Few companies have been able to sustain franchises through gaming’s unpredictable market shifts over the last five decades. As the medium moved from arcades to living rooms and tastes transitioned with technologies, only a fraction of a percentage of franchises from gaming’s nascent days has survived.
Below we’ve compiled the franchises that have stood the test of time longer than any others. These are the 11 longest-running* video game franchises of all time.
11 Longest Running Video Game Franchises
11. Microsoft Flight Simulator – 41 years
First release: Microsoft Flight Simulator (1982)
Latest release: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 (2024)
20 years before Microsoft began its Xbox business, the company entered the gaming market as a software developer for early home computers. Among its first batch of games was Microsoft Flight Simulator, the first in its still-running series of aviation simulations.
After a dozen-plus releases, Flight Sim regained mainstream popularity in 2020 with Microsoft Flight Simulator, the series’ first game to be released on console. IGN’s reviewer Seth Macy awarded it a review score of 10 and called it “the most awe-inspiring simulation [he’s] ever experienced.”
10. Wolfenstein – 42 years
First release: Castle Wolfenstein (1981)
Latest release: Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (2019)
Wolfenstein began as a stealth-focused arcade game in September 1981 with the release of Castle Wolfenstein. The series has moved through several development teams and publishers throughout its 42-year existence, including notable stops at id Software (1992’s Wolfenstein 3D) and Activision (2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein through 2009’s Wolfenstein).
For the last decade, audiences have known Wolfenstein as a WW2 first-person shooter series developed by Bethesda’s MachineGames. The studio has created five Wolfenstein games since 2014: The New Order (2014), The Old Blood (2015), The New Colossus (2017), Youngblood (2019), and the VR game Cyberpilot (2019).
9. Donkey Kong – 42 years
First release: Donkey Kong (1981)
Latest release: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (2018)
While never reaching the heights of Mario or Zelda, Donkey Kong remains Nintendo’s longest-running video game franchise, debuting as an arcade game in July 1981.
Donkey Kong served as the antagonist in the original arcade game, throwing barrels down at the playable character from atop a construction site where he held Lady (Pauline) hostage. That playable character was Jumpman, who’d later become known as Mario.
The franchise has found most of its success with Donkey Kong Country, a series of 2D platform games, though it’s also explored the racing (Diddy Kong Racing), rhythm (Donkey Konga), and 3D platform (Donkey Kong 3D) genres.
8. Frogger – 42 years
First release: Frogger (1981)
Latest release: Frogger and the Rumbling Ruins (2022)
Frogger has made it across four decades of video games, surviving longer than all but seven franchises in video game history. Over three dozen Frogger games have been released since the franchise’s arcade debut in June 1981.
Konami created the original Frogger and continues to develop new games in the franchise, most recently 2022’s Apple Arcade exclusive Frogger and the Rumbling Ruins.
7. Missile Command – 43 years
First release: Missile Command (1980)
Latest release: Missile Command: Recharged (2022)
From the golden age of arcade gaming, Missile Command is a missile defense shooter developed by Atari. Like other arcade games on this list, Missile Command has received numerous re-releases, sequels, and spinoffs over the last four decades.
The latest version, Missile Command: Recharged, adds new power-ups and enemies, a new soundtrack, and co-op capability.
6. Pac-Man – 43 years
First release: Pac-Man (1980)
Latest release: Pac-Man World Re-Pac (2022)
Shortly before Missile Command, Pac-Man debuted in Japanese arcades as Puck Man. (The name is said to have been changed ahead of the U.S. release later in 1980 due to the vandalism opportunities presented by “Puck.”)
The original game’s loop — guide Pac-Man through a maze of dots while avoiding the Ghost Gang — has been tweaked and expanded upon in subsequent variations released over the last 43 years. Notable follow-ups include Ms. Pac-Man and Super Pac-Man in 1982, Pac-Land in 1984, Pac-Man World in 1999, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX in 2010, Pac-Man 256 in 2015, and Pac-Man 99 in 2021.
The franchise’s most recent release is Pac-Man World Re-Pac, a 2022 remake of the aforementioned 1999 3D platformer.
5. Asteroids – 44 years
First release: Asteroids (1979)
Latest release: Asteroids: Recharged (2021)
The first of three back-to-back-to-back arcade space shooters on this list, Asteroids was Atari’s response to Space Invaders, which was released a year earlier to extraordinary success in Japan. Asteroids, too, found near-immediate success upon its release, especially in the U.S.
Atari has since released several sequels, spinoffs, and ports. The most being Asteroids: Recharged, described as a modern reimagining of the original arcade game.
4. Galaxian/Galaga – 44 years
First release: Galaxian (1979)
Latest release: Galaga Wars+ (2021)
Namco’s first arcade shoot ‘em up was Galaxian, the precursor to its more-popular space shooter, Galaga. Galaxian, similarly a response to the popularity of Space Invaders, was released in Japan two months before Asteroids in the U.S. Its success led to the release of a sequel, Galaga, two years later.
Over 20 Galaxian/Galaga games have since been released across arcades, consoles, and phones. The most recent entry, Galaga Wars+, was released in 2021 for Apple Arcade.
3. Space Invaders – 45 years
First release: Space Invaders (1978)
Latest release: Space Invaders: World Defense (2023)
Before Asteroids and Galaxian, Tomohiro Nishikado ushered in the era of fixed shooters with his seminal shoot ‘em up Space Invaders. It was an instant hit in arcades, and its popularity boomed two years later when its console port became the killer app for the Atari 2600.
Space Invaders inspired countless arcade shooters that followed, while Japanese publisher Taito has released upwards of 30 spinoffs and sequels. The company most recently teamed with Google to create the AR game Space Invaders: World Defense, due out later this summer.
2. Pong – 51 years
First release: Pong (1972)
Latest release: Pong Quest (2020)
Atari’s first-ever video game has persisted to become the company’s longest-running franchise and one of only two gaming franchises to remain active for over 50 years.
The iconic table tennis-inspired game was among the first arcade games ever released. It’s considered the first commercially successful video game, and as such, is regarded as a catalyst for the video game industry at large.
Atari most recently released Pong Quest, which it describes as a “Pong-themed dungeon-crawling RPG.”
1. The Oregon Trail – 52 years
First release: The Oregon Trail (1971)
Latest release: The Oregon Trail: Boom Town (2023)
Gaming’s oldest active franchise, The Oregon Trail is a series of strategy-adventure games initially developed for educational purposes. While later iterations integrated graphics, the 1971 original was a strictly text-based game meant to simulate the experience of 19th-century pioneers traveling from Mississippi to Oregon.
Created as a supplement to a junior high history lesson, The Oregon Trail debuted in a single classroom in Minnesota. It was made available to additional Minnesota schools in 1975 and ported to Apple II computers in 1978, before being updated and released commercially in 1985. The franchise now includes over a dozen ports, sequels, reimaginings, and spinoffs.
The latest iteration is The Oregon Trail: Boom Town, a free-to-play Farmville-like mobile game. Fans of the original game, however, may be more interested in 2021’s The Oregon Trail, which transforms the original text adventure into a graphically vibrant choose-your-own-adventure. The reimagining is available on Switch, PC, and Apple Arcade.
Notable Long-running Franchises Outside the Top 11:
- Mario Bros. – 40 years
- Bomberman – 40 years
- Tetris – 38 years
- Zelda – 37 years
- Castlevania – 37 years
- Dragon Quest – 37 years
- Metroid – 37 years
- Metal Gear – 36 years
- Street Fighter – 36 years
- Final Fantasy – 36 years
- Mega Man – 36 years