Don't worry this is not the typical "Top 100" list. Think of it more like a suggestion list of awesome games more than anything, this is a list of some of the games I have played over the many years, which I believe are detrimental to a thorough experience of what gaming truly has to offer. It includes titles from nearly every genre that have all provided gamers with unique experiences unparalleled at the time or since.
These are not all the games I played, these are not all the necessary games either as I am sure I missed plenty. But these games have more to offer than just fun, these are the games that changed the game industry, games that taught players unique skills, games that changed player's entire perspectives over the world and over their own lives.
These games literally changed the world of many.
- The Legend of Zelda (1986).
- The Legend Of Zelda Ocarina of Time (1998).
The start to one of the greatest and most beloved adventure game franchises of all time, seperated in classic Top Down and 3D, Zelda started with barely any story and began creating a fun universe until Ocarina created a story that changed kids back in the day and created a whole new level of depth in gameplay storytelling and game design.
- Megaman (1987).
- Megaman X (1993).
Megaman created it's own sub genre of platforming shooters, as well as one of the most iconic characters of all time and some of the most clever level designs in history, while Megaman X turned it up to Eleven introducing new mechanics and a new pacing all together, these games are some of the prime examples of "Show Don't Tell" in gaming and how level design and creativity can teach players about a game's mechanics without any need or use of tutorials or hand holding in general.
Castlevania was and is one of the hardest platformers of all time, with unique monster placement designed to punish lack of attention, the game taught players a whole new level of awareness and dexterity and introduced a new type of game design altogether that is still used to this day in order to challenge players.
- Double Dragon (1987).
- Streets of Rage (1991).
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle : Turtles In Time (1991).
Far from being the same franchise but obviously from the same genre, Beat'Em Ups would not be the same without Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, and while kids would have a lot more quarters now a days without them, they would also have never learned how to position yourself in a 3D space on a 2D sidescrolling game quite like this while enjoying some of the biggest co operative experiences at the time. Also Pizza.
- Mortal Kombat (1992).
- Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (1993).
- Killer Instinct (1994).
Fighting games would never be the same without them, and while newer titles introduced new mechanics and new fighters, and even new speeds in the case for SF Turbo, they were some of the best of the first and generally responsible for creating an entire fighting game community that would eventually develop a professional sport out of the passion for fighting games.
- Donkey Kong Country (1994).
- Super Mario World (1990).
- Sonic (1991).
The legends, not much needs to be said about them, apart from how World was the first Mario game on the SNES which introduced the amazing color pallet on top of the already established amazing Mario platforming, Sonic had it's own unique level design with tons of branching paths to choose from on each Act, and Donkey Kong always cared to expertly craft the level to provide a challenge that was always intuitive, while revolutionizing artstyle graphics and visual game development back in the day. You could always find where to go if you followed the Bannanas/Coins/Rings and learning how to read the level provides a skill still used to this day in games like Dark Souls or really any game that has the player move in any direction at will.
- Resident Evil 4 (2005).
- Resident Evil (1996).
Resident Evil, the champion of Survival Horror. A sub genre of shooters and horror where inventory management and carefully crafted atmosphere are as important as the game having zombies to shoot in the first place, both classics of their own types of Resident Evil mixing unique art style and action in a way and pacing never quite done before. Also feat: terribly hilarious voice acting.
One of the creators of modern First Person Shooters, with iconic weaponry and monsters, easily a genre defining game but more than that it also went on to define and inspire entire artstyles and games and weapons and stigmas of gaming as a whole. There are already hundreds of articles carefully detailing everything DOOM has made for games and the industry so I don't feel like I need to sing it's praises too much.
- Bioshock (2007).
- Dead Space (2008).
A mixture of survival horror with classic shooter and psychological horror, you don't know fear until a game intentionally presents elevators as a safe place to load new areas and then throws a Necromorph down on the player, it makes you never look at elevators the same way again, or hear the phrase "Would you kindly" the same way. Any game with the power to do that is a must-play, and it's a beautifully crafted mix of the old with the new.
- Bastion (2011).
- Battleblock Theater (2013).
Narration is often a sin, when it's done incorrectly. Bastion's narration is full of drama and turns the game from a cool story into an exemplary one, while Battleblock's is entirely hilarious, pacing the perfect jokes at the right times in complete contrast with the game's gameplay.
- Chrono Trigger (1995).
- INSIDE (2016).
- LIMBO (2010).
- Super Mario RPG (1996).
Classic JRPGs is not something I am too familiar with, but Chrono Trigger remains timeless, it's one of the longest games out there specially for 1995 and has some of the most memorable use of time travel ever, alongside the story and it's characters. Which is why I also put INSIDE and LIMBO here, they are indie games of their own genre but both present a very inviting and full universe with a mere few words and an excellent atmosphere. Stories and atmospheres like these stay with the player forever.
- Age of Empires (1997).
- Warcraft III (2002).
- Starcraft (1998).
The world would literally not be the same if it wasn't for these games, Warcraft III would eventually spark the origin of DotA and the entire MOBA genre, Civ and Age of Empires would rocket-launch the 4X strategy genre, and Starcraft was always one of the starting points for most of today's nerds and geeks.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004).
- Burnout Revenge (2005).
- God Hand (2006).
The Playsatation 2 days was also a genre defining era, MGS3 is still a fan favorite in it's approach to story and craziness going far beyond what most people would expect a Metal Gear game to be at first glance, Burnout Revenge is still one of the best Burnout games, while not as next-generation as something like Paradise, it created a lot of the insanely fast hyper racing that Burnout is now really known for. And God Hand well, God Hand is a whole thing, and it's own article; http://www.opiumpulses.com/article/109
- Asassins' Creed II (2009).
- Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (2013).
The Assassin's Creed series, a brilliant idea, creating a unique gameplay style that is still copied to this day by innovating, reinventing and improving the way players jump, climb, vault and stealth stab their way through an incredible story mixing the 21st century with the current-gameplay era of the past using all sorts of unique and original mechanics to do so. Black Flag on the other hand while still being one of the best AC games, it's also it's own unique experience, being the absolute -so-far-best Pirate and Sailing game of all time, with it's own unique epic and singular story.
- Sillent Hill 2 (2001).
- Amnesia The Dark Descent (2010).
- F.E.A.R (2007).
The horror genre would be far different and far more mediocre without these titles, Silent Hill 2 being one of the very best to this day at causing the player to fear and question everything, Amnisia being a clever indie game that basically created the Insanity Mechanic and gave life to the "run and hide" horror, and FEAR being a unique match between a first person shooter with DOOM like abilities to blow soldiers away and unknown monsters that no gun can ever harm, preying on the player's FEAR of what could possibly be behind the next door, always keeping the player on it's toes.
- Blood Dragon (2013).
- Alien Isolation (2014).
- TRON 2.0 (2003).
Movie Games, sounds awful just saying it, but it was not always done terribly. Alien Isolation is by far the best Alien game which isn't saying much, but it allows players to perfectly relive a rendition of the first ALIEN movie in a fun SCi Fi first person shooter with it's share fair of unique storytelling. TRON 2.0 and Blood Dragon are the so-far-best Neon Cyberverse games, TRON has a unique inventory and item management system while perfectly implementing the TRON-verse into a video game format, while Blood Dragon is the game counterpart to movies like Kung Pow and Kung Fury and a wonderful nod to classic 80's action, hilariously charging forward without ever bothering to take itself too seriously.
- Bayonetta (2009).
- Devil May Cry 3 (2005).
- Darksiders (2010).
- God Of War (2005).
- Metal Gear Rising Revengance (2013)
- Dark Souls III (2016).
The Hack And Slash epics, Bayonetta being one of the most iconic female badasses in the world, DMC3 it's male counterpart creating it's own unique gameplay mechanics and Style-Combat, both with hilarious humor and unique artstyle. God Of War on the other hand it's all serious business, it modernized the use of Quick Time Events during gameplay and created one of the most hard-worn badass male protagonists of all time, introducing and including Greek Mythology in a very approachable and interesting way. While MGSR is a mixture of ultra-serious and incredible combat with cheeky Metal Gear writing and thematic, also featuring one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time. And Dark Souls 3 is the absolute masterpiece and perfected version of the series, a masterclass on level design and difficulty implementation in a game that provides interesting challenges while always teaching it's players and preparing them for what's to come, a true journey of self improvement as a player not just as a character in the game that can change entire perspectives over the action genre.
- Dota (2002).
- Heroes of Newerth (2010).
MOBA games are a truly unique experience, the classic MOBAs require a level of map awareness and careful action-processing not seen in most games, as players are required to pay attention to all their skills and their items as well as their team's unique characters and items as well as the opponents and their overall positions in the map, any slip in focus may cost lives that could turn the tide of battle, it's an epic battle of mind games and counter moves more than just a battle of mouse-tapping to get EXP.
- Grand Theft Auto V (2015).
- Saints ROW III (2011).
- Saints ROW IV (2013).
I don't even know how to properly classify these games, they are far more than simple 3rd person crime simulators, as GTA V is one of the greatest developed games of all time truly achieving new skies as the gaming standard at the time with unrelenting quality and quantity of content. While Saints ROW is an exemplary title of how can a similar quality can be achieved in a much more linear design with just the right humor and creativity by being a parody of a parody. Life imitates art which imitates life which imitates art.
- Hitman Blood Money (2006).
- Mark Of The Ninja (2012).
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (2002).
- Dishonored (2012).
- Metal Gear Solid (1998).
- Assassin's Creed (2007).
- Payday 2 (2013).
Stealth. It would have looked entirely different without these titles, but they are on themselves very different, each providing different takes on the genre and offering their own unique and well crafted mechanics. From Hitman's corpse dragging and dress-up, to Mark Of The Ninja's 2D sidescrolling optional combat, from Splinter Cell's modern and Western take on the CIA-spook-spy-world and Dishonored's post apocalyptic and original world of lies and betrayal, Metal Gear's unique writing and storytelling mixing serious drama with cheeky characters and unique combat, Assassin's Creed crowd stealth and unique weaponry and movement, and Payday's hugely in-depth heisting mechanics featuring everything from cameras to guards to alarms and windows and random doors and keycards and other challenges for players to work around.
- Halo Combat Evolved (2001).
- Halo 2 (2004).
- Halo 3(2007).
- Halo Reach (2010).
- Halo 4 (2012).
- Mass Effect 2 (2010).
- Mass Effect 3 (2012).
The undisputed juggernauts of Sci Fi. Halo's universe is as large as the most popular franchises in the world like LOTR and Star Wars, featuring over 15 written novels expanding the universe into one of the richest and most interesting stories gaming has ever seen with some of the most memorable characters and featuring an overall brilliant sound design and visual design. While Mass Effect much like Star Trek tends to focus more on it's characters and their relationships, displaying a unique and dedicated portion of itself towards choices and meaningful consequences that drives the involvement of the player in the story to levels unprecedented.
- Shovel Knight (2014).
- Sonic Mania (2017).
Shovel Knight brought new life into the indie and 2D genre of gaming, by being the absolute best 2D sidescrolling platformer of the decade with a quality that matches if not surpasses classsic SNES titles featuring an entire unique world and universe with excellent gameplay unique visuals and characters, and even a few guest characters. Sonic Mania on the other hand is the best Sonic has ever looked and exactly what the Sonic franchise needed it, a brand new 2D adventure that pays homage to the classics while bringing it's fair share of new levels and mechanics too.
- Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition (2015).
- Divinity Original Sin 2 (2017).
- The Witcher 3 (2015).
Storytelling and meaningful consequences in a beautifully creative game with in-depth gameplay, Divinity has over 60 hours of story content which expands depending on which character you play as and which choices you make as well which side quests you decide to complete. Witcher takes the player into wonderful adventures of a unique and deeply rooted character and how it's life relates to others and how their lives affect the story real time.
- Tales from the Borderlands (2014).
- Telltale's The Walkin Dead (2012).
- The Wolf Among Us (2013).
Telltale reinvented interactive storytelling and these titles are by far the best so far from the genre, indisputable writing that takes players through an emotional journey in a singular story comprised of choices and dialogues that explore the characters and the player itself on how to deal with situations that drive character development and a deep engagement of each story.
Starbound is a mastercraft of content, an exploration game that focuses on one of the most important aspects of exploration; finding new things. With several hundreds of items and different types of locations and variations of buildings and weather and planets and monsters and caves and dungeons to find and explore the game offers a deep and very vivid universe along with an impressively adorable 2D artstyle and an intuitive gameplay with endless possibilities for creating building and customization.
- Tomb Raider Underworld (2008).
- Tomb Raider (1996).
- Tomb Raider (2007).
Tomb Raider (1996) or it's HD counterpart is still the absolute best rendition of the Tomb Raider character, a badass that jumps face first into danger with the sole intention of kickin' it's ass, it also created the franchise and brought a very unique and fun exploration puzzle-like platforming to the 3D space, while Underworld is a fair sequel bringing even more visuals into the original franchise and expanding on the character's unique and prominent style, the Tomb Raider remake sequels haven't yet been able to capture the character's origins, as the original trilogy's Lara Croft became a role model for action and courage, a character that strives to conquer danger no matter the costs and fears nothing. The games all feature some interesting inclusion of supernatural elements as Lara finds relics imbued with power and the game presents different things that contrast the game's solitary exploration like Thralls and Yetis to fight, and among all the trouble and risks that comes from fighting these entities, mercenaries, traps and puzzles, Tomb Raider is the type of character that fearlessly points guns at Dinosaurs.
So, this took a while, but there it is. Like I said in the intro these are not every single meaningful title in history because if it were I would never stop writing, but these are some of the most important for me and hopefully of many other gamers as well.
And here's a question to finish off the article, how many of these games have you played yourself?