Modern video games with lasting impact

Senor Beef’s recent thread brought up the concept of impactful video games and got me thinking about them and, particularly, about recent impactful video games.

If we were making a list of the most impactful video games in history, most of them would be pretty old because we’d be discussing games that defined or re-defined genres and there hasn’t been a ton of that recently.

So let’s have that conversation but try to limit it to relatively recent stuff. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m drawing the line at 2006 because not only is 10 years convenient, but that’s when the PS3 was released.

For this purpose, I’m not talking about wildly popular games unless they also had a lasting impact on the industry in a way beyond making lots of money for the people involved. The various Call of Medal of Warfare games have made billions of dollars, but they’ve been static glurge for years now.

Finally, show your work. Example:

DOTA 2. League of Legends redefined the MOBA genre and made it what it is today, but Valve poured money into The International and its satellite tournaments, and its ability to market to its pre-installed Steam userbase gave the American eSports scene its first huge boost in the general gaming public. I believe that DOTA 2’s rise was not the chrysalis of the American eSports scene by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the booster rocket that got it into… uh, geosynchronous orbit? I lost my metaphor.

Bioshock. As a casual gamer that game surprised me.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Open world games existed before, but Skyrim’s blend of realistic graphics and a huge map you could go virtually anywhere in set the benchmark for what an open world experience should be. Even today it’s used as shorthand (“Like Skyrim with…”) in a way that even Bethesda’s earlier open world titles never achieved.

Man, Portal really hit gold, huh? A voiced antagonist with tons of quotable lines to enter gaming culture, a non-sexualized female protagonist for people to point to and innovative puzzle solving that was still casual enough to appeal to a wide audience. Look through the bajillion first person indie puzzle games on Steam now and they all try to compare themselves to this instant classic. Portal 2 hit the same buttons a second time, showing that the winning formula wasn’t just luck.


“Open-world survival crafting game with buildable environments” wasn’t really a huge genre before, now it’s everywhere.

It also, for better or worse, pioneered the concept of early-access games where users actually have to pay to play early alpha versions of games in development, now it seems half of what Steam is trying to recommend to me are early access games (many of which are open-world survival crafting games…)

Ah, good one. I’d also have to nominate Rust for its “total PvP survival” model. No building recreations of fantasy castles or making working calculators or friendly “creative modes”, Rust is all about surviving the elements long enough to get killed by some guy who wants your pants. It’s spawned a bunch of like-minded games on Steam, most of which are junk but a few shine (such as ARK).

I feel that Dragon Age Origins (and perhaps Mass Effect) deserve a mention for its relationship system. Not that no one had attempted it before but, like Skyrim, they benefited from striking a point where the CG models were attractive and the dialogue robust and well-branched. Playing something like Fallout 4 makes me think “Well, it’s no DA:O but it’s nice that they tried…”

I’d pick League of Legends over DOTA2, simply because LOL keeps hitting my ‘news radar’ and DotA2 basically only does it when Valve pulls some sort of stunt. Also, earlier game. DotA2 is basically a League-of-Legends-alike. Maybe it will someday be more successful, but I don’t think think it will have more IMPACT, because there would be no DotA2 with LOL’s success. And we’re not talking about some sort of WoW > Everquest thing here - League of Legends connects with an ENORMOUS number of people. Yes, so does DotA2, but my point is that the games are basically comparable in that regard, so DotA2 doesn’t have a significant advantage there to make it more “impactful” than its predecessor.

Minecraft is an obvious shoe-in.

I’m still not really sure about Skyrim. It’s just a bigger, better version of what’s gone before. Certainly, it hasn’t inspired legions of copycats. If anything, I wonder if it might go down as the last hurrah of its genre as games keep getting more and more expensive. Time will tell.

Skyrim hit the gaming scene much, much harder than the 1st person Fallout games or earlier Elder Scrolls games. Bethesda said it had done better any any of their previous games by a large margin. It pushed the “open world” concept in a way earlier games never did.

It’s like describing the discovery of the New World. Previous games were a bunch of low impact vikings, Skyrim was Columbus. Ummm… with vikings.

I disagree. following Skyrim you had games as barely related as Far Cry 3 describing themselves as “Skyrim with guns” based on their open world systems. Comparisons when talking about games like Dragon’s Dogma or Amalur: the Reckoning were all over that stuff. I was STILL hearing it when talking about stuff like Mad Max’s open world.

That said, the thread isn’t about arguing Skyrim so I’ll just say it’s on my list even if you don’t want it on yours :slight_smile:

EverQuest was the first really successful first person MMORPG. It is the reason World of Warcraft and all its imitators came along.

It was inevitable someone would create such a game - hell, I thought of it ten years before they invented it, it was what EVERY gamer wanted - but EverQuest did it and was the first to get thousands and thousands and thousands of people playing it. (Ultima Online was before EQ but was, ill advisedly, not a first person game, and was rather profoundly flawed.)

ETA: I didn’t see the 2006 cutoff. I’d classify EQ as a “modern” game (as opposed to, say, Pac-Man) but didn’t notice the arbitrary 10 year thing.

I just can’t give it to Everquest. If you want to go “MMO Progenitor” you have to go with Ultima Online, and if you want “MMO that changed the world” you’re really looking at World of Warcraft.

Everquest was influencial in its day, but I don’t think it really had long term impact.

I’d go with WoW (and I’m an EQ player from ways back who disliked WoW). Again, Everquest peaked with around 400k subscribers; WoW opened the MMORPG market to over ten million. It’s less about who did it first and more about who penetrated the idea into the mainstream. My opinion, of course.

I actually considered whether to try and disqualify nominating games simply because they created a genre, but I think I got around most of that by putting the 10-year limit on games.

Defining a genre is a huge accomplishment but, like wild popularity, is a very easy reason to point at a game and go “important.”

I’m just interested in talking about games that aren’t immediately recognized as the Grand Old Masters of the pantheon, that’s all.

It’s a modern reboot, but how about Elite? It’s rejuvenated the space sim sector.

Star Citizen is going to go down as the game that proved Kickstarted games could be funded at AAA levels. At this point it’s immaterial whether an actual game comes out of it.

While I’m sure it wasn’t the first digitally distributed indie game, Braid seems to have really kicked off the explosion in such games over the last tenish years.

World of Warcraft is 2004. I’d consider it a gamechanger with lasting impact, but it’s too old.

Here’s one: Candy Crush. I could be wrong on this, but ITSM that it pushed the free-to-play model more successfully than any other game, and also that it’s helped casual gaming penetrate markets that other games haven’t penetrated nearly so successfully.

I like Skyrim, but I don’t feel that it did much to expand on Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls pattern established since Morrowind (and maybe older, but I didn’t play those). It felt very iterative in that it did many of the same things as Morrowind, but better. Similar open world, same universe, similar mechanics. Again, I’m not trying to take anything away from the game. I like it a lot, but it’s refinement and not revolution. I think those describing their games as “Skyrum but…” are using Skyrim as a recognizable touchpoint rather than because it changed gaming. It’s a fast way of saying “open world with a main quest and tons of side quests, factions to join, and things to collect.”

I think Undertake is having a significant impact on gaming. Not so much in the AAA world, but in the independent and small studio world. It’s self-awareness and embrace of the gaming meta are being seen in other games (Pony Island).

I think Portal is another with lasting impact. It showed that refined puzzle games are viable using the same FPS style as Halflife 2 and Call of Duty. Now, we have things like Talos Principle and Antichamber.

On preview, I considered Braid, Simplicio. It combines the meta and puzzle arguments into one game. The only reason I left it off was that I see less direct influence.

Okay, I guess now I’m just confused. If you’re not interested in games that “just sold well” and you’re not interested in games “simply because they created a genre” I’m not really sure what criteria we’re supposed to use, because beyond that, all that’s really left is “Me and my circle of the internet still occasionally talk about…”

I don’t think that’s at all true, and there are already examples in this thread.

Candy Crush is actually a great example because match-three games had been around for years and years before it came along, and so had mobile games, and so had casual games. It also wasn’t just popular, but it completely shattered and reshaped the mobile market.

Obviously a game that *creates *a genre is impactful. That’s a tautology. I’m just not interested in reading threads titled “video games that created genres” or “video games that were popular.”

Candy Crush is an interesting case, since there were already plenty of Match 3 games, plenty of mobile games, plenty of games with similar monitization. For all it’s derided by “core gamers,” Candy Crush is a good example of how a designer can refine existing elements to revolutionize. It’s not my cup of tea, but I can respect how well designed the learning and challenge curves are.

I think Blizzard is good at this refinement as well. Most of the elements of WoW (and [War/Star]craft, and Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone) had been in previous games, but Blizzard really refined those elements into a much better game than the previous iteration.

I’d say Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a contender, while we often call the class of games “Telltale-likes”, it’s really the result of experimentation with the point and click adventure genre.

You can point to games that tried to do very similar things before it – Shenmue, Heavy Rain, and Indigo Prophecy have the “interactive movie” aspects. Telltale’s own Jurassic Park was a very ugly prototype that marks the awkward puberty between old-school Point and Click like their Sam & Max series the very well polished Walking Dead, and very much aped the Heavy Rain.

While we call the “genre” “Telltale-likes”, I’d really call it more like “the Telltale style of Point and Click adventure games.” There are studios that are more on the old school P&C side (Daedalus, Wadjet Eye), but The Walking Dead really changed the landscape of adventure games. Adventure games have always struggled with “gameplay” – and while they’re infamous for moon logic puzzles, even with normal puzzles it often ended up being a disjointed set of arbitrary gates. While Tellate-style games may lack the (often somewhat artificial) difficulty of these puzzles, they make up for this by making the actions you do take increase your investment in the story. The zombie probably isn’t going to kill you, but the fact that YOU have to move your cursor and pick up the gun and oh god I have to unlock the handcuffs first this is bad really enhances the experience.

I still like old-school P&C games, but the new style adds something really special, and games such as Life is Strange likely couldn’t have happened the same way, or gotten the same widespread attention, without this shift.

They have some standard problems, there’s no real way to butterfly-effect the story, so you’re burdened by your knowledge that your influence over events is somewhat minimal. But they really make the scenes have a strong impact in the moment by abusing time limits and player interactivity, which is a step up from most games. (Some other games have partially succeeded in this, but IMO rarely if ever to this degree).

They also introduce actual cinematography to games, instead of the lazy shot-reverse-shot your standard Bioware game tends to rely on, so that’s nice.

It’s one thing to define a genre, it’s another to wholesale terraform the genre’s landscape entirely.