From Asteroids and Duck Hunt turning 40, to younger anniversaries like Minecraft and Angry Birds, there are many excellent games celebrating big milestones this year.
Video games are still a relatively new form of entertainment. But while games don’t have the long history of other mediums, there are a number of them that are getting up there and deserve to be remembered for helping to guide the future of the art form.
With a big side of nostalgia we’re remembering those games that celebrate major milestones this year: 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and yes, even 40 years old now. While we can’t include them all, here are just some the biggest anniversary milestones in video gaming we can celebrate in 2019!
Street Fighter 4
Released: February 2009 (Console)
Though it was released in arcades the year prior, the arrival of Street Fighter 4 on home consoles in 2009 reinvigorated a somewhat dormant fighting game scene. Now everyone could exhaustively practice parrying and the million tiny details that separate a good player from a great player. Street Fighter 4 exploded and brought the virtual fighting game back to the main stage, one living room at a time.
Released: February 2009 (Japan)
While Dark Souls is the game that brought FromSoftware’s unique approach to brooding fantasy action to a wider mainstream audience, many of the signature elements beloved by fans today originated with Demon’s Souls. A beautiful, yet menacing fantasy world to explore, fantastic multiplayer integration (sadly now offline), and memorable challenges define the strange and critically acclaimed Souls debut. With Dark Souls 3 supposedly concluding the series, many fans – new and old – yearn for a chance to revisit Demon’s Souls with a potential remaster. Director Hidetaka Miyazaki seems less than thrilled about the idea, but you never know.
Released: May 2009
Recommending Minecraft to a friend is not as simple as it may seem. Is it a survival game? Or is it a sandbox building game? What makes Minecraft so special, is that it is actually both. Many content creators have built their entire careers showcasing the freedom this game has to offer, and that is mainly because the game is almost as fun to watch as it is to play. With constant update drops and a limitless supply of mods, Minecraft took the world by storm when it released, and 10 years later, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Released: August 2009
Before developer Rocksteady gave us their version of Gotham City, playing as a superhero in most games never really captured their essence. Arkham Asylum changed that. As Batman, you solved Riddler puzzles because you were the “World’s Greatest Detective” and it made perfect sense. Perching on gargoyles and whisking thugs into the shadows while they panicked wasn’t just a game mechanic – it was core to Batman’s mythos. And of course, having Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill from The Animated Series lend their voices made it the perfect package.
Halo 3: ODST
Released: September 2009
Now THIS is how you do a side project! Halo 3: ODST actually took place during the events of Halo 2, as a team of ODSTs moved through New Mombasa in the wake of its destruction. Enemies felt terrifying again, as you weren’t a superhuman Spartan, while the open-ended hub nature of the gameplay was a curveball for Halo, and the noir themes and score gave ODST a distinct feel and showed a side of Halo we’d not seen before or since.
Released: October 2009
Borderlands was a textbook case of being the right game at the right time. It was unique, irreverent, and so full of guns that spending time in its wasteland meant a carefree and cathartic shooting gallery, with plenty to find and collect. Though it’s ending is still something people will argue about, the journey for the Vault Hunters meant a fun time with colorful characters and no shortage of things to shoot with reckless abandon.
Dragon Age: Origins
Released: November 2009
Hot on the heels of Bioware’s Mass Effect came a different kind of RPG. Instead of the galaxy-trotting adventures of a spaceship commander, your character in Dragon Age: Origins was thrust into a gritty world of strife where “The Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” collided, with elves living in ghettos while humans plotted against each other instead of focusing on the horrors encroaching upon their borders. Even choices among your colorful rag-tag group of allies were never as simple as they seemed. Seriously, Sten, why did none of my actions ever make you happy!?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Released: November 2009
“No Russian.” With those two words, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 cemented itself in the hallowed halls of video game greatness–or infamy, depending on where you stand with the airport massacre level. MW2 took the solid foundation that its predecessor was built on, and then added the rest of the house. It improved on the multiplayer create-a-class feature by notably adding a secondary weapon slot and was the first CoD to allow attachments on the primary weapon. And the single-player campaign mixed in enough globe-trotting guns-blazing thrills to rival big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.
Assassin’s Creed 2
Released: November 2009
A notable step away from the repetitive experience of its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed 2 welcomed a charming and memorable protagonist, explored an interesting and character-filled world of historical fiction, and dropped an incredible mythos into this series. Also, THAT ENDING THOUGH!
Left 4 Dead 2
Released: November 2009
Left 4 Dead 2 took the zombies down south and provided some memorable characters, while preserving the intense dynamic of the original, and even let you put on your own pyrotechnics laden rock show for a zombie horde. It was incredible!
Released: December 2009
The iOS App Store was live for over a year when Angry Birds hit, however it took Angry Birds to make people really notice Apple’s digital storefront. The simple yet challenging physics-based gameplay entertained young and old alike. It was the first mobile game to really hit it BIG, with over 3 billion downloads spread across 18 (yes, eighteen) games in 10 years. The franchise eventually spawned movies, TV shows, toys, theme park attractions, and the list goes on.
Released: September 2004
Peter Molyneux’s Fable may not have fulfilled all of its creator’s most optimistic promises, but it was nevertheless an irresistibly charming fantasy action-RPG that taught a master class in worldbuilding and humor. Even more memorably, it embraced the notion that your actions in the world could physically affect you; good-hearted adventurers could eventually get a halo above their heads, while Fable also fully supported the ability to play as coldly and evilly as possible, turning you into a horned monstrosity.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Released: October 2004
San Andreas took GTA to a scale truly believed to be unimaginable at the time. After the paradigm-shifting GTA 3 and the character-driven masterpiece of Vice City, San Andreas set players loose in not just a fictionalized Los Angeles but also Las Vegas, San Francisco, and the countryside in between to boot. It was packed to the gills with content, and its story – highlighted by Samuel L. Jackson’s turn as a villainous cop – helped San Andreas put an exclamation point on the PS2/Xbox generation.
Released: November 2004
The Empire Strikes Back of the original Halo trilogy. Halo 2 flipped Master Chief’s narrative on its head by putting you in the armor of The Arbiter at various points throughout the campaign – a move that was shocking at the time and has become more revered and respected with age. Meanwhile, Halo 2 was Xbox Live’s killer app, with a matchmaking party system that quite literally changed online console gaming forever. It didn’t hurt that Halo 2 had one of the greatest collection of multiplayer maps in gaming history.
Released: November 2004
Arguably one of the greatest games of all time, Valve’s sequel starring scientist-turned-savior Gordon Freeman brought with it even more of the grounded pseudo-science fiction alongside excellent level design and fun with physics. Though at the time its gravity gun was one of the biggest new pieces of phsyics-based technology, nearly every aspect of Half-Life 2 has endured the test of time, and has kept us waiting for more with one of the biggest cliffhangers in video game history.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Released: November 2004
Taking the risk of leaping back to the 1960s ended up being one of the best decisions ever made for the Metal Gear franchise. The origin story of the man who would become Big Boss offered not just some of the best boss fights and stealth action sequences of the generation, but its themes of allegiance and loyalty in a world run by largely disloyal governments provided not only some poignant discussion but laid the groundwork for the rest of the series’ entries.
World of Warcraft
Released: November 2004
As one of the biggest MMORPGs on the planet – if not the biggest – World of Warcraft really ushered in the age of the MMO. Its massive scope, scale, and variety has kept players passionately engaged with its heady lore and substance, and while some of its expansions have been better than others, this titanic franchise is still going strong with no signs of stopping. Many, many genres – not just MMOS – but roleplaying and action games have learned from the design lessons of World of Warcraft’s 15-year lifespan, and they’re better for it.
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords
Released: December 2004
The followup to the immensely successful roleplaying game set in a galaxy far, far away, KOTOR 2 introduced iconic characters with genuinely impressive writing and storytelling. It was a rare achievement where, even if you weren’t a Star Wars fan, or weren’t a fan of roleplaying games, both sides of that divide could find something to love. Though structurally similar to the first game, this sequel elevated a one-off entry in the extended universe into a franchise that still leaves us wanting more all these years later.
Super Smash Bros.
Released: January 1999 (Japan)
Amidst a sea of high-stakes competitive fighting games with complicated button inputs, a plucky group of Nintendo All-Stars took to the stage to duke it out in a clever blend of intricacy and chaos. Super Smash Bros. was just as much about landing a perfectly timed smash attack as it was about screaming in panic when a bob-omb or hammer appears on the stage – and watching fighters go sailing off the sides of the stage gave your attacks a sort of weight that other fighting games rarely had at the time. Plus, what other game let you play as a little electric rodent smacking around a plumber armed with a beam sword?
Released: January 1999
During a period where gamers were going gaga for zombies, Silent Hill crept in and managed to unnerve a generation with its wildly disturbing and wholly original take on horror. Pyramid Head remains one of the most terrifying video game characters of all time.
Released: February 1999 (North America)
Board games are always a great time, especially when you can rub your victory in a friend’s face. Mario Party took things one step further by letting you traverse a virtual board game, and then let you smash your friend’s face with a hammer to win all the coins. Hilarious minigames and unexpected chance time upsets guaranteed that every party descended into complete chaos – and it wasn’t a true Mario Party unless you ended the game extremely upset at someone else, but all too eager for the next round.
Released: March 1999
Though World of Warcraft might be the most successful MMO of all time, it’s hard to argue that EverQuest was one of the most influential. It brought with it a full 3D world – that’s admittedly polygonal by today’s standards – but gave us the opportunity to get lost in a fully realized fantasy world the likes we’d never really scene before. Because of it’s immense success, it proved there was a demand for massively multiplayer worlds to live in and explore, and because of EverQuest, we’ll likely never see the end of them.
Released: August 1999 (Japan)
Calling something a ‘killer app’ in 2019 is absolutely archaic, but there’s no better way to describe Soulcalibur. Namco’s premier 3D fighter redefined what console combat looked and felt like. With the genre-breaking 8-way run, an eclectic and diverse cast of characters, and genuinely mind-blowing graphics, Soulcalibur took the fighting world by storm and (nearly) put the Dreamcast on the map in its early days.
System Shock 2
Released: August 1999
The omnipresent, sadistic AI SHODAN is one of gaming’s GOAT villains. She loomed over you at all times, making sure you felt her presence even though you couldn’t see it. Gameplay-wise, System Shock 2 paved the way for BioShock and a horde of other great first-person games with its precise blend of drama, shooting, hacking, and storytelling.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Released: August 1999
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a seminal skateboarding game that launched a franchise and a million teenagers’ obsession with ‘90s pop-punk. With a great career mode and a friendship-testing multiplayer mode, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was the staple of every living room in 1999.
Donkey Kong 64
Released: November 1999
Though its sprawling levels and exhaustive list of collectible items are what Donkey Kong 64 is probably best remembered for, it was also the first game to require the Nintendo 64’s Expansion pack to make use of more memory. If you were lucky enough to get the translucent green console bundle for Christmas, the entire package was a memorable slice of Nintendo history. The game itself was reminiscent of Rare’s earlier works like Banjo-Kazooie, but the sheer scope and size of this new 3D platformer will go down as a hugely ambitious effort that kept us coming back time and time again to collect a jungle’s-worth of bananas.
Released: March 1994 (Japan)
Super Metroid is the kind of game that only comes along once, but is replicated and revered for generations. It took the painstaking cartography from the NES orginal and refined it in nearly every possible way. An early exploration in environmental storytelling and some of the best boss battles in video game history helped cement Super Metroid’s place in the pantheon of all time greatest. It’s exploration and key item based formula is still being used today, and while some may say that other games have done it better, Super Metroid did it first, and arguably, best.
Released: September 1994
Doom changed the world. Doom 2 cranked the volume up to 11, adding the double-barrel shotgun, a swath of terrifying new enemy monsters, larger and more open-ended levels, and editing tools that led to the creation of countless new multiplayer maps that kept Doom 2’s footprint and influence strong in the gaming community for years after its release.
Donkey Kong Country
Released: November 1994
While Super Mario World hogs much of the spotlight when it comes to side-scrolling platformers on Super Nintendo, Donkey Kong Country still holds its own as one of the best in its genre on the console. It’s the third best-selling SNES game of all time, and its the first game starring Nintendo’s iconic ape that wasn’t directed by Shigeru Miyamoto. Instead, development was led by the Stamper brothers at Rare, who wowed Super Nintendo owners at the time with a groundbreaking visual style that leveraged Silicon Graphics tech to render 3D sprites. More importantly, DKC delivered a unique platforming experience with its own distinct feel and introduced several iconic characters that are beloved to this day. The fact that DKC also boasts an incredible soundtrack—composed by David Wise, Eveline Fischer, and Robin Beanland—is just icing on the cake.
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Released: November 1994
Though Blizzard is now known for much more than just fantastic real-time strategy games, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was the first real commercial success for the company, allowing it to continue developing its unique take on the genre for years to come. Though simple by today’s standards, Warcraft helped pave the way for the RTS boom of the ’90s, and created one of the most enduring franchises that’s still going strong to this day with games like Hearthstone and World of Warcraft.
Released: December 1994 (Arcades)
Though Tekken didn’t find massive commercial success until it was ported to the PlayStation the following year, in ’94 Tekken was a hit in arcades. Its use of 3D fighters was only truly rivaled by Virtual Fighter 2 in that day, and its use of ring-outs and distinct characters with a efficient move lists proved it was something worth learning. Tekken has continued its tradition of bigger and better to this day, and we’ll likely be playing new entries in the franchise for years to come.
Released: February 1989
Kicking of the Sim series, SimCity was the first of many games that gave people control over a tiny, living world. While city planning was fun, seeing traffic finally appear on your streets was thrilling — and seeing it all come crumbling down seemed inevitable. But that’s what the cheat codes were for.
Mega Man 2
Released: June ’89 (North America)
Mega Man 2 hit Japan in December of 1988, but it made a huge splash in the US the following year. A bit easier than its predecessor, and a lot more beautiful, Mega Man 2 was unique on the NES with its giant, colorful, manga-inspired robot designs. It also kicked out the jams, with an undeniably epic and influential soundtrack.
Released: April 1984 (Japan)
Nintendo dabbled in light gun games throughout the 70s, both in home TV versions and in the form of large attractions built in defunct bowling alleys. In that context, a light gun was a natural match for the NES, and Duck Hunt was its killer app. It was a simple concept, but it worked. Also, a dog laughed at you when you missed a duck.
Released: June 1984
Tetris was a world wide hit by 1989 thanks to its inclusion with the Game Boy at launch, but 5 years earlier Tetris hit PCs. From there it was a slow build as it was shared, hit arcades, and then found its way on to every platform imaginable. In 1997 we called Tetris the best game of all time. It’s still in the running.
Released: October 1979 (Japan)
One of the earliest full color games, Galaxian was a Space Invaders upgrade that saw the enemies breaking from formation to attack in sweeping patterns. Your Enterprise knockoff moved a little slow, and could only fire one bullet at a time, but that was mostly corrected Galaxian’s successor, Galaga, in 1981.
Released: November 1979 (North America)
Asteroids blew a lot of minds in 1979. It used a vector display to draw its angular asteroids, an unusual way to do graphics at the time. The result was an inky black screen filled with smoothly rotating stark white space rocks. A far cry from the clunky graphics of Space Invaders the previous year. It truly felt like the future!
Thanks so much for going down memory lane with us! We couldn’t possibly name all the major milestones, but we hope you enjoyed this little blast from the past. If you have any special memories from the games above, let us know in the comments below!