7 Iconic Video Games
Across platforms and franchises, video games have only continued to grow in recent years, as has the culture surrounding gaming. Conventions, streaming, and even eSports tournaments have become more frequent, and companies are moving into globe-spanning online play, virtual reality, and even more enhanced technology to bring gamers an even more unique experience in their favorite fictional worlds.
In this list, we’ll explore video games that have revolutionized the industry in some way. Whether it was through graphics, story, or controller mechanics, all of these games have become legends in the eyes of gamers, and they’ve inspired numerous franchises, countless copycats, and even spiritual successors.
POKÉMON: RED AND BLUE
There have always been “collector” games – titles that see the player collecting points, cards, or characters over a period of days or weeks. But the world was turned upside down with Pokemon.
Released in 1996 as a Japanese Game Boy title, Pocket Monsters shot straight to the top of popularity lists. It came in two slightly different choices, a red one and a green one (blue in the U.S.).The design for the creatures, inspired by the creators’ love of animals and insects, was praised by critics the world over, and the main purpose of the game immediately became pop culture gold – Gotta Catch ‘Em All.
The player explored the fictional Kanto region armed with monster catching Pokeballs. After catching a Pokemon, the player would train them by fighting other Pocket Monsters. As they leveled up, the little creatures evolved into brand new forms, and catching every single one of them was very important to all Game Boy players.
The game has produced many sequels and spin-offs, most of them with the same time-honored gameplay. Countless toys as well as a card game have also racked up the big bucks for Nintendo, and the franchise recently took a big bite out of the box office with Pokemon: Detective Pikachu.
GEARS OF WAR
Released in 2006 for the XBOX 360, Gears of War was a third person bout of mayhem that spawned 5 sequels, including Gears of War: Judgement and the upcoming Gears 5.
Inspired by cover-based games such as Metal Gear Solid, the story centers around Marcus Fenix, a very tough military man defending the planet Sera from mutated humans known as the Locust Horde. These beings came out of the ground on Emergence Day, and the planet was soon overrun by bloodthirsty Grubs, Retches, Brumaks, and a host of other monsters.
The graphics were a turning point for the 360 console, raising the bar with detailed environments and facial expressions. The weapons were also praised, including the infamous Lancer, an automatic gun with a chainsaw bayonet for skewering enemies.
As players ducked for cover amid the ruins of Sera, avoided relentless gunfire, and slaughtered monsters with blood-soaked brutality, hearts pumped with fear, excitement, and pleasure. The rest of the franchise has followed suit, giving credence to the well-known saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
There were “scary” shooters and a few war games on the market since the 1980s. Then Resident Evil came along and took terror to a completely new level.
Released in 1996 by Capcom, the original Resident Evil let the gamer play as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine against an onslaught of zombies created by the Umbrella Corporation. The third-person perspective was engaging from the start, combined with elements of active problem solving and critical thinking.
Though pretty dated now, the creature designs and graphics were unforgettable, and the game ended up being responsible for the nightmares of thousands of PlayStation users. The survival-horror genre of gaming had never been so well-executed, and the game became the template for countless future titles. From FEAR to Silent Hill, almost every game in which you’re scared to turn a corner was undoubtedly inspired by Shinji Mikami’s original masterpiece.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME
Though Nintendo launched the first Zelda game in 1986, it wasn’t until Ocarina of Time that the series truly became influential to the gaming world.
Released in 1998 for the N64, the animation alone made it a title that would be remembered for decades, and it inspired countless other games to fully immerse the player in 3-D landscapes. The control scheme was praised by critics, especially the ability to “lock on” to enemies and objects. The game also pioneered the ability to to use different buttons for different items rather than searching through an inventory for a weapon or potion that could mean the difference between life and death.
The story was also highly praised. In the kingdom of Hyrule, a young elf-like Hylian named Link traverses expansive landscapes and dungeons while fighting against mythical enemies. Princess Zelda informs Link about an evil king who must be stopped at all costs, and a truly epic journey begins.
CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE
Every Call of Duty game is loads of fun, but it was the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that most impacted the shooter genre.
The previous Call of Duty games were set during World War II, but, as the name suggests, Modern Warfare takes place in current times. Set in 2011 (the game was released in 2007), the player uses an impressive arsenal of modern weapons to join in brutal international conflicts.
There’s a lot of freedom with the game – you can stealthily creep around cover and stalk your enemy, or you can engage in an all-out assault. This element of the game has been highly praised by fans and critics, so much so that the Modern Warfare games became their own series within the Call of Duty saga. Though later titles in the series were better received by fans, this game marked the first time the series took a risk by majorly changing up the setting (not as big a risk as Infinite Warfare, but that one isn’t nearly as loved).
HALF LIFE 2
Only one game on this list has been FREQUENTLY called the best video game of all time. It’s nearly 15 years old, but it was universally acclaimed upon release, and those who played it still mark it high up on their lists.
Half Life 2 was released in 2004. The story revolves around a physicist named Gordon Freeman. In the first game, he worked at Black Mesa Research Facility and accidentally helped open a portal to an alien dimension. By the events of Half Life 2, a new group of aliens known as the Combine had completely taken over the Earth.
Virtually every aspect of the game was loved by critics, but the best elements were the story and the animation. Many reviewers rated it a perfect 10, and at least one added an exaggerated number for a score of 11 out of 10.
HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED
Sure, there were sci-fi games before Halo: Combat Evolved. And yes, there were dozens of different first person shooters, some of them even complete with aliens and alien weaponry. But no one can deny that Halo broke the mold.
In 2001, Microsoft released the first XBOX console, and with it, the original Halo. The ultra-advanced game was a perfect way to test out the XBOX’s super-advanced console, but the game had actually been gestating for a few years without any help or input from the console’s parent computer company (Microsoft).
Developed by the Bungie team, Halo went through a lot of different stages. It even started out as a third-person shooter, which would have made for a much different game (though third-person is still featured in the game through vehicle operation, and later arcade spin-offs experimented with the perspective even more).The final product was enough to launch a multi-game franchise, several TV films and animations, and an upcoming TV series. Halo also helped popularize a style of film-making known as machinima, in which creators record and then tweak sequences from video games, ala Red vs. Blue.
The story of Halo is somehow simple and complex at the same time. You play as the highly specialized Master Chief, a Spartan warrior from Earth with abilities well above average. The player is encased in a powerful suit that pretty much makes the character a cyborg, and the only real way to be killed is by letting the enemies’ numbers get too overwhelming.
The Master Chief helps defend Earth from an organization of alien species known as the Covenant. He ends up on an artificial world called Halo, and a terrible secret is unleashed upon the universe.
What’s not to like about this game? You’ve got an iconic, almost mythic protagonist, sleek alien designs, a cool and varied weapons system, and the ability to control numerous machines and vehicles. Even non-gamers can instantly recognize the Master Chief, and it’s likely that the franchise will continue to grow and develop for several future generations.
Did your favorite genre-defining game make it onto this list? Anything we missed? Let Your Geek Sideshow and share your thoughts in the comments!