It's an overused phrase in the world of video game journalism, a tired cliché that very rarely finds itself attached to a title that will actually change anything.
With this in mind, we've searched through the great gaming archives to dig up those titles deserving of wild hyperbole. These are the most influential games of all time.
While this list probably won't include your favourite-ever title, it will undoubtedly mention the game that inspired your current evening killer.
Games that changed everything
1. Super Mario Bros (1985)
One of the greatest game franchises of all time was born with Super Mario Bros, a game in the early 80s that proved that home consoles could have just as much fun as the arcade games that were dominant at the time. With its precise controls, lovable characters and all-round playability, there is a good reason why this is always up their in the 'best game' lists - it simply kick-started gaming in the home and in popular culture, too.
2. Pong (1972)
An archaic marvel by today's highly pixelated standards, Allan Alcorn's tennis simulator was one of the first to populate living rooms and arcades alike. The first 'commercially successful' video game that launched the console industry, you owe it big.
3. Tetris (1984)
Over 170 million. That's how many copies of Tetris have been shifted over the years, both digitally and physically. No grander narrative was required - other than you wanting to kill a few hours and chase a high score. The creator, Alexey Pajitnov, only started earning money from the game in 1996 when he founded 'The Tetris Company'. He made a handful of other games, but none proved anywhere near as popular.
4. Pac-Man (1980)
After the initial rush of Pong clones and space shooters, gaming was running out of ideas by the close of the Seventies. Then, Pac-Man arrived, uniting all gamers - male and female - around one arcade cabinet. It's responsible for gobbling more coins than any other arcade game, and is one of the longest running game franchises of all time.
5. Wolfenstein 3D (1992)
Before Quake, Duke Nukem 3D and Doom started setting all sorts of records - beginning the narrative of violent video games in the process - iD Software unleashed the grandfather of all first person shooters. Hugely popular thanks to its shareware copying, William "B.J." Blazkowicz's escape from castle Wolfenstein set down many of the 'laws' of the FPS genre. It was also a central title in shifting gaming away from arcades and into homes.
6. Half-Life (1998)
The superlatives lined themselves up when critics first got their hand on Valve's sci-fi shooter, which scooped up 50 'Game of the Year' awards. With a revolutionary story that moved away from cut scenes to tell its narrative in-game, Gordon Freeman's journey through Black Mesa was only one aspect of Half-Life's legacy: the Counter Strike multiplayer expansion helped redefine online PC gaming, giving internet cafés the world over a serious revenue boost.
7. Minecraft (2011)
You might not be one of them, but there have been some 141 million people that have played Minecraft around the world since its launch. A simplistic, charming builder/adventure game, possibly the most remarkable aspect of Minecraft is its independent origins, with Markus "Notch" Persson eventually selling the title to Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014. It's on every platform you can imagine, from mobile to console.
8. Grand Theft Auto (1997)
The blood, carnage and record-breaking sales of Rockstar Games' franchise was almost cancelled before launch due to production issues - but in 1997, it caused a tabloid stir that would become synonymous with the series. Sure, 1999's GTA 2 was a better game, but it was this first plucky title that introduced gamers to the controversial violence that would later translate into the biggest selling video game of all time.
9. World Of Warcraft (2004)
Over 100 million accounts have been created on World of Warcraft since its servers were first booted up in 2004. That means that if WOW was a nation, it would be the 13th most populated in the world, just after the Philippines. Besides its constant updates, vast community and dungeon raids, the real magic of WOW was in changing the nature of how a video game could make money, with its subscription service rewriting the rule book for online gaming.
10. GoldenEye 007 (1997)
Where to start? The best licenced movie video game of all time; the shooter that helped keep Nintendo's N64 in the race with Sony's PlayStation; the game that introduced the majority console gamers to the delights of multiplayer combat; a superior control system, unlockable multiplayer characters, a 'heads-up-display' that didn't block the action. Rare's GoldenEye 007 might not be responsible for each of these elements, but it was the first to put them in a single package. That's it, we're off to dig our copy out of storage.
11. Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)
When rumours start circulating that Microsoft was entering the console business, many industry commentators were eager to declare it a brainless move: without a gaming legacy to match the likes of Nintendo and PlayStation, it was surely set to be a doomed venture. Bungie's game not only managed to launch a new console platform, it proved that console shooters could be as immersive as the more-capable PC shooters, setting a new standard of multiplayer mechanics, and with Halo 2, online console combat.
12. Wii Sports (2006)
Nintendo's Wii Sports was the game that brought the idea of using accessories and, well, your body as an integral part of the games mechanic. The result was a fantastic suite of games that were fantastically interactive and got your butt off the sofa, too. While the likes of Guitar Hero was launched around about the same time, it's the legacy of Wii Sports - which made the Nintendo Wii one of the biggest consoles of all time, with some 82.9 million games sold - that still lingers.
13. SimCity (1989)
On its surface, Maxis' world-builder didn't sound like much of a laugh - a complex management game short on graphics and big on tasks (HEAVY TRAFFIC! Oh good). But this oddly addictive resource manager would go on to inspire a deluge of clones and spin-offs, from the brilliant Theme-Park to the vastly successful Sims series. We never could figure out how to stop the power station workers from striking.
14. Pokemon (Red & Blue) (1996)
Go on - admit it. You've got the theme tune playing in your head right now? Somehow, this animal-collecting combat game had the right chemistry to become the biggest selling RPG series of all time, shifting over 10 million copies in its first outing. Incredible game design resulted in a huge title (for a Game Boy game) that could be played countless times with endless variation. It's subsequently helped Nintendo maintain its domination of the handheld market.
15. Gran Turismo (1997)
Not Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider nor Fifa. The biggest selling franchise across the PlayStation consoles started with a super realistic racer that sounded like an pensioner holiday tour. Back in 1997, the graphics and game physics were unparalleled, with rumours circling gaming magazines on how to unlock the fabled hidden Honda Del Sol racer alongside track guides and car stats. Without the success of this racer (it's sold some 10.85 million copies to date), PlayStation wouldn't be the brand it is today.
16. Track & Field (1982)
In the early years of video games, tennis simulators were the go-to sports titles - hugely addictive but not greatly involving. In 1982, Konami released an athletics simulator that managed to group six events into one title. Such was the popularity of Track & Field and its scoring system that arcades around the world reported cabinets being broken or illegally adapted, as players sought new techniques for setting '100 Metre Dash' records. It proved that sports titles could be just as popular as alien invaders and arcade shooters.
17. Super Metroid (1994)
There was simply nothing like Super Metroid when it was first released in 1994. The side scroller was actually the third in the Metroid series but its combination of graphics, controls and plot make it (still) one of the finest games ever made. Metroid Dread on the Nintendo Switch is a fantastic sequel to the game which proves that the franchise is still going strong.
18. FIFA International Soccer (1993)
When the first of the FIFA games was launched on the SEGA MegaDrive / Genesis, nobody could predict that the franchise would last nearly 30 years, with the license becoming one of the main revenue streams for the FIFA footballing body. Now we know that EA Sports won't be carrying the license on from 2023 (instead continuing as EA Sports FC) it marks an end of an era for a game franchise that is listed in in Guinness World Records as the best-selling sports video game franchise in the world.
19. Battlezone (1980)
There are earlier 'first person shooter' games, but Battlezone was one of the most fluid examples of the imersive combat style that's come to dominate gaming. Taking the controls of a tank, hunting down boxy, vector-drawn menaces, it was a 'proper' simulator that made shooting asteroids with a triangle look quite dull.
20. Dune II (1992)
Command and Conquer, Civilization, Age of Empires - every real time strategy game you care to list owes its success to this game. Based on Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic, players had to build an army, gather resources and seek to dominate the planet of Arakis, in blocky real-time combat. It's still hard as nails.
21. Angry Birds (2009)
Yes, Angry Birds was a game changer. Mainly because it changed the way that people played video games, helping kickstart the app revolution that would see more gamers take to mobile phones than any other platform to get their gaming fix. Some two billion copies have been downloaded since 2009, making it the biggest-selling app of all time.
22. 3D Monster Maze (1982)
Built by the UK team of designer J. K. Greye and programmer Malcolm Evans, the cassette-based 3D Monster Maze saw players dropped into a randomly generated maze that contained the terrible lizard. Limited to a first-person view, as the player moved about the maze, the T. rex would begin to hunt them down. It was the first ever horror video game, and proved that the genre was capable of something more than point-hunting.
23. Space Panic (1980)
And you thought Donkey Kong was the first major platform game? A year before Nintendo's hero began its domination of arcades, Universal released Space Panic, players control a character who must take out waves of aliens by digging holes to push them into. There was no jump button, so ladders were the only way to move vertically. Without this, Mariowould never have gone in search of Peach.
24. Fortnite (2017)
PUBG might beat it when it comes to registered players but Fortnite has changed the video game world in a number of ways that its biggest rival can't quite match. The first is with its in-game live events. In 2019, Marshmello held the first virtual concert in the game and amassed some 10 plus million attendees as a result. Since then, huge concerts have been put on in game by the likes of Travis Scott and Ariana Grande showcasing a new way for musicians to get their music out to their fans. Couple this with the relentless character skins that come to Fortnite and what you have is a game that is well and truly representing the future of what gaming is.
25. PUBG: Battlegrounds (2017)
An online multiplayer battle royale game, PUBG is the best-selling video game on PC and Xbox One with some 75 million copies sold and some 43 million players daily. It's hard to understate just how popular this game is and it's one that's also successfully managed to make the move to mobile where its revenue is in the 10s of billions. PUBG was popularised the battle royale genre and also has made big strides in the esports world
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