Top 10 Influential Video Games

Top 10 Influential Video Games

Video games have come along away since their conception. They’ve gone from niche to cliché, cliché to niche and now are bubbling harder than ever. The Industry is booming and seems likely to keep it up for a few more years. The most influential video games have shaped the industry we witness today in one way or another. When defining “Most Influential,” we did not look to the best selling, simply because the best selling wouldn’t be possible if not for the first.

influvid_jetset.jpg10. Jet Set Radio: (Dreamcast)
Only lucky Dreamcast fans and the initiated Xbox owners might know this game by name but its influences abound even outside the video game terrain. The game was the first to feature the now ubiquitous graphical style of rendering 3-D images to look like cartoons. Named cell-shading, the style has been found in countless other games and has ironically even crossed over into the realm of cartoons on shows like G.I. Joe: Sigma 6, Invader Zim and Kim Possible. The game remains a cult classic, cruelly overlooked by the masses.

influvid_tetris.jpg9. Tetris: (Various)
Tetris was the brainchild of Russian developer Alexey Pajitnov. The game was inspired by Greek Pentominos (blocks with five squares shaped variously) that fall from the sky and must be placed in straight lines. The game has been found on almost every possibly console, and is available for computer and downloads on mobile phones. The game was a revolution and has seen its fair share of knockoffs and sequels, and truth be told, is more responsible for the Gameboy’s early popularity than Mario.

influvid_nighttrap.jpg8. Night Trap (Sega CD)
Not many will remember this Sega CD game though at the time it was on the trip of everybody’s tongue. The game used Full motion video (live action scenes) rather than graphics in what could be seen as more of an interactive live movie than a video game. Violent and sexist, it consisted of you trapping evil beings trying to kidnap people you were watching over. The government got involved and the game caused the ESRB game industry ratings system to be created. The war on violence in video games still rages today with G.T.A. being the main offender. This game was definitely not rated ‘E’ for everyone.

influvid_madden.jpg7. Madden
Long before Sonic hit the Genesis, Madden football was the systems first Killer App. Not the first sports game by a long shot, but definitely the best of it’s time, the game was the first to have a yearly edition, though each was released with barely noticeable changes and a few small additions. The commentary, gameplay and star power of Madden himself made it a game like no other and no matter how many sports games have come since, some better, some worse, this is still the corner stone for which almost all of them are built on.

influvid_streetfighter.jpg6 Street Fighter 2/Virtua Figher (Arcade)
The two most important fighting games ever released have to share the spot here. Street Fighter, though it started off slowly, ignited an explosion and almost single handedly created the demand for fighting games in the industry. Hundreds of clones, and sequels, have been released since, and the fireball and other energy have been staples in almost all following fighting games. Virtua Fighter, though a 3D version of Streetfighter, deserves to be mentioned as well, even as a sidebar. Many clones of VF clogged the industry for years but it still remains at the top of the 3D fighting roost, not only graphically but stylistically as well.

influvid_sonic.jpg5. Sonic The Hedgehog (Genesis)
In 1991, Sonic the hedgehog was released on the Genesis and by the next year, Sega had done the impossible and unseated the mighty Mario and Nintendo from atop the gaming industry. Many similarities can be found between Mario and Sonic, for assuredly, they are not two entirely different games, but it was in the differences that Sega and Sonic shaped themselves and their image in the 90s. They were faster, cooler, and edgier and with all of this, Sonic led Sega to a leading market share and helped to make the 16 bit era perhaps the most exciting in gaming history.

influvid_finalf.jpg4. Final Fantasy VII(PS-X)
It’s no secret that Sony surprised the world with Playstation’s first year. Sony had made absolutely no waves in the past with their own games so it was no surprise that it was a 3rd party game that really gave them their first killer App on the PS-X. Nintendo had lost the exclusivity on the franchise and Sony is still reaping the benefits. The system war with the Sega Saturn was not a blow out at the time, but once FFVII came out, the PS-X began to destroy the competition and never looked back. This game definitely turned the tides for all three of the players in the 32/64 bit console war.

influvid_pong.jpg3. Pong
Pong was technically the 2nd computer game ever released and became the game that really started the console boom when it came out in 1972. It became a cultural phenomenon, unmatched until Star Wars and Pacman. More simple than Tetris, Pong was a dumbed down version of a ping pong match where you use angles to attempt to defeat your opponent by the very square ‘ball’ making it past the opponents rectangular paddle.

influvid_et.jpg2. E.T. (Atari 2600)
Just how bad was E.T.? It was rushed by Atari in 1982 with five weeks programming time as opposed to the normal seven month. The industry, upon its release, had been boiling over for quite some time; programmers were angry, consumers were unsatisfied and games were poor cash grabs at best. There’s no doubt that the game was awful, and rumor that two million copies of ET were buried in the New Mexico desert was the last straw where the industry, quite inevitably, crashed. Long standing companies became penniless overnight and the industry would never be the same. The game was the flagship title and scapegoat for the disaster and is quite understandably thought of as the worst game of all time.

influvid_mario.jpg1. Super Mario Bros (NES)
What E.T’s poor quality did to help crash the industry, Mario did the exact opposite with its vibrant graphics and addictive game play. At the time, graphics like those seen in Mario were unheard of for the home market and within a few years, Mario had overtaken Mickey Mouse as children’s most recognized pop culture icon. Not only did the game help launch Nintendo to a 90% market share, it reopened the doors to the Western gaming market and saved the industry. Sega, Sony, Microsoft and the rest would not be what they are today without Mario.

Craig Palmer

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7 comments

  1. Nice, althouh i’m not sure you can say Jet Set Radio was responsible for cartoons with cell shading like Invader Zim, they’re just 3D animated, and rendered to look 2D like Jet Set. Its more of a production method thing rather than a direct reference…

  2. Was E.T. so bad? I played it as a kid, and actually beat it. No matter how hard or bad that game got, I would not let it get to me. I had to beat it. Then again when I played Final Fantasy 7 I got to the last guy, and lost interest and turned it off.

    P.S. I don’t think the 2 million copies of E.T. being buried was a rumor. I remember seeing a picture of someone who dug some of it up, but I forget where.

  3. For y’all old skool Arcade dogs, I suggest the following classics (’80s whut!):

    1. Galaga — that two-ship shooting concept blew cats’ minds

    2. Track & Field — don’t front — everyone wuz on this shit back then… remember using a Coke can to avoid carpal-tunnel….

    3. Smash TV — an updated Robotron — with that two-joystick deal, no less

    4. Gladiator — dunno if cats remember this one, but another carpal-tunnel creator — with that jiggle the joystick to create your shield thang….

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