What do you think are the Most Important Games™?


Been doing a lot of thinking lately on this, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts. I’m talking the biggest, most impactful games, not just industry shifting but society shifting. I believe there’s only a handful:

Super Mario Bros. The game that brought games from a fad that had died off to a tried and true medium still around today.

Doom. Wolfenstein was obviously earlier in the creation of the FPS, but the phrase “Doom clone” didn’t come from the Nazi Blaster. Doom popularized a genre that is still one of the biggest culturally today.

Super Mario 64. The 3D platformer exists today because of this game. Exploration, polygons, hub worlds - all stem from here.

Grand Theft Auto 3. Again, not the first to employ the concept, but seen as the real first game to birth the sandbox, open world, make-your-own-fun game.

World of Warcraft. The quintessential MMO. The fantasy epic you played with your friends over the internet. Again, not the first of it’s genre, but arguably the biggest.

Minecraft. The game that signaled a transition from destruction to creation, of old guard to new, of a new generation that used the tools available to stretch their creativity.

Candy Crush Saga. Mobile gaming, imo, is one of the most significant milestones in moving gaming from “a kids/teens thing” to an “everyone” thing. While Angry birds came along first, Candy Crush ended up on just about everyone’s phone at some point.

Others I’ve thought almost deserve spots here are Farmville (facebook), Pokemon GO (AR), PUBG/Fortnite (battle royale, but probably too early to tell impact). What games do you think belong on this list? That have changed the landscape of gaming forever?

Bonus Question: What will be the next game to change everything? For a while it was believed that VR would have a killer app to fit this bill, but that hasn’t happened (yet, at least.)

For me, I believe the next big blowout is going to be AI. A game thats NPC’s truly react to you, that are more than just graphics and code. Games have feigned toward this, but only through clever design and thinking out all possible outcomes (Undertale comes to mind here.) While that’s great and a step forward, I’m talking true AI that learns from you and builds its own routine, having its own agency within the confines of the game - AI that is ultimately unpredictable, even for its creator.


Fairly different but still relevant thread: What Will The Academic Canon of Games Be Like?

I think something like this first comes down to how one defines important—it seems like most of the games on your list are games that codified certain mechanical genres, whereas I’d probably lean toward games that pioneered certain aesthetics or narrative devices? Shadow of the Colossus immediately comes to mind (minimalism, pacing, atmosphere) along with Half-Life (which kind of invented environmental storytelling, at least on the scale it’s come to be used on) and The Legend of Zelda (saving as a device, exploration).

I also think Undertale belongs on this list, because though it is the result of a lot of clever design and thinking out all possible outcomes, it exemplifies, at least for the moment, the incorporation of player choice and a branching path story into gameplay. Most of branching games are effectively choose-your-own-adventure stories (which I love, and which is cool, not saying that in a perjorative way), in that they give an equivalent of a couple of doors to pass through and tell the player to choose. Undertale’s doors require different levels of involvement and difficulty and thus stop being doors; rather they start to mimic how we actually make choices in real life.


Metal Gear Solid 2 I actually came here to say Metal Gear Solid, but the sequel was in so many ways unlike anything else at the time, and even now you still see threads and videos pop up about the gameplay and narrative. It’s famously polarizing when it comes to fans of the series, but it still seems pretty significant either way.

Deus Ex It’s hard to say anything that hasn’t already been said about it, but it seems just as influential now as it was back in 2000.


Dark Souls. I don’t have time to make a case for why but I wanted to be the first to say it. Also I’m not sure I want to give an argument for it given the Transphobia issues but again I don’t have time right now to get into that and someone with a more personal stake in it would be better at that anyways


just as in that previous thread someone linked, this is doomed to become americans of a certain age universalizing their preferences (and the preferences of the older game industry writers and insiders they enjoy) with a really thin justification.

arguably the most “influential” games of all time in terms of being the most cross-referenced in other media are tetris, space invaders and pac-man. you’ll note that of these 3, 2 don’t even scratch any bestseller list current for 2018. “importance” is not a category that’s meaningful in some transcendent sense, outside of a social and historical context.


Judging by how many modern indie games are 2D platformers and dungeon crawlers with an old-school Nintendo style, the original Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda were clearly massive childhood influences on the current crop of 30-something year old game developers.

In modern times, the currently relevant games most likely to have huge impacts on future video games are Minecraft and PUBG. We’ve already seen crafting systems become an integral part of video games across a range of genres since the release of Minecraft, whereas PUBG looks like it will be a new standard for shooters from now on.


if we’re talking “society shifting” I would make the case for something like freecell or minesweeper being responsible for millions if not billions of lost work hours due to their ubiquity on prior versions of windows.


MYST and The Sims are both worth including. Both of them were the best-selling PC games of all time upon release. Both found wide audiences outside of typical “gamers”. Both inspired a long line of sequels. Both genres are still somewhat stigmatized.


As someone who has never played a MOBA, League of Legends should be on this list. It’s one of the most played games ever, and is the big dog as far as MOBAs go (as far as I understand). That’s not mentioning the importance of LoL in creating the modern eSports scene.

P.S. GTA V is purportedly the best-selling piece of media ever. That would make it fairly important even outside of video games.


Fair points, but I don’t think the OP was asking people to come up with an unquestionable or “transcendent” canon of games…they even stated they were just looking for others thoughts on what games might go on this sort of list. And in my experience, these forums are populated by plenty of folks of varying age and geographic location, so I’m not sure it’s fair to boil it down to “Americans of a certain age.”

Personally, I’m genuinely interested to see what others think about this. I don’t think it hurts to talk about it, although I’m glad you brought this into the discussion as well.

I’m still working through in my mind what I think could potentially belong on this list.


I feel like Final Fantasy VII was a big one to get a lot of people into JRPGs. It’s the first one I can remember that all of my friends played.


While I understand the tendency for folks like us on forums to discuss the video game cannon, I often worry about whether it contributes to the already rampant gatekeeping culture in modern games discourse. Just the capitalizing of “Most Important Games” feels like we are telling younger people and people coming into games late that they need to do all this homework to contribute to discussions in the present. I mean, Super Mario Bros was a formative game for myself and a great many others, but what value can a 5 year old take from it that New Super Mario Bros doesn’t provide?

It feels a bit like when I was growing up and people would tell me to listen to The Beatles or Prince when in fact the stuff that really spoke to me were contemporary artists like Kanye West and Rage Against the Machine. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t preserve the older stuff and understand the evolution of an art form, but the hagiography of the old at the expense of the new feels stifling.

Anyway, sorry about derailing the thread. I don’t want to ascribe bad intentions to the OP or people in the thread, I just wanted to note where I’ve seen these discussions go in the past, and hopefully how to avoid it here. BTW StarCraft invented modern esports so it’s gotta be a MIG. :slight_smile:


This is the kind of thing that we can’t really determine, because the history is too recent, but I think there are a few that seem pretty likely to be included.

Space Invaders, Donkey Kong (practically invented the jump button), Pong (games can go home with you!), Doom (codified a genre), and Myst are pretty easy to point out as critical points in the history of vidcons. The ‘canon’ is not just “popular” games but games that drive their entire medium to progress.


I think the temptation mostly comes from the relative youth of the medium and the relatively small pool to select from. I can think about important, influential moments in gaming history because by and large I’ve been alive and around to see most of them from a mainstream perspective. They also came about in a (relatively) global world.

It’s laughable to try and come up with “Most Important Books” because come on now. There are over 100,000,000 books out there, there are probably more books that have been lost to time forever then there are videogames at all. You can begin to narrow down lists of importance by restricting them to movements, time periods, regions, etc. but trying to come up with a definitive list that applies to everyone is just a fool’s errand.


I feel like Breath of the Wild deserves a spot here. Despite its problems, like the transphobia, BOTW is a truly open-world game and I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing its impact sooner rather than later. LOZ has a habit of being genre-defining and I don’t think BOTW is any different.


Sim City. Defined a genre and the idea that games could be be toyboxes, where the goals are defined by the player, not the designer. SimCity is still talked about in academia and in political circles, and when you see an article in general circulation that is about gaming, before Minecraft there was an excellent chance that it was about one of the SimX games. Definitely an important game, if eclipsed by Minecraft in contemporary culture.




Tetris and Bejeweled. Tetris is self-explanatory; without Bejeweled, there would be no Candy Crush.


Katamari Damacy is the only important game.


Princess Maker 2

The weird story over that game’s unpublished translation (the new one on Steam is god awful machine translated trash and looks god awful alongside the old graphics thanks to bad font choices) resulted in a a lot of bizarre western experiments in the days of flash gaming, and arguably helped create an entire western VN subgenre. Of course, the series as a whole has more impact in Japan, inspiring a lot of similar raising sims.