Top 10 Greatest Japanese Video Game Franchises of all Time



Top 10 Greatest Japanese Video Game Franchises of all Time

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Mark Sammut
Where to even begin? Japan has been tossing us some of the best gaming franchises of all time. For this list, we're looking at the greatest Japanese franchises to ever grace the gaming industry. A higher emphasis will be placed on series that are more successful in Japan rather than the West. Some of these games include: Resident Evil, Zelda and Pokemon.

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Okay, where to even begin? Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Greatest Japanese Video Games Franchises.

For this list, we’re looking at the greatest Japanese franchises to ever grace the gaming industry. A higher emphasis will be placed on series that are more successful in Japan rather than the West.

#10: “Resident Evil” franchise (1996-)

Coining the term "survival horror," Capcom's "Biohazard" has been a staple of the industry since the mid-90s. Created by Shinji Mikami and Tokuro Fujiwara, "Resident Evil's" blend of puzzle-solving, action, and horror instantly captured the attention of gamers everywhere, with the franchise growing into one of Capcom's best-selling IPs. While certain entries progressed a bit too far into Hollywood action territory, "Resident Evil's" main series has mainly been subjected to critical acclaim, with the drastically different second and fourth entries belonging among gaming's elite. With "Resident Evil 7: Biohazard" and the “Resident Evil 2” remake proving to be a welcome return to form, Capcom's beloved horror series is not going anywhere.

#9: “Megami Tensei” franchise (1987-)

Whether referring to Atlus' main series or the spin-offs, "Shin Megami Tensei" is synonymous with excellence. A turn-based JRPG that frequently opts for an urban rather than a fantastical setting and never hesitates to put players through the ringer, "Megami Tensei" debuted on the Famicom in the late '80s, although the IP hit its peak during the PlayStation 2 era. Even though the still ongoing main series is brilliant and well-worth checking out, Atlus' most renowned franchise may be "Persona," a "Megami Tensei" spin-off that mixes traditional monster-collecting gameplay with an in-depth social mechanic.

#8: “Dragon Quest” franchise (1986-)

Step aside, JRPG royalty is coming through! Hailed as the grandfather of the genre, "Dragon Quest's" influence should not be understated, as there would not be any "Final Fantasy" without this legendary franchise. Even if the series' iconic combat and fantasy setting may seem somewhat bare-bones by today's standards, "Dragon Quest's" allure always pivoted on delivering an engaging but accessible experience that could be enjoyed by anyone. Despite being hugely popular in Japan, "Dragon Quest" failed to initially catch on in other regions, and it would take until the seventh and eighth entries for the JRPG to gain some traction in North America

#7: “Street Fighter” franchise (1987-)

Oh, so many quarters were wasted trying to defeat M. Bison at the arcade. Revolutionizing the one-on-one fighting genre, "Street Fighter II" blew people's minds by actually introducing different playable characters, allowing for a ton of replayability. Over the years, Capcom has refined the formula and added cool little gimmicks like supers; however, "Street Fighter's" core mechanics have remained largely intact, as there is little point in messing with perfection. Putting aside Capcom's obsession with releasing multiple special editions of the same title, when it comes to fighting games, "Street Fighter" will always be the one to beat.

#6: “Metal Gear” franchise (1987-2018)

A PlayStation console would not feel complete without, at least, one mind-bending Hideo Kojima adventure. Inaugurated as an isometric stealth series for the MSX2 computer, the IP's reputation exploded with 1998's "Metal Gear Solid," a thrilling third-person shooter that popularized stealth as a central mechanic. For better or worse, Kojima's narrative is infamous for taking a couple of weird turns, but a convincing argument can be made that "Metal Gear Solid 2" elevated storytelling in gaming to a whole other level. Konami's handling of the brand has been somewhat questionable, but "Metal Gear Solid" is a rabbit hole worth traversing.

#5: “Monster Hunter” franchise (2004-)

There is nothing more satisfying than bringing a skyscraper-sized Nergigante down to its knees! As gamers defeat colossal monsters in order to craft better gear which is, in turn, required to hunt even bigger prey, "Monster Hunter" is the living embodiment of "story does not matter" and wastes little time in getting to the meat of things. The premise may be shockingly simplistic, but Capcom's franchise has always sold itself on solid combat and an addictive gameplay loop. Considering that "Monster Hunter: World" stands as Capcom's best-selling game to date, the franchise's formula seems to be working just fine!

#4: “Final Fantasy” franchise (1987-)

Arguably the most "Japanese" franchise in the business, Square Enix's "Final Fantasy" introduced many Western players to JRPGs. Be it a progression system or a side-view perspective in battles, the franchise's initial entries introduced many elements that would go on to define the genre. With the move to 3D, "Final Fantasy VII" revamped the series in a big way and deserves quite a bit of credit for the PlayStation's commercial dominance over the Nintendo 64. Even though Square Enix has made a couple of missteps over the years, "Final Fantasy" has rarely hesitated to experiment with unique mechanics in order to push JRPGs forward.

#3: “The Legend of Zelda” franchise (1986-)

Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka established the pillars of modern gaming, and nearly every 3D title in existence owes something to one of the duo's many franchises. Putting aside a handful of spin-offs and the confusing "The Adventure of Link," an entry in Nintendo's franchise is nearly always greeted with universal acclaim and a flood of awards, with "Ocarina of Time" being the highest rated game of all time on Metacritic. Packing dungeons with puzzles, engaging combat, and quirky characters; "The Legend of Zelda" offers something for everyone and, if "Breath of the Wild" is anything to go by, Link's adventures may keep getting even better.

#2: “Pokémon” franchise (1996-)

The second best-selling franchise in history, Nintendo's RPG has served as the perfect gateway into the genre for over two decades. Even without mentioning the neverending anime or Pikachu's staggering popularity, "Pokémon" cannot be viewed as anything less than a resounding success that continues to go strong until this very day. Even though innovation was never the franchise's strong suit, "Pokémon's" core gameplay contains just enough depth to warrant multiple revisits, while "Red and Blue" were among the most impressive RPGs released for the Game Boy. Frankly, what other franchise could motivate people to hit the streets in droves just to play a video game?

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Metroid” franchise (1986-)

“Mega Man” franchise (1987-)

#1: “Mario” franchise (1981-)

Seriously, is there any other series that could have taken the number one spot? As gaming's indisputable mascot, Mario's reach extends far beyond the medium, and Nintendo's IP is comfortably the highest-grossing franchise of all time. Debuting in "Donkey Kong" before earning his own series in the groundbreaking "Super Mario Bros.," the former plumber is always at the forefront of any cutting-edge technological advancements, a fact that was never more apparent than "Super Mario 64's" leap from 2D side-scrolling to 3D sandbox gameplay. Whether racing around in "Mario Kart" or leading Luigi to super-stardom in one of the many sports spin-offs, Mario's mere name is enough to sell a project.