Some of the best things in life come in threes.
Video games often lend themselves well to trilogies. Pumping out three games in the same franchise doesn’t make a good trilogy, though. The best video game trilogies remain those where each game feels like a part of a larger story, while still giving them their own individual tales.
1. Mass Effect
The sprawling space saga of the original three Mass Effect games checks all the boxes for what makes a great trilogy. While each game stands on its own, they each have a big role in the trilogy that beckons the player to experience it from beginning to end.
Commander Shepard turns into whatever the player guides them toward while the consequences of their decisions ripple throughout all three games. No matter where the Mass Effect series goes from here, this will always remain a shining example of a game trilogy done right.
2. God of War
Anyone who enjoys blood-pumping action, stylish combat, and epic scale should play the first three God of War games right away. These blood-soaked action games embody power fantasy action to the extent of their abilities.
While all of them provide tons of entertainment on their own, it’s best to enjoy the overarching story of Kratos and his descent into power-hungry revenge in order. Each game plays like a step up in terms of action, available moves, and epicness. While the new games live in a different universe of sheer production value, these original three gems still define the eras in which they hit consoles.
3. Tomb Raider (Origin Trilogy)
The Tomb Raider franchise remains legendary for ushering in several standards for the action/adventure genre. As a result of these games, charismatic lead characters, interactive traversal, and solving ancient riddles to reveal the path forward still pop up in similar games today.
The 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider showed gamers how Lara Croft became the cutthroat trailblazer who starred in the previous games. Tomb Raider turned out so well that it led to a trilogy, and all three games still hold up as pinnacles of what made the original games so great. The two sequels would improve on the graphics and gameplay, but still stick with the general theme of shooting, puzzles, and exploring.
These games might show their age in some minor ways, but still serve as a fantastic telling of Lara Croft’s origin, and one of the best video game trilogies ever.
4. Max Payne
Max Payne remains known by most for the original game on the PC, PS2, and Xbox. However, those who dig a little deeper will find an excellent trilogy of games. Max Payne 2 continued Max’s story in earnest, while Max Payne 3 opened a new chapter by giving him new reasons to grow.
Both sequels remain fantastic evolutions of the original and turn Remedy Entertainment’s iconic shooter into an excellent trilogy. While the general gameplay saw little evolution, one could also argue that it didn’t need much, either. The bullet-time mechanic aged like fine wine, and the neo-noire storytelling never got old.
5. The Witcher
The deep characters and enchanting world-building of The Witcher trilogy stand among the best in the business. Tight combat and unprecedented player agency characterize the entire trilogy and only got better with each release.
CD Projekt Red even supported the third entry with some of the best expansions in gaming history with “Hearts of Stone” and “Blood and Wine” which both became critically and commercially successful. Hopefully, Geralt’s adventures will continue, but if not, this fantasy trilogy will remain a great time for many years.
6. Xenoblade Chronicles
The smart combination of real-time combat with strategic elements still make the original Xenoblade Chronicles stand out, but the memorable soundtrack and insane creature designs put it over the top as a classic.
The inevitable trilogy that sprouted from this success shows how sequels can expand on lore and gameplay without losing sight of the core experience. Each game feels bigger and better than the last in this series, so gamers who enjoyed the original can expect a smooth transition into the two sequels.
7. Batman: Arkham Trilogy
Batman: Arkham Asylum blew the doors off what gamers expected of a Batman game. Set within the confines of the legendary Arkham Asylum, the first game set the tone. Fun gadgets, innovative combat, and a rather in-depth “detective mode” keep gameplay engaging throughout.
Given that, it surprised nobody when this outstanding adventure turned into a full-blown trilogy. While some elements of the final installment would prove divisive, all three games remain excellent overall. Batman’s arsenal of gadgets and moveset expand throughout the trilogy while the gameplay tightens at the same time. Playing any one of these games almost guarantees the playing of the others.
8. Metroid Prime
The first Metroid Prime game seemed risky, but turned out great. It also set the table for its follow-ups to exceed well beyond gamers’ expectations. Bringing this traditional side-scroller franchise into the first-person shooter realm became quite a shot in the arm and spawned an entire trilogy of its own.
Without losing the charm of the originals, the first-person perspective enhances the atmosphere to such a degree that the sequels became inevitable. Further adding to the distinct level designs and entertaining gameplay, each sequel plays better than the one before. Also adding value to the trilogy lies the continuation of a real story that, while nothing revolutionary, does add plenty of context to the franchise it didn’t have before.
9. Super Mario Bros.
Sometimes the classics just speak for themselves. The first three Super Mario Bros. games perfected the platforming genre with their unique mix of approachable gameplay and high skill ceiling. Mario’s moves and abilities would expand throughout the trilogy, as would the sheer amount of content to hop, bounce, and fall through.
By the third game, everybody, even those who didn’t play games, knew what Mario games entailed. Not only did this trilogy set Nintendo up for long-term success, but it propelled Mario to the top of the heap in the platforming genre. Mario games still enjoy the top spot in most gamers’ minds due to the consistent success that continues to build on this decades-old foundation–one of the great video game trilogies ever.
10. Assassin’s Creed: Ezio Trilogy
The first Assassin’s Creed game remains a fond memory for millions of gamers, but what would become known as “the Ezio trilogy” remains a favorite era for the series for many of them. Assassin's Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations comprise a contained trilogy on their own with Ezio Auditore da Firenze as the main protagonist.
While Ezio never left, the sequels to Assassin’s Creed II would expand on his abilities and other gameplay mechanics to make each follow-up feel necessary and impactful. Each game’s narrative weaves in and out of actual history with real-life figures like Leonardo da Vinci showing up and adding to the fictional story.
On a technical level, subsequent Assassin’s Creed games like Black Flag and Odyssey have outclassed this initial trilogy. Still, those who played this trilogy remain unlikely to forget it.
11. Silent Hill
Silent Hill has been in a lull for the past 15 years or so, but the original three games hold up as some of the best survival horror experiences ever created. The original game sets up a unique setting in the haunted town of Silent Hill but still goes well beyond anyone’s expectations with horrifying monsters, unsettling music, and some of the best storytelling in the genre today.
The sequel takes things in a different direction with an isolated story that expands on what a Silent Hill story can mean, while the third game wraps up the loose ends of the original. Much of the lore remains up for interpretation throughout each game, but the throughline of design choices, outstanding art, and sound direction feel consistent. All three games have their merits, but the ideal way to experience them remains as equal parts of a larger trilogy.
12. Dark Souls
Forged from the foundation laid by Demon’s Souls, Fromsoftware’s Dark Souls series continues as a notable seachange in the action-RPG genre. While each Dark Souls game has a somewhat different mix of difficulty, exploration, and world-building, they all lean into those same themes with total mastery.
While still known for the stern challenge, these games also boast some of the best build diversity in their genre. This flexibility compliments the wide variety of enemies well while also accommodating different playstyles. While the difficulty may remain off-putting to some, the reward for overcoming the many hazards throughout holds up just as well as anything else.
Bioshock broke new ground on multiple fronts. The mix of horror and action, the flexible first-person combat, and of course the ability to reinvent itself three times to form one of the best trilogies of all time characterize this franchise quite well. Each game plays a little bit differently, especially the third one, and yet they maintain notable coherence.
Any great trilogy needs its games to steadily build on what came before, and the Bioshock games accomplish this in every area. From the science-fiction abilities to the alternate history and steampunk setting, to the multiple morally ambiguous decision points, the Bioshock games still feel unlike anything else that has come since.
14. Grand Theft Auto (3, Vice City, San Andreas)
Few games feel as revolutionary today as Grand Theft Auto 3 did back in 2001. Going from the 2D top-down games that preceded it, Grand Theft Auto 3 reinvented video games. Looking back, the iterative improvements made in Vice City and San Andreas solidified GTA 3’s ideas.
Now, countless open-world action games owe their entire format to GTA 3. The gulf between modern games and those classics seems large, but the fundamentals haven’t changed that much. That fact alone speaks volumes about the enduring relevance of this trilogy.
15. Dead Space
The Dead Space trilogy owes a lot to many things that came before it. The Alien films, Resident Evil 4, and even Doom 3 all have some borrowed elements floating around in the Dead Space games. Still, the original Dead Space feels fresh.
Despite the fear of what might wait around the next corner, Dead Space’s gameplay keeps the player going. With just enough ammo and health around to keep the player alive, the room for error becomes minimal at best. Dead Space 2 would improve on everything the original did, and while Dead Space 3 overcomplicates things a tad, it still plays the same. Now that the Dead Space remake has reminded everyone how great the original game plays, maybe more players will discover the trilogy on their own.