I think I need to make this clear as it can be interpreted wrong: this is not a list to hammer down series I don’t enjoy, but rather to showcase that even in franchises you might not like, there can be gems you will miss out on. There is this excuse many make that “this series is just not for me” instead of actually giving it a shot and playing it, which I find a shame. While this has led me to play games I think less of or even despise, there are still those few exceptions that make it worth getting through a lot of tiresome titles, just because of how much you enjoyed one or even a few specific entries.
Though I would like to make some rules before we start. First, the series must include more than three games, as dealing with trilogies makes it hard to call it a fulfilling franchise. If there are extra side-games besides the numbered titles, then it is ok. Second, the overall enjoyment I have of the series must be on a lower scale overall and I must be familiar with the series as a whole, so you won’t see Spyro: The Dragon or Crash Bandicoot here for example. Third: no licensed games as it will be hard to determine clearly where a series begins or ends, like with Spiderman. Finally: this is my list. This is just my opinion and not something to take seriously. If you love any of the series on this list, think of this as a way for me to say: yes, there is actually something good or even fantastic here.
#10 Tales of Symphonia
If you have seen my favorite game of all time-list, then you probably saw Tales of Symphonia quite high on it and rightfully so. It is a fantastic RPG with a great story, amazing world to get lost in, and combat reminiscent of Smash Bros with co-op for up to four players.
While the combat has overall been solid in every entry, not all titles had an entertaining story or interesting mechanics, making them feel disappointing. Abyss had terrible pacing, Zestiria had drawn out worlds, and I can’t say that Graces really lived up to its name by being pretty much shallow in every way. There are a couple in the series I really enjoy and hold in high regards, but with JRPG’s being this big, it is very important to not overstay their welcome and not be long for the sake of size. Size does not matter if you do not know how to use it, and it is clear that the Tales of-series struggles at times here. Because I do not hate the series as there are some solid parts to each game, it is low on the list. Though it is here due to only having a couple entries I do enjoy.
#9 Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
The Harvest Moon-series has some memorable titles like A Wonderful Life and Harvest Moon 64, but many aged poorly due to forced tutorials, dated farming-mechanics, and an overall slow pace. It is surely important to have a clear progression and work to see your farm and possibly your community grow, but many in the series had plenty of bumps in the road or can outright glitch out, making it hard to even want to get invested. Though while Stardew Valley is now arguably better than any HM-game, I still find enjoyment in Friends of Mineral Town, which is a remake of the PS1-game Back to Nature.
It is easy to enjoy, thanks to giving you things to do from the start with only a small tutorial, providing you a lot of options to take on. It also tweaks the inventory and tool-management to make them easier to handle, the town has charming inhabitants, and seeing your farm grow is more rewarding thanks to the hard work you put in being clearer showcased here. It feels like a clear evolution and having it on the go is a sweet deal. It is also one I can recommend to those who are fond of Stardew Valley and I can’t say this for most in this series, despite how charming they can be.
#8 Final Fantasy 6
Oh boy, this is interesting. Out of this entire series, there are 8 entries I enjoy, but thanks to the sequels to Final Fantasy 7,10 and 13, my enjoyment is lessened. Final Fantasy is an interesting series as it is a clear example of a franchise being willing to experiment, including time-based combat, job-functions, card-games, or even new genres such as MMO. I often can’t stand most of the changes, but when they get it right, it becomes an incredible journey with fun characters to root for and a good, if traditional story. This again is problematic as it can be lighthearted with strong motives, or just incredibly poor and downright shallow.
That one of the games is one of my favorites of all time, that in itself goes to show what gems can be found in this franchise. Final Fantasy 6 has deep character-stories, great presentation, interesting theming, varied and fun battle mechanics which makes every protagonist fun to try out, balanced fights, and an intriguing world to explore. Though there are many others in the series people enjoy, so this is really a series that reinvents the wheel and you are sure to find at least one to enjoy. And despite the lackluster entries, it goes to show that you should never give up if you really want to create something spectacular.
#7 Pokémon Heartgold and Soulsilver
I think I must clarify that I do not hate Pokémon as a concept in general. Having fights affected by a rock-paper-scissors mentality, and being a colorful and legalized version of a cockfight, is quite entertaining. However, with every other entry, it simply adds small upgrades that barely qualify each new game as a sequel, which makes it hard to appreciate this franchise. Really, the series was going to end with Gold and Silver, though they had to keep going since it was a money-making franchise and still is now. This is why it is usually good to wait between each entry and look into what is actually new and see if the changes are enough for you.
For my money, the remakes of Gen 2 for the DS are my picks as they include all the enormous changes I love, as well as the good upgrades from gen 3 and 4, such as better balancing and dual-battles. I also love this game for its selection of Pokémons and, as silly as it sounds, I just adore the ability to walk alongside my pokémon. Though we can all disagree on which entry is the best, there will be one entry anyone can enjoy, be it for nostalgia or for quality. For me, it is a mix of both and Pokémon is the solid rock you can always depend on. Even if the changes are minimal.
#6 Mario Party 2
Oddly enough, Mario Party seems like a series that got worse after the third game and simply becomes less entertaining with each new entry. There is a reason for why people reference mostly to Mario Party 2, 3 and possibly 4, as those were the highlights and had the strongest changes, but others are just kind of there with not much to praise them for. With each installment, they tried to reinvent the wheel with worse concepts, neglecting some strong extras, or just have linear and dull boards. The question often became then: why play a lesser entry, when the better ones are already available? Though Mario Party holds a strong place in my heart with tons of friendships tested, the second and third games for the N64, as well as the fourth on the GC will always be the ones to pick up. Mario Party 2 is my choice because it has the most entertaining boards, though the third game has the better minigames, so pick whatever you prefer. Just don’t go with the first one, it will ruin your hand and controller.
#5 Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
With only this and Daxter on PSP, I can easily say that I am happy that Naughty Dog said they did not want to continue with this series. It was pretty clear with the sequels’ quality and The Lost Frontier on PSP, that the team had no idea what to do with the series. The second and third game are a mess with inspirations taken from GTA, no invincibility frames, terrible vehicle controls and over-the-top moody and dark atmosphere, that would make Twilight tell you to lighten up. Though the first game, I can both admire and enjoy. It has an immersive world with no loading times, making it all feel connected, and with a vast moveset, you could become a platforming God and take clever shortcuts or be tested in your jumping-abilities, similar to other 3D collect-a-thons like Super Mario 64. Sometimes, it is ok to just stop if you are not sure on what to do with a series and while fans might cry that “they need more”, you can still be thankful for what you got. And I got one of the best platformers exclusive to Sony.
#4 Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
I have a troublesome connection with Grand Theft Auto. The humor can be all over the place and while it is often a take on the American dream, it’s often simply not for me, with a presentation I find creatively lacking, and if it is not that, it is the awkward and dated shooting-mechanics. It is impressive it did not get improved until the fourth installment. Though the one I had the most fun with and find myself easily going back to, is Chinatown Wars for the simple fact it is overhead. This might be a good example of a series I can’t connect to despite that I try, but this one I did due to clever implementation of the touchscreen, a camera that makes it easy for me to see everything, and fun if simple combat. Not to mention, driving around, finding secrets, stunt-jumps and just pick fights or making tattoos are entertaining side activities. The story is subpar, but at least self-aware. It might be the black sheep of the franchise despite going back to the roots of it, but I am more fond of this oddity than the rest of the series.
#3 Star Fox 64 3D
With such a messy series, going between trying to be similar to The Legend of Zelda, a TPS on foot, or even include a soap-opera with multiple pathways, it is not hard to be impressed with Nintendo’s ability to take risks, though the quality is clearly lacking. Of all the games, only the first for the SNES and the one for the N64 (and the remake on the 3DS) are those that have a clear concept and enough implementation for multiple returns. All the others try new things and don’t know when to say stop with its concepts. Even Star Fox Zero by Platinum is so incredibly creative, but also troublesome due to the controls alone. Though all sequels have in common that they take something from the N64 installment and with it being so highly praised, it makes me question why not just go back to the basics. It might be the same, but at least it provides something you would actually want to play again. If nothing else, we got a fantastic remake on the 3DS.
#2 Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
I don’t mean to anger anyone when I say this, but I hate the Assassin’s Creed games. They have interesting what-if scenarios, a clear love for the historical events, an intriguing concept of assassins vs the Templars, and the recreation of realistic locations are breathtaking. But by being forced to play the dull modern day segments, the awkward platforming and stealth, and engage with combat mechanics that are so underdeveloped it is a joke, I can’t say I had much fun with them.
Then the fourth installment came out, upgraded everything, and realized the concept could be more fleshed out. While I will compliment the third game for its upgrade to the combat and battleships, the fourth exploded with more options in every area. Recruiting men to your ship, taking on huge battles at the sea, explore jungles and hunt down beasts, or even stealth missions with more tools to play around with, there were so many ways you could play this game. This made it go from a poor, but atmospheric stealth-game, to one of the few open world games I actually love. This feeling of freedom is fantastically connected to the assassin’s theme of liberty, and while the story is not the strongest here, it is entertaining and does not force anything down your throat. It just wants you to have fun, and who honestly doesn’t like to play as a pirate?
#1 The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion
This one is interesting, as I feel every installment ages quicker than milk. It is hard to be mean to a series that could have worked as lore for a pen and paper RPG, but every entry has problems, be it randomized dungeons that can make the game unbeatable, stiff animations that makes interactions comical, dialogues that are cringe-worthy, or combat and mechanics that are incredibly off or too simple. However, the imagination going into creating these worlds are admittedly interesting and the one to do it with the best variety is Oblivion. It has dated combat, awkward conversations, off controls, dull visuals for magic, unbalanced mechanics, and a terrible level-up system where enemies get stronger equally to you.
However, I put up with it just because of the magical world it gives you, with unique, yet traditional locations and sidequests that are imaginative, going so far to dive into paintings. Despite that it has all the problems I mentioned that still makes it hard for me to truly appreciate it, I still can’t say I dislike the game, because I can see the effort and love put into it. I just hope another team will give this a remake and make it more balanced one day. Maybe Arkane Studios could help? Because I don’t like the series at all, I find it the most peculiar that while I still dislike Oblivion for its plenty of issues, while also thinking it is a wonderful game that I do not want to be without. This is why it is on the top of my list.
Again, this is not for making any hate-comments, because if you like the series, more power to you. This is rather about finding gems in series you don’t like, so I would rather love to hear your favorite surprises.