The last few years, I’ve found myself regularly celebrating games that seem to master their forms and genres. The gaming industry, at large, feels so polished these days, but it isn’t without its surprises. Indie games are regularly pushing the envelope, mixing genres, and doing the unthinkable. We also see developers tinkering around with virtual reality to better understand that medium.
In celebration of those who push the envelope, let’s take a look back at legendary video games whose releases changed the way people make video games.
Super Mario 64
Without question, Nintendo is a company that likes to innovate. Between Mario and the company’s home consoles, Nintendo could populate its list all by itself. But one standout game is Super Mario 64 . When the Nintendo 64, a system many remember fondly, came out, it was released with this vibrant and unique game. Super Mario 64 was so well-designed that it basically served as an instruction manual for other developers looking to make games for the console.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The home console was not fertile ground for shooters. While gamers on the PC enjoyed games like Counterstrike , gamers at home championed the “good for console” game, GoldenEye 007 . When the Xbox came out, though, Halo changed the game. Aiming reliably with the two analog sticks felt right. The guns had variety. The vehicles had purpose. The game could also work with LAN and the experience felt uncompromised. Outside of a mouse and keyboard, it closed the gap between console and PC.
Street Fighter II
With a cast of unique, varied characters and a refined sense of control, Street Fighter II helped to popularize the fighting game genre. Its prominence in arcades and the competitive scene that surrounded it undoubtedly influenced other developers. And a glitch that allowed players to “cancel” moves in the middle of their execution eventually became a standard design choice.
Oh, and it lead to a brilliantly bad film, as well.
World of Warcraft
Blizzard definitely didn’t invent the MMO genre, but it did change the way these games are consumed and made forever. The game was colorful, competitive, easy to understand, and didn’t require its users to have a top notch PC to run it. Its use of instanced environments, dailies, and matchmaking helped people meet one another, and its “theme park” design has been copied again and again.
This position could probably be shared with Dragon Quest , whose popularity led the folks at Square to take a risk with Final Fantasy . It could also, if this were a list that included tabletop games, go to Dungeons and Dragons, which undoubtedly inspired Final Fantasy . But Final Fantasy, with its ability to tell a universally appealing story while engaging the player mechanically, has spawned one of the largest franchises in gaming. This series has always been on the cutting edge, in terms of graphics, taken a lot of risks, and helped introduce a lot of people to the RPG genre in the first place. The popularity of RPGs may have even lead to the inclusion of roleplaying mechanics in sports and FPS games.