What five games best represent video games?

March 19th, 2016 by Caleb Cajthaml

I was listening to the Kinda Funny Gamescast, as one does, and they brought up an incredibly interesting topic via NeoGaf. User “theecakee” asks, “if you had to choose 5 games that best represent video games, which would you choose?” He goes on to add, “don’t factor in factors like ‘oh well this game is too hard for a beginner,’ if it represents all of video games in some way that you think should be mentioned, then post it!”

Listening to the Kinda Funny guys debate this topic got me thinking about my personal list. Roger and I discussed it on the latest episode of Bonus Points, but I wanted to sit down and write a short post about the five games I believe best represent video games as a whole.

Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Super Mario Bros. is the easy choice here. Not only did Super Mario Bros. single-handedly change the tide of a dying industry, but it can show anybody what a game is in only a matter of minutes. You are Mario, you have one goal and that is to get from the left side of the screen to the flagpole on the right side of the screen. No tutorial is needed, the first screen explains it all. The player can’t walk left, if you run into the goomba Mario dies and resets, try to dodge the goomba and Mario hits a block, the mushroom that comes out of the block inevitably collides with Mario and the player realizes that it’s a good thing. That’s all they need to know how to get through the rest of the game. It’s absolutely perfect. Anybody can pick up and play Super Mario Bros. and instantly understand the concept of video games.

MarioSuper Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)

While primitive, Super Mario 64 best represents 3D games and how to best use that space to engage the player. The way Nintendo filled up the world with interesting things to do while still employing amazing platforming was unprecedented in video games up until that point and became a mainstay in games from then on.  No game shows the 3D side to games as well as Super Mario 64 does.

The Last of Us (PS3, PS4)

Yes, I am biased here, The Last of Us is far and away my favorite game of all time. I love The Last of Us because it so perfectly melds gameplay and story together. Story is one of the largest pillars in all of games, there are entire genres dedicated purely to storytelling, and while many games rival the pure story of The Last of Us: Bioshock, Tales from the Borderlands, and Portal are just to name a few, none so perfectly use gameplay to tell that story as The Last of Us does.

Call of Duty

I’m not going to pick a single Call of Duty game here, I feel like anything after Modern Warfare would fit perfectly. Modern Warfare changed the entire multiplayer landscape, and every Call of Duty game since has carried that torch with pride. Multiplayer is just as important to video games as storytelling and exploration. Millions of people play nothing but multiplayer games, and there’s a reason behind that. Multiplayer offers a completely different experience than anything that can be found in a single player game, there’s something special about beating a real person in a game, something that can’t be given from beating a computer.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)sLxce

My underdog pick here is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I love that game, it opened my eyes to what games could be in a way that no other game before it had. I play games to explore, and no game does it just as good as Oblivion does. Not only is Oblivion packed full of fun things to do, but it welcomes and invites you to do them. Skyrim and Fallout have lots of cool quests and fun things to do, but the worlds that those quests occupy feel cold and scary. From the moment you begin playing Oblivion the game invites you to explore it’s world and doesn’t let go.

Honorable Mentions

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker– Take my Oblivion paragraph and replace every time I said Oblivion with Wind Waker. I think Wind Waker is just as good at exploration as Oblivion is, the game is inviting and absolutely beautiful. It also has one of the best narratives in all of video games, if the “Bethesda-ness” of Oblivion turns you off, try Wind Waker, that game is just as special.

Street Fighter– There’s something important to be said about the fighting genre. I’ve never been good at fighting games and I probably won’t ever be, but I can respect them just the same. I love watching the EVO highlights every year solely to see the skill people have. Watching someone take on another person “mano a mano,” pulling of incredible combos is impressive, to say the least. Between the natural skill they require and the community they inspire fighting games represent a large portion of video games today.

League of Legends/World of Warcraft– Similar to fighting games, I don’t fully understand LoL or WoW, but both represent entire movements in the industry. They represent online gaming and eSports, some of the most important concepts in games today.

cedx_screenshot00 copy_1280Pac-Man Championship Edition DXPac-Man Championship Edition DX is purely a game at heart. There’s nothing but you, the dots ahead of you, and a few ghosts that want to stop you from eating those pellets. You’re only goal is to eat as many pellets as possible to boost your high score. The arcade genre is special, and no game does it better than Pac-Man Championship Edition: DX.

Tetris– Tetris represents the portable side of gaming, an entire second side to games and how they’re played.

It was hard to narrow down the list to only five games when there are so many different elements that are important to games. And that, in and of itself represents games. No other medium is as vast and varied as games are. Sure there are different genres of music, and books, and TV, but they aren’t as different from one another as Oblivion is from Tetris. That’s what makes game so special, there’s something there for everyone.

Caleb Cajthaml is a 15 year old who set dreams so large he needed to get started on them now. Passionate about making people happy Caleb loves to write about all things entertainment. You can find him on twitter @Caleb_Talks tweeting about the latest happenings in the Star Wars cannon and why the Vikings are the best team in football.