5: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)
Where would the Xbox brand be if not for Halo? The game singlehandedly carried the original Xbox for three years, giving players countless hours of multiplayer mayhem and, in a change for the FPS genre, a deep single player campaign. It took its own sequel to unseat it as the Xbox’s most popular title.
Halo introduced one of gaming’s most iconic worlds, a streamlined setup (only two guns at a time), a wide variety of weapons, none of them overpowered, and smart AI that made for more intense battles. Let’s not forget things like vehicles and plasma grenades.
Yes, the sequels have added to the formula, and Halo 2’s introduction of online was a huge step for console gaming. But the original still got it all right. It’s still at the center of the Xbox brand.
4: Super Mario Bros. (NES)
If this list were going by influence alone, Super Mario Bros. would indisputably be placed right at the top. It breathed new life into gaming in its darkest hour, turned the NES into THE video game console of its decade, added a new depth to gaming, and properly kickstarted the Super Mario franchise (and subsequently, all of Nintendo’s other franchises). Not bad for a plumber.
But the real testament to Super Mario Bros. greatness is how well it holds up today. Sure, we all have our favorite Mario games, and the sequels bettered it in just about every way, but Super Mario Bros. still feels great to control, the level design still stands out, and although the visual and audio aesthetics are retro, they are, in their own way, timeless.
It’s influence is unmatched, but it’s the game itself that’s still so much fun.