Since the digital age began, video games have evolved from simple pixelated distractions to complex interactive works of art. Throughout this journey, certain titles have set milestones, redefining expectations and changing the course of the industry as a whole.
The impact of video games on contemporary culture is undeniable . Since their birth in the 20th century as a form of fringe entertainment, video games have grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry that competes with other media such as film and television. But beyond their commercial value, some titles have transcended their own time and space to become cultural and technological icons. These games have not only redefined the boundaries of the medium, but have also influenced how we understand narrative, interaction, and technology itself.
Influential video games are those that have changed the trajectory of the industry in some way, whether through technological, narrative, or design innovations. These games have set new standards and served as role models for future generations of developers and gamers . Some have introduced completely new game mechanics, while others have refined and popularized existing genres. Some have opened new avenues for artistic expression and storytelling, while others have served as platforms for social interaction and community building.
In this article, we will explore five video games that have had a significant impact on the industry and culture at large . Each of these titles has uniquely contributed to the evolution of the medium, and their influence can be felt in a wide range of aspects, from game design and mechanics to their cultural and social impact. These are the games that have left an indelible mark on the world of video games and continue to be relevant today.
- Pong (1972)
Pong, released in 1972 by Atari, is considered one of the first commercial video games and marked the beginning of the video game industry as we know it today. Its simplicity and accessibility made it a cultural phenomenon that transcended the barriers of age and gaming experience.
At a time when computers were primarily tools for work and calculation, Pong introduced the idea that computers could also be a source of entertainment. It was one of the first games to use dedicated hardware and was initially distributed as an arcade machine before transitioning to home consoles.
Innovation and legacy
Although Pong’s concept is simple, its importance lies in how it democratized access to video games. Before Pong, video games were largely a technical niche, accessible only to those with programming knowledge and access to specialized hardware. Pong changed this by offering a gaming experience that anyone could understand and enjoy.
The game also laid the foundation for on-screen interaction using physical controls, a concept that has remained constant in the video game industry. On the other hand, its commercial success demonstrated that there was a viable market for video games, which encouraged investment and development in this new medium.
Not only was Pong a milestone in video game history, it also became a cultural icon of the 1970s. Its popularity helped demystify computer technology for the general public and opened the door to a new way interactive entertainment that has evolved into the complex industry we know today.
- Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Super Mario Bros., released in 1985 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), revolutionized the platform genre and established Nintendo as a key player in the video game industry. The title introduced mechanics and level designs that have become standards of the genre.
In the 1980s, the video game industry was in a recovery phase following the market collapse in 1983. Nintendo, a Japanese company with a long history in the entertainment industry, saw an opportunity to revitalize the market with a new console. and a strong title to accompany it. Super Mario Bros. was that title.
Innovation and legacy
Super Mario Bros. introduced several innovations that have become standards in platform game design. These include the use of multiple “worlds” with different levels, the ability to gain extra lives, and power-ups such as the Super Mushroom and the Fire Flower. Additionally, the game featured meticulous level design that balanced difficulty and reward, making it accessible to new players but challenging to more experienced players.
The game also marked Mario’s first appearance as a defined character, kicking off one of the most successful and recognizable franchises in video game history. The game’s music, composed by Koji Kondo, has also left an indelible mark, being one of the most iconic soundtracks in the industry.
Super Mario Bros. was not only a commercial success, but also became a cultural phenomenon. The character of Mario has transcended the world of video games to become a cultural icon recognizable around the world. The game has also been the subject of numerous academic studies and analyses, and has inspired a wide range of merchandise, from toys to clothing to films.
- Tetris (1984)
Tetris , created in 1984 by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov, is one of the best-selling and most recognized video games of all time. Its simple but addictive mechanics and cultural impact make it an influential title that has transcended the barriers of language, culture and technology.
Originally developed in the Soviet Union, Tetris came to the Western market at a time when the Cold War was at its peak. The game became a global phenomenon, breaking the political and cultural barriers of the time. It was one of the first games to receive truly global distribution, reaching multiple platforms and operating systems.
Innovation and legacy
Tetris introduced the concept of an “action puzzle” , where players must think and act quickly to fit blocks of different shapes into a limited space. The game’s mechanics are simple to understand but difficult to master, which has contributed to its longevity and popularity. Additionally, the game has been adapted and ported to virtually all existing gaming platforms, from consoles and computers to mobile devices and calculators.
The game has also had a significant impact on research in areas such as psychology and neuroscience, where it has been used to study topics such as decision making, problem solving, and spatial memory.
Tetris has inspired works in a wide range of sectors, from music and art to fashion and interior design, and has also been the subject of numerous documentaries and books exploring its origins and impact on global culture.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64, The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time is considered one of the best video games of all time. This 3D adventure title set new standards for game design, narrative and interaction, and its influence is felt in numerous titles that followed.
In the 1990s, the video game industry was transitioning to 3D graphics. Ocarina of Time arrived at a crucial time, demonstrating how gameplay mechanics and narrative could adapt and thrive in this new three-dimensional environment.
Innovation and legacy
Ocarina of Time introduced several innovations that have become industry standards. These included the “Z-targeting” system, which allowed players to focus the camera and attacks on a specific enemy, something that significantly improved 3D gameplay. It also pioneered the use of open, non-linear worlds, allowing players to explore at their own pace and make decisions that affected the outcome of the story.
The game is also notable for its epic narrative and level design, which includes a variety of puzzles and challenges that require the player to use different skills and items to advance. The music, composed by Koji Kondo, is another of the game’s most notable features, with themes that have become as iconic as the game itself.
Ocarina of Time also left a lasting mark on popular culture. The game has been the subject of numerous analyzes and debates, and has inspired a wide range of content, from fan art and fan fiction to academic studies of its narrative and design.
- Street Fighter II (1991)
- Street Fighter II , released in 1991 by Capcom, is often cited as the game that popularized the fighting genre in video games. Its impact on the industry and video game culture is unquestionable, establishing mechanics and standards that have influenced countless subsequent titles.
In the early ’90s, the fighting genre in video games was relatively new and had not yet established itself as a mainstay of the industry. Street Fighter II arrived at a time when arcade games were booming, but lacked the complexity and depth that Capcom’s title introduced.
Innovation and legacy
Street Fighter II introduced several mechanics that have become standards in the fighting genre, including a diverse cast of characters with unique moves and abilities, and a combo system that allowed players to perform sequences of attacks. He also pioneered the incorporation of special moves and finishers, which added an additional layer of strategy and spectacle to fights.
The game is also notable for its impact on the gaming community. It was one of the first titles to encourage competition at a professional level, giving rise to tournaments and an esports scene that is still active today.
The success of Street Fighter II transcended the arcades. The game’s characters, such as Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li, have become recognizable icons beyond the world of video games. The game has also influenced other media, including films, television series and comics.
If we ask ChatGPT to make a longer list, it includes Doom (1993), World of Warcraft (2004), Minecraft (2011), Grand Theft Auto III (2001), Pokémon Red Version and Pokémon Blue Version (1996), all of them key to understanding an industry that moves millions of euros around the world.