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11 gaming series you should start in 2020, from Pokémon to The Witcher

(Image credit: The Pokémon Company/Nintendo)

It's a quieter year for big games. With the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 and Marvel's Avengers delayed until later in 2020, the release schedule is pretty bare across the next few months except for Doom Eternal, Animal Crossing and Ghost of Tsushima

So, how should you pass the time? Well, you can check out the games left in your pile of shame, for one. In this age of Steam sales, PS Plus and Game Pass, you've probably got at least a few games you've not found the time for yet. It's also a chance to check out some popular gaming series you've simply never tried before for the very first time. 

These 11 series will provide hundreds of hours of rich, immersive experiences that will help pass the time until the PS5 and the Xbox Series X launch, both of which will arrive with a payload of new games. 

For each series, we've given a recommendation of which game you should start with. We hope you find a new game to love out of this. 

Pokémon

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Which game you should start with: Pokémon Sword or Shield

What to play it on: Switch

The latest Pokémon game doesn't feature the complete Pokédex of every creature ever introduced across the series' two decade-plus history – a move that created a lot of controversy among diehards. But that's not really a big deal when you're picking up Sword or Shield without any prior experience of the series. Either game offers a great entry point that lays out the basics. 

This Switch entry has pretty open world-style sections, and it's a serious visual upgrade over the 3DS games. While there are loads more Pokémon games to play on the 3DS, you're better off just getting the newest version and enjoying that if you're a first-timer. 

Final Fantasy

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Which game you should start with: Final Fantasy 9

What to play it on: PS4, Xbox One X, Switch, Mobile, PC

With 15 mainline entries across every platform you could imagine, Square Enix's Final Fantasy franchise provides thousands of hours of JRPG goodness. Given that each iteration is a self-contained experience, you can pretty much take your pick of where you want to start.

The imminent Final Fantasy 7 Remake could prove to be the most approachable entry, but Final Fantasy 9 is more representative of the series as a whole. It straddles the bright and breezy tone of the early games, but comes from the series' golden era on the original PlayStation. You can now play it on pretty much every console going. 

The Room

(Image credit: Fireproof Games)

Which game you should start with: The Room

What to play it on: Mobile, Switch, PC

Each of the four games in this mobile-led franchise presents you with a selection of intricately layered locked-box puzzles, which must be solved with an array of tactile swipes, flicks and taps. Start at the very beginning and you'll also benefit from an overarching plot packed full of arcane mystery.

Mario

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Which game you should start with: Super Mario Odyssey

What to play it on: Switch

Nintendo's portly mascot comes prepared for every occasion. Bathroom breaks will whiz by with a round of Super Mario Run on mobile, while there's great couch co-op potential in New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe on the Switch.

If you do have a Switch, though, your first port of call should be Super Mario Odyssey. This generously proportioned 3D platformer encourages you to travel the world from your living room. It's debatable whether it's the greatest Mario game – many still favor Galaxy, but you can't play it on Switch as it stands – but it's fantastic all the same. 

Assassin's Creed

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Which game you should start with: Assassin's Creed Odyssey

What to play it on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Forget the dodgy Michael Fassbender film – Assassin's Creed is way better in its original format. The series has morphed a lot over the years, from a not-very-good first entry that felt more like a tech demo into sprawling RPGs with genuinely great stories to tell.

Following the labyrinthine plot across these dozen or so games could eat months of time. But in the latest game, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, you'll find one of the finest open world epics of this generation. If narrative clarity isn't your priority, you may be best served skipping straight to the end.

Zelda

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Which game you should start with: Breath of the Wild

What to play it on: Switch

The Zelda series was inspired by creator Shigeru Miyamoto's childhood exploration of the forests and caves surrounding his family home. These are games born of high adventure and deep imagination, and no game captures that more than the most recent entry, Breath of the Wild. 

Switch owners can also dive head-on into the dreamy Game Boy remake of Link's Awakening, and use a Nintendo Switch Online account to access the series high-point Link to the Past, as well as the first two NES Zelda adventures. But it's Breath of the Wild that really sells the original vision of exploring a magical wilderness. Breath of the Wild 2 is on the way. 

The Witcher

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

Which game you should start with: The Witcher 3

What to play it on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Want to indulge in the video game equivalent of binging on all seven seasons of Game of Thrones? Based on The Witcher books, only The Witcher trilogy supplies the necessary gritty fantasy setting, dense political plotting, violent action, and unnecessary nudity.

While the games form one continuous story, The Witcher 3 is comfortably the best of the three, and also the easiest to play today. If you wanted to hop straight in, there's an acclaimed Netflix series starring Henry Cavill and the original fantasy novels to help you fill in the narrative gaps. If you've seen the series but never played the games, they're the perfect way to pass the time until The Witcher season 2 gets here. 

Half-Life

(Image credit: Valve)

Which game you should start with: Black Mesa

What to play it on: PC

The Half-Life series is one of the most storied sagas in gaming – and we're not just talking about the perpetual drama surrounding a potential Half-Life 3. The first two games (plus assorted expansions and spin-offs like Portal) helped define immersive first person storytelling for all to follow.

VR fans now have the stunning Half-Life: Alyx to play through. However, it's the fan-led remake of the original game, Black Mesa, that we'd recommend starting your Half-Life journey with. That project was just finished after many years of work, and you can play the whole thing on Steam

Civilization

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Which game you should start with: Sid Meier's Civilization 6

What to play it on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, iOS

While you may sit at home bemoaning the creaking infrastructure of our modern civilization, you might be tempted to design your own from scratch. Ever since Sid Meier launched the first game back in 1991, Civilization has been the last word in sweeping strategy.

Civilization 6 is the latest and greatest example of 4X gameplay – that is, “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”. Few other games manage to encompass the whole of human history with this much detail and elegance. It's a game you'll be playing for months, not weeks.

Life is Strange

(Image credit: Dontnod/Square Enix)

Which game you should start with: Life is Strange – Episode 1

What to play it on: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Mobile

In video game terms, Life is Strange is like digging into a TV box set. This is episodic, narrative-led gaming at its sharpest, with well-developed young characters and a compelling time-twisting hook.

Indeed, your character's time manipulation abilities lead to the ability to ‘rewind' and revisit your key decisions. Contrary to the game's temporal fluidity, however, this series really should be played in linear order for the full effect.

Call of Duty

(Image credit: Activision)

Which game you should start with: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

What to play it on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Sometimes you just want to tune out all of your troubles and indulge in some mindless virtual violence. Few gaming series can hold a candle to CoD in this regard.

Each of these slick first person shooters plays like a dream, yet they're so intellectually undemanding that you could jump in at any point and not miss a beat. Go ahead and grab the latest entry. Modern Warfare has the best graphics, the most nuanced gunplay, and the fullest servers for those online multiplayer face-offs.

And if you're not sure you want it, jump in with Call of Duty: Warzone, which is absolutely free to try.