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video game franchises

We started off with a bang and now we’re back to our roots.

The world has changed so much in the last decade, and with it, our gaming culture. Like any other form of entertainment, the trends it sets generally reflect its time. The year 2010 was innovative and set fire to the indie scene; it shaped brilliant titles into transformative franchises that would be recalled fondly today. This year, 2019, was a year of renewal, polishing these life-changing games and cementing their lasting contributions as iconic. Gaming has blossomed into something truly wonderful, and it’s not only the graphics that have leveled up. Closing out this decade and entering the new, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how far our favorite video game franchises have come.

Making a list doesn’t seem too difficult until you realize how much of a monumental leap gaming has made in only 10 years. Knowing that, we’ll go over five games that have changed the times and three more honorable mentions for their class and value.

To top the list off, we’ll start with every adventurer’s favorite: “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.” Selling over 30 million copies worldwide on every modern gaming console, we’re kicking off with a bang. This single player game, despite being somewhat laggy, is still as memorable and glorious as ever.

It blew up in 2011 and set the trend for fantasy, customization, lore, mods and an expansive open world. The seemingly infinite amount of quests actually worked to benefit player choice and immersive reality. As a player, you’re given so much freedom that most gaming experiences don’t even come close — there’s always something to do no matter where you look, and you’re the one who gets to choose. That absurd amount of flexibility has been copied again and again in other games, and it really is a trendsetter in allowing “player choice” to become a genuine and enjoyable concept.

Second on this list, but not second in our hearts, is “The Last of Us.” If you didn’t think a narrative heavy on storytelling elements could land a spot as one of the most influential games, then you’re mistaken — at more than 17 million copies sold, this breathtaking and emotional tale is well worth the ride.

A contender for game of the year in 2013, it threw Ellie and Joel into a rollercoaster of a story. Escorting a young Ellie in the postapocalyptic world of grotesque monsters is bound to tug at your heartstrings. Mixing stealth and action into the gameplay reflects how desperate our protagonists are as they cope with retaining their humanity — but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. This brilliant storytelling is something worth sharing regardless of your usual medium, and it shows that games can capably create a meaningful narrative.

Speaking of meaningful, “Celeste” is third on this list for the message it delivered. Not only was it a great indie game, but it sold over half a million copies and won awards in 2018 for best independent game and best game for impact.

The universally-acclaimed platformer with pixel rich visuals featured a lovely soundtrack and a transformative journey to the top of the mountain. With a message that screams, “believe in yourself” and “elevate through optimism,” the game eloquently approached many themes of mental illness and channeled it into something frustrating yet beautiful. Dying a lot in the game is the point; it’s extremely challenging and failure is to be expected when confronting difficult times, but resetting and embracing that is the key to scaling the mountain and self-acceptance.

In returning to online gaming for the fourth on the list, you’re greeted with one of the most played games in the world. If we’re talking about online shooters, “Counter-Strike” is king going by the numbers. Its simple yet addicting set-up elevates this above the others for a multiplayer FPS game.

They started with a few modes, like original terrorist versus counterterrorists, 20 years ago and since then have added spectacularly designed maps and have kept improving remarkably with each and every game. It all sounds so simple and underwhelming on paper, but watch a few videos and you’ll find out what it is in actuality — the intensity of firefights and team play gave birth to a game that took eSports by storm. It’s since then become one of the most beloved video game franchises that is almost essential for the PC gamer or for the casual fan who enjoys streaming.

For the fifth and final, we’ll talk about streaming and its related gaming culture. The last one on this list will likely be familiar whether you’re into video games or not, because like or not, it’s become wildly popular: “Fortnite.”

I don’t think I need to tell you the numbers, but just in case: Over 250 million people play Fortnite. This battle royale is another trend setter that quickly became a resounding success and has become something of a cultural phenomenon, attracting potential streamers like moths to a flame. For many, it’s accessible and easy to get into — go in, battle, hope to survive and simply restart if you fail. In the age of streaming and gaming celebrities, there’s almost nothing as talked about, as memed about, or as played as this gaming behemoth.

What you’ve just read were some of the influential titles that have transformed the landscape of video game franchises. For our quick honorable mentions, it’s worth taking a look at one of the most interesting trends to surface in 2019 — the rerun of the generation’s favorites. In a very befitting way, we’ve come full circle and reunited with the titles we used to love most. These mentions have all aged gracefully and are our ways of going back to our roots. “Minecraft” celebrating 10 years, “Halo” now ported to PC and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” being the holiday seller has blessed this decade as the year of nostalgia.

We’re uncertain of the future for gaming, but with all the growth that has happened in these 10 years alone, it does look promising. While we still can, it’s worth celebrating the timeline that video game franchises have pummeled though; remember, it’s not only the graphics that have leveled up. Some games brought impactful social messages, others an inventive freedom to play and for even others a craze that sparked streaming and fandom. The decade of gamer nostalgia will be something to remember, and for the future, the only way to find out is to keep on playing.

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