The year 2009 is one of the most important years in gaming due to the amazing titles released that year. But four titles, in particular, our “Big Four”, if you will steal the show: “Batman Arkham Asylum,” “Assassin’s Creed 2,” “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and “Uncharted 2.” These are not only the best games of 2009, but they are also some of the most influential games of all time.
By the late 2000s, superhero video games were in a dire state, but like The Dark Knight stalking criminals at night, “Batman Arkham Asylum” appeared out of nowhere. It was announced in 2008 and released the following year with critical acclaim for its unique take on the caped crusader and his rogues gallery of villains. And the game’s simple but effective combat system, commonly known as freeflow combat, has perhaps changed combat in games forever.
Games that have used it in recent memory include “Sleeping Dogs,” “Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor“ and its sequel “Shadow of War” and “Mad Max.” Perhaps the best use of freeflow combat is “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” The game’s combat is the perfect evolution of “Arkham Asylum,” which is appropriate since both are comic book games. It’s fast-paced and gives players tons of options on how to deal with enemies. It can be argued that “Arkham Asylum” didn’t actually invent this type of combat since it existed in some other games, but it sure did make it popular.
One of those games that used freeflow combat was “Assassin’s Creed.” “Assassin’s Creed 2“ was released a few months after “Arkham Asylum,” and it was just as influential. Ubisoft took the foundation of the first game and improved upon it. “Assassin’s Creed 2“ isn’t all that different from the first game. It has the same type of open-world structure with areas blocked off until the player progresses further, towers that reveal different parts of the map, and eagle vision. What makes it influential is the fact that it popularized these things.
I challenge you to find a modern open-world game that doesn’t have its own version of “Assassin’s Creed’s“ towers. “Horizon: Zero Dawn“ has Tallnecks. The “Infamous“ games each have enemy bases that act as towers. Even “Batman Arkham Knight“ has a similar feature. Another popular influence from the game is its eagle vision, which allows players to highlight enemies and find hidden or important items. It’s a feature that still exists in the series today and even inspired detective mode in the “Batman Arkham“ games. “Assassin’s Creed 2” was such a big deal when it released. It impressed people with its story and characters and helped people realize what games could truly be. No wonder it influenced so many other ones.
“Batman Arkham Asylum” and “Assassin’s Creed 2“ are single-player games that popularized a ton of game features, but what about multiplayer games? Well, I’ve got three words for you: “Modern Warfare 2.” “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2“ is one of the most popular games of all time. It’s the highest-rated “Call of Duty“ game on Metacritic’s greatest games of all time list, sitting at number 70, and has several awards from various gaming publications. What made this game truly influential on gaming as a whole was its campaign.
This seems like an odd thing to say for a “Call of Duty“ game, but it makes sense once you remember the game’s “No Russian” mission. The mission forces players to be a part of a mass shooting in a Russian airport. After “Modern Warfare 2” was released, games became more open to depicting realistic and gruesome acts of violence. “Spec Ops: The Line“ is another military shooter where players bomb an entire village of civilians with white phosphorous and are forced to walk through the aftermath in order to recognize the severity of their actions. “Grand Theft Auto 5“ lets players torture a suspected terrorist. Former Gamespot writer Laura Parker theorized that if more games had controversial material like this, then they would start to be taken more seriously. Since then, they have. “Modern Warfare 2“ deserves some credit for that.
Naughty Dog is a developer that went from making mascot platformers like “Jak and Daxter“ and “Crash Bandicoot“ to more serious and controversial games like “Uncharted” and “The Last of Us.” In 2009, they released one of their most beloved games, “Uncharted 2.” The game follows the adventure of Nathan Drake as he hunts for a lost city visited by Marco Polo. Players at the time, myself included, were blown away by the game’s combat and set-piece levels. The most famous of these set-piece levels is the train mission, which sees players engage in a huge shootout with enemies on a moving train as it goes from a train yard to snowy mountains.
It was levels like this that helped establish Nathan Drake as a PlayStation mascot, something the first game did not do. In the years that followed, many major games began to mimic “Uncharted’s” linear set-piece levels. It didn’t create this feature, but it sure did help to popularize it. “Tomb Raider“ is commonly mentioned as an inspiration for “Uncharted.“ The game features many linear sections and a ton of quick-time events that require button mashing. It even features a multiplayer mode that’s not unlike “Uncharted’s“ multiplayer. A more recent example is “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” which opens with its own version of “Uncharted 2‘s” train level.
These games are proof that no game is truly original. Every game takes inspiration from another game in some way or another. The fact that these four games were each able to impact the gaming landscape in their own way just speaks to how influential they are.