Minecraft – Indie Games
First, if you haven’t played this game, shame on you. As a creative outlet, it is easily one of the most satisfying games I have ever played. The beauty of open-world games of this kind is that the goal is whatever you make of it. It was clearly one of the most successful games of all time, spawning an entire merchandise/gaming/culture franchise that has become pretty ubiquitous with today’s world. But this doesn't even cover the impact that it had on the gaming community.
Why is this one of the most influential games? Easy; it made indie games a thing. You could argue that Braid pioneered the indie game market as the first game that proved indie games could be good. However, when it comes to success stories, no game ever has even come close to comparing to the success of Minecraft. Starting with humble beginnings, the company was eventually sold to Minecraft for an excess of 2 Billion dollars. Is that even a number we can comprehend?
Call of Duty 4 – Multi-play
Released on multiple platforms in 2007, and being part of the Call of Duty franchise, it had some pretty big shoes to fill. It ended up having amazing action sequences and great levels – some of which are still regarded as some of the best FPS levels in gaming. It turned the Call of Duty franchise into a monster that consumed the entire gaming market, and it's easy to see why.
This game changed the entire landscape of the gaming world for years. CoD4 was one of those rare nexuses of excellence in gaming where everything comes together. It had the story mode, the multi-player, and the cut-scenes. Everything they did here was excellent. In the years to follow, FPS games became a staple of the gaming industry. Even more, modern shooters became a genre unto their own. With a leveling system and an inclusion of randomization in multi-player, this game made FPS games more accessible. If you've played, you know how addicting this game could be. This game continues to be emulated, and its predecessors have largely failed to capture that rare completeness it brought to the industry. This game changed the industry so much, that I (an FPS gamer) became so fatigued with FPS games that I switched to Minecraft, a game on which I'm still stuck...
Wii Sports – Casual Play
If there’s one thing that you could use to describe this gaming generation, it was the rise of the casual gamer. With the introduction of the Wii, gaming became an activity that was widely introduced to the average person. For years, Nintendo couldn't keep up with the demand for their console, and there’s a reason… it was fun.
Of the games released on the Wii, there was really only one that perpetuated the casual gamer influx – Wii Sports. There was no other game that became so accessible to everyone. Showing your friends, parents, or grandparents a video game that used simple motions, Nintendo brought gaming to people who loathed the activity and complained of it being unsocial. Unlike the stereotype, this game was completely based on being social, and that made it more fun. It’s easy to see how this game impacted the industry. Without this game, the rise of the casual gamer probably wouldn't have been so complete.
Left 4 Dead – Co-op
Released by Valve in 2008, yes the company that brought PC gaming back from the brink, this game brought a whole new way to play FPS games. Being a stupidly fun game, Left 4 Dead brought us the fast-paced, super hectic world of zombie hordes-that-run that we fell in love with in such films as 28 Days Later. Like your typical zombie games, this game takes place post-cataclysm. Your goal is to get out of the city to a safe-house. Fortunately for you, your party members are all immune to the virus ravaging the country.
Left 4 Dead is one of the most influential games of the previous generation because it changed the way that co-op was done in games. In this game, you have 4 people… no more, and no less. If you lose one of your party members, that character is immediately taken over by an AI character. Before this point, there were very few games that offered a co-op campaign that was anywhere near as integral as this one. Making a game that was actually fun to play co-op was a difficult task. Halo did a pretty good job, but you were limited to 2 people. So well did their formula of 4 players and only 4 players work that a sequel was released just over a year later.
Gears of War – Cover system
When Gears of War first came out in 2006, there was only one FPS game that anyone played… Halo. Before this, there was no game that even stood a chance taking on the giant that was the Halo Franchise. It’s a good thing that we did, because this game gave us a new universe to play in, with new enemies, new toys, and new game play mechanics.
Gears of War brought a cover system to shooters that became a staple of the industry for a long time. For years, any first/third person game that came out didn't really have a choice – they had to have a cover system. There were some games that predated Gears of War that had good cover systems, but so few of them actually built their game around this aspect. They did it so well with Gears of War that it became a staple for the entire industry. You’d be hard-pressed to find a game that changed the landscape of gaming like this one did with one simple mechanic: cover. In fact, you probably wouldn't have thought that seeking cover would be fun, but they managed to do it. Easily one of the most influential games of the previous generation.
There you have it, folks. My 5 picks for the most influential games of Generation 7. There were a lot of games to choose from, but I think these 5 stand out as having the largest impact. I’m sure some of you will agree, please tell me in the comments below.
A few games that didn't make the list, but were very close can be found below.
Oblivion – what game showed the capability of Generation 7 better than this one?
Portal – This made us look at what a game actually was, do they need to be violent, and what happened to puzzles?
Uncharted – Storytelling doesn't have to be a secondary part of a game, it can be a primary one.
Day Z – This game made survival games a genre to be reckoned with… and all as an alpha-build. Think of the games that followed this, how many tried to clone its success?
Mass Effect – Sci-Fi games were largely off the map for popularity until this game was released. This was one of the first space operas in a long time, and they exceeded all expectations. A beautiful game with a beautiful universe.
Halo 2 – Very hard to not put this game on this list. Halo 2 is remembered as one of the worst halo games, but would Xbox live have succeeded without it? I don’t think so.
League of Legends – This game has an influence that can be felt across the world. When you think about monetization of games, this game has done it better than anyone else. It’s not pay-to-win, but they’re still making money hand-over fist. It’s a model that has been replicated in countless games since.
Angry Birds – Before this game, mobile gaming was a joke. Now it’s still a joke, but everyone does it. Thanks to this game, we have all sorts of silly/fun games on our mobile devices and we love it. Thanks for making puzzles so fun!