Like every entertainment medium video games are an ever-changing beast. Games are considerably more fluid and dynamic than, say, movies or TV, due to both their interactive nature and comparative youth as an art form.
The games industry also moves so damn fast that it’s not always easy to keep track of the titles that end up making a major impact, especially as their influence might only be recognisable in retrospect.
Each of these 10 games were well-received by critics and fans alike upon original release, with some even quickly earning all-timer status, yet that doesn’t mean we all appreciated just how radically they changed the game.
These games, from AAA action blockbusters to RPGs, horror, indie platformers, and everything else in-between, ultimately had a massive impact on the future of game design, narratives, aesthetics, marketing, and even monetisation.
In some cases they ushered in a very welcome shift, while in others publishers predictably took the wrong lessons away from their success and flooded the market with inferior me-too attempts to cash-in.
For better or worse, though, few games have had as much impact as these…
The late 2000s were a fairly bleak time for the horror genre – Resident Evil had largely shirked its survival horror origins in favour of steroid-laced action, and Silent Hill entered a death spiral from which it still hasn’t recovered.
Yet in 2010, an indie horror game was released that not only inspired an entire generation of lower-budget, moody survival horror games, but also contributed hugely to shaping gamer streamer culture as we know it.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent turned the genre upside down by giving the player no direct means to battle its monsters, instead forcing you to run or hide.
Amnesia’s unexpected commercial success led to a glut of similarly-designed first-person indie horror games, such as Alien: Isolation, Outlast, Layers of Fear, and SOMA.
But Amnesia’s true lasting legacy might be its impact on how players interface with video games.
Amnesia was one of the first horror games to be prominently featured in reaction videos and Let’s Plays on streaming sites, where people tuned in to watch YouTubers scream their lungs out at a scary moment.
Most notably PewDiePie streamed Amnesia early in his career, bringing considerable attention to both himself and the game, and in turn popularising the now-ubiquitous horror game streamers.
As beloved as Amnesia remains today, it’s easy to forget how instrumental it was in both rescuing a dying genre and ushering in a new era of games media.