The 50 greatest classic video games have been revealed

Things have come a long way since the earliest days of video games where inventive designers made the most of the limited technology available to create entertaining experiences.

Early forerunners in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s battled against limited success until the explosive entrance of Pong in 1972 and the subsequent ‘golden age’ of the arcade from 1978 onward. 

Now, thanks to Ranker and its readers, we have a definitive list of the greatest classic video games released between 1960 and 2000.

Warning, nostalgia ahead.

50-41

50. Lemmings (1991)

49. Street Fighter II (1992)

48. Crash Bandicoot (1996)

47. Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)

46. Grand Theft Auto (1997)

45. Mega Man 2 (1985) 

44. Super Metroid (1994)

43. Super Mario 64 (1996)

42. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)

41. Double Dragon (1987)

50-41 Summary

It’s a strong start from a list full of heavy hitters. The deceptively simplistic ‘Lemmings’ from Scottish developers DMA Design became one of the best selling games of the early 1990’s, while ‘Super Mario 64’ saw the Italian pair’s first foray into 3D.

No PlayStation 1 collection was complete without the iconic ‘Crash Bandicoot’, while ‘Double Dragon’ effectively spawned the ‘beat ’em up’ genre. 

40-31

40. Mario Party (1998) 

39. Pole Position (1982)

38. Final Fantasy II-I (1994)

37. NBA Jam (1993)

36. Final Fantasy VII (1997)

35. Metal Gear Solid (1998)

34. Prince of Persia (1989)

33. Duck Hunt (1984)

32. GoldenEye 007 (1997)

31. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)

40-31 Summary

It is a list that only gets stronger as it goes on. ‘Pole Position’ is effectively the great-granddad of all modern racing games being the first to bring a convincing simulation of real racing to the arcade.

‘Final Fantasy VII’ redefined expectations by introducing full motion cut-scenes and 3D models, and ‘GoldenEye 007’ is the forerunner of modern multiplayer shooters having also introduced realistic environments to FPS games. 

30-21

30. Ms. Pac-Man (1982)

29. Final Fantasy VI (1994)

28. Mario Kart 64 (1996)

27. SimCity 2000 (1993)

26. Pokémon Red and Blue (1999)

25. SimCity (1989)

24. Dig Dug (1982)

23. Street Fighter (1987)

22. Gauntlet (1987)

21. Paperboy (1984)

30-21 Summary

Things changed for good in 1999; ‘Pokémon Red and Blue’ were released in Europe as Poké-mania took over and the rest is history.

Talking of changes, ‘Street Fighter’ gave us the first use of multiple button commands in fighting games that could be combined together for special effects. 

20-11

20. Contra (1987)

19. Super Smash Bros. (1999)

18. Metroid (1986)

17. Mortal Kombat (1992)

16. Donkey Kong Country (1994)

15. Galaga (1981)

14. Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

13. Tetris: The Soviet Mind Game (1988) 

12. Space Invaders (1978)

11. Mario Bros. (1983)

11-20 Summary

This section of the list is simply iconic. Introducing two Italian plumbers who would go onto rule the arcade alongside a blue hedgehog that has recently starred in his own feature film.

Not to mention Samus Aran’s first outing in a game that had a much darker tone than anything that had gone before.

How would you sum up the effect that ‘Tetris’ and ‘Space Invaders’ had on gaming? Both are blockbusters that were fundamental to the development of gaming as we know it today.

10-1

10. Super Mario World (1990)

9. Doom (1993)

8. Super Mario Kart (1992)

7. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the past (1991)

6. Pac-Man (1980)

5. The Legend of Zelda (1986)

4. Donkey Kong (1981)

3. Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988)

2. Super Mario Bros. (1985)

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

10-1 Summary

It is certainly a top 10 worthy of the rest of the list!

‘Doom’ is the first maze crawling FPS that defined and spawned an entire genre, recent iterations haven’t lived up to the original, but its influence is undoubted.

‘Pac-Man’ was a design aimed at a wider gaming audience and became a widespread critical and commercial success drawing new audiences to the arcade.

‘Donkey Kong’ represented an important step in developing early platform games that would go on to become a dominant and commercially lucrative genre.

At number one we see ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’, an iconic game that saw Link’s first foray into a 3D world.

The game introduced several innovations such as context sensitive actions and improved targeting mechanisms that changed the way that players could interact with their game world and opened up a huge amount of possibilities.

It was also a run-away commercial success, amassing record amounts of pre-orders and sales in the US and more than living up to its billing with immersive story telling and game-play.

A truly fitting number one with that difficult combination of innovation, critical acclaim and widespread commercial success.

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