Have you ever wanted to jump into a series without knowing any of the backstory or avoiding the archaic mechanics of the roots of those games? Well, sometimes that’s more impossible than we’d like to admit. For starters, you will be more lost than you can imagine if you started playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain before playing any of the first four.
However, that does not mean there aren’t series that can be played out of order. In fact, there are many. In fact, here are ten such series that you can jump into and enjoy at any point in their timeline.
Of every video game series throughout the years, it would seem that Final Fantasy has easily had the most entries. However, between the numbered games, their sequels (X-2, etc.), and spin-offs like Tactics, very little room is left for any sort of tight connection between all of the games.
Each of the games has their own nuances, but carry similar themes. Moreover, there are theories abound surrounding the connection of the games of the franchise. But really, at the end of the day, the series is all about tightly-tuned RPG mechanics, with some variation in-between. There is no real jumping-on point. Instead, the series depends on whether you like old-school, 16-bit RPGs, or RPGs with a more modern flair.
While a few of the games in the franchise are linked to each other, this set of horror games lacks any requirement for sequential completion of each game in the series. Although the games are widely varied in terms of quality, each is distinct in their themes, conflicts, and the way the protagonists must face their troubles. They each feature different gameplay elements and presentation as well. However, you will still feel the same sense of dread from each game in the franchise.
Ultimately, the series is about Silent Hill the town. It isn’t necessarily about any specific storyline, nor about any character arcs, but rather about characterizing the town. The series shows different protagonists’ experiences within the town, often facing their pasts, but ultimately demonstrates Silent Hill to be a place where people face their fears. So jump on at any point, but at least play with the lights on.
Ubisoft’s survival series has evolved over the years. Starting at essentially small beginnings, Far Cry eventually made its way into the mainstream with Far Cry 2, and more so with Far Cry 3. 2014 then saw Far Cry 4, whose main complaint was its over similarity to its predecessor. Finally, earlier this year, Far Cry: Primal was released, which was an experiment of sorts for Ubisoft. Ultimately, what do any of these games have in common in terms of plot? Absolutely nothing.
Far Cry: Primal is the best example of this. When you have a game series that has gone on for multiple entries and then some DLC, each with their own unique spin, but similar gameplay mechanics and weaponry, you have to mix it up. The solution was clearly to start in the caveman era, where the player loses their guns, but gets access to some pretty awesome ancient weapons, like slings and other unique melee weapons. The approach played to largely good effect and it had nothing to do with the rest of the series.
The Far Cry series is, at this point, a modern classic. Far Cry 3, which is said to be the best in the series, may go down as one of the greatest action-adventure games of all-time, but Far Cry: Primal turned out to be a surprisingly good deviation from the rest of the series. However, all of the Far Cry games are above average, and you don’t really have to know what happened in the rest of the series before, for example, starting Far Cry 4. So go forth and explore anywhere from the African jungles of Far Cry 2 to the vibrant island of Far Cry 3 to the Himalayan tundras of Far Cry 4 (though not necessarily in that order).
Fallout can easily be played out of order. Even though each game builds upon the last by showing how different parts of America were affected by the apocalypse, playing Fallout 4 before Fallout, Fallout 2, or another of the other Fallouts will never mess up your understanding of the series in general.
This example is unique in the way that the reason the Fallout games can be played out of order is that they have their own self-contained stories. There are definitely some clever references to past games that will land ineffectively on newcomers, but each game is playable alone. The gameplay mechanics and presentation undoubtedly improve over time, but each game’s strengths are surprisingly different from the others’.
Ultimately, go ahead and play in whichever order you want. Just try not to set the world on fire.
Grand Theft Auto
Saying you need to play the Grand Theft Auto games in order is like saying you should try each fast food chain by the order in which they were established. They’ll each have the same effect and, depending on who you are, you will enjoy them a lot. So it really doesn’t matter which game you try first.
Each game has a wacky plot with flamboyant characters and each game carries different themes. Some take themselves less seriously than others. It could be argued, for example, that GTA V takes itself less seriously than IV. However, in the end, it’s about playing as someone with homicidal tendencies who like to evade the law and somehow live with themselves.
None of the games’ stories are connected, even though some of the games share locations. But each of the games have, like Fallout, self-contained storylines. Michael De Santa is not like Commander Shepard. His decisions do not affect the rest of the game, nor, likely, the next games in the series. However, that’s probably a good thing because, like all GTA anti-heroes, he is a terrible person.
Call of Duty
It should be a given at this point, but playing one Call of Duty campaign requires no context. The only part about the franchise that might require some context is the Modern Warfare trilogy, but even that doesn’t have much of a real story arc.
The more convincing argument for playing the Call of Duty series out of order would be the fact that most people play the games for their addictive online multiplayer. However, since that angle is too easy, it should also be argued that four of the games took place during World War II. Moreover, none of them were connected. Call of Duty’s 1-3 and World at War had stories that took place during World War II, but were still disconnected, so it would be fair to start at whichever point you want to.
The Call of Duty series is a series that thrives on high-octane thrills. Whether you’re in a ghillie suit firing away at Russian soldiers, having a drug-ridden meeting with JFK, witnessing a nuclear explosion, or dueling a rogue American military general, there is no information needed to answer: “What is happening?” Just sit back, relax, and play the games out of order!
In the same boot camp as the previously mentioned insanely popular FPS, each Battlefield game tends to just be another soldier within the vast army of military shooters. Most of them have relatively the same loadouts with different coats of paint, but that is a different, albeit very popular, discussion.
Battlefield’s a game where you shoot at enemy soldiers as some American soldier, and leave debris and corpses along the way. It’s a familiar concept, one that can be dated back to Wolfenstein. However, that war was real, whereas Battlefield’s are only loosely based on the War on Terror, with some variation in-between. The Bad Company games and Hardline show this variation.
Thus, at the end of the day, the Battlefield games are playable as their own separate entities, meaning that if you play Battlefield 4, you’re very likely to have the same experience you’d have playing Battlefield 3. Ultimately, the order is completely up to you.
Sonic the Hedgehog
The series about a blue hedgehog that runs at lightning speed and fights Dr. Robotnik is one that never requires the player to have an understanding of the universe. There’s Sonic, there’s the rings, there’s the goal: go for it.
Sonic the Hedgehog, however, symbolizes what many 16-bit era games were all about. Games like Gunstar Heroes, Sonic, Contra, and countless others, were not meant to contain deep stories. They were really supposed to be games that were all about fun. As such, the developers of the era never relied on the players’ knowledge of prior installments in different series. They took an idea and ran with it, whether the player understood the concept or not. Sonic has somehow sustained itself through two decades of games occasionally structured like the 16-bit games, mediocre spin-offs, and original concepts that fall flat.
While Sonic the Hegehog’s heyday is gone, there’s no doubt you can start with any game in the series. It’s seriously recommended you consult reviews of most of the recent installments in the series. And it’s best to stay away from the 2006 Sonic game on Xbox 360, but if you’re confused by anything, it won’t be the lore of the universe. It will be how something that was once fun can now be so miserable. Here’s to Sonic Mania!
While the Blue Bomber was last seen fighting against a large collection of fellow NES alumni, it turns out he had long-running series called Mega Man. The Mega Man series is considered to be one of the best classic franchises of all-time, alongside the previously mentioned Sonic the Hedgehog, and many others.
Most of the games have the same setup, though: Dr. Wily devises a plan to try and destroy Mega Man. That plan involves either building murderous robots or putting people in armor that enhances their jumping abilities, and gives them unique abilities, such as shooting bubbles or throwing razor-sharp leaves.
Like with all of the previous series in the list, it would be inappropriate to apply the “you played one, you played them all” logic because Mega Man is a very beloved series. It’s difficult, but extremely rewarding, and has very tight gameplay. Plus, playing just one of the games hardly prepares you for the others, so feel free to start wherever you want.
Pretty Much Any Nintendo Game
It’s well-known among fans, and even gamers in general, that Nintendo doesn’t do story-driven series. Their series date all the way back to the mid-80s, the days when the only way of communicating any kind of story was through text. They either didn’t want to bother with that or felt players wouldn’t want that, so they canned it and went with the “games are for fun” approach.
That approach has clearly stuck to this day. With each Mario game, you are largely guaranteed that you won’t see much character development or anything in terms of plot that fleshes out the Mario universe. Nintendo wants you to simply sit back and enjoy the experience.
Even the more storied Nintendo games, like Xenoblade and Fire Emblem, require little to no backstory. They are pretty self-contained, and Xenoblade Chronicles has nothing to do Xenoblade Chronicles X, for example. The two don’t even take place on the same planet, nor share much in terms of plot or characters. That’s how playable the Nintendo game series are out of sequence.
Zelda, Mario, Pokémon, Kirby, Metroid, Star Fox, and any other Nintendo series you can think of doesn’t need backstory. You can play them in whatever order you want. Ocarina of Time doesn’t need to be played before Twilight Princess. Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t need to be played before Super Mario Bros. 3. Pokémon X or Y doesn’t need to be played before Pokémon Red or Blue. They will all have the same effect. So you can rest assured, just like with every other series on this list, that if you play the fifth entry in the Super Mario series first, there’s no reason to say, “I should start from the beginning.”