In a time when everybody longed to be the next great realistic, military shooter, came an anomaly called Borderlands. Not only was it purposefully going against the norms of that time, but it spat in the face of it as well. Indeed, the game was the breath of fresh air everyone needed back then. To heck with realism and grittiness! This franchise focused more on delivering players all-good fun, and we were all up for it.
The spectacles of any first-person shooter game of its time were there, only bumped up to 11. Perhaps even more, to be honest! Moreover, the military drama of the likes of COD and Battlefield was replaced by over-the-top wackiness. The FPS genre, which many believe is taking itself seriously, now has a franchise that truly marches on the beat of its drum.
In this article, let us take a look at what the series is and how it became an instant hit. Here is how a game that honestly looked like a cult classic, the adult cartoon became famous in the sea of realistic FPS genre competitors.
What is the Borderlands Franchise?
Borderlands is an action role-playing first-person shooter franchise created by Gearbox Software and published by 2K. The series has since become synonymous with the term ‘looter shooter’ because of how refined and addicting its loot-driven multiplayer co-op gameplay is. That may be, why we believe the franchise’s greatest strength is its one-of-a-kind sense of humor and distinct art style.
The series, perhaps due to its unconventional approach, became instantly famous to critics and gamers alike. It received several excellent reviews and quickly became Gearbox’s official premier gaming franchise. As a franchise, the game is indeed the studio’s greatest success yet—both critically and commercially. By the start of 2023, the games had already tallied over 77 million copies worldwide. This brings the series’ total net revenue to about $1 billion, marking itself a spot among the most profitable video game franchises ever.
Although Borderlands has a robust RPG-like progression system, what pulls in players, again and again, is its thousands of lootable guns. In these games, you’d always have the feeling of ‘Let me get another gun.’ You’d find such in the open world, on the many encounters you come across, and, of course, by doing actual quests.
What’s so great here is that each gun is impressively unique. So much so that your entire experience with the game can vary depending on which gun you currently use. Perhaps you’d get a sniper rifle that fires as fast as a machine gun or maybe you’d find a bazooka pistol. You never know what you’re gonna get, and that is just so engaging for us players.
The Borderlands Games
This ingenious gameplay concept came from the Director of Gearbox, Matthew Armstrong’s desires to mix the satisfying FPS gameplay with the addictive randomized loot nature of RPGs. Think of it as playing Doom or Halo but with the gratifying gameplay rewards of Diablo. Borderlands may not be the very first shooter RPG, but it is up there when it comes to popularity and industry impact.
As of the moment of writing, the series has 4 mainline entries, various spin-offs, and 2 title collections under its belt. Let us briefly discuss each of these subcategories.
The Mainline Entries
The 4 true series entries are Borderlands, Borderlands 2, The Pre-Sequel, and Borderlands 3. They all received moderate success, with the second game in the series hailed as the series’ best yet. Furthermore, all of them had multiple downloadable contents released specifically for them. This did not just reaffirm fans’ interest in the blossoming FPS franchise but also proved that Gearbox truly has a gem in their hands with it.
The first three mainline games were released for the PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Borderlands 3, on the other hand, is the first in the franchise to be available for the next-generation consoles. Nevertheless, if you own a version of the game in the current gen, you can upgrade it to its respective Xbox Series or PS5 version for free.
Many would say that Borderlands 2 was the true game in the franchise that put it on the map. It became so popular that many of its characters and gameplay beats are still famous to this day! Look no further than Handsome Jack himself, the lovable Claptrap, and the ‘Shoot me in the face’ guy. Borderlands’ unique approach to player experience successfully penetrated even pop culture. Now, gamers want more. And so continued the stream of DLCs, spin-offs, and sequels.
The Series Spin-Offs
Meanwhile, the series’ spin-off games include Tales from the Borderlands and two Tiny Tina (a popular in-game character) games. The game deviates from the series’ trademark FPS-looter gameplay. Instead, it is a graphic adventure game from the masters of decision-based games, Telltale Games.
The two Tiny Tina games, on the other hand, are Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep and Tiny Tina’s Wonderland. Although both games retain the same gameplay formula as the mainline games, the Tiny Tina games have a more fantasy spin to them. Fans will still feel very familiar with it but they should expect the RPG elements to be more predominant.
The series also notably dabbled in mobile gaming, releasing a spin-off title called Borderlands Legends. It went live in 2012 for iOS devices and is advertised to go alongside Borderlands 2 itself. However, the mobile game received little to no fanfare, leading to Gearbox shutting it completely not long after.
The Title Collections
Borderlands currently has two title collections: Borderlands: The Handsome Collection and Borderlands Legendary Collection. The former includes the definitive version of everyone’s favorite Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-sequel. Apart from including all the DLCs of the two games, the Handsome Collection also improved its split-screen co-op feature. Instead of allowing only two people to play the game using the same TV, you can now do up to 4!
The Legendary Collection on the other hand released in 2020 for Nintendo Switch. The title collection includes Borderlands: GoTY edition, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-sequel. The whole mainline series apart from Borderlands 3 as it wasn’t released back then yet. Just like the previous one, the Legendary Collection includes all available DLCs for the games it has bundled.
The Borderlands Series in Order of Release
Here are all the Borderlands games in order of release (as of April 2023). Take note that the list also includes the DLCs of various games and even already-unavailable games. We are including everything Gearbox promoted as part of the franchise below.
- Borderlands – 2009
- The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned – 2009
- Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot – 2010
- The Secret Armory of General Knoxx – 2010
- Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution – 2010
- Borderlands 2 – 2012
- Borderlands Legends – 2012
- Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty – 2012
- Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage – 2012
- Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt – 2013
- Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep – 2013
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! – 2015
- Holodome Onslaught – 2014
- Tales from the Borderlands – 2014 – 2015
- Claptastic Voyage – 2015
- Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – 2015
- Borderlands 2 VR – 2018
- Borderlands 3 – 2019
- Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot – 2019
- Guns Love and Tentacles: The Marriage of Wainwright & Hammerlock – 2020
- Bounty of Blood – 2020
- Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck – 2020
- Borderlands Legendary Collection – 2020
- Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep: A Wonderlands One-Shot Adventure – 2021
- Tiny Tina’s Wonderland – 2022
There is no denying the appeal Borderlands has. It broke all conventions the FPS genre had back then. What many thought was just a surprise hit now stands among the very best the industry has to offer. And with the Borderlands live-action movie within the immediate horizon, the series could not be anywhere better right now.