25: Dance Dance Revolution (Arcade, 1998)
Before Dance Dance Revolution, there were games that tested your reactions. There were games that tested your intelligence. But DDR was the first game to test your groove. Players stomped on a huge button-studded mat in response to musical cues, much in the manner of Tom Hanks in Big. I’m reasonably confident that Dance Dance Revolution was the first choreography-based game. And today, smash hit games that demand choreography from your fingers — such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero — are essentially trading in the same formula.
24: Mortal Kombat (Arcade, 1992)
Mortal Kombat’s most far-reaching influence is not so much in its visceral, bone-crunching gameplay or convincing (for the time) graphics. It’s in the artwork. The sheer murderous brutality of the deadly bout-ending combos hastened the implementation of the ESRB ratings that now adorn the box art of every videogame sold. There are dozens of Mortal Kombat clones, but none have quite emulated its colossal sales, reportedly over 30m across the series to date.
23: Everquest (PC, 1999)
The huge, persistent, world of Everquest really launched the MMO idea. It’s altogether possible that one day, in the far future, humans will spend as much of their life in a virtual world as they do in the real one. Second Life notwithstanding, it all started here.
The game was launched in 1999 and it has past its peak of popularity now. But in 2002 the imaginary land of Norrath was calculated to be the 77th richest nation on Earth, with a per capita GDP to rival China. Brad McQuaid, Steve Clover, and Bill Trost, the creators of Everquest, had got pretty much everything right: consequently every significant MMO since has operated along more-or-less Everquest lines. Banned in Brazil, essentially for being too addictive, the influence of Everquest’s class-based, highly co-operative game structure is almost universal.
22: Resident Evil (PS1, 1996)
Today, with zombies popping up in everything from blockbusters to board games, it’s easy to forget that the shambling brain-munchers haven’t always been this ubiquitous. Alone In The Dark would probably qualify as the first in the ‘survival horror’ genre, but Resident Evil picked up the bloody, rotting ball and carried it over the goal-line.
Originally conceived as a sequel to Capcom’s horror RPG Sweet Home, Resident Evil soon took on an infectious pseudo-life of its own. Its perfectly claustrophobic, spookily-lit environments and unsettling camera angles helped, but it was the borderline-sadistic paucity of ammo and equipment that made Resident Evil the most nerve-fraying game of its era. A total of 20 games and five feature films later, we’re all part-time residents of Raccoon City.
21: Wii Sports (Wii, 2006)
Some of the entries on this list pushed creators or audiences in different directions. But few can lay claim to having been as massive a game-changer as Wii Sports. Over 80 million people bought the cartoony suite of sports simulations that exploited perfectly the Wii’s innovative control system. Along with the Wii Fit game / balance-board bundle Wii Sports redefined the gaming demographic.
Nans and toddlers who would never have been tempted to assault a Covenant base armed with a Magnum and a Gravity Hammer overnight joined the gaming community. Alongside a well-judged ad campaign, gleeful tabloid stories about hapless Dads spearing a poorly-secured remote through 48” plasma screens spread the word of Wii far and wide.