GameSpy's 30 Most Influential People in Gaming
After much deliberation and hours of debate we collected votes from gaming developers and our in-house staff compiling our definitive list of gaming's most influential people.
By - The GameSpy Staff

Shigeru Miyamoto


  Why is Shigeru Miyamoto Influential?
  • Created Mario and Zelda characters
  • Changed platform & action RPG genres
  • Leads Nintendo game development
When the topic of game developers comes up, there's one that just about everyone knows by name. That's no surprise, as Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto has been responsible for some of the most beloved and successful video games ever created.

Miyamoto's Nintendo career began when he was hired as an artist in 1977, but it wasn't until 1980 that he was given the opportunity to actually design a video game. The resultant game, Donkey Kong, went on to become one of the most successful arcade games ever released. After this surprise success, it became apparent that Nintendo had gotten more than it had bargained for when it hired the shy artist. Company president Hiroshi Yamauchi took full advantage of the situation and put Miyamoto to work developing more games.

During the early 80s, Nintendo expanded into the then-nascent home video game market with the release of its Family Computer, or Famicom (released as the Nintendo Entertainment System in the U.S.) While the system did reasonably well for those first several years, it needed a killer game to really sell the new system. Luckily, Miyamoto was just the man to make it.

Originally an arcade game, 1985's Super Mario Bros. was different from Miyamoto's prior platform games in that the playfield scrolled rather than confining all of the action to a single screen. The hero, Mario, could run, jump, and bop enemies from above -- features that would become platformer canon. Power-ups were present in the form of mushrooms that would make him grow and flowers that allowed him to shoot fireballs. These were imaginitively hidden in mysterious question mark blocks, along with coins and the rare 1-UP item. Some of these item blocks were not even visible, so players had to guess and intuit where they might lie. There were even "Warp Zones" that allowed savvy players to skip over levels. In short, Super Mario Bros. was a tour-de-force of imaginative and innovative game design, and in coming years it and its sequels would serve as the examples to which most other platform games aspired. In the end, over 40 million copies were moved worldwide -- people bought the Famicom / NES just to play this game.

It soon became apparent that development of home games presented distinctly different problems (and opportunities) than arcade game development, and Miyamoto responded by innovating more than ever. This is epitomized in 1986's The Legend of Zelda, an overhead-view action / adventure that took place in the fantasy land of Hyrule. Zelda was first released for the Famicom Disk System, an add-on that allowed the console to read specially formatted floppy disks. The disk technology allowed the user to write data to the game's media, so Zelda became one of the first console titles to let you save your progress and resume later (Foreign versions had a battery built into the cartridge). As in Super Mario Bros., Miyamoto filled Zelda with secrets and mysteries to reward the dedicated players who were inquisitive and who persevered in the game's sprawling quest. The feeling of accomplishment you got when you finally rescued Princess Zelda was supreme, but Miyamoto had another surprise in store for players: there was an entirely different second quest to complete! Much like Mario did for platformers, Zelda virtually invented the template that future action RPGs would follow.

Since then, Miyamoto has continued to create hit after video game hit, spearheading the launches of Nintendo's successive consoles with his high-quality software. These days, his duties are constrained more to producing than actual creating, but the Miyamoto touch is still apparent in most of the products he manages. It's easy to see that there's never been a more successful game designer, nor one whose work has touched and delighted as many people. For these reasons, we consider Shigeru Miyamoto to be the most influential person in the game industry today.

What the Gaming Industry says:

Tom Hall, MonkeyStone: "He invented the platform game. He invented the side-scroller. He set the standard for 3D platforming. Come on. He is the one person who really and truly has a clear image of what is fun."

John Howard, Microsoft: "The granddaddy of "game design." Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda, Metroid, the list goes on. 25 years from now we'll still be learning from Miyamoto-san's work. I learned more about the value of exploration and wonder from Super Mario 64 than any game, book or movie ever."

Bill Roper, Blizzard Entertainment: "Shigeru Miyamoto has not just been making games for years and years -- he has truly been creating worlds. The amount of thought, detail and passion that go into his designs is evident from the second you start playing. No other designer better realizes the concept of getting the player into the game within the first 30 seconds than Miyamoto and he continues to provide an impeccable guiding vision from project to project. A stellar achiever who has never lost sight of what makes a game fun."

Raymond Padilla, Freelance Gaming Journalist: "Not only has he made some of the most notable creations in gaming history, but he's also taken established genres and put a fresh take on them (Pikmin)."

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