70's - Damn, this is hard. The most important videogame of the 70's was probably Space Invaders. Without it, every popular game would be just a simulation of pre-existing experiences. It's iconography is still instantly recognizable, and transcends pixel count limitations. Even its gameplay is built around turning technical limitations into a strength. Without this game, video games lack a unique identity. Atari never rises to the mainstream, and consoles are only seen as casual experiences. Without this game, there's not two industry crashes in America.
Which also means that every game industry looks more like the UK's microcomputer scene. And while that's got plenty of treasure worth finding, there's also plenty of good reasons why Japanese and American hardware now dominate there, as well. Without the lessons of the second American crash for the world to learn from? It's anyone's guess how ugly things could have been.
Or it might be Oubliette. Which almost nobody has heard of today, but it's inspired some of the biggest CRPGs and JRPGs ever made - Wizardry and Dragon Quest, for example. Ridiculously ahead of its time, this game featured everything from character customization to retrieving and resurrecting dead characters to creative mini-games, to co-op multiplayer and chat.
But neither one of these very important games is the best game of the 70's. So strike them both.
And neither is Asteroids, despite it being a game that still holds up today, in the original arcade experience. (You can feel the roar of the engine, and the laser blasts were near blinding jewels of light. It's a bit of power fantasy that doesn't translate to the home ports at all.)
The real best game of the 70's isn't a videogame at all. It's Dungeons and Dragons.
Ghouls N' Ghosts. No, I can't justify it - Super Mario Bros 3 is better designed in every way. But if we rate games purely by objective measures, then we pretend to an objectivity that nobody really possesses unless they've played through every gaming library available, and are also a magical being of infinite wisdom and patience.
Unfortunately, any game made to cater to that deity would suck for the rest of us.
Besides, I'm a shameless sadomasochist.
If I pick Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast, will you call an ambulance? I'm not sure I can survive all the amputations needed to choose just one 90's game. And no, I'm not about to defend my selection, beyond "It means I don't need to choose between my favorite games in other genres, like the Metroidvania or the Gradius parody." I may be a shameless sadomasochist, but even I have my limits.
Aria of Sorrow doesn't have the best story, dialogue, or characters, but that's why literally every other form of media exists. Rated purely as far as level design, enemy design, and as a toybox's worth of rewards for exploration? This is the best abuse of my primitive neurochemical reward system out there, in terms of games I'd most like to play while listening to a podcast.
If I don't have a podcast available, or I'm forced to go with the traditional meaning of "best", I'd much rather play Majora's Mask, but alas, my blatant way of throwing in a tie doesn't count. So, for now, the coin flip stands.
Best? Hell if I know. And hell if anyone else really knows, either. Thanks to the rise of digital distribution, this was the decade when so many games were made that even dedicated fans of individual consoles started losing track of them all. It's also the decade when publishers decided they wanted us to stick with their biggest games for as long as possible, so what a game began as, isn't necessarily where it is now. No Man's Sky being the perfect example. (Note: No Man's Sky still wouldn't even be a runner-up on my list, unless I could afford the VR version.)
Whatever I pick as "Best", is only going to slight all the games that deserve it just as much, if not more, so the only way to win this game? Is to just pick the game I enjoyed the most, even if it upsets everyone else. Even if it's barely a game, by traditional measures...
And that's Gone Home.
And the reasons are all personal. Would it mean as much to me if the voice on the answering machine didn't sound exactly like my girlfriend, and nearly rip my heart out? Probably not. Nor would it hit as hard, if my family hadn't been a similar kind of dysfunctional. And if it didn't feature so many accurate call-backs to the past, despite the lack of licensing that would allow it to be a perfect recreation.
It's what Shenmue wanted to be, when it wasn't an action game.
And the fact that so much hate was directed at this game? All of that feigned outrage is what made me give it a shot in the first place. I generally avoided walking simulators like the plague, because they seemed too short and too limited an experience to justify their price tags, but this one finally taught me that there's way more to gaming and interactive art than what a simple Gamepro review score can measure.
Now that we have all that out of the way, it's time for the final match for the sole survivor:
D&D vs. Ghouls N' Ghosts vs. Soul Calibur vs. Gone Home
And the winner is: Dungeons and Dragons!
That's right - the 70's beat every other decade, and it wasn't even close. The graphics are just as good as you've always imagined, and you will never run out of new content. Hell, you can even make your own campaigns without any programming knowledge or bug-testing. Plus, some of the other characters you meet may even become your real life best friends.
Too bad it's only multiplayer. And also not a video game.
But who knows? If we're all still alive in another 40 years, we might laugh at how limited of a gaming system the human brain really was.