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If I was in charge of "The Art of Video Games"

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has revealed the games that will be showcased for an upcoming exhibit, but it struck a tone with me. What would games would I put in their places?

Robert Bevill, Blogger

May 6, 2011

5 Min Read

There has been talk lately about how the Smithsonian American Art Museum will soon be showcasing a history of video games, from the industry's infancy to today's generation.  While I am all for showcasing a creative medium as an art form, I have several issues with the games chosen for the exhibits.  (The full list of games at the exhibit can be found here)  While it is good that the many different generations are represented across plenty of different consoles, I feel that there are several glaring omissions, as well as games that are redundant or irrelevant.  Seriously, I haven't even heard of a lot of those games.  

So, in response, I've decided to do my own list of what I consider the most important and influential games.  Now, I have a bit of a console bias, and I prefer some genres over others, but I'm going to try my best to make this as comprehensive as possible.  I'll use the same number of games as in the exhibit (80), but rather than have four games from each system, the games will be chosen for their individual contributions, rather than just being there to represent a given system.  In chronological order, these are the games I would personally showcase at the exhibit:

Pong (Arcade, 1972)

Space Invaders (Arcade, 1978)

Adventure (Atari 2600, 1979)

Pac-Man (Arcade, 1980)

Donkey Kong (Arcade, 1981) 

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Atari 2600, 1982)

Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)

The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1986)

Tetris (1986)

Final Fantasy (NES, 1987)

Ninja Gaiden (NES, 1988)

Mega Man 2 (NES, 1988)

The Secret of Monkey Island (PC, 1990)

Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991)

Civilization (PC, 1991)

Street Fighter II (Arcade, 1991)

Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis, 1992)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992)

Mortal Kombat (Arcade, 1993)

Doom (PC, 1993)

Super Metroid (SNES, 1994)

Chrono Trigger (SNES, 1995)

You Don't Know Jack (PC, 1995)

Diablo (PC, 1996)

Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)

Resident Evil (PS, 1996)

Final Fantasy VII (PS, 1997)

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS, 1997)

GoldenEye 007 (N64, 1997)

Star Fox 64 (N64, 1997)

Metal Gear Solid (PS, 1998)

Starcraft (PC, 1998)

Half-Life (PC, 1998)

Pokemon Red/Blue (GB, 1998)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998) 

Dance Dance Revolution (Arcade, 1999)

SoulCalibur (Dreamcast, 1999)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (PS, 1999)

The Sims (PC, 2000)

Grand Theft Auto III (PS2, 2001)

Final Fantasy X (PS2, 2001)

Silent Hill 2 (PS2, 2001)

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox, 2001)

Advance Wars (GBA, 2001)

Bejeweled (PC, 2001)

Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube, 2001)

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Xbox, 2002)

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, 2002)

Metroid Prime (Gamecube, 2002)

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC, 2003)

Half-Life 2 (PC, 2004)

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, 2004)

Ninja Gaiden (Xbox, 2004)

World of Warcraft (PC, 2004)

Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube, 2005)

Shadow of the Colossus (PS2, 2005)

God of War (PS2, 2005)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS, 2005)

Guitar Hero (PS2, 2005)

Psychonauts (Xbox, 2005)

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC, 2006)

Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day (DS, 2006)

Wii Sports (Wii, 2006) 

Gears of War (Xbox 360, 2006)

Portal (PC, 2007) 

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2, 2007)

Bioshock (Xbox 360, 2007) 

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360, 2007)

Team Fortress 2 (PC, 2007)

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, 2007)

Mass Effect (Xbox 360, 2007)

Fallout 3 (PC, 2008)

Braid (Xbox 360, 2008)

Assassin's Creed II (PS3, 2009)

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3, 2009)

Farmville (PC, 2009)

Angry Birds (iPhone, 2009)

Minecraft (PC, 2009)

Super Scribblenauts (DS, 2010)

Heavy Rain (PS3, 2010) 

Now, obviously this list is not perfect (it's impossible to make a list that pleases everybody).  But the games on here were selected for a number of reasons.  They may have been representative of their system or their era.  They made have made a large impact on the gaming industry.  They may have been selected for an artistic achievement.  Or a technological one.  I tried to avoid giving too much credit to some companies (though with all Nintendo has done, that's been tough), and I tried to avoid sequels that merely repeated the themes that had come before.  

There are a few choices that may seem odd, but every game on this list has a reason for being here.  Also, seeing as how I'm not well-versed in PC gaming, I'd love to hear your thoughts on which ones should have made this list!  I wasn't alive to see the release of some of these games, so older generations were kind of pushed aisde.  Since the industry has really become its most popular in recent years, I think that's a fair trade-off.  If your favorite game isn't on this list, remember that I put E.T. on here instead.  I'm pretty sure killing off the industry is a more important event than keeping a kid entertained for a few months during the summer.

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