There are moments in gaming that are so impactful and so monumental that the gaming world significantly changes along side with it. These paradigm shifts then create new standards for the industry to follow. Introducing open worlds, new story telling mechanics, and bringing communities together are only a few ideas of what is possible for video games. This list takes a look at 10 master classes of video games, and how they impacted and influenced video games forever.

Grand Theft Auto 3

A New World

Grand Theft Auto

The impact of Grand Theft Auto 3 can not be understated. Open World games have become a mainstay in the video game industry due to the immense popularity of being able to do what you want at any moment. Before the release of Grand Theft Auto 3, video games were entirely linear. You get through the stage or the elaborate level design, and quickly move on to the next stage or story beat. Grand Theft Auto 3, however, changed that expectation forever. Playing through Liberty City became a revelation for game design that continues to be seen today.

Doing whatever you want at any moments notice was unheard of in 2001. By doing whatever, we literally mean whatever. Players can steal a car to get the sickest rides, fly a plane to get across the city, and run and gun your way through the city to cause the most mayhem possible. Grand Theft Auto 3 gives unlimited possibilities for player freedom. Even being a taxi driver picking up and dropping of characters for small fares became a past time in the world of Grand Theft Auto 3. While open world games have now become the standard, Grand Theft Auto 3 reminds of us of a time where innovation and excitement can create gaming moments that last forever. 

The Last of Us

Storytelling and Game Design 

The Last of Us PS3

The Last of Us was not all for nothing. Naughty Dog’s seminal action adventure game has given the world a gift through its storytelling and game design. As an apocalyptic world over run by a fungal infection turning humanity into fungal zombie clickers, The Last of Us could have quickly descended into another run of the mill action shooter. Yet Naughty Dog took what they learned from the Uncharted series, and created one of the most celebrated releases for video games. What sets The Last of Us apart from the pack isn’t just its story, or just its gameplay, its how the two can be seamlessly blended into a reflection of what gaming can accomplish when everything is functioning at peak levels. The gameplay of The Last of Us makes sure to bring its most tense moments onto the player themselves. You can feel the tension when sneaking behind a clicker looking for any means to get through an infested building or overgrown alley through the tense gripping of your hands on the controller. But more importantly, you can feel the pain that is happening to the characters of the story while trying to survive the brutal world around them.

The Last of Us places the player in the hands of Joel, who is trying to escort Ellie, who can possibly be the cure to all their suffering. Their journey is riddled with experiences where one wrong move may mean the end of everything they have fought for. But through this fight, you try to find any glimpse of hope, so that in the end it will all be worth it. Playing The Last of Us also gives that glimpse to the players themselves. With the amalgamation of what the characters are going through in the game, and how the player must reflect on these experiences in real time, The Last of Us shows how story and gameplay can be a study into humanity, hope, and survival.

Elden Ring

Conquering Difficulty 

Title card for the game Elden Ring

FromSoftware’s Elden Ring took everything the FromSoftware formula had previously created and encapsulated it into one of the most celebrated moments in gaming history. As FromSoftware’s first foray into open world gaming, the esteemed studio, with years of experience creating the Soulslike genre, unleashed a world where players had to figure out for themselves the best way forward. That is the beauty and cadence of Elden Ring. The autonomy given to the player to find their own way to progress displays the lengths that players are looking for to succeed in their own playthroughs. With an unlimited possibility of how to progress in the game, FromSoftware doesn’t hold back its legendary difficulty. This difficulty is actually the brilliance behind the game. It allows for such a unique experience differentiated by each player, that the success every player desperately wants against a monolithic enemy is left for them to experiment on their own to the best gameplay style that suits them.

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Taking down one of the hundreds of bosses in Elden Ring requires determination and attention that is unparalleled in other games before it. Through true melee and sorcerer builds, to minmaxing special status builds, every build is exactly created to the specification that the player wants. If an area of Elden Ring is to difficult at first, it doesn’t mean that the game is telling you that you are not good enough to continue. It is telling you to try explore somewhere else in the vast open world of the Lands Between so that you can find the best path forward. Progression in Elden Ring consistently recreates that feeling, that by the time your groove starts to settle in and those dodges start to become perfectly timed, you are now ready to explore the area that was once to difficult. Therein lies its brilliance and the impact of how Elden Ring will hold its legacy for gaming. Everyone can become the Elden Lord, and along the way realize that difficulty is not an impedance to your experience, but the accomplishment of grandest dreams. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Simplicity and Creativity Fuses to Create Complexion

Reinventing the Zelda formula required Nintendo to upend decades of tradition and break down exactly what The Legend of Zelda as a franchise means. Going into a dungeon and grabbing the special item that unlocks a new mechanic in the game has been the series forte since A Link to the Past. Yet The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild simply gets away from that formula for a bare bones approach: give the player everything they need at the beginning of the game and unleash them into a world where players can go anywhere. As the Zelda series first open world game, it might have been easy for Nintendo to copy the multitudes of clones out there and release a safe entry that was part of the status quo. What Nintendo actually does, however, is create a system that shows how simplicity ensures creativity all while ensuring that The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild lives up to its historic legacy. There are four mechanics to the game: draw a bomb at any time, put any object into stasis, magnetize any metal object, and freeze any body of water. Combine these with a simple weapon system, durability questions aside, and the point-and-go system of its open world Hyrule, simplicity and creativity fuses together into complexity. Inside this complexion lies a game where all systems are designed to give the player a true sense of exploration.

That mountain peak way in the distance is instantly available to every player. Along the way, however, getting to that mountain peak can be achieved in a multitude of ways. Either by saving an innocent NPC that is being attacked by those pesky bokoblins, or seeing a dragon in the sky and figuring out a way to detach its scales, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, leaves no stone untouched to the player. Literally, oddly shaped stones can be turned over on the way to the peak and you might find a hidden Korok, waiting for you so that he can give his Korok seed to Link. By the time you reach that mountain peak and overlook the valleys, deserts, and grasslands of Hyrule, you have realized that the adventure getting there was only the beginning, leaving you in awe and filled with inspiration.

Pokemon Go

A Walking Simulator for the World Around You

Pokemon Go

When Pokemon Go released in the summer of 2016, few people outside the developers from Niantic realized what was about to be unleashed onto the world. A mobile game that took over every street, city, nook, and cranny. Everywhere you went, friends and family were on their smart phones with Pokemon Go loaded up and ready to catch any Pokemon that they could find. The charm of seeing your favorite Pokemon in your neighborhood through augmented reality meant that each person playing was able to see Pokemon in the immediate vicinity of wherever they were at that exact moment. A joyous moment for sure, but now add the giddiness of seeing your friend or partner next to you with the same realizations, and you find yourself participating in a groundbreaking community experience. This all creates an experience where you now have a fully fledged community driven game where people are playing together, in person, and enjoying their city in a way that has never been seen before.

Walking through your city and seeing Pokemon hanging on a building or in front of an iconic monument only adds to the dream of seeing your favorite Pokemon come to life. This community driven and truly mobile game has changed what we consider gaming. Sure, there is the gamification of adding steps to your day through a tracking app on your phone, but a game that encourages you to experience and explore your city through the eyes of a Pokemon trainer is unlike any there is. Pokemon Go continues to impact the world around it, literally changing the very world you see and making it a place where communities can come together to find their versions of happiness. 

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Bioshock

The Unreliable Narrator 

Bio Shock

Gaining trust is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. Trusting the narrative of what the game is giving you is always a given. There is no possible way that the developer is deliberately looking to mislead you in what is being shown directly on the screen. Yet Ken Levine and his studio of 2K Boston did exactly that with their seminal release of Bioshock. Playing through Bioshock, you start to gain a familiarity that is seen through most first person shooters. Gain new weapons and upgrade your abilities to find a path toward the end of the game. Bioshock introduces choices for the player to make as well, where you can decide whether or not to save the Little Sisters. This choice is presented throughout the game, affecting what ending you get. The twist, however, has always been there in plain sight.

There is no real choice that you have been making. Everything you have been doing and have been told were all part of an elaborate scheme to do the dirty work of the narrator. The chains tattooed on the protagonist literally gives this away. He is a slave, and everything leading up to the encounter to defeat the leader of Rapture, who has been waiting the whole time, has been part of the design that is brilliantly executed. Player choice in gaming allows us to feel that we can be fully implemented into the world that is presented, but now not being able to trust those choices leaves the player feeling used. This technique has been seen in memorable films, but never has it been so successfully implemented in the medium of video games. Bioshock uses the unreliable narrator so tremendously that choices you make in games will always make you wonder whether or not that choice is even yours to make. 

Halo: Combat Evolved

Multiplayer Gaming

Halo Combat Evolved

Reds vs. Blues. The side you choose is the side that you will forever be known for. Halo: Combat Evolved took multiplayer gaming and turned it on its head on how to get communities to play together in all its space opera glory. Either through a simple set up with a LAN cable of four Xbox enabling up to 16 players, or just through split screen action, Halo showed that through ingenious game design, that multiplayer can reach even further heights than it previously had. Multiplayer is not new to gaming at all, especially in first person shooters. Death matches and capture the flag matches against each other made or broke even the strongest of bonds, if only ever briefly.

What Halo does that is so impactful, however, is tying its genius innovations, such as the smoothness of a PC first person shooter, and allowed every friend group to have those innovations and put them to the test against each other. This smoothness included systems that made playing the game so intuitive. This included a separate button to use your grenades instead of shuffling through a weapon menu, having only two weapons at your disposable at all times, a shield that regenerates giving you that extra boost you need to survive an onslaught, and a melee attack with your weapon leading to utterly satisfying one hit kills. Halo: Combat Evolved set the bar for first person shooters, leaving other developers to constantly try to emulate its designs to bring their own success. 

Resident Evil 4

The Ultimate Action Game

Resident Evil 4 Gamecube Cover

The ultimate action that inspired every action game that has ever come after it. Resident Evil 4 has so greatly impacted the industry that it is considered the father of the modern action game. Technically the Resident Evil series are part of the survival horror genre, which Resident Evil 4 is considered as well, but its revolutionary systems ensured that the action and design systems of Resident Evil 4 will be replicated for years to come. Every action game since its release has been directly influenced by one simple design: the over-the-shoulder camera that doesn’t hide the action that is directly in front of you.

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This camera placement was a revelation at the time of release. Instead of the camera being placed directly behind you, the over-the-shoulder offered a completely new perspective to the action being set up on the screen. You can now see more viewpoints of what is happening in front of you leading to even more tense experiences of trying to hold back hordes of the Ganado, the enemies of the game. Resident Evil 4 truly encapsulates how gameplay can elevate players to feel like they are completely in control of the action that is taking place. The impact of Resident Evil 4 can not be stated enough, as it has been ported to every console since release, with a new remake that came out earlier this year that shows why this game continues to be the standard for action games. 

Fortnite

Social Media and Cultural Dominance

Fortnite

The most popular game ever released. Fortnite is a revolutionary game where social media and cultural dominance combined to create an ecosystem where everyone can come together and enjoy the world that Epic Games has unleashed. Never before has there been a game where watching the game on the sidelines is just as popular as playing the game for yourself. As the most streamed game on Twitch, Fortnite makes its world so exciting just by seeing what other players can do in the game. Expert Fortnite players create inclusive communities where people gather to watch their favorite gamers pull of their crazy antics. Through this, it has become even greater than just a free to play Battle Royale game. Streamers have made careers out of playing Fortnite, with millions of viewers watching a multitude of different live streams, rooting on their favorite streamers.

Yet this is just the beginning of what Fortnite has brought to the gaming world. Fortnite is the closest the industry has become to creating an entire virtual world that transports players to living inside a game. You can gather your best friends and hop into Party Royale and watch a film together, or go catch a concert together to see some of the greatest contemporary performers play their hits in front of you in a virtual setting. Fortnite is an escape to a world where you can just be yourself enjoying the company of your friends. With constant updates, seasons, and experiences, Fortnite will continue to dominate the gaming industry as it finds new ways to bring players together to enjoy the simple things in life.

Super Mario 64

Jumping Into 3d

Super Mario 64 Video Games N64 cover

When talking about games that changed the medium forever, Super Mario 64 takes the crown of how it impacted the industry. As a true 3d world, Super Mario 64 showed the world how video games can make the leap from 2d, and in the process enlighten players and developers on what it takes to make an incredible game. Along with a true analog stick from the Nintendo 64 controller, Super Mario 64 made you feel that you can run, jump, and smash in any direction you choose. Full control and full movement made Mario’s adventure a thrilling experience for everyone who had the chance to play. This game set the benchmark for platforming. As a novel release that invented what it means to be in a 3d world, other games that followed inevitably had to be compared to Super Mario 64.

Of course since its release, platform games have evolved into extraordinary affairs filled with surprises and new ideas. Yet Super Mario 64 set the standard. Nintendo knew that they had to show what 3d gaming could be, and by implementing their biggest star into the biggest world they created thus far, Nintendo found that winning formula. It was first time that 3d worlds felt fun and smooth to play. There are no tricks to its designs, players can master every ability that the game uses the very second that they pick up the controller. Its intuitive design made it so that no matter the situation, everyone can pick it up and instantly play as Mario in a new and exciting 3d explorable world. Super Mario 64 will always be an example that video games are meant to be played by everyone, kids and adults alike.

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