Super Mario Bros. is undoubtedly one of the all-time greatest and most influential video games in history. The NES' flagship title starred Nintendo's golden boy, Mario, whose quest to save Princess Toadstool saw him running, jumping and fireballing his way through eight different worlds. The side-scrolling platformer's 1985 US release saw a revival to the then-flagging American video game market of the 1980s, it held the title for best selling game of all time for a single platform for three decades, has been ported to virtually every Nintendo console, and was named IGN's "Greatest Game of All Time" in 2005.
Thirty years on, and Mario is still going strong. 2013's release of Super Mario 3D World was met by critical acclaim, as it showcased a combination of free-roaming 3D gameplay and 2D platforming elements that made the original so brilliant; a simultaneous four-player cooperative mode, and the vibrant, charming colours that Mario has become famous for.
Pokémon Red and Blue Version for the Nintendo Game Boy depict the humble beginnings of the now monstrous (pardon the pun) Pokémon franchise that spans over 60 titles, a long-running animé series, toys, trading cards, and books galore. The monster training role playing games encourage players to travel around a vast world, capturing, training and battling Pokémon in order to defeat other trainers and become the champion of the Pokémon League. Players can also attempt to collect all 150 Pokémon in the game's encyclopedia, the Pokédex.
Red and Blue were so groundbreaking upon release, they were ranked in IGN's "Top 100 Games of All Time" for four years, as well as attaining the Guinness World Records for Best Selling RPG on the Game Boy and Best Selling RPG of All Time in 2009. After 16 years, the Pokémon RPG formula on handheld consoles hasn't changed that drastically - with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire's main objectives being similar to their inaugural predecessors. The main difference? An extra 61 Pokémon to catch!
Grand Theft Auto turned many heads in the media in a similar way to Midway's Mortal Kombat half a decade earlier. Not only was the game tremendously violent, with the player taking on the role of a career criminal capable of assassinations, hit and runs, and - funnily enough - grand theft auto; but it also immediately distanced itself from its action-adventure contemporaries by allowing players to do whatever they wanted within the game.
In a market full of linear action and fighting games, Grand Theft Auto allowed players to gain points by causing destruction in an open city, stealing and selling cars for profit, or carrying out contract killings. This led to the creation of a brand new game genre, "Sandbox" - spawning many imitation titles, such as Crackdown, True Crime: Streets of LA, Sleeping Dogs and Prototype. Today, GTA is one of the biggest game franchises in the world - with the latest offering, Grand Theft Auto V, supporting 32 online players simultaneously across five platforms.
A name now synonymous with foul-mouthed online gaming teenagers, midnight release queues and - at one point - Kevin Spacey, Call of Duty was by no means the original first person shooter. Based on the Quake III: Team Arena engine, the World War II simulation was released in 2003, amongst a cavalcade of quality shoot 'em ups - Doom 3, Medal of Honor, and Half-Life 2, to name a few.
What set Call of Duty apart from its Wolfenstein-inspired brethren was the format of the single-player campaign mode. Where other shooters favoured a "lone wolf" approach, Call of Duty players were joined by teams of computer-controlled allies who ranged in quantity from two infantrymen - in some British missions - right up to an entire regiment of tanks in the Soviet missions. This not only offered players some assistance with the game's objectives, but it also furthered the game's goal of providing an immersive and realistic World War II experience.
12 years later, and Call of Duty has grown into a gargantuan gaming franchise - thanks, mostly, to its incredibly competitive and robust online multiplayer modes - played by more than 125 million players to date. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was the best selling game of 2014. We can only get more excited about the release of the next big one - Black Ops III, coming this November.
The blue blur that put SEGA well and truly on the map. Sonic the Hedgehog was an incredibly fast, 2D side-scrolling platformer for the SEGA Genesis / Mega Drive. It starred the titular Sonic the Hedgehog, the blue dude with the 'tude, on a quest to defeat the evil Dr. Robotnik, save imprisoned animals from inside enemy robots and retrieve the magical Chaos Emeralds. The game involved collecting rings as a form of health and a simple control scheme, with jumping and attacking controlled by one button, and was so popular, it saw two direct sequels, comics, toys, and many, many spin-offs - surviving even the end of SEGA's console manufacturing after the demise of the Dreamcast.
Much like Nintendo's Mario, Sonic has since tried his hand at many things, including sports, fighting, racing, and role-playing - and inspired a whole host of "platformers with attitude," including Bubsy, Ristar, and Crash Bandicoot. Fast forward 25 years, and Sonic seems to have fallen on hard times - with a common criticism being that the variant gameplay styles found in recent 3D titles have strayed from the award-winning formula of the original series. Some recent titles have recaptured the magic - namely Sonic Rush and Sonic Generations - but SEGA's blue mascot needs a really consistent win with his next title, Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice, to bring the fans back to him.
Developed and released by Squaresoft (now Square Enix) in 1987, Final Fantasy is often considered one of the greatest role playing game series' of all time. This initial outing's story followed four youths called the Light Warriors, whose quest to defeat evil forces, restore light, and save the world is taken on by the player - and plays out over 40+ hours of old skool RPG grinding madness. There are strong beliefs in the video gaming industry that Final Fantasy could have been the last title Squaresoft ever released, as the company was facing bankruptcy. Instead, it was a great commercial success, received positive reviews, and spawned many successful sequels.
The original is now regarded as one of the most influential and successful role-playing games on the NES, playing a major role in popularising the genre - a game without which the latest title, Final Fantasy XV, would have been a mere glint in the grown up Square Enix's eye. The fifteenth outing in the series features the same epic storytelling and deep, developed characters that captivated fans of the original - only, with today's consoles packing serious processing power, the graphical eye candy on show is a far cry from the 8 bit monochrome of yesteryear.
Yet another brainchild of Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the first title in the now epic Legend of Zelda series is an absolute classic. Set in the fantasy land of Hyrule, the game features Link, the playable protagonist, on a quest to collect the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rescue Princess Zelda from the antagonist, Ganon.
This highly innovative action adventure game is considered by many to be a spiritual forerunner of the role-playing genre, influencing the creation of such significant series' as Crystalis, Seiken Densetsu, and Alundra. In addition to this, The Legend of Zelda's NES release in Europe and America saw the game come to the forefront of video gaming technology - being the first home console title to include an internal battery for saving data.
The game has also been featured as one of the 15 most influential games of all time by GameSpot, as well as being recognised as "no less than the greatest game of all time" by Game Informer in 2009 - as it was "ahead of its time by years, if not decades." Nearly 30 years on, and it looks to be coming full circle: Nintendo have announced a next-generation title with the same name, tipped for release in 2016, which Nintendo states will take place in a fully connected overworld similar to the original, giving players more freedom and letting them decide where they want to go and how to get there. Complete with artificial intelligence, outstanding graphics and an innovative control system, Zelda could indeed rewrite the playbook on RPGs once again - we'll just have to wait and see.
The original Resident Evil was an action adventure "survival horror" game released in 1996, which saw Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, members of the elite taskforce S.T.A.R.S., investigating their missing team members in a zombie-infested mansion. Though the game took many cues from previous horror media, including Infogrames' Alone in the Dark and Capcom's own Sweet Home, it was still seen by many as pioneering - and has been credited with starting the modern survival horror genre. The game was so significant, it became a best seller in 1996, was remade for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002, and was referred to as "one of the most important games of all time" by Game Informer in 2007.
The latest game in the series, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, is episodic in nature and has an emphasis on cooperative stealth elements. Only one of the players uses guns, making the other more vulnerable, but able to use melee weapons. Resident Evil's "survival horror" concepts paved the way for further bestsellers of a similar nature, including Valve's Left 4 Dead games, as well as Capcom's Dead Rising series.
The name Halo has become iconic in the video game industry in the last 15 years - and for very good reason. Released in 2001 as an exclusive launch title for the Microsoft Xbox, the military science fiction first-person shooter is considered the Xbox's "killer app," selling over 5 million copies in the four years between its release and the Xbox 360 - touting Halo 2 - becoming commercially available. Developed by Bungie, Halo was groundbreaking in its subtle innovations, building upon the linear science-fiction style of Half-Life, and the noteworthy multiplayer mechanics of games like GoldenEye 007. Because of this, Halo has been praised as one of the best and most important video games of all time - and has been ported to the PC and Apple Mac, and remade for the Xbox 360.
Halo's great significance is illustrated perfectly by the adoption of many video game fans' use of the phrases, "Halo clone," and "Halo killer," to describe other first-person shooters. Although the team behind the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries, have been notably compared to Bungie in the past, many critics deem the developers worthy successors for the Halo franchise - and many avid shooter fans look forward to the series' Xbox One debut, due in October.
As the third fighting game series in this lineup, Tekken came along much later than Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter - but it was revolutionary in its own right. Building on the precedents set out for six-button fighting games by Street Fighter, Tekken pioneered 3D fighting games, as one of the first alongside SEGA's Virtua Fighter.
Unlike fighters based on Capcom's six-button arcade format, Tekken was the first game that allowed players to control their character's four limbs independently, leading to a different style of gameplay to other fighting games at the time. Tekken went on to achieve multiple awards, including "First PlayStation Game to Sell Over One Million Units," and "First Fighting Game to Feature Simulated 3D."
Tekken has since expanded into a wide media franchise, stepping into animated and live-action films, comics, and books - as well as Tekken Museum, which opened in Osaka, Japan in 2012. Nine games on, and 2015 has seen Tekken 7 hit arcades with force, with a slew of new characters, stages, and mechanics - including unblockable Rage Art techniques, and unstoppable Power Crush moves.
The original Tomb Raider, released in 1996, followed the exploits of English archaeologist Lara Croft in her search for ancient artifacts and treasures. The game was immediately noteworthy purely for its inclusion of a female protagonist, however, its combination of state-of-the-art graphics, cinematic storyline and an atmospheric soundtrack pushed it to levels of sophistication never before seen in a video game - a process that would be imitated many times over.
The fact that Tomb Raider was so mind-blowingly awesome won the game a multitude of Game of the Year awards, the Origins Award for "Best Action Computer Game of 1997," and Official UK PlayStation Magazine ranked it, "4th Best Game of All Time." Lara is still one of the most famous and recognizable video game characters in the history of the medium, appearing on pop culture magazines in the 1990s, and expanding the Tomb Raider franchise into multiple films starring such big Hollywood names as Angelina Jolie.
Following a few hiccups in the series, with critics complaining that later Tomb Raider games had veered away from exploration in favour of typical run-and-gun action, the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider has been seen at this year's E3 to return to the old skool formula - raiding tombs, solving puzzles, and exploring. Let's be honest - for the die-hard fans, that can only be a good thing.
With its only contemporary being Capcom's Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat is the original that spawned one of the two greatest fighting game franchises in the history of video gaming. The first game introduced many key aspects of the Mortal Kombat series, including the unique five-button control scheme, high levels of bloody violence, and, most notably, the koncept (sorry, concept) of over-the-top gory Fatalities - finishing moves that require a sequence of button inputs to perform.
In the early 1990s, the world had never seen such a violent video game, and Mortal Kombat's depictions of blood and gore caused multiple scandals in the media - putting the title, and video gaming in general, into the public limelight. In fact, the Fatalities, in part, led to the creation of the ESRB video game rating system!
The first Mortal Kombat has spawned over fifteen sequels, as well as live action films, comics and novels. Over 20 years on, and Mortal Kombat has done anything but slow down. The aptly-named NetherRealm Studios unleashed Mortal Kombat X upon the world in April this year, complete with a killer lineup of old and new faces, even more outrageous finishing movies, and the inclusion of two horror film favourite crossovers: Jason Voorhees and Predator.
Street Fighter was the first competitive fighting game ever produced by Capcom - a company now famous for its numerous well-engineered fighting titles. The original Street Fighter introduced some of the conventions made standard in later fighting games, such as the six button controls and the use of command based special techniques. However, the game was not nearly as popular worldwide as its immediate successor - Street Fighter II - a game considered by many to be the archetypal competitive arcade fighting game that paved the way for every six-button arcade beat 'em up ever since.
Unlike later games in the series, Street Fighter only allowed players to play as one of two characters - Ryu and Ken - and were able to fight either one another, or a computer-controlled opponent. Street Fighter was ported under the title Fighting Street in 1988 for the PC Engine CD ROM in Japan, and was the first video game in the world to be released on CD-ROM format.
The last 30 years has seen multiple variations of the Street Fighter formula, including numerous crossovers with other fighting franchises, such as SNK, Marvel's X Men, and Mega Man. Street Fighter V looks to further build on the spirit of Street Fighter II - with more colours, cooler characters, a typical six-button arcade controller setup, and, of course, Capcom's leading men - Ryu and Ken.
Another classic feather in the cap of Japanese developer Capcom, 1987's 2D side scrolling platformer Mega Man depicts the titular android being tasked with fighting through hordes of robots using the "Mega Buster" - a cannon attached to his arm - to shoot them. The end of each level saw Mega Man take on a cast of different Robot Masters, whose special weapons could be used once they were defeated.
The original Mega Man spawned a series of over 50 games on multiple systems - of which has sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide - as well as an animé series, graphic novels, and the legendary Arizona-based nerdcore rapper, Random AKA Mega Ran. Even though 20 years separates the two, Mega Man 10 was developed to resemble the original 8-bit NES Mega Man games, owing to the art style's positive response from fans and critics.
Even though it received positive responses, and sold well according to Capcom, we have yet to see a new Mega Man title in the last half-decade - though there is a glimmer of hope, by the name of Mighty No. 9...
For many, Half-Life is the first person shooter game that started it all for Valve Corporation. The misadventures of Dr. Gordon Freeman inside the Black Mesa Research Facility have sold millions of copies, racked up over 50 Game of the Year Awards, and spawned countless sequels Including the ever-popular "Portal" and "Team Fortress 2."
In the near decade since the Quake engine-powered development of Half Life, Valve Corporation have not only released 28 video games themselves, but have pioneered their own digital video game distribution service - Steam - which currently boasts over 75 million active accounts. Half-Life's latest outing came in the form of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, with Episode Three tipped to soon follow. Since then, Valve have released eight other games, with no word on Episode Three - making it the most hotly-anticipated PC title since 2011's infamous Duke Nukem Forever.
Due to its lifelike approach, diversified, "adult" looking players, and football shirt back numbers, Konami's International Superstar Soccer was lauded upon its release as the most realistic, and therefore best, football game available on any 16-bit system - including the Super Nintendo and the SEGA Genesis / Mega Drive. Long considered the arch rival to the officially licensed FIFA International Soccer titles, International Superstar Soccer had better, more "lifelike" graphics, play-by-play commentary, and a more robust training mode than its competition.
However, the game was also plagued by difficult controls, and a distinct lack of real player names, brought on by Konami's inability to procure licenses from FIFA to use them. Amusingly, this led to the creation of fictional Brazilian striker "Allejo," whom has gained popularity as a skilled player capable of impossible moves and goals - and been actually considered one of the best Brazilian footballers of all time, despite not being real.
Since then, Konami has slowly begun to bring in licensed players and stadiums, whilst retaining the elements of realism that made International Superstar Soccer such an excellent title. The latest title, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (PES 2016), is the latest in the lineage of the original's spiritual successors - and is set to feature realistic 11 vs. 11 online play when it finally drops in September.
Though many Western children of the 1980s know Tetris as the famous puzzle game that came bundled with the Nintendo Game Boy, it was actually designed and developed long before the Japanese video game giant even got a look in. Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian computer engineer, programmed Tetris at the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow in 1984, deriving its name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra - as all of the game's pieces contain four segments - and tennis, his favourite sport.
Peppered by years of legal battles involving many video game companies, including Atari Games, Nintendo, SEGA, and others, Tetris has been released on virtually every video gaming platform in history, as well as on devices such as graphing calculators, mobile phones, portable media players, PDAs, Network music players, and has even been played on non-media products, ranging from oscilloscopes to the sides of various buildings! Although Tetris' gameplay hasn't changed drastically over the years, there have been some interesting evolutions in the series - most notably, 1997's Tetrisphere, a fully 3D puzzle game for the Nintendo 64.
Those of us who remember the origins of Blizzard's Warcraft series will know that before the name became synonymous with many hours spent raiding dungeons with friends, grinding for levels and gear, and sporting Penny Arcade's fantastic "Green is the New Purple" shirts with pride, Warcraft was a prominent series of Real Time Strategy (RTS) games - the first of which being Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. By no means the first of its kind, Orcs & Humans built upon typical RTS gameplay set out by 1991's Civilization and 1992's Dune II: "collect resources, build base and army, destroy opponents."
Warcraft innovated with new mission types, skirmishes, and a random map generator - features that would later be adopted by RTS heavyweights of the 1990s, including Command & Conquer and Age of Empires.
Warcraft lore has since permeated multiple media types, including a trading card game, comics, books, and the often-copied-but-never-bested MMORPG series, World of Warcraft.
The latest game, Warlords of Draenor, built on the immensely popular series upon its November 2014 release, selling 3.3 million copies in 24 hours and increasing player numbers from 7.4 million to 10.5 million.
Over a decade before Hideo Kojima birthed the incredibly popular Metal Gear Solid into the world, the MSX2 (and later the NES) played host to an overhead military action-adventure stealth video game that was considered to be the progenitor of the stealth game genre - a game type within which a player had limited weaponry, and was encouraged to avoid confrontation rather than seek it out. The game was groundbreaking in a market full of "run, jump, shoot" games at the time, and was rated sixth best NES game ever made by GamesRadar.
As well as spawning a wide variety of sequels and spin offs in the modern Metal Gear Solid franchise, the original game pioneered stealth action gameplay - the same kind later seen in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Thief: The Dark Project, and Hitman: Codename 47.
The 25th game in the series, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, is set to be released in September this year. Featuring similar elements of stealth action gameplay that made the series so innovative, The Phantom Pain builds on this by taking place in a more open-world environment, popularised by games like Grand Theft Auto. This will make the game far less linear, and encourage players to carve their own path through it using vehicles, weaponry, and CPU controlled support characters.
After five years in development, 1997's Gran Turismo was considered an incredibly cutting-edge racing simulation game when it hit the shelves. As one of the first games to attempt to accurately simulate the appearance and performance of a wide range of officially licensed, real world vehicles, Gran Turismo appealed not only to racing game fans, but also real world driving enthusiasts, and older gamers interested in other simulations in the vein of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Though the game featured a classic Arcade Mode for casual racing fans, the innovative Simulation Mode required players to earn different levels of driving licenses to compete in different events, earn money, trophies and prize cars. It was this level of detail, combined with top-spec graphics and licensed music, that earned Gran Turismo multiple accolades including Best Simulation at the 1999 Spotlight Awards, Best Driving Game, and Sixth Best Game of All Time by PlayStation Official Magazine.
Gran Turismo 6, the latest in the series, built on this realism with multiple "real world" crossover features, such as Vision Gran Turismo, a mode showcasing concept cars designed specially for the game by top automobile companies; and X-Series cars designed and developed by Red Bull.