There was a time when children and adults had to make their own kind of entertainment. Board games, cards, riding bikes or playing football were popular of course. These were old standards until the invention of video games. The first games had their share of glitches and perhaps the graphics weren’t the best, but over time, game developers have honed their craft to a nearly perfect science of seamless and realistic game play. From the beginning of the video game era, a few solid versions became the favourites of players around the world. Soon newer and faster games were developed from these early inspirations. With this in mind, here are a few of the most influential video games of all time, in no particular order.

MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) wasn’t the first in its class, but the 1978 text based game was one of the early role playing games that kicked off a barrage of future multiplayer role playing titles. A few of them include ‘Ultima’ and ‘Everquest.’ Mud also served as the inspiration for RPG game creators who have taken us into a new era of game play dimensions. This was the first step in bringing traditionally offline games like Dungeons & Dragons and Choose Your Own Adventure books into the digital world. These MUD games showed tremendous imagination by their programmers and have led to countless other text adventures over the years.

Alexey Pajitnov designed the popular video game ‘Tetris’ which was released in 1984. The shape sorting puzzler was released on home computers, arcade and consoles, and later on the more portable Game Boy where it became a mainstay. It may seem like a simple puzzle game, but Tetris can be a hugely challenging game when you set the options to difficult. It’s incredible to watch some of the master players playing at speed. The game has been known to have what has been dubbed the ‘Tetris effect’ when avid players experience the puzzle patterns in their dreams. It has also spawned dozens of copycat games since. For many it is the quintessential Game Boy game and also the quintessential puzzle game. It was one of the first games that even your Mum and your Granny would be happy playing.

Elite is a video game that came out in 1984, originally on the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron. The space trading game has been an archetype in many different areas. Creators David Braben and Ian Bell achieved incredible feats of programming by creating procedurally generated galaxies which gave the player a huge sense of freedom in an early sandbox environment with the ability to fly around the galaxy. And all squeezed into just 22kb! There were so many ground-breaking aspects to this game and it’s incredible to think they programmed it all in their bedrooms whilst being only about 19 years old.

Super Mario Bros
When ‘Super Mario Bros’ came out in 1985, it followed Nintendo’s ‘Donkey Kong’ and ‘Mario Bros’ games that were popular in the arcades. The game was launched on the Nintendo Entertainment System and took the platform genre to a whole new level. Mario became the main mascot for Nintendo and his legacy is still hugely felt to this day. There have been countless Mario games over the years but many feel that this one was the one that really kicked off his illustrious career.

Pac-Man was originally released in arcades in 1980 by Namco. The maze exploration game quickly became one of the most popular video games in the world. Over time Pac-Man has become an iconic figure that is seen on t-shirts and countless other merchandise and even had his own cartoon show. They are in fact still making Pac-Man games, with the recent Pac-Man Battle Royale being released in 2011. Pac-Man is arguably the most recognised video game character of all time and one that nearly everyone feels comfortable picking up and playing. A very accessible entry into video gaming as it only needs a joystick and no other buttons.

Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto was originally released by DMA designs in 1997. When the franchise reached its third instalment, however, it became hugely influential. The 3D environment raised the bar for third person games like this, and in particular it is the freedom and sandbox nature of the game that has set it apart from its peers. One of the biggest earning franchise in gaming history and one that has had a huge influence on real world culture.

We certainly can’t overlook the 1993 release ‘Doom.’ It wasn’t the first ever first-person shooter, as there had been games like Wolfenstein 3D, and even 3D Monster Maze, before it, but it certainly was the game that catapulted the genre into the stratosphere and paved the way for all the dozens, nay hundreds, of first person shooters that have come since. This game was ground-breaking, atmospheric and was one of the first games to really push multi-player gaming across a network, often being banned from universities because too many people were playing them on the university machines. A true phenomenon.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Zelda is a massive franchise and one that is arguably still peaking, with the recent release of ‘Breath of the Wild’ on the Switch. It all started back in 1986 with the release of the first game, The Legend of Zelda. Many people, however, would say that the most influential game in the series was ‘Ocarina of Time’. This is the game that set the standard for role play gaming on the N64. The diverse interactions and rich worlds you encountered made this the ultimate fantasy game of its time.

Street Fighter 2
There have been dozens and dozens of one-on-one fighter games over the years. Street Fighter 2 was the first game in the arcade that really made this format sing. The sprites, the speed, the sound effects, the one on one gameplay. It was towards the tail-end of the arcade’s heyday but this game brought people back to the arcade in droves. It has also spawned several sequels, a movie and even some live musical performances. If you ask people what their favourite arcade games was, a good percentage would say Street Fighter 2.

These are just some of the most influential games. Video games are such a big part of our culture now, that there are many others that have also left impressive legacies. The gaming industry is influential in so many ways, and long may it continue.