Out of all types of entertainment media, video games have changed the most over the past three decades. They have evolved from a niche toy to a colossal industry that generates billions of dollars every year. Modern titles are drastically different from the classics from the 1980s, both in terms of looks and gameplay. Yet, many of them share common elements that have become standard within the world of gaming.
You can see these concepts across all genres, which have their origins in a select few important games. Several influential titles have set the bar for every other game to come. Whether they introduced new gameplay mechanics or crucial ideas, these games made their undoubted mark on the gaming industry. Here are the most influential video games in history.
The 1978 arcade game Space Invaders was possibly the first time a game crossed over into mainstream popular culture. It was a true phenomenon that not only attracted huge audiences but also inspired designers like Shigeru Miyamoto to develop their own games.
Space Invaders forced later arcade titles to save high scores and implement more complicated and detailed graphics. Furthermore, it altered the way developers would design games, shifting the perspective and effectively launching the shoot-em-up genre.
Released as an arcade game in 1980, there are many important aspects to Pac-Man that have made it a huge influence. Not only did it help to establish power-ups and scripted A.I. enemies, but it also introduced players to high score leaderboards.
But perhaps the single biggest influence it had on the industry was the need to have a strong mascot with whom players can easily identify. Pac-Man went on to be a huge success with various sequels, merchandise, and even TV cartoons spawning from it.
Above all, Pac-Man proved that video game characters could have a big impact on society as a whole by themselves.
The work of Russian designer Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris is one of the best-known video games in the world. It has sold more than 170 million copies since its release in 1984, and there are ports for practically every device capable of running games.
Tetris brought addictive puzzlers to the forefront of the industry and has since inspired thousands of similar titles. It also helped to establish mobile gaming when it released as a launch title for the Game Boy in 1989.
Super Mario Bros.
Nintendo has created dozens of influential franchises over the years, including the likes of Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong. However, it is 1985’s Super Mario Bros. that has probably had the biggest impact on the industry. The game showed how important launch titles were for new hardware but also set the standard for every platformer since.
The silky smooth controls and elegant design set it apart from other games of the time. Moreover, the basic mechanics and designs that Nintendo refined in Super Mario Bros. continue to be referenced in modern titles.
1993’s Doom may not have been the first proper first-person shooter. Yet, it is difficult to argue that it was the game that established the genre and made it so popular. Managing to combine fast-paced gameplay with exceptionally designed levels, Doom showed the world what developers could achieve in 3D games.
As well as popularizing multiplayer deathmatches, the game had an undeniable influence on every shooter that has released since. Everything from Call of Duty to Halo has borrowed concepts standardized in Doom.
Before 1998’s Half-Life, the focus of first-person shooters focused entirely on the gameplay. That all changed with the release of Valve’s masterpiece with cutscenes replaced with intuitive in-game set pieces while the story unfolded in expertly written chapters.
Half-Life was as much a narrative experience that the player could experience as it was a finely-tuned shooter. Moreover, Valve allowed everyone to use the Half-Life engine. The impact of this decision was massive, giving popularity to mods that led to incredibly popular games such as Counter-Strike.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The impact of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the gaming industry when it was released in 1998 is difficult to overstate. Its open-world design, detailed graphics, excellent combat, and dramatic musical score set a completely new standard for games.
Along with Super Mario 64, Nintendo demonstrated exactly how to effectively create 3D worlds that the player could navigate effortlessly. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a near enough perfect game that has inspired countless developers. It is easily one of the most influential video games ever made.
Grand Theft Auto III
The Grand Theft Auto franchise was already well-established by the time of Grand Theft Auto III release in 2001. It proved to be a revelation that revolutionized 3D gaming. Players were let loose in a living and breathing world and allowed to make their own decisions on how to progress.
After the release of Grand Theft Auto III, open-world games became one of the most popular genres. Side quests became something players expected to see, while shooting and driving became necessary components in most action-adventure titles. The impact of the game is such that people refer to other open-world sandbox action-adventure games as GTA clones.
Need more nostalgia gaming? Check out 8 Games That Changed Your Childhood.
What do you think are the most influential video games of all time? Sound off in the comments below!