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March Madness: Video Game Edition

In American college basketball, it doesn’t get any bigger than March Madness. 64 of the best teams in the country, sorted into four conferences based on how well they’ve done all year, to compete in a single elimination tournament to crown the national champion.

This final tournament setting is the purest distillation of sports, where small David’s can overcome massive Goliaths on the strength of a single shot. It creates some of the best stories of the athletic calendar and always evokes the desire to see the same tournament recreated in other formats. To go along with tradition, we’ve compiled a tournament bracket of the 32 most popular video game franchises of all time (according to Wikipedia) and paired them off to uncover the true best video game franchise of all time! The franchises were snake drafted into seed one through eight, and split into four different regions to eventually come to a final four, and then champion overall. Seeding was decided based on their total number of sales. Those seeds then faced off, 1st vs 8th, 2nd vs 7th, 3rd vs 6th and 4th vs 5th, with winners decided through Twitter polls.

In the end, we will be left with the consensus BEST FRANCHISE EVER!

1st Round

The biggest storylines that go throughout a March Madness bracket is the potential for upsets, and for a lower seed to go on a Cinderella run.

From our opening round, the biggest upset by far was by 8th seeded Super Smash Brothers (SSB), overtaking number one seed Call of Duty (CoD). While in some ways this is not a surprising turn of events, I’d personally assume that while the Smash Brothers fanbase is more rabid, there’s a reason that Call of Duty is a first seed - it’s got a much wider spread. As with most upsets, it was a relatively close call for the victors, SSB winning with 63% of the vote.

The tightest margin of victory for the opening round was down to Halo’s upset of the Lego franchise. 52% of the vote for the space shooter overtook possibly the most diverse back catalogue of any competitor in this series.

Unsurprisingly, many of the other matchups were blowout victories: fifth seed Tomb Raider beat fourth seed Need for Speed 77% to 23%; Sonic (third) crushed Gran Turismo (6th), 77/23; to my personal surprise, Tetris demolished Animal Crossing in a 1/8 matchup, taking it 85/15 - but the biggest win of the first round is Zelda (4th) over Pro Evolution Soccer (5th), 87/13.

2nd Round

Our second round opens with by far the biggest sweep of the series. Overall first seeded Mario obliterated NBA 2k, with 92.9% of the Twitter vote.

Equally surprising, we had our first exact tie, between two of the powerhouses for this competition, and Mario’s biggest threats. Pokémon (first seed) and The Legend of Zelda (fourth seed) couldn’t be separated. We had to decide in the fairest way possible who would go through. So Andy picked his favourite. Pokémon going through.

The Cinderella story for Super Smash Brothers continued, overcoming tight competition from fifth seeded Tomb Raider, winning by 57%.

Elite Eight

Our Elite Eight, the quarter finals, the eight best franchises in this competition, was as expected a tough vote.

None of the four matchups went past a 64/36 split, which went to Pokémon in a victory over Final Fantasy (third seed), continuing the mini monsters run as the second favourite.

Mario beat Halo by the same margin that Grand Theft Auto overcame Super Smash Brothers, with 57% of the vote over 43%. This finished off our remaining low seed franchises. Seventh seed Halo had made it through Lego and The Sims in close back-to-back contests. Each franchise brought something unique to the table that the others couldn’t match up to - but in the end first persons shooters make it over.

Grand Theft Auto pulled it out over the plucky underdog that was Super Smash Brothers, our longest competing eighth seed.

Tetris beat Assassin’s Creed in a surprisingly easy 60/40 split for the one seed. This rounded out our Final Four, with all one and two seeds.

Final Four

The Final Four franchises had some similarities and differences between them. Mario and Pokémon as one seeds representing Nintendo and 90s nostalgia, taking on a modern classic in Grand Theft Auto and one of the OGs of the gaming space in Tetris. Nintendo dominates the landscape as is to be expected - and in some ways it wasn’t even close.

Mario, the clear favourite, had the win of a championship contender over Grand Theft Auto, taking 73% of the vote. The plucky New York plumber outlasted the violence of Grand Theft Auto, in a match-up that reminds me of that Robot Chicken bit that drove the internet wild 15 years ago.

Tetris fell to the best collectable of all time, proving once and for all colourful moving shapes do best when they’re fighting rather than falling. The Pocket Monsters moved on to the final vote, against their biggest in company rival.

The Finals

Really, there was no point in doing this experiment, as the highest selling franchise of all time, the defender of the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario Mario wins out over Pokémon 69% to 31%.

I don’t think Mario could have faced a better challenger than he did in the final. While both franchises have core elements surrounded by spin-off series that vary the catalogue on offer, Mario’s selection has been more successful.

Not only successful for the central character, but spawning opportunities for his brother, evil twin and best friend. When I compiled the initial list, and sorted seeds based on highest number of sales, the Super Mario games would have been the sixth seed overall on their own, while Mario Kart is a top 15 franchise in its own right.

Mario Mario and friends is stacked beyond belief, and while Professor Oak tries his best with mainline titles, Mystery Dungeon storylines, fighting games and photography outings, the success pales in comparison to the eventual winner.

Do you think Mario deserves the title of Greatest Franchise of all time? What’s your personal pick? Should we do more Twitter tournaments? Will Elon let us?

Until next time!

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