As Pokémon Go lures millions of seemingly normal adults into random streets and parks to catch pixelated beasts while thrusting AR gaming into the mainstream, it joins a long line of iconic games that have changed the way we play. Here we list some classics that proudly stand amongst the pantheon of paradigm-shifters.
Computer Space (1971)
Computer Space footage, courtesy of YouTube
Arguably even more influential than Pong, Computer Space not only made sure that space combat dominated early arcade gaming, it gave birth to the idea of arcade machines. When its owners failed to find an economical way to run the game on a minicomputer, they opted for custom-designed hardware instead — an urge all serious gamers still understand.
Donkey Kong (1981)
Donkey Kong footage, courtesy of YouTube
Donkey Kong signalled the birth of the platformer. Mario, or 'Jumpman' as he was originally called, was among the first avatars to jump in order to dodge hazards. He also came with a backstory. This wasn't just a battle or a puzzle, it was a simple scrolling comic strip that changed how game designers thought of games.
The Legend of Zelda (1986)
The Legend of Zelda footage, courtesy of YouTube
Although it lacked the XP point system that marks out most classic RPGs, in every other respect this action-adventure game is their spiritual forefather. The non-linear gameplay in particular was truly groundbreaking. For the first time, players could complete tasks in the order they chose, developing the story at their own pace. It was here the illusion of gameplay freedom first appeared.
Street Fighter II (1991)
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior footage, courtesy of YouTube
Credited with popularizing the fighting genre thanks to its engaging characters, killer combos and playability-enhancing special move systems, it laid the foundations for complex interactions with arcade machines and consoles alike. This was something that seemed impossible just a year earlier.
Wolfenstein 3D (1992)
Wolfenstein 3D footage, courtesy of YouTube
Before you could bark orders at your COD colleagues via your ROG Strix Wireless headset, before you could even collaborate and compete in games like Goldeneye 007 and DOOM, Wolfenstein 3D came first. This classic sci-fi murderthon pioneered the first-person shooter, helped by its industry-leading '3D' graphics. The sound of course wasn't anywhere close to what it is today but it was enough at the time. Importantly, its tech advances reminded players of the gaming power of the PC and how far we have come in all aspects.
Furcadia footage, courtesy of YouTube
There's no doubt that WoW made MMORPGs massive, but it was far from the first. Furcadia allowed millions of users to connect online and build virtual worlds for themselves. In that sense, it was also one of the first games to heavily encourage modding, something that's sadly still something of a niche today.
The Sims (2000)
The Sims footage, courtesy of YouTube
If the sound of Street Fighter declaring “You Win!” still rings out with every victory you chalk up (just me?), you'll hate the innovation of The Sims. It was one of the first games to ditch goals entirely. It's also credited with making gaming more appealing to both genders. Today the series is even challenging gender altogether by introducing transgender characters to its fourth installment.
Minecraft footage, courtesy of YouTube
Sandbox games took The Sims idea and ran with it, allowing users to explore, collect resources, build items and fight. It also boosted interest in survival games, paving the way for recent indie hits like Don't Starve.
Who can tell what’s going to come next? If nothing else, let's just hope for some expert modes that add extra content instead of just boosting enemies, and maybe a few more free-to-play games that aren't just pay-to-win, until the next mind blowing paradigm shift arrives. Watch this space.
Discover other brilliant classics and how to get them running:
On the DL: Fastest Ways to Get More for Your Gaming Dollar
Classic Cuts: 10 Best Old-School PC Games
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By Michael Edwards