July 24, 2007 - Welcome to IGN's weekly countdown of the exceptional, fascinating, and absurd: something we like to call Top 10 Tuesday. Every week we'll feature the top ten games, characters, fashion statements or whatever else we can think of that in some way relates to gaming and its history. And just because it's called Top 10 Tuesday doesn't mean it's always going to be a list of the best -- we like to razz on stuff as much as we like to praise it. From counting down the best consoles ever to revealing the worst-smelling instruction manuals, this is where it's at.
This week we give props to the masters of game design. These are the guys that have an uncanny knack for creating engaging gameplay experiences and have influenced the entire industry with their titles. Some on this list have created countless franchises and invented entirely new genres, while some may have only made one or two key titles that changed gaming (and maybe the world) forever. Did your favorite designer make the cut? Read on to find out.
Ask a few hardcore retro arcade junkies to name their favorite games of all time, and more than one Eugene Jarvis-designed title will likely make the cut. The kids today love their Geometry Wars, and it wouldn't exist without Robotron: 2084, a 1982 multi-directional arcade shooter that Jarvis co-designed for Williams Electronics. But he's probably best known for his 27-year-old household-name game Defender. Five buttons and a joystick? In 1980? Awesome.
Fun fact: Jarvis is the only videogame designer to have his work featured on a U.S. postage stamp. In a stamp produced for the Postal Service's "Celebrate the Century" series, two children are pictured playing Defender.
The one-hit wonder of this list, Alexey Pajitnov's contribution to our industry cannot be overestimated: he single-handedly created maybe the most-popular videogame of all time, Tetris. Perfect in every way, the appeal of Tetris is universal. Not just a classic videogame, it's an all-time classic game, right up there with chess, monopoly, and dominoes. Tetris embodies what just about every other puzzle game aspires to be: easy to learn, difficult to master. Pajitnov went on to make more games, many of which were Tetris spin-offs such as Welltris and Hatris. His latest masterpiece is included on every Xbox 360: Hexic.
Fun fact: Although it was released over 20 years ago, Pajitnov has only recently begun to make money off of Tetris, as it was mired in Soviet bureaucracy.
8. Richard Garriott
Notable Games: Akalabeth: World of Doom (aka Ultima 0), Ultima series, Lineage II
When most programmers in the fledgling videogame industry were racing to create the next PONG clone, Richard Garriott was distributing copies of his homebrewed computer RPG/dungeon crawler Akalabeth: World of Doom in Ziploc bags. The 1979/1980 game was a precursor to the Ultima series, which helped define the Western RPG videogame tradition, both online and offline. He calls himself Lord British, and we do, too.
Fun fact: Where do we begin? Garriott's home in Austin, Tex., is called Britannia Manor and features a dungeon, space exploration artifacts, and a coffin.
7. Hironobu Sakaguchi
Notable Games: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts
Having created Final Fantasy and overseeing games like Parasite Eve, Kingdom Hearts, and Super Mario RPG, Hironobu Sakaguchi knows a thing or two about deep, involving game experiences. His interest in marrying the storytelling of film with the interactivity of videogames has given us more motivation while we play. Outside the world of RPGs, Sakaguchi has brought interesting ideas to the table with innovative titles like the 3D NES games 3-D World Runner and Rad Racer and the realistic, weapons-based fighting game Bushido Blade on PSX. In 2000, Sakaguchi was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame.
Fun fact: Final Fantasy was Sakaguchi's last-ditch attempt to save Square from bankruptcy, hence the title. Obviously, the game ended up being anything but final.
6. Shinji Mikami
Notable Games: Resident Evil/Biohazard series, Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe
With his landmark zombie suspense-fest Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan) for the PlayStation in 1996, Capcom's Shinji Mikami entered gamers into the world of survival horror. Sure, some of it had been done before - namely in the 1992 computer game Alone in the Dark - but it took Mikami's creepy, intense vision to make the genre soar. As if creating the Resident Evil series isn't enough of a resume, Mikami also had a god-like hand in fan favorites Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe.