted to getting into a good position before loudly murdering an entire platoon.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a massive game changer for the franchise and would introduce many elements that would become iconic staples for the franchise going forward, such as every zone being split into two acts (aside from Metropolis, which still uses the three act structure from the first game), the spin-dash, the half-pipe special stages, multiple playable characters besides Sonic (in the form of Tails) and Sonic's Super Mode. It would also increase the Chaos Emerald count from six to seven, which would become the norm for the series going forward (particularly from Sonic Adventure and onwards).
    • Sonic 3 & Knuckles went on to define the franchise in many ways. The game created a larger narrative around the Chaos Emeralds (and Master Emerald), introduced the remixed songs between each act of a stage, introduced narrative cutscenes, introduced a True Final Boss which the player could only face after obtaining all the Emeralds and earning the heroes' Super Modes, and introduced intertwining stories between multiple playable characters. Like with Sonic 2, every 2D Sonic game thereafter (as well as many of the 3D titles) kept most or all of these elements.
    • Sonic Adventure would codify much of the elements that would further redefine the franchise going forward, introducing elements such as having different gameplay styles, a more realistic and grounded art-style, a more involved and serious narrative, a bigger focus on speed and style over maintaining momentum and exploration and the Monster of the Week final boss. Most of the 3D Sonic games and many of the modern 2D Sonic games have reused many elements from Adventure in some regard. The series canon would also become more solidified by this stage, with Sega ditching the old 90s western canon in favor of making the original Japanese canon the sole continuity across all regions.
    • Sonic Unleashed took the "Boost formula" from the Sonic Rush games and brought it to 3D, leading to it being used in most subsequent 3D games in the series, including Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations, and Sonic Forces. These feature levels that switch between 3D and 2D, and the titular "Boost function" that allows Sonic to vastly increase his speed with the press of a button, limited only by a meter.
  • Street Fighter II: It should go without saying that Capcom's seminal fighter ended up being the codifier for both the Fighting Game genre and Street Fighter as a whole. The core gameplay loop now relying on combos; the game having a more varied selection of characters including the franchise's first female fighter plus fighters from countries like Russia, Spain, India, and Brazil; the introduction of the Updated Re-release format for the series that also introduced five new fighters in total, two of whom would become among the series' most iconic characters; and the SNES port that brought the series to consoles and acted as a major Killer App for the system. Every fighting game that came after, from the likes of Fatal Fury, Virtua Fighter, Samurai Shodown, Killer Instinct, The King of Fighters, Tekken, Soulcalibur, Dead or Alive, Super Smash Bros., and even Capcom's own Darkstalkers and Capcom vs. series.
  • Spyro the Dragon:
    • Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! introduced a structure where each stage had a primary objective (i.e. getting to the end) and a couple of side-objectives. It also introduced Funny Animals to the franchise, especially Hunter, who would go on to appear in almost every subsequent game, and it gave each kind of gem a different shape.
    • While the aforementioned Spyro 2 had ice breath for a single mission, Spyro 2: Season of Flame was first game where Spyro could switch between different elemental breaths, which would become a staple of the series post-Insomniac.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Though the franchise made its formal debut in 1983 with the arcade Mario Bros. (while Mario himself debuted in the first arcade installment of Donkey Kong), it was the mainline platformers released on Nintendo's home systems (especially the NES, SNES and N64) which truly shaped the series into how it's known today.
      • Super Mario Bros.: The game defined the platforming genre and set up the basic plot elements of the Mario franchise for years to come: Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and Mario needs to go rescue her; elements like pipes, coin blocks, Warp Zones and Goomba Stomp debuted in the series here. The most fundamental powerups in the series (the Mushroom, the Fire Flower and the Starman) made their debut in this game as well.
      • Super Mario Bros. 2: Despite not being originally planned as a Mario game, it featured elements that would become customary in the series: themed worlds other than grasslands, minibosses, the ability to carry objects and enemies, vertical level designs, and gambling minigames between levels to earn lives.
      • Super Mario Bros. 3: The game added further distinctive refinement to the franchise: even more world themes, a world map between stages, airship levels, power-up costumes, fortresses serving as mini-dungeons, auto-scrolling levels, and the ability to store items and powerups via an inventory; nearly everything 3 added has been retained in every subsequent game in the franchise, whether in 2D or 3D format.
      • Super Mario World: The game introduced rideable sidekicks, non-linear world progression, Ghost Houses, secret levels, and different types of jumps for Mario. The game also added a small, yet impactful detail that was carried over to the 3D platformers in the seriesnote : Individual levels now have unique names; while most of them have a general "[Name of world] #" format (inherited from the classic World X-X label used by the levels from all previous Mario games), others do have a more distinct one like "Cookie Mountain", "Soda Lake", "Groovy" or a castle named directly after its Koopaling instead of world.
      • Super Mario 64: Making its debut on (and being the launch title for) Nintendo's first foray into three-dimensional hardware, it introduced full 3D environments and created the Collect-a-Thon Platformer Sub-Genre, which has primarily defined the 3D portion of the franchise. Standing in for level goals are Plot Coupons whose collection marks their missions as complete, and standing in for a world map is a Hub Level that grants access to all general levels as well as certain hidden bonus levels. And save for Sunshine, it also became common to face Bowser more than once over the course of the adventure. Finally, while this wasn't the first time Charles Martinet voiced Mario, it did establish him as Mario's voice in all video games to come until his retirement in 2023.
    • Mario Kart: The sub-series of racing games starring Mario and his friends started in 1992 with Super Mario Kart, but its numerous traits of Early-Installment Weirdness make Mario Kart 64 the true architect of the series and the one which drew the blueprint for the elements, presentation and structure that came to define all subsequent elements (including Mario Kart: Super Circuit, which otherwise borrows many aspects of the SNES original).
    • Mario Party 2: While the heart of the series' formula and conventions were already present in Mario Party, it was the sequel which shaped the series as it was known prior to the overhauls seen in the ninth installment (even then, the series would return to its roots with the Nintendo Switch games Super Mario Party and Mario Party Superstars, once again with a stronger influence from the second game than from the first). Several new types of minigames (namely Battle minigames, Duel minigames and Item minigames) were introduced, and thanks to the former two it was no longer necessary that standard minigames made losing players lose coins. The latter type was added because the game also introduced collectible items for later use in the boards, and by extension Item Shops to purchase them. The game was also the first to allow one to practice the next minigame before playing it officially. Lastly, despite not having a dedicated Story Mode (that would have to wait until Mario Party 3), the game became the first to employ an overarching theme and plot that justifies the players' adventures besides partying (indeed, the last playable board is unlocked as part of the development of this story, as it requires clearing the other boards at least once each). To the relief of many players, the game also removed the first game's controversial mechanic of spinning the Control Stick in certain minigames.
    • Paper Mario: The sub-series of Mario RPGs started with Super Mario RPG, but it was Paper Mario 64 (which started life as a Super Mario RPG sequel) that set the standard for later games. Action commands were put front and center in battle (with special attacks being structured like mini-games), self-awareness became an overt focus rather than the subject of brief asides, and Luigi started to become a more independent character from Mario, having a more distinct personality and displaying vices that his brother typically lacks. While the RPG games would split off between Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi, both would carry on from the template that this game established.
    • The Paper Mario series had a second codifying moment with Paper Mario: Sticker Star, which shifted the series away from RPG Elements, with a greater emphasis on level-based progression, puzzles, battles making use of a consumable resource, and "things", real-world objects rendered in deliberately jarring style compared to the rest of the world. It also, as per Executive Meddling, removed original characters and variants on existing Mushroom Kingdom races, with NPCs mainly consisting of near-identical Toads and enemies drawn from the Mario platformers. The paper aesthetic and jokes are greatly emphasised, and the characters in-universe are now aware they're made of paper.
    • Wario Land II would go on to completely redefine and give the Wario Land series its own identity by ditching the Mario inspired gameplay of the first two games in favor of open-ended puzzle platforming. The game also introduced Wario's transformations, produced by enemies and obstacles instead of power-ups, which would become a staple of the series going forward. Also, while the previous two games were not without their weird moments, this is the game that truly codified the grotesque, absurd and bizarre style and humor that would define the Wario franchise going forward, carrying over even into WarioWare.
    • Yoshi's Island: Mario's dinosaur mount starred in a few games of his own following his debut in Super Mario World, namely the puzzle games Yoshi's Egg and Yoshi's Cookie as well as the Light Gun Game Yoshi's Safari. However, these games were little more than direct spin-offs of its parent Mario franchise with little to establish its own identity. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island not only established Yoshi as a platforming star in his own right but also introduced many elements that would define Yoshi, his franchise, and his future portrayals both in and out of his own series. These include Yoshi's now-signature egg-throwing and Flutter Jump, the Yoshi franchise being a collective Prequel to the other Mario games featuring the characters' baby selves, and a greater focus on Shy Guys as the primary enemy force of the Yoshis.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee vastly expanded upon the Platform Fighter concept and modest template seen in the original Nintendo 64 game, allowing the series to adopt a more recognizable brand that is carried over to subsequent installments: The character roster and stage selection increased to the point that major Nintendo franchises or universes would be represented by at least four characters and two stages each; several iconic modes like Adventure Mode, Event Match, All-Star Mode, Home-Run Contest and the trope-naming Multi-Mook Melee were introduced; lastly, the Collection Sidequest of trophies also debuted here, allowing several games and franchises other than those majorly present via characters and stages to be acknowledged, serving as a celebration of the history of Nintendo (and, from Brawl onwards, other gaming companies).
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl majorly defined the games that came after it. It introduced Final Smashes, Assist Trophies, stage building, third-party characters, and online play, all of which have remained series mainstays since. The game's UI and style also carried over into subsequent installments. Brawl also became the first game in the series to employ an in-game chart of achievements, usually grouped in rows and columns, for the player to know what actions or feats can be done while playing the game in its various modes to receive unique rewards (a trophy, a song, a stage, or more rarely a playable demo).
  • Tales of Eternia is the point where the Tales Series can be seen entering its modern form. The most notable change in gameplay was to keep everything in real time instead of high level spells freezing the action, creating the high-paced action that remains a vital part of the series to this day. It also introduced the series first character customization system in the Craymel Cage, which has been greatly expanded on since. Narratively, it was the beginning of the franchise's reputation as a Deconstructor Fleet, taking apart both narrative tropes such as the light world vs dark world conflict and character tropes such as Chronic Hero Syndrome. Along with the Deconstructed Character Archetypes came a much greater focus on Character Development. Every game since has had high expectations for fast-paced real time combat, Character Development, and being a Deconstructor Fleet, though Eternia's relative obscurity means that many of of its innovations are mistakenly credited to Tales of Symphonia.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure, also known as the "Crossbell arc", defined much of the gameplay and tone of the Trails Series from that point on. Game mechanics such as evasion triggering a counterattack, Master Quartz, a stricter turn timer on buffs, debuffs and ailments, critical hits no longer being tied to turn bonuses, and most of the Arts (spells) carried over into later games. On the story front, it was here that the series began adopting a slightly more Shounen tone, a Clueless Chick-Magnet male protagonist and a choice of "bonding events" with party members as opposed to pre-defined relationships.
  • Tekken:
    • Tekken 2 was the sequel that began to introduce more elements to the series that made it more than just a clone of Virtua Fighter; the Big Bad of the previous game was now its main character, while its Hero was now the villain. All characters now received ending movies instead of the default ones, and the game featured a more diverse and robust soundtrack with unique themes for each character.
    • Tekken 3 ended up topping Tekken 2 in this regard; the Time Skip allowed for the introduction of a new generation of fighters, with characters like Jin Kazama, Ling Xiaoyu, Hwoarang, Eddy Gordo, Bryan Fury, and Julia Chang all becoming fan-favorites, while retaining favorites from past installments like Heihachi Mishima, Nina and Anna Williams, Paul Phoenix, Yoshimitsu, and Lei Wulong. 3 would also feature a soundtrack that put much more emphasis on rock and electronic music, a sound that would define the series for years to come, and feature single-player modes like Tekken Ball and Tekken Force.
  • Thunder Force III defined the series by getting rid of the overhead gameplay that had been present in the first two games and introducing key features such as the ability to change the player ship's speed mid-gameplay and having the player lose only their currently-equipped weapon rather than their whole arsenal upon death, as well as driving the graphics and soundtracks to new heights. While Thunder Force II started the series shift by introducing horizontal shooter stages and series mainstays such as the "Tan Tan Ta Ta Ta Tan" theme and the Wave and Hunter weapons, 'III is the game that set the standard; tellingly, the infamously Internal Homage-heavy Thunder Force VI draws near-entirely from the games from Thunder Force III-onward.
  • Ultima: Parts one and two had basically been the results of their developer, Richard Garriott, teaching himself game programming — as a result, they were a wild mishmash of gameplay and story ideas that showed promise, but no consistent themes or tone. This began to change with Ultima III, which codified much of the future installments' Player Party-based gameplay; and turned completely on its ear with Ultima IV, which finally gave Ultima a unique identity by introducing the series' hallmark Eight Virtues, tying the entire Game System to them, and turning the game into a Wide-Open Sandbox for pursuing said Virtues.
  • Unreal: The success of Unreal Tournament (a multiplayer-based spinoff of Unreal) introduced many mainstays in the series such as the Translocator, the Redeemer, a melee starting weapon (the Impact Hammer, which would later be refined in order to include a shield and an EMP attack), locales such as Facing Worlds and Lava Giant which would later get many official remakes and redesigns, the Mutator system (with the Instagib mutator as its main star), and characters such as Series Mascot Malcolm and Final Boss Xan Kriegor, who would play bigger roles in the games that followed. It also refined some of Unreal's features such as the weapons being tweaked in order to pack more of a punch or entirely redesigned (such as the Stinger -redone into the Pulse Gun- and the Bio Rifle) and new areas in already existing locales such as Curse and Deck. In addition, both this success and the critical and commercial failure of Unreal II: The Awakening convinced Epic Games to ditch the single-player adventures for fast-paced multiplayer-based experiences.
  • Nintendo consoles:
    • The Game Boy. Handhelds had been attempted for several years prior to the Game Boy, but were usually very expensive and so demanding that they could never last more than a few hours before the batteries ran dry (in an era where recharging the battery wasn't a thing yet). Nintendo was able to attain complete dominance by making a deliberately less powerful system, so it had a cheaper price and longer battery life; the monochrome graphics were largely ignored thanks to Nintendo's experience with quality gameplay that shone through. Nintendo first applied this approach to its handhelds, but starting with the Wii, they began to apply it to their home consoles as well.
    • The Wii: After middling sales of the Nintendo 64 and poor sales of the Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo decided to pursue a new strategy for their next console that company president Satoru Iwata dubbed the "Blue Ocean". They would abandon trying to compete on graphics and technology by essentially staying behind one generation, and would instead look for other ways of distinguishing their consoles. They had already found some success by deploying this strategy with the Nintendo DS and its innovative touch screen, and decided to try something similar by adding motion controls to the Wii. The hope was that by tapping into the vast "Blue Ocean" of potential customers beyond traditional hardcore gamers, they would finally recapture the market share they had lost to their competitors. In the case of the Wii, it worked, with the system going on to become the best selling console of its generation with over 100 million units sold worldwide. Nintendo stuck to the same strategy with their subsequent consoles the Wii U and Nintendo Switch; while the former failed to replicate the success of its predecessor and became the worst selling piece of Nintendo hardware save for the Virtual Boy, the Switch became a monumental success surpassing even the Wii.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Although the franchise started in 1958 and had a cartoon in the 1960s in the form of The Alvin Show, it was the later 1980s cartoon that truly defined the franchise going forward, as it gave Simon and Theodore their current personalities and solidified their dynamic with Alvin, on top of introducing the Chipettes, who have since become mainstays.
  • Batman: While the comics had already been repeatedly adapted for decades before the show's premiere, Batman: The Animated Series set the definitive template for most later takes on the franchise, both in and out of the comics (beyond the occasional Silver Age throwback, and even many of those take a page or two from this show's book). The "Dark Deco" visuals, character designs, dark yet optimistic tone, and characterization all had an extensive influence on subsequent adaptations, most heavily represented by Mr. Freeze's Adaptational Sympathy being incorporated into all following takes on the character and series original Harley Quinn becoming just as crucial of a villain as the Joker himself.
  • My Little Pony: Unlike the original cartoons, My Little Pony Tales had no humans, was Slice of Life, and focused on an ensemble cast instead of constantly rotating the ponies. All of these would carry over to future adaptations.
  • Noddy's Toyland Adventures, the fourth TV adaptation of the Noddy books by Enid Blyton, is this for the Noddy franchise. Many of the later works in the franchise use elements that were introduced by this particular incarnation. Perhaps the most noteworthy example is having the goblins as recurring antagonists in most of the future installments (save for Noddy, Toyland Detective).
  • Although the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had existed for three years prior as a comic, it was the 1987 cartoon that would truly shape the franchise going forward. Beyond being more comedic and lighthearted, it would go on to introduce many now iconic elements such as the multicolored masks and the turtles' love for pizza, as well as introducing villains such as Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady, who would become staples going forward. Every incarnation of the turtles going forward would feature at least some elements from the cartoon, including those that are Truer to the Text.
  • The Transformers: The Movie changed the Transformers franchise from a silly Saturday morning affair with loose lore to a more serious war story following Anyone Can Die through Family-Unfriendly Violence, which is the norm nowadays. Beast Wars further built upon this change in tone to focus on storytelling and characters, introducing major concepts like sparks that are so ubiquitous in the modern-day series that it's easy to forget it was completely absent in the franchise's first decade.
  • Looney Tunes: Fred Avery's 1937 short, Porky's Duck Hunt is often credited as codifying the zany humor that would redefine and give the Warner Bros. cartoons their own identity, which would be solidified further with 1940's A Wild Hare.