@crembaw: I don't mean to hate on everyone's answer. There are good ones above. It's just people saying like Far Cry 3 or CoD 4 are pretty wrong, to me. I played those series from the start and the DNA and acclaim was there in the first game, even if the giant sales were not. And even if they did evolve as they went. Obviously, 4 added the multiplayer progression and that was huge, but CoD 1 and 2 online were not so different at their core besides that they were WWII.
A lot of this seems PC based. Someone up above said no one gave a shit about Fallout until Fallout 3.... this is one of the most praised RPG series of all time BEFORE Fallout 3 (which was great in its own right, just saying that's major bullshit).
Persona is an interesting one, given the franchise it belongs in.
@jabbawocky: Yeah I always thought it was hilarious how the sequel to Dark Forces 2 was Jedi Knight 2. Also for Dark Forces 2, having your sequel have the name of the previous game kind of as a subtitle. Just odd!
I know the games evolved and now follow formula's from more recent editions (Far Cry 4 following 3, CoD being more like 4 since that) but these originals were laying the groundwork and were also absolute classic games that had a huge impact, if not the same huge sales as the later ones. And both absolutely set the groundwork for their series. The stealth, freedom, and locales that define Far Cry were there in the first game and so was the intensity, snappy control, and setpiece stuff that define CoD.
You're pretty far off base with Far Cry 3 I think. Far Cry 1 was a really big deal to the PC when it came out. Blew me the fuck away probably more than any game ever has. The jungle based stealth and just specific moments and the technical achievements. I still remember the awe I had on the sequence where you are boating down the river, blowing up a chopper and seeing bits of it break apart and react realistically with physics. And 2 I didn't like but some did.
The series didn't really blow up until Modern Warfare.
This is also way off base. Call of Duty 1 was a huge fucking deal when it came out. 2 was the best campaign in the series for my money and was also awesome.
Maybe some console only gamers in here? No insult meant at all by that, just I feel like you guys were maybe catching the console releases and you didn't see the PC starts to these series that were a huge deal. Call of Duty and Far Cry were GOTY type releases on PCs. They sold less I'm sure since they were for PCs only but regardless. Comparing them to say Street Fighter I is crazy.
EDIT: @slag 's call of Dynasty Warriors 2 is about as good of an example as you could find for this idea. I never even heard of the first game before 2 and 2 was wildly different.