3 – TETRIS (1984) – VARIOUS
The Soviet Union – it’s not exactly the first location that people think of when it comes to considering influential games. It’s an irony then that possibly the most popular game of all time is the work of a Russian created near the end of the Cold War. Coming from the mind of Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris (which was the first entertainment medium to be exported from Russia to America during the Cold War) is an ageless game that has captured the minds of generations for years.
Part of its brilliance is its utter simplicity; you are presented with a rectangular area into which different shapes called tetrominoes (based around letters) are dropped. Your mission is to move and rotate the blocks as they fall in order to create complete lines of blocks, which then disappear once completed and grant the player points. The game only ends when the top level of the rectangular area is breached by a block. For a game that only utilises seven working pieces, the amount of replayability to be found in Tetris is utterly astonishing.
So apart from helping to thaw relations in the Cold War, why else does Tetris deserve to be on this list? How about the fact that it has been replicated on virtually every console ever made? If there is a console, chances are you will be able to drop blocks with it (the Game Boy version remains the most popular, having sold over 30 million copies and making gaming on the move popular). Tetris has also been proven as a game that improves the cognitive functions of the people that play it, paving the way for further popular puzzle games like Bust A Move and the Brain Training series on the Nintendo DS. So not only is it addictive – it makes you smarter.
4 – SUPER MARIO BROS (1985) – NINTENDO
In 1983, the games industry crashed in North America. Too many poor games (including Atari’s infamous E.T The Extra Terrestrial) from far too many third party companies caused annual revenue to drop by scarcely believable levels of 97%. In 1985, a white knight rode to the rescue from the land of the rising sun – the knight was Nintendo, and it had brought a fat Italian plumber along for the ride. His name was Mario, and he was about to save the industry.
Anyone with half an interest in the history of video games knows about Super Mario Bros – Mario travels across eight different worlds in search of Princess Toadstool, who has been kidnapped by the Koopa King Bowser. As a 2D side-scrolling adventure, Mario has to run, jump and swim past different obstacles and varied enemies, picking up powerups such as Mushrooms which allow him to grow in size along the way. Where Super Mario Bros excels is how it plays: its precise controls were way ahead of many of the games produced prior, and most of all it was bloody good fun.
The achievements of this game are a genuine Hall Of Fame rollcall. Bundled in with the brand new NES console, it sold over 40 million copies, which gave it the title of the best selling video game for over two decades. Like Pac Man before him, Mario became the defining mascot of the industry, and arguably remains in that position to this day due to the one of the most expansive and successful franchises in history. For me, the biggest impact of Super Mario Bros is that it put Nintendo on the map – the days of poor quality control and copycat games were swept away in a drive for efficiency and quality game design as companies looked to emulate the success of the Japanese company. The third generation of the industry had begun, and it was Mario who had instigated it.