Video games are, for those who play for hours at a time and even partake in competitions that are worth quite a bit of money, not all that different than sports. Such tournaments can have significant physical, mental and psychological impacts on players that are not all that different from what athletes experience when they are out on the field, on the ice or on the court. Professional football, pro baseball, pro hockey and pro basketball all have their own Halls of Fame that celebrate achievements in those professions. It is only fitting that video games would have a similar institution.
Any long-time player of video games who knows the history of this genre of entertainment could not have any real complaints about the titles that were recently inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Pong changed the way that human players compete against each other. Pac-Man took a simple concept and turned it into a cultural icon. The idea of completing puzzles was flipped on its head by Tetris. Super Mario Bros. is perhaps the most famous video game ever made. All current violent video games owe gratitude to the makers of Doom. World of Warcraft was a role-playing game unlike any before it.
The next 20 or so titles that are worthy of being added to the World Video Game Hall of Fame will come down to matters of opinions among gamers. You may love some of the games that are featured in this list, you may hate others, and there may even be some that you either never played or have forgotten about due to age and time. Each of the titles that are listed contributed something meaningful to the overall genre of video games, to the point that they remain playable up to this day regardless of how “outdated” they may seen when compared to current-generation products.
20. NFL 2k5
It was released in the summer of 2004, and yet NFL 2k5 remains the greatest National Football League simulation ever made. Just how much of a juggernaut was this iconic title? It led to Electronic Arts, a giant of the video game industry, locking down an exclusive rights deal to use NFL franchises and NFL Players Association athletes in future Madden titles. That monopoly on the NFL has not stopped Internet communities from creating updated rosters for 2k5 that are still playable on the original Xbox console. 2K5 cemented its place in history with the reactions that it caused.
Up-up down-down left-right left-right B-A (Select) Start. The famous “Konami code” that was introduced to many gamers via this title is reason enough for Contra to be considered for a spot in the Hall of Fame. It also does not hurt that Contra is one of the top classic side-scrolling shooters that also included some vertical-scrolling levels that you will find out there. Try as the company might, it could never quite reproduce the greatness that was found in the original Contra, a game that was better, not to mention easier to beat, playing alongside a friend than in solo mode.
18. Madden ’99
The NFL is the top sports league in all of North America, and thus one should include the video game series that has been linked with that league for decades. Madden ’99 forever changed the series and proved to be the great-grandfather of what was to come, offering a revamped franchise mode that allowed gamers to control player contracts, training camps, draft picks and even the hiring and firing of coaches. If only Madden could now give us a game that was a better overall simulation than NFL 2k5. The world shall continue to wait for that day to come.
The media franchise that began with the Walt Disney Pictures movie was represented by an arcade game that was broken up into four different sub-missions that stemmed from the film. An instant hit upon its release, Tron was honored with the “Coin-Operated Game of the Year” award for the year 1982 by Electronic Games, and it is widely regarded for being a groundbreaking title that helped inspire future games that would feature on consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis and Playstation. Those who have easily gotten through Tron playing on a modded device should test themselves by playing the real deal; if you can find one, that is.
16. Super Mario Kart
The original Super Mario Kart was indeed innovative and way ahead of its time with its maps, weapons, tricks and multi-player mode. The point of any video game, regardless of the genre, is to entertain, and Mario Kart was and is, to this day, simply fun to play. This series has continued to age like a fine wine – Mario Kart 64 could one day deserve its own spot in the Hall of Fame – but praise must first be given to the original. According to IGN, Super Mario Kart remains the third-best selling game in the history of the Super Nintendo console.
15. GoldenEye 007
The single-player mode of GoldenEye 007 is plenty of fun all on its own, and that you can increase the game’s difficulty allows you to replay it multiple times. It is the multi-player “deathmatch” feature that the game offered that makes GoldenEye a must for any video game Hall of Fame. Anybody who had three friends who were also gamers, four total Nintendo 64 controllers and GoldenEye had hours of entertainment in front of him. Add in that GoldenEye helped launch the Perfect Dark series, and one could easily argue that the title deserves to be in the top-ten of this list.
14. NBA Jam
No National Basketball Association simulation before the game evolved into a cultural sensation as did the original NBA Jam. That the game offered unrealistic and downright ridiculous sky-high dunks and other highlight-reel moves only enhanced the gameplay, and the unlockable characters that were available gave you objectives to pursue for hours at a time. Phrases such as “Boom-shakalacka” and “He’s on fire” became mainstays of popular sports culture all because of NBA Jam, a title that went far and beyond any other sports arcade game that the world had ever before seen.
13. Mortal Kombat
There are going to be some out there who will suggest that Street Fighter, most notably Street Fighter II, deserves the nod here. That is a fair argument, but Street Fighter never became the cultural phenomenon that has been Mortal Kombat over the years. Mortal Kombat titles continue to be created on current-generation consoles, and music from that video game is recognizable at sporting events. Even the game’s famous phrase – “Finish Him!” – is still utilized in parts of society such as Internet memes. All fighting titles, including Street Fighter, must bow to Mortal Kombat.
12. Super Mario 64
Those responsible for the creation of the Nintendo 64 promised something that console gamers had never before experienced with the release of the console and of Super Mario 64. In a world in which such lofty expectations are often left unrealized, Mario 64 was an absolute home run, one of the finest adventure games of its time. While hardly the best game to ever be released by the console, Mario 64 was a true landmark with its 3-D gameplay, and it helped set the standard for all other similar Nintendo 64 adventure titles. Just as impressive is that the game lives up nearly two decades after it was first released.
11. Space Invaders
Those of you who would instead put either Galaxian or Galaga will not get a loud argument from the creator of this piece, but Space Invaders does deserve its own special spot in the Hall of Fame. The old-school arcade game was the grandfather of so many that came after it, a simple series that involved the destruction of enemies that made their way down the screen toward the hero who was unable to fly away and fight another day. It may not have been Pac-Man or Donkey Kong, but Space Invaders was a special brand all on its own.
There were other great first-person shooters before it, but none at its time was able to touch what Halo provided gamers. While the graphics of the original title were extraordinary and the missions were equally entertaining and difficult, it is the multi-player and online options that put Halo over-the-top as one of the best overall games of its generation. The team option that has been included in every version of Halo helped spawn its own Red versus Blue web series, and Halo’s multi-player options have only gotten better and better over the years. Any discussion of great first-person shooters must include Halo.
9. Final Fantasy
Depending on your age or your experience with video games at the time when this title is released, it is possible that Final Fantasy was your introduction to the world of role-playing games. Titles such as Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy VII went on to achieve legendary status, to the point that VII is still a revered game among those who fancy this series. It was the initial title that changed how some viewed video games, however, as it showed that there was more to adventure games than merely stomping on the heads of bad guys and saving princesses.
8. Duke Nukem
The original Duke Nukem was, for those of us used to the standard titles that we found on consoles, just different than anything we had ever before witnessed. A two-dimensional shooter, Duke Nukem included both horizontal and vertical scrolling levels, and it added elements of comedy that were not found in similar titles of its time. Like others on this list, the Duke Nukem series improved upon the original over the years, but the argument could be made that the character as much as the original title deserves its own spot in the Hall of Fame.
7. Metroid Prime
The Nintendo Gamecube was, more so than not, a disaster of an experiment that was a letdown following the Nintendo 64. That should not, however, take away from the overall greatness that is what Metroid Prime can still offer gamers. IGN, to this day, gives the title a 9.8 out of 10, and Prime was the one must-own game that was available on the Gamecube. Those of you who possess “modded” systems would do well to locate and play a version of Prime if you have never before done so, as it was an innovative title that preceded other tremendous first-person shooters.
6. Tecmo Bowl
There are far better games in the Tecmo Bowl series than the original – even the immediate follow-up blew the original right out of the water – but those games do not exist if Tecmo Bowl does not first change how gamers viewed football titles. There are, to this day, social media pages and even merchandise created that is dedicated to this iconic title, and gamers still meet up for Tecmo Bowl tournaments. While the Madden series has become synonymous with the NFL, that series has never achieved the level of cult-classic status as has the original Tecmo Bowl.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Super Mario 64 was a revolutionary title worthy of being mentioned in this list, but one would have to have some biases to rate that title over The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Ocarina of Time took the Mario 64 concept, added in characters from the Zelda series and then injected steroids into the game. Above what are seemingly an endless amount of puzzles, side challenges and horse rides that can be made, Ocarina of Time was, to put it plainly, just damn cool, so much so that some would suggest that the series peaked with this Nintendo 64 title.
4. FIFA Football 2004
Picking just one of the FIFA titles is like attempting to choose your favorite from one of 1,000 beautiful snowflakes. Best of luck. FIFA 2004 is the grandfather/great-grandfather of current and future titles in the series in that it allowed gamers to move a lower-ranked team up through the ranks into the top-flight of that country. The game also introduced the Dutch and Portuguese leagues to the series, it provided literally hundreds of in-game crowd chants, and it included a makeshift online version of what you will find in latest FIFA game. No sports title on the planet has the popularity had by the FIFA product.
3. Donkey Kong
The name alone makes this title worthy of being included in any video game Hall of Fame. Donkey Kong may not have been at the time what was Pac-Man, but the series has unquestionably eclipsed that achieved by the game that involved eating up dots and avoiding ghosts. What was once an arcade game that was won by avoiding rolling barrels and saving the damsel in distress has become a global brand and a series of video games that has been released across multiple consoles. Donkey Kong could have been included in the first ever Hall of Fame class.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog
The concept behind Sonic the Hedgehog is simple enough to understand: Make what is essentially a ripoff of Mario with a single character, but give the game more power, more speed and better graphics. Sonic succeeded in its objective, becoming the face of the Sega Genesis and also making for games that were, at the very least, comparably to any Mario title of its time. While the series only got better in the time – Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and then Sonic and Knuckles – this is an instance where the original title has to first get the respect that it deserves.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
Some may see this as redundant since Super Mario Bros. is already in the Hall of Fame. The fourth edition of the NES series, which is truly the third in the actual line of games if we are being honest about it (read up on Mario 2 if you don’t know), took the original Mario concept and added brand new life to it. The maps and power-ups that are found in this version made the original Mario far outdated than anybody could have imagined at the time. Mario 3 is, to this day, widely viewed as one of the best and most entertaining video games ever made.