Hadoken! Shoryuken! Tatsumaki Senpukyaku! To this day, every fighting gamer can recall the exact button inputs for each of these moves, and it's all because of Street Fighter II. This game popularized the genre and solidified the fighting game formula: two fighters, two lifebars, six buttons, go! It popularized the quarter circle, the Dragon Punch, and even some of the first instances of button mashing. It made pros and scrubs of us all, convincing us to waste quarter after quarter in the arcades, desperately trying to beat that one guy who was running the machine. It even created the first instances of combos, a game mechanic that nearly every other fighting game has mimicked since. Street Fighter II catapulted the fighting game community into the gaming spotlight, and fighting games probably wouldn't have ever lasted this long if it weren't for this one game.
If you're a gamer, I bet you can hum almost the entire Super Mario Bros. soundtrack, can totally map out all of world 1-1 from memory, and know what all the power-ups do. I bet you even know where all the Warp Zones are. Super Mario Bros. popularized so many of the things we see in video games to this day. It popularized the side-scrolling platformer. It popularized power-ups that govern a character's health. It popularized the invincibility pickup. It popularized getting extra lives after collecting a certain amount of items (coins, in this case). Most importantly, though, it popularized Mario, a plumber in blue overalls and a red shirt that has become synonymous with video games themselves. It's hard to deny that this was one of the most important releases in all of video game history.
Tetris is the quintessential puzzle game. Arguably, you can say that every puzzle game, from Yoshi's Cookie to Dr. Mario to Zoop, owes thanks to Tetris. It's so minimalistic yet so brilliant; it's just you and a bunch of falling blocks that get faster and faster. Tetris has been remade countless times and ported to just about every electronic device with a screen on it. There have been references to Tetris in songs, TV shows, movies, and even other games. Tetris is even still being played today on the competitive gaming circuit. Heck, I was recently at a convention that was holding a Tetris tournament. This is truly the grandfather of all puzzle games, and it withstands the test of time even to this day.
I'll be honest; I can't decide which game to put here. "Pac-Man fever" nearly singlehandedly caused the arcade scene to explode in the early days of gaming, but Donkey Kong gave us the first appearances of two of Nintendo's most treasured mascots, and it had far more sequels than Pac-Man ever did. That being said, Pac-Man is better recognized as a truly nostalgic video game character, but Donkey Kong may just be the better game. Donkey Kong has spawned spinoff platformers, racing games, and even music games, while Pac Man has created a massively multiplayer universe that continues to evolve to this day. Honestly, I can't choose either one, so they both have to share the number 2 slot.
No one can deny that Pong is easily the most influential video game in existence. It takes competition and boils it down to its bare essentials: make your opponent lose more than you do. It's table tennis, air hockey, volleyball, or whatever other sport you want it to be. It's just simply Pong, the first truly popular video game.
By Angelo M. D'Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*