The video game industry is an ever-changing landscape. It has its times of soaring peaks and its times of horrid valleys. But no matter the state of it, the video game industry is always changing, and with that change comes innovation and invention and sometimes even re-invention. Certain games set the bar for all others that will follow. Those are the games that will be remembered as the titles that gave birth to some of the best ideas in gaming. So in no particular order (and realize that this is by no means an all-inclusive list) here are ten of the games we thought were innovative in their own right and in some way changed how we play games.
Before the Nintendo Entertainment System hit the shelves people were still enjoying the hell out of their Atari 2600’s and playing Pong and having a merry old time. Then people started seeing commercials for a new home gaming system that looked so vastly better than the Atari that it literally captivated the world. For the first time, gamers were given tons of choices of games to play. From the Super Mario titles to Adventure Island . But the game that changed everything even more than these was Duck Hunt . Though a simple title on its own, it brought the awesomeness of the light gun into our homes so we didn’t have to spend twenty dollars at a time to play shooting games at the arcade.
The Sims gave gamers something that they had never had before. It gave them complete control over everything. Literally everything. Gamers could control the character that they created and named. They could arrange and rearrange the scenery to suit them. They could build and decorate and outfit their own virtual houses. The possibilities were limited only by the boundaries of the gamer’s imagination. Oh, and their bank roll. Gamers would need the disposable income to be able to purchase numerous expansion packs to further their virtual life experiences. Then the Sims introduced the ability to play with other people online. It was like a giant international meet and greet…but without all the pesky honesty about who gamers really were or what they really looked like.
World of Warcraft
What blizzard was able to do was nothing short of the epicity of Tolkien’s creation of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit . They managed to create an entire world within the confines of cyberspace–complete with its own races, deities, languages and lore. Then they gave the average gamer with a decently powered computer the ability to hop online and play through this world with groups of people that they knew or that they met while playing. Honestly it was nothing short of incredible. It raised the bar for online PC-based video gaming to a level that has not yet been achieved by anyone else. WoW has fueled film and TV cameos as well as real-life romances. And it gave us…wait for it…LEROY JENKINS!!
Until the Wii console found its way into apartments and homes worldwide, motion gaming had been something exclusively reserved for video game arcades, but the Wii brought a new thought process to gaming. Split the hand-held controller into two pieces to effectively make the gamer him (or her) self the controller. Sadly, motion gaming has never really caught on. It has been more of a gimmick than a great idea. The best motion games are still found in arcades. But the Wii, for a time, managed to bring some fun games to play with friends into our homes and into our hearts. Too bad they never really grew beyond party games, Zelda and Mario .
Metal Gear Solid
Stealth, cinematics, gunplay and deception were not really terms that you would have heard to describe a single game until 1998. When Metal Gear Solid hit the Sony PlayStation, there had never been another title like it. There had been others that followed the same basic dual-stick manipulation control model, but none would hold a candle to the intensity of gameplay and story that gamers would feast on while playing MGS . To this day, few titles have been able to match the overall feel of these titles. And Hideo Kojima and his team don’t plan on letting anyone steal their thunder.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty has never really been a bad series of games, but in the beginning, they had explored nearly every facet of foot-soldiering in WWII that you could and still make a decent game. So when the day finally arrived that they brought FPS combat into the modern era and were able to overshadow the Rainbow Six titles completely, it was an incredible day. And CoD:MW is quite possibly one of the best FPS titles ever made. Now before you get all pissy, we know there are others that are ‘better’ out there, but this one was a true game-changer for the industry…otherwise you prestigers out there would still be storming the beaches of Normandy again and again.
Portal taught us all a very valuable lesson. It taught us that FPS titles do not have to be about mindless gun-and-run tactics, online pissing matches or whose prestige level is higher than whose. It showed us a completely new way to enjoy the FPS platform. It showed us that not all multi-player games had to be about killing the crap out of everyone in sight. It could be about helping each other until you needed to sacrifice your counterpart to secure your own freedom from Aperture’s labs, but the most important thing it gave us all was none other than GLaDOS. The voice that would haunt our minds as we failed at anything in real life as well as in the game, and we love her for it.
This was the first game to bring horror into mainstream gaming. Its advent gave birth to a whole new genre of video games and even film. It gave us survival horror. It amalgamated great storytelling with rich gameplay and absolutely awesome scare moments that to this day are some of the most cited for influencing aspiring young developers in the genre. It took all of us out of our comfort zones. They gave us little ammo, little health, no camera control, and made us find and mix plants to heal ourselves. On top of that, they took every opportunity possible to scare the living crap out of us…and they succeeded.
Super Mario 64
There was no such thing as the 3D platforming adventure game until this one hit the market. Nintendo set the bar for every single action-platformer that would follow. Until SM64 , all we had seen of the crimson-clad plumber was side-scrolling games with weak plots and incessantly frustrating gameplay. Then the N64 happened and everything changed. We all plugged up our shiny new systems and popped SM64 in the cartridge slot. That’s when it happened; millions of minds the world over were totally blown in an instant. It was like angels themselves had come down and sung a song for us as we played and then pimp-slapped us with the gift of awesome gaming.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Really there hadn’t been any FPS titles before this that were worth playing. They were all bland and void of any real awesome factor. Oh sure, there was Doom and Duke Nukem , but we all know it was the novelty of guts, gore and boobs that kept us playing those games. Then this new system came out from Microsoft, and it was bundled with this game called Halo . Nobody really knew what to expect and honestly probably didn’t expect much at the time. Then they actually played the game, and if their reaction was anything like mine, they locked themselves in their apartment and only came out to pay the pizza guy for several days. They fed themselves a steady diet of Mountain Dew and Papa John’s and tried to fool themselves into thinking that sleep was overrated in comparison to the insanely great story and FPS action they were playing through. This game truly changed everything about the FPS genre…for the better.