Ever since the dawn of gaming from the 1970’s, each decade has provided a game that contributed to the advancement of the industry. Some games established a new kind of genre, trend, or a distinguishing milestone that many games after tried to emulate. Some do it better, some fail to measure up. But what about these games that revolutionized the industry to new heights that still hold up to this day? Read our list to find out!
- System: Multi-platform
- Publisher: Mojang AB
- Developer: Mojang AB
- Release Dates: May 10, 2009
Coming from a semi-similar cloth to SimCity and Civilization, Minecraft is an extension of building your own world but with graphics that feel like you’re playing with digital legos, and includes a significant number of RPG elements. While many games have been a social phenomenon prior to the internet, Minecraft is one of those games that was the first to take that aspect through social media. Back in the old days, old folks had strange video game commercials like “Sega Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” campaign to go get themselves a Genesis, or the Dreamcast’s "It’s Thinking" commercials. But Minecraft’s popularity comes from using YouTube.
A good number of people just simply made videos of themselves playing and offering commentary, and its popularity just took off. Its popularity through YouTube eventually got the attention of the gaming media as a whole to the point that some Minecraft YouTubers got jobs. From there, its popularity spread like wildfire and was the subject of parody and praise in TV shows and music videos, and even other video games have played homage to it.
9. Extreme Courage Test Machine Big Fear of Heights
- System: HTC Vive
- Publisher: Bandai Namco
- Developer: Bandai Namco
- Release Dates: 2016
For many years since the release of Johnny Mnemonic in the 1990’s, many people waited for the rise of virtual reality and it is finally here. If there were any game that can demonstrate the power of virtual reality, it would certainly be the Extreme Courage Test Machine Big Fear of Heights, which you can play at VR Zone Shinjuku in Tokyo. So what is Extreme Courage? It’s a VR game where you go up to the roof on an elevator, walk a plank, and save a kitten. So how does it showcase the capabilities of VR?
The environment is simulated to the conditions of the game so as you walk on a plank, you are walking on a piece of wood that simulates that plank (and will shake and creak to freak you out) and at the end is a physical cat doll to represent the VR cat. So as you walk, the game moves with you. In addition, the room will blow fans at you to simulate wind effect. As you look down, you feel as if you’re 500 feet up in the air. In fact, there are many people who actually quit midway because it feels so real and scary to them (and there are NO refunds!!!). These reactions get the job done in demonstrating what VR is about, and if it can make you feel as if you’re experiencing the real thing, that’s enough to qualify it as revolutionary.
8. Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka
- System: Dreamcast
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega AM2
- Release Dates: Dec 29, 1999 (Japan), Nov 7, 2000 (US)
Grand Theft Auto V, Metal Gear Solid V, The Last of Us, and Watch Dogs are notable examples of open world games for modern gaming. But what is the game that paved way for the open world? That would have to be Yu Suzuki’s cult classic, Shenmue, which many of its hardcore fans have strongly made cases that as an open world game, still holds up to this day, more than 15 years after its debut. Prior to the word open world was coined, Suzuki intentionally released this game as FREE, short for Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment despite being conceived as an RPG. It was the first game to allow gamers to explore an accurate representation of an actual city and interact with it in the deepest way possible. When you are in Ryo’s home, you can look at things in deep detail from the kitchen utensils, to hidden items like the key in his father’s room. Or you can enjoy the local arcade and play the hot games of the 1980’s such as Hang On and Space Harrier, and visit a local shrine and help the cat.
Shenmue is like you’re experiencing in Japan. If you need to find a place, you can ask someone in the neighborhood and they can point you in the right direction, or tell you to screw off. For Western gamers, Shenmue was their gateway to Japan, and a good number of fans have been fascinated how the real-life Yokosuka resembles the one in the game that they made actual pilgrimages to Yokosuka. Beyond exploring the world, the game has a sense of time, date, season and whether to offer various experiences. If you need to go to a bar to find some sailors, you can kill time just running around and leveling up your moves when they open up at 8 pm. If you play the game up until April, the cherry blossom tree in Ryo’s garden will bloom like when real life cherry blossoms in Japan do. Some modern open world games are black-comedy, others are sci-fi, and some are horror.
Shenmue is still one of the very few games that have this distinct sense of realism that many open world games have not managed to capture, which is a significant factor to why it still holds up to this day and why it is revolutionary.
7. Metal Gear
- System: MSX2
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami
- Release Dates: Jul 13, 1987
Another game nobody can deny is the golden standard of the stealth genre, Metal Gear. A majority of you readers are likely familiar with the installments for the PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but did you know it debuted in the 1980’s? Despite its age, it still has many features that fans can instantly recognize. You can use the cardboard box to conceal yourself from enemy sight or for transportation, crawl underneath tanks or in air ducts, and use cigarettes to find infrared sensors, avoid cameras, and face novelty bosses.
If in the event an enemy discovers you, an exclamation mark will appear on top of their heads, and your fight or flight reflexes will be turned on. Much of the franchise’s creativity in navigating stages is present in this game. For those of you, whose exposure to Metal Gear is through the newer games, despite the obvious difference in graphics, they’re much more alike than you can think when you play the first game. The fact that many of the base elements from Metal Gear Solid all started on an 8-bit game is a true testament to the contributions of the stealth genre, and why Metal Gear is revolutionary.
6. Final Fantasy VII
- System: PlayStation
- Publisher: SquareSoft (Japan), Sony (US)
- Developer: Square Soft
- Release Dates: Jan 31, 1997 (Japan), Sept 7, 1997 (US)
We all know that Final Fantasy VII wasn’t the first Japanese RPG, has faced some controversies for being overrated and that the game doesn’t hold up. So why are we putting it on this list? Granted FFVII wasn’t the first RPG on the PlayStation console, but what makes FFVII memorable and revolutionary is that it was the first game to bring mainstream attention to Japanese RPGs. Prior to the release of VII, Japanese RPGs in the West were mostly a niche genre. A majority of the success of FFVII is its emphasis on the CG FMV scenes in the commercials. It was a hook to the majority who had no familiarity with the genre or previous Final Fantasy installments. Thanks to this marketing, the game became a success and helped pave way for more RPGs to come to the US such as Xenogears, which was initially not considered for an international release.
As for it not holding up, it’s a rather unfair accusation because the game is 20 years old and the genre has largely changed. The game paved the modern way to do visual storytelling and that games could be art and opened the door for other RPGs to do the same in a modern day sense. While some Japanese exclusive RPG games did have animated cutscenes, FFVII was the first to go 3D and gave some players some memorable moments to not just the game, but the Final Fantasy franchise as a whole such as the death of Aerith, which was a big deal to gaming and RPGs at the time. The fact that FFVII brought attention to how deep games can go as an alternative form of entertainment is why we consider is revolutionary.
5. Wolfenstein 3D
- System: PC
- Publisher: iD software
- Developer: Apogee Software
- Release Dates: May 5, 1992
While many of us know the modern First Person Shooter titles such as Call of Duty or Halo, what was the game that ultimately paved way for the first person genre? It happens to be Wolfenstein 3D. The game happens to be a reboot of Castle Wolfenstein, a stealth game that was presented in an overhead view. But like its predecessor, this game has you navigating a fortress and killing Nazi scumbags and Adolf Hitler himself without prejudice. The game gave players a selectable arsenal of guns to use, and had some rather graphic violence to demonstrate its power. Since you were killing Nazis, players and some gaming critics instantly embraced it and paved way for this then-new genre.
Everything you see in modern-day first-person shooters is thanks to Wolfenstein 3D. All of the control schemes, the level designs, graphics, and intricacies all stem from this game. Later, the same engine would be used to make Doom, which would further popularize the appeal and controversies of the genre. In fact, it would license the engine to other companies to make their own games. In case some of you didn’t know, one company made a game based on Noah’s Ark by using the engine. As opposed to shooting guns, you take out goats with a slingshot.
- System: Multi-platform
- Publisher: Bulletproof Software
- Developer: Bulletproof Software
- Release Dates: 1988
As stated in our top 1980’s game list, if there is one reason why Tetris can be considered revolutionary, it is because it helped define the Game Boy (despite debuting as a PC game in Russia), and ultimately solidified the road for portable gaming for years to come. In addition, Tetris is probably the first video game since the advent of Nintendo that proved that there are games that can be meant for all ages. Back then, Nintendo was heavily marketed to children and masterfully so. Tetris was the first video game to show that games can be mass appealing, and demonstrate that games can stimulate the brain.
The rules of the game are simple and the difficulty of the game is all on the player. It’s a game you can play anytime and/or anywhere. Stuck at the DMV in 1990? Pop out your Game Boy and kill some time with Tetris! Waiting for the movie to start at the theater? Play some Tetris! Waiting for your date to show up at the park at a time before cell phones? Play some Tetris! It was a convenient game to kill time and keep your brain functioning. Last, the top Tetris player happens to be Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, and he gave a Game Boy and a copy of Tetris to the first President Bush and to then USSR president Gorbachev. If anything, Tetris probably helped improved US and USSR relations during the height of the Cold War.
- System: Multi-platform
- Publisher: Atari
- Developer: Atari
- Release Dates: Nov 29, 1972
Pong isn’t the first game in history, but despite being two bars and a ball that feels like a cheap looking digital tennis game, it became one of the first successful video games. With a significant number of writers on Honey mostly representing a generation who were born after the 1970’s, we will admit it is hard to identify with this game, but we can contextualize for its time, there was nothing like it and why it became a pop culture phenomenon.
It was a game that people could play together and helped establish that games can be used for socializing both at home and at the local arcade. The game is simple to pick up and it was certainly a game of trying to outwit your opponent. After Pong was released, many other companies tried to make their own versions. The game was a big hit in arcades and helped pave way for home consoles. If it weren’t for the success of Pong, there’d probably be no video game industry as we know it today.
2. Street Fighter II
- System: Multi-platform
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: Mar 1991
Street Fighter II isn’t necessarily the first fighting game in general, but most dedicated gamers can agree that it is certainly the most revolutionary. So why is that? Prior to the release of Street Fighter II, fighting games were rather limited. For some games like Karate Champ, they were mostly within the confine to the rules of point fighting like you see in the first Karate Kid movie, and players were stuck with one character. With the first Street Fighter game, it had a roster of numerous opponents but players were stuck to Ryu if they played player one, or as Ken on player two. What makes Street Fighter II distinguishing is that it was the first fighting game to allow players to select their character from a roster of eight characters with their own unique fighting styles. In addition, it paved way for combo systems that are necessary for modern fighting games, and the combo system that was introduced in Street Fighter II was made actually by accident!
Thanks to Street Fighter II, fighting games whether they’d be in 2D or 3D have all this flexibility you can ask for. In addition, you can play as various characters who represent a country, a fighting style to add more to the learning curve and to give players a chance to find a character that best suits them.
1. Super Mario Bros.
- System: NES
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Dates: Sept 13, 1985 (Japan), Oct 18, 1985 (US)
The overall contribution Super Mario Bros gave to gaming needs no introduction and at the same time, could be an article in itself. If it weren’t for Super Mario Bros and the NES, the industry wouldn’t be where it is today after the industry crashed in 1983. Super Mario is the game that represents those that are between Generation X and Millennials. It was their introduction to not just gaming, but what it represents. It had easy to follow graphics, silly sound effects and a rather addicting theme song that established the identity of the Nintendo Entertainment System hardware, and 8-bit as a whole. It took what existed with platform games and the Mario mascot to a fresh level that made people love games again as if it was truly something new. Thanks to the success of Mario, it paved way for other flagship mascots such as Sonic and Crash Bandicoot.
But like its predecessors such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario offered rewards that motivate players from simple mushrooms to invincibility stars for power-ups. It was easy to get into and by putting in the time, all the challenges were easy to overcome. The game had some secret novelties such as hidden warps so you could beat the game faster. Every time you played, you could devise new strategies for navigating the levels to improve your time and collect more coins. It was a game that defined replay value for its time and had a straightforward learning curve that people of all ages would enjoy at parties in the 1980’s.
Like other previous lists we have done, we can’t deny that all of you are going to disagree with what we listed and we’re cool with that. This is one of those lists we wish we could have done a top 50 for, but that would take forever to do. We know that the industry is still evolving and pursuing new technologies. This list isn’t forever so we may explore this again at a later date. But until we make this list again, what games do you think revolutionized the industry? Feel free to leave a comment!