A game doesn’t have to be first at something in order to succeed—it just has to take an old element and find a way to make it new and enjoyable. These five games did just that: they took everything good about their genre, added in their own unique ideas, and delivered a new archetype that would change the way their genre was perceived for years to come. Without further ado, here are five games that redefined their genres.
While not anywhere close to the first game in its genre or the first game of its kind, this game quickly topped the charts on XBLA and made a huge impact on the indie gaming world. Arguably the most successful indie game of all time, Minecraft showed that you don’t always have to be shooting up the scenery to be in first-person mode. Instead of being a side-quest, crafting ascended to become a major element in many games that followed after Minecraft. It also showed that games did not have to be massively multiplayer in order to attract the masses.
4. Resident Evil
Resident Evil was one of the first survival horror games and possibly even named the genre—its loading saved game screen reads out ‘You are once again entering the world of survival horror…’ While it wasn’t renowned for its extraordinary plot (it used a plethora of horror clichés) or beautiful voice acting (it was even awarded the title of ‘Worst Game Dialogue Ever’ in 2008 by Guinness World Records), it is exceptional for finding a way to perfectly deliver the horror and suspense of cinema through interactive video games. You uncover a plot, unravel a mystery, and survive hostile encounters by the skin of your teeth. It showed just how well a horror game could work.
3. GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye 007 didn’t impress at its E3, but when it was released it quickly climbed the sales charts and wooed reviewers worldwide. It took inspiration from older FPS games and also incorporated unique multiplayer maps and different characters to choose from. The graphics were amazing, for an N64, and quickly popularized the genre for console systems. The huge arsenal of weapons in the game reappeared time and time again in other games, and its realistic environments and effects encouraged future FPS games to push their limits with graphics delivery.
2. The Legend of Zelda
The original Legend of Zelda game had a typical fantasy plotline (if poorly delivered), a typical top-down view, and basic tile loading. However, it introduced something new to gaming that changed how RPGs were presented for the rest of history. It presented multiple quests, a relatively open environment, a huge amount of items to find, dungeons, and riddles that required more than precise button tapping skills to solve. The large amount of items you acquire to help you along the way and the large map to explore encouraged all other RPGs after that to do the same—even in the case where there are very few items in an RPG, you at least get upgrades to the abilities you already have. Exploring the world in a way that didn’t focus on battle without entirely circumventing it is a major trait of all RPGs.