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Do you like space sims and exploration games? If so, you have a lot to thank the 1984 game Elite for.
It may look primitive now, but this game combined space, trading, and exploration. We are currently experiencing a renaissance of cool space games (including the third sequel to this very title), but we might have never had this genre without Elite.
2. Maze War
If you played it today, you might not recognize Maze War as an FPS. But this 1973 game allowed you to take on other players via ARPANET.
Given how old this game is, it is amazing how many innovations it gave us. This included early online gaming, player avatars, and even a level editor!
3. Catacomb 3-D
Everyone knows that we had Wolfenstein 3D before we had Doom. But do you know what we had before Wolfenstein 3D?
Catacomb 3-D is an obscure game that popularized exploring 3D spaces and seeing the player’s hand onscreen. It served as a very direct inspiration for Wolfenstein 3D, which came a year later. And from that game came Doom, a franchise that completely transformed FPS gaming.
4. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord made game history in a few different ways. And it is an especially important title if you like to play RPGs.
For example, it introduced the idea of a party system as well as a turn-based system to video game RPGs. In addition to kicking off its own franchise, this game helped deeply influence major RPGs such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
Many early computer games were, unsurprisingly, created on college campuses. That is because these colleges gathered like-minded young programmers and gave them equipment and other resources they needed to bring games to life.
That is how we got Spacewar!, a game created at MIT by Steve Russell. It was played on multiple computers and improved by multiple people, and this game has the distinction of being the first known computer game to be played across multiple computer installations.
6. Computer Space
In the video game industry, there is a world of difference between being the first to do something and being the best to do something. For proof, look no further than Computer Space.
This relatively boring and unremarkable game has the honor of being the first coin-based arcade game ever sold. And while it was a big disappointment, it would only be half a year later before its creators released another industry-changing game: Pong!
7. Tennis For Two
The 1972 game Pong generally takes credit for turning tennis into a virtual experience. But would you believe another game beat Pong to the punch by 14 years?
In 1958, the U.S. Department of Energy helped fund a game called Tennis For Two. It was initially made to impress visitors to the Brookhaven National Laboratory but would later get caught up in a lawsuit over whether this was or was not the very first video game ever made!
8. Tecmo Super Bowl
If we’re being honest, the modern state of sporting games is pretty sad. We’re just forking over good money each year to get slightly updated versions of the same damn game.
But in 1991, Tecmo Super Bowl showed us what a great football game could be. It paved the way for the more successful Madden franchise, but there are still hardcore fans who compete in modded Tecmo Super Bowl every year, complete with modern rosters!
9. Kung-Fu Master
What do most early arcade games have in common? They were single-screen adventures in the vein of Space Invaders and Galaga.
Kung-Fu Master helped popularize sidescrolling, especially within the growing genre of beat’em up games. Whether you like fighting games or just a good sidescrolling adventure, you have this game to thank for changing things up.
10. Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!
Remember Brain Age? This Nintendo DS game appealed to adults and even elderly gamers with the promise to keep their brains nice and sharp.
This game helped usher in a new generation of puzzle games and served as an early preview of Nintendo’s new goal of reaching non-traditional gamer demographics. Sixteen years later, though, this game is largely forgotten.
As an industry, gaming is largely iterative. All it takes is one developer to add a new twist to an old idea and change things forever.
For example, the old Phoenix arcade game took the successful Space Invaders formula and added a twist: a final boss. It wouldn’t be long before this was a staple of almost all video games.
12. Colossal Cave Adventure
Does Colossal Cave Adventure sound familiar? If not for this game, we might never have had Minecraft or any of the old-school adventure-style games.
This game came out in the mid-1970s and was purely a text game. In fact, it is the first text game and the first interactive adventure game ever made. It is fair to say that this game and its spiritual descendants influenced generations of game developers.
13. Pole Position
To this day, there are plenty of successful racing games. And it’s always fun to play in immaculate recreations of real race tracks and real racecars on a slick console or gaming PC.
But we might never have had such a genre without Pole Position. This was the first racing game based on an actual racing circuit, and it dominated arcades for over a decade. We would later get better racing games and racing-inspired games (looking at you, Crazy Taxi), but Pole Position provided the initial template.
Sometimes, games are largely forgotten by players because later titles perfected the formula. And that is the case with the 1976 game Breakout.
This was the original game about bouncing a ball into colorful blocks at the top of the screen. It was a major innovation compared to simpler games like Pong, but the “breakout” success of Arkanoid years later meant that many forgot the industry impact of the original game.
While there has been an attempt to make a comeback, Tamagotchi is mostly remembered now as a vintage novelty. That is when they are even remembered at all.
But it’s worth remembering that Tamagotchi had a profound effect on the gaming industry. The idea of taking care of virtual pets would influence later games such as Nintendogs and Seaman. Additionally, Tamagotchi predated mobile games and the endless philosophical debates about what should or shouldn’t “count” as a game.
Regardless of how you feel about Tamagotchi or mobile games in general, it’s fair to say these portable pets were a gateway drug to video games for countless players.