9 – FINAL FANTASY VII (1997) – SQUARESOFT
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
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.