Even the most broken video games bring something innovative to the table. A few special games, meanwhile, are inventive enough to get incessantly copied.
Whether it's an incredible first level, a new shooting mechanic, or the brilliant idea for your protagonist not to yell "Get that crap outta here," the most influential video games get mimicked endlessly - even in today's newest titles.
But which games get ripped off most consistently? Could they have been released at any time, or was the world particularly ready to massacre demons on an epic scale in 1993? It's worth looking into; how else will you know which games to copy when you start work on your own space-marine adventure?
- Photo: Capcom
Before 1991's Street Fighter II: The World Warrior took the arcade world by storm, one-on-one fighting games didn't possess their own genre. Fighters were either straightforward brawler games like Double Dragon or virtually unplayable messes.
Street Fighter II changed all of that. The game's extensive combo list and timing-based moves gave players real options to dispatch their foes. It became important to know which actions worked best in certain situations, while button-mashing stopped being a viable strategy against anybody with the slightest understanding of combos.
The genre exploded after Street Fighter II's release, and every game that followed, from Mortal Kombat to Virtua Fighter to Tekken, expanded on its rock-solid gameplay and structure.
- Photo: id Software
Released in 1993, Doom kick-started one of the most popular video game genres: the first-person shooter. While a few FPS games predate Doom (most notably Wolfenstein 3D), none possessed the technical proficiency to capture intensity as wonderfully as id Software's demon-ridden kill-fest.
At the time, 3D video game technology remained in its infancy. As such, most games ignored the first-person perspective in favor of basic side-scrolling. By contrast, blasting a Hell Knight in the face from three paces away simultaneously provided more excitement and ferocity than anything third-person games like Contra offered.
Every subsequent FPS, from Halo to BioShock to Call of Duty, owes its legacy, in part, to the groundwork Doom laid.
- Photo: Rare
Before GoldenEye 007 hit the Nintendo 64 in 1997, few safe options existed for a group of friends wanting to shoot each other while sitting on the couch. Thankfully, the game offered four-player, split-screen multiplayer in an era when most games were either single-player only or a collection of mini-games, like Mario Kart or Mario Party, respectively.
With a plethora of modes and customizable options, GoldenEye 007 offered endlessly re-playable fun. And the game's success kicked off a run of first-person shooters that included split-screen multiplayer.
Halo and TimeSplitters might not have included a four-player multiplayer option if GoldenEye 007 hadn't done it first. By extension, split-screen cooperative shooters like Call of Duty and Gears of War owe part of their existence to the James Bond game.
- Photo: Rockstar Games
In 2001, Grand Theft Auto III and its sprawling open-world ushered in an entirely new way to play video games. Liberty City was simultaneously broader and denser than any game world that came before it and helped popularize the notion of "sandbox" gaming - where players can go almost anywhere and do anything.
While GTA III included an engrossing story, the true innovation came from the game's ability to react to player actions, instead of the other way around. Shoot someone in the street? You better run from the cops. Want to get involved in a drag race? There are places to do that, too.
Never before had a game felt so alive and interactive. Every open-world game since, from Assassin's Creed to Elder Scrolls to Far Cry, owes much of its basic formula to GTA III.