Looking back on the brief history of video games it’s easy to look at the titles that were our favorites, the ones that got us into gaming, or the ones that convinced us to buy this system or that accessory. But what are the games that truly shaped the industry into what it is today? This list is dedicated to the games whose impact was so huge that the game industry was forever changed, and any game after it couldn’t help but imitate it.
I hate Tetris. It’s such a boring and repetitive game with such little pay off and no matter what you’re going to lose. But for some reason this game sold a billion copies and thus made the Gameboy the most popular handheld for decades. This still holds the place for the highest selling game of all time. Frankly, I don’t get it, but people were insane about Tetris. For a while there Tetris was so big that wherever you went in the known universe you could probably still hear that god damned Tetris song.
9. Final Fantasy Vll
For decades Japan had been trying to introduce us to the awesomeness that is the jRPG, but to little avail. Yeah, FF1 and 6 may have been relative successes in the States, but nothing could have prepared us for the masterpiece that was FF7. Thus, the floudgates opened and America got every shitty jRPG Japan decided to put out and some remakes we never asked. But never got the ones we wanted (Secret of Mana 2).
This game was so immense it blew my god damned mind when I was a kid, there were towns and maps and mini-games and side quests and crafting and cutscenes and omygawd! Whenever I rented games from Blockbuster I expected to beat them in a matter of days, but there was no freakin way with game, but I tried anyways. Every Friday night I would rent this game and play straight through Saturday and Sunday, reserving the weekday 1-hour a day for carefully thought out grinding or questing. I would write in my notebooks to-do lists for when I got home and had those 60 minutes to complete the tasks I wanted. It was never enough. So, as you can tell, this game was just a tad immersive.
8. Golden Eye 007
My god, why are there so many N64 games on this list. Oh yeah, because Nintendo actually made a game system and not a FMV, CD player like the Playstation. It really is unfortunate that the N64 preceivably flopped, it was the only system actually capable of creating good polygonal graphics at the time. The Playstation could hold a lot more memory, but did that really make there games better, or did it just leave more space for fuckin cut scenes and pre-rendered backgrounds.
But, yeah Golden Eye. This game gave birth to the console FPS genre, which is really surprising coming from a licensed game. Perhaps it was the fact that is made by Rareware in its prime, before they started making Kinect games. It may not hold up by todays modern shooter standards, but when I saw this as a kid I think my eyeballs melted, I didn’t think that graphics could be that good, yet there they were. This game had some of the most amazingly fun split screen play ever to grace the N64 and is to this day is held dearly as the best game ever made by dorm room bros. everywhere.
This is another game that I just don’t like. It’s boring, repetitive and just not that fun. Sure, exploring your first caves was fun, but when that got dull I couldn’t really stick around with it. But for some reason this game became the global phenomenon that AAA companies wish they could make.
I mean, I understand the appeal of Minecraft. It’s a limitless sandbox of infinite possibilities with danger and exploration and creation, but I guess I’m just the type of person doesn’t like fun.
While DOOM did not invent the FPS it certainly perfected the style. Any game that has you playing as an ultimate badass, fighting off demons on Mars is bound to be stellar, but this game took it to excruciating new levels and popularized the FPS genre as we know it.
Developed by Id software (the studio responsible for Wolfenstein 3D) DOOM was originally developed as a side project by John Carmack who built the DOOM engine while the rest of Id worked on the Wolfenstein prequel. It’s estimated that DOOM was the most installed piece of software in 1995, that’s right, it was installed on more computers than Windows 95.
5. Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
Oh! The music, the graphics, that feeling when you went out into Hyrule Field for the first time and were like “woah”. There was nothing like it! There’s a reason why the internet hails OOT as the second coming of Jesus Ghandi Christ, because it’s really fucking good. That’s why!
What really made this game stand out as a revolution in 3D gaming was “Z-Targeting”. What? I don’t have to flop around shitty cameras to try to find this bat that’s gnawing on my face? No ya big dummy, just press Z. It was so simple, so elegant. Yet the things that are simple are oft overlooked, and your left trying to dislodge your camera from a tree. It really is testimant to Ocarinas innovation when a mechanic from an almost 20 year old game is still standard in 3D games.
4. Wii Sports
The moment I knew the Wii was gonna be insanely huge was when my dad, a 50 year old contractor who hates video games, decided to go out and buy one of these on launch day. He wasn’t interested in a new Zelda or Mario game, the thing that was on his mind when he picked up the system was the revolutionary Wii Sports. While he never again touched the system after the first night of playing bowling, it was an anomaly, one that I may never see again.
It’s strange how something that most gamers find tacky and unfun could help Nintendo sell 100 million systems. After I first tried the motion controls the gimmick quickly wore off and I was reaching for a more standard controller. But man, Wii Sports really did bridge a gap to the future that people had been waiting for for a long time. It was like being promised jetpacks by 1970, and actually getting jetpacks by 1970. Or better yet, a hover board by 2015.
3. Super Mario 64
As with many games on this list, Super Mario 64 was not the first, it was just the best. In fact, the first 3D platformer can be traced back to 1990 with a game called Alpha Waves. Pretty much the only thing Super Mario did that was revolutionary was that it was patient. It didn’t rush into the 3rd dimension like so many other mascots did (I’m lookin at you Bubsy, but then again you always sucked).
Nintendo took its loving time with SM64, waiting for hardware to meet talent and creativity. And when the stars aligned and the 6 sages sang the song of reckoning upon the shores of Azhura, they summoned the souls of 3D mascots slaughtered and poured their sacrifice into the game of legends! And thus, Super Mario 64 was born, and we played it at our local Game Crazy’s and said “This. Shit. Is. Good!”
If you need any further proof, just look at this E3 reveal of Super Mario 64
It’s like they had no idea the 3rd dimension existed, and Nintendo lifted the veil.
2. Super Mario Bros.
Is there anyone alive who hasn’t played or at least seen someone play Super Mario Bros.? I mean it sold over 40 million copies and has been around for over 30 years, I’d hope that would be enough time for Mario to make the rounds.
Super Mario Bros. is the game that single handeldly created console gaming, as well as popularizing the platforming genre. It has been #1 on countless top 100 lists and is essentially the grand-daddy of modern gaming. It was also the start of video games being absolutely obsessed with rescuing princesses all throughout the 80’s and 90’s.
During a time when arcade games featured mainly two colors, some boring re-iteration of pong, or a Space Invaders clone, Pac-Man was doorway into the future . The sounds, the colors, the personality, it was all so magical and ahead of its time. And it was one of the first games to appeal to multiple genders, prompting Namco to make Ms. Pacman. The game may be lacking by todays standards, but the very concept of varied levels and power ups was like finding an MP3 player in 1913, it was that big of a step.
Pac-man was so huge that from 1980-1990 it generated over $2.5 billion in quarters. It holds the Guinness World Record for most successful coin-operated game of all time. Pac-man very well could have been the cause of Arcade Fever in the 80’s looking at the other games that were available at the time, I’d say it certainly was. And Pac-man is certainly one of the most beloved icons of the gaming world. From 1982-83 Pac-Man even had his own show, and having recently been introduced to the roster of Super Smash Bros. this 30 year old mascot isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Pac-man may have shaped the gaming industry more so than any other game before it or since. It stands as an icon, a mantra, reminding us of our roots and why we love gaming, ‘because it’s fun’. Who knows, maybe if Pac-man hadn’t come around this whole video-game thing may have fizzled out like so many fads before it. Or maybe it would be a completely altered version. But I for one am glad that little pill gobbler came around because I sure do love me some video games…
Thanks for reading!