Trilogies. Is there anything better? Usually, yes. Trilogies have a tendency to crash and burn in the final chapter, or even worse, they add a second trilogy with Midichlorians. Video games tend to throw off the shackles of the trilogy framework in favor of long-running franchises. However, we have some definite instances of trilogies that get away from us (Halo, I’m looking in your direction). Since such big titles as Fable III and Gears of War III are on the horizon, it’s time to sit down and look at some of my favorite games, specifically what I consider the ten best game trilogies. What constitutes a trilogy? I’ll define it as I go, so hold on and let’s get going!
10. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Trilogy:
This is the only trilogy on the list that I haven’t completed, and for that I’m very sorry. I have, however, played the first two parts of the Sands of Time trilogy and recognize that unless there was some sort of colossal failure with the third installment (I’ve heard it’s better than the second part), this trilogy is awesome. What Sands of Time does well is platforming. Combat, yeah, the game didn’t need combat, but when enemies take a break and Dastan puts his sword away for an extended period of time to allow himself to parkor around the room, the game vibrates with excellence. It does become apparent why they needed a time-reversing mechanic though: Some jumps the camera doesn’t feel like showing you are downright unfair and require trial-and-error to complete. That’s why the Sands of Time trilogy falls to the number 10 spot. Still, go play at least the first game, as Gus has already told you.
9. Super Mario Land 1-3:
If you’ve played the Super Mario Land games, you know that the third title is actually the first Wario Land game and doesn’t star Mario. Let me explain myself here because this is one of the few instances where Mario platformers have some sort of continuity with plot. In Super Mario Land, Mario hears that a princess named Daisy is in trouble in a nearby kingdom called Sarasaland. He heads over to save her from an alien named Tatanga, then returns home to his castle in Mario Land, only to find it taken over by Wario. As it turns out, Tatanga appears as a world boss in Super Mario Land 2 as we learn that Wario paid Tatanga to distract Mario long enough for him to take over Mario Land. After Wario’s defeat, he heads out broken and penniless to find more money and build a castle of his own. At the end of Super Mario Land 3, Mario makes a quick cameo to steal a large status of Princess Peach away from Wario. This is the only time we get some sort of a sense of a greater narrative at work within the traditional Mario games. Plus, the platforming is spot on here. Each game plays completely different and offers a ton to do, so it makes for an excellent trilogy.
8. Resident Evil 4 (GameCube, PS2, Wii):
No, stop, I can explain this. How am I counting a single game as a trilogy? Well, it’s a single game that’s been released three times and each time it changes slightly. When Resident Evil 4 first appeared on the GameCube, it completely overhauled the Resident Evil series and restored a lot of its credibility. The controls were nearly perfect, as was pretty much all of it. Time passes and Capcom decides to release a version of RE4 onto the PS2, complete with new content, adding to the experience and making me want to play it again. I still consider the PS2 release the dark chapter in RE4’s trilogy as it was meant to be on the GameCube and only the GameCube, plus the new features only punished me for buying it on the GameCube in the first place. But then the final chapter in this saga, the Wii version, came out and righted all of the wrongs. The controls became even better than before, all the content from the GameCube and PS2 versions returned, and new content showed up as well. Each playthrough on each system will offer something different, making this one heck of a trilogy. I’m cheating. I don’t care. This is my list.
7. Mega Man 1-3:
While you may decide that any series that has more than three games doesn’t constitute a trilogy, I disagree. Bottom line, three things in a row that pertain to one another are a trilogy, therefore the first Mega Man trilogy stands way, way out as a great set of three games. The first Mega Man title introduced a way to play that would cause ripples throughout games from then on whereas Mega Man 2 and 3 would take the premise and perfect it, offering some of the best NES gameplay moments you could find, as well as some of the greatest music of all time. Then Mega Man 4 just sort of…was there. And 5 followed suit, as would all the rest. If you need a perfect example of all that was Mega, Mega Man 1, 2, & 3 are prime examples of where to start.
6. TMNT 2-4:
“Hey Chris, you can’t have a trilogy of games that go 2, 3, 4!” Yes, actually, I can. How can I do this? The three TMNT console titles in question were made by Konami, whereas the first TMNT game was made through Konami’s sub development studio, Ultra. The games play entirely different between TMNT and TMNT 2, doing away with the sidescrolling platforming in favor of a beat-‘em-up play style that fit perfectly with the TMNT brand. TMNT The Arcade Game demonstrated a full knowledge of the property being worked with, allowing gamers to fight multiple characters directly from the actual show. TMNT 3 added even more characters and a pretty cool situation to boot. But it wasn’t until TMNT 4 that things hit a peak and remains to be topped. Traveling through time is fun enough, but implementing controls that just feel right and a soundtrack that’s to die for pushes things to a whole new level. Seriously, why can’t Konami, or I guess now Ubisoft, figure out how to recreate these Turtles games the right way? Please, no more Reshelled.
5. Paper Mario 1-3:
I loved Super Mario RPG and like most fans, I wanted a sequel. I never got that sequel, but I did get Paper Mario, a title I was immensely skeptical of. I was so sure that it would suck that I scoffed every time I read something about it in Nintendo Power. But then it came out and I played/loved it. The humor was engaging and the battle system, while intensely simple, was fun. Next came Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, a title that took all the concepts of the first game and improved upon them, adding more humor and spectacular characters. Super Paper Mario closed things out with a new direction, taking the series out of the RPG genre and placing it in platforming. And once more, the characters and humor got even better. I’m still surprised that Super Paper Mario managed to spoof video games while not actually being a terrible video game itself, as seems to be the case with tons of games recently (Max Hazard, The Simpsons Game). There have been reports of a 3DS Paper Mario title, so the trilogy is about to become a full saga, but for now you have three games that play for the gamers.
4. Super Smash Bros:
Fan service is an art form that Nintendo knows inside and out. Taking this vast skill of the Nintendo fan, Super Smash Bros was created, a series I’ve already said a lot about. But just think of how excited kids were when this was first announced. “All your favorite Nintendo characters in one game that anyone can easily play and master.” Joy! Then to follow it up with a mind-blowing sequel? More characters, more levels, and more everything? JOY! And then do it again but harderer? JOYGASM! As of now there are no announcements of a fourth title in the series (I fully expect a 3DS installment to hit sometime in the next two years), meaning the three Smash Bros titles we have need to last us. And last us they shall due to the sheer amount of replayability. I’ve played hundreds of hours between the three copies (Melee has the most at this very moment) and I will surely play hundreds more before my games break and I’m forced to purchase them again.
3. Donkey Kong Country 1-3:
Platforming gold. Yet another trilogy I’ve written about before, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy is something very odd but wonderful. Perhaps nostalgia is getting the better of me but were these games not phenomenal? Secrets everywhere, soundtracks you could listen to outside of the game, and graphics that showed where the medium was heading all combined to form one epic threesome of games. I’m still unable to pick a favorite of the three due to my enjoyment with each title for different reasons, and therefore I don’t have to pick a favorite, instead opting to lump them together as one massive game with an overarching plotline. And hey! It’s not going to be a trilogy much longer, either! Donkey Kong Country Returns promises to revitalize the series, but even if it doesn’t, I’m perfectly happy with the three titles we already have.
2. Mario & Luigi 1-3:
If you own a DS and don’t own at least one of the Mario & Luigi games, I’m not going to talk to you anymore. Nope, not going to. You clearly don’t like games, so you probably have nothing much to say to me. Take everything I said about the Paper Mario games and magnify it by a factor of three. The gameplay itself is incredibly simple, yet it keeps you engaged due to the reflexive nature of timing-based gameplay. You can’t just keep pressing the A button to attack enemies. Instead, you need to time your attacks and dodges to get through battles with minimal damage and maximum pain to your enemies. Plus, no individual can withhold a hearty smile upon hearing Mario and Luigi’s gibberish babble. If you do somehow manage to find it unamusing, go see a doctor right away because you may actually be dead and you’re certainly not a friend of mine.
1. Metroid Prime 1-3:
Yeah yeah, I bring up Metroid Prime all the time, don’t I? But when you’re talking about a series as stupidly great as Metroid Prime, cut me some slack. I straight up love this series. I love the gameplay. I love the narrative. I love the music. I love the enemies. I love the weapons. I love the backtracking. I love it all. I want more, and it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to get more since Retro Studios has shifted work to Donkey Kong Country Returns and then whatever else Nintendo sends them off to do. Metroid: Other M sent the series in a direction it can’t really turn around from, so the Prime games I have are the Prime games I must live with. And that’s okay with me since they’re so good. If you can find a copy of the Metroid Prime Trilogy for the Wii, the version that contains all three games with Wii controls, snatch it up right away. Then play them all. Then tell me how much you enjoyed them. I doubt many of you will return unsatisfied.
So there we are, my ten favorite trilogies. Keep in mind that these encompass trilogies I’ve played, not trilogies I haven’t. You may be asking yourself (I mean Gus may be asking himself) “Hey, why didn’t I see Jak and Daxter/Sly Cooper/God of War/Crash Bandicoot?” Because, that’s why. Because I’ve either never played them or I think they’re rubbish (GoW? More like GTFO. Am I right?!). This is where all of you come in. Leave a comment and tell me your favorite video game trilogies. And feel free to break the rules. Think that three games in the middle of a series make for an awesome trilogy? Go for it and tell me right away. In fact, send me three comments just to keep things interesting.
Want more Top 10 Lists? Check these out: