The end of the year is often a good time to reflect on the past. Though we gamers are constantly fed blockbuster after blockbuster today, it's important to remember our video game history and give thanks to the games that made all this possible. These are the ten most influential games of all time.
Before the original Final Fantasy, RPGs weren't all that popular. Many RPGs were actually trying to mimic the pen-and-paper role-playing game in a day and age when player choice was far beyond the scope of our 8-bit cartridges. Final Fantasy, though, managed the role-playing experience differently. It put the user into a story that had a set beginning and end. Instead of attempting to give the user total freedom of choice, it gave the user the ability to go along for the ride in a more cinematic experience. Nearly every JRPG since then has been based on this formula. Yes, I know that Dragon Quest did it first, but Final Fantasy was the game that popularized the genre.
Sprites just aren't that scary. The closest we got to real horror in the days of the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles was Splatterhouse, and even that was more of an action game than a horror game. Clocktower was pretty scary, and some of us even played Sweet Home, a JRPG with horror undertones. But it took Silent Hill, with its polygonal graphics, foggy atmosphere, and constant radio static, to make us realize that horror was a viable game genre. Silent Hill is still looked at today as one of the best horror franchises out there, even though it has changed developers several times over. Without Silent hill, we would probably not have games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the other truly bone-chilling horror titles we enjoy today.
Before Guitar Hero, the rhythm game of choice was Dance Dance Revolution. Sweaty kids would crowd into arcades and nearly kill themselves attempting to get an S rank on "PARANOiA." However—and I admit that I hate to support the stereotype here—the gaming populace at large wasn't going to forever enjoy a franchise that caused you to expend actual physical effort. Instead, Guitar Hero brought us a world of plastic guitars and classic rock tunes. Not only did this take less physical effort, it also was more indulgent, playing into the rock star fantasies of gamers everywhere. Then came Rock Band and eventually Rocksmith. In fact, it's probably safe to say that just about every rhythm game in the past five years has drawn at least some influence from the original Guitar Hero. If the music game genre will survive in the long term, it will be because of the formula that Guitar Hero created.
These days, it seems only natural that a new Madden game would come out every year. But back in the days of the NES, sports games weren't guaranteed to be all that fun. The NES had a hard enough time simulating a desk lamp much less an entire sports team filled with several playbooks and players with varying physical statistics. But Tecmo Bowl did it, even though it basically had to make up all the teams and players itself. From there, we got overhead sports games, which thrived until the polygonal era. All modern sports titles owe at least some measure of thanks to Tecmo Bowl. Oh, and it was also one of the first games to feature voice acting.
Before there was Halo, before there was Half-Life, before there was Quake—there was Doom. Sure, Wolfenstien 3D came first, but it was Doom that started the multiplayer FPS craze. The Doom series finally let people connect with others over local area networks—and eventually crappy dial-up internet connections—to experience the joy of shooting other people in the face. The single-player wasn't anything to scoff at either; I'm sure everyone remembers the demonic quarterback dances the enemies would do when they killed you. But most importantly, these games were easily modable, allowing the indie crowd to flex their creativity and start making their own shooter games. In fact, Doom 2 mods are still being played online today. Check out Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch for an example.