Innovative and Influencal Games
Inspired by the thread "Are we seeing another collapse of the games industry?," and specifically the video posted @Law212 about how games aren't fun anymore, I got to thinking.
Much of that video's discussion was about the lack of innovation in triple A games today and how so much is just gimmicks and cash grabs, so I got to thinking about games through the years that have really influenced my enjoyment, style, tastes, and spending habits for the hobby. While there have been many fun games in so many different genres, I tried to think of the titles that really defined gaming for me, or that pushed things so far beyond what I'd experienced before that they became the standard for which I judged other games.
My top five would be:
1) Mortal Kombat II. Fighting games were huge, the FPS genre of their day (early 90's), and Mortal Kombat innovated with using digitized actors for its graphics. The first game however was pretty clunky, and the excessive amount of graphic violence and blood (for the time) was really the main draw. The sequel, however, added deeper, more refined gameplay, a stronger and more robust cast of characters that is regarded as one of the franchise's best, improvements in the quality of the digital actors, and expanded upon the few secrets introduced in the first game; secrets becoming a staple of the overall genre as a result. Mortal Kombat II is a game that influenced much of my late childhood and the style of games and characters I liked at the time, as well as gaming socialization and competition with my friends at arcades and on our Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems. It's also the nostalgia factor for this game that let me really enjoy the recent reboot and its sequel.
2) Doom. The grandfather of the First Person Shooter genre, Doom was fast paced, easy to access, extremely visceral and gory to the point where it was a prime reason for the creation of the modern ESRB, and was modable and had a sizable modding community for its day. It also laid the ground work for FPS Online Multiplayer, and created the term Deathmatch. Without Doom, much in gaming would not be as it is now. Such a crazy influential and innovative game, and one I still find fun to play today.
3) Super Metroid. I spent so much time with this game, it's such an exceptional platformer. A great, chilling story, complex yet easy to play gameplay, an actual save system, lots of secrets and strong replayability, as well as huge nostalgia for any fan of Metroid. This game was the poster child for exceptional platformer for me.
4) System Shock 2. I've mentioned System Shock 2 before, and this is quite possible the top most influential game of my life. Taking the disturbing horror atmosphere of Doom, giving it a different sci-fi theme and setting, and mixing in RPG elements so flawlessly, System Shock 2 was a new kind of terror and a new kind of shooter. It actually isn't an FPS, but an RPG with FPS elements/perspective. The sound mix was fantastic, the gameplay hectic, and the atmosphere filled with dread. From the respawning enemies, to the audio logs, and the paranoia of always being watched, System Shock 2 is a single player experience equaled by few other titles. Pretty much any horror shooter I've played since I've judged and compared to this game, and they typically fall short.
5) Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. In the late '90's to early 2000's, I was playing a snot tone of RTS games, and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is, to me, the pinnacle of these. It featured 3D graphics, a first for Blizzard Entertainment, and was their best looking game since Diablo. The story of the Campaign was far more cinematic building upon what they learned in Starcraft, and the gameplay; oh the gameplay! Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos simply allowed for such refined control over your units: Subgroups, Autocasting, and other interface innovations made controlling your armies so much more efficient than RTSes prior, and then there were the RPG elements. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was originally marketed as a Role Playing Strategy game, a title that didn't stick, but with the Hero units and their Leveling and Skills, items and inventory, and the Creeps (neutral enemies on maps), the Multiplayer game had a living quality to it that RTS games simply never had before (even StarCraft II lacks this feel). Combining all of this and the refinements Blizzard Entertainment learned with creating asymmetrical factions, as well as new Battle.net Classic improvements in matchmaking, Multiplayer was intense and unlike anything I'd experienced before. So much so, with "The Frozen Throne," this is the first, and only, game I've ever competed in Tournaments (Online automated ones) with. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is also the game the properly gave birth to the MOBA genre, which has been fantastically huge for the fledgling and current eSports scene.
Honourable mention goes to Halo 2 for having such variety in it's gameplay, both the variety and replayability of being able to approach situations in the Campaign so differently, granting one such varied experiences (it never got proper credit or recognition for this), and for the Multiplayer phenomenon it was able to create on the younger Online console market.
So these are the games that, overall, have had the biggest impact on my gaming life. I'd be interested to read about yours.