They’ve bruised our thumbs, bollocksed up our eyesight, stolen our childhoods. And we love them for it. FHM ranks the most important video games of all damn time…
Year released: 1999
Producer Kenji Kanno’s original intention was to reflect the daily routine of a cab driver. What we ended up with was the daily routine of a cab driver with a flagrant disregard for company policy and, quite possibly, live breaker-cables hooked up to his nipples. Adrenaline-fueled lunacy.
Year released: 1989
A game so manly it’ll make you cry bacon-bits. Based on 1982’s machismo-soaked masterpiece Conan The Barbarian, the game features a speedo-clad sword swinger called Ax Battler and a truly awesome 16-bit soundtrack that Example (among others) has name checked as a musical influence.
Year released: 1997
Ditching realism in favour of soaring scorelines, button-mashing mayhem and Alan Partridge-esque commentary (“a decisive kick!”). It may not be as preened and pretty as its more recent rivals, but it still stands up today as an unbeatably fun kick-about.
Year released: 1994
It takes something special to make the British public give a shit about basketball, and this was it. As an arcade game it was the first to generate a billion dollars in quarters and was also notorious for being so beloved by Shaquille O’Neal that he would regularly have machines shipped to wherever he was in the country.
Not just hard, but throw-the-controller-at-the-wall-then-cry-yourself-to-sleep hard. Fifteen years after its release, the game, which features you controlling a little cartoon man running desperately through a relentless hailstorm of weird, gothic shit, is still considered the gold-standard in difficulty. And that's impressive.
A combination of Mario’s platform-jumping and the open-world roaming of Zelda, the cold and spooky Metroid games are nevertheless Nintendo’s most un-Nintendo-y franchise. , which was inspired by creator Gunpei Yokoi’s love of the movies, is the best of the bunch.
Year released: 1985
Blowing shit up is great. Blowing up while dressed as a spaceman is even better. On the back of this infallible logic, Bomberman has become one of the most enduring series in gaming history. Combining multi-player action and puzzle-solving, it has blasted its way onto almost every single console for nearly three decades.
Year released: 1998
The brief for the company who made MGS was simple: create the greatest Playstation game ever. A lot of people think they succeeded. Pioneers of the now-massive stealth-action genre, the developers were also trained to use weapons and explosives by a Californian SWAT team, so they’d know how to make the gun play “feel” real.
The first fighting game which allowed you to step not just back and forth, but up and down also, meaning you were tenderising your mate’s virtual face in three dimensions. All the characters were motion captured by genuine martial artists too, so the whole thing looked and felt as real and fluid as a Jackie Chan film.
Year released: 1987
Video games often divide opinion, but there’s one thing that we can all surely agree on: The dog is a dickhead. In spite of this, the 8-bit game still managed to become a world-wide success upon its release, and has blazed the trail for every arcade-style shooter ever since.
Year released: 1992
Its neon-drenched, chip-tuned influence of can be seen and heard in everything from Tinie Temper to Ryan Gosling’s Drive . Its immediate success also forced rival developers Capcom to pour all their resources into making a beat ‘em up. The result was Street fighter II.
The racing game that reached out to clubbers and showed the masses that sitting on a sofa, pressing buttons could be (sort of) cool. Developed by a bunch of ravers from Liverpool and Sheffield and featuring a soundtrack that included Daft Punk, The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers and Underworld, Wipeout 2097 brought the psychedelic essence of a futuristic warehouse party into your living room.
Year released: 1993
With a ground-breaking blend of spine-tingling visuals, mouth-watering weaponry and face-melting death-metal, Doom is not only credited with pioneering the entire first person shooter genre, but also with making you absolutely cack your stupid pants on multiple occasions.
As addictive now as it ever was, Snake sparked our love affair with mobile gaming. The first known personal computer version of the game, titled Worm, was programmed in 1978 by Peter Trefonas, but its spiritual home will always sit within the indestructible shell of your trusty, dust-coated Nokia.
Year released: 1996
For six months horror nut Shinji Mikami worked on totally alone, convinced no one apart from himself could do justice to the terrifying vision in his head. The unholy result showed for the first time that games could be a shit-your-pants scary as any film.
Year released: 2009
Fun, time-wasting game or sinister money-draining force for evil? Whichever way you look at one thing can’t be disputed: it makes a lot of money from people who aren’t typical gamers. Publishers Zynga are obsessed with increasing the number of people who spend more than $10,000 on in-game purchases every year - referred to within the company as “whales”.
With production costs of $70m, was for a very long time the most expensive game ever made. It offered players their first real taste of a fully-immersive, interactive world (okay, Japanese town), something that would later become the calling card of the series. Shame no one bought it.
Year released: 2005
The game that transformed mild-mannered office workers into swaggering, snake-hipped rock gods. Packaged with a lung-busting collection of heavy metal classics and a bitchin’ plastic axe to perform them with, became a worldwide phenomenon upon its release almost a decade ago.
Taking a 15-man team over five years to create, there were moments when developer Kazunori Yamuuchi wondered if they would ever manage to finish the award-winning racing simulator. “We could not see the end. I would wake up at work, go to sleep at work. It was getting cold, so I knew it must be winter. I estimate I was home only four days a year.” The gruelling nights were worthwhile, with going on to become the most lucrative Playstation game of all time, playing a huge part in the legendary console’s success.
The blueprint for what would become the biggest series in the history of anything. It’s hard to conceive, then, that it very nearly didn’t see the light of day. According to producer Gary Penn: “Every week they (the financiers) wanted to kill the game, and we had to argue to keep it going.” And it’s a good thing they did, too, because a world without Michael, Trevor and Franklin is a world that doesn’t bear thinking about.
Known in Japan as “the game that changed everything”, this epic RPG was turned down by Nintendo for being too “slow and tedious” for their customers. Ten million sales later and you can’t help but think they got that one wrong. Nearly 20 years on and its still possible to reduce certain grown men to tears just by humming its haunting theme tune.
Essentially created the one-on-one, beat-em-up genre. By the time came out (which let you control the four bosses) the original title had already dragon-punched its way to £1.5bn of revenue worldwide. Studies have shown that to a lot of people each of the original eight characters is as recognisable as Mickey Mouse.
Year Released: 1992
Sonic is fast. So bloody fast, in fact, that developer Yuji Naka was forced to decrease the iconic hedgehog’s sprinting speed after suffering from constant motion sickness whilst working on the title. will forever go down as the most adrenaline-filled platformer of all time, and the definite peak of the spiky blue bastard’s career, which has since lost its famous momentum.
Voted "the most influential game of all time" on numerous occasions, is the best edition in a brilliant series. It introduced the powerslide feature and it was the first game where Hideki Konno, the game's creator, claims he perfected the weapon system. “In a race you'll always get a natural separation," he said. "What we were trying to do was push them back together."
Year released: 2001
Held by many as the standout chapter in the franchise’s celebrated history, remains the perfect way to fritter away a lazy weekend. Set in an age before sugar-daddy oligarchs and 100 million-pound transfers, this edition is the purest and most engrossing incarnation of the beautiful game that the world has ever seen.
Just before releasing in 2009, Danish creators Niklas and Mikael Hed were on the brink of bankruptcy and considering quitting the videogame business for good. The app, which asks you to catapult kamikaze birds at bulbous green pigs, has since gone on to become a global sensation, played by over 30 million weary commuters a day around the world and drumming up over £70 million in profit for the cash-strapped cousins. Never before has there been a more entertaining or addictive way of avoiding human interaction.
Year released: 1995
The first game to ever let you fire shit-tons of artillery at your mates over the internet, is the undisputed daddy of the strategy genre and a must-have for any power-hungry armchair general worth his shoulder tassels. Responsible also for inspiring StarCraft - the game which would essentially become the national sport of South Korea.
Year released: 1996
Created by the same geniuses behind franchise, single-handedly revolutionised everything you love about running through 3D mazes, blasting your mates with plasma rifles. It introduced radical online technology that is still being used to this day, and pioneered 3D graphics for first-person shooters. It also boasted a rad soundtrack, provided by Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor.
The story of is the story of its protagonist Lara Croft. Designer Toby Gard based her initially on 90s pop star Neneh Cherry, and made all of her animations – compared to other games - purposefully slow so that the player would empathise with her more easily. He also boosted (by accident) her breast size by 150%, but it proved so popular with his work mates he didn’t change it back.
Year released: 2006
Having shifted over 80 million copies, is not only the second bestselling videogame of all-time, but is also credited with giving the entire industry a shot in the arm with its innovative motion-sensing controls and (more importantly) broad, lady-friendly appeal. It hauled us up from our arse-cheek-cratered sofas and propelled us around the living room, colliding with plants, stereos and elderly relatives as we desperately attempted to perfect our wicked backhand.
It’s weird to think about now, but once upon a time Tony Hawk’s name was only known to actual skateboarders. This changed in 1999, when the Gary Lineker of the skate world was approached by Activision to work on a new skateboarding game, starting a franchise that would eventually make over half a billion coconuts.
Unlike, say, the 1987 console classic California Games, where all the skateboarding took place in a clean, nice-looking half-pipe, THPS
had you skating in schoolyards, army bases and roofs, fucking shit up in a manner far more like actual skateboarding than anything that had come before. While it would be an exaggeration to credit the huge skate resurgence of the early 2000s entirely to THPS, the platinum sales figures didn’t exactly hurt, and tons of people who wouldn’t previously have known an ollie from a kickflip found themselves well versed in both skate lingo and big-name skate dudes.
Then there was the soundtrack, which introduced a generation to the sounds of punk band like Dead Kennedys and the Vandals. Kerrang! editor James McMahon reckons the game says a lot "about how important getting on a game soundtrack can be for a band.”
Year released: 1994
The first Mortal Kombat game isn’t bad at all – it introduced the world to now-iconic characters like Sub-Zero, proved that the letter K was kooler than the letter C, and included a few Fatalities, semi-secret over-the-top finishing moves that were gorier and bloodier than anything people had seen in fighting games before.
iFor the sequel they went bigger, bolder and badder with the Fatalities, introducing finishers like Jax’s arm-rip, where he yanks his opponent’s arms off their body, leading to torrents of blood spunking out. This tongue-in-cheek ultraviolence, combined with ever-improving graphics, led to controversy, with parental groups calling for bans.
This led to the formation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, the video game equivalent of the BBFC’s U, PG, 12, 15 and 18 rating system. MKII became the first game to carry a Mature rating, and was banned in Germany for being deemed “harmful to young persons”. The controversy didn’t harm sales, and became the bestselling game there’d been up to then.
The presence of Fatality alternatives Babality (transforming your opponent into a baby) and Friendship (which nobody ever chose to do, obviously) led to rumours of more hidden modes like Sexuality and Nudality. They didn’t actually exist, but the prospect of seeing what lay beneath Mileena’s cloak can’t have hurt sales. More like Phwoar-tal Kombat, right? Right?
Year released: 1998
When Shigeru Miyamoto was a child living in the Japanese town of Sonobe, he would regularly explore the surrounding countryside, venturing through forests to see what he could find. One day he found a cave in the middle of a forest, building up the courage to explore it with the aid of a lantern. Luckily for the gaming world, he didn’t get bummed by a troll or anything, he just experienced a sense of wonder. This experience remained with him, and years later when developing the Zelda games he’d try to recreate it, combining it with his love of the Wild West and a colleague’s love of (Japanese sword fighting) movies.
Developed concurrently with Super Mario 64 but released two years later, Ocarina Of Time is the fifth Zelda game and the best-loved – it holds the highest ever score on Metacritic, 99/100. An absolute shutter-upper of anyone that claims video games can’t be art, it’s one of the most beautiful gaming experiences of all time, and definitely features the best horse in any game ever. It featured a massive game world (hence the horse), now-standard innovations (like left-trigger target-locking) and has huge replay value even 16 years later.
The easiest way to appreciate the legacy of is through Google image search – have a look at how many tattoos there are celebrating it. There was even a notable increase in the sale of actual ocarinas when the game came out (looks like a shell, sounds like a recorder, was used on the bitchin’ solo on The Troggs’ original Wild Thing).
Year released: 2000
“I’ve got an idea, a billion dollar idea!” “Shut up, Will.” “No, no, I’ve got a billion dollar idea!” “Look, just fuck off, Will, yeah?”
It didn’t go exactly like that, but The Sims creator Will Wright was repeatedly shot down and mocked when he tried to get his idea for a virtual doll’s house off the ground.
The game would combine Wright’s loves of robots and architecture, and allow players to control a virtual neighbourhood. Despite his success with the hugely influential , that showed games didn’t necessarily need narratives, Wright had to get sneaky to get anywhere, working with one designer in secret to create the game engine. Eventually EA begrudgingly greenlit The Sims, known internally as 'the toilet game', and released it expecting fewer than 200,000 sales.
was an enormous hit, becoming the bestselling PC game ever and appealing to gamers and non-gamers alike with its accessibility and sense of fun (and toilets). Of the 100 best-selling PC games ever, 20 are Sims titles. That’s fucking bonkers.
When Satoshi Tajiri was a kid, he collected insects. He wasn’t a weirdo or anything, it was the 1970s, there was bugger-all else for children to do. When he grew up, he noticed he didn’t see kids collecting insects anymore – the urban sprawl of Tokyo had paved over the fields of his youth. This planted the seeds for what became Pokemon, the idea that a new generation could enjoy the feeling of collecting. and when he saw a Game boy link cable, everything fell into place.
Tajiri wanted the game to be non-violent, as he felt there were enough violent games around, and thought the link cable could be used for two players to trade and share rather than compete with one another. The game took six years to develop, during which Tajiri didn’t take a salary.
Tajiri compared the finished game to a new bike that everyone could take somewhere different. that to this day the company could run a deficit of $250m every year and still survive until 2052.
Starring the face of Nintendo and acting as the launch title for their new console, Mario 64 had high expectations to meet, but ended up as one of the most influential games ever. It hurled gaming into the 21st century by providing the model for all subsequent 3D games.
Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto created everyone’s favourite non-porno plumber a fully explorable 3D world, complete with an innovative player-controlled camera system that seems really unexciting now, because every game in the world copied it. At the time it was revolutionary, a “Look what we can fucking do!” moment and a huge part in selling shit-tons of Nintendo 64s.
It didn’t feel like playing a game so much as inhabiting a world, one where flight was possible and everything looked like sweets. Pretty much every open-world game that’s come afterwards has cited it as an influence, with Rockstar Games head writer Dan Houser saying “Anyone who makes 3D games who says they’ve not borrowed something from Mario on the N64 is lying”.
The highest-grossing video game of all time, at its peak in 2012 was being played by twelve million people at once, all paying a monthly subscription to do so.
MMORPGs (massive, multiplayer, online role-playing games) had always been popular with gamers, but was the first one to really capture mainstream imaginations, and the social side of it meant players could live huge amounts of their lives in-game, forming relationships and bonds that had nothing to do with geographical proximity and everything to do with big fuckin’ swords. Also, you can’t smell people over the internet.
The time-sucking nature of the game has led to claims that up to 40% of players are addicted, and there are thousands of “Warcraft widows” – a newspaper study claimed the game is cited in up to 15% of divorces.
A thriving black market economy also means that lazy players can buy their way through the boring bits, by outsourcing the work to China. “Gold farming” is said to be worth up to US$200m of real dosh a year – that’s a real economy being shaped by nonexistent gold, which however you look at it is pretty impressive.
Year released: 1989 (original version 1984)
The most popular video game of all time nearly didn't make its creator a ruble. Alexey Pajitnov was working for the Russian Academy Of Sciences when, along with a few pals, he created a game based on arranging falling shapes into lines, naming it after the prefix tetra, meaning four, and tennis, his favourite sport.
Tetris went apeshit crazy, with Soviet Russians desperate for something to do other than eat goulash and drink vodka. An enterprising British publisher who heard about it decided to get on board and was soon selling the rights (which he didn't have) to global developers. And, since Pajitnov was working for the Russian government at the time, they were up for selling the rights as well... It all became a giant legal mess, one Pajitnov got nothing from (until 1996, when he set up The Tetris Company, acquired the rights from the Russian government and relocated to Hawaii).
Nintendo bought the rights from Russia and in 1989 made the launch title bundled with every Game Boy. Its simplicity appealed to gamers and non-gamers alike, kickstarting the puzzle game genre, without which the modern mobile gaming market would be a barren place. has since appeared on every gaming platform imaginable, and is the most-downloaded paid-for mobile game, with over 100 million phone downloads.
Careful though. Some scientists warn about "the Tetris Effect", where playing it a lot leads to seeing shapes everywhere like a madman. They might have a point. Vladimir Pokhilko, who was one of the game's co-creators, eventually killed himself, leaving a suicide note which read: "I've been eaten alive. Vladimir. Just remember that I am exist. The davil."
Year released: 2010
At the same time that major studio’s video game budgets have gone through the roof (Grand Theft Auto V cost £170 million to develop), there’s been a quiet revolution in the indie game world, where micro-budget games made by tiny teams have often outgrossed and outawesomed big-bucks corporate products. Nothing has demonstrated this more than , which started off as one dude’s spare-time project and has sold 35 million copies so far.
Bearlike bearded Swede Markus “Notch” Persson went from working on around his day job, to quitting in order to work on it full-time, to now being valued at over £100,000,000 and having to enlist bodyguards when he visits conventions. In the first month that the game was on sale, a million copies were sold, spreading almost entirely through online word-of-mouth rather than traditional advertising. PayPal even froze Persson’s account at one point, because he was making money so quickly it looked dodgy as hell.
A weird and awesome combination of game, toy and tool, has ended up being used for a variety of educational and charitable uses as well as keeping a lot of very excited fat guys up very late at night. The anything-goes nature of the “creative” mode is like having access to an infinite supply of Lego in an infinite world, which you can use in as simple or complex ways as you wish. Lego even produced a set in 2012, which was brilliant.
Markuss Persson was named by Time magazine as the second most influential person in the world in 2013, which was possibly partly due to his surname but mainly due to how Minecraft's taken over the planet, by letting people build their own worlds within worlds. Whoa.
Made first-person shooters at home on consoles, shaped every FPS that came after it, confirmed that explosions are both excellent and funny. had no right to be anything other than shit. It was a film tie-in coming out two years after the film, a first-person-shooter for a console, which, at the time, was universally regarded as a waste of time, and eight of the ten-strong team that made it hadn’t ever made a game before.
Then it came out, and was fucking magnificent. The team’s inexperience came through as excitement and ambition, a try-anything attitude that led to both good ideas (body part-specific hits, levels with multiple objectives and multiple routes) and shit ones (at one point reloading would have involved removing and reinserting the Rumble Pak). “Because it was most people’s first game we did things we might not do again” said Graeme Norgate of the dev team later. “If something sounded like a good idea, it was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ Only afterwards would you find it was a world of pain.”
The team worked 80-hour weeks, and came up with innovative ways of cutting corners. The physics to have objects show battle damage proved so complicated that they decided to make everything explodable instead, inadvertently making everything more super-awesome. A coding problem meant that characters who got blown up did so with a tiny delay, giving their deaths a South Park-esque quality, again upping the fun stakes.
Goldeneye isn’t the highest critically-rated game of all time. It’s not the best-selling, or the most awards-laden, but it’s the best, in a way that numbers can’t prove; a way that comes from the heart rather than the head. Because you know what happens to heads? They get shot.
Words: Nick Pope & Mike Rampton