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The 'roguelike' is a fairly old genre in gaming. And if we’re being honest, it’s a genre that was getting fairly stale.
And then Hades came along and improved on this genre in basically every way. The game sports a memorable hero, an amazing cast of characters, and an inventive story that effortlessly weaves together Greek mythology.
Best of all, the game added a mechanic where you can improve your stats and weapons after every death. Just like that, roguelike death stopped being frustrating and started being a new way to level up.
2. Street Fighter II
Fighting games never really stopped being popular, and modern gamers have more fighters than ever before. But we might not have much at all without Street Fighter II.
Street Fighter II created the perfect synthesis of awesome character design, beautiful backgrounds, and engrossing stories behind every character. Furthermore, each iteration of the game helped balance gameplay and showed the world how complex and rewarding a fighter could be.
3. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII obviously isn’t the first game in the franchise, nor is it the best. But it helped make a special kind of gaming history.
Basically, this title signified the franchise jumping to CD-based game systems. Just like that, epic soundtracks and wild cutscenes became a standard aspect of RPG design. All you have to do is play a modern RPG to feel the influence of FF7.
4. Grand Theft Auto 3
Nowadays, we take open-world gameplay for granted. And it’s easy to forget that Grand Theft Auto 3 basically gave us the blueprint for the genre.
Sure, it may not look or play as slick as some of its sequels. But this game combined a fun narrative and hilarious voice work with an open-world design where you could have fun all day without even taking on a single mission.
In a world without GTA3, many of your favorite titles simply wouldn’t exist at all!
5. Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid probably shouldn’t have turned out as awesome as it did. After all, Hideo Kojima threw all of his craziest ideas into a blender with this game and then added a bevy of long cutscenes and inscrutable characters.
Somehow, it worked. Gamers loved the stealth-action gameplay that combined video game design and Hollywood action movie design. And while creating a brand new genre, this game also introduced Solid Snake, cardboard boxes, and that damned alert noise into our popular culture.
6. Super Mario 64
Super Mario Bros. 3 was the apex of 2D platforming. Perhaps it is only fitting, then, that Super Mario 64 helped define 3D platforming.
Before this game, there was no set design formula for 3D platformers. In addition to providing a colorful and addictive game, Nintendo’s N64 launch title laid important groundwork for every 3D platformer that came out in the next decade.
7. Super Mario Bros. 3
When Super Mario Bros. 3 came out, Nintendo proved it wasn’t a fluke. They took the formula behind the original Super Mario Bros. and elevated it in every way. This was important because since the American Super Mario Bros. 2 was so different, players wondered if Nintendo could recreate the old magic.
And boy, did they! With a sprawling world of branching paths, magical items, and countless Koopa Kids, this title did more than giving us a great Mario game. It pretty much redefined what a 2D platformer could be.
8. Star Fox
The original Star Fox was a feat of engineering. Those graphics may look primitive now, but Star Fox looked like an early computer game running on a simple home console.
In fact, it’s fair to say that Star Fox made “console-based starfighter” into a viable genre. And it did so in a game that combined memorable characters and epic boss fights.
What if “think outside the box” was a video game? If so, it would look a lot like Portal!
This first-person game replaces traditional guns with a mind-bending portal gun and traditional levels with complex puzzles. A big part of the fun comes from breaking out of a traditional run-and-gun FPS mindset and figuring out unexpected ways to make it past the next challenge.
Come for the killer gameplay and stick around for the hilarious dialogue and characters!
10. Super Smash Bros.
Super Smash Bros. practically defies categorization. Sure, it’s a fighting game, but it doesn’t play like any other fighters that we had previously seen.
The point of this game wasn’t a fair, balanced fight between you and your opponent. Instead, it was a chaotic scramble to the top in a game overflowing with awesome IPs. Ultimately, this game started its own kind of fighting genre, and no other games have been able to live up to it after all these years.
11. Dance Dance Revolution
There were other rhythm-based games before Dance Dance Revolution. But there was nothing quite as cool as DDR either before or after its release.
The game gave players a sensory overload of thumping music and complex dance moves. While it took an effort to develop real skill with this game, it was worth it: knocking out the harder songs as a crowd builds up will instantly make you the king of the arcade.
12. Halo: Combat Evolved
“Evolved” is right there in the name of the first Halo game. And this is appropriate because the title helped to evolve both the Xbox brand as well as console-based shooters.
The game blended a killer campaign and dynamic new characters with the serious joy that comes from splitscreen multiplayer. And the multiplayer proved so popular that the Xbox Live matchmaking of Halo 2 helped to later legitimize online gaming for console players.
13. World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft was not the first MMORPG. But it’s fair to say it’s the game that put MMORPGs on the map.
The cartoony character designs, sense of humor, and easy-to-understand quests made this complex game very accessible to the masses. And while later games would arguably do a better job of creating an MMORPG, WoW remains the most influential.
14. Resident Evil 4
The original Resident Evil pioneered its own genre. Despite the awkward controls and insane voice acting, Capcom gave birth to the “survival horror genre.”
But that formula and its awkward “tank controls” were getting pretty stale as the sequels came out. That’s why Resident Evil 4 was such a breath of fresh air: it combined mechanics players enjoyed (memorable enemies and diverse weapons) with new, fast-paced action.
It didn’t just change how we play Resident Evil. It made the franchise scary again while laying the groundwork for 3rd-person action shooters.
It’s easy to see why Minecraft is one of the most popular game in the world. After all, Minecraft didn't just redefine a genre, they made their own by combining exploration, survival, and creative expression.
Now, the influence of Minecraft is everywhere. In fact, the secret sauce of Fortnite (gathering supplies and creating structures on the fly) is simply adding Minecraft mechanics to FPSs and battle royale mechanics.
For better or for worse, Minecraft will be influencing game design for generations to come!