There are so many great series out there when it comes to gaming, especially when looking at retro games. Many of the big name, AAA series are incredibly famous, which is great for the video game industry as it brings more attention to the industry. However, it also means that there are a large number of video game series that go undiscovered by the majority of gamers.
That’s why I wanted to list out my top 7 favourite video game series. Now, I will say that I am using the official definition of a series, which simply states that the series must be a set or sequence of related media. Therefore, the minimum number of games that a series needs in order to qualify for this list is 2. With that in mind, let’s get started!
7. Silent Hill
The first on the list is also one of the two most famous on the list as well. Back in the early days of Survival Horror, there was a war between two game franchises that really dominated the genre. On one side, you had Resident Evil. On the other, you had Silent Hill. For me, the clear winner for the PS1 and PS2 generations had to be Silent Hill. The original four games were exquisite examples of psychological horror, scaring you more with hidden meaning and enemies that you can’t see.
From there, the main series went downhill a bit but redeemed itself (in my opinion) with Downpour and the amazing Shattered Memories. All 6 of these games have created lasting memories for me, and I still enjoy going back and playing them to this day.
6. Dot Hack
Next up, we technically have two series in one; Project dot//Hack and dot//Hack GU. I’m including them both because GU is technically a direct sequel to Project dot//Hack, despite also being considered its own series. The games are based upon an anime revolving around a virtual reality MMORPG, which also features as the prequel to the video games as well. The amount of world-building throughout the original anime, both series of games, plus the side-story anime that came with each entry in Project// dot Hack was incredible. You got a real sense of both the “in-game” and “real” worlds.
On top of that, the combat was enjoyable, mixing menu driven fighting with MMO style action RPG combat. The storylines for all of the entries were great, piecing together a huge overarching plot at the same time! Oh, and the developers went out of their way to make the game feel like an MMO; you can trade with “other players”, sometimes your characters will be “offline” and not available to party with, and you can log out of the MMO part to check forums and read email! It’s crazy how much depth the games offer.
So, this entry is the reason why I’m using the rule that 2 games count as a series. Galerians as a series features the eponymous Galerians for PS1, and Galerians: Ash for PS2. There is also an anime version of the first game called Galerians: Rion, and a manga prequel that I’ve never been able to get my hands on. I’ve mentioned many times before how much I love Galerians on the PS1 (you can read about that here), but I really enjoyed both games and the anime version.
Without repeating myself too much, the Galerians series takes the typical Survival Horror setup and turns it on its head. Rather than being a police officer or security guard facing off against scientific experiments, you are the scientific experiment and have to survive against the police and military. This, along with some very entertaining (and gory) gameplay, all come together to create a wonderful example of early Survival Horror.
4. Fatal Frame
Sticking with Survival Horror for the next entry, we come to my favourite solely horror series of all time; Fatal Frame. Whilst there have been so many horror games and series throughout the years, Fatal Frame is the only one to truly freak me out. In fact, Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly took me years to finish because I would just get so creeped out, and I’m ashamed to admit that at all. Taking full inspiration from Japanese mythology regarding the afterlife and ghosts, each game features some of the most spine-tingling gameplay I’ve ever experienced.
For example, in Fatal Frame 2, the ghosts can actually move through all parts of the game world, without the need for doors or other boundaries. So whilst you may run away from a ghost in one room of a house, they might suddenly appear almost anywhere else in the game! This creates a constant sense of dread, which is incredibly well done. If you are a fan of horror games and haven’t tried Fatal Frame yet, you are doing yourself a disservice!
3. Final Fantasy
Come on, you must have known that Final Fantasy was going to be on this list. I mean, as a J-RPG fan, even if you prefer other games to Final Fantasy, you have to admire the sheer power that the series (or rather, franchise) has on the gaming industry. Sure, it hasn’t been able to hit the same heights that it once reached in recent years, but I still adore the series as a whole. I mean, I own the large majority of the games.
Final Fantasy got me into J-RPGs, which very quickly became one of my two favourite genres (the other being horror, as you could probably tell from this list), so I also have to respect that aspect of the franchise. But honestly, I just find myself getting lost in the games and their stories. Characters are usually relatable, and the storylines are incredibly memorable. But really, I don’t think I need to explain why Final Fantasy made this list, do I?
2. Megami Tensei
So, what J-RPG series would I rank higher than Final Fantasy? Well, as this is a personal list, there are two. The first of these is Megami Tensei; one of the most convoluted yet incredible J-RPG series I’ve ever played. Each game is it’s own story, at least in the mainline Megami Tensei games. However, you also have a bunch of “spin off” games that have since created their own series within the Megami Tensei meta-series.
For example, the most well known of these spin-offs would have to be a little game series with 5 entries called Persona. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Another would be Digital Devil Saga with 2 games, then there are the Devil Summoner games with 4 entries, the 9 Shin Megami Tensei (plus another one coming soon-ish), 2 Devil Survivor games and a bunch of single spin-offs as well. Megami Tensei is an enormous, behemoth of a series overall, and I thoroughly adore it. The art style, gameplay innovations and very dark storylines mesh perfectly with what I want from a video game series.
1. Shadow Hearts
The last game series on this list, and my favourite game series of all time has to be Shadow Hearts! I mean, to be fair, if you have been reading this blog for a while now (or follow me on Twitter), you’ll know that Koudelka is my all time favourite game. Well, that’s also the first game in the Shadow Hearts series. So that, alone, is reason enough for Shadow Hearts to top this list. But despite that, the Shadow Hearts games themselves are beyond outstanding. They are incredibly dark in their subject matter (the first town you visit in Shadow Hearts 1 is full of cannibals and demons trying to eat you), overflying with comedy that happens at just the right time, and introduced the world to the Judgement Ring battle system.
These games, as a whole, have never left my gaming heart, and I doubt they ever will be. The series was cut short after Shadow Hearts: From The New World (the 3rd Shadow Hearts titled game and 4th in the series, including Koudelka) didn’t sell well, which is a real shame. These games are all fantastic, and I cannot sing their praises enough. Sure, From The New World wasn’t as good as the others, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable. If you’ve never played one of these games, I highly recommend them!
And That’s All Folks
So those were my top 7 video game series of all time. Yes, I am fully aware they fit into two categories; J-RPG and Survival Horror… But after all, those are my two favourite genres when it comes to gaming, so that was always going to happen.
What is your favourite video game series? Let me know in the comments below!