8. Half Life
Year of Release: 1998
It’s not every day that a video game comes along and single-handedly changes the face of the industry, but on November 19, 1998, that’s exactly what happened. That game was Half-Life, a staggeringly ambitious PC shooter from Valve Corporation that opened developers’ eyes to a world of new possibilities.
Half-Life was a science fiction-themed first-person shooter that broke new ground both graphically and cinematically, as well as on the gameplay front. Players took control of a silent protagonist named Dr Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist who found himself fighting for his life after his employers’ work into teleportation technology blew up in their faces and unleashed hordes of inter-dimensional beasties.
Year of Release: 1989
OK, so the SimCity name is currently dirt, thanks to the controversial always online model adopted by SimCity 2013. But that shouldnt detract from the fact that the first game popularized the entire simulation genre. Back in 1989, SimCity felt completely liberating, offering players the chance to design and build their own metropolis, micromanaging aspects of the process that seemed incredibly detailed at the time.
If it wasnt for SimCity, its unlikely that wed have played games like Civilization, Total War, or even The Sims. It even provided the template for massive mobile hits like Tiny Tower and Pixel People–games that are mere months old–demonstrating SimCitys incredible strength of concept.
6. Halo: Combat Evolved
Year of Release: 2001
It was Steve Jobs who first introduced Bungie’s Halo: Combat Evolved to the public, promising in 1999 that it would arrive simultaneously on Windows and Mac. That, of course, was before Microsoft acquired the studio and turned Halo into the definitive 2001 Xbox launch title, simultaneously proving shooters could work brilliantly on gamepads. Set on a mysterious artificial ring-world, players take up as Master Chief, a faceless, futuristic soldier fighting the alien Covenant and, later, the zombie-like Flood. The single-player campaign offered a gripping storyline that brought plot to the fore for one of the first times in a mainstream shooter, though some grumbled about its repetitive level design. The multiplayer, meanwhile, offered one of the finest such experiences of any shooter in history, replete with sniper rifles, sticky grenades, vehicles and other twists.