Over the years the gaming industry has seen many titles that set new standards for the developers to follow. Whether through innovative gameplay mechanics, groundbreaking storytelling or other features, these titles flipped the paradigm on how the games should be made.

Games like Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider or The Sims have written themselves with golden letters into the gaming history. In our list, we will present these and other important titles, which not only received critical acclaim and became highly popular with the fans, but also changed the gaming industry landscape in one way or another.

Most Influential Video Games

Super Mario Bros.

Release year:1985
Genre:platform game
Developer/Publisher:Nintendo

When the first installment of Super Mario Bros. debuted in 1985, no-on could’ve suspected the massive success it’s going to become.

Super Mario Bros 1985

Years later, we can see how much the adventures of a friendly plumber saving a princess from the hands of a monstrous lizard have influenced the gaming industry and became a pop-cultural phenomenon.

The game’s that more or less directly copied Mario’s style and mechanics, couldn’t be counted on the palms of two hands, and the series as a whole kept flourishing as well, developing in many different directions. It’s the newest installment – Super Mario Maker 2 – allows the player to create their levels and challenge their friends in the same way Shigeru Miyamoto challenged us more than 30 years ago.

Key features
  • Colorful graphics
  • Easy-to-learn gameplay mechanics
  • A variety of power-up to overcome any challenge

Doom

Release year:1993
Genre:first-person shooter
Developer/Publisher:id Software

Doom brings up fond memories in many gamers, who spend nights fighting through endless corridors of Martian ruins, eliminating monstrous creatures with a whole arsenal of weapons, including the iconic shotgun.

DOOM 1993

The game has become an instant classic, and inspired a variety of first-person shooters including System Shock, Quake series and Duke Nukem. After a meager success of the sequels and spending more than a decade in hibernation, “the father of all FPS” has returned stronger than ever.

2016’s Doom received a positive reception from fans and critics, and the upcoming Doom Eternal might prove to be an even better game.

Key features
  • A series that spawned the first-person shooter genre
  • Iconic setting of a Martian colony overrun by demons from Hell
  • Legendary weapons, such as the classic shotgun and the BFG

Legend of Zelda

Release year:1986
Genre:action-adventure
Developer/Publisher:Nintendo

Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series is proof that when you have one system selling franchise, nothing’s stopping you from having another one.

legend of zelda 1986

Link’s adventures in Hyrule have become another classic Nintendo game, with a host of dedicated fans and decades-spanning series of continuations. The game’s simplicity combined with a well-written story and a fantasy setting, inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s childhood adventures, were the main factors that lead to its success. After three decades,

Link’s quest to free Hyrule from Ganondorf’s influence continues in critically acclaimed Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – a game that allows the player to fully explore Hyrule for the first time in the series history. 

Key features
  • A legendary title argued to have invented the open-world game mechanics
  • Follow Link on his quest to free Hyrule from evil wizard Ganondorf
  • Explore the catalog of LoZ titles spanning three decades of games

Metal Gear Solid

Release year:1987
Genre:action-adventure, stealth
Developer/Publisher:Konami

While MGS is not the first game in the Metal Gear series, it is quite possibly the most memorable. It is also the game that introduced the mechanics that follow the series to this day – a stealth-focused action-adventure with a dose of shooting.

metal gear solid 1987

Metal Gear Solid is the opus magnum of Hideo Kojima, who went through hell and back to keep the series as close to his vision as possible.

This resulted in a series that established the stealth games genre and gave the gaming world one of its most recognizable heroes – Solid Snake. The most recent installment Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain, was released in 2015 to “solid” reviews.There’s no denying that Metal Gear series is one of the most revolutionary games in history.

Key features
  • Innovative stealth gameplay mechanics
  • Fascinating thriller/political fiction story
  • Solid Snake – one of the most popular video game heroes of all time

Mortal Kombat

Release year:1992
Genre:fighting game
Developer/Publisher:Midway

MORTAL KOMBAT! Admit it, you’ve read it in the voice from the track, didn’t you? That is one of the reasons the series has become an icon of the fighting genre.

mortal kombat 1992

Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, Mortal Kombat broke ground in many ways, including the ludicrous amount of gore, which made more conservative parents write a lot of angry petitions. What should we thank Mortal Kombat for?

Maybe for proving that fighting games can have an overarching plot? Or for gracing our screens with ionic characters, like Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Liu Kang? Or maybe for the not-too-bad action movie with an awesome soundtrack? No matter how you look at it, Mortal Kombat is a legendary title, with each released title being better than the last. Except for Shaolin Monks, we don’t talk about them here.  

Key features
  • An overarching storyline of an interdimensional conflict
  • A roster of iconic characters
  • Fatalities – a trademark of the series – showering the screen with blood and guts

Tomb Raider

Release year:1996
Genre:action-adventure
Developer/Publisher:Core Design, Eidos Interactive

No list of the most influential games could do without mentioning the First Lady of Gaming.

tomb-raider 1996

Lara Croft entered the landscape dominated by the ultra-masculine characters like Duke Nukem, and knocked them out cold taking her rightful spot as THE heroine of action-adventure games.

Lara became an overnight sensation, an instant icon and the love of millions of players around the globe. Her glob trotting adventures took her from one end of the world to another, from scorching Egyptian deserts to tropical jungles and frozen Arctic wastes. Throughout her reign, Lara underwent several makeovers, with the most recent one being 2013’s Tomb Raider trilogy. In it, the player could experience Lara’s first steps as an archaeologist whom we all know and adore.

Key features
  • Excellent gameplay mechanics, that influenced action-adventure genre for years to follow
  • The iconic main character – Lara Croft won the hearts of the players across the globe
  • World-spanning adventure in search of mystic artifacts

Resident Evil

Release year:1996
Genre:survival horror
Developer/Publisher:Capcom

Resident Evil is one of that games that no one can imagine not existing.

resident evil 1996

Can you believe that a series about a viral outbreak turning people into zombies could simply not exist? Well, of course not!

Capcom’s series remains one of the first titles that took its subject seriously, building up the gameplay mechanics with a decent story. As Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, the player had to clear the corridor after corridor of undead and mutated monsters, minding the dwindling ammo count. Resident Evil gave birth to a flourishing series and several remakes, with upcoming Resident Evil 2 said to be the culmination of the developer’s ambitions.

Key features
  • The series credited with popularizing the survival horror genre
  • Survive the night in a mansion overrun by zombies and mutants
  • Count every shot as ammunition is hard to find and threat lurks around every corner

The Sims 4

Release year:2014
Genre:simulation
Developer/Publisher:Maxis

The Sims series let the player play God in the best and at the same time worst meaning of the phrase.

Building a house, populating it with a family and observing their day to day activities is a fun thing to do.

sims 4 2014

However, things stop being so fun when a fire caused by a sim with poor cooking skills burns the place to the ground and kills everyone. That is just one of the scenarios that can occur in the game and one of the reasons for the series’ popularity. The latest installment – The Sims 4 – doubles down on the possibilities, with a variety of professional/personal pursuits and a multitude of expansions, letting the player’s sims, and to an extent the player themselves, to experience the life outside the confines of their home.

Key features
  • A variety of creative tools to make the perfect sim family
  • Professional and personal development through many available pursuits
  • A whole lot of expansions taking the player’s sims to the college, to a tropical island, on a night out in the city, etc.

Grand Theft Auto V

Release year:2013
Genre:action-adventure, open-world sandbox
Developer/Publisher:Rockstar North, Rockstar Games

The series that put the “open” in the open-world genre.

Grand Theft Auto combines the action-adventure mechanics, with world exploration, completing story missions and side quests and participating in a variety of activities and encounters.

gta 5 2013

In the newest installment, GTA V, the player can roam the city of Los Santos and neighboring Blaine County, filled to the brim with content. Nothing stops you from visiting a gas station and robbing the clerk, engaging in a police chase across the city streets and making a daring escape in a stolen plane. What’s more, thanks to GTA Online, the player can do it all with their friends.  

Key features
  • A huge open-world sandbox, filled with hours of missions and activities
  • Three-playable characters with different personalities and skills
  • GTA Online module, allowing the player to enjoy the game with their friends online

World of Warcraft

Release year:2004
Genre:MMORPG
Developer/Publisher:Blizzard Entertainment

World of Warcraft is the crowning achievement of Blizzard’s monopoly of the MMORPG genre.

The game has practically become synonymous with the genre, and for a good reason, too. At this moment, WoW is one of the best open-world, online hack‘n’slash titles available on the market, with an ever-growing player base and stellar reviews to vouch for it.

world of warcraft 2004

World of Warcraft was one of the biggest games of the 2000s, and years laters it is quite clear that it is also one of the most influential video games of all time, by the sheer virtue of its impact on the MMORPG genre.

Key features
  • Quintessential MMORPG experience
  • A variety of races and player classes to choose from
  • Robust lore set in the world of Azeroth

Street Fighter

Release year:1987
Genre:fighting
Developer/Publisher:Capcom

Street Fighter brought the arcade fighting gameplay under the player’s roofs with its technical mechanics relying on using both the buttons and sticks of the gamepad to perform gravity-defying combos.

street fighter 1987

Thanks to a roster of unique and characteristic fighters, including Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile, Sagat and M.Bison among others, the game gained popularity with fans who spent countless hours, as well as quarters in the arcade days, mastering the correct combination to perform a perfect Hadouken.

Key features
  • Complex fighting mechanics
  • Character roster full of unique personalities
  • An intriguing story told from the perspective of many fighters

Civilization

Release year:1991
Genre:turn-based strategy
Developer/Publisher:MicroProse

Civilization has a lot to offer for those who have a lot of time on their hands.

With the gameplay spanning entire centuries and many roads leading to victory, the player could spend months building their civilization and leading it against other nations in an age-old struggle for power over the world.

civilization 1 1991

The series is considered one of the great grand strategy games, and owns its success and legacy to expansive gameplay mechanics, letting the player experience the ups and downs of a leader.

Key features
  • A variety of selectable nations
  • Gameplay covering centuries of civilizational growth on the road to global domination
  • Turn-based strategy gameplay, based on various mechanics leading the player to victory

Diablo

Release year:1996
Genre:adventure, hack’n’slash
Developer/Publisher:Blizzard Entertainment

What World of Warcraft has done for MMORPGs, Diablo did first to the hack’n’slash genre. The world of Sanctuary welcomed the players with open arms, offering them gameplay combining action and RPG elements.

diablo 1996

The player could create their character, choosing from various available races and classes and send them against the monsters plaguing the Sanctuary, gaining new equipment and skills in the process.

The game was met with crucial acclaim and paved the way for three sequels, many more expansions, as well as other games, inspired by its success.

Key features
  • A combination of action-adventure and RPG mechanics
  • An open world of The Sanctuary, filled with monsters to slay and treasures to loot
  • The story of an epic battle with Diablo – a monstrous Lord of Hell, whose plans threaten the Sanctuary’s existence

Tekken

Release year:1994
Genre:fighting
Developer/Publisher:Namco

The first Tekken was a revelation – a fighting game that took fighting seriously, trying to faithfully represent various martial arts from all over the world.

Tekken 1995 PS1

The mechanics were also innovative – relying on the juggling system, which allowed the player to shower their opponent with a barrage of kicks and punches.  Throughout the years, the series expanded adding new mechanics and characters, but its core remained the same.

Now, Tekken is one of the most popular fighting series in the world, with active online player base counting in millions, and tournaments gathering a massive number of viewers.

Key features
  • A large roster of characters representing a variety of martial arts styles
  • A unique for its time gameplay mechanics
  • Thriving online scene

Superhot

Release year:2016
Genre:first-person shooter
Developer/Publisher:Superhot Team

Superhot was a sort of an odd beast when it came out.

superhot 2016

A game that defied expectations and easy labels, it managed to become one of the best-selling titles of 2016. What drew the players in? Perhaps the novelty of gameplay, which combined FPS and time-shifting mechanics. Or maybe minimalistic presentation, with pristine surroundings and simplistic character design.

One thing is certain – Superhot turned out to be a huge indie hit, and a good example to follow when it comes to game design.

Key features
  • Minimalistic level design
  • Gameplay based around time shifting
  • VR support

Minecraft

Release year:2011
Genre:RPG, sandbox, adventure
Developer/Publisher:Mojang

Much has been said about Minecraft – a sandbox game that combines the elements of action-adventure, RPG and survival horror.

minecraft 2011

How a title where everything is made of square blocks managed to become one of the best titles of the current generation will be a mystery for future generations to solve.

The undeniable truth is that Minecraft flipped the switch on the gaming industry scene, giving the player a game that seemed to be a bit of everything but never nothing at all.

Key features
  • Open-world sandbox environment
  • Various gameplay modes
  • Endless creative possibilities

Half-Life

Release year:1998
Genre:first-person shooter
Developer/Publisher:Valve, Sierra Studios

Half-Life changed a lot in terms of how players view first-person shooter games.

half life 1998

Instead of being a “shooting gallery”, the game introduced puzzles, which required the player to think before acting. Moreover, H-L didn’t include cutscenes, instead of relying on scripted events to push the plot forward. That way the player remained in control throughout the entire game.

Both this game and its sequel were a great success and shot Valve into the developers’ top players. With the VR-oriented Half-Life: Alyx around the corner, it’s good to remind how many of the current FPS mechanics do we owe to Gabe Newell’s opus.

Key features
  • FPS gameplay combined with puzzle segments
  • Use of scripted moments instead of cutscenes put the player in control at all times
  • An expansive narrative of am alien invasion on Earth

Overwatch

Release year:2016
Genre:first-person shooter
Developer/Publisher:Blizzard Entertainment

Another multimedia success for Blizzard – Overwatch – is perhaps one of the most lore-oriented arena shooters in recent history.

overwatch 2016

While most of the storytelling occurs in the supplementary materials, like comic books and animated shorts, the gameplay itself is pretty straightforward. Well, except the player can use superpowers, too.

Overwatch became an overnight sensation – with critical acclaim, fan adoration and an e-sports league of its own. Like many popular titles, it spawned a slew of copycats, including one of the most popular free-to-play games– Fortnite.

Key features
  • Gameplay mechanics based around various character classes and their unique skills
  • Expansive lore of the Overwatch world, filled with superheroes and villains
  • Cyclical expansions adding new characters and improving gameplay features

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Release year:2012
Genre:online first-person shooter
Developer/Publisher:Valve

A crash course in building success from scratch, Counter-Strike: GO was born as a mode for Half-Life and went through a lot of trials and tribulations to reach the status it holds now.

cs go 2012

The game owes its success to simplicity – the gameplay mechanics are as uncomplicated as they get, pitting two teams of players against each other in a variety of matches. Another feature that keeps the players glued to the screens for hours is the ever-enticing elitism – by winning matches, they move up through the ranks, gaining access to better equipment and gaining respect and jealous looks of other players.

Thanks to that, CS: GO has made a name for itself on the e-sports arena and its tournaments are one of the most widely broadcasted events in the industry.

Key features
  • “Easy to learn, hard to master” gameplay mechanics
  • Robust multiplayer arena with dedicated e-sports tournaments