Video Games

What follows is a list of the Most Memorable, commercially released games I’ve ever played.  This collection may also be thought of as a compilation of Historically Significant titles.

Note that Free Video Games and Arcade Games occupy unique categories of their own and therefore reside in separate lists.

Rather than weigh this all down with a rating system I’ve decided to experiment with using a few select markers (or ‘badges’) to denote special characteristics associated with certain games.  Since everything here is unique or noteworthy in one way or another there’s little need to expend so much energy on subjective side-by-side comparisons.  Although, the hope with this alternate approach is to help those with limited time and resources to identify those titles that stand apart from others to the extent of being worthy not only of further study, but perhaps actually finding the means to play the game.  So, if an entry has one of these markers appended to it here’s what they attempt to convey.

(g) – Groundbreaking or highly original title
(^) – Crowning Achievement in the genre
(y) – Good game for younger players
(ch) – Strong connection to my own childhood
(+) – Recommended to those with an affinity for this genre
(~) – Intriguing disparity between first and later impressions

It helps to understand that every game here, including those without one of the aforementioned markers, is unique and innovative (or memorable) in some way… and probably worth a passing look for those interested in the evolution of a particular genre.  Being on the list at all should indicate that the game has a significance or quality of some measure.

There wouldn’t be much point including every game I’ve ever played; and If I only included games I’ve actually completed too many worthwhile entries would be absent.  This isn’t about highlighting only favorite games either, since my favorite game might not be your favorite game and one of the goals here is to provide younger generations with an historical road map of sorts.

…which suggests the following.  If you’re an aspiring game designer, and want to develop games that matter, these constitute a representative sample of the titles worth studying.

Consequently I don’t subscribe to the notion that there can be any such thing as ‘Greatest Game of All Time.’  The best anything can be is the most original and altogether crowning achievement within a genre, or attain the honorable distinction of giving rise to an entirely new genre.  As for the question of whether video games are (or can be) art… I’m not compelled to see the matter settled, so long as they continue to be engaging and fun.  Last of all, this compilation should by no means be taken as definitive, but might do well to inform an even more comprehensive research effort.

Fifty years from now most of these games will still be worth playing in their original, unaltered form, which should say something about the longevity of a well-crafted video game.

Updated 1/16/17

Combat (1977) (Atari 2600) Atari – (ch)

Empire: W. of the Century (1977) (PDP-10) Walter Bright – (g)

Human Cannonball (1978) (Atari 2600) Atari

Superman (1978) (Atari 2600) Atari

Lemonade Stand (1979) (Apple II) MECC – (g)

Adventure (1980) (Atari 2600) Atari – (g)

Miner! (1980) (Commodore PET) Ron Longfellow – (g)

Kaboom! (1981) (Atari 2600) Activision

Warlords (1981) (Atari 2600) Atari

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981) Sir-tech

Choplifter! (1982) (C64) Broderbund – (ch)

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982) (Atari 2600) Atari

Dungeons of Daggorath (1982) (TRS-80) DynaMicro – (g)

Empire Strikes Back (1982) (Atari 2600) Parker Brothers

Pitfall! (1982) (Atari 2600) Activision – (g) (ch)

Front Line (1983) (Colecovision) Taito – (ch)

Knot in 3D (1983) NGS | Remake (2006) WhiningGirl2D

Lode Runner (1983) (C64) Broderbund

M.U.L.E. (1983) Ozark Softscape | Remake (2009) Blue Systems

Rogue (1983) (MS-DOS) Artificial Intelligence Design – (g) (^) (+)

Tranz Am (1983) Ashby Computers | Remake (2008) Neil Walker

Archon: The Light and the Dark (1984) (C64) Free Fall – (g)

Elite (1984) (BBC Micro) Acornsoft – (g)

Ghostbusters (1984) (C64) Activision

Impossible Mission (1984) (C64) Epyx

King’s Quest (1984) Sierra | Remake (2001) AGDInteractive

Spelunker (1984) (C64) Broderbund

Spy vs Spy (1984) (C64) First Star Software

Summer Games (1984) (C64) Epyx

Survival (1984) (ZX Spectrum) Sinclair & Macmillan – (g)

Bounder (1985) Gremlin Graphics Software –  (g)

Duck Hunt (1985) (NES) Nintendo

Excitebike (1985) (NES) Nintendo

Gyromite (1985) (NES) Nintendo

Karateka (1985) (C64) Broderbund – (g)

Kennedy Approach (1985) (C64) MicroProse – (+)

Little Computer People (1985) (C64) Activision – (g)

Mail Order Monsters (1985) (C64) Electronic Arts – (g)

Oregon Trail (1985) (Apple II) MECC – (g) (y) (ch) (^) (+)

Paradroid (1985) (C64) Graftgold

Racing Destruction Set (1985) (C64) Electronic Arts – (g)

Shadowfire (1985) (C64) Denton Designs

Super Mario Bros. (1985) (NES) Nintendo – (g) (y) (ch) (+)

Balloon Fight (1986) (NES) Nintendo – (y) (+)

Deadly Towers (1986) (NES) Lenar Co.

Defender of the Crown (1986) (Amiga) Cinemaware

Gradius (1986) (NES) Konami

Metroid (1986) (NES) Nintendo – (g) (ch) (+)

Silent Service (1986) (Amiga) MicroProse

Thrust (1986) (C64) Firebird Software (+)

CHOLO (1987) Solid Image | Remake (2005) OvineByDesign

Double Dribble (1987) (NES) Konami

Final Fantasy (1987) (NES) Square – (g) (ch)

Kid Icarus (1987) (NES) Nintendo

Legend of Zelda, The (1987) (NES) Nintendo – (g) (ch)

Mega Man (1987) (NES) Capcom – (g)

Stadium Events (1987) (NES) Bandai

Starglider (1987) (Amiga) Argonaut Software

Test Drive (1987) (C64)  Distinctive Software

Wizards & Warriors (1987) (NES) Rare

Battle Chess (1988) (Amiga) Interplay

Blaster Master (1988) (NES) Tokai Engineering

Contra (1988) (NES) Konami

Final Assault (1988) (Amiga) Infogrames

Golgo 13 (1988) (NES) Vic Tokai (~)

Ice Hockey (1988) (NES) Nintendo – (y) (ch) (+)

Maniac Mansion (1988) (MS-DOS) LucasFilm Games

R.C. Pro-Am (1988) (NES) Rare – (ch)

Visions of Aftermath (1988) (MS-DOS) Chivalry Software

A Boy and His Blob (1989) (NES) Absolute Entertainment (~)

Adventures of Lolo (1989) (NES) HAL Labs – (y) (+)

Cobra Triangle (1989) (NES) Rare

Dragon Warrior (1989) (NES) ChunSoft – (y) (ch)

Motocross Maniacs (1989) (Game Boy) Konami (~)

Phantasy Star II (1989) (Genesis) Sega

Revenge of the Gator (1989) (Game Boy) HAL Labs – (y) (ch) (+)

Shadowgate (1989) (NES) ICOM Simulations

SimCity (1989) (Amiga) Maxis Software (g)

Tetris (1989) (Game Boy) Nintendo – (g) (^) (y) (ch) (+)

Cyberball (1990) (Genesis) Tengen/Sega

F-Zero (1990) (SNES) Nintendo – (ch) (+)

Herzog Zwei (1990) (Genesis) TechnoSoft/Sega – (g)

Immortal, The (1990) (NES) Sandcastle

Punch-Out!! (1990) (NES) Nintendo

Secret of Monkey Island (1990) (MS-DOS) Lucasfilm Games

Solar Jetman (1990) (NES) Tradewest

Solstice (1990) (NES) Software Creations

StarTropics (1990) (NES) Locomotive

Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990) (NES) Nintendo – (y) (ch) (+)

Wing Commander (1990) (MS-DOS) ORIGIN Systems

ActRaiser (1991) (SNES) Quintet Co.

Another World (1991) (Amiga) Delphine Software – (g) (~)

Battle Isle (1991) (Amiga) Blue Byte Software

Battletoads (1991) (NES) Rare (~)

Drakkhen (1991) (SNES) Infogrames

Faceball 2000 (1991) (Game Boy) Xanth Software

Final Fantasy II (1991) (SNES) Square – (y) (ch) (+)

King’s Bounty (1991) (Genesis) New World Computing

Lemmings (1991) (MS-DOS) DMA Design – (g) (^) (+)

Pilotwings (1991) (SNES) Nintendo

Populous (1991) (Genesis) Bullfrog

Scorched Earth (1991) (MS-DOS) Wendell Hicken – (g) (+)

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) (Genesis) Sega – (+)

Starflight (1991) (Genesis) Binary Systems – (g)

Super Mario World (1991) (SNES) Nintendo – (^) (y) (ch) (+)

Aerobiz (1992) (SNES) KOEI Corporation

Gemfire (1992) (NES) KOEI Corporation

Kirby’s Dream Land (1992) (Game Boy) HAL Labs

Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (1992) Nintendo (^) (y) (ch) (+)

Locomotion (1992) (MS-DOS) Prestige

Lost Vikings, The (1992) (SNES) Silicon & Synapse – (+)

Mario Paint (1992) (SNES) Nintendo

Prince of Persia (1992) (NES) Broderbund

Super Mario Kart (1992) (SNES) Nintendo – (g) (ch)

Super Scope 6 (1992) (SNES) Intelligent Systems

ToeJam & Earl (1992) (Genesis) Sega

Ugh! (1992) (Amiga) EGOSOFT

Disney’s Aladdin (1993) (Genesis) Virgin Games

Ecco the Dolphin (1993) (Genesis) Novotrade International (~)

Kirby’s Pinball Land (1993) (Game Boy) HAL Labs – (y) (ch) (+)

Myst (1993) Cyan | Remake (2000) Cyan Worlds

Star Fox (1993) (SNES) Argonaut Software

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993) (SNES) LucasArts

Earthworm Jim (1994) (SNES) Shiny Entertainment

Firemen, The (1994) (SNES) Human Entertainment – (+)

Donkey Kong Country (1994) (SNES) Rare

Horde, The (1994) (3DO) Toys for Bob

Star Control II (1994) (3DO) Accolade – (+)

Stunt Race FX (1994) (SNES) Argonaut/Nintendo

Transport Tycoon (1994) (MS-DOS) Chris Sawyer – (+)

Uniracers (1994) (SNES) DMA Design Limited

Chrono Trigger (1995) (SNES) Square Soft – (^) (y) (ch) (+)

Dig, The (1995) (MS-DOS) LucasArts

EarthBound (1995) (SNES) Ape/HAL Labs – (g) (^) (y) (ch) (+)

Mario’s Picross (1995) (Game Boy) Nintendo

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (1995) (MS-DOS) Blizzard

Yoshi’s Island (1995) (SNES) Nintendo – (y)

Harvest Moon (1996) (SNES) Pack-in-Video – (g)

Mario Kart 64 (1996) (N64) Nintendo

Super Mario 64 (1996) (N64) Nintendo – (+)

Curse of Monkey Island, The (1997) (Windows) LucasArts – (+)

Final Fantasy VII (1997) (PlayStation) Square

GoldenEye 007 (1997) (N64) Rare

Last Express, The (1997) (Windows) Smoking Car Productions

Legend of the River King (1997) (GBC) Victor Interactive

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee (1997) Oddworld Inhabitants

Theme Hospital (1997) (Windows) Bullfrog

Baldur’s Gate I & II (1998/2000) (Win) BioWare – (g) (^) (+)

Grim Fandango (1998) (Windows) LucasArts

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) (N64) Nintendo – (+)

Age of Empires II (1999) (Windows) Ensemble Studios

Freespace 2 (1999) (Windows) Volition – (^) (+)

Homeworld (1999) (Windows) Relic Entertainment – (g) (+)

Mario Party (1999) (N64) Hudson – (g) (+)

MechWarrior 3 (1999) (Windows) Zipper Interactive – (+)

RollerCoaster Tycoon (1999) Chris Sawyer Productions – (+)

SimCity 3000 (1999) (Windows) Maxis – (^) (+)

Survival Kids (1999) (Game Boy) Konami – (g) (y) (+)

Worms Armageddon (1999) (Win) Team17 Software – (^) (+)

Crimson Skies (2000) (Windows) Zipper Interactive – (+)

Motocross Madness 2 (2000) (Windows) Rainbow Studios – (+)

Risk II (2000) (Windows) Deep Red Games – (+)

Sims, The (2000) (Windows) Maxis – (g)

Battle Realms (2001) (Windows) Liquid Entertainment

Civilization III (2001) (Windows) Firaxis Games – (^) (+)

Gadget Racers (2001) (GBA) TAKARA

IL-2 Sturmovik (2001) (Windows) 1C:Maddox Games

Lady Sia (2001) (GBA) RFX Interactive

Luigi’s Mansion (2001) (GameCube) Nintendo

Stronghold (2001) (Windows) FireFly Studios – (+)

Super Monkey Ball (2001) (G.Cube) Amusement Vision – (g) (y)

Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) (GameCube) HAL Labs – (+)

Tribes 2 (2001) (Windows) Dynamix

Cultures 2: The Gates of Asgard (2002) (Win) Funatics – (+)

Metroid Prime (2002) (GameCube) Retro Studios

Morrowind (2002) (Windows) Bethesda – (^) (+)

Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood (2002) Spellbound – (+)

Syberia 1 & 2 (2002/2004) (Windows) Microids – (^) (+)

TimeSplitters 2 (2002) (GameCube) Free Radical/Eidos

Beyond Good & Evil (2003) (GameCube) Ubisoft – (y) (+)

Bookworm Deluxe (2003) (Windows) PopCap Games – (+)

Call of Duty (2003) (Windows) Infinity Ward

CIMA: The Enemy (2003) (GBA) Neverland Co.

Freelancer (2003) (Windows) Digital Anvil – (+)

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (2003) (GBA) – (+)

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003) (G.C) – (g) (^) (y) (+)

Majestic Chess (2003) (Windows) Fluent Entertainment – (+)

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (2003) (GameCube) Camelot – (^) (+)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003) (GC) Ubisoft

Rise of Nations (2003) (Windows) Big Huge Games – (^) (+)

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) BioWare

Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004) (GBA) Nintendo – (y) (+)

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (2004) (G.C) – (^) (y) (+)

Pikmin 2 (2004) (GameCube) Nintendo – (y) (+)

Return to Mysterious Island (2004) (Win) Kheops Studio – (+)

Sid Meier’s Pirates! (2004) (Windows) Firaxis Games

Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005) (DS) Nintendo – (+)

Cave Story (2005) (CP-noDRM) Nicalis

Geometry Wars (2005) (Xbox 360) Bizarre Creations

Guitar Hero (2005) (PS2) Harmonix Music Systems

Mario Tennis: Power Tour (2005) (GBA) Camelot – (^) (y) (+)

Mystery Case Files: Huntsville (2005) (Windows) Big Fish Studios

Space Rangers 2 (2005) (Windows) Elemental Games

Big Brain Academy (2006) (DS) Nintendo

Brain Age (2006) (DS) Nintendo/NIKOLI

Chibi-Robo! (2006) (GameCube) Skip Ltd/Nintendo – (y) (+)

Contact (2006) (DS) Grasshopper/Marvelous Interactive

Cooking Mama (2006) (DS) Office Create – (+)

Lego Star Wars II (2006) (GameCube) Traveller’s Tales

Odama (2006) (GameCube) Vivarium

Sid Meier’s Railroads! (2006) (Windows) Firaxis Games – (+)

Portal (2007) (Steam) Valve – (g) (+)

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (2007) (DS) – (y) (+)

Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 (2007/2010) (Wii) Nintendo – (+) (~)

Switchball (2007) (Windows) Atomic Elbow – (+)

Braid (2008) (CP-noDRM) Number None

de Blob (2008) (Wii) Blue Tongue Entertainment – (y)

Endless Ocean (2008) (Wii) Arika – (y) (+)

Opoona (2008) (Wii) Arte Piazza – (y)

Order Up! (2008) (Wii) SuperVillain Studios – (^) (+)

PixelJunk Eden (2008) (PS3) Q-Games

World of Goo (2008) (CP-noDRM) 2D Boy – (g) (^) (+)

Anno 1404 (2009) (Windows) Related Designs/Blue Byte – (+)

Blueberry Garden (2009) (Steam) Erik Svedang

Crayon Physics Deluxe (2009) (CP-noDRM) Kloonigames – (y) (+)

Eufloria (2009) (CP-noDRM) Omni Systems – (g) (+)

Infiniminer (2009) (Windows) Zachary Barth – (g)

Machinarium (2009) (CP-noDRM) Amanita Design – (^) (+)

Osmos (2009) (CP-noDRM) Hemisphere Games – (g) (+)

RunMan: Race Around the World (2009) (Windows) – (+)

Torchlight (2009) (Windows) Runic Games

Wii Sports Resort (2009) (Wii) Nintendo – (g) (^) (y) (+)

Lunar Flight (2010) (Windows) Shovsoft – (+)

Super Scribblenauts (2010) (DS) 5th Cell Media – (y)

Fishing Resort (2011) (Wii) Prope – (^) (+)

FOTONICA (2011) (CP-noDRM) Santa Ragione

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (2011) (X360) Fuelcell – (+)

Proun (2011) (Windows)  Joost van Dongen

Revenge of the Titans (2011) (Steam) Puppygames – (+)

Wizorb (2011) (CP-noDRM) Tribute Games – (g) (y)

Faster Than Light (2012) (CP-noDRM) Subset Games – (+)

Fez (2012) (CP-noDRM) Polytron Corporation – (g) (+)

Miasmata (2012) (Windows) IonFx – (g) (+)

Thomas Was Alone (2012) (CP-noDRM) Mike Bithell – (+)

Attack of the Friday Monsters! (2013) (3DS) Level 5 – (y) (+)

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013) (X360) Starbreeze Studios

Don’t Starve (2013) (CP-noDRM) Klei Entertainment – (g) (^) (+)

Euro Truck Simulator 2 (2013) (Windows) SCS Software – (+)

MirrorMoon EP (2013) (CP-noDRM) Santa Ragione

Race the Sun (2013) (CP-noDRM) Flippfly

Shelter: The Circle (2013) (Win/Mac) Might and Delight – (y)

Sir, You Are Being Hunted (2013) (CP-noDRM) Big Robot

Steamworld Dig (2013) (3DS) Image & Form – (^) (+)

LUFTRAUSERS (2014) (CP-noDRM) Vlambeer – (+)

NaissanceE (2014) (Steam) Limasse Five (~)

Story About My Uncle, A (2014) (Windows) Gone North Games

Grow Home (2015) (PS4/Steam) Ubisoft Reflections – (g)

_______________________________

Curious to know what CP-noDRM means? Find out here

…And then there are those games I’ll probably never have a chance to play, but if I did would very likely end up on this list:

Santa Paravia en Fiumaccio (1978) (TRS-80) Instant Software

A2FS1 Flight Simulator (1980) (Apple II) subLOGIC

Akalabeth: World of Doom (1980) (Apple II) Richard Garriott

Utopia (1981) (Intellivision) Mattel Electronics

Airline (1982) (ZX Spectrum) CCS

Dandy Dungeon (1983) (Atari 800) John Palevich

Lords of Midnight, The (1984) (ZX Spectrum) Mike Singleton

Trade Wars (1984) (TRS-80) Chris Sherrick

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (1985) (Apple II) ORIGIN

Yume Köjo: Dokidoki Panic (1987) (Famicom) Nintendo

Carrier Command (1988) (Amiga) Rainbird Software

Famicom Wars (1988) (NES) Intelligent Systems

Wings (1990) (Amiga) Cinemaware

D/Generation (1991) (MS-DOS) Mindscape

Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991) (MS-DOS) MPS Labs

Dune II (1992) (MS-DOS) Westwood Studios

Master of Orion (1993) (MS-DOS) Microprose

Settlers, The (1993) (Amiga) Blue Byte Software

Donkey Kong (1994) (Game Boy) Nintendo

WarCraft: Orcs & Humans (1994) (MS-DOS) Blizzard

PaRappa the Rapper (1996) (PlayStation) NanaOn-Sha

Pokémon (1996) (Game Boy) Game Freak

Moon: Remix RPG Adventure (1997) (PlayStation) Love-de-Lic

Anno 1602 (1998) (Windows) Max Design GesMBH

EverQuest (1999) (Windows) 989 Studios

Ore no Ryouri (1999) (PlayStation) Agenda

Herdy Gerdy (2002) (PlayStation 2) Core Design

Giftpia (2003) (GameCube) Skip Ltd.

Katamari Damacy (2004) (PlayStation 2) Namco

Shadow of the Colossus (2005) (PlayStation 2) Team Ico

Dwarf Fortress (2006) (CP-noDRM) Bay 12 Games

LocoRoco (2006) (PSP) Sony

Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 (2007) (PS3) Millennium Kitchen

LittleBigPlanet (2008) (PS3) Media Molecule

Flower (2009) (PS3) thatgamecompany

Minecraft (2009) (Java) Mojang AB

PixelJunk Shooter (2009) (PS3) Q-Games

Okabu (2011) (PS3) HandCircus

Journey (2012) (PS3) thatgamecompany

Unfinished Swan (2012) (PS3) Giant Sparrow

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2013) (PS3) Level 5

_______________________________

Primary Resources:
GameFAQs, MobyGames, Wikipedia
The Video Game Museum (vgmuseum.com)
The Console Living Room (at archive.org)
The Internet Archive Software Collection
Numerous indie game portals and news feeds
A veritable lifetime of research and playing video games

Statistics:
Apple II – 7
Atari 2600 – 9
MS-DOS – 16
Commodore 64 – 19
NES – 36
Amiga – 12
Sega Genesis – 10
Game Boy – 11
Super Nintendo – 23
Nintendo 64 – 5
Game Boy Advance – 6
GameCube – 15
Windows – 51
Nintendo DS – 7
PlayStation 3 – 9
Nintendo Wii – 7
Cross Platform DRM free – 18
Others – 38
Total number of Most Memorable games – 299
Percentage of these that I’ve completed fully – Low
Number in the Queue – Many.  It never ends.  Don’t try it.
Likelihood that I’ll be able to play them all – 3.95271
Great Years in Gaming: 1985, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2009

Experienced game enthusiasts may have noticed a few ‘glaring omissions’ from what might otherwise be considered a decent compilation of noteworthy titles.  Notwithstanding the possibility that I haven’t yet played a certain game, this may be by design.  Several years ago I made the conscious decision not to play, rate or endorse games with an M-rating, based on the following philosophical position: that there is no worthwhile game premise which so necessarily relies upon the level of blood, violence, nudity, profanity or adolescent humor generally warranting an M-rating…such that it will suffer for the lack of it.  Any game that would isn’t worth producing in the first place.

Update (2012) – There are now two additional characteristics that will almost immediately remove a game from consideration: Those that employ Microtransactions, commonly called “Free-to-Play” in which Virtual Goods or In-App purchases are used.  The other is Persistent online authentication of any kind.  For more details and information about these trends follow the link to this post.

What about newer games?  You might want to visit the Promising Games list, featuring recently released and up-and-coming titles.

See also:

  • An Epilogue on studying video game history
  • Musings on growing up with (and without) video games
Published on May 23, 2011 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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