Video games weren’t always centered on storytelling, but it’s been an integral element of the medium for some time. Video game franchises, especially, weren’t widely regarded for telling ongoing, cohesive narratives until well into the industry’s second decade.
Because of the changing views surrounding video games’ abilities to tell stories and the importance of doing so, some longstanding series have had to cobble disparate titles together into something resembling a timeline. Other series have adopted this intricate, complicated narrative strategy on purpose to draw fan attention or play into the themes of their work.
10 The Legend Of Zelda: A Frequently Debated Chronology
The Legend of Zelda franchise didn’t originally intend for all the games to be connected narratively. As time passed, however, it became clear that they’d changed their approach. This revelation led to the establishment of the canon three-prong timeline, branching off from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
On one path, the Hero of Time was defeated, while the other two paths depicted the hero as triumphant, each following either the child Link or adult Link. Despite this officially sanctioned designation, fans continued to question the placement of individual games in the timeline, especially the post-apocalyptic Breath of the Wild.
9 Five Nights At Freddy’s: The Story Is In The Secrets
The Five Nights at Freddy’s series thrives on the hidden nature of its lore, encouraging gamers to dig deep into minor details of each game. As a result of this secrecy, where each game takes place in the story’s timeline is an equally convoluted question.
Avid lore keepers, such as YouTube’s Game Theory, have made multiple efforts to compile the disparate horror titles into a comprehensive timeline, but have had to make changes as the franchise continues to evolve. Although the community has reached a consensus on certain details, the order of many events remains hotly debated.
8 Dark Souls: Understanding Is Part Of The Challenge
A series so difficult it spawned its own sub-genre of games, Dark Souls gives nothing to the player for free, not even the narrative. Its storytelling unfolds through item descriptions, environmental clues, and scraps of cryptic dialogue from characters who may not even be telling the truth.
Through the concentrated effort of large groups of fans combing through details over time, the gaming community now has a rough understanding of the Dark Souls timeline. While it may not be canonically approved, it’s an achievement as valiant as the defeat of any Dark Souls boss.
7 Prince Of Persia: Time Travel Always Complicates Things
Up until the first Sands of Time entry, the Prince of Persia series was fairly straightforward, with each game published in chronological order and leading to the next. When Prince of Persia: Sands of Time came out, it complicated the story immediately, involving in-game time travel.
After that point, the Prince of Persia games began publishing in a different order than they took place, and The Forgotten Sands had four versions for different consoles, each of which had a unique narrative. Many of the more recent titles from the franchise disconnected from the overarching timeline, especially surrounding the original game’s reboot.
6 God Of War: Mythology Is Always Convoluted
In the honorable tradition of the material that inspired it, God of War can be hard to track from one tale to another. Just as stories from ancient mythology can contradict and intercede with one another, so do the God of War games.
Players follow Kratos’ travels and adventures through not only Greek mythology, but the tales from ancient pantheons of other realms as well. Not only are the games released outside of chronological order, but the first game of the series and the 2018 entry bear the same name.
5 Resident Evil: Neither The Hardest Nor The Easiest
Even though most of the Resident Evil games came out in approximately chronological order, certain elements make its overarching narrative through-line more complex than it seems. For instance, part of Resident Evil III takes place before Resident Evil II, while the rest happens afterward.
As the Resident Evil franchise deviated from tried-and-true zombie horror into other elements of the horror genre, the plot grew and became more complex. However, all of it continued to center on the Umbrella corporation and its many indiscretions in chemical and biological experimentation.
4 Assassin’s Creed: Between The Past And The Future
Since they’re based on historical events, the sections of the Assassin’s Creed series set in the memories of the past can feel simple to organize. However, organizing the rest of the narratives proves more complicated than some would believe.
The “modern day” segments of the games can be more arduous to follow due to their multiple protagonists and the influence of both technological and supernatural artifacts from the series’ lore. The combination of these storylines makes for an intricate through-line that, while not necessarily hard to understand, is still complex to put together.
The Metal Gear Solid franchise follows a decades-long conflict between military forces. Each game not only takes place in a different era than the year of its publication, but also at a different point in the overarching timeline of the series.
The first game in the saga, Metal Gear, comes fairly late in terms of chronology, while more recent releases happen in earlier years. A few games even step outside of the timeline, such as the heavily disliked Metal Gear Survive, in which the protagonists get pulled into an alternate reality to fight zombies.
2 Castlevania: Intricate, But Explained
Multiple official timelines have been created for the Castlevania series over time. However, several of the earliest iterations were originally intended for developer-exclusive use. The teams working on newer installments to the franchise received this information to assist them in their endeavors, as the timeline of the games could be challenging to follow.
As further installments have come out, they’ve been accompanied by updated timelines to reflect their impact on the ongoing series and its lore. Even though the timeline itself is elaborate, official releases always explain it well.
1 Kingdom Hearts: Famous For Its Complexity
One of the facts that most gamers know about Kingdom Hearts, even if they’re not familiar with the series, is the complexity of its timeline. Not only does the franchise release games out of chronological order, but it also has multiple overlapping groups of protagonists that the storyline moves between.
Some of the games even take place at the same time as each other, further complicating the order of events. Another element of this intricacy is Kingdom Hearts‘ broad spectrum of filler games. Based on the titles, there are technically three main series games, compared to approximately ten other entries, including the mobile game.
NEXT: 10 Video Game Series Where The Most Popular Entry Isn’t The Original