The 60 Most Influential Games of All Time
From Monkey Island to Doom, we count down the games that have made the biggest impact on the industry.
By: Rowan Kaiser May 10, 2011
Notes on Metholodology: A list like this is obviously subjective, and intended to start conversation. Disagreement and intelligent argumentation is great! That said, the rough criteria I used, in order of descending importance, are:
- Did the game change our understanding of what games were capable of? The Legend of Zelda's free exploration was a major change from the linear levels of previous games.
- Did the game establish or change a major game genre? Dune II is easily recognized as the progenitor of the real-time strategy genre.
- Did it change how the industry and the rest of society viewed games? Grand Theft Auto III became the single most-referenced game in society when it became a hit.
- Did it create or popularize a new technology? Quake and Mario 64 both pioneered the effective use of 3D characters and environments, arguably the most important technical change in game history.
- Did the game change how we played games? Wii Sports and the Wii in general represented a massive change in the interface of gaming. Now every major console has some manner of motion control.
- Did it change the business of games? I assigned less weight to this than others might, but it still needs to be taken into consideration. Tetris was an important enough game on its own, but it also almost single-handedly created a market for the Game Boy.
- Is it still relevant today? This was done more to sort the games than anything, but certain games were extremely important in their genres, but less relevant today. Flight sims, for example, used to be one of the most popular computer game genres, but only Flight Simulator makes this list.
- How old is it? When in doubt, I preferred the early version of games to their sequels. You could make an argument that Halo 2 was as important as Halo, but Halo came first. Likewise SimCity and The Sims. On the other end, only one game on this list is less than five years old, and I think its influence on the industry is self-evident.
- Is the game considered great? This is the least important aspect of influence, but it still counts a tiny bit -- perceived quality makes people keep talking about games and revisit them. Still, I would never argue that Ultima III is the best of its series, nor that Farmville (#22) is better than Civilization (#26). Influence is not the same as quality.