Posted by: Matt Y | 06/27/2017

20 Core Video Games That Every SciFi Fantasy Fan Should Know – Part 1

Video games are one of those weird mediums that are hugely influenced by Science Fiction and Fantasy and yet it is also the one form of media it comes in that comes with a much higher entrance fee than a book or movie, and requires user input in order to progress. Which is why I put ‘should know’ instead of ‘should play’. Also it’s a much newer medium, and has a different set of growing pains. Often the plot, writing and SFF themes take a backseat to technical aspects and design tropes (collect X things to advance!) which makes them suffer to other mediums where they can focus on the material and the world building about rather than user interface, how many textures a rock has or frames per second speed.

I was trying to think of a good way to start on how to talk about video games from an overall Sci-Fi/Fantasy perspective and the contributions it makes, and thought I’d take an idea from reading James Davis Nicolls Blog  where he lists different important core books in different subgenres. While my reasons will be listed below for the inclusion of specific games this is all completely subjective, though I will put the same disclaimer as his lists:

No implication is intended that these are the only twenty games you should consider.

Also I’m a filthy console gaming peasant so games like Everquest and World of Warcraft are worth mentioning from sheer merit and contributions will not be included. While enumerated this is not a ranked list, the #1 game on the list isn’t meant to be considered the best or most significant game on the list, there are twenty numbers because there are twenty games and while I’ll be going in a mostly chronological order I’ll veer off that occasionally.

Note: I got way too long so this is now split into parts that I’ll post over time

20. Adventureadventure

Adventure might be the most significant game on the list for the contributions it made not just to video games but to pop culture in general.

In the game you play as a hero that has to find a chalice and bring it to a golden castle. There are three dragons, a bat, and multiple rooms to explore through in order to find the chalice. This fantasy title was the first Atari game to feature multiple rooms, making it the first game with exploration as a theme. It was also marked the first game where the enemies went about their scripted behavior even when the character was not on screen. It was a breakthrough title, with many games at that time being solely focus on score or time limits. There had been text adventures that fostered exploration without a time limit however Adventure was the first to really adapt the style of those text adventures into a graphical format.

Of course that graphical format was very simple due to memory constraints. The player character is literally a dot. The dragons were not exactly fearsome creatures.


Even with that the game captured the imagination of the audience and other developers who would continue to expand on the ideas it presented and showed a new side of adapting text adventures to graphical interfaces.

Culturally it also inspired the first use of the term ‘Easter egg’ to describe hidden messages within a work. Atari at that time did not allow developers to insert credits into their games. Warren Robinett decided to create a secret room that required several elaborate steps to find, and once found had a vertical line of text that read “Created by Warren Robinett”. Instead of going through the costly method of removing this from the game Atari instead asked that other developers leave Easter eggs in games to reward players with the effort of finding. The book Ready Player One references the game and the details of finding the hidden message.

19. Metroid


There are times I’m going to cheat and use a whole franchise of games. Metroid is one of them. Starting off on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 the platform-action (jumping/shooting) game series has managed over thirty years to tell the story of Samus Aren.

The story of the games are pretty classic sci-fi.  Spoilers ahead!

In the future there’s a Galactic Federation of planets. Aboard a Galactic Federation research vessel scientists are experimenting with Metroid creatures, floating aliens that latch on to any organism and drain it of its life energy.

Then, Space Pirates. They attack the research vessel and steal the alien life form because they want to replicate it to use as a weapon to destroy their enemies. Obviously that’s no good. The Federation located the pirate base but the defenses are too strong, so they sub-contract Samus Aren, the greatest bounty hunter in the universe, to destroy the bio-mechanical life form that controls the base defenses named Mother Brain.

She completes her mission, though after the Galactic Federation decides that it is too dangerous for the Space Pirates to ever get their hands on a Metroid again, so they hire Samus once more to go to the Metroid home planet and wipe them out. At this point I’m feeling bad for the Metroids, they were just floating there living out their Metroid lives when two groups decided to experiment on them and then fearing the other would use them as a weapon decided maybe genocide was the best option.

Image result for super metroid

Anyway Samus is the best bounty hunter in the galaxy so she completes her mission. Or very nearly, she finds she can’t bring herself to kill the last baby Metroid, which imprints onto Samus like it believes Samus is its mother.

Motherhood doesn’t fit with the bounty hunter lifestyle so Samus leaves the larval Metroid with Galactic Federation scientists. Then history repeats itself as Space Pirates attack, takes the larva and run. Samus searches for an finds the base to save her Metroid child. While fighting her way through she discovers the larva who has grown up quickly and it almost kills her before realizing who she is and then it runs away. Samus follows and ends up fighting Mother Brain 2.0 since these guys buy their security systems in bulk or something. Before Mother Brain can take out Samus the Metroid returns and sacrifices itself to save Samus and give her the power to defeat Mother brain.

Spoilers end

There’s a lot more, like the Prime Trilogy of games, the Chozo race, an embarrassing Wii game, and a galactic parasite that Metroid were the main predator of before their numbers were depleted causing havok.

It’s a series whose story and concepts have ranged not just console generations but generations of fans and one of the biggest announcements from E3 this year was the announcement of sequels in the long lasting franchise.

These are games whose stories are influenced by, are part of, and influence the SFF genre. Stay tuned for part 2.


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