Game Genres, Criticisms and Opinions

For this post, I’m focusing on several game genres and discussing which I think is the definitive game for each genre. Please, take this with a grain of salt – I’m not objectively stating that I’m correct (though I totally am), just giving my opinion. If I think multiple games fit into a given genre, I’ll list them. This post will be in a list, with each point focusing on a separate genre. I’m hoping to generate some discussion, so feel free to reply with your own commentary and thoughts on this list. As a quick note – I can’t cover every sub-genre, but I’ll cover a couple, such as the stealth genre. I also won’t cover every type of RPG in the world, but I’ll separate into Action RPG, Japanese RPG and Western RPG. Enjoy!

First Person Shooter

Most influential game: Doom

Doom

This is a hard one, but I consider Doom to be the most influential first person shooter of all time. There are lots of great ones: Half-Life 2, Halo: Combat Evolved, Goldeneye 64, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Castle Wolfenstein – the list goes on. Each did something huge for the genre, but I chose Doom because it was the FPS that perfected the genre standards still used today. This is probably the hardest genre for me – I didn’t want to split this into sub-genres, because I think I’d be here for days if I did. I’d argue that Doom was the most influential just because of the standards it set – things like multiple weapons, multiplayer deathmatch, a (pretty crappy) story.

The most honorable mention would go to Castle Wolfenstein, because it came first and did a lot of these things as well. I chose Doom over Wolfenstein because I feel Doom improved upon Wolfenstein’s formula, but I’d argue the improvements made to Doom haven’t been nearly as significant since. There are things like unlockable weapons for multiplayer in modern games, but I don’t believe they significantly change the core experience that was introduced with Doom. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any FPS has – all the way from Half-Life: 2 to Destiny. The one big improvement other games have made (especially Half-Life: 2) is the story, where Doom really suffered. This is a very tricky genre to choose, but I think Doom shines through for these reasons.

Japanese Role-Playing Game

Most influential game: Final Fantasy

Final_Fantasy_logo

I’m starting to realise that every one of these is going to be difficult to pick. Similarly to Doom, Final Fantasy wasn’t the first of the genre, but I feel it set the standards for years to come. Final Fantasy was to be Square Soft’s last game (hence the name), but the massive success of the game allowed them to continue to this day. It had a class system, classic turn-based combat, equippable gear and an epic story (for the time, at least). Not only did it spark the biggest JRPG series in history, it’s been remade thirteen times since it’s initial release, which should give some idea of it’s popularity.

It also made cliches such as the world map and vehicles for traversing popular in the genre. The fact that the game has been so frequently re-released and successfully garnered positive critical reviews made me put it at the top of this genre. There are so many honorable mentions I don’t want to list them all, but I think the first Final Fantasy fits neatly at first place.

Western Role-Playing Game

Most influential game: The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind

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This was actually a fairly easy one. To me, Western RPGs are dominated by the Elder Scrolls series, which in turn is dominated by The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. The only other game I considered was Daggerfall – but to be honest, I haven’t played it enough to give an informed opinion. From what I’ve gathered, Daggerfall had a much (much, much) bigger world, but most of it was empty or flat out impassable, because it was largely randomly generated.

Morrowind was entirely hand-crafted and still huge, which made each area a thrill to explore. More than that, it had something I don’t feel has been repeated, especially not in The Elder Scrolls series – an interesting, alien world. Morrowind itself (or rather, the island of Vvardenfell) was incredibly fun to explore. Unlike Oblivion, which was a cut and paste Middle Earth-like high fantasy world, Morrowind contained bizarre and fascinating landscapes and environments. There are towns and buildings built into giant mushrooms, wizard towers that couldn’t be explored without your character having the ability to levitate, fields of rock and ash, demonic ruins and more. The exploration is unparalleled in the genre, as is the world-building and narrative. I’d argue that the sequels and other games have improved on the combat, which was honestly pretty terrible in Morrowind, but being able to pick anything that wasn’t nailed down (quite literally) and interact with every character was incredible.

Oblivion did improve on some things, such as the combat as was previously mentioned. It also gave NPCs more personality and life, or at least attempted to – other characters had schedules they followed every day, getting up in the morning, eating food, going to work and then going back home in the evening. This led to some interesting in-game stories that weren’t found elsewhere, such as a character who sleeps in a different woman’s bed on weekends (as in, not his wife, who he normally slept with). However, I still feel that Morrowind was the bigger, better balanced and more interesting game.

Action Role-Playing Game

Most influential title: Diablo 2

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This was a fairly obvious choice for me, but I’m honestly not very experienced in this genre. Diablo 2 was one of the most well-received and classic games in history, that was patched again only months ago, despite Diablo 3 having been released since. Diablo 2 had all the essentials for the genre – mountains of loot to collect and improve your character, interesting randomly generated areas to explore, great online and offline multiplayer (that scaled difficulty according to the amount of players in the party) as well as an interesting story and universe. Sure, Diablo came first (obviously) but Diablo 2 more than doubled the classes, a much improved story, a relatively huge world, more gear and different difficulties. It’s for these reasons that I consider Diablo 2 to be the most influential ARPG thus far, more so than Diablo or Diablo 3.

Real Time Strategy

Most influential game: Starcraft

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This was a hard choice for me. Starcraft II, Warcraft I, II and III, Command and Conquer and more come to mind, but I ended up choosing Starcraft because I think it’s influenced the RTS genre more than any other.

Namely, Starcraft had multiple races that played differently, but were each as strong as each other. Starcraft also began the brutally hardcore world of competitive “e-sport” RTS gaming, with Starcraft II continuing the trend. South Korea has three channels (or did, I’m not sure if they still do) that were entirely dedicated to Starcraft, as well as arenas built specifically for competitive play of the game. Starcraft catapulted Blizzard from “successful” to “stupidly successful” and was the biggest influence on their other RTS series, Warcraft.

Incredibly successful competitive mode aside, Starcraft had a full-scale sci-fi story that was quite well-received, as well as a very well-selling expansion. While I wasn’t actually a fan of the game, there’s no denying the wide reaching influence of Starcraft in the genre, with the impact of its ideas still felt today.

Stealth

Most influential game: Metal Gear Solid

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Readers of my blog will know that Metal Gear Solid is my absolute favourite series of all time, so there was no doubt which game would fit into this genre. As a matter of fact, I’d argue that Metal Gear Solid has a good chance of being the single most influential video game of all time, with only maybe two other games that could compete (both of which are Nintendo games).

Metal Gear Solid famously put the focus on stealth, instead of flat out murdering every other character in the game – that’s still very much possible, but once the player’s been spotted the odds are heavily turned against them. That, as well as the focus on narrative driven cutscenes made in-engine rather than being pre-rendered changed the way people looked at narrative in games. The narrative itself was much more intricate and interesting than most games before it. Every stealth game is compared to Metal Gear Solid and for good reason – this is the definitive stealth game, and if I had more time, the rest of this post would be dedicated to this game.

Adventure

Most influential game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

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This game is one of the aforementioned “Top 3 influential games of all time”, alongside Metal Gear Solid. While it isn’t my personal favourite from the series, the success and influence of Ocarina of Time is undeniable and vast. OoT was the first 3D Zelda game and delivered on every possible level.

As usual, players take the role of Link. As usual, he’s off to save Zelda from series villain, Ganondorf. What was essentially different was the gameplay – in a series that had always been 2D, the shift to 3D excited some and worried others. When the game was released, everyone was blown away – OoT is one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time.

The game featured a massive intricate world, with a day and night system as well as several towns for the player to visit. There were many dungeons, enemies and items. It basically did what Zelda always does – but it did it bigger and better. I don’t really feel the need to explain the game too much more, since you’ve almost definitely played it.

The influence of this game is felt in nearly every genre, but especially action / adventure games. This was the first 3D Action / Adventure game to have many of these features, and it’s still considered one of the best. The quintessential masterpiece, Ocarina of Time is still played and loved today.

Horror

Most influential title: Silent Hill 2

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When writing this, I was torn between Silent Hill 2 and the first Resident Evil game, but settled on SH2. Silent Hill 2 famously never relied on “jump scares” or gore, but rather a constant unsettling dread. There was nothing worse than an empty hallway in Silent Hill 2 – where you could handle a zombie or five in Resident Evil without too much worry, the dread and paranoia that Silent Hill 2 brought were (and, in my opinion, still are) unparalleled to this day.

I’d actually say it isn’t the scariest horror game of all time – a title I believe belongs to Amnesia: The Dark Descent – but it’s the one that’s scared me for the longest. I remember barely being able to press on when playing Amnesia, but after playing Silent Hill 2 I’d be unsettled for hours.

The story is fantastic, with an incredibly famous and well executed twist. The subject matter of the game has become more relevant as time goes on, and it’s certainly rare to find someone who has played this game and doesn’t agree on the incredible quality of the game.

Platformer

Most influential game: Super Mario Bros. 3

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You could stop reading this blog right now, go to the smallest village in the most poverty-ridden country on Earth, and there’s a good chance someone there will have heard of Mario. If you’re reading this, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’ve heard of him. He’s the most famous video game character of all time, and I’d say he always will be.

He’s appeared in more games than any other character. His influence is so wide-spread, there’re no characters that he can be realistically compared to in terms of success and popularity. Really, any Mario game from the NES would have been a good pick, but I chose Super Mario Bros. 3 because I believe it did the level selection best, as well as interesting powerups, level variety and more. The game was fun the entire way through, absolutely riddled with secrets and was the perfect level of challenge – possibly a little too challenging in sections, at least for me.

When I was talking about the top 3 influential games of all time, I’d say this is realistically my top pick.

That’s it! I’d like to go more into detail on each one, as well as fit some more genres in. I could barely scratch the surface of any one of these games, much less why they were so influential, but I hope you got some idea. I’d love to here some feedback on this list, as well as other people’s opinions and thoughts, so feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading!

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