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Dtoid Community Discusses pt 10: Iconic Games

Time for the tenth edition of Dtoid Community Discusses! This week we have a whopper of a discussion about iconic games. There are tons of videogames out on the market, but only a few that can even be considered iconic games. As usual, here is the prompt I sent out to the panel:

"There are some games that we as gamers might consider 'iconic', by which I mean games that will always stand the test of time and games that we think of at the forefront of our minds when we think of gaming. Regardless of whether you like these games, for some reason, the gaming community as a whole has decided games such as Super Mario 64, God of War, Halo, etc. should be practically worshipped because of their quality.

But do some of these games really deserve this status? What makes an iconic game? Is it possible to just decide that 'my game will be loved by the greater gaming community' or is it just something that happens?"

The panel this week consists of UnstoppableJuggernaut, Steel Squirrel, Randombullseye, and EternalDeathSlayer. Read on to find out what they thought!

Steel Squirrel

Hey guys, this should be interesting. ;)

So for starters, since the topic is rather broad at the start, I'll give a broad generalization as to why I think these games became what they are today and maybe we can go from there. I believe that the reason games like Mario 64, God of War, Halo, Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil, GTA III, and even the original Legend of Zelda became so iconic, is due to the fact that most of these games redefined their respective genres or even created a new genre altogether.

Just a few examples:

--Mario 64 redefined platforming and showed us what wide open 3D worlds could be.

--God of War took a stale action genre (save for Devil May Cry) and ripped it wide open with epic scale and intensity like nothing we'd ever seen before.

--Halo gave us an amazing reason to play FPS shooter games on a console in a time that was dominated by PC FPS games. By delivering super tight controls, co-op gameplay through the entire campaign, and extremely entertaining versus matches, either through LAN or four player split-screen, Halo made us realize how good a console FPS could, and should be.

--Resident Evil didn't technically create the Survival Horror genre. However, RE was made with such care, polished to perfection, and offered such a completely new experience, that it is clear why RE is synonymous with Survival Horror.

--GTA III single-handedly created an entire genre. The open world, sandbox gameplay style offered an experience that none of us could have imagined or expected at the time. Definitely one of the most important releases in gaming history, in my opinion.

In short, I believe that most iconic games show us what the future of gaming is going to look like and we cherish these games as milestones of progress. The downside of this phenomena, is that once iconic or legendary status has been achieved, how does a game series maintain the magic that lured us in to begin with? When does it just become purchasing on name recognition alone? When these games lose their impact after being redone so many times, when is it time to let them rest in peace and work on something original again?

Anyway, there's my initial thoughts on the topic. I hope we can really dig into this one deep. ;)


I hate it when everyone talks about a game like this. It makes a game so much more than it is. Almost like a "reverse-hype." As you all know hype is the pre-frenzy a game works up. Now this iconic status that games have, that is even worse. You know what you're getting and you expect so much more than what a game actually is. On the converse, I do love finding a game years after its release. Like Final Fantasy 3 and Persona. Without lighting a fire under my ass, I would have not played them. I'm just sad every game I like doesn't have that status.

Some examples are the Team ICO games. Everyone talked about them, but you don't really get a sense of them until you play them yourself. I can't really elaborate on what I'm trying to say, someone else want to try and figure it out?


I think the only way to be sure of a gameís iconic status is the test of time. Sure a game comes out that's touted as the next big thing but until we've had time to live with a game and get to know it and then come back to it years later and test it again we cant really call something truly iconic. The thing we have to seperate is the idea of a game being iconic because of hype or because of content cause i think some games could fall into the most hyped games of all times and that part of the games existence can be confused with being iconic.

If you think of games in terms relationships they arent really that different. A relationship with a game or with a girl/guy you go through the same steps essentially.

1. You see them for the first time and there is interest on your part.
2. You want to find out more about them so you talk to your friends or someone else who might know them to find out more information.
3. You take a chance and ask them out on a date.
4. You get involved with them and get to know them.
5. If things work out well maybe you fall in love and years later you are still with them and enjoy their company.

Granted this is a pretty distilled list but itís the same with games. You read about a game, you play a demo, you get the full version, you spend some time with it and you find out if its worth all the hype and you fall in love or you donít and years later you can revisit the experience and it is still fun and enjoyable.

I think branding a game iconic is a hard thing to do and can only be done after many years. Granted a game can put up such a strong showing in its release and subsequent chapters to make a good argument for being iconic but for a game to be truly iconic i think it has to have its effects felt for many years after across the entire gaming world. Its great to have amazing games but only when a game redefines something about gaming and its felt in titles across the board can something be iconic.

"Everyone talked about them but you dont get a sense of them until you play them yourself"

Steel Squirrel

Wait... what are we talking about here? Video games or relationships? Haha... I keed, I keed... I have sex with my games as well. ;) Also, I would love to be able to put a girlfriend away in a case and only be with her when I wanted, even 10-20 years down the road and have her look the same as when we first met. I think you might be on to something...

I also believe that in order to have something be an iconic game, that the game must be so engrossing, so absolutely addictive, and well thought out, that it transcends any flaws the game may have--because we all know every game has its flaws. The current trend I'm seeing though, is that games are being touted as iconic games before they even get released. I agree, it definitely doesn't work that way. Take Gears 2, Killzone 2, Resistance 2, Halo 3, Twilight Princess, Mass Effect, and Assassin's Creed for example; these are really amazing games, but I think they have such unforgivable flaws in gameplay design that I don't believe they should ever be labeled as iconic.

The other trend I see holding down the opposite end of the scale, is that we as gamers, can expect too much sometimes. Some of us have unrealistic expectations of what an amazing experience should be and can really miss out on the fun a game may offer by being over-analytical, critical, and/or jaded. As a result, I think we will see fewer iconic games with mass appeal and more audience specific games that will be made to cater to the expectations of certain demographics.


I think the "IT" factor is hugely important but now as gamers are more educated in what goes into games its more quantifiable then it was back in the day.

Pacman was an iconic game for a lot of reasons, some of which were predicated due to the time period in which it came out cause it did so much to change the state of the way people thought about games and it infected every part of society with its hype and the frenzy to play this new thing. Was it a great game? Not really. As a gaming experience it was pretty fucking frustrating to be honest as a kid growing up playing it.

Today games are a complete experience and not just time wasters with no end in sight in game play in most cases. Gamers have become more sophisticated in their gaming needs and so the definition of icon has grown tremendously over the last 15 years.

But yeah getting back to the IT factor i think you can quantify more now then you could as the experience of gaming has become more defined and more rich. When a game like Left 4 Dead takes the FPS dynamic and fine tunes the fuck out of it and has an amazing control scheme thatís near flawless you could say thatís one component of a potentially iconic experience but when you play a game like Halo 1-3 and you get online and just get totally lost in the fun or agony of playing against people in an ultra competitive arena thats part of the it factor.

"Pacman...did so much to change the state of the way people think of games"


To me iconic games are those that set the trends. Like the first game that had you collecting red orbs that powered your hero up. I'm sure you've played Devil May Cry and God of War, but neither did that element first. Itís all these different things that come together to really make an iconic game.

Plus you've got to think perspective. Someone who played Pokemon before Dragon Warrior V or Shin Megami Tensei will think itís an original concept. So how do you determine whatís iconic? That which everyone played and enjoyed and knows, or that which came first and set the standard for what would follow.

Anyone want to mention Space War or OXO?

Furthermore, I'd like to throw in the word "innovative." A word I really hate. Everyone who writes about games wants to use that word, as if it were innovative to do so. True innovation to me seems to mean a good gimmick, like motion controls. Even better than that would be the Dragons Lair games or any arcade game where you sit in or on a vehicle. Those seem innovative to me. Pressing a button to do an action seems like I'm watching a movie and occasionally pressing a button, then watching the same clip until I press the button just right. Quick time events don't feel innovative anymore, but then I've not even mentioned them. For some reason they're on my mind as being annoying though. Halo shields are another one. While it is useful to not have to hunt for health packs, a certain element of challenge feels lost from new games that have similar health regeneration. Especially humorous to me is when the concept of halo shields is given an in game reason, such as being half alien in oh so many games.

Really an iconic game to me, is one that can stand the test of time. That I can stand back years after I played it, recall what it was like playing it then and how it is now, and it still being a great game. Like Demons Crest, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Mutant League Football, and so many other games no one but me and a handful of others on the internet feel like talking about. Those games are iconic to me. The ones that slipped under the cracks from everyone else, but are amazing and need to be shouted at. But then, that builds unacceptable levels of anticipation to play as I pointed out in my first discusses rant.


I agree with random, perception is a big part of this. In America, I would definitely consider Pokemon an iconic game, if only for being so damn popular and also introducing RPG gameplay to a ton of people who had never played anything of that sort. In that sense, Final Fantasy VII would also have to be considered an iconic game, due to it really being the first truly successful JRPG here in America. Consider this: Before Final Fantasy VII, how many JRPGS did we Americans (or even Euros) really get? Hell, we didn't even get all of the FF games, and when we did they usually suffered from weak translations. Since FF7, we've managed to get every Final Fantasy entry that comes out, plus a fuckton of spin-offs and even non FF RPGS from Square and other companies. Hell, we get Dragon Quest now. So I think Final Fantasy VII should definitely be in consideration here. I'll write more as it comes to me and as I have the time.

And although I know many of you don't like it, we also need to consider the Madden NFL games for iconic status. They certainly are a symbol of what the industry has become over the years. Just the fact that it always competes for the best selling game of the year shows that videogames are truly part of mainstream culture now, considering video games were once considered the domain of geeks and nerds. Sports games made it cool to play video games and Madden is the biggest of them all. I don't want to waste 10 minutes getting deep with a sports game, but I figured I'd throw it out there.


Totally right about Madden...Didn't even think about that. Good call.

Steel Squirrel

EDS - I definitely agree that FFVII was, and still is, an iconic game for sure. I knew I was forgetting an important one! I can also see how Pokemon would fall under this category too, even if personally I'm not into it. Pokemon is a cultural icon these days, so I would certainly agree with it being an iconic game.

As for what Random said... I think the main idea was to focus on why the games that are viewed as iconic by the gaming community as a whole, are put into that category. Like I was saying before, there will always be audiences for niche games and to those audiences, of course the top games in that niche will be iconic. Games like Demon's Crest, ZAMN, and Mutant League Football are all fine games, but they didn't really appeal to a broad spectrum of gamers like Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, or FFII did during the same time period.

Also, I'd have to disagree with innovation just simply being a new gimmick in a game, like motion control or attaching a steering wheel and seat to an arcade racing game. It can be anything from creative visuals, unique uses of sound design, character design, story development and writing, fresh new styles of multiplayer and online gameplay, new uses of physics in gameplay--these types of things define innovation for me.

Anyway, I understand the perspective point, but think our focus is on games that a majority of people view from the same perspective. Also, I have a hard time believing that someone that is just getting into RPGs--for example--would just go out and pick up Shin Megami Tensei before anything else. I think that person would start off with something like FFVII or Chrono Trigger.

I just think that most fans of a specific genre, started out playing the iconic games in that genre and/or are aware of them and respect them regardless of what their unique tastes are. Perspective may be a small factor, but I think the iconic games we are referring to are so well known, that one can't help but be aware of them and feel their influence.

I believe that the iconic games we are speaking of, provide a template that other games in the genre use as a base. Iconic games are the initial sources from which ideas are drawn to use in every game in that genre, from that point onward.

Have fun editing Tactix! ;) [Hehehe...thanks alot....-Tactix]

FFVII....An iconic RPG


As for what makes a game iconic, in my mind it's not always the game that was the first in its genre or the first to do something. To me it's the first one that did it right or made it popular. Sure, there were FPS games before Halo on consoles, and some were even kind of popular, but the genre certainly wasn't the most popular one like it is now. Or like some of you mentioned, Alone in the Dark created the survival-horror genre, but it was Resident Evil that refined it and brought it to the masses, whether through being a better game or even better marketing. If you ask somebody who games for an example of survival horror, their answer is generally Resident Evil. That brings me to another point: If you ask a gamer, hardcore or casual, for an example of the genre or something like that, what's the first game that comes to mind? It's like when they do those studies and people are asked what their first thought is when they hear the words "video games". The answer is almost always Nintendo and Mario. So when thinking of what constitutes an iconic game, I consider those types of things.


I would honestly say when Iím asked about games the first thing that comes to my mind is Half Life. That game had a huge impact on me, and how I played games and really got me into gaming with others. I played the hell out of Half Life on LAN and then online with my PC back in the late 90's early 2000's but thatís just me.


I like video games. While there are some that stand out as being iconic, the reasons for that status differ from person to person. Mario World and Mario 64 might mean more to someone five years younger or ten years younger than me than say Super Mario Brothers means to me or a person five years older than myself thinks of Donkey Kong. See what I'm saying? To some new generation out there, Mario Galaxy is iconic. Sort of like how Dragon Warrior means more in Japan. I could go on and on though.

Steel Squirrel

Here's a final thought from me:

To me, iconic games are any games that are made to near perfection and more often that not, introduce something new and exciting to us. These games bring unique ideas to the table or raise the bar in sound design, writing, visuals, gameplay, etc. for a certain genre. They are games that leave such an impact, that people can't imagine new games in the genre not having the features or contributions these iconic games introduced. Different types of gamers will have different tastes in games, and therefore different favorites, I agree. However, there are games that come out every so often that just shouldn't be missed and cannot be ignored if you are a gamer, period. To me, those are iconic games.


Personally, in the end is doesn't matter if we can consider a game iconic or if it's perceived that way by the mainstream public or anything of the sort. If I loved a game and remember it as being great, that's all that matters. I could care less if the gaming press or society in general approves of a game; If I think it's great, then I'm happy. I play game to have fun, not to have my purchases or memories validated by other people. So while I appreciate and am happy there are games we can actually consider "iconic", in the end I'm just happy we have games that are actually that awesome. I'm glad I get to be a gamer and play them. That's all that matters to me.


Well thats all for this week's discussion! Hope you enjoyed reading, and see you again next week!

Also, if you guys have any ideas for things you'd like to see discussed or would like to be on a future panel, send me a message on the Dtoid PM, or email me at tactixpimp at gmail.com!
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About Jesse Cortezone of us since 4:34 AM on 01.13.2007


I am a Ph. D. chemist from the University of California, Berkeley. I have been playing videogames since as long as I can remember! My past favorite games include Secret of Mana, TMNT: Turtles in Time, the Resident Evil series (Jill is SUCH as master of unlocking), FFVII, Smash Bros Melee, and many others.

I've definitely gone through phases in my gaming "career". I used to LOVE fighting games in the time of Tekken Tag and Marvel vs Capcom II (my favorite fighting game), but now I find myself drawn to the more story driven games, and very recently, the music games....:)

But....fighting games are making a comeback! SFIV! MvC3! BlazBlue! Beware everyone, Tactix has put a quarter on the screen and is challenging you for battle!

It was mere chance that brought me to Destructoid back in early 2007, and through it all I've stayed because of the great writing staff, a community that cares, and lots of new internet and IRL friends. Destructoid has changed my life. True story.

If you live in the SF Bay Area, check out the DtoidSanFrancisco C-blog and join the Google Group!


Check out the past installments of my DTOID COMMUNITY DISCUSSES! Series:

Part 1: DLC
Part 2: Achievements
Part 3: Gaming Journalism
Part 4: Next Next-Gen Consoles
Part 5: Retro Renaissance
Part 6: Games That Suck
Part 7: Educational Games
Part 8: Evolution of Gaming Music
Part 9: Gaming Merchandise
Part 10: Iconic Games
Part 12: GDC
Part 13: Videogame Movies
Part 14: Competitive Gaming
Part 15: Level Design
Part 16: Emulation and Game Modding
E3 Edition: Microsoft
E3 Edition: Nintendo
E3 Edition: Sony
Part 17: Triple A Titles
Part 18: Fighting Games
Part 19: Digital Distribution

Card courtesy of TheGHost

Rock Band tag courtesy of CutieHoney

Thanks guys!

Last but not least, Chad Concelmo and I are the same person. Go ahead and ask him. :P

Xbox LIVE:Tactixpimp
Mii code:0680 0947 9731 1775


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