Push comes to shove, what do you think are the most important video games ever made?
That is a question that the World Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York set out to answer. There, curators seek to explore and preserve video game history for future generations.
There is a specific set of criteria for a game to be inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame. The game must have: icon status, longevity, geographical reach, and influence on other games or society in general.
Some of the games in the Video Game Hall of Fame are no-brainers, including Pong and Donkey Kong. Others are downright bizarre, especially to veteran gamers.
Here, then, are the 10 most surprising games in the Video Game Hall of Fame and why they were inducted.
10. King’s Quest
Video game history is filled with some amazing RPGs. As of this writing, only two RPGs have made it into the Hall of Fame, and King’s Quest is one of them.
Younger gamers would probably find this graphical adventure game from 1984 as quaint and simplistic. However, King’s Quest influenced pretty much all adventure games to follow, especially in a gaming world dominated at the time by text-based adventures.
Thanks to King’s Quest, future RPGs would feature engaging animations and vivid visual environments. And this humble title helped shape the entire future course of the RPG genre.
9. The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is an old game, with code dating back to 1971. It was designed as one of the first “edutainment” games, with the goal of helping young children learn more about American history.
Modern gamers may find this game simultaneously simplistic and frustrating. Why, then, did it make it into the Hall of Fame?
As the Hall of Fame puts it, this is “the oldest continuously available video game ever made.” It’s a major part of the history of both video games and edutainment, and we can feel its legacy in the modern drive to “gamify” learning.
8. The Sims
The Sims is an entertaining and influential game that was overwhelmingly popular when it debuted in 2000. But it had some strong competition when it was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2016. The Sims beat out beloved titles like Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, and Street Fighter II.
What makes The Sims so special? Simple: it was one of the first major games to explore the fun of simply managing homes and relationships. Instead of escaping into a fantasy adventure or alien realm, players discovered the Zen feeling of creating and managing a simulated version of their own world.
Without The Sims, we may never have had the explosion of dating sims and micromanagement sims. And The Sims helped people who had never picked up a controller discover a love for gaming.
7. John Madden Football
Needless to say, there are a ton of sports games out there. So why did John Madden Football make the Video Game Hall of Fame over all the others? Simple: we probably wouldn’t have the other games if not for the runaway success of this title!
Before John Madden Football, other sports games were window dressing for boring statistics. John Madden Football was the game that brought the exciting pace and thrills of actual football to gamers everywhere.
And for better or for worse, this was the title that convinced EA Games that constantly making new sports titles was basically an excuse to print money.
6. Grand Theft Auto III
With the inclusion of Grand Theft Auto III, we can truly see that the Video Game Hall of Fame is more interested in video game legacies than public opinion.
After all, this was the game that freaked out countless parents when it came out in 2001. They clutched their pearls at tales of a game where you could murder whoever you wanted to and gain health by cruising around for prostitutes.
However, GTA III also popularized the 3D “sandbox” game and gave players the freedom to play exactly how they wanted to play. And no amount of public outcry can change the fact that this release was a pivotal moment in gaming history.
How do you define what is important to gaming history? Every now and then, aesthetic concerns triumph over actual gameplay.
That’s the case with the classic 1981 Centipede arcade game. While the trackball-fueled gameplay makes for tricky fun, this game is arguably in the Video Game Hall of Fame more for its influential design choices.
Programmer Dona Bailey, Atari’s only woman at the time, designed the bright colors (a neon pastel palette) specifically to appeal to female gamers. In this way, Centipede helped cement gaming as fun for men and women alike, all while informing the aesthetic for the next decade of arcade games.
4. Mortal Kombat
In some ways, Mortal Kombat (1992) is one of the most surprising games in the Hall of Fame. While it was no doubt influential, this is a title that was eventually outclassed by its sequels in almost every way.
Despite this, Mortal Kombat was historic in a number of ways. As an ultra-violent and more realistic alternative to Street Fighter II, it helped redefine what a fighting game could be. At the same time, public outcry over the intense violence led to the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
The Board was ostensibly designed to help protect children from adult video game content. Ironically, though, Mortal Kombat and the formation of the Board simply helped normalize that video games were no longer just for children.
3. Microsoft Solitaire
There aren’t too many games in the Video Game Hall of Fame that your grandfather is likely to play. But Microsoft Solitaire is definitely one of them.
Game design and gameplay are nothing special. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a digital version of the classic card game Solitaire. However, Microsoft spent 23 years including this game for free with every copy of Windows, meaning entire generations killed some time clicking on those cards.
Because of that, Microsoft Solitaire is basically the father of the entire casual game market!
Some hardcore gamers instinctively cringe at the existence of mobile games. This has led to a bitter divide in the gaming community about what is (and what isn’t) a “real” game.
And we may never have had such an explosion of mobile games without the popularity of Bejeweled. Released in 2001, Bejeweled enjoyed modest popularity on platforms ranging from CD-ROM to Facebook. However, the advent of smartphones meant players could take this “match three” game wherever they went.
Back in 2004, Bejeweled was automatically included with the Motorola Razr phone. And in 2007, it was one of the first games you could download for the iPhone. So while haters may hate on this simple title, there is no doubt that Bejeweled completely changed the landscape of video gaming.
1. Colossal Cave Adventure
Chances are that Colossal Cave Adventure is the most surprising game in the Video Game Hall of Fame. And that’s because most gamers have never even heard of this 1976 title before.
Colossal Cave Adventure is not only the first text-based adventure RPG: it is the first known work of interactive fiction. Using simple text commands, players discovered the joys of exploring a virtual fantasy world long before there were fancy graphics. Instead, the game was powered largely by player imagination.
On top of that, the tone of the game was clever and humorous, mimicking what an actual dungeon master might sound like leading players through a tabletop RPG.
The popularity of Colossal Cave Adventure led to more famous titles like Zork. And it also influenced the creation of Rogue, without which we would not have “roguelike” video games.
What do you think is the most surprising game in the Video Game Hall of Fame? Which titles do you think deserve, or don’t deserve, to be there? Sound off in the comments below!