These are the 35 most influential video games of all time

The stone cold classic, crazy or groundbreaking titles that made the gaming industry what it is today

By Michael Moran

What do we learn from the coverage of E3 that's saturating mainstream news media as well as the gaming press? That videogames are a big deal. As big as movies. Perhaps one day as big as books.

Every year around 200 million games are sold at retail in the US alone. Roll in all the other territories worldwide, and that’s a hell of a lot of imaginary golf balls thwacked, mushrooms collected and aliens vanquished.

More to the point, over 500 game titles were released in 2012. And that’s just across PCs and the three main consoles. If we factored in mobile gaming, if we even tried to, we’d probably still be counting when all of the lovely things that have just been announced at E3 have been released. And what kind of game is Stealth Bastard: Tactical Espionage Arsehole anyway?

But, with all appropriate respect to the coders and designers who slaved long hours to bring us all this entertainment, not all of these games are wildly original masterpieces. Just as in the worlds of film or books, there are an awful lot of ‘me too’ properties that try to expand on, improve on, or just plain rip off great games of the past.

It would be folly bordering on madness to try to pick out those rare games in history that actually did something new. The games that made the gaming industry what it is today. Guess what we’re going to do…

35. Devil May Cry (PS2, 2001)

Devil May Cry was a key early title for the PS2. Initially starting off in development as a PS2 installment of the Resident Evil series, it ended up straying so far its original plan that it birthed a new title altogether: Devil May Cry – a state-of-the art 3D platformer that reinvented a somewhat moribund genre.

The law of diminishing returns afflicted later entries in the series but the original DMC is still a go-to game for anyone that feels the need to jump up and down in front of an angry god, while waving a sword.

33. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC/X360/PS3, 2007)

It wasn’t that Modern Warfare did anything new. It was the near perfect synthesis of standard shooter tropes and cinematic storytelling, sprinkled with a little RPG fairy-dust, that gave it blockbuster appeal. The multithreaded single-player campaign, which like its WW2-based antecedents flipped through different characters in varying theatres of war, offered genuine surprises alongside the pulse-quickening action. Even though its best friends would concede that the individual levels could be terribly linear.

The online multiplayer mode set new standards for balance and map-making variety. The COD franchise has signed up for a couple more tours of duty in that near-future war, and even the notionally-retro Black Ops strand has been lured into that dark tomorrow, but I doubt whether any of those games will quite have the emotional impact of Modern Warfare.

32: Gran Turismo (PS1, 1997)

A car sim more than a racing game, Gran Turismo’s appeal lies in its obsessive attention to automotive detail. It’s pure digital wish-fulfilment for petrolheads. And it seems like there are a lot of them. The Gran Turismo series has collectively racked up over 60 million sales so far. The game’s secondary arcade mode has been more influential on subsequent racing games, GT set a new standard for sim fidelity that left rival titles racing to catch up.

31: Pokémon (GameBoy, 1996)

Pokémon is one of those rare games whose name is as readily recognised by non-gamers as it is by the obsessive Japanese teenagers who first made it a success. The ‘battling pets’ franchise has spawned films, card games, TV series, lunchboxes, you name it. It’s a concept that has been shamelessly imitated by competitors; Monster Rancher, Fighting Foodons, Magi Nation, Medabots, Fossil League: Dino Tournament Championship, Dokapon, Robopon and particularly Digimon all owe a debt to Pikachu and his fierce-but-cuddly gang.