A Gateway Series is a series that introduces a significant niche of viewers to a genre that is new to them, and that is a positive enough introduction for them to hunt down other examples of the genre.
Trope Namer: In the drug world, a gateway drug is a drug that entices you or makes it easier to try other drugs. This name is mostly used by anti-drug programs, so there is debate about whether gateway drugs exist. But a gateway series, ones that makes you start watching new genres you never used to watch, is definitely real.
Even if you don't grow too passionate about the genre after watching a Gateway Series, after a few years you'll still end up with a vast knowledge about it and maybe a big pile of DVDs. If you do become passionate, then your room may be devoted to your new addiction. It all depends on how strongly you embrace your new tastes.
Someone's personal Gateway Series will be granted immunity from criticism thanks to the Nostalgia Filter.
Gateway series often have some things in common, mostly anything that causes a good first impression, both from the series and the entire genre. Each genre has a certain pattern, so to enjoy it you have to grow accustomed to those unique quirks. Thus, many Gateway Series blend styles or cross genres together; you are attracted to the series by quirks you already have and so get used to the new ones that way. Thus, Japanese Anime that has Western-style storytelling makes for good gates.
Deep, intricate storylines or massive loads of action are common, as well as being weird in a fun and upbeat way. Those things help you realize that this genre can have a lot of good and different stuff to offer.
Gateway Series must be good in some sense, and must not have much more squick than normally comes with the genre. Otherwise, you would be turned off. If it does work, these tend to be (though not always are) responsible for a Newbie Boom for either the overall franchise the series might be part of (espeically for a Long Runner) -or- for the "genre" it's part of, the success of Anime in North America during the early-to-mid 90's for example owes a lot to this as explored below.
Compare Breakthrough Hit, the gateway to a creator; Star-Making Role, the gateway to an actor; and Killer App, the gateway to a console. Contrast It's Popular, Now It Sucks!. Not to be confused with the Gateway series or its video game adaptation. See also TV Tropes as a Gateway Drug.
Important note: Classifying anything as a 'gateway something' doesn't imply in any way that it is less good than the less accessible material it leads on to. All that we're saying is that for a lot of people, these examples lead on to discovering and enjoying other things. It's not a value judgement, just an observation of how fans tend to start from common points.
- Dooly the Little Dinosaur and Leafie, a Hen into the Wild for Korean animation.
- Chinese animation (donghua) tried to get exposure and interest beyond the Chinese market before, but none has truly gotten Western audiences' attention until The King's Avatar. Aside from its quality being considered on par with Japanese Anime, the story's premise and setting of the Real Life "eSports" scene by using a fictional Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, yet doing away traditional Fantasy and Science Fiction elements entirely from other animated works influenced by the genre, has been lauded by viewers.
- Mo Dao Zu Shi would be next series after the The King's Avatar to really draw up an audience with donghua as it meshes not just Wuxia, but introduced many fans to danmei. While it's similar in concept to Japanese Yaoi since they're both Boys' Love, danmei differs in how it plays the genre's usual tropes and Shipping dynamics, akin to The King's Avatar not relying on isekai and Stock Light-Novel Hero tropes as a narrative.
- Pick any comic book that has been adapted to Hollywood blockbuster format. Or, pick any comic book that has an Animated Adaptation you used to watch when you were a child. Familiarity plays a very important role here.
- Or the other way around, a TV show that has been adapted into a comic book such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- The Sandman by Neil Gaiman was many people's first exposure to Urban Fantasy, as well as introducing them to concepts like story-within-the-story and by deciphering its many references, got people interested in Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and also told them unfamiliar parts of William Shakespeare's life, namely that he had a son named Hamnet.
- Watchmen by Alan Moore raised the graphic novel to a level of "cultural seriousness" and it became one of the first books that many non-comic readers read in detail.
- Preacher to Vertigo Comic Books.
- There have been reports of people — not just bronies — getting into comics period thanks to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW). The first issue was one of top 100 best selling comics in 2012. An all-ages comic doing this is good news for the industry! The first issue also does a good job of introducing the main characters and tone of Friendship Is Magic for anyone who hasn't actually watched the show, though you might still wonder what a "cutie mark" is.
- An example that's still too new to see if it'll really have this effect, but interesting regardless: the new Ms. Marvel. According to store owners, unprecedented levels of new customers, especially Muslim women and girls, are following the adventures of Kamala Khan. Ms. Marvel is the only comic book that does better in digital sales than the traditional floppy format, and is Marvel's best-selling digital title. The problem is, store owners and publishers are at something of a loss as to how to get these new readers actually through the gateway, because there just aren't that many funny, brightly-colored books about young girls. Still, upcoming books like Gotham Academy and revamps like November's Batgirl seem to be looking to Kamala for guidance.
- The Killing Joke is often identified as a good gateway to Batman comics, most famously by Tim Burton.
- Archie Comics is a gateway series into comics due to its availability (it can be bought in supermarkets and stores, unlike most American comics) and its mostly kid-friendly nature.
- Batman: Hush is considered this, even by its many detractors. It features a huge number of characters, all of whom Batman will introduce to the reader, and Jim Lee's art is very mainstream in its appeal.
- A lot of Norse Mythology enthusiasts freely admit that The Mighty Thor was what got them interested.
- Part of why Ultimate Spider-Man was so successful was because of how many new Spidey fans it drew in, more often than not leading to said fans checking out the main Spider-Man books and becoming fans of that as well.
- Starbucks has gotten a lot of Americans into gourmet coffee and espresso, even if hipsters still scoff at them. It's also where a lot of teenagers since the '90s have had their first taste of coffee.
- Sushi is a gateway into Japanese cuisine for most Westerners. It and ramen are often the only Japanese foods westerners know about.
- While Blue Moon may not actually be a craft beer (it's manufactured by MillerCoors), it's commonly attributed as the beer that inspires drinkers to seek out those craft beers.
- Animaniacs (especially the Minerva Mink shorts)
- Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
- Looney Tunes
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- Sonic the Hedgehog (though applies across all media)
- Thunder Cats
- Tiny Toon Adventures
- Star Trek: The Animated Series — Lt. M'Ress in particular
- Josie and the Pussycats from the early 70s
- SWAT Kats
- Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats - Cleo and Wordsworth in particular
Then there are feature films that act as gateways.
- Robin Hood
- The Secret of NIMH
- The Lion King
- Kung Fu Panda
- Guardians of the Galaxy — Specifically, Rocket
- Zootopia - not confirmed yet, but most Furries are convinced it'll start the next generation of Furry Fandom
- The Animals of Farthing Wood
- Watership Down
- Warrior Cats. Warrior Cats is also gateway series into becoming an animal-centric artist, or just an artist period. Furries Are Easier to Draw applies and then some. The characters are all cats, minus one badger character and a few minor villains. Unlike dogs, cats usually look a lot alike (and there are no purebreds, meaning very few characters are "unusual" looking like Persians or Sphynxs), so it's easy to use Only Six Faces and Palette Swaps. This makes newer artists fond of drawing Warriors characters.
And lot of webcomics
- See Furry Webcomics
And a several video games:
- Look no further than the very website which you happen to be browsing at this (probably) late hour. How many books, TV shows, etc. were you blissfully unaware of before coming here but now have a sudden unrequited urge to experience?
- YouTube Poop introduces many younger people who weren't able to watch them when they first aired to cartoon adaptations of popular video games such as Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, to the Philips CD-i as well as Volvic mineral water, Team Fortress 2 and since the rise of the #71519 fad to The Critic.
- AMVs and fanvids in general.
- The Spoony One, and his review of Final Fantasy VIII in particular, introduced a lot of people who came in late to internet reviewers, and specifically the critics on That Guy with the Glasses. (Given the amount the reviewers cameo in each other's videos, someone who starts with one will soon be aware of most of the main cast.)
- If you didn't get into The Slender Man Mythos through Marble Hornets, you probably got into it through Creepypasta or the PC game.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd is seen by many as arguably the most important video game critic of all time, blazing a trail for the whole medium of online reviews to enter the mainstream. And don't even get us started on the publicity he's given to all of the obscure games he's covered..
- Space Shuttle revitalized pinball in the 1980s with a very simple gimmick: A scale model of a NASA space shuttle. Once people were drawn to the machine because of the scale model, they enjoyed the approachable gameplay and clear objectives. The success of Space Shuttle encouraged operators to buy more pinball machines and increased sales of pinball all around for the next decade.
- The pinball machine themed on South Park (the physical one built by SEGA, not the digital ones from Zen Studios) is an unusual case in that it attracts people who would have never otherwise touched pinball, with its very simple and straightforward layout in an age when other pinball machines can easily be overwhelming to a normal person, but has a pretty small effect on introducing these players to other pinball machines (most likely because of the outrageous prices these machines sell for limiting player's access to them). For operators, however, because it's so easy for a beginner to understand it, South Park earns good money in public, which allows other pinball machines nearby to earn more too. Hence, South Park can be seen as a gateway for operators to put pinball in various establishments, and as a result, a South Park machine is rarely found alone in public.
- Mandriva Linux and Ubuntu are meant to be easy-to-set-up, easy-to-use gateways into the world of Linux, as reflected in Ubuntu's slogan, "Linux for human beings", and with people often switching to more complex distros such as Red Hat, Fedora or openSUSE, and some of them later graduating to technical distros such as Debian, Gentoo, Slackware, Arch, or even leaving Linux and switching to BSD or OpenSolaris.
- Either Java, Python or C and some of its successors (C++ and C#) are considered some of the main gateways to learning programming in general due to their accessibility and versatility in different fields.
- If you have taken a web design class, chances are that you've familiarized yourself with HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)
- Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition in particular has been rather successful at being friendly to new players.
- New editions of D&D in general seem to do this. Much the same thing happened when 3rd Edition came out, and the gaming scene in general saw a big boost in the wake of the open-content d20 System.
- With a few exceptions; Jonny-Come-Latelies joining at the height of 3.5 (Or now since 4th edition groups are rather rare) would probably find themselves swarmed with dozens upon dozens (if not even a hundred or more) of the various kinds of books, including but not limited to the player's handbook, monster manual, magical items, expansion books, class-detail books (Like Complete Divine), update books, and more.
- Has also been used negatively by gamers in reference to D&D. Some gamers, for instance, feel that D&D is a shallower and less "worthy" part of the tabletop gaming industry and that it's so popular only because it's so easy to get into.
- Players and fans of 3.5 have now have its Spiritual Successor, Paizo's Pathfinder
- New editions of D&D in general seem to do this. Much the same thing happened when 3rd Edition came out, and the gaming scene in general saw a big boost in the wake of the open-content d20 System.
- Vampire: The Masquerade of the Old World of Darkness has been a more recent gateway game.
- In particular, its simplicity compared to D&D and its modern horror setting has meant that it's attractive to a lot of people who otherwise might not be interested in role playing. It also is pretty much focused on letting the players be anti-heroes (or outright bad guys) which is definitely more attractive to angsty teens.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The main game is often a gateway to Tabletop Games as a whole. You start with 40k after coming across it as a teen, then after a few years you might move along and start playing a spin-off game or even Warhammer. If you play at a multi-gaming club, you'll probably end up at the very least being interested in those systems as well and there's no telling just how many you might get into.
- After the relaunch of several Specialist games, many of them became gateway series to the main 40k game and its Age of Sigmar counterpart. Kill Team, Blood Bowl and Underworlds brought in many players to the main game systems; Kill Team and Underworlds providing you a small squad as a stepping stone to collecting a proper army for 40k or Age of Sigmar (respectively) while Blood Bowl, due to its wackiness and marketing with the video game, brought in many video gamers who were curious about the tabletop game.
- Board games such as HeroQuest often serve as a gateway to Tabletop RPG gaming.
- Tunnels & Trolls was explicitly designed as a simpler, easier-to-play clone of D&D, in an attempt to bring in new gamers. It never did achieve the popularity of D&D, but there is a sizable group of tabletop gamers that cut their teeth on T&T.
- Western Computer RPGs, like Baldur's Gate or Knights of the Old Republic, particularly ones based on an existing system like Dungeons & Dragons or The Dark Eye, often result in players making the leap from video games to tabletop games.
- The Choose Your Own Adventure, Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf books were a gateway for many roleplayers of the 80s.
- The Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! card game led eventually to Magic: The Gathering for lots of players. Helped by the fact that a lot of sanctioned tournaments of the former shared venues with tournaments for the latter. Also, the huge media presence (straddling many years) and child-friendly image of both Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh practically guarantees that these will be the first CCGs people get into.
- And, in turn, a number of Magic pros who become accustomed to making high-stakes probabilistic decisions end up transitioning to poker (most notably David Williams).
- Duels of the Planeswalkers is another avenue for new players; specifically those in the video game world.
- The Dark Eye is the Gateway system in German-speaking countries, despite beeing the deepest system around.
- Settlers of Catan is well known for getting people who thought they outgrew board games back into them.
- RENT, Les Misérables, Avenue Q, and Wicked for musicals.
- Cirque du Soleil's various shows have introduced a lot of people, particularly in North America, to the contemporary circus genre.
- Mozart's Singspiel The Magic Flute because it is often performed in the local language, has dialogue in addition to singing, a fairytale-like story and wonderful music. If you ever saw an opera as a child, odds are high that it was The Magic Flute. Also, to a lesser extent, The Marriage of Figaro.
- Hamilton: In an interview for his grammy nomination, Lin-Manuel Miranda said that he felt Hamilton had become a gateway show in two different directions: theatre fans came in without ever having had any interest in hip-hop and came out realising how great it could be and wanting to learn more, while hip-hop fans went in skeptically and came out realising that they might've prejudged musical theatre.
- The Nutcracker is universally recognized as "Baby's First Ballet", as it's almost always the first ballet any young child sees. It's also festive holiday fare that makes it attractive to non-theater-goers. Honorable mention in this category also goes to Swan Lake.
- Fans of German musicals are most likely to have started with Elisabeth, Tanz Der Vampire, or Mozart!.
- A main gateway series to Visual Novels is arguably Tsukihime, and in a broader sense, the Melty Blood fighting game series. While some eroge can surely bring with them a great story and be classified as Porn with Plot, it usually isn't marketed or seen that way in the West. Many a Visual Novel has been consumed since then, and since something as broad as Visual Novels is rather variated, rather guiding newcomers to Planetarian, and from there:
- Those that may be averse to 18+ material to Ever17 or Kira-Kira (the all ages version)
- Those with a unique taste to anything by Looseboy, Urobuchi Gen, Kinoko Nasu, or Romeo Tanaka
- And those looking for gameplay or humor (or both) to Galaxy Angel or the Ace Attorney series.
- Katawa Shoujo is one partly because it is English Language Freeware, partly because its relation to 4chan and its concept as a Disabled Love Interest H-Game made it somewhat famous, and partly because it is well made. Katawa Shoujo is such a Gateway Series that it made the front page of Game Faqs as the top of the list of 10 Most Wanted Faqs.
- Anime series based on visual novels, such as CLANNAD, Fate/stay night, Steins;Gate, and When They Cry, are a common gateway into visual novels in general. Most of the VNs that do get localized have been translated after the anime series have become successful in the West.
- Doki Doki Literature Club!, despite being a brutal, horrific deconstruction of such, has gotten many into visual novels, thanks to its popularity extending far beyond visual novel enthusiasts.
- Everlasting Summer is a russian Visual Novel that brought many people to the genre due to it being one of the most popular and well-reviewed Visual Novels on Steam.
- Penny Arcade in general is a Gateway Drug, since many of the things that Tycho links to in his blog end up getting hit by a surge of readers/viewers. This happened with Doctor Horrible, Minecraft, and MegaTokyo.
- MegaTokyo itself is often a Gateway Series to webcomics for anime fans.
- xkcd is also a common entry point into the world of webcomics.
- So is Homestuck as well.
- This very wiki, due to webcomics being a common source for page images.
- Korean manhwa and webtoons are not as popular as Japanese manga. When a webtoon gets popular it can cause readers to become more interested in webtoons as a whole. Examples include Killing Stalking, Bastard!!, Fluttering Feelings, What Does The Fox Say, and Nineteen, Twenty-One.
- Disney Animation, and perhaps Looney Tunes serve as a gateway into the widely varied world of animation.
- The DC Animated Universe is the first faithful and high production versions of many parts of the DC Universe that had been little known or unrepresented at that point:
- Batman: The Animated Series serves as the introduction of the overall Batman mythos to a lot of fans and provided many people's first glimpse of the less well-known parts of his Rogues Gallery, namely Ra's Al Ghul and Scarecrow (neither of whom had appeared in movies at the time or in the Adam West shownote ), as well as Killer Croc, Scarface and Ventriloquist, and redefined and updated the likes of Mr. Freeze to the point that it quickly became his origin in the comics and wider media.
- Likewise, Superman, whose movies tended to not accept the existence of bad guys not named Luthor and Zod. Superman: The Animated Series served the role as the introduction of the Superman mythos for a lot of modern fans and provided many peoples first glimpses of Brainiac, Mr. Mxyzsptlk, Toyman, and the Jack Kirby Fourth World and his extended cast: Dan Turpin, Intergang, Darkseid, Apokolips, New Genesis, the Mother Box, Boom Tubes and other amazing concepts. In addition, the DCAU version of Luthor was the first one to emphasize his scientific acumen (which the movies never tackled) and his Corrupt Corporate Executive revision of The '80s (or as Neil Gaiman called him "skinny Kingpin").
- Justice League (Unlimited) served as many people's exposure to the wider parts of the DC Universe, proving their first introductions to The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl among many others. Likewise it introduced them to Amanda Waller, Suicide Squad, Vandal Savage, Despero, Amazo and others.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has undoubtedly opened the minds of many to the My Little Pony franchise, and it seems to have opened the door for young adults, both male and female, and even little boys, to watch shows for little girls.
- It has also opened the door for other shows with similar subject matter. Colorful Equine Characters, once seen as a "girl-only" thing, is no longer seen as such. Filly Funtasia seems specifically designed to go the extra mile to capitalize on this. In comparison to Friendship Is Magic which was a girl's show aiming for a general audience, Filly jumps the girl show moniker (and its inherent barriers) entirely. Instead of a majority female cast like MLP, male pony characters are abundant and significant too.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series introduced a lot of people to the Spider-Man mythos in the nineties.
- Metalocalypse introduced many to the metal genre, similar to the Brütal Legend example above (which may have been why Eddie Riggs met Dethklok in a crossover commercial).
- The Simpsons has made many people across the world familiar with politics, counterculture, alternative music, literature, music, animated cartoons, comic strips,... they probably didn't know much about before the show referenced it. A prime example: Tito Puente's cameo in the "Who Shot Mr. Burns" episodes has introduced many viewers who didn't know much about salsa or mambo to the singer.
- It's very possible many cartoon watchers in the early to mid 2000's got their first taste of a lot of Classical Mythology from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Eris (Greek Goddess of Discord) and Nergal (Mesopatanian deity) are both recurring characters. Even more modern mythology shows up now and again- how many other shows of the time featured freaking Cthulhu as a one-off antagonist?
- The 90s X-Men cartoon was many kids' first experience with the X-Men characters and franchise (and to a lesser extent, Marvel Comics in general), and the early live action films even took a bit of inspiration from it.
- Gargoyles provided many 90s kids with their first taste of Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Cyber Punk, and Detective Drama as well as mythology, history, Shakespeare, deliberate story arcs and canon, complex character motives and moralities, and Xanatos Gambits.
- Series like Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, and Over the Garden Wall are a gateway back into cartoons. Many viewers are teens and adults who abandoned (American) cartoons years ago for other more "mature" mediums, but the plot-heavy and dark themes of those cartoons attracted them back into the medium.
- Victor and Valentino is a gateway into Latin American mythology.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot can act as a gateway into science fiction. It references multiple other sci-fi works.