Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Ten

19 – CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 (2009) – INFINITY WARD

Fun fact: This game isn’t as good as the original Modern Warfare

I can hear the snorts of derision from you as you read the title for this entry. Modern Warfare 2 is hardly revolutionary in terms of gameplay, plot, graphics or overall quality – how and why did it change history you ask? I find MW2 to be highly significant because it marks a transition from games being a basic entertainment pastime into something akin to the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Modern Warfare and World At War had transformed Call Of Duty from being another average FPS into a marketing behemoth, and Activision certainly weren’t slow in pushing their weight around for the launch of MW2. The game received an intense marketing campaign around the world, and received pre-orders that smashed virtually all figures that had gone before it. It also piqued the interest of the press, who criticised the game for an optional mission in which the player can massacre civilians in a Russian airport. On launch day, it sold 4,700,000 copies worldwide and drew in near to £300 million in the UK and US alone. Within five days, it had garnered $550 million of revenue. With figures like that, it was quickly hailed as ‘the biggest launch in entertainment history’.

That record has not lasted long – ironically, the record was snatched by the next instalment in the series, Black Ops, just a year later…before the record got taken away by the instalment after that, Modern Warfare 3. These games were released in a culture that now accepts video games as a popular form of mass entertainment though; a culture that was cultivated by MW2’s impact.

20 – ANGRY BIRDS (2010) – ROVIO

Fun fact: Rovio may actaully move onto a different game soon. It won’t involve birds

The final spot on this list quite neatly considers a recent release, and the future that video games may have ahead of them. The mobile phone is a quite extraordinary invention – once upon a time it was like carrying a brick around in your pocket. As time has progressed, mobiles have evolved from being simple call making devices into entertainment mediums within themselves; you can take pictures, work out the weather, connect to anyone and so much more…which just so happens to include playing games.

Once discarded as a terrible and completely unviable idea (the Nokia N-Gage stands as a monument to its early failures), mobile gaming is the latest twist in the long road the video game industry has followed. Emphasising cheap, quick thrills that can be played at a moments notice, the market for such games has exploded with the force of a thousand suns, and no game represents the potential rewards like Angry Birds. The concept is blindingly simple; aim a selection of birds using a catapult to hit a structure in the distance housing villainous pigs: eliminate the pigs to earn points and progress to the next stage. All that is needed to operate the game is pulling your finger across the screen to aim the bird (disclaimer: you may well need a smartphone as well), and a few coppers in your pocket to purchase the game.

Since its release, Angry Birds has become quite possibly the most mainstream video game to ever exist. It has been ported onto several different operating systems including iOS, Android and PC, and when all is said and done has been downloaded over 1 BILLION times. It commands its own advertising empire ala Pac Man in the early 1980’s and is pretty much impossible to escape. And all this we have to remember has been achieved on a device used to call your parents for a lift. As much as the current big three wish to forage ahead with console games (which inherently offer more complexity and space for developers), there may be a time not too far away in the future when the likes of Nintendo and Sony will have to consider moving into the mobile games market. The next generation of gaming will be a very interesting battleground to observe.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Nine

17 – GUITAR HERO (2005) – HARMONIX

Fun fact: The guitar periperhal included with the game is a 3/4 size replica of a Gibson SG

The music genre in video games is a veritable mixing bowl of different ideas and concepts. You can dance to music (Dance Dance Revolution/Just Dance), create music (Music 2000/Mario Paint), or have a downright quirky experience with music (Vib Ribbon/Rez). In the midpoint of the last decade, Guitar Hero carved out an entirely new niche that allowed you to play music, allowing individuals (like myself) with no music talent to pretend they were rock gods.

Using a custom guitar controller, Guitar Hero gives players a setlist of songs to play through using a rhythm tap function to simulate the notes of a guitar in the actual song. With varying difficulties to play through, players can start off slow, and then advance to an even closer simulation of real life guitar playing…albeit with only five buttons in this case. An ace setlist of songs combined with a scoring system for playing better made this the new must have party game for consoles, offering something different in a market that was increasingly becoming dominated with shooting games.

Guitar Hero’s spot on this list comes because of a twofold reason. First off, it led to a renewal of interest in the music genre spawning other projects such as Rock Band which brought different instruments such as drums to the party, and also had a surprisingly unexpected impact on music culture in general, highlighting old artists and helping to boost record sales in some cases. The other reason is mainly negative though; Guitar Hero created a franchise that showed what happens when you flog a series to death. In five years, the Hero franchise of music games gave us five direct sequels, three games based purely on a single band, two spin off games and numerous portable titles – 24 games in all. Little wonder then that the music genre became oversaturated and essentially ceased to be of interest to developers about a year ago. Consumers have taken this example to look at other game series and campaign for quality over sheer quantity.

18 – WII SPORTS (2006) – NINTENDO

Fun fact: It’s easier to get a strike in bowling with a overarm throwing motion rather than an underarm throw

The best way to answer your critics is to make them eat their own words. The gaming press was by no means unified over whether or not the Nintendo Wii would attract enough players with its motion control gimmicks when it was released in 2006, but they had not anticipated the title that would be bundled in with the console – Wii Sports may be nothing more than a collection of demonstration minigames, but its hard to think of anything that could have shown off the appeal of the Wii so effortlessly.

Giving players the option of five sporting events to play through (Tennis, Bowling, Golf, Baseball and Boxing), players use the Wii remote and nunchuck attachment to simulate actions such as swinging a tennis racket or throwing a punch, which are then replicated in game by Mii’s (custom avatars created and stored on the console). The design of Wii Sports makes it so that both experienced gamers and novices can get involved straight away with ease, and it is a game that for once does not lie with it advertising; anyone from young children to grandparents can get involved.

I heavily doubt the launch of the Wii would have been as successful as it was without Wii Sports bundled in. The inclusion of software that could be easily played by the whole family straight from unwrapping the box at Christmas was a masterstroke on Nintendo’s behalf. It’s not just that it works though; Wii Sports really is good fun for the whole family. The game holds the title of the best selling video game of all time pushing the near 80 million mark, and inspired a range of in house titles utilising the Wii’s motion controls, including Wii Play, Wii Music and a direct sequel, Wii Sports Resort. Motion controls may still be in need of refinement for it to become a fully viable replacement for handheld controllers, but Wii Sports was instrumental in showing that a new way of playing games was possible.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Eight

15 – WORLD OF WARCRAFT (2004) – BLIZZARD

Fun fact: In order to boost popularity, celebrities such as Mr T, Chuck Norris and William Shatner have been used to advertise the game

World Of Warcraft, or WOW for short, was not the first MMORPG. Many would argue that it’s not the best either. I haven’t played it personally, but even I can see that even now eight years since its initial release, it is still the MMO by which all other MMO’s have to be judged. Entire subcultures have been created around the WOW universe, and it has permeated into popular culture more times than I can remember. Despite a few fluctuations every now and again, the playerbase has consistently stayed near the 10 million mark for years now, an astonishing number for a subscription based gaming service. Few games have ever managed to achieve that sort of popularity or longengivity. Even with threats from the likes of the recently released Star Wars: The Old Republic, World Of Warcraft continues to draw in new players.

16 – HALF LIFE 2 (2004) – VALVE

Fun fact: The boxart is the only time you will see Gordon Freeman’s face while playing the game. Rugged chap ain’t he?

Did you know that Half Life 2 was the first game released online that required product activation? Oh, you did? Bugger…well how about the fact that it won 39 ‘Game Of The Year’ awards? Oh…you knew that as well? It’s hard to find anything new to say about Half Life 2 that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before; but I’ll have a go.

The key to the success of this game is the Source engine, a new game engine which allowed Valve to produce a game with physics and artificial intelligence that was light years ahead of anything else. The core dynamics from the original Half Life, including the complete lack of cutscenes (everything happens in real time through the eyes of silent protagonist Gordon Freeman) were enhanced with fantastic puzzles using the shape, weight and buoyancy of certain objects, as well as adding new vehicle segements. Half Life 2 also gave the world quite possibly the greatest weapon ever in the form of the Gravity Gun, which could be used to pick up and manipulate objects – suddenly, you could kill enemies by cutting them in half with a saw blade or launching a toilet at them. On top of this, graphics, gunplay, story and setting were all pitch perfect.

It wasn’t just that it was a great game – Half Life 2, with the power of the Source engine behind it led the way for the opening of the Steam distribution service which has drastically altered the way that people purchase games online, and also led to the creation of several other great titles such as Counter Strike: Source, Left 4 Dead and Portal. In my mind, it remains the most influential first person shooter of all time.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Seven

13 – THE SIMS (2000) – MAXIS

Fun fact: You can imports Sims into your cities that you build in Sim City 4

The idea of playing God has always been an alluring concept – the power to essentially do what you want, when you want also happens to translate to a very popular gaming concept. Before the turn of the millennium there were quite a few games (all of them noticeably using the superior logic and processing abilities of the PC) that had cashed in on the stratagem, including the likes of Populous: The Beginning (1998), Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991), and Sim City (1989). The designer of the latter game, Will Wright, created The Sims in 2000; a game with no perceivable end point and no objectives to complete. Instead, The Sims gives you complete dominion over a small neighbourhood and the individuals that live there. You can make them eat, sleep, get a job, pay taxes, get married, or even let them die. Alongside this, you can fashion the houses they live in, and shape the relationships with other Sims. It’s a virtual dollhouse that you can alter at will.

The Sims captured the imagination of the public in a way that few other games had done so before, and achieved the status that all games pray for – it became a mainstream phenomenon. Two years after its release it became the best selling PC game to date, and after seven different expansions it would shift over 16 million copies – noticeably, it was estimated that near to 60% of the audience for the game was female, making it one of the first games since Pac-Man to get the attention of the female market in a industry dominated by male orientated games. The Sims changed the playing field by demonstrating that you didn’t need flashy graphics or an Oscar winning plot to succeed; sometimes simply tapping into subconscious ideas can do the trick just as well.

14 – GTA III (2001) – ROCKSTAR NORTH

Fun fact: The protagonist later turns up as a rival racer in a mission in prequel San Andreas

Seeing GTA III running on a PS2 for the first time was nothing short of a revolution. The GTA series, which had formerly featured cartoonish violence from an overhead 2D perspective, made the jump to 3D and pretty much single handedly created the sandbox genre. Whereas games before held your hand and pushed you in very obvious directions, Rockstar gave players the city of Liberty City to explore at their own will, and the tools to cause utter mayhem in the process.

It wasn’t just the freedom that impressed; it was the way that Liberty City felt like a fully functioning world inside of your television. Travel from one side of the city, and people will be living out their normal lives, driving to work and chatting on street corners. Commit a crime and the local authorities will be hot on your tail. Hop inside a car and you can tune the radio to listen to real life tunes. And when you got bored of the world, you could engage in the mission based structure of the game that let you go about completing things the way you wanted. GTA III spawned many clones, but none managed to perfect the formula until Rockstar released outstanding sequels in the form of Vice City (2002), San Andreas (2004) and GTA IV (2008). Every sandbox game since the start of the millennium owes its dues to GTA III for taking the great leap in the first place and getting so much right at the first attempt.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Six

11 – METAL GEAR SOLID (1998) – KONAMI

Fun fact: The man who voices Snake, David Hayter, is also an accomplished film scriptwriter

There was a time when games could get by with relatively simple stories. Kill the aliens descending from the top of the screen, save the princess, get to the shiny teleporter at the end of the level; all of these were relatively standard fare before 1998. Then, a man by the name of Hideo Kojima gave the world Metal Gear Solid, and showed the world that games could deliver a narrative that rivalled anything coming out of Hollywood.

Featuring numerous detailed FMV’s that advanced the story, along with hours of CODEC conversations that revealed more about the world and the facility that Snake was infiltrating made Metal Gear Solid feel like so much more than just another game. It was more like an interactive movie, one that you could affect with some quite big consequences depending on how you reacted to certain elements of the story. The added effect of having more video footage also meant that bosses could become more fleshed out characters, leading to some pretty memorable sequences with Psycho Mantis taking the top plaudits.

And alongside this cinematic development of events, there was a totally new way to play the game. Running in with guns blazing was a sure fire way to end up dead – instead, Snake had to be as stealthy as possible, using the environment to his advantage to avoid the constantly patrolling guards. Metal Gear Solid was the first game to perfect stealth, which has become a staple feature in pretty much every action adventure game since.

The adventures of Solid Snake proved to be only a starting point for the evolution of outstanding narratives in video games. Alongside the Metal Gear Solid sequels, the likes of Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Uncharted have all been shining examples of giving the player an engrossing story to play through whilst not sacrificing anything on the gameplay or graphical front.

12 – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME (1998) – NINTENDO EAD

Fun fact: Before this game was released, 99.9% of the world’s population didn’t know what an ocarina was

People will never seemingly shut up about Ocarina Of Time, which indicates that it must have done something to change the playing field. The first Legend Of Zelda game to feature the adventures of Link in three dimensions didn’t just change the much lauded series for the better, but also implemented some features that most modern games would even think twice about including.

Probably the most significant change was the introduction of the Z-targeting mechanic. The ability to lock on to a target and then move around freely whilst always keeping him in your sights allowed for a tactical element to be added to boss fights, and also allowed ranged attacks to be reliably successful. Ocarina Of Time is also credited with popularising the use of context sensitive actions where one button could be used for several different actions depending on the situation, e.g. pushing a box, opening a door, picking up bombs etc.

It wasn’t just the new mechanics that impressed though; it’s the small things that make Ocarina such a delight to play. The limitation of the use of certain items by young and adult Link means that you would have to travel forwards and backwards through time on a regular basis to solve the trickiest puzzles the game had to offer. The use of the Ocarina itself to solve puzzles was a genius idea, seamlessly integrating music into the game. The detail of the world of Hyrule, whilst looking average at best nowadays, was also well ahead of most other games released at the time.

No video game has really managed to match the legacy left behind by Ocarina Of Time. It received perfect reviews across the board upon its release, and has been voted as the greatest game of all time by no less than 13 official publications – nevermind receiving the same accolade from thousands of normal punters. It continues to be a defining, maybe the defining, moment in video game history 14 years since it first burst onto the scene.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Five

9 – FINAL FANTASY VII (1997) – SQUARESOFT

Fun fact: The seventh installment remains the best selling games in the series, 1 million sales ahead of Final Fantasy VIII

There’s a good reason why Final Fantasy VII remains in so many topics when discussing RPG’s and gaming in general. When it was released in 1997, few games could hold a candle to it. Offering an expansive story, cutting edge 3D graphics and superior sound spread over three discs, it transformed a popular series that have thrived on the SNES into the behemoth it has become today.

The reasoning for its place on this list however lies in its cultural impact rather than its technical achievements. Before Final Fantasy VII, JRPG’s had not exactly been unpopular – the likes of Dragon Quest, Secret Of Mana and Final Fantasy IV and VI (confusingly called II and III in America) had received warm praise and a cult following. What Final Fantasy VII did was bring the JRPG into the mainstream, aiding in part by heavy advertising on Squaresoft’s behalf. The game sold over 10 million copies across the world, bringing a whole new audience into the genre. The game also maintains a significant impact on what could have been – you see, it was originally intended for release on the Nintendo 64; but when Nintendo revealed they were to use cartridges instead of discs, Squaresoft decided to publish the game on the Sony Playstation as an exclusive. Having a game of FFVII’s quality as an exclusive was crucial in giving Sony’s new upstart console a significant lead in early console sales, one that the N64 ultimately could not overcome.

10 – POKEMON RED AND BLUE (1998) – GAME FREAK

Fun Fact: Charizard was voted the best Pokemon of them all by IGN last year

In my short lifetime, there have been few games released that can claim to have stolen the childhood’s of millions of young kids and utterly dominated popular culture at the same time. For me, Pokemon Red & Blue is that game – in the blink of an eye, it changed how the lunchtime hour was spent at school; even on the most gloriously sunny days most children in my class were glued to the screens of their Game Boy’s as they attempted to ‘catch ‘em all’.

It was a combination of things that gave Pokemon such a broad appeal – the colourful designs of the monsters, the gradual learning curve, a simple plot to follow and of course the ultimate goal of enslaving all 150 Pokemon to prove your mastery of the game. That by itself could have commanded enough respect, but it was taken one step further by the ability to link up your Game Boy to another using the Link Cable and battling your friends Pokemon. It promoted a sense of angry and fevered competition in the playground that managed to actually get the game banned for a short amount of time.

Pokemon Red & Blue also replicated the trick that Pac Man had been able to pull off in the 1980’s, cashing in on a run of merchandise that spawned an anime and equally popular trading card game alongside pretty much every domestic good you could imagine, from lunchboxes and bags to sticker albums and even varieties of jam. It may be too simplistic to say that it was the right game released at the perfect time, but that is exactly what Red & Blue was. The series continues to move on strongly with four direct sequels, leaving a pile of discarded AA batteries in its wake.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Four

7 – SUPER MARIO 64 (1996) – NINTENDO EAD

Fun fact: Get All 120 stars, and Yoshi will be waiting for you at the top of the castle

Super Mario 64 is to platformers what Star Wars was to the film industry when it was first released – people couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The world of the Mushroom Kingdom, which has previously been limited to side scrolling high jinks, was opened up for players to run, jump and kick about in, and not only became the instant reason for wanting a Nintendo 64 (when the console was put to bed for the Gamecube, roughly 1/3rd of N64 owners had a copy of Super Mario 64), but also became the quintessential 3D platformer that even to this day has rarely been bettered.

It wasn’t just the huge colourful worlds, objective based structures and classic characters given new proportions that impressed though – it was the sense that it was so far ahead of its time. By implementing the brand new analogue stick on the N64 controller, players had the freedom to move Mario about exactly where they wanted him to go, and also allowed for a fully adjustable camera that meant that players could take in the scenery and plan where they wanted to go – looking up at the peak of Bob-Omb Mountain and then proceeding to travel there may not seem special at all nowadays, but in 1996 it was like scaling Mt. Everest. It would even force Sony to create an analogue pad of their own for the Playstation.

As with other games in this list, Super Mario 64 has somewhat of an ageless quality to it – go and play it nowadays and it still feels as taught as the day it was released. Like Elvis Presley, it has many imitators; but there can only be one true King.

8 – GOLDENEYE 007 (1997) – RARE

Fun fact: Developers who split from Rare would use the opening Dam level as inspiration for the opening to Timesplitters 2

In a world of ‘Doom clones’, Goldeneye 007 was a bolt from the blue. Based on the fantastic film of 1995, British company Rare incorporated new elements of design that made the game one of the most legendary first person shooters to ever be released.

Eschewing the balls out action of stuff like Doom, Goldeneye 007 (one of the first FPS’s released exclusively for a console) adopted a more realistic outlook. Much work was done to make the player get the feeling that you are James Bond, as sneaking around taking out security cameras and dispatching guards as quietly as possible becomes the most desirable way to progress through the game. Rare also introduced several new features that have become staples of the genre; guards will react differently depending on where they are shot, and the zoomable scoped sniper rifle that allowed you to kill enemies from a distance is now a standard inclusion in virtually every shooting game.

Goldeneye’s legacy however primarily lies in its multiplayer mode. Featuring fully customisable game modes and four player split screen action, this game became the measuring stick from which all other multiplayer games, not just first person shooters, were judged for sheer amounts of fun. Anyone who has played this game will have fun memories of chopping people to death, racing to get the golden gun for one shot kills, and cursing the person who decided to pick Oddjob. Arguments continue to rage about whether Goldeneye is still the ultimate deathmatch template, even after the likes of Halo and Call Of Duty have come along – a testament to the games continuing quality.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Three

5 – SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (1991) – SEGA

Fun fact: Sonic replaced Golden Axe as the bundle game for the Mega Drive

In 1990, the SNES was released in Japan. Two years earlier, SEGA had released the Mega Drive console, and had achieved a fair slice of the market. Faced with the competition from Nintendo’s new toy however (bundled with Super Mario World no less – and if you have been reading these articles then you will know what an impact a bundled Mario game could have), SEGA had to find a new killer app. The answer was to be found by offering a new game bundled with the Mega Drive, featuring a mascot who epitomised everything Mario wasn’t – he had to be cool, radical, and most of all, fast. The answer was Sonic The Hedgehog.

Released in 1991, the gamble paid off. Consumers were wowed by the speed of the game, the groundbreaking momentum physics, the impressive colourful graphics and the catchy soundtrack. Most of all, the hero of the piece captured the imagination. Sonic was brimming with attitude, tapping his foot impatiently when not moving and aiming to show that “SEGA do what Nintendo’nt”. During the 1991 Christmas season, the Mega Drive (known as the Genesis in the Western world) outsold the SNES by almost 2 to 1, and had 65% of the North American market by mid 1992 – almost all of which was attributable to Sonic. The significance of this game is that it helped to start off the console wars between SEGA and Nintendo, which led to some of the best games ever made being created as the two companies looked to outdo each other, and set the base for further wars to be fought in the future between Sony/Nintendo and Microsoft/Sony respectively. It also marked the high point for SEGA, before the company started to slip out of the public focus over the next decade.

6 – DOOM (1993) – ID SOFTWARE

Fun fact: The live action Doom film is terrible

You may have heard of this one – if you have ever played a first person shooter and enjoyed a second of it, then you owe a great deal to Doom, the game that popularised the genre and is commonly cited as one of the greatest games ever made.

Before I start, let’s clear up the argument once and for all – Wolfenstein 3D (1992)  is the rightful origin of first person shooters. However, it would be Doom that raised the bar. Pitting a nameless space marine against the demons of hell, Doom introduced dynamic 3D levels enhanced by improved levels of lighting, textures and sounds, and via the use of ‘WAD’ files was able to feature custom content, leading to the first game modding communities. The game is also well remembered for its high levels of gore and violence (blamed in part for influencing the Columbine High School shootings in 1999), and the wide range of weapons the player could utilise, including the now legendary BFG 9000. Doom also helped to popularise the idea of power ups in games, and allowed something called a ‘deathmatch’ if people could connect their PC’s via phone lines…I think that mode may have been used once or twice in recent first person shooters.

The fact that the phrase ‘Doom clones’ existed well into the latter part of the decade should be a testament to the popularity and quality of Doom: few games could match its popularity (fun fact: in 1995 apparently more computers had Doom installed than the Windows 95 operating system), and it wasn’t until an intrepid British company made a game based on a popular film (which you’ll see at a later point in this list) that FPS’s could finally break out of Doom’s shadow. A true trailblazer in every sense of the phrase.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part Two

3 – TETRIS (1984) – VARIOUS

Fun fact: A ‘Tetris’ is the act of clearing four rows of shapes at one time

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

Fun fact: In the original ‘Donkey Kong’ arcade game, Mario was actually called ‘Jumpman’ instead

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.

Dazcooke’s Video Game Land Presents…20 Games That Changed History – Part One

The games industry has come a long way over the centuries. In the 1960’s and 70’s when the very first consoles were being pieced together by just a few small enthusiasts, I doubt the people adjusting the circuits would have ever dreamed of how far videos games would advance – for now we live in a world where consoles have entered the mainstream and permeate almost all walks of life. The first arcade machines weighed approximately the same as a baby elephant; nowadays you can carry a console with a billion times the power output around in your back pocket. Enthusiastic gamers such as myself are forever waiting for the next great step forward, the next AAA blockbuster, and will no doubt do so until the end of time. For all this to happen though, there needed to be trailblazers; games that took the world by storm, altered the way we approach games and never looked back. It is my intention in this set of articles to pay homage to 20 games that I feel have earned those spots in history.

I had to think pretty hard about what should and shouldn’t be included in this list. There are hundreds of games out there that could quite easily stake a claim to changing the way the industry operates and the way fans react to games, and narrowing down those choices has been tough. In the end, I plumped for games that I personally feel have changed the way I look at the video game genre. The games don’t necessarily have to be good or bad, I don’t even need to have played some of them – so long as the effect has been felt and is justified.

The games I have picked will be presented in chronological order rather than a tiered system, and for each game I intend to give a small bit of background, and explain why I feel it is worthy of a position as one of the 20 games that changed the world. Each article will feature two games, leading to 10 articles in total.

1 – PONG (1972) – ATARI INC.

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal…1972 style

Where else can this list start other than Genesis Chapter One? Pong was not the first video game – it wasn’t even the first table tennis game. The first home console, the Maganvox Odyssey, had a table tennis game set up at its first public demonstration; it was played by one Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari) who felt it could do with some refining, and asked one of his engineers, Allan Alcorn, to make a better version. The result was Pong, a 2D training exercise that let you move a paddle up and down a screen to play table tennis against a computer controlled opponent. After installing the first model at a local bar, Alcorn was called out after a few days to fix a problem with the arcade machine. One of the mechanisms had jammed…because the machine was stuffed with quarters from punters eager to play the game.

Within a few short months, Pong was established as the first commercially successful video game. By 1974, there were over 10,000 machines, all being sold for more than 3 times the production costs. In 1975, Atari released a home version exclusively through the Sears company in America, shifting near to 150,000 units that Christmas alone and fuelling a boom that would lead to the establishment of video game consoles in people’s homes. Pong is also notable for starting a trend that would lead to the crash in the 1980’s – Atari did not file a patent for the game, meaning copycats spread up everywhere looking to take a slice of the profits. Bushnell would encourage Atari to be more proactive with its game design and produce products that would keep the copycats in the shade, although the market would continue to be flooded with poor imitations of popular designs.

It’s astonishing to think that such as simple game would essentially lead to the birth of the industry, but that was the impact of Pong.

2 – PAC MAN (1980) – NAMCO

Fun fact – the highest score you can get on the original arcade game is 3,333,360 points

If Pong set the industry on its way, it was Pac Man that became the undeniable icon of the early 1980’s. Straight away from its inception, it became a pop culture icon that shifted a ton of merchandise, and offered arcade fanatics a whole new game to play – both male and female.

Like all the great games of the 80’s, Pac Man (originally called Puck Man, the name was changed in America to prevent nasty vandals replacing the P with an F) was beautifully simplistic. You took control of the titular hero, a big yellow blob with a mouth, and guiding him round a maze collecting all the pellets to move onto the next level. In order to up the challenge, four ghosts are also released into the maze to chase Pac Man down – if you touch one, you lose a life. There are four special capsules in each level that allow you to eat the ghosts, earning bonus points and temporarily putting them out of play, and every 10,000 points you earn grants you an extra life. Although it was designed to be played indefinitely, a bug means that you can only complete 255 levels before the ‘kill screen’ appears. As of writing, only 6 people in history have ever achieved the maximum score.

Pac Man’s impact on the industry is quite enviable. It dwarfs almost every other arcade game ever released in terms of gross income (estimated at roughly $7.6 billion in today’s money). The yellow hero, along with the ghosts Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde are the first video game mascots. It popularised the maze-escape and stealth genres in gaming. Finally, as aforementioned it was the first video game to capture the imagination of women; so much so that Ms. Pac Man was created just two years later to cash in on the craze. The game still remains synonymous with the industry over 30 years since its release, and is one of only three games displayed at the Smithsonian Museum.