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We rank the 100 greatest videogames

Entertainment Weekly — with help from the all-videogame cable network G4 — picks the titles that are the most fun to replay, and had the most impact, in the past 30 years

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Grand Theft Auto III

We rank the 100 greatest videogames

Our skin is pale. Our thumbs are sore. And when we close our eyes, we hear the theme from Donkey Kong. Yet only through such sacrifice can EW — with help from the experts at the all-videogame cable network G4 — bring you this list of high-scoring titles: 100 games that represent both the history and the future of interactive entertainment. Our criteria: replayability, pop-cultural importance, and impact in shaping this 30-year-old medium. (Don’t fret, most of the older classics here are available on at least one of the current gaming platforms.) Some of you will bemoan the fact that Pole Position is not in the winner’s circle, or complain that we rated Tetris too high. We know — we’ve had the same arguments. But at the end of the day (or night) we’re all just fans of this gloriously geeky pastime. As noted gamer William Shakespeare once wrote: ”The play’s the thing.”

1 THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST The history of videogaming can be split into the pre-and post-Zelda eras. Before Zelda, adventure games had rigidly linear story lines interwoven with obstacles that, once overcome, offered little more than a high score to brag about. But Link to the Past, as imagined by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, gave players a quest in which mindless scoring took a backseat to heroic acts. It was clear that gaming would never be the same — and continued refinements ensured that subsequent Zelda titles (there are 10) all became best-sellers. Each button-thumping and symbol-filled world elevates the simple journey to save a princess into a successful franchise that continues to advance the notion of interactive entertainment. IT’S A GOOD THING HE WASN’T PLAYING CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN… Robin Williams’ daughter is named after Link to the Past’s heroine, Princess Zelda. (Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1991)

2 DOOM Doom did for videogames what Toy Story did for animated films: Both introduced 3-D technology that forever changed their respective media. Along with its predecessor Wolf 3-D, Doom’s first-person perspective pushed games a step closer to virtual reality: Players weren’t just role-playing; they were the main character. Doom’s violent play may have stirred controversy, but it also marked the beginning of a horror-filled — and lucrative — genre. CARRY A BIG STICK Legend has it the game takes its name from a scene in Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money, in which Tom Cruise boasts that he has ”doom” in his cue case. (PC, 1993)

3 TETRIS Ridiculously simple but utterly addictive, this timeless tale of man vs. geometry was invented by Russian computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov and subsequently converted to run on every computing device known to man. Bucking the trend set by every other game on this list, it has no plot or story, is saddled with rudimentary graphics, and spills nary a drop of blood — unless, of course, you count violence toward rectilinear shapes. TALL TALES In 2000, a group of students at Brown University programmed a computer to control lights on the Sciences Library to play a 10-story-tall game of Tetris on the side of the building. (PC, 1985)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Why The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the 100 greatest videogames

The history of videogaming can be split into the pre-and post-Zelda eras. Before Zelda, adventure games had rigidly linear story lines interwoven with obstacles that, once overcome, offered little more than a high score to brag about. But Link to the Past, as imagined by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, gave players a quest in which mindless scoring took a backseat to heroic acts. It was clear that gaming would never be the same — and continued refinements ensured that subsequent Zelda titles (there are 10) all became best-sellers. Each button-thumping and symbol-filled world elevates the simple journey to save a princess into a successful franchise that continues to advance the notion of interactive entertainment.
IT’S A GOOD THING HE WASN’T PLAYING CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN… Robin Williams’ daughter is named after Link to the Past’s heroine, Princess Zelda. (Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1991)

Doom

Doom

Why Doom is one of the 100 greatest videogames

Doom did for videogames what ”Toy Story” did for animated films: Both introduced 3-D technology that forever changed their respective media. Along with its predecessor Wolfenstein 3-D, Doom’s first-person perspective pushed games a step closer to virtual reality: Players weren’t just role-playing; they were the main character. Doom’s violent play may have stirred controversy, but it also marked the beginning of a horror-filled — and lucrative — genre.
CARRY A BIG STICK Legend has it the game takes its name from a scene in Martin Scorsese’s ”The Color of Money,” in which Tom Cruise boasts that he has ”doom” in his cue case. (PC, 1993)

Tetris

Tetris

Why Tetris is one of the 100 greatest videogames

Ridiculously simple but utterly addictive, this timeless tale of man vs. geometry was invented by Russian computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov and subsequently converted to run on every computing device known to man. Bucking the trend set by every other game on this list, it has no plot or story, is saddled with rudimentary graphics, and spills nary a drop of blood — unless, of course, you count violence toward rectilinear shapes.
TALL TALES In 2000, a group of students at Brown University programmed a computer to control lights on the Sciences Library to play a 10-story-tall game of Tetris on the side of the building. (PC, 1985)

Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III

Why Grand Theft Auto III is one of the 100 greatest videogames

Vice City’s 100-plus-song soundtrack alone merits an entry. But it’s the sprawling griminess of GTA III’s Liberty City that makes the franchise which has sold upwards of 20 million units worldwide the ”Pulp Fiction” of videogames. The story line turns prostitution, drug dealing, and murder into gameplay (carjacking becomes something of a chore it’s done so often).
IN NAME ONLY Although there is a Luigi in GTA III, he bears no resemblance to Mario’s kindly brother — no matter what the underage kids lusting after this game tell you. (PS2, 2001)

Madden NFL 2003

Madden 2003

Why Madden 2003 is one of the 100 greatest videogames

Nearly one quarter of the 131 million console games sold last year were sports sims. And the Madden series, a gridiron staple since 1989, leads the blitz each season. By all measures, 2003 was the best version yet, with new features, including online playability, which brought together armchair quarterbacks from around the globe. Are videogames eligible for Nobel Peace Prizes?
PERFORMANCE ANXIETY NFL players regularly lobby Madden to boost their in-game stats. (Multiplatform, 2002)

Half-Life

Half-Life

Why Half-Life is one of the 100 greatest videogames

Until Half-Life, action games were essentially shooting galleries with lots of high-tech gloss and little emotional involvement. But H-L showed what could happen when plot, character development, and pacing were embedded into a first-person experience. Half-Life has something of a half-life itself: The popular online game Counter-Strike is an offshoot of this seminal shooter.
NOTE-WORTHY A fan letter from actor Geoffrey Rush is displayed in the lobby of Valve L.L.C., the game’s developer. (PC, PS2, 1998)

The Sims

The Sims

Why The Sims is one of the 100 greatest videogames

The mundanity of everyday life — taking a shower or watching TV — hardly sounds like the stuff of a computer game. But tell that to the over 9 million people who made this oddball sim the best-selling PC game of all time. Some have gone deeper, writing original fan fiction (100 stories are published daily on the official website) and creating new costumes and props for their Sims.
CYBERSTARS Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne will appear in the Superstar Expansion Pack out this May. (PC, 2000)

Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64

Why Super Mario 64 is one of the 100 greatest videogames

Mario is Charlie Chaplin for the videogame generation: Both are taciturn, mustachioed icons who defined the early days of an emerging art form. Whether it was the original Super Mario Bros. (1987) or the more recent 3-D world of Mario 64, these games are exasperatingly cute, unimpeachably addictive, and imbued with enough rich and varied play to make a funny-speaking plumber synonymous with transcendent gaming.
FACE-OFF In the early 1990s, more kids recognized Super Mario than Mickey Mouse. (Nintendo 64, 1996)

Starcraft

Starcraft/Warcraft

Why Starcraft/Warcraft is one of the 100 greatest videogames

These powerhouse franchises proved that real-time strategy games could incorporate humor and storytelling into the mental thicket of war planning and resource management. In a tightwire act that ought to serve as a model for the U.N., Starcraft featured three different but balanced sets of human and alien units.
THE NATIONAL PASTIME In South Korea, tournaments draw huge crowds, Internet cafes are dedicated to the game, and it is owned by 1 out of every 24 citizens. (Starcraft: PC, 1998; Warcraft: PC, 1994)

Street Fighter

Street Fighter II

Why Street Fighter II is one of the 100 greatest videogames

Before Mortal Kombat, before Tekken, before just about every other game in which players pound the living daylights out of one another, there was Street Fighter. An arcade staple that was successfully ”ported” to home game consoles, SF and its various sequels still inspire a devoted cult following.
GOTCHA At the height of SF II’s popularity, a videogame magazine published a code that would unlock a secret character named Sheng Long. Too bad the elusive character turned out to be an April Fools’ Day prank. (Multiplatform, 1991)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 | TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER
TONY HAWK’S PRO SKATER

EVERQUEST
EVERQUEST

Battlefield 1942 | BATTLEFIELD 1942
BATTLEFIELD 1942

DONKEY KONG
DONKEY KONG

ROLLER COASTER TYCOON
ROLLER COASTER TYCOON

51 Contra
(PC, NES, 1987)

52 Wing Commander 1 & 2
(PC, 1990/1991)

53 Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!
(NES, 1986)

54 NBA Jam
(Arcade, 1993)

55 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
(Multiplatform, 1998)

56 Lemmings
(Multiplatform, 1990)

57 Tempest
(Arcade, 1981)

58 Virtua Fighter 4
(PS2, 2002)

59 Baldur’s Gate & Baldur’s Gate II: Shadow of Amn
(PC, 1998/2000)

60 Star Wars: Jedi Knight — Dark Forces II
(PC, 1997)

61 Panzer Dragoon Saga
(Saturn, 1998)

62 Max Payne
(Multiplatform, 2001)

63 R-Type
(Arcade, 1988)

64 Samurai Shodown
(Neo Geo, GameBoy, 1993)

65 Devil May Cry
(PS2, 2001)

66 Mechwarrior 2: 31st Century Combat
(PC, PS, Saturn, 1995)

67 Tennis 2K2
(Dreamcast, 2001)

68 Roller Coaster Tycoon
(PC, Xbox, 1999)

69 Centipede
(Arcade, 1981)

70 Homeworld
(PC, 1999)

71 Bust-a-Move 2
(PS, 1998)

72 Animal Crossing
(GameCube, 2002)

73 Driver
(PS, PC, 1999)

74 Robotron 2084
(Arcade, 1982)

75 Wave Race 64
(Nintendo 64, 1996)

76 Phantasy Star (series)
(Sega Master System, 1988)

77 Saturn Bomberman
(Saturn, 1997)

78 Defender
(Arcade, 1980)

79 King’s Quest (series)
(PC, 1984)

80 Silent Hill 2
(PS2, 2001)

81 Gauntlet
(Arcade, 1985)

82 Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
(Arcade, 1988)

83 Daytona USA
(Arcade, 1994)

84 Asteroids
(Arcade, 1979)

85 Prince of Persia
(PC, 1989)

86 Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
(Arcade, 1996)

87 Battlezone
(Arcade, 1980)

88 FIFA Soccer 2003
(Multiplatform, 2002)

89 Castle Wolfenstein
(PC, 1984)

90 Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
(PS, 1998)

91 Spy Hunter
(Arcade, 1983)

92 Super Star Wars
(SNES, 1992)

93 Joust
(Arcade, 1982)

94 IL-2 Sturmovik
(PC, 2001)

95 Golden Axe
(Arcade, 1988)

96 M.U.L.E.
(Commodore 64, 1983)

97 Secret of Mana
(SNES, 1993)

98 Frogger
(Arcade, 1981)

99 X-COM: UFO Defense
(PC, 1994)

100 Missile Command
(Arcade, 1981)

EDITED BY Wook Kim WRITTEN AND REPORTED BY Mark Brooks, Amy Feitelberg, Geoff Keighley, Emily Mead, Leah Reisman, Kimberly Reyes, Noah Robischon, Adam B. Vary, Gary Eng Walk, Erik Wolpaw

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