What makes a great game?

Video and online gaming is something that many of us have grown up with. From the early text-based adventures and simple platform games of the early 80s to today’s forays into the world of virtual reality, we all have our favorites. There is something to appeal to everyone regardless of age, sex and background.

So let’s look at the ingredients that make up a great game, and see how they pop up in some of the all time classics that have come and gone across the genres in what is now a long history of computer gaming.

Winning ingredients

Ask ten people at random to come up with their top ten games, and you will get as diverse a range of answers as if you ask them for their favorite foods. Surely, it all comes down to taste and preference. Time magazine used a complex multistage ranking process to come up with its own top 50 when it looked at 40 years of gaming history.

Just like ranking the nation’s top meals there are some basic ingredients that go towards making a game that will become a classic.

The hook

If you scroll to Time’s number one game, you will see that they award top spot to Tetris, a game so simple that even the earliest mobile phones could support it. And this is because there is a clear and attainable goal that is as attractive to beginners as it is to experts.

This notion has been carried through to many of today’s online games. It is not all about complexity and 21st century graphics, and simple games that can be played on any device are more popular than ever.


The best games lead to a reward that is worth the effort. Trying to attain a highest score is fine, but something that motivates the player to continue playing for even better rewards makes the gameplay even more compelling.

This includes games where you can “level up” to new experiences and challenges, such as the Grand Theft Auto series, but is even better demonstrated by some web-based games. Just look at today’s most popular online casinos with jackpots as an example of this simple principle in action.

The right level of realism

The best sports games seek to make your gaming experience as realistic as possible, and every new version strives for gameplay, storyline and graphics that are more realistic than the last.

This is fine in certain contexts, and is the reason people have been rushing out to buy each new version of the John Madden series of games since it first came out in 1988. However, when it comes to driving-games, too much realism can get boring – once again, Grand Theft Auto provides a case in point.

Which is the best?

Time magazine’s conclusion provides conclusive evidence that it is impossible to choose one game that is the best of all time. To return to our food analogy, there are lots of great ingredients, but throwing them all into the mix will not guarantee a perfect meal.

It really depends whether you are in the mood for a main meal, a light snack or a perfect dessert.

About Lee

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Travel lover. Internet guru. Friendly troublemaker. Certified pop culture buff.