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Video games are a relatively recent phenomenon, despite the fact that they have been around for at least 50 years and counting. During the half a century when this medium has existed, there have been countless games released that could be considered worth playing, and a long list of games that should be considered as essential.

However, the list of truly important video games is much shorter, limited to just a handful or two of titles. These are the games that changed everything, that signalled the next step in the evolution of video games, and that needed to exist for the video games industry as we know it today to exist as it does.

Spacewar! (1962)

Spacewar! wasn’t the first video game ever produced, but it was the first of the medium as we understand it to be today. It was original, rather than based on an existing physical game, and employed many of the hallmarks that came to be standard in the industry.

The game, which was originally developed for the PDP-1 system, sees two players taking control of spacecrafts and battling it out against the backdrop of a starfield. The gameplay isn’t the reason Spacewar! is important though; instead, it’s what it represents as the first true video game.

Pong (1972)

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Pong was one of the earliest arcade games Atari Arcade - Play Retro Video Games In HTML5 [MUO Gaming] Atari Arcade - Play Retro Video Games In HTML5 [MUO Gaming] Anyone who plays video games today owes a huge debt of gratitude to Atari and the founders and engineers who worked for the company during its formative years. Atari was responsible for many of the... Read More ever released, and arguably the first commercially successful video game in history. After the arcade cabinet was successfully tested at just one bar, thousands were sold. Just a couple of years later a home version was developed, and it enjoyed a similarly high level of success.

Pong is an exceedingly simple game, with two players battling against each other at digital table tennis. The gameplay is timeless, and set the template for sports games for many years to come. Its true importance comes in how it sparked the home gaming revolution.

Space Invaders (1978)

Space Invaders is a truly iconic game. The gameplay, the soundtrack, the sound effects, the stylized aliens picked out in too-few pixels; all of this combined to make a game that turned a whole generation of kids into lifelong gamers.

This is the title that turned video gaming from a niche hobby enjoyed by thousands into a mainstream pastime enjoyed by millions. It was commercially successful at the time of release, and has inspired countless other games and game developers (including Shigeru Miyamoto Video Games You Probably Didn't Know Were Created By Shigeru Miyamoto [MUO Gaming] Video Games You Probably Didn't Know Were Created By Shigeru Miyamoto [MUO Gaming] When most people think about video games, they think about Nintendo. When they think of Nintendo, they think of Shigeru Miyamoto is one of the first people we think of. He is the genius behind... Read More ) in the decades that have followed.

Tetris (1984)

Tetris was, and still is, a video game for the masses, being simple enough for anyone to play but difficult enough to challenge even the best gamers in the world. And it’s a game that has continued to entertain long after its popularity should have waned, with updated versions Fall Head Over Heels With The Best Tetris Clones To Play Online [MUO Gaming] Fall Head Over Heels With The Best Tetris Clones To Play Online [MUO Gaming] Tetris is fast approaching its 30th birthday, having originally been released in the USSR in 1984. What's absolutely amazing is that Tetris has lost none of its appeal in those three decades, gaining new fans... Read More still finding new fans.

This is important for being the killer app that popularized handheld gaming, with a copy of Tetris bundled with every Game Boy sold by Nintendo. It’s also arguably the greatest game ever released, with an addictive quality that has yet to be bettered.

Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Super Mario Bros. is the game that signalled the mainstream arrival of the titular Mario. Despite being a sequel to Mario Bros., this is the game that cemented the characters, level design, and gameplay mechanics that still persist to this day in side-scrolling platformers.

This title sold in huge numbers, holding the title of best-selling game for three decades until Wii Sports took the crown. This is an important game because it introduced Mario The Origins & History Of Mario [Geek History Lessons] The Origins & History Of Mario [Geek History Lessons] An Italian plumber created by a Japanese artist somehow became one of the most recognizable characters on earth. Featured in over 100 games, it's hard to imagine Nintendo or even video games without this mustachioed... Read More to the masses, and set the template for a whole genre.

Doom (1993)

Doom was not the first first-person shooter, but it was the most influential game in that particular genre. In fact, many consider it to be the basis for all modern FPSs, as the environments, atmosphere, and game mechanics were merely honed over many years rather than abandoned altogether.

Doom changed gaming forever. Without Doom there would be no Call of Duty Doom Vs. Call Of Duty Modern Warfare - Just How Far Has The FPS Come? Doom Vs. Call Of Duty Modern Warfare - Just How Far Has The FPS Come? First person shooters have been at the forefront of game development since their first incarnation over two decades ago. They combine adrenaline-soaked action with a perspective that provides a great stage for technology; first-person games... Read More series, and that is, whether you like it or not, one of the most popular franchises of all time. The Doom series still has fans today, which is an amazing achievement for such an aged game.

Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Final Fantasy VII was the first in the popular Japanese RPG series to employ 3D graphics, and the first to be released in Europe. Thus it heralded a mainstream acceptance of JRPGs in territories outside of Japan. Marking it out as one of the most important games ever released.

This is a game that’s still extremely playable today, with the immersive storyline and addictive gameplay compensating for any visual disappointment. A PC re-release Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII Re-release: Worth It? [MUO Gaming] Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII Re-release: Worth It? [MUO Gaming] Final Fantasy VII is the most beloved game of the series, and arguably the best JRPG of all-time (if we all forget about some guy named Crono). This re-release (not remake) comes with a few... Read More was well-received, and there are countless fans who would love to see a modern-day remake of this epic game.

World Of Warcraft (2004)

World of Warcraft 5 Essential Interface Mods For World Of Warcraft 5 Essential Interface Mods For World Of Warcraft World Of Warcraft is nearly nine years old, an age at which most good games border on "classic" status and have long since been forgotten by both players and developers. Yet the game remains the... Read More was the fourth game in the Warcraft universe, and by no means the first MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). And yet this is the MMORPG that makes the list thanks to its insane level of popularity that has seen millions of people subscribe to play it month after month, which is what marks it out as being important.

How far into mainstream culture World of Warcraft has managed to creep can be seen by its appearance in countless TV shows and comedy skits. Thus the image of a sad loner playing from their mom’s basement was cemented in people’s minds, even though it bears little resemblance to reality.

Angry Birds (2009)

Angry Birds was one of the first mobile games to make people stand up and take notice of these titles that, on the surface at least, were too simplistic to offer any real challenge. Fast-forward a few years and smartphone owners the world over have joined the ranks of ‘Gamer’.

I was personally addicted to Angry Birds 5 Reasons Angry Birds Is So Damn Addictive 5 Reasons Angry Birds Is So Damn Addictive My name is Dave Parrack, I'm a 34-year-old freelance writer from England, and I have a problem. I'm addicted to playing Angry Birds. Being hooked on catapulting feathered weapons of mass destruction into smug pigs... Read More for a time, and I’m not alone in getting fixated on a particular mobile game. The fact they can be played anywhere and anytime makes them easy to pick up and play. And, as a consequence, get addicted.

Minecraft (2011)

Minecraft isn’t for everyone, but for those who have fallen for its considerable charms, it’s the perfect video game. Beloved by kids and adults alike, this started life as an indie game before being developed for every platform you care to mention.

With no real goals as such, Minecraft tempts people in with an alternative quality: freedom. Each player can tackle the game how they see fit, exploring, creating, or surviving depending on what kind of mood they’re in. Minecraft broke the rules for video games, and is the most recent truly important title as a result.

Conclusions

It should be noted that we’ve pared the selection down to just 10 games, but there are more that could be considered as eminently important to the industry. Which is where you come in, as we hope to see comments aplenty from readers ready and willing to argue the case for another game to be added to the list.

Please suggest a title and explain why you consider it to be one of the most-important video games of all time. Or simply wax lyrical on the games that did make our list, whether you agree or disagree, and have either fond or hate-filled memories of playing them.

Image Credit: Betsy Weber

  1. highschoolkid
    August 29, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    i think Pokemon would be a good mention

  2. ashley
    February 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    I would consider any of the following candidates

    -Mortal Kombat
    Hear me out. While Street Fighter 2 could be easily argued to have cemented the fighting genre as we know today, mortal kombat was the first game to go mainstream with adult violence and gore in the gaming medium. Its success made way for an undeniable thirst for blood in video games. We havent really looked back since.

    -Dune II
    Has to be in there. The basic structure of this devised platform, to this day is the foundation of all RTS strategy. Including Age of Empires, Civilisation, Command and Conquer, Spacecraft, warcraft, and even though the games have now taken a predictable 3D form, the basis remains the same

    -GTA 3
    It simply introduced the open world gaming design we now know and love

    -Wolfenstein 3D
    Whilst Doom 2 introduced a much more refined Wolfenstein game. Wolfenstein would still arguably be more important in changing the world. It introduced the foundation on which the FPS exists, and whilst not mainstream because PC gaming was in its infancy, anyone who owned a PC, knew this game. Doom 2 added the ability to play against a friend using a modem which gave raise to the first experience of online match up. Counterstrike gave rise to the online network of multiple players.
    But of both of these successors to Wolfenstein are arguably a natural progression with the advent of internet. Wolfenstein would be the first mainstream experience where we look through a camera and point a gun at enemies.

    Did Tetris change the world? I guess it depends how you look at the question. It was a massive game, that to this day would probably be as well known as chess and monopoly. And in that respect it did change the world.
    But would I agree that Tetris inspired a genre of new games and was important to video gaming world. No.

    Minecraft should not be on the list. It is clearly a favourite of the authors and I duly accept that it is a big game. But it hasnt changed the world.

    I contest that Angry Birds is not the defining phone game. I might be more inclined to give that trophy to Snakes, on the earlier version of Nokia. But i think it can be argued both ways. Angry Bird has lead this new generation of games.

    World of warcraft definitely has a place here. MMORPG's are very alive and kicking.
    Agree with Super Mario Brothers but a shout out to Commander Keen, and Captain comic.

    Final Fantasy. Ummm yes. The rise of not just a genre but a cultural asian phenomenon.

    • Javs
      March 5, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      I loved your answer... which games would you consider that really changed or impacted the world ?

  3. samussaturn101z
    January 29, 2014 at 2:25 am

    Good List but you forgot:
    Super Mario 64- revolutionized The 3D platforming genre
    The Legend of Zelda- Created file saving
    Pac Man- Made arcades popular

  4. Iker Adil
    January 16, 2014 at 6:12 am

    for me its MARIO and WORLD OF WARCRAFT ...
    the rest maybe be true for others....no offense :P

  5. Stuart Deyes
    January 15, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    GTA? That must have had some significant impact on the world of gaming...anyone out there agree,or is it just me? Stu Deyes from Hull,England

    • Iker Adil
      January 16, 2014 at 6:14 am

      Ofcourse GTA should be here...theres no doubt it changed the world for better or worse but still its one game that will suggest to others who plays games and havent played GTA.....
      if so then he/she havent actually played the better part of the games available

  6. Simon k
    January 11, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Lemmings! :)

    • Dave P
      January 12, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Lemming is a great shout, and was a great game. Definitely under consideration for the next article :)

  7. Dave
    January 11, 2014 at 2:00 am

    The wipeout series. No futureistic race game matched it on gameplay or came close. Same for destruction derby raw & road rash series.

    • Dave P
      January 12, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      The Wipeout games rocked. My problem with including them is they didn't really start a huge genre or trend off.

  8. Christian C
    January 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Great article Dave!

    I agree with many of the suggestion for things that perhaps should have been included (looking forward to the follow-up) but would add Civilization and/or Sim City to the mix...

    • Dave P
      January 12, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks :)

      One of those, or perhaps Populous, would definitely make the cut next time out.

  9. James
    January 6, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Actually, Minecraft was first released in 2009, with the first version of what is called now 'Classic'. The first 'release' version, 1.0.0, was released on 11 November 2011, if I remember.

  10. Brittany L
    January 2, 2014 at 5:02 am

    I remember Pong being the first game I ever played on the Atari crazy to see how much technology has changed since then.

  11. Krzysztof B
    January 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I have played all of them... This article made my memories come back. Thanks :) These are trully the most significant games in history. And they are still so popular.

    • Dave P
      January 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      That's a good point. These games have remained popular through the decades, thus proving their timeless appeal.

  12. Aibek E
    January 1, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    i would add,

    Pacman
    Counter Strike
    GTA!)

    • Dave P
      January 6, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      It would seem Pac-Man was definitely an oversight. Counter Strike is a fantastic shout for what it did to the idea of online teamwork. Which GTA though? GTA 3, when it made the move to 3D?

  13. zzzz
    January 1, 2014 at 10:47 am

    ummm... dune 2 ?
    if i'm not mistaken and usually i'm not. dune 2 was the grandaddy of all the dune 2000, command and conquer, warcraft, warcraft 2 bnet, wc3, starcraft, ect ect ...

    • Dave P
      January 6, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      That's a good shout. It was certainly an important game but I don't think it changed the world. Personally!

  14. Bob
    December 31, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Grand Theft Auto 3? Revolutionized open world gaming.

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      It did, and that's a very good call. Be assured it'll be considered if we do a follow-up in the future.

    • Dave
      January 11, 2014 at 1:47 am

      Gta (1) releast on the ps one. There was a lot of comments for the violence in that game we are use to of today.

  15. Iain Robertson
    December 31, 2013 at 11:06 am

    What? No Jetset Willy?

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      I loved that game, but did it really change the world? Argue your case for why it did!

  16. Przm
    December 31, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Without Wolfenstein 3D there would not be Doom

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Very true, but I felt Doom deserved its place ahead of Wolfenstein.

  17. Nico
    December 31, 2013 at 4:46 am

    Baldur's gate was THE RPG which shaped the genre for every other games afger. It offered endless possibilities to paly the game in whichever way we want. I bought it again today. It.s rhat good

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Good pick. It's incredibly hard paring choices down to just 10, but Baldur's Gate was definitely a solid game which helped mould the RPG genre.

  18. miphix
    December 31, 2013 at 4:05 am

    There is a game i feel that is under appreciated and not well publicized. Navyfield. Most naval warship games don't have this level of game play. As, they're usually point click shoot with no inclusion of stats. The mechanics gives way to strategys which has been noted as physics based artillery trajectorys. The community and game modes have given way to clans which are known as fleets. The manner in which players are mashed together have ultimately given the game a greater impact on its players than a game as popular as world of war tanks could not give. As you most likely will never see johndoe5000 again. The part that makes the proud few of us who play enjoy the game and work so hard at it, is it's depth control, presence of stats and custimization that allows players to not just experience the game. But, develope it by effecting the community to adapt to unique tactics that are developed to compliment a very extensive array of variety both for yourself as well as for your apponent.

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      I have to admit I've never heard of Navyfield, which is a sure sign it didn't change the world of gaming in a big way.

      You seem very passionate about the game though, and that's refreshing to see :)

  19. Andre F
    December 31, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Where is Pac Man......

    • Dwight
      December 31, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      No kidding! Pac-Man is one of the greatest selling and played video games of all time. Regardless of whether you are a gamer today or during the early 80's, everyone knows what Pac-Man is. Don't believe me, then try asking anyone today if they have heard of Pac-Man. Bally/Midway, Atari (yes, they licensed Pac-Mania), and later Namco have made numerous versions of Pac-Man, including Pac-Man Plus, Ms. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, etc., etc., etc. for the arcades, numerous computer systems, numerous consoles, smartphones, tablets, etc. It is one of the, if not THE, most franchised game in history. To exclude it from the list is simply shameful.

    • Dwight
      December 31, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Since PONG was mentioned, a little historical perspective is needed.

      While some may believe that Nolan Bushnell created and released PONG in 1972, shortly after starting Atari, they would be wrong. Ralph Baer actually created PONG, originally called Table Tennis, while working at Sanders and Associates in the mid-60's. He is the actual guy that invented the idea and technology of putting images on a CRT (TV) screen. One of his many games created for his first series of consoles, which later became the Maganavox Odyssey, was Table Tennis. During a demo prior to the Magnavox Odyssey, Noland Bushnell saw Table Tennis. After the release of PONG, Atari was sued for copying Table Tennis and subsequently lost.

      The following sites provide some history about Ralph Baer and the truth behind the creation of PONG. Enjoy!

      http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/the-father-of-the-video-game-the-ralph-baer-prototypes-and-electronic-games?ogmt_page=baer-biography
      http://www.ralphbaer.com/
      http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/07/in-the-beginning-ralph-h-baer-and-the-birth-of-the-game-console/

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      Pac-man was very close to being included but I wanted to squeeze some more recent titles in rather than have it all be about those early years of gaming. It would definitely make the list if we do a follow-up post.

  20. Weave
    December 31, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Legend of Zelda... PacMan

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Two more great additions to the list. Thank you :)

  21. A
    December 31, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Angry birds is a silly inclusion.

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      You may think so, but the mobile gaming phenomenon isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

    • A
      January 1, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      Non-sequitur. I don't believe mobile gaming owes much to Angry Birds, the way the other games have affected the industry. Angry birds didn't change gaming, it just got popular. There's a difference.

  22. A R
    December 30, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    no prince of persia? Counterstrike?
    each changed habbits and needs!
    beside these 2, the list is pretty complete.

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      They would be good additions. Maybe this article deserves a follow-up in the near-future!

  23. seppe
    December 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    The Tetris version that we all know was released in 1989.

    Super Mario Bros isn't only important because it introduced mario to the masses and created a new genre (it didn't). It saved the gaming industry, by selling millions of NES consoles and regenerating a market which was destroyed by bad atari games.

    • Dwight
      December 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      To be clear, Mario was introduced to the masses in Donkey Kong Jr. (he was originally known as Jumpman in Donkey Kong) and again later in Mario Bros. (both of these predated Super Mario Bros.). While Super Mario Bros. was a huge hit, don't forget it was also an arcade game and was released on that platform prior to the NES.

    • Dave P
      January 1, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      I've used the year that the first version of each game was released.

      I'm well aware that the world had seen Mario previously, but "introduced to the masses" is more about going mainstream. Suddenly everyone knew who Mario was, regardless of whether they were gamers or not.

  24. Tom S
    December 30, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    These truly are some of best games ever. I remember when I would save up my money just to go to the arcades!

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