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Top 11 Most Influential Games

written by Shaun McCracken

This Top 11 goes into the most influential games ever made. These games have in some way influenced future games in it's genre, either by creating something new or innovative, or redesigning established elements for modern times. It was tough narrowing down 11 games for this list, and I will end up doing another Top 1 for the games that didn't make the cut the first time around. But here we are, the top games that have defined what we play today!

  1. 11- Grand Theft Auto III: Even though this game is fairly new and recent, it's open ended design and free-roaming environment is influencing many games that we are seeing in the current market such as Tony Hawk's Underground, Simpson's Hit And Run and a few other games. No other game before this really had done what was done here in GTA III, where you can roam a large city by car or by foot, interact with people in the city and not follow a linear path. This is one design that will probably be emulated and perfected for years to come.

  2. 10- Tetris: In the late 80's, Russian scientist (or was it mathematician?) Alexy Pajitnov (my spelling sucks) developed a simple but addictive computer game where you can create and clear "lines" by dropping one of seven blocks in strategic places. Little did he or even we would know that this would be not only one of the best selling games of all time, but it helped lauch a system (Game Boy), spark a bitter court battle (Atari vs. Nintendo on who had the rights to the game), and define a genre that we now come to know as the puzzle genre. Not only that, but Tetris was a case-in-point that a game can be simple, yet complex and can be played in short bursts, but be very addictvie.

  3. 9- Mortal Kombat: We could make the point that Street Fighter was actually released before MK, and that would technically a more influential game in terms of the fighting genre, and you would be right. But MK is influential in how it sensationalized violence, and brought content that had rarely been seen in games before. 1992's MK was pretty much a shock to the entire industry. While it was fairly basic as a fighter, the graphic violence and buckets of blood made many gamers and developers ask "can they do that?". Of course, it wasn't without controversy, as MK was the whipping boy of senators and parent groups alike. But MK tested the waters on how people would accept violence on this scale. The result was successful arcade revenue, and 4:1 sales of the Genesis version of MK over the SNES version, since the Genesis version kept the violent content via a secret code. When you compare MK to recent offerings, it seems very tame today, as the violence was ridiculous and sometimes funny. MK paved the road for mature-based violent content, and a lot of companies have to thank Midway and the developers behind MK for that.

  4. 8- Metroid: When Metroid debuted in 1986, it was not a conventional platform/adventure game. There was not clear cut path on how you went to do objectives, the order you collected your items or where you should go for that matter. You were pretty much plopped into this alien world to fend for yourself and find your way out of this situation. But it's design was pretty innovative. You had a whole world you can explore, provided you had the right eqipment to get where you need to go. Metroid's design could later be seen in games such as Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night and the GBA releases of that series. Metroid was also innovative for another reason by having a special "twist" at the end. The whole time you were playing the game, you were under the impression that Samus was male. But if you beat the game under a certain time, it's actually a woman under that suit. I guess you can also say that Metroid was innovative in giving a female character a strong lead role in a game, rather than be the objective (such as being rescued).

  5. 7- Alone In The Dark: If it were not for this game, there would not be a Resident Evil, a Silent Hill, a Fatal Frame or even an Eternal Darkness. AITD created the survival horror genre, but many probably don't realize that since Capcom's Resident Evil was a larger success. I kind of wonder how scary that game was when it first debuted, because if you look at the screen shots today, it looks pretty damn funny. It's not like the flesh-rotting zombies of Resident Evil or the nightmarish hell of a town Silent Hill is, but then again, the characters are afraid of something and something is after them. The main purpose is to survive the horror and mystery that surrounds the characters, and if AITD hadn't sone that, then I'm sure the horror genre wouldn't have taken off like it did in the 90's.

  6. 6- Sim City: Creator Will Wright really stumbled onto something big in the late 80's when Sim City debuted on the PC (and later as a much-improved launch title for the SNES). No other game in the past would give you an open envrionment, create and manage a city, budget money, deal with disasters and trying to satisfy the needs of your citizens. Sim City is also one of those games that are seemingly simple in design, yet take a lot of thought and planning to do something right. Also, there was no clear cut goal in the game other than try to get people to stay in your city. Sim City was the start of the "virtual sandbox", where a player was given and area to play in and tools available for their disposal to create something great. Also, it went to influence other population and economic strategizing games such as Roller Coaster Tycoon.

  7. 5- Pac Man: Pac Man's design is not exactally what is getting this game to appear on the list. In fact, the gameplay is fairly redundant with using the same maze over and over, and the only real difference is fruit and the speed of the ghosts. No, Pac Man is influential for a different reason. Pac Man is influential by having a character that can be associated with a company. In other words, a mascot. I believe that Pac-Man was the first true video game mascot to ever appear in the history of gaming. In the early 80's, you can pretty much associate Pac Man with Namco, the developer. And Namco used Pac Man's popularity to become their mascot even to this day. The concept of using a recogizeable character as a game companies mascot would later be seen done with Nintendo, Sega, Capcom and for awhile, Sony.

  8. 4- The Legend Of Zelda: The Legend Of Zelda kind of did a couple of things that were never don before in games. One, it provided a full-on adventure in which you can explore a world, interact with people, search for items and more. There were some games that may have looked similar to Zelda before it's release, such as Gauntlet, Atari's Adventure and Tower Of Druaga. But these games were either hack and slash action games, or games that really had unrecoginzeable characters or environemnts that changed. Zelda also had a story, basically where the main character Link needed to gather pieces of the Triforce and save Zelda. The other important thing about Zelda was that it was one of the first games to have battery-backed saving. This meant no more passwords, and everything you've collected and done was still there when you came back to it. No Atari game, Intellivision or Coleco game ever had any type of method of saving your game. If you didn't finish it then, you were S.O.L. But Zelda alieved this problem, where you can quit your game and pick up right where you left off with no trouble.

  9. 3- Doom: Gee, I can't imagine why this is here, can you? Did it do something important? Oh, yeah, it was one of the first first-person shooters made. There was Wolfenstien and Faceball 2000 before Doom, but Doom was a full-on action game, where you could collect weapons, find secrets and run all over the place in search of an exit. Doom was also different because it was never on flat land. There were staris to walk up, and windows to jump out of (or fall out of). But more importantly, it was a game that started as shareware, and caught on like wildfire. It WAS responsible for the first-person shooter genre. Not only that, but upgraded and future releases of the game included multiplayer support over the internet. If it weren't for Doom, there wouldn't be a Quake, a Hexen, a GoldenEye, a HalfLife and so much more.

  10. 2- Super Mario Bros.: What game could be more influential than Super Mario Bros.? Well, there is one, as seeing this is #2 on the list. But what game has spawned so many knock-offs, copycats, clones and the like. Super Mario Bros. was one of the first platform games that had stages go from start to finish, and not on one screen. SMB was a scrolling platformer, which meant you were not stuck on one screen for the stage, but actually had challenges presented to you as you were to move along. SMB also had 32 varying stages. Every stage was different in terms of design and challenges. SMB also had boss stages, where for every 3 stages, you would have 1 boss stage. SMB did so much for the industry by not only having a successful game and game design, but a series that made a bonafide mascot for Nintendo, spawned sequels and spinoffs for almost 20 years, but also opened the doors for a new type of gameplay. Instead of games that took place on one screen or ran on endless loops (like Defender), there was a start and a finish to each stage. SMB pretty much provided the "template" for many games that would be seen in the future.

  11. 1- Pong: Suprised? Don't be. Pong is practically responsible for the gaming industry to even be in existence. Had it not been for the two player tennis like game that appeared in a bar in the 70's, I'm not sure where gaming would be now. Pong established arcades, inspired other companies to create new types of arcade games, and launched a brand new home gaming system, the Atari 2600. We wouldn't have home consoles had it not been for Pong, as some of the earlier ones were dedicated Pong machines. But Pong brought us to the Atari 2600, which then became the first home system with exchangeable cartridges. Sure the graphics are oh-so-primitave today, and the sound is less than spectacular. But we need to give credit to where credit was due, and Pong is the game that brought video gaming to the world.