The Biggest Gaming Worlds and Universes Of All Time

Have you ever felt lost in a video game? Or explored a game world that felt huge – with massive landscapes, sprawling cities, and endless adventures? 

In this page, we will give you a rundown of the biggest, most memorable universes that graced our screens

We will mention their main characters (if there are any) and the setting they usually take place in. We will also discuss these universes as a “series”, from both their historical context and most persistent themes and features.

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda gaming universe is a rich world of fantasy adventures, centered around a courageous hero, Link. 

A consistent story point is Link’s efforts to rescue Princess Zelda and save the land of Hyrule from the clutches of evil.

  • Genre: Most titles are in the Action-adventure genre with only a few minor exceptions
  • First Game Publishing Year: The game that started it all was released in 1986 and it was named “The Legend of Zelda”.
  • Number of Games as of Today: Over 20
  • Main Characters: The three main characters in most Zelda games are Link, Princess Zelda, and Ganon/Ganondorf.
  • Main World and Storyline: The typical storyline in most Legend of Zelda games is relatively simplistic. It’s the tried-and-tested trope of a hero (Link) on his way to rescue a damsel in distress (princess Zelda) from the evil antagonist (Ganon). In the case of these games, Link is also often tasked with saving the world of Hyrule as well.
  • Game Publishers: Nintendo, one of the oldest and biggest gaming companies in the world.
  • Community and Players Count: The Legend of Zelda universe is one of the most recognizable in the gaming world. It has a large passionate community and millions of fans across the world.
  • Longevity and Updates: The Legend of Zelda is a longstanding gaming franchise which includes many beloved titles that have stood the test of time. The longevity of the franchise is further ensured by the semi-frequent release of new titles every couple of years.
  • Expected New Games: The next Zelda game will probably not be released earlier than 2027. The game is not yet in development and we didn’t manage to find any info about its plot, gameplay, or even its genre.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: The Legend of Zelda universe is iconic in the gaming world, especially among console players and fans of the adventure genre. Titles like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask have earned the status of all-time classics and are considered by many to be the best games of all time.

The series, first published by Nintendo back in 1986, has a remarkable legacy and ongoing vitality. The franchise has spawned over 20 games with the latest called Tears of the Kingdom. 

Zelda games are considered one of the two crowning jewels in Nintendo’s stable of exclusives – the other of course being Super Mario. The last two Zelda games were a driving force for the sales of Nintendo Switch. Link – the main character – as well as Zelda and Ganon, are now recognizable names in gaming pop culture. 

The Star Wars Games

The Star Wars gaming universe takes players to a galaxy far, far away. There, they can wield lightsabers, pilot iconic starships, and engage in epic battles between the forces of good and evil. 

At least that’s the marketing strategy taken by publishers, but there is a diverse range of games in this universe for all ages. They spread from Lego Star Wars to immersive and dark games like Jedi Survivor.

  • Genres: The Star Wars gaming universe provides the perfect setting for various gaming genres. There are action-adventure games, RPGs, shooters, strategies, and even flight simulator games that take place in this fictional universe.
  • First Game Publishing Year: The earliest title in the Star Wars gaming universe is the 1982 “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” for Atari 2600.
  • Number of Games as of Today: It’s difficult to give a precise number, but it’s safe to say that there are over 100 gaming titles that take place in the Star Wars universe.
  • Main Characters: It depends on the game, but some of the more recognizable characters are Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Darth Sidious, and Darth Revan.
  • Main World and Storyline: The world of Star Wars doesn’t have a specific name and instead is often referred to as “…a galaxy far away”. It is an expansive universe with a huge variety of stories taking place in it. One of the most iconic ones is the story of the fall of Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side and his eventual redemption.
  • Game Publishers: LucasArts, Electronic Arts, LEGO, Ubisoft, Respawn Entertainment, and more.
  • Community and Players Count: The Star Wars community extends far beyond the gaming worlds of its titles. This fictional universe is one of the most recognizable ones in today’s pop culture. As such, the player count of Star Wars games is hard to determine, but it’s safe to say that it’s in the millions.
  • Longevity and Updates: The Star Wars universe provides an inexhaustible source of inspiration for new gaming titles and fans never seem to get tired of more Star Wars entertainment. This ensures that Star Wars games won’t go “out of fashion” any time soon, even if a lot of them are mediocre at best.
  • Expected New Games: Some of the confirmed upcoming Star Wars gaming titles are Star Wars Outlaws, Star Wars: Hunters, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Star Wars Outlaws is a single-player adventure title set during the original trilogy films. Star Wars Hunters is a multiplayer shooter game specifically made for mobile and Nintendo Switch. Finally, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic will be a long-awaited remake of one of the best RPG games of all time.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: The Star Wars franchise, as a whole, has been hugely popular ever since the release of the first Star Wars movie. Today, its impact on pop culture and the gaming world cannot be overstated.

Star Wars is the most popular and exploited universe in gaming, with over 100 games released since 1982. These games come in all sorts of genres, from action-adventure to RPGs. 

Most recently, Star Wars games were exclusively developed and published by EA through their associated studios Respawn Entertainment and DICE, but that exclusivity has run its course with Ubisoft joining the fray. 

Historically the most acclaimed Star Wars games were developed by Bioware – Knights of the old Republic (KOTOR), and by Obsidian Entertainment – KOTOR 2.

The Naruto Universe

The Naruto gaming universe is based on the eponymous Japanese manga and anime

The games primarily cash in on the popularity of the series by creating side adventures for the main characters of the series, allowing you to step in their shoes.

  • Genre: A universe filled with ninjas is bound to primarily focus on Action and Action-adventure games, but there are also some Naruto RPGs, card games, and even strategies.
  • First Game Publishing Year: The Naruto universe made its debut to the gaming scene with the 2003 Naruto: Konoha Ninpōchō RPG title. Few people are familiar with this title, as it was only available in Japan for the handheld console WonderSwan Color. A much better-known early Naruto game is the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja for PS2 title which was also released in 2003 in Japan (and 2006 in the US). 
  • Number of Games as of Today: There are about 25 core Naruto games that focus on the titular character, but there are also many other titles that take place in the same universe, but revolve around other characters.
  • Main Characters: The most important characters from both the anime/manga and the games are Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno, and Kakashi Hatake.
  • Main World and Storyline: The world of Naruto games (and the Naruto franchise as a whole) doesn’t have a specific name, but fans often call it the “Narutoverse”. The stories in the different games are diverse, but most of them explore themes like friendship, rivalry, perseverance, and responsibility. There’s also a frequent juxtaposition of war and peace in the more story-focused Naruto games.
  • Game Publishers: Bandai Namco Entertainment is the main publisher of Naruto games.
  • Community and Players Count: The bulk of the Naruto fanbase comprises fans of the manga and anime, but there are also tens of thousands of gamers who play the Naruto games. However, the current playerbase of Naruto games is nowhere near as large as that of other popular gaming universes.
  • Longevity and Updates: The peak of popularity for Naruto games was around 2009, followed by a steady decline that continues to this day. The franchise isn’t currently as popular among gamers, but there are still many who enjoy the newer Naruto titles. However, there’s only one more recent Naruto game – NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS from 2023 – so the franchise isn’t as active as before.
  • Expected New Games: We didn’t find any reliable information about upcoming Naruto games during our research at the time of writing.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: Naruto is one of the most iconic and recognized anime and manga series and a lot of that popularity carries over into the gaming world. However, the Naruto games themselves aren’t nearly as iconic and well-known as their source material.

Since the first game’s release in 2003, the publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment has reportedly sold over 32 millions copies of the series. The franchise itself has hit numerous devices, from playstation and all other modern consoles to handhelds and even arcade games. Key merchandise characters like Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke Uchiha, and Sakura Haruno appear frequently in the games.

The Harry Potter Universe 

The Harry Potter gaming universe is based on the popular book and film series. The most common setting featured across games is the Hogwarts School of Magic and players predominantly step into the shoes of a young wizard. 

The easiest running theme you can spot is the recreation of the sense of wonder that captured a generation of book readers.

  • Genre: Most Harry Potter games offer some mix of the Action, Adventure, and Puzzle genres. The most recent and noteworthy entry, Hogwarts Legacy, also adds a much-needed element of RPG to the blend.
  • First Game Publishing Year: Back in 2001, the same year the first Harry Potter movie was released, EA made sure to capitalize on the film’s success by releasing an Action-adventure game that follows the same story. 
  • Number of Games as of Today: There are more than 20 Harry Potter games, most of which revolve around events from the movies and books. There are also several exceptions, where the games follow an original story that takes place in the same world.
  • Main Characters: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Dumbledore, and Voldemort are the characters you’ll encounter and/or play as the most often.
  • Main World and Storyline: Most of the games take place at the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft and its vicinities. The games that follow the story from the movies/books revolve around the young wizard Harry Potter and his struggle to defeat his nemesis – Lord Voldemort.
  • Game Publishers: EA, Warner Bros., Portkey Games
  • Community and Players Count: The community and playerbase of the Harry Potter games isn’t as large as that of other franchises, but outside of gaming, the Harry Potter fictional universe is one of the most popular in today’s pop culture.
  • Longevity and Updates: For the longest time Harry Potter games weren’t as big or as popular until the fairly recent release of Hogwarts Legacy. The game was a major success and it rekindled the interest in the Harry Potter gaming universe. 
  • Expected New Games: So far, there are rumors about a sequel to Hogwarts Legacy, but nothing official. Yet, considering how successful the game was (deservedly so), it’s highly likely that we’ll see another one roll out in the not-so-distant future.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: Most Harry Potter games over the years have been hit-or-miss until the highly ambitious Hogwarts Legacy. The title showed it can stand on its own feet instead of relying on the popularity of its source material, and thus contributed to the overall legacy of the Harry Potter universe.

That being said, there are other genres explored through spin-offs in the mobile sector, like puzzles, role-playing games, and augmented reality experiences

The most popular games in this huge world are currently Lego Harry Potter for very young players, and recently – Hogwarts Legacy that lets you step into the universe a 100 years before Harry Potter is born. 

Warner Bros and EA are the publishers which are most closely associated with major releases in this universe.

World of Warcraft (WoW)

World of Warcraft, also called WoW, is one of the biggest gaming worlds, taking its roots from the Warcraft RTS series which established the world of Azeroth before it. 

Previously thought of as the “Warcraft” universe, the record-breaking popularity of WoW in the 2000s forced a switch effect and now the RTS games are recognized for their association with WoW.

  • Genre: World of Warcraft is an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), but the Warcraft universe also features games in the RTS, Card Game, and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genres.
  • First Game Publishing Year: World of Warcraft was released in 2004. However, the actual first game in the Warcraft universe was an RTS title called Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.
  • Number of Games as of Today: At the time of writing, there have been 9 World of Warcraft expansions, with the latest one being the 2022 Dragonflight. Additionally, there are five more games that take place in the Warcraft universe: Warcraft 1,2, and 3, which are RTS games, the Card Game Hearthstone, and the MOBA Heroes of the Storm.
  • Main Characters: The World of Warcraft universe and lore contain dozens of memorable characters and depending on what expansion we are looking at, the most important ones may differ. Still, the most iconic and recognizable characters are the death knight Arthas, the orc shaman Thrall, the wizard Jaina, and the night-elf brothers Illidan and Malfurion.
  • Main World and Storyline: The majority of Warcraft games and stories take place in the fantasy world of Azeroth, with some of the stories venturing beyond its boundaries. WoW has been going on for nearly two decades and each expansion has furthered the story and lore, so there isn’t a single story thread that stretches from the beginning to its current state. That said, the story in most of the expansions deals with the “frenemies” relationship between the Horde and the Alliance factions, and their common struggle against their actual enemy – a demonic legion from a different dimension.
  • Game Publishers: Blizzard Entertainment; Activision Blizzard
  • Community and Players Count: Around the year 2010, WoW had a player count peak of over 12 million players. Since then, that number has dropped by nearly two-thirds to around 4.8 million in the current day. Despite this, the game still enjoys a pretty large and active community and millions of players still tune in regularly to enjoy the latest content..
  • Longevity and Updates: A new WoW expansion every couple of years manages to keep the game relevant and up to today’s gaming standards.
  • Expected New Games: The next WoW expansion is set to release in the Autumn of 2024 and its name will be The War Within.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: The contribution of World of Warcraft and the other Warcraft games to the gaming world and pop culture as a whole is undeniable. Warcraft 3 is one of the most beloved and influential RTS games of all time and WoW has all but single-handedly defined the massive multiplayer genre.

Launched in 2004, World of Warcraft /internal link/ is the modern progenitor of the MMO genre

This came at the peak of Blizzard Entertainment’s popularity and helped usher the video game industry into an era of subscription and games as a service model that is controversial today. 

For its part, WoW has had a sustained active community for the past 20 years, which is practically unmatched in gaming history.

The Elder Scrolls

Where WoW is the progenitor of modern MMOs, The Elder Scrolls does the same for open-world gameplay. 

The hardware limitations of 1994 necessitated lesser scope and a lot of loading screens, but the series itself consistently pushed the boundaries of open gameplay, reactivity and immersion through detail. All of the games are set on the continent of Tamriel.

  • Genre: All main Elder Scrolls games belong to the Open-world Action RPG genre. There are only a couple of exceptions with mobile Elder Scrolls games.
  • First Game Publishing Year: The first Elder Scrolls game – Elder Scrolls: Arena – was released in 1994. Even in those early days, the Elder Scrolls franchise already had a deep lore and an expansive world building.
  • Number of Games as of Today: The main Elder Scrolls games are 6 but some of them have expansions and there are also some Elder Scrolls mobile games. The total number of titles in this franchise is 21 at the time of writing.
  • Main Characters: In all main Elder Scrolls games the main character – the character you play as – is customized by the player at the start of the game. You give him/her a name and choose their appearance so, in a sense, there is no pre-set main character in any of the games.  In Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the main/player character is referred to as the Dragonborn (Dovahkiin), but this is more of a nickname than an actual name.
  • Main World and Storyline: The world of the Elder Scrolls games is called Tamriel, which is like a fantasy version of medieval Scandinavia if it was set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. A lot of the stories and lore draw inspiration from Norse mythology and folklore, mixed with common modern fantasy tropes. Each game in the Elder Scrolls series tells its own story, so there isn’t a single storyline that binds together all of the games.
  • Game Publishers: Bethesda Softworks is and has always been the sole publisher behind the Elder Scrolls games.
  • Community and Players Count: For a franchise this big, the current number of active Elder Scrolls players isn’t huge. On the other hand, there is a large and active community of Elder Scrolls fans that is keeping the franchise alive and relevant.
  • Longevity and Updates: The Elder Scrolls: Online is the title mainly responsible for the continued existence and relevance of the franchise and it’s the only Elder Scrolls game that gets regular updates. However, the series as a whole seems to be on a hiatus at the moment, as no new Elder Scrolls games have been released in about ten years.
  • Expected New Games: Our research shows that a new Elder Scrolls game, the sixth in the main series, is set to release sometime in 2026, but we weren’t able to find any specifics.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: The Elder Scrolls games are iconic in the open-world RPG genre, especially in the West. Aside from bringing to life a vast, expansive world and a deep lore with nearly three decades of development, the newer Elder Scrolls have also had a huge impact on the modding side of gaming. Games like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and VI: Skyrim are especially prominent with their modding communities that have extended these games’ relevance way past their shelf-life.

Beginning with this franchise, Bethesda Game Studios (as they are known now) embraced a philosophy of openness for the modding community. Older Elder Scroll games acquired a reputation for bugs and emptiness, but reception of each improved after the modding community consistently added new content and features.

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy is a series of fantasy adventures, with each numbered title (6,7,8, etc.) having its own separate world and identity. 

With rare exception, the cast of characters is changed in each game as well, unless expanding on the popularity of a specific title through spinoffs. The series is primarily known for its style of cinematic storytelling, in a blend of magic and medieval visuals with advanced technology. 

This visual style has acquired a distinctive look where users are generally able to discern Final Fantasy games from others.

  • Genre: The Final Fantasy games are categorized as JRPGs, which stands for Japanese Role-Playing Game. The reason this is a separate sub-genre is that JRPGs feature some distinctive characteristics compared to Western RPGs. JRPGs are generally longer and more grind-heavy, and with a deeper focus on story. JRPGs also typically have a “pre-set” protagonist that you don’t get to customize at the start of the game. All of these traits fully apply to the majority of Final Fantasy games. 
  • First Game Publishing Year: The earliest Final Fantasy game came out more than three decades ago, in the distant 1987. This first game gave the start to a longstanding franchise that has stood the test of time and continues to be active and relevant today.
  • Number of Games as of Today: Right now there are 16 main Final Fantasy games – that is games in the numbered FF series. Many of these main titles also have sequels. There are also many Final Fantasy spin-off games and a bunch of remakes. The total number of FF titles is around 50.
  • Main Characters: The Final Fantasy franchise is huge and each game from the numbered series has a unique cast of characters. Probably the most iconic FF characters that most people know about are Cloud Strife, Tidus, Lightning, Tifa Lockheart, and Yuna.
  • Main World and Storyline: Unlike most game franchises, each of the numbered Final Fantasy games tells a different story set in its own distinct world. Of course, there are many similarities between the games – similar character archetypes, themes, story beats, and tropes appear in most FF titles, but the stories and characters are strictly unique.  The themes most commonly explored in games from the franchise are the conflict between technology and nature (or magic), the conquering power of friendship and camaraderie, and the value of sacrifice.  
  • Game Publishers: Square Enix
  • Community and Players Count: Right now, the collective player count of all Final Fantasy games might not seem huge compared to other games, but the franchise itself has to be one of the most recognizable and iconic in the gaming world. As such, it has garnered a huge fanbase over the years, especially in Japan, its country of birth, and in the US.
  • Longevity and Updates: There seems to be an inexhaustible hunger for Final Fantasy games which Square Enix regularly satisfies. Every couple of years, the company releases new additions to both the main FF series, as well as various sequels, spin-offs, and remakes of some of the older Final Fantasy games.
  • Expected New Games: We didn’t find any official info on future Final Fantasy projects, but we are pretty certain that it won’t be long before another FF game gets developed and released by Square Enix.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: The Final Fantasy is the flagship series of JRPGs and is also one of the most influential franchises in gaming history. Its legacy in gaming is undeniable and its continued existence and popularity are a testament to its cultural impact and importance.

The series is one of the most recognized proponents of the JRPG genre. Final Fantasy 7 in particular is the most popular entry, with several of its characters entering the gaming lexicon. 

Due to its age, FF7 was recently remade into three separate games which also remake its core gameplay loop. The remake introduced a reimagining of the traditionally turn-based style Final Fantasy is known for.

Dark Souls (Soulsborne Games) 

The Dark Souls series is a rare offering, one of the very few we can definitively say spawned a genre on its own. Or at least a subgenre, of which the Dark Souls series is the gold standard. 

“Soulslike” games are defined by high lethality and difficulty, with gameplay mechanics that encourage perfection while severely punishing mistakes. The most common elements found in such games are hubs where you can recharge your supplies but respawn enemies and scarcity of resources. 

But most of all – you can expect a very steep difficulty spike when entering boss fights.

  • Genre: The Dark Souls games are defined as a flavor of Action RPG, but they also single-handedly gave birth to a specific sub-genre known as “Soulslike”. The main characteristic trait of a Soulslike game is its challenging gameplay, where the player is expected to fail repeatedly, and failure is often integrated as part of the gameplay loop. Soulslike games are punishing and grindy and they usually only appeal to a particular type of hardcore gamers.
  • First Game Publishing Year: 2011
  • Number of Games as of Today: There are only three Dark Souls games at the moment and we do not expect this to change in the future. That said, there are also a number of other similar titles from the same developers that share a lot of traits with the Dark Souls titles but are set in their own universes. Among those games are Elden Ring, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
  • Main Characters: The main character in all of the Dark Souls titles is an unnamed protagonist, whom you get to customize before starting a new game. The main character in each of the games is only referred to by their nickname – the Chosen Undead (DS1), the Bearer of the Curse (DS2), and the Ashen One (DS3).
    Main World and Storyline: Both the world and storylines in all three of the Dark Souls games are veiled in mystery and very little is explicitly told to the player. The universe of Dark Souls is a dark-fantasy medieval world with a strong hint of Lovecraftian horror and existential dread. The story in each of the three games is complex and requires the player to go off the beaten path to better understand it.  
  • Game Publishers: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Community and Players Count: The Dark Souls games and the Soulslike genre has a dedicated cult following and an active fanbase that keeps those decade-old games relevant to this day. Of course, the actual player count of the three Dark Souls games is pretty modest nowadays since those are pretty old single-player titles.
  • Longevity and Updates: The Dark Souls games have a long-lasting legacy, but today they aren’t played by many people and rarely receive updates.
  • Expected New Games: It’s highly unlikely that there will ever be a Dark Souls 4 game, but future games made by FromSoftware will surely satisfy the fans’ hunger for more Soulslike titles.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: The Dark Souls games inspired an entire gaming sub-genre and carved a unique niche in the gaming world. A niche defined by challenging gameplay, a heavy focus on environmental storytelling, and intricate lore that beckons the player to explore its depths. Today, the Soulslike genre is very popular and many developers seek to capitalize on its popularity by creating games with a similar atmosphere and gameplay loop to that of Dark Souls.

Aside from gameplay, Dark Souls is known for its environmental storytelling and bleak visuals. Rich lore junkies have a field day here because everything is presented through cryptic clues and bits players have to decipher. 

In fact, each game’s entire narrative is built on this, as the difficult gameplay may prevent you from exploring too much, but the deep lore tidbits and surprises encourage you to do so… and pay the price.

Grand Theft Auto (GTA) 

As a series, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is the original open-world that revolutionized gaming. You can skip the first sentence when talking about GTA 1 and 2 – these two games are twin-stick criminal simulators, basically. 

But from the third installment onwards, the series becomes a true revolution for its incredible attention to detail in the sandbox. Over time, the series garnered a reputation for courting controversy, and for its satire of American culture.

  • Genre: All Grand Theft Auto games offer some flavor of the Open-world Action-Adventure genre.
  • First Game Publishing Year: The first GTA game came out in 1997 for MS-DOS and Windows, which was a top-down 2D game. The first 3D title in the series was GTA 3 in 2001.
  • Number of Games as of Today: At the time of writing, there are 7 main GTA titles in the main series and a number of expansions for a total of 17 games.
  • Main Characters: The main characters for each game are different. Probably the most well-known ones are Michael, Trevor, and Franklin from GTA V, Tommy Vercetti from GTA: Vice City, CJ (Carl Johnson) from GTA: San Andreas, and Niko Bellic from GTA IV.
  • Main World and Storyline: The world of the GTA games is a fictional version of the US during various decades seen from the prism of satire and criminal fiction tropes. In most games, you feel like the protagonist of a cheesy action crime flick, but the self-aware comedy engrained in both the world, the characters, and the stories elevates these games beyond their seemingly generic premises.
  • Game Publishers: Rockstar Games
  • Community and Players Count: GTA V is still one of the most popular games in the world despite being over a decade old and millions of players still enjoy it today both online and offline. 
  • Longevity and Updates: GTA V continues to receive more content updates and DLCs to this day, which extend the game’s longevity far beyond the base title’s shelf life. Similarly, GTA Online, the online component of GTA V, receives regular updates that keep the game desirable for multiplayer sessions. However, it’s no secret that fans of the GTA franchise are getting fatigued in their wait for GTA VI and many of them stick to V simply due to a lack of alternative.
  • Expected New Games: GTA VI has to be one of the most awaited games of all time and fans have been asking for it for years now. Fortunately, the wait is almost over and the next title in the GTA series is set to drop sometime in 2025.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: Despite its controversial themes, crass humor, and unapologetic nature (or because of them), the GTA series has earned its place in the pantheon of gaming as one of the most influential and well-known gaming franchises. As such, they have made a prominent mark on gaming and pop culture that won’t fade anytime soon.

Grand Theft Auto (GTA) has been a gaming icon since 1997. The series’ main staples are things you can easily spot on your own, but it’s worth noting them before you have to play multiple titles to do so. 

Each game is set in a single city, and unlike other open worlds, remains grounded to the bounds of that city. Where other games send you to various locales, GTA games double down on detailing the city; activities are universally related to what is available in it. 

You always play as a criminal, which is obviously where the Grand Theft part comes in, and the story always leans into dark humor territory.

Resident Evil

Resident Evil is the progenitor of the action horror genre. It creates a combination of resource and inventory management, fused with slow-paced but lethal encounters. 

The gaming world varies locations across the globe, but is nevertheless set predominantly in overrun cities, abandoned facilities, and others of such ilk. If zombies and mutations are your thing, Resident Evil has you covered.

  • Genre: The earlier Resident Evil titles pioneered the Survival Horror game genre and the more recent entries to the franchise redefined it. 
  • First Game Publishing Year: 1996 was the year the gaming world first came into contact with the deadly T-Virus and the hordes of monstrosities that it creates. 
  • Number of Games as of Today: There are eight core numbered entries in the series that focus on and further the main storyline. There are also several remakes and many spin-offs that explore different characters and side stories, with some of the titles even venturing into other gaming genres. In total, there are over 30 games set in the Resident Evil universe.
  • Main Characters: Different RE titles have different protagonists, but they are all from the same pool of main characters, which includes Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Leon S. Kennedy, Claire Redfield, and others.
  • Main World and Storyline: The world of Resident Evil is basically our world, but if it were in the state of a mass pandemic… yeah… Only here, the pandemic is caused by the zombifying T-virus which was developed by the evil Umbrella corporation. The story in all of the games from the main series follows the consequences of the T-virus outbreak and the struggle of the game’s main characters to fight against it.
  • Game Publishers: Capcom is the company that started it all and that continues to be both the publisher and developer of RE games.
  • Community and Players Count: The player count of Resident Evil games isn’t huge since they are all single-player titles that you aren’t expected to play over and over again. That said, RE has one of the biggest communities among other survival horror gaming franchises, which isn’t surprising seeing as how RE all but started this genre.
    Longevity and Updates: RE is one of the few gaming franchises that started all the way back in the 90s, yet is not only relevant today, but also continues to redefine and reinvent itself along with the entire Survival-horror genre.
  • Expected New Games: After the latest RE game – Resident Evil 4 (Remake) – there hasn’t been any official info about upcoming projects in the franchise. However, we are certain that we’ll see a new entry to this iconic series sooner rather than later, considering its high popularity and inextinguishable relevance.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: Resident Evil not only defined an entire gaming genre but also consistently sets the standard for polished, high-quality games that combine top-tier gameplay and masterful storytelling. Outside of gaming, RE has had a notable impact on other forms of media, most notably with the Resident Evil movie series.

RE has spawned numerous game titles across different devices. Originally, each main (numbered) entry pushed the series more into the action genre and less into survival horror

That changed with RE 7, which reinvented the wheel, so to speak, and brought the series back to a sense of helpless franticness. The same entry also switched to a first-person perspective from the fixed angles and third-person camera of previous titles.

Most recently, Resident Evil is acclaimed for the remakes of the original main titles, which succeed in adapting the series to the sensibilities of newer gamer generations.

Super Mario

Super Mario is cited by many journalists and game developers as one of the purest examples of art in games

The series is a staple exclusive to Nintendo and is known by anyone who grew up in the 90s. Its fast-paced specific gameplay that offers control, high skill ceiling, and instant gratification is highly addicting and praised as one of the best examples of game design.

  • Genre: Historically, the Super Mario franchise is most famous for its 2D platformer games, but there are many gaming titles from different genres in the Mario universe. Some of the other genres include 3D action platformer games, racing and sports games, puzzle games, and even RPGs and strategies.
  • First Game Publishing Year: The Super Mario franchise began its life in 1983, with the Mario Bros. arcade game. Two years later, in 1985, Mario Bros. was remade for NES and became Super Mario Bros. – the classic we all know and love today.
  • Number of Games as of Today: Today, there are around 20 core Super Mario titles in the 2D and 3D action-platformer genres, but the true number of games set in the same universe is much larger. If we count all the spin-offs across different genres, the mobile games, and the cross-over titles that feature characters from the Mario universe, we’ll likely arrive at a number that’s around or over 200.
    Main Characters: Despite the huge variety of Super Mario games, there are a couple of core characters that are present in pretty much all of the games. Those characters are the titular Mario, his brother Luigi, his beloved Princess Peach, and Bowser, who generally fills the role of the main antagonist in most Mario games.
  • Main World and Storyline: The main world in which the majority of Super Mario games take place is the so-called Mushroom Kingdom. Each game in the core Super Mario series tells a self-contained story. That said, most Super Mario games stories are rather similar and often share the same inciting conflict, that being Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach, and Mario going on an adventure across the Mushroom Kingdom to save her. 
  • Game Publishers: Nintendo
  • Community and Players Count: Today, there aren’t that many players who are active for any particular Super Mario game, but the fanbase and community of the franchise are huge. There are millions of Super Mario fans worldwide who can be seen at every Comic Con and found in many places online, sharing their Super Mario art, ideas, theories, and memes.
  • Longevity and Updates: Since its birth in the distant 1983 to today, the Super Mario franchise has retained its popularity, and new game releases help to introduce it to younger audiences.
  • Expected New Games: The work continues and there are already several confirmed upcoming titles in the Super Mario universe. Those include a Mario vs. Donkey Kong title, a game that stars Princess Peach as the protagonist, and a remaster of the fan-favorite Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: There’s a very strong argument to be made that the Super Mario series is the most influential and famous gaming franchise of all time. While today many other franchises are more popular than the Super Mario games, the pop culture impact that the goofy Italian plumber has made is undeniable and cannot be overstated.

Mario is one of the franchises that popularized gaming as a whole, opening doors for the growth of the industry. The platformer genre in particular is long in the shadow of Mario and its spinoffs, primarily because the series gained an incredibly high fanbase of children who would later go on to search for similar mechanics in games. The artistic design of Mario is also instantly recognizable: Mario and the princess are gaming icons, together with enemies like the mushrooms and turtles.


Back when Diablo 1 was released, the consensus among developers judged that the game wasn’t an RPG. But genres change, and they change by embracing whatever is popular.

So Diablo’s hack and slash sensibilities married the idea of winding skill trees and became the dominant RPG-lite formula of the next three decades. T

oday, the series is also very well known for its multiplayer components that let players co-op the world or PvP each other to oblivion.

  • First Game Publishing Year: The first Diablo was published in 1997.
  • Number of Games as of Today: After the initial 1997 release, with Diablo 2 following in 2000 and then a long hiatus until 2012’s Diablo 3, and almost as long for Diablo 4 in 2023.
  • Main Characters: The player characters in all games are blank slates that represent gameplay classes. They aren’t mentioned in subsequent games. But there are notable characters that persist throughout the games. Diablo, lord of terror (obviously there will be Diablo in Diablo). Deckard Cain, an elder scholar and shop owner. Archangel Tyrael.
  • Main World and Storyline: The games are set in Sanctuary, a dark fantasy world in an eternal war between Heaven and Hell, in which regular humans are caught in the middle. Each game’s storyline is to prevent an apocalyptic rise of a deity, Prime evil, etc. in destroying the human world or destroying the balance in Hell’s favor.
  • Game Publishers: The Diablo series has been developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment since before the Activision merger.
  • Community and Players Count: If you take account of each Diablo game’s player count, you may get confused. However, for its time, each game is extremely popular. Diablo 2 had reported 4 million copies sold. Diablo 3 in its own right, attracted 30 million players. 4, which as of writing is less than a year old, has sold 12 million copies.
  • Longevity and Updates: The series is known for its longevity, supported by updates and expansions. This is a particular sticking point for the community because of the long time between installments. Diablo 4 most recently introduced both “seasons” of content and overhaul updates.
  • Expected New Games: 2 expansions are in the works for Diablo 4. Game expansions do not have the sheer content quantity of the full release, but are still big enough to be games in their own right. Comments made by Blizzard’s president suggest Diablo 5 is both a likelihood and will come much faster than previous sequels. 
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: The Diablo series has an impact on the ARPG genre and gaming culture that is very understated and at the same time, encompassing. It is the progenitor and the most famous proponent of drop-loots with different colors depending on rarity. This gameplay mechanic has both been mimicked and parodied numerous times and is often cited in discussions of video game history and development.

Diablo’s unique dark fantasy world was expanded through other mediums. There are numerous novels and comic books outside of gaming. All of them share the same thematic devices seen in the games – dark forces, prophecies, resurrections and necromancy, dangerous magic and how it is connected to bloodlines.

Assassin’s Creed 

Assassin’s Creed is an adventure game series that initially had its roots in blending sci-fi themes with historical contexts.

In the beginning, the protagonist (Desmond Miles), relived memories of his ancestors through a machine called Animus, while being imprisoned by a corporation. His ancestors were part of the Assassin order, and thus he enters a secret war between two orders. 

  • Genre: The games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise are predominantly of the Action-adventure genre, but they all have a distinct focus on the Stealth sub-genre.
  • First Game Publishing Year: The first and one of the most iconic Assassin’s Creed games came out in 2007.
  • Number of Games as of Today: Compared to the other gaming universes that we cover, there are relatively few Assassin’s Creed titles. The total number of games in the Assassin’s Creed universe is 20, which includes both the main titles as well as various spin-offs.
  • Main Characters: Different Assassin’s Creed games feature different main characters. In the first game you play as Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, in Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations the main character is Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the protagonist in Assassin’s Creed 3 is Connor Kenway, and so on. The common trait among all the main characters you play across the different AC titles is that they are all members of a secret order of assassins that has been around for centuries.
  • Main World and Storyline: The Assassin’s Creed world is basically our world throughout different historical periods. For the most part, the games represent a semi-realistic version of our world with a modest integration of science fiction tropes and some historical fantasy elements. As for the story, each game (and its sequels if there are any) focuses on a self-contained story, but there’s also an overarching storyline that connects all of the games in the main AC series. 
  • Game Publishers: Ubisoft is both the developer and publisher of all of the main AC games.
  • Community and Players Count: The current player count of all the Assassin’s Creed games taken together isn’t all that impressive. This isn’t surprising though, since those are all primarily single-player games. That said, the Assassin’s Creed community and there are millions of fans of the franchise worldwide.
  • Longevity and Updates: Since its inception in 2007, the Assassin’s Creed games have managed to stay relevant throughout the years thanks to their big fanbase and the frequent release of new titles that further expand the franchise.
  • Expected New Games: The AC franchise doesn’t seem to be slowing down as there are two confirmed upcoming new entries to the series with codenames Assassin’s Creed Red and Assassin’s Creed Hexe. The first one is rumored to be an open-world RPG, whereas the second will likely be a continuation of the main series that might take place in 16th century Europe.
  • Popularity and Cultural Impact: Though the AC series is a relatively new franchise compared to other ones we’ve mentioned, it has certainly managed to leave its mark on the gaming world and earn its place among the most influential gaming universes of all time. Of course, we can’t compare it to the likes of Super Mario or World of Warcraft in terms of its cultural impact, but it’s still a highly recognizable name in the gaming world that is and continues to be enjoyed and loved by millions.

The first few games of the series featured a tight progressive narrative with each game. Later on, the series outgrew it over time, instead focusing more on the historical fictional world, which changes frequently. 

The series relives many periods, from ancient Egypt to Renaissance Italy, medieval England, and a few others to boot. The narrative is always split through an overarching modern-day presence, back to the past where the “historical” main character of the chosen time period is set on some sort of epic struggle.

Frequently Asked Questions