The Most Influential Games Of The Last Generation

November 6, 2009

The last generation of gaming had plenty of amazing games. The PlayStation 2, Xbox GameCube and Dreamcast all had their fair share of great games that will be fondly remembered. However not all of these amazing games were as influential as others. There a few select games that have influenced the current generation and the games within it. All of the games in this article have influenced the modern gaming industry in one way or another.


The first game I want to discuss is Shenmue. This was released in Japan at the very end of 1999 for the Dreamcast. The game was incredibly ahead of its time and boasted open worlds, real time day and night cycles along with very high production values. This game is often considered to be amazing but due to the poor sales of the Dreamcast most gamers haven’t even played it. Arguably this is the game that created the sandbox titles that we see so much of nowadays. I think, however, that it was too early. If it had came out at a later date when more people had moved up a generation (Be it PS2, Dreamcast etc) it would have had a greater influence.

It loses most of the influence it could have had due to another game though. That game would be Grand Theft Auto III. GTA3 allowed players to do things that they had never been able to do in previous video games. Rather than complete one level, then move onto the next they were free to choose what to do. This was done in the previous GTA games but due to the limited hardware of consoles back there it didn’t have the same effect. The world lacked atmosphere in the original GTAs and there was no real reason to explore the city. The jump up the Grand Theft Auto III was incredible. The world was no longer a boring, empty city but it was now filled with life, in complete 3D graphics and there was a real reason to explore and adventure. This was the start of the sandbox genre that many games today have followed and tried to make their own. None of them have managed to make a big enough jump to amaze gamers like GTA3 did though.

Grand Theft Auto 3

Now, back to Shenmue. Shenmue lacked appeal to the non-Japanese market. The majority of western gamers prefer the Americanised product with guns, blood and bad language so they completely ignored Shenmue but obsessed over Grand Theft Auto III. Shenmue rarely gets the credit it deserves because Grand Theft Auto III overshadowed in terms of sales and popularity. Even though Shenmue provided a believable, realistic world it also tried create a cinematic experience that gamers had never before witnessed which could have put a lot of people off. When GTA3 came out the majority of the focus was aimed at the free world and the story was nowhere as cinematic as Shenmue. This arguably let GTA3 use the world more effectively.

The sandbox world has been beaten these days though. Games like Yakuza, Far Cry 2, Oblivion and of course Grand Theft Auto IV have came leaps and bounds ahead the groundwork GTA3 left behind. None of them, however, have revolutionised it the way GTA3 did.

GTA3 was influential because of the sandbox world but there are some other games that need mentioned. Halo: Combat Evolved being one of these. The PC was always the home for First Person Shooters and consoles generally lacked them. Games like Doom, Quake and Duke Nukem were all born and raised on the PC. I’m not saying there were no console shooters before Halo and I’m not saying there were no good ones either but it was mainly PC.

Halo was the definitive console shooter. The PS2 and Dreamcast lacked FPS’ that really made a big jump so when Halo appeared as a launch title for the Xbox people were blown away. The fact that Halo was a launch title makes it even more influential than it would have been normally. Most launch titles tend be poor in comparison to later games but Halo stood strong as one of the best games on the system and the last generation as a whole. This was the FPS that started to appeal to console owners. Whether it’s because of the icon that is Master Chief, the fact it was bundled with the Xbox and everyone got to play it or maybe the marketing really worked, there is no denying the influence Halo had on the console shooters.


I need to give a mention to Goldeneye 007 though which is often considered to be one of the best shooters ever made. Goldeneye was released on the Nintendo 64 and was a good few years before Halo. Rare done an exceptional job with Goldeneye and proved that console shooters can be amazing before Halo was even announced. It didn’t have the same impact or influence that Halo did though. It did sell well and it was very well received but Halo was considered revolutionary and it was while Goldeneye didn’t set the world on fire the same way. I think the main drawback was that the controls weren’t as refined as Halo’s were which kept the PC the FPS platform of choice. Of course, Goldeneye wasn’t part of the last generation so it shouldn’t really be counted in this article.

This generation has been filled with both first person shooters and third person shooters. Halo led the way for the FPS’ while it was Resident Evil 4 that influenced the way of the third person shooter. Before RE4, third person shooters were zoomed far back and the camera was quite far back from your character. When Resident Evil 4 arrived though, it also brought the over the shoulder camera with it. No longer were third person shooters far back, but instead you viewed from the characters shoulder which allowed a whole new perspective and a much more enjoyable way of shooting. Every third person shooter these days uses this new camera.

Gears of War had a great influence from RE4 in particular. Rather than a horror template, Gears of War went for the full action template with hordes of enemies and lots of set pieces which really utilized the over the shoulder camera. It is also implemented a cover system which was extremely influential itself has influenced this generation quite a bit already but that’s for a different article.


Resident Evil 4 was extremely well received by critics and developers alike. It was the first time a camera like this had been used and it really did change how games played. It refined the gameplay of them and made third person shooters a lot more enjoyable than they were before.

There are other games that have had a smaller influence from the last generation too. Guitar Hero set the bar for music video games as well as creating a peripheral that really changes how the game played. The prototype for Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry, also had a small influence on action-adventure games by creating a very enjoyable experience with a mixture of exploration, story development, waves of enemies and multiple bosses. God of War also had a little to do with this.

shadow of the colossus

However, some games didn’t get the influence they deserved. Both Shadow of the Colossus and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath come to mind. Both of these were well received, Shadow of the Colossus in particular. If these two games had managed to influence this generation on a greater scale it would have been very different. Shadow of the Colossus was an amazing experience throughout and placed players into an amazing world where many magnificent creatures inhabited. Through the sense of mystery and the gameplay that was made up of pretty much boss fights only, it turned out to be incredible. There was so much that Shadow of the Colossus done really well besides the core gameplay, the connection to Agro, the sense of scale, the story and nearly everything about it was pulled off fantastically. Stranger’s Wrath tried to innovate the FPS genre through the use of the crossbow which, combined with the highly detailed quirky world, made it a completely different FPS from the rest. The different mixtures of gameplay which were all evenly balanced helped this be a great game. If games like these had got the larger influence they had this generation would have been completely different. Rather than contain a lack of ideas, games would have took more risks and stepped away from the safe path of generic ideas and gameplay (Not every game this gen is like this though).

If the main games I mentioned earlier didn’t come about, would this generation have been the same? To be honest they wouldn’t have but I think another game would have taken their place after a while. Eventually an FPS would have come to console, like what Halo done and brought on many waves of them. If GTA3 wasn’t released then Shenmue would have taken its place. If neither had been released his would have came along differently. If Resident Evil 4 hadn’t created the over the shoulder camera then I don’t know what would have happened. I think eventually something would have come around to change third person shooters but I doubt it would have been the same. I doubt the same camera would have been used but I can’t think how it would have changed.

The last generation was a huge influence on this generation but that goes without saying. The generation before the last generation influenced it and it will keep on going back that way. There were a few select games that had a huge influence on this gen and formed a lot of the games we see today. Some games were overlooked and if they weren’t, this generation could have been completely different.


One comment

  1. What about DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION? Sure it’s more of an arcade thing than a console one, but there’s no denying the impact it’s had on pop culture (and not to mention later console innovations like the Wii) in the past ten years. Just a thought.

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