As Polygon’s recent fifth birthday approached, we started thinking about what we could do to celebrate it. And what’s more fun than ranking the 100 best games of all time? 500? So we did.
We started by setting rules upfront.
We asked everyone to vote based on innovation, polish and durability, rather than simply personal taste. We cut games released in 2017 to eliminate recency bias. And we left out sequels that we deemed too similar to the games that came before them.
Then we voted, but we knew we had gaps in our knowledge on staff. So in addition to gathering votes from the Polygon team, we worked with a group of external and freelance writers to pull in their input: Kahlief Adams, Susan Arendt, Katherine Cross, Jon-Paul Dyson, Benj Edwards, Cara Ellison, JC Fletcher, Jenn Frank, Harold Goldberg, Janine Hawkins, Blake Hester, Laura Hudson, Henry Lowood, Jeremy Parish, Carolyn Petit, Andrea Rene, Jaz Rignall and Gary Whitta.
Collecting all those votes together, we then combed through the data for anomalies and came up with the final order you see here, with personal choices for each voter’s favorite game sprinkled throughout as sidebars — including, as you’ll see below, a few choices that didn’t even make the overall list.
Over the course of this week, we’re posting 100 games each day. Scroll down for the first 100.
(1984, Atari 8-bit, others)
Ballblazer pushed every inch of the Atari 400 and 800 farther than anyone knew they could go. A one-on-one sports game combining elements of basketball and soccer, though it wasn’t based on a real sport per se, Ballblazer was a trailblazer in early sports sims with a realistic approach to gameplay and physics.
(1986, Arcade, others)
Arkanoid is like Breakout, but immensely better. Taking the blockbuster’s gameplay, but adding power-ups and new level layouts, Arkanoid is a true test of skill. Cloned and ported all over the place since, Arkanoid is still one of the best arcade games out there.
498. Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
(2003, Game Boy Advance, others)
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising pushed the Game Boy Advance to its limits with its strategy-game elements and long-lasting sessions. Relatively identical to the first Advance Wars in terms of gameplay, Black Hole Rising found favor from critics when playing against other players, with some saying it was one of the “meatiest handheld games out there.”
Voter’s choice: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition felt like the culmination of something the series had been building to for years. Through the previous two games, players came to know and understand the world of Thedas; its people, politics, threats and history. But in Inquisition it’s as if a curtain lifted. What once felt like the whole story shifted into the background of a larger tale, making the real stakes that much more meaningful.
The early Dragon Age games made me care about their world in a way no other series ever has — and even so, Inquisition showed me just how little of it I’d truly seen.
– Janine Hawkins (@bleatingheart)
497. Dragon Age: Inquisition
(2014, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
People still talk about Dragon Age: Inquisition’s depth and mature approach to romance options, allowing players to choose their sexual orientation. We gave Inquisition our 2014 game of the year award, with writer Colin Campbell noting the game was “a sufficiently convincing universe of otherness that consumed my time when I was playing, and my attention when I was not.”
496. Super Meat Boy
(2010, PC, Xbox 360, others)
Ultra-hard, ultra-violent and kind of cute, Super Meat Boy helped change the way we think about independently created games and how games should be released. Initially launched digitally on the Xbox 360 in 2010, the game’s intense critical praise helped bring a new wave of independent released games to shore.
(1990, Super Nintendo, others)
F-Zero’s insistence in pushing technological boundaries to be the fastest game ever seen helped inspire games like Wipeout and Daytona USA. Giving players only moments to react before crashing, F-Zero is still one of the tightest, tensest racing games available.
(1995, PC, PlayStation, others)
Taking influence from F-Zero, Wipeout was a technical tour-de-force when it released on the original PlayStation. Praised for its awesome techno soundtrack and anti-gravity racing, Wipeout was aimed at a different kind of audience — one on the cutting edge of art, music and fashion. This approach gave the game and its unique — though sometimes controversial — marketing campaign its sleek, modern look.
(2006, PlayStation 2, others)
Taking place at the New England private school Bullworth Academy, Bully invites players to rise the ranks of high school archetypes, all the while living in the rebellious shoes of protagonist James “Jimmy” Hopkins. Whether you’re kissing suitors or making stink bombs, Bully is a perfect allegory for growing up on the fringes and trying to find your own place in the world.
(2011, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Relationships are hard. Lusting after another is simple. Catherine knows this and leaves the decision to engage in protagonist Vincent’s affair with Catherine up to the player. Even with its weird, dream-like puzzle sections full of sheep and monstrous babies, Catherine is a surprisingly nuanced take on sex and adult dating, exploring the causes of lust, love and guilt.
491. Metroid 2: Return of Samus
(1991, Game Boy)
A series known for its emphasis on meticulous exploration, Metroid’s jump to handheld with Metroid 2: Return of Samus feels like a perfect fit. Despite its small physical size, Metroid 2’s continuous large world makes for a cohesive experience, and the option to take it anywhere allow the game to be explored wherever the player goes.
490. Alone in the Dark
(1992, PC, others)
Shocking and Lovecraftian, Alone in the Dark’s unique approach to horror and exploration spawned a genre now a staple of the game industry and birthed some of the greatest games of all time. While it may not join the higher ranks of horror games further down the list, Alone in the Dark was the first of its kind.
489. Spider-Man 2
(2004, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
One of the best superhero games of all time, Spider-Man 2 came remarkably close to giving players the experience they were watching on screens and seeing in comics. Climbing to the top of a building, diving off, only to shoot a web and swing to safety at the last moment was exhilarating and anxiety inducing.
488. Space Channel 5
(2000, Dreamcast, others)
Before there was Just Dance, there was Space Channel 5. Colorful and weird as hell, players assumed the role of TV reporter Ulala while she danced and shot to save hostages, all the while fighting for TV ratings. Space Channel 5 was a standout of weird Dreamcast titles Sega released in the late ’90s and early 2000s, emphasizing creativity and quirkiness.
487. Cave Story
(2004, PC, others)
A rare example of a Japanese indie game receiving critical acclaim in the west, Cave Story and its exploration-heavy gameplay helped pave the way for other indies to experiment with the older genre, leading to a renaissance of independent Metroidvania games.
486. Ori and the Blind Forest
(2015, PC, Xbox One)
Moon Studios’ debut game, Ori and the Blind Forest had players crying within the first five minutes, and then gnashing their teeth in concentration within the next five. Emotional, colorful and extremely difficult, Ori masterfully balanced the open, puzzle-like levels of other Metroidvania games with the raw, real stories often seen in smaller-scale indie games.
485. Fable 2
(2008, Xbox 360)
Fable 2 let players choose how they wanted to live their virtual lives. Be that how they interacted with the word, what sex they wanted to be, who they wanted to marry or what breed of dog they wanted, Fable 2 attempted to not limit the choices of how its players wanted to interact with its world.
484. Star Fox 64
(1997, Nintendo 64, others)
Star Fox 64 was one of the landmark titles Nintendo released as it made its way to the 3D world. Sticking closely to the scrolling flight combat gameplay introduced in Star Fox on the Super Nintendo, Star Fox 64 was quickly praised for its approach to the series, even becoming one of Guinness World Records’ best games of all time in 2009.
483. Company of Heroes
(2006, Mac, PC)
Company of Heroes is a far more grounded real-time strategy game than its peers. Set during World War 2, the game puts players in charge of strategic decisions that can turn the events of somewhat real events — adding a level of weight to games. It doesn’t hurt that, upon release, players considered it one of the finest real-time strategy games ever made.
482. Batman: Arkham City
(2011, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
Batman: Arkham City took the critically-praised open level structure of Batman: Arkham Asylum and expanded it to an entire city. While not as revolutionary as its predecessor, Arkham City refined the traversal and combat of Asylum, changing the way series like Shadow of Mordor and Assassin’s Creed approached third-person combat going forward.
481. Garry’s Mod
(2004, PC, others)
Garry’s Mod takes the best part of Half-Life 2’s gameplay, the gravity gun, and throws away everything else. Originally a mod, now a full-blown game, Garry’s Mod allows players to do whatever they want within the physics of the Source Engine. An ingenious game of creativity, Garry’s Mod helped pioneer the idea that games can be weird, with no direction, and players can be the creative force behind a game’s success.
(2008, PC, others)
For every game sparking conversations about games as high art, another’s there to remind us they can be weird. Played with only the Q, W, O and P keys of a keyboard, each moving a different part of a runner’s body, QWOP usually results in horribly distorted animations. But who’s to say games can’t be both, as QWOP was displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art?
(2015, Wii U)
Splatoon has all the conventions of a third-person shooter, but strips away the violence and replaces it with cuteness, creating an accessible game for children unfamiliar with an often-gory genre. It’s a shooter only Nintendo would make, one mixing the mechanics of one of the most popular game genres around with the familiar stylings that keep Nintendo a family-friendly company.
478. Marble Madness
(1984, Arcade, others)
The first major success by master programmer Mark Cerny, Marble Madness helped popularize difficulty as a selling point. Beyond that, the game’s use of of true-stereo sound gave it a sense of identity. Its innovations in these camps helped catapult Cerny’s career; he went on to work on Crash Bandicoot and lead the design of the PlayStation 4
477. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999)
(2010, Nintendo DS, others)
Kind of like Saw, but if it were enjoyable, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, tasks players with solving puzzles in an effort to escape a murderous game called the “Nonary Game.” Terrifying in its execution, 999 helped popularize the visual novel genre in America, which now has a strong cult following.
476. Gravity Rush
(2012, Vita, others)
Constantly changing, constantly rotating, Gravity Rush was a mind-bending exploration of a bizarre city and what many critics felt was a nonsensical story. The game maintains a cult following and spawned a 2017 sequel iterating on the bizarre approach to level design and traditional gravity that made Gravity Rush a memorable journey.
Voter’s choice: Blood
Having been released in the Quake era of 3D games, Blood stands as an almost criminally overlooked title in the MS-DOS gaming pantheon. Many gamers easily missed this campy horror classic, which uses the same Build game engine as Duke Nukem 3D. Despite its old-school technological base, Blood eclipsed Quake in character, design and gameplay.
Blood derives its strength from its high core production values. The game feels flawless in control and design: Its detailed graphics form a cohesive, horrifying whole, and its vocal and sound effects stand alone in the DOS era. Better yet, Blood sports the most creative and varied level design of any DOS first-person shooter, bar none (don’t forget to try the level where you fight your way through a moving train).
The variety of Blood‘s monsters, items and weapons (each with an alternate fire mode) provide the player with a million ways to attack the same problem, giving the game a depth and replayability that many modern shooters sorely lack. Those qualities, in combination with stellar co-op and deathmatch options, keep Blood fans playing to this day.
– Benj Edwards (@benjedwards)
(2009, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Borderlands’ mixture of first-person shooting, role-playing mechanics and loot-based upgrades, in a lot of ways, helped pave the way for games like Destiny. Featuring a then-novel concept, Borderlands let players choose the character they wanted to be and how they wanted to play, all the while maintaining the sensibilities of the modern first-person shooter.
474. Monument Valley
(2014, iOS, Android, others)
Monument Valley is a puzzle game that doesn’t fixate itself on stumping the player. Not that the puzzles are bad — they’re great. But the game succeeds in its natural ability to put the player in a “trance.” Nearly hypnotic, the game’s gorgeous art-style and clever puzzles make for a game as much a joy to look at as it is to play.
(2016, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, others)
Firewatch mixes the mundanity of boring jobs with the exhilaration of meeting a new romantic interest, even if that romance is wrong. Combined with a conspiracy plot revolving around the Shoshone National Forest, Firewatch lets players choose how important fidelity is to them, all the while giving them complete freedom to let their relationships go up in flames.
Aladdin was, in some ways, the last hurrah on the Genesis. Though movie tie-in games have long had a bad reputation, Aladdin’s tight gameplay, excellent platforming and film-authentic graphics made it a standout of the then-aging Genesis, as well as one of the best movie tie-in games ever released.
471. Earth Defense Force 2017
(2007, Xbox 360, others)
Earth Defense Force 2017 is absolute chaos. Pitting players against a race of enormous aliens and offering them over 100 guns to take the beasts down, the world is a playground. Buildings crumble, increasingly large enemies come at you and you blow them all up. It’s great dumb fun.
(2007, PC, others)
Peggle’s mastery is in its near-instantaneous reward loop. A game easy to pick up and instantly find satisfaction with, Peggle constantly tempts you into playing it just a little longer with dangerously addictive gameplay.
469. Ninja Gaiden
(1989, Nintendo Entertainment System)
Ninja Gaiden may very well be the magnum opus of ultra-difficult action-platformers. Requiring skill, fast responses and zen-like patience, Ninja Gaiden’s fun-but-precise gameplay makes it easy to pick up and play, but a task to master. Luckily, that task is rooted in one of the finest NES platformers of all time.
468. TimeSplitters 2
(2002, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
TimeSplitters 2 carried on the legacy of GoldenEye 007. One of the all time best split-screen co-op games, TimeSplitters is simple dumb fun. Between four and 16 players could assume the roles of various absurd characters — like a dinosaur or a duck — engaging in an all-out assault against other players.
467. Railroad Tycoon
(1990, PC, others)
Though not the designer’s first game or his first sim-game, Railroad Tycoon helped turn Sid Meier from successful video game maker to one of the all-time great game auteurs. Unparalleled in its depth and complexity, Railroad Tycoon established early on what a Sid Meier game would be, all the while raising the mark for all other simulation games.
466. Depression Quest
(2013, PC, others)
Games often lack nuance, understanding of human emotions and mental illnesses. Depression Quest however, does not. Based on real accounts of depression and mental illness, the text-based Depression Quest is a very real look at just how hard it can be to live every day with the boulder on your back called depression.
465. Medal of Honor
Designed and produced in part by film auteur Steven Spielberg, Medal of Honor was bombastic, scary and stunning in its 1999 representation of World War 2, paving the way for later series like Call of Duty to try and present war accurately in gaming, all the while maintaining some kind of spectacle.
464. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
(2004, PC, Xbox, others)
Better than its film counterpart, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is a notable exception to the consensus that film-based games are needless cash tie-ins. Assuming the role of Richard Riddick, the game featured no heads-up display as players were tasked with breaking out of the maximum security prison Butcher Bay by seemingly any means necessary.
463. Donkey Kong Jr.
(1982, Arcade, others)
A follow up to one of the most important arcade games of all time, Donkey Kong Jr. expanded the gameplay with new challenges and collectibles, as well as new traversal options, such as the ability to swing from vines while fighting multiple enemy types.
462. Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
(1988, Nintendo Entertainment System)
After the success of The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo decided to try something different with its sequel: an action-role playing game. While its predecessor is often noted for its sense of adventure influencing the series going forward, Adventure of Link introduced a lot of mechanics that became staples, such as combining platforming and RPG mechanics and the iconic Triforce of Courage.
461. River City Ransom
(1990, Nintendo Entertainment System, others)
The objective of River City Ransom is pretty simple: fight the bad guys. As protagonists Alex and Ryan traverse the titular city to save their girlfriends, players continuously fight waves of “The Generic Dudes,” “The Frat Guys” and “The Squids.”
460. Picross 3D
(2010, Nintendo DS)
One, perhaps obvious change made Picross 3D vastly better than the original: the addition of a third dimension. Building on an addicting premise — building images based on moving blocks — Picross 3D shined, adding depth to puzzles and new ways to solve them.
459. Paper Mario
(2001, Nintendo 64)
It’s rare for a 17-year-old game to still look great, and yet Paper Mario looks half its age. The second Mario RPG, Paper Mario is widely regarded as one of the best games of the era and is noted for the surprising amount of depth and strategy required when playing through its 2D, paper worlds.
(2006, Nintendo DS, others)
Electroplankton is a hard game to describe. An interactive music experience controlled by playing with different types of plankton, the game allows for the creation of some beautiful melodies — even if there’s no native way to save them. This unique approach to music-creation makes Electroplankton a standout in a genre typically focused on gimmicks.
457. Plants vs. Zombies
(2009, PC, others)
When Plants vs. Zombies released on mobile devices in 2009, it differentiated itself from other mobile games with its acclaimed presentation, depth and amount of content. In a saturated market, Plants vs. Zombies was also able to grab awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, as well as nominations for its design from the Game Developers Choice Awards.
456. Cities: Skylines
(2015, PC, others)
Cities: Skylines was a return to form. After the fiasco that was SimCity (2003), Skylines had a chance to give city-sim fans what they wanted: to simply build the cities of their dreams. The game’s influence even expanded beyond the game industry. In Stockholm, the game was recently used to design and test urban planning.
455. Boulder Dash
(1984, Atari 8-bit, others)
Not talked about too much these days, Boulder Dash has been around for longer than most game series. In it, Rockford digs through caves in search of gems while trying to avoid falling rocks and being crushed. Boulder Dash taps into the part of the brain craving “just one more go,” leading to numerous lost days in its caves.
454. Archon: The Light and the Dark
(1983, Apple 8-bit, others)
One of the first games published by EA, Archon is a cross between a strategy game and an arcade fighting game. Played out sort of like chess, landing on another player’s piece results in the two characters fighting to determine a victor. Almost like two games in one, Archon requires players to be thoughtful and skilled at its genre-bending format.
453. Dragon Age: Origins
(2009, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
Dragon Age: Origins set a lot of the standards people now expect from open world role-playing games. In a masterfully realized world full of fully-fleshed out characters and missions, Origins’ incredible depth and attention to detail redefined a genre all about living in a different world in a different life.
452. Angry Birds
(2009, iOS, others)
It’s easy to see Angry Birds as a fad, something for retailers to slap on children’s clothes and backpacks. But Angry Birds found an addictive formula and took it to the top. Since its first release, the series has crossed over with Star Wars, been plastered on millions of shirts and even received its own feature length film.
451. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
(2011, PC, Xbox 360, others)
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings saw developer CD Projekt Red begin to grow into its own. Expanding its storytelling, honing its combat and making its first engine from scratch, the team took a clear step forward, and Assassins of Kings set the cornerstones for what would make Projekt Red one of the top developers in games.
Voter’s choice: Out Run
Yu Suzuki’s Out Run may put you behind the wheel of a Testarossa cruising up the coast, but it’s far more concerned with style than speed. The blissful tunes (with names like “Passing Breeze” and “Magical Sound Shower”) and the indelibly vibrant colors conspire to conjure an experience of paradise: hitting the open road with the top down, feeling the wind in your hair as you weave through the idealized California of your dreams.
Suzuki knew where he wanted Out Run to take you, and 30 years later, it’s still rare to encounter a game that so effectively transports you someplace so beautiful.
– Carolyn Petit (@carolynmichelle)
450. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
(2010, Nintendo DS)
Undeniably charming and challenging in all the right ways, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future never double-dips with its puzzles. Requiring math skills, logic and other skills to progress, on paper the game sounds like a nightmare. In practice, Unwound Future is delightful brain teasing, requiring just the amount of thought to feel perplexing but not frustrating.
449. Hitman Go
(2014, iOS, others)
The Hitman series has always been about planning and preparation. Hitman Go took this idea and made it into a puzzle game where players had to strategically plan every movement and action through a turn-based system. Hitman Go feels like a game of chess, where every move must be calculated and thought about.
448. Final Fantasy 10
(2001, PlayStation 2, others)
Final Fantasy 10 came out swinging on PlayStation 2. Aside from being the best-looking game in the series up to that point, the game’s introduction of key mechanics, like the ability to build characters dynamically, brought the series to the modern era. The game made changes that’d better the series for years to come.
447. BioShock 2
(2010, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
BioShock 2 dug further into the fall of Rapture, giving context and depth to its inhabitants, all the while honing the series’ combat. It also birthed what’s thought of as one of the best DLC episodes of all time, Minerva’s Den, which in part led to the founding of indie success story The Fullbright Company, the studio behind Gone Home.
446. Sonic Colors
For games all about running, Sonic entries often have trouble finding their footing. Sonic Colors, though, found a balance between the series’ emphasis on speed and platforming, making for a game that appealed to a larger audience than just the Sonic community. Sonic Colors still stands out as one of the higher-rated games in the series.
(2010, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
Vanquish is all about movement and style, and it has both in spades. Coming out at the height of cover shooters, Vanquish helped revolutionize the formula by penalizing players for spending time behind cover, as well as keeping bullets and projectiles constantly coming at them from all directions, further emphasizing constant movement.
444. Wolfenstein: The New Order
(2014, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, others)
Flawed. Full of heart. Unafraid. Wolfenstein: The New Order took the ultra-gruff FPS protagonist archetype and tore it to shreds. B.J. Blazkowicz barely stops shooting, and yet he does it knowing the sense of weight of his actions. He doesn’t kill to kill, like the Doom Marine; he kills for a better future, one where the bullets cease and the dreamscape barbecues resume.
443. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
(2004, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy forces players to think outside the box. Focusing less on guns and more on the game’s psychic and telekinesis mechanics, The Mindgate Conspiracy necessitates players be creative when engaging in combat, making it stand out among other shooters released at the time, and influencing developers to try new ideas when handling combat.
442. Jetpack Joyride
(2011, iOS, others)
If mobile games hang their hats on addictive gameplay loops, then Jetpack Joyride is the magnum opus of mobile games. Flying around and dodging constant obstacles in this endless runner taps into your brain, making putting the phone down far harder and saying “one more time” all the easier.
441. Mario Paint
(1992, Super NES)
Mario games are about creativity, but that’s usually limited to engaging in the creativity of the developer. Mario Paint, however, left the creativity up to the player, allowing them to make their own custom art pixel by pixel and animation loops with custom music. It is, as AllGame said, “perhaps the most ingenious and inspired idea Nintendo ever came up with for a product.”
440. Super Castlevania 4
(1991, Super NES, others)
Already a popular franchise by its 1991 release, the Castlevania series received a modernization with Super Castlevania 4, expanding controls and bringing the series to 16-bit, all set to new arrangements of older Castlevania songs.
439. Need for Speed: Most Wanted
(2012, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
Nine games deep in the series, Need for Speed: Most Wanted didn’t really change the formula up, so much as it refined it. Driving felt great, the maps were a joy to get around and everything just looked so cool.
438. Kerbal Space Program
(2015, PC, others)
The ultimate simulation, Kerbal Space Program tasks players with reaching the final frontier. Featuring realistic orbital and flight physics, Kerbal is by no means an easy game, despite its cute appearance. Critically acclaimed and award-winning, Kerbal gives players the ability to engage in realistic, simulated space flight without ever actually leaving the ground.
437. WWF No Mercy
(2000, Nintendo 64)
Almost every kid, at some point in their lives, wants to be a professional wrestler. WWF No Mercy lets them live out that dream. Featuring the series’ most extensive create-a-wrestler up to that point, players were free to be creative with their personas, giving them the chance to roleplay what it’d be like had they made it to the WWF.
436. Devil May Cry
(2001, PlayStation 2, others)
Still one of the coolest games ever, Devil May Cry put style first, rewarding players for being flashy and violent when killing its waves of enemies. Years before PlatinumGames came along and made a name for itself with fluid controls, Devil May Cry revolutionized the way hack-and-slash games could look and feel.
435. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
(1992, PC, others)
A point and click adventure putting players in the shoes of the titular archeologist, Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis helped, in part, popularize the point-and-click adventure game genre, paving the way for later games like Day of the Tentacle.
434. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood
(2014, iOS, Android, others)
Don’t laugh. Despite a mixed reaction, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is a force to be reckoned with. With 22.8 million players making the game $43.4 million within its first quarter of release, Hollywood reached — and continues to reach — more players than most critically acclaimed games.
(1979, Arcade, others)
Designed to be a competitor to Space Invaders, Galaxian is notable for being the predecessor to Galaga and influencing other games along the way. But more than that, Galaxian never left he competitive gaming scene. With competitions still going on between top players, Galaxian’s enjoyed a 38-year tail since its 1979 release.
432. Double Dragon
(1987, Arcade, others)
2D brawler Double Dragon was so popular upon release that it’s been consistently re-released and remade — and that doesn’t even include sequels and spinoffs. The success of Double Dragon and its early sequels was so tremendous that they were adapted into other media like comics, television and film.
431. Street Fighter 4
(2009, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
Street Fighter 4, arriving many years after the initial fighting game boom, was able to bridge the gap between old and new players, combining elements, abilities and characters from both camps into a package received as one of the best fighting games of all time. Just ignore the online issues.
430. Fallout 4
(2015, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Impossibly big, Fallout 4 did what the Fallout series best: give players a world to lose themselves in. Though not as critically-acclaimed as some of its predecessors, Fallout 4 continued the pedigree of open world role-playing and exploration set forth by Fallout 3.
(2014, PC, others)
Nidhogg, inherently, creates an even playing field. Pitting two players against each other with only a sword — and with the risk of one-hit deaths — success in Nidhogg relies equally on skill as it does luck.
(2001, PC, others)
Bejeweled is a game that perfects the feedback loop, leaving a player wanting to play just one more round. Progression relies simply on matching up tiles, making the game seem deceptively simple, but its addictiveness made it a game, like many others on this list, that found its way the hands of millions who otherwise wouldn’t play video games.
(1994, Sega CD, others)
One of Hideo Kojima’s lesser-known games, Snatcher sold poorly but maintains a cult-following due to its take on the adventure genre. Snatcher combined visual novel elements to flesh out its lore and backstory, a move many saw as groundbreaking for the genre.
426. Sam & Max Hit the Road
(1993, PC, others)
Sam & Max Hit the Road capitalized on LucasArts’ trademark humor and unique puzzle design, and brought its own innovations — such as being one of the first games with full voice acting. Letting players control the titular Sam and Max, Hit the Road is a more cartoony adventure than other LucasArts games, something it leans into with its world and puzzle design.
Voter’s choice: Bionic Commando
After co-inventing the side-scrolling platformer with Ghosts ’N Goblins, designer Tokuro Fujiwara immediately decided to re-invent it. He did this by removing platforming’s primary mechanic: Rather than jumping, players traversed stages with a grappling wire. While rough in its original arcade incarnation, Bionic Commando achieved perfection on NES. Capcom refined the grappling element, then designed dozens of stages that tested players’ mastery of the controls.
Capcom also added a story-driven framework along with a level map structure, essentially turning the game into an action RPG. It was cutting-edge for its time, but I keep it in constant rotation simply because no other game has matched the fluid grace of its brilliant grappling.
– Jeremy Parish (@gamespite)
(1981, Arcade, others)
By today’s standards, Qix is a simple looking game. However, it quickly became a top-played arcade game in the early ’80s. When it released, Electronic Gaming Monthly said the game “grabbed the gaming world with its color and imaginative design.” That popularity quickly declined, though, and today Qix is noted as one of the most-cloned games of all time.
424. Power Stone 2
(2000, Dreamcast, others)
Fighting game Power Stone 2 is seen as an innovator, a game pushing the boundaries set forth by its predecessor. Tasking up to four players with breaking out of a castle, players were invited to utilize the interactive environment and items in the world to progress — something notable and revolutionary in the early 2000s.
423. Just Cause 2
(2010, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Thanks for what made Just Cause 2 a success shouldn’t only go to developer Avalanche Games. Just Cause 2’s modding community not only made the gameplay better, but in turn influenced Avalanche to include some of the best mods — such as the grappling hook — as official features in its sequel, effectively opening the door between official and nonofficial creators.
422. Pole Position
(1982, Arcade, others)
Pole Position is, as one writer puts it, “arguably the most important racing game ever made.” Letting players race against the clock in a Formula One car, Pole Position was the first game to feature a track based on a real racing circuit, paving the way for games like Gran Turismo emphasizing simulation over arcade racing.
421. Missile Command
(1980, Arcade, others)
Missile Command is not only one of the most important arcade games of all time, but an early example of games entering pop culture. A couple years after its release, Missile Command was referenced in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Still today, the game finds its way into the mainstream. In 2016, Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films secured the rights to make a Missle Command movie.
420. Military Madness
(1989, TurboGrafx-16, others)
Where XCOM popularized the genre, Military Madness helped create the turn-based strategy genre. Military Madness is cited as a key influence for other landmark games such as Dune 2 and Command and Conquer.
419. Metro 2033
(2010, PC, Xbox 360)
Taking place primarily in Moscow’s run down Metro system, Metro 2033 is as much about survival horror as it is survival in the wake of tragedy. Players were encouraged to explore their environments and learn the stories of the Metro’s inhabitants, understanding how others got by after the end of the modern world.
418. Fire Emblem Fates
(2016, Nintendo 3DS)
Fire Emblem Fates is three different games all making up one experience. Tying its three stories into one product is its greatest strength, making for a deep, meaningful tale of war and hardship.
417. Final Fantasy 14
(2010, PC, PlayStation 3, others)
Final Fantasy 14 is a rare example of a game going from complete disaster to near-universal acclaim. When this MMORPG released in 2010, it was met with immense backlash and criticism, however Square Enix’s commitment to the project led to a game that has accrued millions of devoted players.
416. Alpha Centauri
(1999, PC, others)
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri’s influence can’t be understated. While it was a great game in its own right, many of its developers also went on to help out on the Civilization series, bringing along many of the same ideas. Without the influence of Alpha Centauri, it’s hard to say whether or not the Civilization games would’ve had the same impact.
415. Grim Fandango
(1998, PC, others)
Grim Fandango’s legacy is a double-edged sword. While it helped launch Tim Schafer’s career to the auteur status he holds now, and it refined the humor and storytelling point-and-click games are famous for, Grim Fandango’s poor sales also led to the decline of the now-cult genre.
414. The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion
(2006, PC, Xbox 360)
It definitely wasn’t the first open-ended RPG, but The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion was a necessary stepping stone. The successor to Morrowind and the predecessor to Skyrim, Oblivion received a revamped AI system to make a more believable community, and continued the tradition of Bethesda iterating its worlds into places to be lost in.
413. Rhythm Heaven
(2009, Nintendo DS)
Rhythm Heaven is like a WarioWare game for the musically-inclined. Playing through a series of levels with different rules, players must tap in sync with the game’s beat to progress. What results is an addictive romp through some of Nintendo’s weirdest levels. Rhythm Heaven excels by asking little of players while still being enough of a challenge to make for an engaging rhythm game.
(2009, iOS, Android)
Drop7 is one of those games so simple in its design, you rarely realize how brilliant it is. Combining simple addition with a match three game, Drop7 takes seconds to understand but hours to put down. It’s a great example of how mobile games, done right, rival the fun and engagement of AAA, big-budget experiences.
411. Kingdom Rush
(2011, iOS, Android, others)
Not unlike Drop7, Kingdom Rush is another example of a mobile game done near-perfectly. Taking the tower defense genre and adding new layers of gameplay — such as the ability to send footmen into battle to slow down waves — Kingdom Rush looks familiar at first, but is just different enough to separate it from the rest of the crowded tower defense genre.
410. Power Stone
(1999, Dreamcast, others)
Power Stone quickly became a “must have” when it released on the Sega Dreamcast. Like its sequel a few spots up, Power Stone ditched the primarily 2D genre, went 3D and opened up interactivity in the world. Before most fighting games had multiple stages and ways to approach a fight, Power Stone gave players the ability to strategize differently.
409. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
(1999, PC, PlayStation, others)
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is brooding. It’s dark. It’s bloody. Soul Reaver had an atmosphere ahead of its time, one IGN said was “saturated with a foreboding dark wrath, intelligence, and plodding details.” Many critics praised the game’s engine, which allowed Kain to travel between multiple dimensions, altering the look of the game in real time — a surprising feat at the time.
408. Command and Conquer: Red Alert
(1996, PC, others)
Command and Conquer: Red Alert streamlined the real-time strategy game experience. An excellent user-interface allowed multiple elements to be accessed at once, and the game was one of the first in the genre to feature competitive play. Red Alert was more inviting and engaging than most other real-time strategy games.
(2014, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, others)
Destiny is and was a promise of what’s to come. Pitched as Bungie’s ambitious follow-up to the Halo series, Destiny promised a story full of planet-hopping and deep lore — and initially its execution varied. However, Destiny’s tight gameplay combined with Bungie’s commitment to delivering on its original promise makes the series more and more interesting as time goes on.
406. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
(2010, PlayStation Portable, others)
Overshadowed commercially by its console siblings, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is nevertheless one of the most important games in the Metal Gear series. Peace Walker set some of the early cornerstones in terms of story and design that would bring the series to the landmark Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.
405. Deus Ex Machina
(1984, ZX Spectrum, others)
Deus Ex Machina is, as creator Mel Croucher calls it, “the best game you never played in your life.” Hyperbole aside, Machina was the first game to feature a synchronized soundtrack, though that was not limited to just music. The game also had full narration and celebrities contributing voice and musical talent.
404. Thief: The Dark Project
Thief: The Dark Project rests in the pantheon of classic Looking Glass games. The first in the Thief series, The Dark Project helped popularize the idea of moral ambiguity in games, allowing players, if they choose, to forgo violence altogether in favor of simply reaching their objective. This idea would be adopted ad nauseum by games that followed.
403. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords
(2004, PC, Xbox, others)
Similar to The Dark Project, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords presented players with a moral grayness, allowing them to choose whether to play on the light or dark side. The Sith Lords was noted for its tight story, as well as presenting a wholly new Star Wars story influenced by the actions of the player.
402. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12
(2011, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
One of the finer golf games of all time, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 was the first in the series to actually feature The Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. This inclusion gave players the chance to live out a real golf season headlined by the sport’s ultimate real-world competition.
(2008, PlayStation 3, others)
If you can dream it, chances are you can do it in LittleBigPlanet. All about creativity, LittleBigPlanet not only emphasizes but encourages player creativity. Because of that, it was warmly received for its openness for experimentation, allowing players to get weird and try things they think won’t work.
Story text: Blake Hester
- MMQB: The NFL teams we never saw coming
- NBA Player Power Rankings: An All-Time Season Continues
- NBA Power Rankings: Top 20 Players Heading Into 2017
- All-Time Boston Red Sox League: All-Star Break
- Breaking down Today’s Game Hall of Fame ballot, Part 1: Baines, Belle, more
- Racing! Jon White comes right at you with his Kentucky Derby Top 10
- AL MVP Award: My 10-Player Ballot
- Division Series previews: Cubs, Indians look to clinch; can Gonzalez stifle Dodgers?
- Minnesota Twins All-Time 25-Man Roster
- The 5 best first overall MLB draft picks