– by Brendan Reid, Editor –
The video game industry is always evolving. Each generation builds on the innovations of the last, and certain games took the risks needed to move the gaming world forward. Many believed the ideas put forward by these ten games would only last as trends, but history has proven them wrong. They have left lasting impressions, and helped shape the landscape of gaming into what it is today.
Developed by Allan Alcorn of Atari Incorporated in 1971, Pong kick-started the home console industry. It comprised of a simple premise: two players controlled paddles on either edge of the screen that bounced a pixilated ball back and forth in an emulation of tennis. While not the first video game ever created, as some believe, in was the first game ported from arcades to a home consoles, so people could play Pong in their own living rooms. This had never been done in the 1970’s, and video games have been build on this model ever since. We owe the concept of home consoles to Pong, and its success established the base for an industry that was destined to sweep the globe.
Developed by id Software in 1993, Doom established the template for the first-person-shooter genre. Though not the original first-person-shooter (that honor belongs to Wolfenstein 3D, also developed by id Software) Doom refined the genre’s style, creating an experience that was smooth, visceral, fun, and had incredible graphics for its time. It’s storyline featured an unnamed space marine who fought his way through the invading forces of Hell, a premise that was simple, yet accessible enough for any arm-chair soldier. Designed for the home computer, Doom became massively popular, and legitimized the first-person-shooter as a genre to be reckoned with. Its success started a trend that has yet to lose traction, and huge franchises such as Halo and Call of Duty owe it all to Doom.
Super Mario 64
A game as nostalgic as it was revolutionary, Super Mario 64 changed the face of 3D gaming, and set a new precedent for 3D platformers. Developed by Shigeru Miyamoto in 1996 for the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 brought a cornucopia of innovations to the table. It had an adjustable camera and controls that were manageable in a 3D space, and created a varied world that was a joy to explore. As the leading mascot for the gaming industry, Mario had a lot to prove is his first three dimensional outing. Thankfully he was up to the challenge, and Super Mario 64 raised the bar for what a 3D gaming experience could be, and the game remains near and dear to many gamer’s hearts.
Grand Theft Auto III
Though its impact is often overshadowed by the controversy it generated, Grand Theft Auto III was extremely innovative in its design, and set the expectations for all open world games that followed it. Developed by Rockstar Games in 2001, the game put the relatively unknown developer on the map. While not the first open world game to have been created, Grand Theft Auto III mastered the 3D “sandbox” style of game, wherein the player inhabits a massive world, and can choose to complete missions, or just mess around with the environments and game physics. The sandbox style has remained extremely popular, and many of the creative ideas we take for granted in 3D open world games were inspired by Grand Theft Auto III.
World Of Warcraft
Created by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004, World Of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that took the world by storm. Like many games on this list, it was not the first of its kind, but the game that mastered its genre. World Of Warcraft brought MMORPGs to the attention of developers and gamers alike, and at its popularity peak in 2010 it had a subscriber base of over 12 million players, all paying monthly fees. The quests that World Of Warcraft provided its community had a tangibility to them, and this was all thanks to a development team that was fully involved in the product, and continued to work with its players to make the game as rewarding as it could be. Blizzard showed the true power and profitability of subscription based games, and radicalized the template of online gaming as we know it.
Has there ever been a phenomenon as huge Pokémon? No matter your age, whether you are five, 15, or 55, there is something to be enjoyed in the simple game about capturing magical creatures, training them, and having them battle one another. Satoshi Tajiri created the first pair of games in 1995, and though it began as a straightforward turn-based RPG, Pokémon has evolved into something truly massive. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who does not recognize an image of Pikachu, or know the phrase “gotta catch ’em all!” The game spawned a hugely successful TV show, a comic book collection, trading card games and movies, and has more merchandise then any person could ever hope to collect. Pokémon demonstrated how massive a video game franchise could become, and through its inherent marketability and capitalization on nostalgia, the series remains a force to be reckoned with.
The Legend Of Zelda
There have been few games as immersive and awe-inspiring as The Legend Of Zelda. Another one of Nintendo’s crown jewels, the Zelda franchise has grown into a well-reputed and beloved series of games, and it all began with the NES original, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka in 1986. Before The Legend Of Zelda, open world gaming was merely an idea. The game pioneered the concept of open world gaming, placing you in the massive land of Hyrule, all of which you could explore immediately. The map was packed with gruelling dungeons to conquer, as well as creative puzzles and enemy designs. The Legend Of Zelda encouraged communication between its players in order to unravel its puzzles and secrets, and created a community that made the large single player game feel much less lonely. This communal feel has given the series longevity, and everything from its soundtrack to its characters are now instantly recognizable and beloved.
Designed by Yoshio Sakamoto and Gunpei Yokoi in 1986, Metroid changed the action adventure genre with its revolutionary level design. As futuristic bounty hunter Samus Aran, you were placed you at the beginning of a sprawling subterranean maze with nothing but your power armour and blaster to protect you, and tasked with destroying the enigmatic Mother Brain. As you delved into the labyrinth, you gained power ups until you were a formidable warrior, and felt as though you had truly accomplished something. Much like The Legend Of Zelda, Metroid’s map and secrets were much easier to comprehend with the help of a talkative community, and today its fanbase remains as dedicated as ever. Once you vanquished Mother Brain, you were allowed to see the face of your character, and discovered the truth…Samus was a woman! Along with its highly influential design choices, Metroid showed that not all games needed to have macho men as protagonists, and was a step in the right direction for gender equality in games.
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid was a game that felt truly cinematic. Envisioned by creative mastermind Hideo Kojima in 1998, there are few games that can match its brilliant absurdity and production value. The plot was deeply layered, and was equal parts war story, spy drama, and political intrigue, and this was translated through lengthy in-game conversations and cut scenes. The game had cutting edge graphics and single handedly invented the stealth genre, a style where you attempt to sneak past enemies rather then openly engage them. Metal Gear Solid introduced a whole new style of play, one that blurred the lines between film and video game, and stood out in a market that was far too overpopulated by shoot ‘em ups and action games.
Simple and insanely addicting, Tetris is a game that anyone can enjoy. Developed in 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris was the first computer game exported from the U.S.S.R. to the United States. The popularity of Tetris truly took off when it was published by Nintendo on the Game Boy in 1989. Suddenly you could take the falling blocks of Tetris wherever you went, and this fact sold as many Game Boys as it did copies of the game. Tetris legitimized handheld gaming as a market, and has accumulated countless imitators over the years. Any puzzle game that involves falling blocks owes its inspiration to Tetris, and it has become the most downloaded game of all time. Tetris is a game that has true staying power, and is just as much fun today as it was 30 years ago.