Top 10 most important video games of all-time
Monster Gamez wouldn’t be a proper video game-themed website without a top 10 list like this, right? So below runs our list of the Top 10 Most Important Video Games of All-Time – and please note that this isn’t a list of the “best” or even necessarily “the most innovative,” but we’re considering the games instead mostly based on influence and/or continuing social relevance heading into the 20s. Also note: These are listed in purely chronological order. Now insert coin and get to reading.
This simple 2D bat-and-ball game is the granddaddy of them all, the game that led to the ubiquity of home video game systems in the 1980s throughout the U.S., Canada, Japan, Korea and other countries in the 1980s and to the near-extinction of the pinball machine by a couple decades after that. Pong also launched the explosive growth of Nolan Bushnell’s Atari Corporation. O, and Pong was the first game to be put on permanent display at the Smithsonian.
By the time video game fever had spread virulently to millions of teenagers of both sides of the Pacific, Space Invaders had already conquered the planet years back. Space Invaders is to video game culture what Shakespeare is to modern British theatre: So influential as to be impossible to over-credit. Space Invaders spawned the thrill of playing a single game for hours on end, of posting Guinness World Records for high scores, of cult-like addiction to discussing strategy. To anyone of age, that thump-THUMP-thump-THUMP will still induce the Pavlovian reflex of digging for quarters.
If Space Invaders was an international phenomenon, how best to describe Pac-Man? For years, the little yellow ball was *everywhere*, swamping American culture in a way matched only by Star Wars. Clothing, lunchboxes, posters – sure. But the early 80s was owned by the Pacdude. Pac-Man got his own animated series, was the subject of dozens of books on strategy, and was crooned about in a top-10 pop song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY_ESTnBlS0). Best of all, with an easy-to-understand goal and the simple single-joystick controller, virtually anyone could play. Wakka wakka wakka!
Donkey Kong (1981) and Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Incredibly popular, the original Donkey Kong ultimately goes down as one of the four games immortalized on the theoretical Mount Rushmore of 80s arcade games, along with Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Asteroids. But as adored as ol’ Donkey Kong was, no one could guess that the game’s protagonist would ultimately go on to become the greatest video game character of all-time. That immortality for Mario was preserved once and for all in Super Mario Bros., the game that changed everything.
Sure, all the elements of Super Mario Bros. had existed in video gaming for some time already: The side-scrolling gameplay, the jumping on/kicking/pushing off of baddies, collecting prizes for bonus play and hidden surprises. The combination of these elements spread over a finite 16 screens was a mxi of all the best video games had brought in the 80s and hints of what was to come in subsequent eras. And this is still one hell of a play, too.
Madden Football (1988)
The incredibly deep and rich sports simulation games of today would probably have come along eventually, but the folks at EA Tiburon and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden goosed the cause of proper sports video gaming forward a generation in the four years it took the programmers to design the original version of the game. Since 1990, EA Sports has released a version of Madden Football annually, and EA has bagged exclusive rights to NFL football. Whereas the latest releases of Madden continually rank among the top releases of the given year, probably the most beloved feature in the franchise’s history – the ambulance that indiscriminately runs over whatever or whoever is in the way to pick up an injured player – appears in only the 1988 version.
Mortal Kombat (1992)
Fighting games had become perhaps even more common than science-fiction games by 1992 but Mortal Kombat took things to a whole new level (so to speak), allowing two players to go head to head with any one of a number of unique fighters with moves that performed with a combination of tweaks to buttons and joystick. The punishing sounds of, well, kombat were rendered in glorious stereo, and comic book amounts of blood flew everywhere. This game was one of the last coin-operated games to raise the ire of parent groups, always a sign that the game itself is fucking awesome.
Take a Pokémon, meet another Pokémon, cause an attack, fight. And from this simple concept a zillion like games arose – hell, what would “freemium” games be without Pokémon-style games? As though a franchise that produces the most popular animated series in the world needed the help, the Pokémon series of games has produced an insane 80 games and has sold about 320 million copies of said games.
Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
After the first two Grand Theft Auto titles, the Rockstar Games programmers upped the stakes for GTA 3, bringing 3D effects and even more depth to the already grim, gritty ‘n’ seedy world. While millions of teens in North America and Europe got out their frustrations by pretending to be badass gangsters on a mission, parent associations again showed their concern. But 2001 wasn’t the 80s, and any protest were deflected and ignored. Fifteen titles later, the GTA series is the fourth-highest selling of all-time.
World of Warcraft (2004)
Blizzard Entertainment had released three Warcraft titles before taking the plunge into MMPORG games with World of Warcraft. WoW was certainly not the first MMPORG, but the game rapidly became the standard in the subgenre, and the number playing the game has increased annually for 14 consecutive years since its release. Plus, it’s the only MMPORG to be parodied on South Park, so bonus points.