Elder Scrolls, You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Later this week, the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series will be released. Considering the franchise is seventeen years old, that's not many Elder Scrolls games!

It's been quality over quantity, though, and over the years the series has sought to continuously evolve and improve, staying a perennial favourite while competing games come and go.

With Skyrim upon us, then, today is as good a day as any to look back on the history of the Elder Scrolls series.

In the gallery above you'll find footage from every major release in the series (not counting expansions), from the numbered "main" games to the less awesome spin-offs.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

You can contact Luke Plunkett, the author of this post, at plunkett@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

The Elder Scrolls: Arena (1994) - Our introduction to the world of Tamriel, Arena wasn't meant to be an RPG at all. It was only when developers Bethesda began realising that a fighting game's side-missions were more interesting than the fighting that the nature of the game was decided upon. That's why the game is called Arena: it was meant to be all about the combat, and despite arena combat being cut from the game, it was too late to take back all the posters and art that had been made.

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (1996) - Things got a little more mature with the second game in the series, so much so that Daggerfall shipped with a system that would lock kids out of adult content like dead bodies, blood and the sexier side missions.

An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire (1997) - Oh dear. The series makes the first of its two ill-advised detours from the main series. Battlespire was less of an RPG and more of a first-person slasher, was confined to levels instead of a sprawling world and was plagued by bugs.

The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (1998) - Redguard was even more of an action title than Battlespire, and is the only game in the franchise to divorce the player entirely from the first-person perspective. I remember playing this game in my teens. I do not remember enjoying it.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002) - Ah, that's more like it. Back on track. The third true game in the series, Morrowind was also the first in the main line to appear on console, courtesy of an Xbox version. Morrowind laid down the template the series uses to this day of leaving the player free to not only explore a fully-3D world, but to engage in structured side-missions like joining a guild.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) - Long-time fans may sometimes prefer the slightly more complex Morrowind, but Oblivion is the game which blew the doors off the franchise, catapulting it from successful RPG series into industry blockbuster. Released across not just the PC but two consoles, it featured a beautifully-detailed world, haunting soundtrack and hundreds of hours' worth of side-missions. Like Morrowind, it's also benefited tremendously from a large and passionate modding community on the PC, extending the life and the appeal of the game.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) - The fifth game in the series, Skyrim, is out this week on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.