Best. games. ever?

OK, maybe not the best games, but the most important games. A panel of game industry luminaries has put together a list of the ten most important games of all time. The games are:

Spacewar! (1962), Star Raiders (1979), Zork (1980), Tetris (1985), SimCity (1989), Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990), Civilization I/II (1991), Doom (1993), Warcraft series (beginning 1994) and Sensible World of Soccer (1994).

Seems like a pretty reasonable list–it’s interesting to try and identify games that were really important in advancing new gameplay ideas, as opposed to just ranking them based on popularity or nostalgia. (Although obviously most of the important games also happened to be popular ones.)

I see two possible holes in the list, however. One is that there really isn’t a full-blown computer RPG represented on the list–you could say that RPGs grew out of the adventure genre, but the computer RPG genre of the mid-80s and later really evolved into something unique. I’d nominate Ultima IV for the list–not only was it an enormously important RPG, but it was also one of the first games to successfully incorporate a coherent moral worldview into gameplay.

Secondly, and more debatably, I wonder if there shouldn’t be a graphic adventure game on that list somewhere. Granted, they evolved out of text adventures as did RPGs, but their use of graphics to enhance otherwise typical adventure gameplay had a big impact on later games and genres. I’d probably nominate King’s Quest I for that honor.

(But then, I guess nobody really asked me, did they?)


  1. jeffro said,

    March 15, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Likewise, I think the 1989 Populous should be on the list. The “God Game” would later become the basis for the real-time-strategy genre that includes games like Starcraft. Maybe Sim City took that spot? Never played that one….

    Zork seems to have taken the spot for King’s Quest, Colossal Caves Adventure, Rogue and Ultima. Hrm.

    They score mucho points for remembering Star Raiders. Archon, Ball Blazer, Rescue on Fractalus, Miner 2049er, and M.U.L.E. were also good Atari 8-bit games, but I can take Star Raiders being the best.

  2. Andy said,

    March 15, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Jeffro: good call on Populous! I’d almost forgotten about that one, but it sure was before its time.

    I never played Star Raiders, but I absolutely loved Archon. My grade school had it installed on some of their Atari ][e’s, and I wasted many a recess battling it out…

    One other type of game that is not represented in the list, it’s occurred to me, is the flight simulator genre. Perhaps because flight sims existed before the days of personal computing, the panel didn’t think the genre merited mention. But while flight sims aren’t the hottest genre around at the moment, they’ve been a pretty major aspect of computer gaming in the past.

  3. jeffro said,

    March 22, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Oh yeah, Flight Sims were a big deal in the 80’s. The older guys in the Atari club really got into them… flying under bridges, etc. Interest in those seemed to taper off after the Mac/Amiga/ST heyday.

    Their definition of “important “is apparently heavily impacted by popularity:

    Wolfenstein 3D came before Doom… but Doom was important. I think Zork’s position is influenced by the fact that almost everyone played it. It was about the only game that the first generation home computer owners could run…. And you had to have access to a mainframe to play Colossal Caves at the time. The market was saturated with Adventure type games by the time King’s Quest came out– in spite of its advances, it just couldn’t make the same kind of waves that Zork did.

    (That platinum bar makes me so mad mad mad mad…. My gut instinct on the solution was correct, but it stymied me for 20 years because of a syntax issue. Grrr….)

  4. Andy said,

    March 26, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Interesting link, Jeff!

    Dare I ask–what was the platinum bar/syntax issue you ran into? I loved Zork dearly in its day, but have only vague memories of the specifics now.

    I do remember being driven near insane with frustration at points, especially in Zork III–what sadist conceived of the labyrinth where you had to rearrange the walls to find the way out?!?

  5. jeffro said,

    March 27, 2007 at 7:46 am

    spoiler space

    spoiler space

    spoiler space

    I would type, SAY ECHO… and the parser would respond SAY SAY SAY SAY…. I just had no idea that my character would really utter a word if I just typed it….

    The solution of course was to just type ECHO. But that somehow managed to mock the command system in my mind. It makes sense, I guess. But after being frustrated for years and then find out that I was _that_ close to solving the stupid puzzle…. Grrr…. I just feel like they forced me to break the rules.

    Another one was the sceptre/wand part. Not having played Colossal Caves I had no idea how that would work– I didn’t even know there was a puzzle to solve. The Jade Skull puzzle was just plain obnoxious. I don’t see how people would think to do that stuff.

    As a child, though, I didn’t really play these things to win. I was entraced by the model world… and just doing things in Zork III was cool.

  6. March 30, 2007 at 3:08 am

    […] How About an RPG like Ultima IV? by […]

  7. Mike said,

    July 26, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Surely Dune 2 was the precursor of many, if not all, RTS games such as the Warcraft Orcs & Humans, etc games?

    Dungeon Master and Return to Chaos were pretty early RPG games with a huge following. Maybe they don’t rank within the top ten games of all time, but they were trend setters.

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