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10 the 10 Most Important Games

To kick off EGM’s run up to its 200th issue, we picked 10 games that helped redefine the industry since our premiere issue in 1989. We’ll be compiling lists like this until No. 200 (up next: top 10 systems), so feel free to argue about our choices on the EGM message board.

10 Sonic the Hedgehog

Genesis • 1991

The speedy blue guy did more than give the elderly headaches—his game changed the 16-bit landscape, propelled Sega’s Genesis into stardom, and established the first real competition Nintendo ever had.

Without it: Sega would have given up on making hardware even sooner.

9 Street Fighter II

Arcade/Super NES • 1991/1992

No game did more to prop up arcades than SF2’s deep fighting system and addictive multiplayer matches. The home version, despite its $70 list price, was also the first buy-a-console-for-it game on the Super Nintendo, assuming you weren’t already into Super Mario World.

Without it: Arcades would have dried up...yes, even sooner.

8 Pok�mon Red/Blue Versions

Game Boy • 1997

The game’s childlike sense of adventure and monster collecting/raising turned the world into Pok�maniacs and kept up Nintendo’s dominance of the handheld market.

Without it: The phrase “Gotta catch ’em all” would be meaningless.

7 Tomb Raider

Multi • 1996


Lara Croft, the game’s improbably proportioned heroine, was the first mainstream videogame icon since Pac-Man, making Tomb Raider the first step toward the Hollywood-like industry of today.

Without it: We would never know what a “nude code” was.


Final Fantasy VII

PlayStation • 1997

Before FFVII, PlayStation was actually in close competition with Sega’s 32-bit Saturn console. And thanks to beautiful cut-scenes and a deep, introspective narrative, Square’s game was also the first RPG to surpass, instead of copy, movielike storytelling.

Without it: Aerith wouldn’t have died, and gamers wouldn’t have learned how to cry.

5 John Madden Football

Genesis • 1990

With its 11-man teams and copious playbook, Madden proved that sports sims could be realistic and still get your adrenaline pumping.

Without it: Tecmo would be known for sports (remember Tecmo Bowl?), not girls.



Xbox • 2001

Forget that Halo has been the best multiplayer console game for years now. Just concentrate on this: With one game, the world’s largest software company has become a legitimate console contender.

Without it: Xbox would’ve tanked faster than the 3DO system.

3 Tetris

Game Boy • 1989

From Russia with love (and a legal battle that lasted for years) came a game that virtually guaranteed the Game Boy’s explosive success. More than that, though, it was one of those rare games that anyone—even Grandma—could enjoy.

Without it: Programming students would have nothing to code for their final project.


Grand Theft Auto III

PlayStation 2 • 2001

In many ways, GTA3 was the first title to introduce “adult themes” to gaming...not with its violence, mind you, but with its smart dialogue, its satire-laden plot, and yes, its strutting hookers.

Without it: Campaigning politicians would have far less to be angry about.


Super Mario 64

Nintendo 64 • 1996

There were lots of 3D games before Super Mario 64, but Nintendo’s was the first to get the control scheme right. The N64’s analog stick made guiding Mario seem perfectly natural—you weren’t fighting him every step of the way.

Without it: You’d never want to collect another star again.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.

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