11 Classic Videogame Franchises And Their Incredible Evolutions

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The times, see how they change? I don’t know about you, but it blows my mind how far videogames have come in such a relatively short space of time. 

I mean Jesus, just look at recent games like Uncharted 4 – an absolute graphical powerhouse of a game that melts your eyes out if you look at it for too long.

All exaggeration aside, it’s always plainest to see how much gaming has evolved when you take a look at long standing franchises. The likes of Zelda, Mario and Tomb Raider have been around for long enough that you can look at where they started compared to where they are now and be genuinely impressed.

So that’s what we’re gonna do now.

The Legend of Zelda

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After 30 years, The Legend of Zelda has gone through a fair few changes – and not just visual ones.

From the open world NES classic and its slightly bizarre side-scrolling sequel, right through to the transition into 3D with gems like Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker, this is one franchise that’s always evolving – Just look at where it started compared to where it’s going next on the Wii U (and NX).

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Many fans feel the series is getting a bit stale, and as a result Zelda Wii U seems to be looking to the return to the franchise to its NES roots. There’s even been talk of a Skyrim influence, which has me sold.

Tomb Raider

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Lara Craft has gone from being an awkward to control pile of polygons to a fully rounded character (both emotionally and physically).

Some folk disagree with the direction Lara has gone in as a character over the years, and that’s a shame. Just because she’s depicted as a more vulnerable character rather than a gun toting murderer that always keeps her cool doesn’t make her shit or weak – it just makes her a human that you can relate to.

Whatever your opinion, you can’t deny that the games have gotten much, much prettier – gorier too.

Metal Gear Solid

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There are a lot of things I don’t think any of us could have predicted when Metal Gear hit the NES back in 1987.

Firstly, that the game would end up being the first in a beloved franchise, or that Metal Gear Solid would become one of the most important videogames of all time (because Metal Gear for NES wasn’t actually very good).

Also, I’m confident none of us could have predicted what the franchise would evolve into by the time The Phantom Pain rolled around in 2015- namely, a batshit crazy open world stealth game that lets you kidnap people with balloons. Time makes fools of us all, I guess.

Pokemon

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Pokemon. Evolution. There’s some kind of joke in there somewhere, go find it for me would you?

A lot of people claim there are far too many Pokemon these days, and I find it hard to disagree. What I would say to the non believers though, is that Pokemon is better than it has ever been. Put your nostalgia to one side for just one second.

Battles finally look dynamic, the world around you is better looking than ever before, and wi-fi makes battling and trading super easy. Here’s hoping Pokemon Sun/Moon dial it back with the Pokemon, but carry on with the innovation.

Mario

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From humble 8-bit beginnings, Mario was at the forefront of the 3D platforming revolution with Mario 64, and still manages to offer up deliriously inventive games with each entry.

Just look at Super Mario Maker for a clear visual indication of how far the franchise has come. Whether in 2D or 3D, the portly plumber continues to innovate wherever he goes.

Fun fact: Super Mario Galaxy, and Mario 3D World are two of the best 3D platforming games of the past decade. If you miss that kind of PlayStation era platforming, you owe it to yourself to check ’em out.

Sonic The Hedgehog

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Unlike his rival Mario, Sonic managed to imbue his transition into 3D with all the grace of a hurried crap in a service station.

There’s just something about the third dimension that the blue blur can’t seem to crack, although there have been some great efforts.

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Sonic Generations for example, managed to encapsulate everything that makes Sonic great, while focusing on eye watering speed and 3D environments that actually worked. Now if they could just get it right one more time for his 25th birthday…

Grand Theft Auto

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Grand Theft Auto began life as a grainy top down action game, and has transformed into a franchise that prides itself on delivering breathtaking open worlds rich in detail and massive in scale.

Just look at Grand Theft Auto 5, with all its radio stations, clubs, bars, TV programs and strange conspiracy theories. It’s very possibly the most involved and believable game world ever created – Rockstar should be proud of how far they’ve come.

With each entry in the series, the number of things to do, see, shoot, drive, or jump off of grows exponentially – I can’t wait to see where Rockstar take us next.

The Elder Scrolls

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Released in 1994, Arena was the first game in the now massive Elder Scrolls series. My, how they’ve grown.

From Arena and Daggerfall, through to Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, the franchise might have gotten more “accessible” (which is apparently a bad thing for reasons no one has ever explained to me), but they’ve also gotten more ambitious by far, offering massive worlds just waiting to be explored in any way you see fit.

Just staring at that sack of pixels on the left, then considering the dragons you’ve slayed and mountains you’ve claimed since then really puts into perspective how far the Elder Scrolls has come – and gets me hyped for where it might yet go.

Final Fantasy

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There may be so many Final Fantasy games at this point that the title has lost its meaning somewhat, but who can complain when they just get prettier with each entry?

I’m sure lots of people can complain in reality. Hell, most fans seem to think the series peaked around Final Fantasy 7, which was a hell of a long time ago – but Final Fantasy 15 fills me with hope. Maybe I’ve just been lured in by the shiny visuals like the foolish Magpie I am.

But have you seen it? Good God, it hurts my heart every time I look at it.  We’ve come a long way from the NES days, that’s for sure.

DOOM

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Classic DOOM is pretty fucking awesome. I have no idea if Bethesda and id Software’s new DOOM is great, because it’s not out yet – but it definitely looks the part.

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Ever since the original, DOOM has been all about delivering over the top action, buckets of gore, and horrendous amounts of demons to tear apart. Modern consoles should be able to piss that kind of carnage out with a shrug, so hopefully the reboot hasn’t completely mucked it up.

Big guns, bigger demons, and a healthy smattering of gore. It should be fine, right?

Street Fighter

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Street Fighter really impresses me because even after all these years, it’s somehow managed to retain the spirit of those classic SNES/arcade visuals in the newer entries in a weird way that I just can’t quite put my finger on.

Street Fighter V for example, is a fantastic looking game – but it completely feels just as it did way back in 1987. That’s not a dig either, it’s just a magical quality that manages to tap into my nostalgia while simultaneously moving forward on a technical level.

A Hadouken is still one of the coolest things in gaming, whether it’s 1987 or 2016 – I find that kind of comforting.

Maybe I’m just a technophobe, but technology definitely seems to be advancing at a scary rate.

You never know – maybe in ten, fifteen years, we’ll all be looking at screenshots of Uncharted 4 and laughing at the idea we ever thought they were good graphics, as we strap on our 4D headsets and physically enter the world of Uncharted 8. 

I mean, probably not – but it never hurts to dream, kids.

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