The origin of video games go back far earlier than most of us can remember. They started quite simple and have evolved into a medium and art form that’s absolutely mind boggling in its influence (now rivaling the movie and music industry). That’s quite the feat, wouldn’t you say?
But it’s not about the hardware. It’s not about the marketing. It’s not about graphics. What really made all this possible are the incredible games. Those games that are unforgettable, iconic. The ones that have become part of our culture.
These are the games that helped to define the last three decades of pop culture.
The 1980s: Super Mario Bros.
At a time when the arcade industry was in a free fall there was one company (and one character) that stepped into the spotlight, revitalized the entire industry, and created one of the most iconic (and influential) characters of all time.
- The company? Nintendo.
- The character? Mario.
Mario had starred in a few other games in the 80’s but everything changed when Super Mario Bros. came out for the NES. It was impossible to go anywhere without knowing someone having played the game. It was simple but enough of a challenge. A story? Just as simple. But the way it played. The way we felt an experience. The way it became part of our cultural awareness was what made it such an impactful game of the decade.
Without Nintendo and the Mario series the entire video game industry would be a pale comparison to what it is today.
Runner up: Pac-man
Pac-man fever. ‘Nuff said. This is the game that got people to the arcades. It had its own cereal, TV show, lunch boxes, t-shirts and more. It was simple yet incredibly difficult. It ate your quarters. It’s unforgettable.
The 1990’s: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Zelda series had already been a very strong contender for multiple unforgettable games but when Ocarina of Time came out, it blew everyone away. The feeling of stepping into the World of Hyrule was truly epic beyond a shadow of a doubt. The iconic Link was now set in a 3D world full of exploration, puzzle solving, and challenge. The story, unforgettable, mixed with amazing music – due in part to the ocarina instrument – guaranteed that it would become one of the most praised games of all time.
The game has made an immense impact on those growing up through the 90’s. It’s quite common to see Legend of Zelda cosplay at every gaming convention. There are countless pieces of apparel sporting the triforce. The game also created a resurgence of people interested in the awesome variety of ocarina designs and learning the songs featured in the game.
Runner Up: Doom
Wolfenstein may have been what helped get the FPS going but it was Doom that made it a craze. We owe a lot to Doom and its engine. Its face-paced style, mod-ability and lan/online play made it THE must have computer game of the 90’s.
The 2000’s: The Sims (Series)
Simulation games have been part of the video game industry for some years thanks to companies like Maxis and Electronic Arts. Iconic game designers and developers like Will Wright and Jeff Braun helped set the stage for the genre through games like SimCity but when it taken down to a personal level a franchise would emerge selling over 100 million copies: The Sims.
The Sims put players in control of their character’s lives. It allowed the player to live out their fantasy life and strive to achieve success however they saw fit. The franchise continued throughout the decade with many new expansion packs and sequels.
The reason it’s become such a defining game of the decade is that it helped to create a lot of the type of games we play today. Many of the bestselling and well-known mobile games have taken a cues from The Sims in terms of game play, style, and pace. It’s a landmark for video games becoming accessible to the non-gamer.
Runner Up: GTA III
The violence, the gore, the rough story. Grand Theft Auto III was a milestone in gaming achievement bringing in an amazing open world gameplay we all collectively desired. It certainly ruffled some feathers but at the end of the day it set a higher bar for the gaming industry.
The 2010’s: What Can We Expect?
The 2010’s are already shaping up to be quite an amazing decade for gaming. We have the launch of the new systems already. We’ve seen some major blockbuster titles. The indie game scene is really taking off, too. What can we expect to be the game to define the decade? Only time will tell …