20 Most Influential Video Games

July 14, 2008

In honor of E3, I've decided to compile a list of the 20 most important games of all time.  I haven't been obsessed with all of these.  I had to leave some out.  I haven't even owned all of them.  But this list is about what has shaped (and continues to shape) the world of gaming.  Whether you like it or not, these are your roots...

20. 007 Goldeneye: Put the FPS genre into the 007th gear and paved the way for Halo to come after.  It's most important contribution: the multiplayer feature. Shooting your friends was always fun, but it got so intricate and unfelonius at this point.  Plus, who doesn't remember DK Mode?  

19. Contra: Speaking of DK mode, Super C makes the list for popularizing cheat codes with the iconic and unforgettable: Press Up(2), Down(2), LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, START!!!!!!!!!! YES.  I got it.

18. Wii Sports: This wasn't the first party game to the mix, but it might be the best.  Wii Sports took video gaming from something the kids did to the chagrin of parents to something the the parents (to the chagrin of the kids) could dominate.  

17. NBA Jam: Simultaneously introduced real characters into a game while giving them very un-real, 3-point dunking-on-fire abilities. A notable off-shoot from the ever-increasing reality of the EA Sports franchise, NBA Jam took our latent desires to be superstars and set them "on fire."  

16. John Madden Football:  There had been other sports games, but the first Madden game paved the way for the fact that I can call it "a Madden game" and have you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Just in the same way that you know there'll be another Madden next year, and the year after, and the year after...    

15. Tetris:  An absurdly simple speed-based puzzle game that legitimized, first, console gaming and more importantly, handheld gaming via the Gameboy.  Tetris is as addicting as it is simple, she is like the head cheerleader in that regard.


14. Halo: Took FPS to the next level graphically and kicked out the crutch of association with a film franchise that Goldeneye leaned on.  Halo was owened and operated by Master Chief who, as you know, runs a pretty tight spaceship.  It also built significantly on the multiplayer facet with epic, 16-player death matches.

13. Dance Dance Revolution:  Dance Dance was the first music-based rhythm game and clearcut the forest of cool for the nerd highway cemented by Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

12. Myst:  Graphically stunning at the time (and still passable by todays standards)  there are no bad guys in the traditional sense of the word. Myst is the first great puzzle game.  

11. Pong: It's the alpha and the omega.  The hermaphroditic Adam/Eve creature that got it all started. Pong was just two paddles and a ball, but it was utterly addicting and legitimized video games as a form of entertainment.  Every oak was once an acorn. 

10. Final Fantasy VII: The first-ever 3-disc game of any kind, Final Fantasy VII is the most importantat generation of the F.F. series because it was the one that jumped out of the cartridge and onto a disk allowing for 3d characters/environments and, of course, the now-legendary cinematics which framed this video-epic.  

9. Super Mario 64: On the cusp of 3 dimensions, every console was struggling to be the first and/or the best to the party.  Nintendo wasn't the first, but some people still think Mario 64 is the best.  Mastery of camera movement, the 64's joysticks, and the pleasing, kinder-aesthetic of an all-new Marioland, Mario 64 definitely set the bar for 3D games to come.  

8. World of Warcraft: Screw all your arguments about Everquest being better or being a precursor.  The fact that there's 10 million users is irrelevant.  World of Warcraft will remain scored into my brain-wrinkles for all time for one...simple...reason.


7. GTA III: Yet to be determined by how much the current iteration outshines the first 3D version of GTA, but it's not a point of debate that GTA III revolutionized the series, game violence, and (most importantly) its open play style.  You can do whatever you want, whenever you want.  Progressing or don't, use prostitutes or save them. Doesn't matter.  It's all gravy.  This game was offered an unprecedented freedom to gamers everywhere.  

6. Tomb Raider: Taking cues from Metroid and Mario (64), Lara Croft took a hard-fighting but easy-on-the-eyes approach to three dimensional adventure.  Calmly puzzling her way through ancient, dusty tombs with an occasional gymnastic vault while skinnin' her dual pistols (without her hair even getting mussed) Lara was sexy, smart, and fun.  Like your mom.

5. Guitar Hero: is to D.D.R. as Halo is to Goldeneye.  Graphically and in terms of gameplay, this game cranked it up to 11 and appealed to the air-guitaring rockstar in all of us.  


4. Sim City: Spawning a whole franchise of Sim ___, Sim City was the first game to play at the mundane adventure of reality.  Fast forward to 2008 and 2nd Life.  It's a little depressing, and a little odd, and I don't get it.  I checked out after building 100 ____ in Sim City, but the truth of it is, this is a facet of modern-day gaming (and an interesting one to look at from a distance, which is ironic) that is here to stay.


3. Street Fighter II:  It'd be fun to sit in on any of the early gaming brainstorming sessions, but especially fun to sit in on Street Fighter II. "Two people standing across from each other one plane duking it out? Utterly ridiculous.  Start coding the next Zelda."   


2. Quake:  WoW, XBOX Live, even Yahoo Chess, have to bow down to the first installment in the Quake series - the first online multiplayer game in the history of the world.  Quake was also a relatively advanced FPS for its time, but its real genius lay in sticking a straw in the milkshake of the online market and sucking, and sucking and sucking.


1. Super Mario Bros.: Super Mario Bros. was a relatively simple game, even for the time, but it set down the foundations (level play, button configuration, and to some degree a physics engine) that are still used.  That part is semi-debatable, but what is not debateable is the Plumber Brothers spawned the most wide-spread and successful franchise to date including a handful of the most popular titles of all time.  The franchise continues to grow in astounding ways on the Wii, and there appears to be no end in sight to the end of this big, green, gaming tube.