The 458 Most Influential Games Of All Time

Keith Stuart (@KeefStuart) recently wrote, for the Guardian, a list of the Ten Most Influential Videogames Of All Time. As you might expect, he was utterly wrong. Of course, he knew this in advance, which is why he posted on Twitter...

No doubt he is, right now, perusing your angry but correct response (somehow locating it among all the other equally angry but incorrect responses) and fixing his wayward thinking. There’s no problem with Keith’s excellent choices or the faultless rationale behind them. The problem lies with our (your) assumption that it is specifically us (you) over whom games must have influence. That is a very different, but no less interesting question.

Which games most influenced the design of all subsequent games across all genres and platforms? We don’t have the videogames equivalent of academic citations, but as a thought-experiment it’s at least possible to imagine answering this question somewhat objectively.

But which games most influenced you?

Rob "Mr. Videogames" Fearon (@retroremakes), foreshadowing Keith’s article, posed just this question on Twitter.

As of a couple of days ago when I trawled through them, Rob’s tweet had received replies from nearly 130 unique respondents. Most of these simply stated, without justification or explanation, their selection of roughly five influential games. I asked my team of analysts to apply the latest machine-learning methods to the results (read: muggins here bodged them about a bit in Excel) and I can now say, with the full confidence of statistics drawn from a small and biased community, that these are the 458 Most Influential Games Of All Time.

The full list appears below, but here are some points of interest.

Firstly, how did Keith’s Guardian choices fare? Notable for their low positions are several classics, Pac-Man (1 vote, actually for Ms Pac-Man) and Tetris (2 votes). Also faring poorly was Grand Theft Auto, with Vice City gaining the franchise’s only vote. But the remaining entries in his list of ten were well represented: Elite, Super Mario Brothers, Doom and Zelda picked up plenty of votes between them.

Keith’s potentially controversial inclusion of Spelunky also appears to have been fully vindicated with a healthy 4 votes. This equals luminaries like Half-Life and Quake, and far outstrips many other household names.

And I haven’t even considered Multi-User Dungeon as a contender in my statistics. Keith’s piece opens with it. As a fundamental step on a very long journey its influence is unquestioned. But it’s also unlikely to gain many votes, what with it being an experimental roleplaying system running on a university mainframe. That’s not to say there aren’t some obscure and archaic entries on my list, supplied by Rob’s knowledgeable crowd of followers.

Hey Grandad, get out of your dungeon and tell me how “Call Of Duty 8: War Space Gun Bang” did! Or in other words, what about some games we’ve all played?

Well, Doom is out in front with 11 votes. Wait a minute though… Doom could relate to the seminal 1993 shooter, or the 2016 gorefest reboot. Both great games, but different games, with the same name. I’m double-counting! that’s cheating! OK, we’ll come back to this in a moment.

In second place, just behind Doom with 9 votes, was Elite, which we and Keith already mentioned. It's an excellent result for a game that was way ahead of its time, and pushed design and technical boundaries equally.

Sharing third with 8 votes are sci-fi roleplay-shooter-stealth-kinda game Deus Ex, and fantasy epic Morrowind. Widely acknowledged as design classics, it’s unsurprising that respondents would look to these for influence. Perhaps most interesting about the success of Morrowind is the extent to which it outguns its own sequels: Oblivion received only one vote, and Skyrim doesn’t even appear.

Other high-scorers include Dark Souls, Final Fantasy VII, a couple of Metroids and Street Fighter 2, as you might expect. Perhaps less expected are the appearance of Proteus and Jet Set Radio, with five votes apiece. I haven’t played either, but I intend to now, given their success here.

Now back to the question of Doom. Let’s take Doom as a franchise, and include Doom 2 (which got 4 votes) and Doom 3 (which… is also a game). Its 15 votes over three represented games places it on a par with the Final Fantasy series (15 votes over nine games) and Super Mario (15 votes between four games).

The Metroid franchise also does well by this measure, with ten votes split evenly over two games, Super Metroid and Metroid Prime.

However, by this measure, The Legend Of Zelda slightly pips all of these, with 16 votes spread over five games, despite not scoring more than four votes for any particular entry.

I’d like to give a few shouts to games that I was surprised and/or pleased to see get some love in the list: Paradroid, Dungeon Master, Syndicate, Wipeout, Hunter, Uridium, Damocles, Gobliiins, Guild Of Thieves, Ikaruga, Interphase, Max Payne, Rick Dangerous 2, Space Quest IV, Tetris Attack, Xenon 2 Megablast and Zany Golf.

For the record, my own responses were Lander (1 vote), Monty On The Run (2), Deuteros (1), Populous (1) and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (1).

None of these games appear in Keith’s list, but they all influenced me in different ways during different periods of my life. Monty On The Run, for instance, was the game that first made me want a home computer at all. I played it on my friend’s brother's Spectrum shortly after it came out, and a month later (after badgering my dad on a daily basis) I got a Speccy of my own for my 7th birthday. More than thirty years on, I can trace my entire career, maybe my entire life in a sense, back to seeing that pixelated mole somersault over a chubby-snouted puppy.

And Lander… I’ll save that discussion for a future article.

All of which gives the lie to this whole scheme. This poll (and it wasn’t even a poll until I turned it into one) only concerns the personal influence these games had over a bunch of individuals. Furthermore, those individuals are selected from the kind of people who follow @retroremakes on Twitter. Lovely people, all, but by no means statistically unbiased.

Take the following full list, then, with a healthy pinch of your granular substance of choice.

And don’t @ me.

GAMEVOTES
Doom11
Elite9
Deus Ex8
Morrowind8
Super Mario Bros7
Dark Souls6
Final Fantasy VII6
Super Mario Bros 36
Jet Set Radio5
Metroid Prime5
Proteus5
Street Fighter 25
Super Metroid5
Boulderdash4
Chaos: The Battle Of Wizards4
Doom 24
Half Life4
Laser Squad4
Legend Of Zelda4
Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening4
Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time4
Paradroid4
Quake4
Secret Of Mana4
Space Harrier4
Spelunky4
System Shock 24
Atic Atac3
Bionic Commando3
Dungeon Master3
Dwarf Fortress3
Dys4ia3
Gridrunner++3
Half Life 23
Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past3
Metal Gear Solid3
Myst3
Nethack3
Outrun3
Planescape: Torment3
Rez3
R-Type3
Sim City3
Star Control II3
Syndicate3
The Beginner's Guide3
Wipeout3
World Of Warcraft3
Another World2
Asteroids2
Baldur's Gate2
Baldur's Gate 22
Bayonetta2
Bomb Jack2
Bubble Bobble2
Burnout2
Cannon Fodder2
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night2
Cave Story2
Chrono Trigger2
Combat (2600)2
Command & Conquer2
Day Of The Tentacle2
Deus Ex Machina2
Devil May Cry2
Earthbound2
Fallout 22
Final Fantasy VI2
Frontier: Elite 22
Halo2
Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy2
Hunter2
Ico2
Jet Set Willy2
Kentucky Route Zero2
Lemmings2
Llamatron2
M.U.L.E.2
Master Of Magic2
Metroid2
Microprose F1GP2
Midwinter2
Minecraft2
Monty On The Run2
Mystical Ninja2
NBA Jam2
New Zealand Story2
Paradroid 902
Phantasy Star 22
Quake 32
Quest For Glory2
Riven2
Robotron2
Shenmue2
Silent Hill 22
Sim City 20002
Skool Daze2
Space Funeral2
Space Giraffe2
Spheres Of Chaos2
Super Crate Box2
Super Hexagon2
Super Meat Boy2
Supreme Commander2
Tetris2
Thief2
Tomb Raider2
Unreal Tounament 20042
Uridium2
Xenogears2
1401
50 Short Games1
80 Days1
A Tale In The Desert1
Ace Attorney1
Advanced Lawnmower Simulator1
Age of Empires1
Alan Wake1
Alpha Centauri1
Among The Sleep1
Anarchy Online1
Angband1
Animal Crossing1
Ape Escape1
Apocalypse World1
Arena1
Back 2 Skool1
Banished1
Bastion1
Batalyx1
Battle Squadron1
Battlefield series1
Beneath A Steel Sky1
Binding Of Isaac1
Bit.Trip Core1
Blade Runner1
Blitz The League1
Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth1
Call Of Duty 41
Choice of Robots1
Chuck Yeager's Air Combat1
Civilization1
Civilization 21
Civilization 51
Colossal Cave Adventure1
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun1
Commander Keen 41
Contra1
Corrypt1
Counter-Strike1
Creatures 21
Cybernator1
Daggerfall1
Damocles1
Dance Dance Revolution1
Dark Chronicle1
Dark Souls 31
Darker1
Darkfall1
Dawn Of War1
Death Ray Manta1
Defender1
Defender Of The Crown1
Delta1
Destiny1
Deus Ex Invisible War1
Deuteros1
Diablo1
Discworld MUD1
Dishonoured1
Disney's Toontown Online1
Donkey Kong1
Donkey Kong Country1
Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story1
Dragon Warrior1
Dragonfire1
Driver1
Dropsy1
Dune 21
Dungeon Keeper1
Earth Defense Force1
Earthshaker1
Ecco The Dolphin1
Einhander1
Elder Scrolls series1
Emily Is Away1
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer1
Encounter1
Etrian Odyssey1
Europa Universalis1
Eve Online1
Evergrace1
Everquest1
Exile1
F.E.A.R.1
FA1
Fable1
Fallout1
Fallout 31
Fallout New Vegas1
Fatale1
Feud1
Fez1
Final Fantasy Adventure1
Final Fantasy II1
Final Fantasy III1
Final Fantasy IV1
Final Fantasy Tactics1
Final Fantasy XII1
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles1
Flappy Bird1
Flashback1
Flood1
FlOw1
Flower1
Flower Sun & Rain1
Football Manager1
Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures1
FRACT OSC1
Friday The 13th1
Frogger1
Future1
Garry's Mod1
Gauntlet 21
Gears Of War1
Geometry Wars Retro Evolved1
Go1
Gobliiins1
Golden Sun: The Lost Age1
Goldeneye1
Gone Home1
Goonies 21
Gradius1
Grand Prix Legends1
Grey Matter1
GTA Vice City1
Guild Of Thieves1
Gunstar Heroes1
Gyruss1
H.E.R.O1
Halls Of The Things1
Halo 31
Harrier Attack1
Harvest Moon1
Harvest Moon: Friends Of Mineral Town1
Head Over Heels1
Homeworld1
Horrible Screaming Murderer IV1
Hostages1
Hostile Waters1
Hotline Miami1
Hover Bovver1
Hyper Lode Runner1
I, Robot1
IK+1
Ikaruga1
Illusion of Time1
Illustrator1
Infinity1
Interphase1
Invisible Inc1
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast1
Jetpac1
Jonny RPG1
Journey1
Jumpman1
Kid Chameleon1
King Of Dragon Pass1
King's Bounty1
King's Quest 61
Knights of the Old Republic1
Lander1
Larn1
Legend Of Mana1
Legend Of Zelda: Majora's Mask1
Lego Island 21
Lego Rock Raiders1
Limbo1
Little Big Adventure1
Lode Runner1
Lord of the Rings Online1
Lords Of Midnight1
Lost Vikings1
Lumo1
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue1
Magic: The Gathering1
Makai Toushi Sa.Ga1
Marathon 2: Durandal1
Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure1
Mario Kart 71
Mass Effect1
Math Rescue1
Max Payne1
Mechwarrior 21
Mega Man 21
Megalomania1
Mercenary1
Metal Gear Solid 31
Metal Slug 31
Metroid 21
Midnight Resistance1
Minotaur Rescue1
Moon Patrol1
Moria1
Mother 31
Ms Pac-Man1
Myst V: End Of Ages1
Need For Speed Underground 21
Night Striker1
NiGHTS1
Ninja1
Ninja Gaiden1
Nuclear Throne1
Oblivion1
Outcast1
Outrun 20061
Papers, Please1
Parasite1
Parodius1
Patch1
Peggle1
Perilous Realms1
Pharaoh1
Pleurghburg: Dark Ages1
Pokemon1
Pokemon Blue1
Pokemon Red1
Pokemon Yellow1
Populous1
Portal1
Princess Maker 21
Problem Attic1
Quake 21
Quake World1
Quazatron1
Quest (Dragon 32)1
Quill1
Radiator 11
Radiator 21
Rainbow Islands1
Rat Chaos1
Rebelstar1
Repton 31
Rescue On Fractalus1
Resident Evil1
Resident Evil 21
Rick Dangerous 21
River Raid1
Road Rash1
Rock Band1
Rocket Knight Adventures1
Rodland1
Rollercoaster Tycoon1
Saboteur1
Saga Frontier1
Saga Frontier 21
Scramble1
Screeps1
Secret of Monkey Island1
Sensible World of Soccer1
Serious Sam: First Encounter1
Shadow Of The Beast1
Shadowgate1
Shatterhand1
Shock Troopers1
Silent Hill1
Sim Ant1
Sim Life1
Skies of Arcadia1
Skirmish (Joust)1
SLA Industries1
Smash TV1
Snatcher1
Sol Feace1
Soldat1
Soleil (Crusader of Centy)1
Solium Infernum1
Song of Saya1
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle1
Sonic CD1
Sonic The Hedgehog 21
Soul Calibur 21
Space Quest IV1
Space Station 131
Spore1
Star Wars Galaxies1
Star Wars: Dark Forces1
Starflight1
Stunt Car Racer1
Suikoden1
Sundog1
Sunset Riders1
Super Mario 641
Super Mario World1
Super Pang1
Super Smash Bros1
Suspended1
System Shock1
Tanaka's Friendly Adventure1
Tazz-Mania1
Team Fortress 21
Tekken Tag Tournament1
Terranigma1
Tetris Attack1
The 7th Guest1
The Graveyard1
The Last Blade 21
The Last Eichof1
The Secret World1
The World Ends With You1
Theme Hospital1
Thirty Flights Of Loving1
Thrust1
Time Pilot1
Timesplitters1
Toejam and Earl1
Tomb Of Drewan1
Tomb Raider III1
Tomba1
Tony Hawks Pro Skater 31
Total War (series)1
Track & Field1
Transistor1
Transport Tycoon1
True Pinball1
Turrican 21
Ultima III1
Ultima IV1
Ultima Online1
Ultima VII1
Unity Of Command1
Unnumbered1
Unreal Tounament1
Uru1
Valkyrie Profile1
Vampire Bloodlines1
Visual Pinball1
VVVVVV1
Warioware1
Wasteland1
Wing Commander 31
Wipeout 20971
With Those We Love Alive1
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord1
Wizball1
Wolfenstein 3D1
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap1
Worms 21
WWE No Mercy1
X-COM: Apocalypse1
Xenon1
Xenon 2 Megablast1
Yars' Revenge1
Zany Golf1
Zoo Tycoon1
Zork: Grand Inquisitor1
Zynaps1
ZZT1

Oh, and lest we forget: Doom 3 - no votes. *sadface*

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