4 genre-defining games that changed the industry

by MaddOx
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Gamers are living in a blessed era. Each year, a string of exciting games pushes narrative and visual limits ever further. Yet, for all their jaw-dropping graphics and engaging gameplay, few games manage to reinvent their genre entirely. Instead, most modern entries build upon the foundations that cult classics laid down back in their days.

Some of these old-timers have stood the test of time and been passed down across generations, while others have long shown their age. But every one of them paved the way for all games to come in their lane. So, let’s rewind and check out some ground-breaking games that redefined their genre.

Our 4 genre-defining games

John Madden Football

Sports games have never been so popular. As a matter of fact, both Madden NFL 23 and FIFA 23 ranked among the top 10 best-selling titles of 2022, according to NDP data. With over 80 million copies sold worldwide, Wii Sports even stands as the fourth best-selling game of all time. And these massive games owe much to a 1988 pioneer called John Madden Football.

Of course, Atari had set the whole genre in motion as early as 1972 with an arcade table tennis sim, Pong. But the game named after NFL legendary coach John Madden introduced RPG elements into the mix, allowing players to control their team on and off the pitch for the first time. Not only did John Madden Football spawn the longest-running sports franchise in history, thus, but it reinvented EA and influenced all sports games coming in its wake.

John Madden Football signed copy of the Super Nintendo game. One of the biggest genre-defining games.

Sid Meier’s Civilization

History buffs now have countless strategy games to explore to travel back in time, from the Total War to the Europa Universalis and Victoria series. But it wasn’t always so. It actually took one man to combine the military elements of conquest-oriented games and the city-management focus of God games like SimCity.

Released in 1991, Sid Meier’s Civilization would prove a stepping stone for the 4X genre blending real-time with turn-based strategy. A second instalment further solidified the franchise by spearheading brand-new concepts, such as diplomatic relations. Civilization II also switched from a top-down to an isometric view. And the subsequent titles expanded on these already solid premises, adding many more world leaders to the franchise’s roster and exciting new city-building systems.

Sid Meier’s Civilization I gameplay

Super Mario Bros.

No list of genre-defining games would be complete without a nod to the most iconic Italian plumber in the world. A familiar figure popular with even non-gamers, Mario is at the forefront of over 200 games across innumerable genres. Little did its creator Shigeru Miyamoto know his character would become more famous than even Mickey Mouse. And Mario’s first iteration remains an unmitigated classic that shaped platformers as we know them.

Strangely enough, Super Mario Bros. was four years late as the first-ever bona fide platform game was Nintendo’s 1981 Donkey Kong. Still, Mario’s original side-scrolling platformer popularised the genre like never before while establishing core gameplay elements that would serve as an inspiration to colossal franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog.

GTA San Andreas

A revolution in itself, Grand Theft Auto gave gamers free rein to be as destructive as in their wildest dreams. And players couldn’t get enough of frantic car races and shooting sprees until GTA San Andreas took the franchise to the next level in 2004. While previous efforts had ventured into an open-world territory, the series’ fifth main instalment provided a bolder and more realistic setting modelled after real-life Los Angeles. With a map so big, gamers could effortlessly plan a road trip to the country and even a gambling trip down to Las Venturas, whose casino minigames influenced the likes of Red Dead Redemption II and Fallout: New Vegas.

GTA’s flamboyant casinos also sparked renewed interest in virtual gambling as a whole. Even in countries with little gambling culture, like India, online casinos are now in fashion. And the best casino bonuses make up for much of their appeal. Newcomers can easily claim welcome packages to tap into a platform’s catalogue. Other rewards include no deposit bonuses for those unwilling to risk their hard-earned money. Game-specific offers also await players with a knack for tabletop games like poker and Blackjack.

GTA San Andreas artwork and logo - A genre-defining game

Some games have carved an enduring mark on the industry. Whether they were ahead of the curve or more imaginative than their competitors, these classics have changed how we play for good. And retro gamers have many more genre-defining video games left to revisit.

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