As Eurogamer turns 20, we thought, you know what? It’s not all about us. It’s also about the developers, the people behind the virtual magic that inspired the creation of Eurogamer two decades ago. Without the developers, we wouldn’t be here. And so, we thought we’d ask a few of them (20, in fact!) to pick the games that defined the last 20 years, and see what would come of it.
We approached a broad range of people, from top executives and legendary talent to tiny indies. We asked them to pick a game that defined the last 20 years, but left it up to them to interpret the question. It could be a game that defined the industry, that meant a lot to them professionally or personally, or is just a favourite.
We’re delighted with the responses (thank you to everyone who contributed!). There’s some fantastic insight here, super cool anecdotes and the odd surprising choice. We hope you enjoy it!
Phil Spencer, head of Xbox
“Ultima Online evolved my view of gaming in a big way. And for the first time, it really did feel like me in a video game – not just an armored avatar roaming the world. I was a big fan of Ultima 3, but UO made the world of Britannia come alive for me.
“When my character stepped foot in the game’s fantasy cities, or down into a huge dungeon, I was doing it as one person playing and exploring alongside everyone else in a shared world. They could observe me, they could help me, become my friend or foe. I definitely had many instances where PvP didn’t go my way.
“I’m sure people have plenty of great stories about their experiences in Ultima Online. To me, a lot the norms and expectations we have in today’s games came from those first, shared-world experiences that many players had in games like UO. Those moments created a lasting connection not just to my character, but to a world’s worth of players. It was the first time I didn’t just love a game, but where it took me.”
Dan Marshall, developer of Gun Monkeys, The Swindle and Behold the Kickmen
“I find it hard to think of a game that defines the last 20 years of gaming, because my tastes have changed so much over that time. ‘Defines’ is doing a lot of lifting, there.
“For me, the last decade-or-more has been defined not by the big-hitter AAA games we all played, but by the indie movement, and the amazing variety of games it has provided. From the early days of casual ‘everything’s a Match-3’ to today’s amorphous mass of wild, wacky, clever content.
“And the game that riffed off a dozen things before it, and influenced a whole host of things that happened after, is Spelunky. I think that game sums up so much about what’s happened in games over the last 20 years – platforming, rogueliking, procedural generation, toying with structure, bite-sized gaming, gaming for streams and Let’s Plays, downloadable games and so much more. It might not be my favourite game since 1999 (though it’s up there!), but it absolutely sums up indie games perfectly, and I’m happy to say it utterly defines what’s happened over the last 20 years for me as well.”
Sam Barlow, director and writer of Telling Lies, Her Story and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
“Exploration has always been the activity that has drawn me most to games, and suspension of disbelief the engine that keeps me there. Playing Metroid Prime on the GameCube I discovered the game that most transported me to another world. A world that never felt less than real – its every rock spider-webbed with unique cracks, wet with rivulets of rainwater or dusted with sand kicked up by my boots.
“As I criss-crossed its surface, burrowed into its every nook and cranny, I could feel its geological history. It was a world that was weathered and had weight – communicated by the never bettered marriage of controller and interface. The solidity of its world reinforced by the feel of its jump, the heavy clicks and whirrs of my space suit mirrored by the GameCube’s chunky, clacking triggers and sticks. And then a rocket exploded and I saw Samus’s eyes reflected in her visor and realised that as much as this place was real, it wasn’t me that was exploring it.”
Yu Suzuki, Sega legend, director of Shenmue 3 at Ys Net
“Congratulations to Eurogamer on their 20th anniversary. This year Shenmue also turns 20. Much has happened in the long days and months of these past 20 years, and we are grateful to everyone who has given their support along the way to help Shenmue 3 take shape.”
Harry Morishita, ex-Square Enix, ex-Sega executive, executive producer Shenmue 3
Final Fantasy 11
“Final Fantasy 11 is the one that brought me in the game industry and it was the beginning of crazy but memorable days at Square (before the merger with Enix).”
Shannon Studstill, head of studio at Sony Santa Monica
“For me, Journey, from Jenova Chen and his team at thatgamecompany, truly defines how the art and storytelling of games has, over the last 20 years, evolved into a medium that can deeply connect with the human spirit.
“Journey will always be a game that is tremendously moving and will surely continue to impact people’s lives for years to come.
“This game experience transcended the medium in a way that so few have, and it’s close to my heart because of the role it played in exemplifying the spirit of creative collaboration at Santa Monica Studio.”
Cory Barlog, creative director at Sony Santa Monica
Requiem: Avenging Angel
“This was the first game I worked on after leaving the Visual Effects industry. I was disillusioned from my experiences in film and honestly did not think I would even stay in games beyond this one job. In hindsight, I know it was not the greatest of games. A lot of very talented people worked hard on it, no doubt.
“But unfortunately, the game released right before the first Half-Life which, we all know, was an absolute monster of a game. I almost chose Half-Life because of how important that game is to the timeline of the industry as a whole but Requiem, flaws and all, is just far more personally important to me. It represents the first steps down a new and frighteningly unknown path that ended up changing my life in the best ways possible.”
David Goldfarb, founder of The Outsiders, ex-game director at Overkill Software, ex-lead designer at DICE
“The game I keep coming back to most often is Diablo 2. Other things pop up, but that one has a hold on me. Loot, skill trees, distinct character builds. Simple enough, deep enough, zen enough. Many, many games try to reproduce that magic. I still don’t think any have gotten close. Not Diablo 3, not Borderlands, not Path of Exile. There was an economy of scale with Diablo 2, with its systems and items that just felt right. Character development was very First Edition D&D, or pre-Souls, or just hard. Patches made it a bit more forgiving, but I liked that you had to sink a bunch of time into it. Mostly it was fun. Kill stuff, find cooler stuff, wear it, repeat. Would love to get lost in an HD remake again, Blizzard.”
Derek Yu, designer of Spelunky
“I’ve spoken much about Dark Souls, because it’s more than just my favorite game – it also represented a return to form for big budget gaming, in my opinion. For many years, AAA game design felt like it was becoming increasingly burdened by heavy tutorialisation, exposition, and hand-holding, even as game worlds were becoming larger and ‘more open’. Dark Souls felt like it cast those conventions off, taking inspiration from games and stories of the 80s without simply being nostalgic. It trusted the player to persevere and make sense of the world on their own, knowing that the rewards would feel all the more real for it. It also made fantasy strange and dark once again – the realm of quivering blobs and umber hulks instead of beautiful elves and shining dragons. Looking back over the past 20 years, I can see the bridge Dark Souls has built from my childhood to the present.”
Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Sega legend, developer of Tetris Effect
“Pokemon Go succeeded in bringing a physical experience into the game. It synthesised the game experience into the real, tangible world, connecting players of all ages, all races and all backgrounds from around the world. I was so fully immersed that I almost got hit by a car!”
Shawn Layden, chairman of Worldwide Studios, Sony Interactive Entertainment
“20 years ago I transferred from Tokyo to our London studio. It was an exciting time for myself, and for PlayStation, as our presence in Europe began to grow dramatically. PlayStation 2 was right around the corner and the strength of that platform would push the power of narrative with games like The Getaway and ICO.
“The Getaway, developed by London Studios, was really a pioneer in the field of cinematic and action gaming. The look and feel, the ‘grit’ of this London gangster epic was remarkable and ahead of its time.”
Victoria Tran, community and business development at Kitfox Games
“The Sims is clearly the best game of the past 20 years. Someone ALWAYS has a story about it. Customise your house! Recreate your friends! Make whoever you want smooch! Trap your Sim family in a room filled with fireplaces and wooden furniture and watch them die!
“Whether you’re into more hardcore or casual games, The Sims has attracted players of all kinds for the past several years, and I think that’s a powerful thing.”
Greg Kasavin, writer and designer at Supergiant Games, the small independent studio behind Bastion, Transistor, Pyre and Hades
“There are far too many games I could think of that defined the last 20…