#10: Double Dragon (ARC)
The follower to Kung-Fu Master added something new: pseudo-3D. You could now move pits while facing off against a slew of enemies. Picking up enemy weapons, breaking oil drums, and teaming up with a second player were things that most people in 1987 hadn't thought much about. Technos really raised the bar for later Beat'em Ups such as Ninja Gaiden (arcade), Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and River City Ransom. And unlike other co-op games, if duo made it to the end together, arcade players were unwittingly enjoying the early stages of 1-on-1 fighting from Konami's Yie Ar series.
OK, OK, granted, I took the more gussied up edition of the game, the thought remains the same: head-to-head, one-on-one gaming. The main attraction was no longer to mow down computer controlled robots and achieve a high-score. It was now to challenge the ultimate test of wits: another person. Street Fighter II launched the genre of fighting games from Art of Fighting to Ultimate Fighting, a slew of sequels and spin-offs, even a lawsuit over its control scheme; these reasons are why this is one of the most influential games ever.
#8: Fallout (PC)
From the wasteland comes Fallout, a gritty look at what would happen in a 50's version of post-apocalyptic California like that you would find from a Mad Max flick. Fallout was one of the first of a string of non-linear RPGs, following in the footsteps of Bard's Tale. However, in Fallout, almost every action you make has a long-term consequence. These choices can lead you down one of the game's multiple endings. Beyond a mere dungeon crawler, Fallout's story puts you as a savior or as a pariah of your tribe, which includes 3D cinematic interactions between characters, finding potential companions along your quest, and party AI as you can only control the actions of your hero. Fallout took a lot of the existing mechanics of games and streched them out six ways until Sunday, laying the ground work for games such as Chrono Cross, Tactics Ogre, and FABLE.
#7: Galaga (ARC)
Beyond Computer Space. Past the vertical drones of Space Invaders. From the ashes of the kamikaze bugs of Galaxian. Galaxian existed around the age of Centipede. It was a space where players controlled a flying spaceship fending off tractor beams, blowing through extra zones, and found ways of doubling their ship's firepower. Galaxian had things that games at the time, such as Asteroids, Missile Command, or Tempest didn't have - power-ups and bonus stages. This game gave players an additional strain of striving to earn an extra 10,000 points. This was also one of the earliest shoot'em ups (SHMUPs) to involve strategic shooting; enemies would give different point values depending on when you destroy them, you could let one of your ships get caputred only to reclaim it and control two ships on screen. SHMUPs would later use the same complications, from power-ups in R-Type and bonus stages in Gradius to capturing enemies in Macross Scrambled Valkyrie and picking targets in Ikaruga.
#6: Adventure (2600)
Xyzzy. Plugh. ARPANET. These words are probably meaningless today (except perhaps, for the occassional Kingdom of Loathing player), but back in the late 70's, these were magic. Back when adventure games were still text-based, such as Infocom's ZORK or Planetfall, some tried to make them graphical. Some failed, some suceeded, and then some were Warren Robinett who developed the genre-defining Adventure as a graphical game for the Atari2600. Not only did Adventure become the foundation for future graphical-interfaced action-exploration games, such as Zelda, Sam-n-Max, or King's Quest. It also had, of course, gaming's fabled first "Easter Egg": a hidden room with Robinett's e-signature.
At first, it was a man, a mallet, and the job of saving his girlfriend held captive by an oversized gorilla on top of a construction site, but hot off the heels of money-making arcade hit Donkey Kong came a duo of everyday plumbers sucked into a parallel world of fungus and terrapins. A combination of platforming adventure of Iceclimber with the arcade action Pitfall, players would begin frying calamari while listening to the Blue Danube, searching for the paths through maze-levels, or uncovering secrets hidden in thin-air. By combining this with the release of their own home console, Nintendo had set up its cornerstones to wow the world. While Donkey Kong and its multitude of ports essentially founded the Super Mario Bros., it was the Mushroom Kingdom that was the doorway into modern gaming. Thousands of developers would try to mimic what Super Mario Bros. had: a mystical blend of simple curiosity and complex innovation sped into action that is relived through games from DOOM to Tony Hawk.
#4: Metroid (NES)
MMC1, 1 meg. This was HUGE for its debut on the NES. Unlike the previous arcade-based titles released, where the action would only scroll one way (be it up or across), you now had an entire underbelly of an entire planet to explore, back-track, and rediscover! Games at the time were literally linear; you ran a line from start to finish. Metroid instead drops you in the middle of a pre-existing world to spelunk though. Part adventure/exploration, part platformer, and all action, Gunpei Yokoi & Makoto Kanoh's quiet sci-fi achievement would turn out to be one of the most technologically innovative and fluid combination of genres in gaming history.
In the 80's, with console gaming in a rebirth/renaissance, table-top games like D&D found their ways onto computers, but not consoles. Then came "Dragon Quest". No mini-games, no paths to choose, just a story of a knight out to save his fairy-tale kingdom from an evil dragon overlord. This game I fondly remember as both a simple yet whimsical game and as the spark of an upsurge of juvenille networking in Japan. Children were now re-learning to invest more hours into involving television in their lives. This was the game that sparked interest for youth-targeted, console driven RPGs, and franchises such as Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star, and of course Pokémon followed.
One of the most popular DOOR games of them all. Before MMORPG, before RTS, before even MUD, there were BBS Doors. By now, many people will think I've cracked, but many will also be reliving the horrors of logging in only to find that you had been slain in your own hotel room before knowing the caress of that fetching bar wench. While games like Herzog Zwei and Starcraft have certainly added to gaming culture, Door games were the first (pardon the pun) portals to the peer-vs-peer universe from the comforts of your own desk.
#1: Pong (ARC)
This is it. This is the game that put the "video" in video games. No surprise here; take the 1950's, one expensive oscilloscope, a few variable resistors, a ball of light, and BAM - and it's Tennis for Two. Players could alter the game by editing speed or paddle size by physically modifying the oscilloscope. By the 70's, thanks to gaming-icon Bushnell, PONG was born, and what followed became an endless river of games from the powerups of Arkanoid to the mayhem of Warlord to the swarming logic behind Tetris.
This is my personal Top-10 for "most influential games ever". While I couldn't cover every niche from hardware-based titles to party to survival horror, I believe that these ten are the building blocks of almost every modern games from Kameo to Contra and Tony Hawk to Super Glove Ball. It isn't easy trying to differentiate just what makes a game influential or just impactful. No no one knows just exactly what would have happened had that game never existed. And I still believe it is impossible to gauge just how much a game has changed our perception of the genre, or gaming as a whole. However, to me, I can't imagine what video-games would be like without these ten titles.
List by Pako Pako (01/19/2006)
Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.