Bethesda has become a juggernaut in the video game industry with their games winning many major awards and almost always becoming Game of The Year winners. While they’ve made a great number of standalone titles like their first game Gridiron! and are known for their work in collaborative titles like the Pirates of the Caribbean video game, their real stars are their own franchises.
With so many powerful titles that resonate with gamers around the world, it’s going to be impossible to create a ranked list of their best franchises without stepping on many, many toes. So, here’s a ranking of their franchises full of bias, nostalgia, and blatant dogmatism.
10 IHRA Drag Racing
Most Bethesda fans will be surprised to hear that they had a franchise of racing games called IHRA Drag Racing. It was done in collaboration with the International Hot Rod Association or IHRA. Bethesda produced five games in the franchise spanning from the year 2000 to 2006.
The game has players step behind the wheel of a race car and compete in races based on the real-life tournaments in the IHRA. To win players must spend a majority of their time in the garage fine-tuning everything from corner weights to the chassis types of their cars before they actually get to the racing. It was an okay racing game, but nothing to get excited about and, as a result, Bethesda has let the franchise lie dormant since 2006.
Rage was Bethesda’s take on the Mad Max type of gaming that became popular as a result of the movie reboot and the success of their own video game, Fallout 3. Players awoke from hibernation as a soldier named Nicholas Raine to find the world a wasteland as a result of an asteroid. The player must then navigate the hostile world full of mutants, bandits and other threats.
It was a fun shooting game with driving elements thrown in. The reason it doesn’t rank higher on this list is that the praise for the game was mixed, citing issues with a bland storyline, weak characters, and confusing progression. The game was still able to create a loyal fanbase and Bethesda is set to release a sequel, Rage 2, in May 2019 that could give much-needed life to the franchise.
As a series, the Quake universe is fascinating with its dark and gritty take on the sci-fi shooter genre. Early titles had players facing Lovecraftian horrors, robotic aliens, and other threats from the stars. It’s confusing that which such a unique storyline and interesting premise that Bethesda didn’t capitalize on it more when they obtained the franchise in 2010.
The first Bethesda game, Quake Live, was honestly fun and is still seeing tournaments in professional circles to this day. The 2018 release Quake Champions has seen similar success, though not to the same degree. It’s incredible that for a game development and publishing company known for unique and interesting single-player titles with rich storylines they have yet to produce a single-player Quake title.
Another of many franchises obtained by Bethesda since they acquired id Software in 2009, the Wolfenstein franchise is unique in that the first game in the series released in 1992 is hailed as the game to kickstart the first-person shooter genre.
Bethesda rebooted the series with Wolfenstein: The New Order in 2014 and held true to many of the story elements and gameplay present in the first game, but with modern updates. They’ve since released a number of other titles in the franchise all of which did fairly well, portraying a very dark future for humanity had the Nazis won World War II.
6 The Evil Within
The Evil Within is a notable deviation from Bethesda’s other titles for being a third-person shooter and a solid horror game. Players in the series explore a nightmarish world of horrific creatures and reality-bending areas, only finding solace in a mental hospital where they tortured themselves for upgrades.
The two games in the franchise The Evil Within and its sequel The Evil Within 2 received strong praise for its originality and scary moments. The only flaw was that Bethesda didn’t have a lot of experience with either third-person shooters or horror games, so some of that inexperience showed in the rough combat, convoluted plot and predictable moments in both titles. But no one can deny the horror they felt upon meeting the multi-armed Laura for the first time.
Doom was another fantastic franchise Bethesda snagged when they added id Software to their ranks. Practically every gamer since the ’90s, and their very concerned mothers, have either heard or played this game about a marine gunning down demons in hell.
When Bethesda picked up the series, id Software had been struggling to breath new life into the series with Doom 3. Bethesda recognized that the developers had wandered away from their roots and with the reboot, Doom, in 2016, they got back to that same fast-paced, simplistic, gory carnage fans loved from the original. With Doom Eternal coming out soon, Doom is a growing franchise of Bethesda’s that’s proving to be a lot of fun.
Perhaps capitalizing on the popularity of stealth action games following the success of Ubisoft’s Assassin Creed series, Bethesda released their own take on the genre with Dishonored and stunned fans with a bold and unique game. Players filled the role of Corvo Attano, a bodyguard turned assassin after being framed for murder. With the help of the Loyalists and a mysterious being known as the Outsider, players were able to tackle the game’s missions in a variety of clever and unique ways.
The success of the game surprised even Bethesda and they put out a sequel three years later to much of the same fanfare and awards they received for the first one. The only reason it doesn’t rank higher on this list is because of the recurring complaints regarding the flawed and predictable storyline and for punishing players wanting to step out of the shadows and embrace the action aspects of the game.
Prey was a surprising and stunning game that took the world by storm in 2017. Interestingly the game released by Bethesda has nothing to do with its origins from the video game Prey, a first-person shooter following a Cherokee Indian with spiritual powers fighting human feasting aliens on their mothership released in 2006 by Human Head Studios, which some have considered a good thing.
This Prey had players take on the role of a brilliant scientist fighting aliens called Typhons using an array of special powers that some have drawn similarities to those found in the Dishonored series. The dark apocalyptic setting in space made it a unique game and delivered one of the best twist endings in years. Though there hasn’t been a sequel announced yet, the DLC Prey: Mooncrash introduced fun and unique concepts to the game and proves that a sequel would perform well with fans of the game.
The Fallout series is the greatest example of Bethesda taking a popular gaming world built by someone else and giving it life. Bethesda wowed the gaming world with the release of Fallout 3 in 2008. Players were introduced to a radioactive wasteland with retro robotics, horrifying mutants, and a great soundtrack from the 1940s while tackling everything from a first-person, action-oriented view, rather than the over-the-top turn-based play present in the first game.
Bethesda continued on the success of Fallout 3 with the groundbreaking Fallout: New Vegas that featured an incredible storyline and enhanced gameplay. The train kept rolling with Fallout 4 which introduced city building and questionably moral quests that have players debating to this day about which of the endings is the ‘good’ ending. Fallout 76, their first multiplayer release, is seeing mixed responses, but it’s clear that Fallout is in good hands and players can expect more amazing titles from Bethesda in the future.
1 The Elder Scrolls
Was there any question that The Elder Scrolls would be the winner? The Elder Scrolls: Arena was one of Bethesda’s first attempts at something other than sports or action games and introduced players to an expansive fantasy world in 1994. Things didn’t really start cooking until Bethesda released their third title in the series, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind in 2002. This game introduced a unique and interesting world that hasn’t really been matched by other games and really caught the gaming world’s attention.
Bethesda was solidified as a household name in 2006 with the release of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion in 2006 and their juggernaut The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim in 2011 has exploded into mainstream attention, reaching beyond the gaming world to become a critical element of pop culture referenced in television shows and movies. Their online MMORPG The Elder Scrolls Online is holding strong and there’s immense hype for Elder Scrolls IV.
The Elder Scrolls franchise is without a doubt Bethesda’s strongest and best-performing series, breaking ground on modded gameplay, open world exploration, custom-built characters, and unique storylines. It’s not a coincidence that their first original series, which started out as a pet project, has gone on to become the company’s best performing by far.