The longest-running game franchises of all time

by MaddOx
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For those readers under the age of 30, when asked about the longest-running game franchises, the answers are likely to be along the lines of Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, which many consider modern classics. 

The fact is though, these games don’t even break into the top 100 of the longest-running videogame franchises. This list looks at long-running series that have been produced continuously, with no more than a 10-year break in between releases. There are some familiar franchises, including everyone’s favourite Italian plumber, and some names that may just surprise you.

Flight Simulator

It isn’t the most thrilling game out there for most people, but Microsoft’s Flight Simulator has been cruising along for over 37 years, 11th in the list overall, and despite a quiet period in the 2010s following the closing of developers Ace Studios, it’s once again going strong now with third-party content coming out for the latest edition.

There are well over a dozen entries in the series to date, although in reality not much has changed in the aim of each game. Despite constant graphics and realism upgrades, to the point that the game is used as a basis for real flight trainers, the purpose has always been getting from A to B.

Aeroplane model featured in the Flight Simulator franchise

Super Mario

Every entertainment industry has that one franchise that seems to be on an endless stream of releases. For movies, it’s the Marvel films that land multiple times a year, and for the online casino industry, it’s Play’n Go’s “Dead” franchise, often featuring leading protagonist Rich Wilde. The latest edition in the series, the Pilgrim of Dead slot game, adds a new take on the tomb-raider narrative, as we follow a pilgrim’s search for the ‘secrets to an eternity in paradise’.

For gaming, despite efforts from FIFA and Madden, no series has managed to keep the streak going more than Mario. Between the main series games which get longer titles every time and the Mario Kart, Smash Bros. and various sports titles, the plumber has been going for over 40 years, although that’s still only enough to warrant a fourth place on the list.

Following on from the eternal rival Sonic, the franchise is also getting a modern animated movie adaptation, despite long-term fans cringing at the thought of the disaster that was the original movie attempt.

The Oregon Trail

For anyone outside of Europe, this might seem baffling, but The Oregon Trail, a learning game about the pilgrims of North America with a reputation for brutal realism in events, is officially the longest-running gaming series of all time, starting out a full year before Mario.

The most incredible thing is, apart from a visual makeover, the game is basically identical to the original, just being hopped from console to console and now available on the Switch. The game even earned admission into the Strong Museum of Play back in 2016 as an icon of gaming history.

Considering the brutal difficulty and endless replayability, it could be seen as preparing millions of young players for what would become the Dark Souls mindset, and it deserves to be in a museum for that alone really.

Wagon like those used in the Oregon Trail franchise

The 10 longest-running game franchises

RankFranchisesFirst releaseLatest releaseOwnerLength
1The Oregon TrailThe Oregon Trail
May 1978
The Oregon Trail
April 2, 2021
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt42 years, 11 months
July 1980
Pac-Man World Re-Pac
August 25, 2022
Bandai Namco Entertainment42 years, 1 month
3Space InvadersSpace Invaders
June 1978
Space Invaders Counter Attack
June 2020
Taito (Square Enix)42 years
4MarioDonkey Kong
July 9, 1981
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
October 20, 2022
Nintendo41 years, 3 months
5Nobunaga’s AmbitionNobunaga no Yabō
March 1983
Nobunaga’s Ambition: Rebirth
July 21, 2022
Koei Tecmo39 years, 4 months
October 1979
Galaga Revenge
January 8, 2019
Bandai Namco Entertainment39 years, 3 months
7BombermanBomber Man
July 1983
Amazing Bomberman
August 5, 2022
Konami39 years, 1 month
8Dragon SlayerDragon Slayer
September 10, 1984
The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki II – Crimson Sin
September 29, 2022
Nihon Falcom38 years
9WolfensteinCastle Wolfenstein
September 1981
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot and Wolfenstein: Youngblood
July 25, 2019
id Software37 years, 10 months
10Microsoft Flight SimulatorMicrosoft Flight Simulator 1.0
November 1982
Microsoft Flight Simulator
August 10, 2020
Microsoft37 years, 9 months

And there you have it, a list of the 10 longest-running game franchises. Will any of them still be around in another 40 years? We’ll have to wait and see. Until then, check out more of our feature articles by clicking here.

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