While some games have been rendered mostly unplayable by modern standards, others still stand tall as being just as enjoyable as they were back in the day. Fans should however take note that the games featured here aren't definitively the best of the best, but a sum of their innovative mechanics at the time, their long-lasting appeal, and their current reception.
The iconic mustached plumber kicks off the list with its first entry on Nintendo's SNES console and one of the best selling Mario games, Super Mario World. Prior to this entry, the plumber had already established his reputation as one of the most iconic mascots in gaming.
Super Mario World released in 1990 and served to drive the sales of this console to greater heights. The competition was tough, as the Genesis promised experiences that, "Nintendon't." However, the plumber gracefully vaulted over the competition and ultimately won the generation battle by capturing 55% of the video game industry market share at the time. What makes Super Mario World so fresh to play today is its distinctly charming visuals and evergreen gameplay, which never gets stale. Super Mario World introduced many elements that would become series staples such as Yoshi, mid-level checkpoints, and challenges in addition to many new power-ups and enemies.
Tetris is probably one of the most iconic and important video games of all time. The game's formula remains captivating to this day, which is a testament to how well it has endured the changing times, and this game has found its way into almost every device with a screen with multiple great editions of Tetris for what is essentially an unchanged game. Tetris has the perfect blend of luck and strategy and when combined with its relatively short runs, the game becomes an incredibly addictive and highly replayable gem.
Just like Tetris, Pac-Man is a highly replayable, easy to pick up, and difficult to master game that has endured the flow of time. Originally an Arcade game, Pac-Man was one of the earliest titles for the widely considered first home console, the Atari 2600. And just like Tetris, Pac-Man has been re-released in various forms on various systems, with most of its core elements remaining the same which bolsters the fact that the formula is truly timeless.
Even after multiple runs, the ghosts remain unpredictable and the game gets progressively harder with every stage. Getting the power-pellets can be considered as one of the earliest power-fantasies in gaming and remains satisfying to this day. Pac-Man has gone on to become one of the most iconic characters in gaming and has also found his way into the Super Smash Bros. games as a playable character.
Halo: Combat Evolved arguably put Xbox on the map. Much of Xbox's success can be attributed to this title as it helped carve a reputation for the console at a time when PS2 looked to be the most promising option for most gamers.
Halo: Combat Evolved changed the FPS shooter experience on consoles. Shooters prior to this such as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark have aged poorly and are almost impossible to play for newer players. On the other hand, Halo Combat Evolved has aged incredibly well, and the inclusion of its vanilla mode in Halo: Master Chief Collection is a testament to the fact.
Halo's biggest breakthrough was making an FPS feel home on a console, without sacrificing any form of playability. The game has equal parts of both old and new, which is part of the reason for its mass appeal. It combines deep lore and rich storytelling, influenced largely by games like Half-Life along with open-ended levels, an homage to games of the 90s such as Doom.
Super Smash Bros. is probably one of the most iconic franchises in gaming, which also serves as a medium to celebrate video games inside of a video game. The series was already a hit when it launched for N64, but it arguably peaked with the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001 for the newly-released Nintendo GameCube.
The best part about Super Smash Bros. Melee is still played to this day, without being made in a way to endure the test of time. Super Smash Bros. has pumped multiple newer entries on newer consoles that feature online play and a lot of other features, but none of them have had the longevity that Melee has had. Melee is a mystery in itself, as the game doesn't have crisp visuals or a perfectly balanced roster of characters, yet remains relevant to this day. Many fans believe it's due to the simplicity and depth the game offers at the same time, which sounds ironic but is true. The game doesn't feature the flashiest moves or an overwhelming number of combos, yet the skill ceiling is so high that players still enjoy competing at the highest level to this day.