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Top 20 Most Influential Video Games of All Time

VO: Riccardo Tucci
Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat, Pac-Man, Street Fighter, The Legend of Zelda, Tetris-- to this day these are still some of the biggest names in video games, but where do they rank in games that made a huge impact on the gaming industry? Today we're talking the 20 Most Influential Video Games of All Time. Do you think we missed a major game changer? Let us know in the comments! To have your ideas turned into a WatchMojo or MojoPlays video, head over to http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and get to it!

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#20: “SimCity” (1989)

City management being what it is, it’s hard not to feel a bit skeptical when someone comes up to you and says “Hey, here’s a simulation of that experience that’s one of the most enjoyable, memorable, and enduring of its kind in all of gaming history”. Nevertheless, the place that “SimCity” holds in game canon can only really be described in such terms. It’s a product that foreshadowed a change in the way we perceive the minutia of everyday life, and for good or bad managed to gamify it for the masses.

SimCity puts the player in charge of one of a variety of selectable cities (the original game notably offering unique scenarios with real-world cities, a practice which its sequels and successors would emulate). Everything from taxes, to school and civic service placement, to the satisfaction of citizens is in your hands; you serve as the unseen hand guiding the lives of many a virtual citizens.

This was the game that, for many, put Maxis on the map. Their broader Sim line of games branched off from “SimCity”, with more than two decades of beloved releases to their name. Will Wright, co-founder of Maxis, was driven to use the clout afforded to him by “SimCity” in order to expand on that title’s “virtual sandbox” concept. His efforts culminated in interesting genre experiments like 2008’s Spore and foundational works like “The Sims”.

#19: “Mortal Kombat” (1992)

“FINISH HIM,” the announcer declares at the end of the match. The winning player quickly inputs a series of moves, resulting in an utterly brutal killing of their opponent’s avatar. Sometimes it’s uppercutting the rival character’s head clean off, other times it’s ripping out their still-beating heart. However, the result is consistently the same: someone dies in horrific fashion. Mortal Kombat’s grasp of graphic violence may seem quaint by the standards of the present, showcased as it is with pixelated sprites and basic special effects, but in the 1990s, video game violence was very much a hot button topic for a reason.

In its own twisted way, Midway’s classic fighting game can be seen as a refuting of the idea that in-game killing is at all comparable to the real thing. Blood splatters, limbs and organs are removed without much effort, and it’s all rendered in a fashion comparable to a really dark cartoon. Plus, the fact that the game is centered around a fictional inter-dimensional combat tournament involving literal gods and superhuman fighters should be a clear indicator of how “realistic” the scenario is.

Legislators did not feel the same. In 1992, US Senators Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl began a series of hearings on the dangers of video game violence. Under threat of government intervention, the game industry was left with little choice but to establish the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which would classify and rate games based on the perceived appropriate age for players. Mortal Kombat changed how violence is viewed in the industry and inspired discussions that are still happening to this day… for better or worse.

#18: “GoldenEye 007” (1997)

Based on the 1995 film starring Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye was not only the highest-profile Bond game to achieve financial and critical success, it also managed to thoroughly change the paradigm by which first-person shooters were made for consoles. Rare spent months doing extensive research, utilizing resources from both the original film’s creators and their publisher Nintendo, and looking at the ground broken by light-gun games such as Virtua Cop. The fruit of their labors was a work of art that fused the technology of the era with a sharp vision.

“GoldenEye 007” excelled in its recreation of the film’s action scenes, its stylistic flourishes, and its balanced tone. It offered routes for run-and-gun action or more clandestine, stealth-minded operations, with the selection of weapons being supportive of player intentions either way. While not necessarily “realistic”, Rare’s active embrace of real-world locations and weapons in lieu of constructing a more fantastical setting was closer to reality than many shooters of the time. That and the implementation of competitive multiplayer (albeit of the offline, “couch co-op” variety) would prove vital in the face of gaming’s progression as a medium.

Today’s military FPSes and similar games that sell themselves on the authenticity of their weapon simulations owe a debt to “GoldenEye 007” for showing that there was an audience eager for such material. Rare, however, opted to use the game as a jumping-off point for other, less grounded titles (like “Perfect Dark”), though the measured fun of GoldenEye still peeks through on occasion.

#17: “Super Mario 64” (1996)

1996 was a year of big changes for gaming, particularly with regards to the evolution of the platformer. The limitations of the side-scrolling perspective were a thing of the past; more open and unrestricted worlds could be implemented thanks to the advent of 3D- rendering technology. Into the fray came “Super Mario 64”, the merits of which become clear mere moments after booting up its cartridge. Mario returns, visualized here as a fully three-dimensional character with charming animations and actual voice work.

The Mushroom Kingdom shows up as a grand polygonal playground, at the center is Peach’s Castle, quaint yet elegant in design. Warp Pipes were back again but in a more limited role – traveling to different levels requires Mario to jump through shimmering paintings. Furthermore, each level took the patented Mario concept of being a unique world in itself and fleshed it out in light of the grander presentation.

Vast fields of grass, snowy mountains, and haunted mansions are just some of the locales we got to explore in full, with the usual expectation of secrets and expansive chambers fulfilled. All that remains at the structural core of 3D games in general, and 3D platformers especially, was first shown or became codified in “Super Mario 64”. The range of movement, thanks to the Nintendo 64’s analog controls and the shifting camera angles, are of particular note – they’d become the precursor to our modern conception of video game camera and movement design.

#16: “Half-Life” (1998)

As the FPS slowly overtook the platformer as gaming’s dominant genre, many developers sought to keep shooters fresh and innovative in order to compete. Fantastical settings, new combat mechanics, higher resolution textures–anything to keep gamers satisfied and the money flowing freely.

Enter the Valve Corporation, a group of ex-Microsoft software engineers and non- gaming creative types. They aimed to deliver something that gamers hadn’t quite experienced before: a game rooted in 1950s pulp science-fiction, but adapted for the home computer. What players got was “Half-Life”, a winding tale of survival amid a harrowing alien invasion.

Its big hook was shockingly simple - the player would stay in the perspective of
Gordon Freeman, our voiceless hero, for the entire duration. No cutaways to the aliens’ perspective, no narration providing backstory for the world, just you and Freeman in the heat of things. This meant more time for deadly shootouts with helicopters, elite soldiers, dead scientists controlled by the iconic Headcrab creatures, and grotesque beings from another dimension.

Keeping the game focused on moment-to-moment action isn’t the only thing “Half-Life” contributed to modern shooter design. Throughout the game, a number of areas are dedicated to precise platforming and elaborate puzzle sequences, used to break up stretches of brutal combat. This specific combination of action and adventure game elements would be explored in greater depth not only in later “Half-Life” games, but in other companies’ works.

#15: “Pokémon Red and Blue” (1998)

You walk into tall grass. Suddenly and without warning, a frantic man in lab gear appears and shouts, “Don’t go there!” He has you follow him back to his laboratory in town before he explains himself: he’s Professor Oak, the world’s a dangerous place for a kid such as yourself, and you need protection. Nearby, three orbs rest on a lab bench, housing three very unique creatures… Welcome to the world of Pokémon, where your friends are also your companions and your fighting force.

One part bug hunt, one part pet simulator and one part role-playing game – the original Pokémon titles, Red and Blue, weren’t shy about setting themselves apart from the pack. You guide a team of six creatures (Pocket Monsters, shortened to the titular Pokémon), make them strongly by battling other trainers of Pokémon, and set out on an adventure across the fictional region of Kanto.

Everything about Red and Blue – from the individual designs of Pokémon to the rock-paper-scissors-like combat system – remains brilliant even now, and struck a chord with people back then. The trading system which allowed players to swap their Pokémon was ahead of its time, and also reflected the sense of comradery Game Freak wanted to encapsulate, (the two-releases, one-experience model). It’s not surprising that a franchise worth billions of dollars in games, merchandise, and assorted media spawned from this linked duology.

#14: “Spacewar!” (1962)

Outside of gaming, there are those who might hear names like Bushnell, Baer or (in this case) Steve Russell and think, “Who’s that and why should I care? History isn’t important to enjoying games!” To which we would respond with, “Because honoring those who shaped this medium, and acknowledging the medium’s origins, matters in deciding where we take it from here.” Early games are an integral part of the systems and techniques that are still in use today – a modicum of respect is the least we can offer in return.

“Spacewar!”, while not the most intricate production in the early history of gaming, does merit mentioning here on the grounds that it’s a foundational work. It was conceived by Harvard University employee Steve Russell as a showcase of the PDP-1’s display capabilities, taking the form of a simple space battle between two starships. “The needle” and “the wedge” circled around a tiny star – all of which were visualized as monochromatic shapes – and attempted to shoot one another with torpedoes while in motion.

Programmers loved this game. They especially appreciated the simplicity of its design, which allowed them to recreate the game on other mainframe computers. By the 1970s hundreds of computers with monitors were produced, further contributing to the proliferation of “Spacewar!” and in time, coin-op games like “Computer Space” and “Asteroids” would build on the space-shooter concept with great success, leading to gaming as we know it.

#13: “Tecmo Super Bowl” (1991)

At the risk of inspiring scorn (or just plain and simple confusion), we feel the need to mention this late-era NES game. It’s by no means the most technically-advanced football (or general sports) simulation game in existence, and it doesn’t have the degree of content and polish presented by later releases.

Yet to this day, “Tecmo Super Bowl” still maintains a cult following and is enjoyed by those who know of it. Part of that may have to do with what it offered for the time. Tecmo Super Bowl had the official licenses and permissions of the National Football League AND the National Football League Players Association – letting the developers make use of then-current NFL team rosters.

Even now, you can jump right in and take command of the NFL’s best athletes circa 1990, playing according to the then-current NFL season schedule. It handily illustrated the ways in which game creators could play with licenses to great effect, which we’ve seen expanded upon in the many sports games of the present.

Respectable enough for its authenticity, TSB is also crucially a good game on its own merits. It retains the more arcade-like stylings of the first Tecmo Bowl, but introduced a host of new features – a coin toss, quarters that last five minutes, the ability to view statistics, and so forth. Other Tecmo Bowl games, and indeed subsequent football games, would run with these elements and make them fundamental to the concept of simulating football.

#12: “Dragon Quest” (1989)

A little before the founding of Chunsoft, one of its major designers Yuji Horii was drawn to a game called Wizardry. Enchanted by the look of its world and the depth of its mechanics, Horii kept the game in his thoughts through to his career at Chunsoft. He would eventually start toying with the elements of Western role playing while working on a game of his own – a game that would combine dialogue-driven storytelling with playful visuals and character building. And so we got “Dragon Quest”, released in North America under the name “Dragon Warrior” (to avoid legal troubles with Simulation Publications over the pen-and-paper game DragonQuest).

The central thrust to Dragon Quest’s narrative is quite simple on reflection – there’s a princess who’s been kidnapped and an evil dragon lord in a distant castle that your hero must rescue and defeat, respectively. Some complications involving relics and prophetic instructions arise, but in practice the story is an excuse to engage with a larger world of magic and mystery.

The hero needs to be built up in terms of combat experience and range of abilities, which means engaging in the time-honored tradition of random encounters. Iconic foes such as the Slime exist to be killed not only for experience points but for gold – a resource to be traded for better armour and weapons. Boilerplate though this mechanical design may be for RPGs, it’s important to remember that the formula had to be introduced for it to become commonplace. “Dragon Quest” laid the groundwork that other, more complex titles would build upon; indeed, if not for Chunsoft’s work, Japanese role-playing may have gone in a complete different direction.

#11: “Metal Gear Solid” (1998)

The early years of Sony’s inaugural console were dominated by two types of games: technically-proficient titles intended to showcase the hardware’s potential, and narratively-involving games aiming to add complexity and nuance to the medium’s standard quality of storytelling. “Metal Gear Solid” was among the first titles to try to merge these two camps into one singular experience – the results of which remain astounding to this day.

Metal Gear Solid tells the story of Solid Snake, an elite soldier pulled out of retirement in order to investigate and squash an insurrection in the making. Venturing through the stark hallways of the Shadow Moses nuclear disposal site in Alaska, it’s soon made clear to Snake that things are more complicated than they seem.

The story twists, contorts, and proves clever at every turn, managing to explore themes of genetic destiny and the consequences of war with surprising care. The game takes many of its cues from Hollywood scene staging and screenwriting, which ended up foreshadowing efforts by the games industry to actively mimic or pay homage to major motion pictures.

That it manages to blend Hideo Kojima’s sharp narrative direction with a varied range of weapons and among the most enduring of video game boss battles is truly spectacular to behold. On top of all that, Metal Gear Solid was also a major driving force for the emerging stealth game genre. Various design elements, such as crawling being quieter than running and limited ammunition for weapons, have since become commonplace for games where sneaking is the central mechanic.

#10: “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior” (1991)

For those who frequented arcades in the early years of the 1990s, fighting games were the lifeblood of those fabled halls of yore. Tales endure of gaming enthusiasts gathering around CRT screens, pouring in quarter after quarter, playfully battling for dominance. And what game, pray tell, is more beloved (or pivotal to the genre) than Capcom’s very own “Street Fighter II”? The first “Street Fighter” game was a flawed, indistinct experiment in the realm of one-v-one combat, the most substantial success of which was its garnering of sufficient funds to support a sequel.

“Street Fighter II” would be the faster, more diversified follow-up with a roster of characters quite unlike any gaming had seen before. Japanese martial artists, American special forces operators, Chinese officers working for Interpol, and an assortment of other interesting folks were gathered together for one large international fighting tournament. Miraculously, this did not erupt into chaos, but instead served as fertile ground for further experimentation and genre definition.

Each fighter has their own unique take on a given fighting style, each with their own vibrant and fitting special moves (a concept which came about from bug fixes, but has since become industry standard – who would’ve guessed?) The stages and combatants might perhaps be a bit too rooted in stereotypical aspects of certain cultures, yet for the time this was indisputably a step forward for inclusive representation.

And of course, there’s the matter of the six-button combo scheme, which has found its way into a number of games too numerous to list in their entirety. All this to say that “Street Fighter II” ensured that even the most casual of fighting game players could enjoy the experience without having to memorize controls or know which button does what. However, anyone who did invest the time found a system as intricate and well thought-out as they come.

#9: “Final Fantasy” (1987)

The situation was dire for Square. They anticipated bankruptcy in the near-future, thinking that their then-forthcoming game Final Fantasy would be their last. One of the main designers, Hironobu Sakaguchi, was planning to leave the industry entirely should the game fail to connect. For everyone involved it seemed as though the end was nigh. Yet here we are years later, with “Final Fantasy” having come into its own as a massively-prolific franchise with an increasingly ironic name.

That first game did more than just profit, it set expectations and inspired ideas as to how Japanese role-playing games should be made for years to come. What’s even more amusing is that, initially, the game appears to adhere to standard high-fantasy tropes without much deviation. You control a quartet of heroes – the Light Warriors – who are sent to aid the surrounding lands and restore four elemental orbs to their rightful place.

As events progress, it becomes clear that the story’s scope extends beyond the here and now, with issues of time travel and the lingering impact of actions coming into sharp focus. “Final Fantasy” was among the first Japanese-made RPGs to attempt to blend in elements of Western role-playing, like weaknesses to particular elements. Its understated ties to the tradition of tabletop games and its complex world-building for the time made it notable as a stepping stone towards more refined JRPGs in the future. On a greater scale, it also raised awareness for the role-playing genre in general, with many a gamer citing this as their entry point into the genre.

#8: “The Legend of Zelda” (1986)

When Shigeru Miyamoto set about crafting what would become one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises, his core concept was rooted in the joys and tension of exploration. He deliberately drew upon his experiences wandering the caves and forests near Kyoto as a child, attempting to recapture the sense of mystery and natural beauty he’d felt in his youth.

“The Legend of Zelda” reflects his sensibilities in surprising ways, while subverting expectations of how a fantasy setting is “supposed” to be. The realm of Hyrule is not lush and vibrant, but rather comes across as desolate and harsh. Antagonistic creatures lurk around nearly every corner, burned trees line the myriad paths, and the land’s citizens are hidden away in the mountains.

Making any progress as the lone adventurer Link requires a willingness to search every nook and cranny, keeping one’s eyes peeled for important people and items… exactly as Miyamoto intended. It’s kind of devious, how Miyamoto and his team constructed the world to subtly inspire an explorer’s mindset in the player.

Yet the results speak for themselves; Link’s quest, a mission to rebuild the fragmented Triforce of Wisdom and rescue Princess Zelda, is made compelling by the drive to search at one’s own pace. This kind of open-world approach to an otherwise classically-minded fantasy fable was game-changing. The lessons learned from The Legend of Zelda’s successful blend of sword-and-sorcery iconography with a loose narrative structure still live on in the sandbox games of today.

#7: “DOOM” (1993)

In the days of shareware, this was a pivotal turning point. Then-newcomer id Software was just emerging as a major player in the computer game development scene, displaying a clear interest in pushing forward action game design. To that end, id’s ragtag team set about blending intense shooter gameplay with a boundary-pushing pseudo-3D game engine and horror iconography.

What they came up with was “DOOM”, a game that tried to deliver the sights and sounds of B-movie horror within the context of a first-person action experience. Its simple premise of a lone space marine setting out to liberate Mars from hellspawn was more of an excuse than anything else. What it was really interested in was letting players blast, cut down, and vaporize demons to their heart’s content.

It almost goes without saying that “DOOM” managed to be an incredible success, thanks in no small part to its tight combat, appropriately grotesque yet endearing enemies, and hellscape setting. Many first-person shooters to this day still rely upon the core gameplay loops of clearing foes from rooms and exploring intricately-crafted levels that “DOOM” pioneered.

It was also pivotal in the realm of online multiplayer; stories of players meeting to link up computers and compete in LAN battles were all-too-common in the 90s. The careful consideration it paid to its multiplayer suite – from offering maps capable of handling multiple people running around at once, to balancing weapon damage with player health – remains the bedrock on which all online shooter design rests.

#6: “Space Invaders” (1978)

Many titles have been cited over the years as the starting point for the so-called Golden Age of Arcade Games (roughly stated to have run from 1976 to 1983). The thing is, it’s never quite clear until well after the fact what precisely was the point at which the world – any world – was at its best. All we can say with certainty is that, whether at the time of release or now, “Space Invaders” mattered as an understated step forward. It’s considered one of the first known entries in the “shooter” genre, a broad descriptor whose most consistent theme is “Games in which a weapon is fired to destroy something or someone”.

In the case of “Space Invaders”, your primary opponents were row after row of slowly-descending alien spaceships, and your task was to blast every single one of them into oblivion. While there were four shields behind which the player-commanded laser cannon could hide, ultimately their lifespan was limited by however long it took for laser fire to cut through them. The setup is simple yet tense, in the way only classic arcade games could be.

Your rate of fire is consistent but the ships grow faster as their numbers decrease, eventually becoming too fast to cut down. The scaling difficulty and increasing speed work well in the game’s favour, especially since the central gameplay is so functional and easy to grasp. There’s never a moment where the objective is unclear, and play continues so long as the player’s reflexes remain on point. Complex it may not have been, but foundational to the very idea of shooters? Hell yes.

#5: “Donkey Kong” (1981)

A woman named Pauline has been kidnapped by a giant ape, who has taken her to the top of a construction site. You, a carpenter known only as Jumpman, must climb up each level of the building in order to save Pauline. Barrels and oil drums get tossed in your path, and the way ahead is lined with conveyor belts and ladders galore. This is the setup for “Donkey Kong”, which fell under the purview of first-time director Shigeru Miyamoto and producer Gunpei Yokoi.

Miyamoto’s design approach was to invent a whole new way of engaging with games: narrative-driven gameplay conveyed via short animated scenes. Jumpman (or Mario as we’d later learn) was our working-class hero, “Donkey Kong” was the villain, and Pauline was the damsel-in-distress. Its implementation of a plot and distinct characters – however rudimentary they may seem now – was groundbreaking for the time, to say nothing of the game being a notable precursor to the platformer genre. “Donkey Kong” is seen as one of the first, if not the first, in a line of games with clear stories underlining the gameplay, meaning game narratives as a concept owe a great debt to it.

With this game Nintendo sought to make a name for itself in the North American game market. Nintendo’s “Donkey Kong” supposedly earned over $100 million for Nintendo within its first year. The game’s success set up Nintendo to thoroughly dominate the coming decade, and allowed their industry-reshaping measures to come to fruition.

#4: “Tetris” (1984)

A lot can be said of the culture that arose from the Cold War, but one thing that stood out is how brilliance came from such unexpected places. No one can honestly claim to have predicted that a random employee of a Soviet-run R&D department would conceive of the most recognizable puzzle game of all time. And yet here we are, decades later, having seen countless incarnations of Alexey Pajitnov’s classic “Tetris”.

Seven types of blocks vaguely shaped like letters fall onto a rectangular grid. Your job is to position them while they fall, in order to complete row after row and clear the grid. That’s the game in a nutshell – complexity only really arising from increased speed of the blocks – but that’s its great strength.

“Tetris” has no need to be overwrought with details and context, it just offers an addictive gameplay loop and lets the player decide whether to get invested in it or not. Suffice to say, this approach has worked out well for Pajitnov and company. The original game’s success on home computers lead to the creation of the 1989 version for the Nintendo Game Boy, which is perhaps the most popular incarnation of Tetris. Pajitnov went on to found The Tetris Company, enabling him to receive royalties and expand the “Tetris” brand for generations to come.

#3: “Pong” (1972)

We’d be hard-pressed to find one person alive who has never heard of “Pong”. The simplicity at play is almost ridiculous to consider – you control a paddle in a basic game of table-tennis. Your opponent (either a living human serving as Player 2 or a computer-controlled equivalent) makes use of a paddle opposite yours. You move the paddle up and down in order to deflect a constantly-moving ball into the opponent’s goal for points… and that’s it. That’s the entire game. Despite what must have been great skepticism about its potential for success, “Pong” was an honest-to-goodness smash hit.

Reports indicate that Atari was able to sell “Pong” cabinets for several times the production cost. And the presence of Pong clones (games that borrow the paddle and ball-deflection concepts for other purposes) speaks leagues about what kind of impact the original game had on the burgeoning game industry. On the business side, Atari was able to expand and develop more games for the arcade and home consumption as a result.

This simple game about virtual table tennis not only established Atari as a viable brand, but proved the viability of gaming as a profitable industry. Arcade owners took notice of the money “Pong” pulled in, which almost certainly ensured a generation would grow up with one foot firmly in the world of arcades.

#2: “Pac-Man” (1980)

He’s a yellow orb with a mouth. He eats pellets while moving in a straight line horizontally or vertically. He is chased at every turn by four ghosts – Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde – who will kill him instantly on contact. Occasionally he can consume special power-ups to turn the tables on the ghosts, making them flee in fear. This is the entire concept, from start to finish, of “Pac-Man”, a game viewed by many as the video game. It’s by far the most well-known in terms of pop culture ubiquity – references to the arcade game, parody or otherwise, can be found in any number of films and television shows.

Most people who know of gaming are at least familiar with “Pac-Man” and can usually rattle off their knowledge of the core gameplay at the drop of a hat. Part of that can be attributed to the sheer, beautiful simplicity of the game’s visual language. It all takes place on a black screen overlaid with a blue maze and yellow dots (the aforementioned pellets), with Pac-Man and the Ghosts standing out with their pastel colour scheme. “Pac-Man” raised the bar in terms of easy-to-comprehend visual cues in the Golden Age of Arcade Games. Pac-Man’s influence on the industry and the numerous titles inspired by its core gameplay are the reason why people still enjoy it to this day.

#1: “Super Mario Bros.” (1985)

When one looks at the broad scope of the video game industry – its inception, its evolution over the years, the formation of its genres and themes – only one title comes to mind as truly pivotal. The 1985 classic “Super Mario Bros.” is that title, a game responsible for inventing and solidifying the tropes of the 2D platformer genre as well as giving the games industry its second wind.

The world of the Mushroom Kingdom remains a case study in how best to convey personality and atmosphere within the limits of an era’s technology. Its bright pastel colour scheme, brick-and-mortar architecture, and animal-like inhabitants were revolutionary for the time. The hero, Mario, was ingenious, a seemingly-ordinary plumber made superhuman by the game’s fantasy setting.

The jaunty chiptune soundtrack, the charming characteristics of Mario’s enemies, the clever secrets hidden throughout levels – all of this would be remarkable and admirable in its own right. What helps cement “Super Mario Bros.” as a defining game is its expert craftsmanship and tight gameplay. The jumping mechanics remain hard to surpass in terms of careful balance between agility and accessibility. The placement of obstacles and enemies is downright inspired, and power-ups like the Fire Flower and Star Man have engrained themselves into the public consciousness.

There’s one more thing to consider when talking about why “Super Mario Bros.” matters so much to video games: the industry as we know it might not exist without “SMB”. After the game crash of 1983, many were uncertain of Nintendo’s first true home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. How could a company known primarily for making toys and playing cards succeed in the wake of the crash?

What could Nintendo bring to the table that would continue – no, save – gaming after Atari and others nearly killed it? Mario was the answer. Packed in with the NES at launch, “Super Mario Bros.” sold tens of millions of copies over its lifetime, standing as the best-selling game released for a single console for 30 years.

Its success lead to massive sales for the NES, which in turn prompted companies like Sega to venture into the console-making business in order to compete. It revitalized an entire industry, brought it back from the brink. It rescued gaming at its most dire. Everything that came afterwards, every accomplishment and every step forward, could not have existed without the aid of a mustachioed plumber from Brooklyn. That, above all, is why Super Mario Bros. is the most influential video game of all time.

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