The franchise went through multiple developers and publishers over the years, with the first four games being considered the best in the franchise by many players due to them being developed by New World Computing.
New World Computing began the series in 1995 and ended their streak in 2003, after facing financial difficulties. They have sold the rights to Ubisoft, who have worked with multiple different developers over the years to create the next HOMM games, HOMM 5, 6, and 7.
HOMM: A Strategic Quest, the first game of the franchise, featured four different classes of heroes and castles, each with their units and strengths/weaknesses. It was released in 1995 and set the pace for the sequels of the franchise after initial success. In mid-November, two months after launch, there were 100,000 copies already sold.
HOMM: 2, released in 1996, underwent a sizeable graphical overhaul compared to the first game. The second game added two new factions: Necromancer, and Wizard, which went to become a staple in the franchise. Each hero retained the primary skill system from HOMM: A Strategic Quest, but they were also able to learn secondary skills to become stronger. The Magic system was rehauled, instead of having to return to the Castle to relearn the spell as in HOMM: A Strategic Quest, each hero would have spell points, which it could spend now. In 6 months, the game sold over 500,000 copies.
HOMM: 3, released in 1999, is the culmination point of the franchise. The gameplay was similar to its predecessors but it had multiple improvements, new factions, better skill systems. In 6 months, the game sold over 1,500,000 copies. The Story Of Heroes Of Might And Magic, The Illustrious, Ageless Turn-Based Strategy It received two expansion packs and an upgraded high-definition texture pack 15 years later. The game was praised by critics, receiving an average of 90% score in GameRankings. It was and still considered highly addictive due to multiplay ways to play the game.
HOMM: 4, released in 2002, the last game produced by New World Computing, introduced several significant changes to the game. Heroes became present on the battlefield and could be killed, unlike the prequels. Armies could be built without any heroes present and sent to explore and scavenge the map. Heroes could evolve into forty different specialized classes with different traits and abilities. The traditional hexagon-based battle grid was converted into a square-based grid, making it easier to feature different units. Logistics were heavily nerfed and troops could no longer be shuttled from hero to hero to move armies for vast distances over a single turn.