Breaking Down The Smithsonian [Gamez 'R Art]

Enjoy a ride into virtual history!

By Daavpuke, Posted 07 May 2011

As you may know, games have finally amassed enough respect to gain some recognition between those that consider themselves more cultured. This is probably due to the fact that the scrawny boys and girls that once held an Atari joystick above sportive activities in their childhood are now all grown up. They are now the generations that hold the keys to the renowned places of this world and it is their voice that decides what will be displayed as a cultural medium.

It is in this spirit of the meek inheriting the earth that the Smithsonian American Art Museum, one of the most prestiged cultural Mecca’s of the world, is now running a video game exhibit. The Art Of Video Games pays tribute to the pioneers of our game industry that either impressed us visually, technically or inspired their peers with their material. This attraction displayed over 40 years of games and 5 eras will offer 80 games prestigious enough to be deemed as art. The 80 games in question have been revealed, with some more eligible than others, which is why I’ll run them down with you and offer my insight from a quarter decade of gaming experience.  We’ll go over each platform individually and see whether the most deserving games are standing at the helm or if any other gems could’ve been scooped up for a spot in the limelight.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]

Note that these games were submitted to a public vote. So if there is no further explanation, that means I either wholeheartedly agree or think there were no real different options to be had. The votes were tallied in 4 divisions, being action, adventure, target and strategy; so some rigid voting could’ve left better decisions out of the question, but we’ll try covering those as well. It does not mean there were not better games, but rather that it is an expectable decision which is more than worthy enough in itself. Also; almost every game, together with their nominees, are of the highest quality of their respective platform, so don’t be upset if specific games get shot down. They’re still awesome games.

For a list of all games and nominees, the Smithsonian offers you this wonderful PDF file. Now enjoy a ride into virtual history!

Era 1: Start!

Atari VCS

·         Pac-Man

·         Pitfall

·         Space Invaders

·         Combat

No real surprises here; it’s not like anyone could come up with games that are even more iconic than these. For those that don’t know Combat, let me offer an insulting comparison: It’s what Red Faction: Battlegrounds should represent, but in a fun Atari world.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Pac-Man and Space Invaders all in one; it will blow your mind!


·         Donkey Kong

·         Pitfall II: Lost Caverns

·         Zaxxon

·         Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Zaxxon was an epic space game created by none other than Sega. *click*

Mattel Intellivision

·         Tron: Maze-Atron

·         Advanced Dungons and Dragons

·         Star Strike

·         Utopia

There is so much nerd gold in this voting. I believe that Gary Gygax, the father of roleplaying and inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, would be proud. Rest in peace, sir; thy will be done.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Utopia: Does this game mayhaps remind you of some other civilized title?

Era 2: 8-Bit

Commodore 64

·         Jumpman

·         The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate

·         Attack of the Mutant Camels

·         Sid Meier’s Pirates!

We all know I have to acknowledge Sid Meier’s Pirates! As the first game to hold me in its grasp for ages, it was undeniable that this would make the cut of the great Commodore 64. Attack of the Mutant Camels is a bit of an oddball and not too sure why it would be chosen over many other games, like Paperboy to name just one, but at least it’s a funny game. Add some Jumpman and this is quite the awesome party, even though you probably would want Zork in there.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Sid Meier's Pirates! And no one was surprised it would make history.

Nintendo Entertainment System

·         Super Mario Brothers 3

·         The Legend of Zelda

·         1943: The Battle of Midway

·         Desert Commander

This is probably the first round of choices that will stump people, but it’s a perfect example of rigid voting choices thwarting perfect games from gaining a spot. Now, don’t hate on the 1942 franchise; those games are incredibly solid and an arcade classic. Additionally, they looked incredible in their 8-bit world. Desert Commander though is a bit of a strange choice and it’s disappointing to see a pioneer game like Archon having to take a back seat. For those of you that don’t know, Archon made chess fun, by implementing combat on the board. But in all, a load of better games could’ve made the cut; too much to even begin picking. My vote would’ve gone to Rescue: The Embassy Mission. Which games would you’ve liked to see here? Let us know, you Nintendo fanatics!

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Show some Legend Of Zelda so the fanboys will be happy, since it made the cut everywhere.

Sega Master System

·         Marble Madness

·         Phantasy Star

·         After Burner

·         Spy vs Spy

This is another unsurprising victory for games like Marble Madness and Phantasy Star, which are both incredible titles. Additionally, Phantasy Star is the visual epitome of the 8-bit era. It’s unbelievable what sheer force the Sega got out of the little Master System. A big shout-out to Rampart for at least making a nominee cut, by combining Tetris and tower defense. Didn’t Slam Bolt Scrappers do this aeons later?

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Phantasy Star is the reason why the Master System is the greatest Sega console.

 Era 3: Bitwars!

Sega Genesis

·         Earthworm Jim

·         Phantasy Star IV

·         Gunstar Heroes

·         Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

There were some tough choices to be made here. In all, at least equally good games received a nomination and thus Ranger X or Herzog Zwei  do not have to feel bad to lose over these winners.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Ranger X; putting your love for Gundam to shame in this intense 2D shooter.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

·         Super Mario World

·         The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

·         Star Fox

·         SimCity

I can only shed two words about this category: Simply Perfect. Kudos to all the winners, but especially the incredibly well executed Sim City, which is probably a surprise for some.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Star Fox/Wing might look like vomit now, but back in the day, it was quite the show. Look!

 Era 4: Transition


·         Doom II

·         Fallout

·         Diablo II

·         StarCraft

Again, these some tough decisions, but again these are iconic games of sheer magnitude that no one could rightfully replace. Don’t hate, appreciate.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
This era was brought to you by Blizzard. Now to wait for a Diablo/ Starcraft mash-up.

Nintendo 64

·         Super Mario 64

·         The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

·         Goldeneye 007

·         Worms Armageddon

You’re probably all thinking why Worms is in there. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the living hell out of Worms on Playstation. So much so, my copy is actually completely worn out now. But there are definitely some more popular fourth choices that could’ve been made, if the categories were a bit looser. Who’s up for some Perfect Dark?

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Perfect Dark: That other first person shooter on Nintendo 64.

Sega Dreamcast

·         Sonic Adventure

·         Shenmue

·         Rez

·         Chu Chu Rocket!

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Shenmue: The completely mundane game that captured absolutely everyone.

Sega Saturn

·         Tomb Raider

·         Panzer Dragoon Saga

·         Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei

·         Sim City 2000

Ok, am I the only one that thinks that the Sega Saturn is the only console to get completely shafted? Though some might speculate this was a failing console, which it most certainly was not, was it not possible to implement more than these multiplatform titles and two of the same game? Tomb Raider and Sim City are great, but they have no place here. Where’s Dragon Force, Nights Into Dreams or Radiant Silvergun? I’m going to need some angry Sega fans to let their voice be heard here.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Dragon Force also existed on Sega Saturn, but 2 Panzer Dragoons are also cool I guess...

Sony PlayStation

·         Metal Gear Solid

·         Final Fantasy VII

·         Einhander

·         Final Fantasy Tactics

This is a decent choice, but a perfect example of fans picking franchise favorites over more deserving titles. Final Fantasy Tactics could’ve easily taken a step back for another great game, since Final Fantasy VII already claimed its place. Perhaps Grand Theft Auto would’ve been a better choice in a broader decision.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
For some of you, the original Grand Theft Auto almost seems like a history lesson already.

Era 5: Next Generation

Microsoft Xbox

·         Halo 2

·         Fable

·         Panzer Dragoon Orta

·         Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

It’s sad to see Splinter Cell and the obligatory Halo take precedence in this pool. Visual and entertaining masterpieces like Jade Empire, Jet Set Radio Future or Psychonauts are left at most in a nominee spot, but deserve better than this. Where is Blinx? No, I’m sorry; I couldn’t say that with a straight face.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Remember this cat? Yeah, me neither, but Blinx was once a mascot. Now he's Master Chief.

Microsoft Xbox 360

·         BioShock

·         Mass Effect 2

·         Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved

·         Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II

Categories make for strange choices, don’t you think?

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Geometry Wars: ART! ART! AAAAART!

Modern Windows

·         Portal

·         Fallout 3

·         flOw

·         Minecraft

Perhaps this is just my elitist PC blood boiling, but they really couldn’t come up with anything better than flOw; an artsy semi-game with sleep inducing powers? From the thousands upon thousands of modern games the impressive PC platform spews out, there weren’t any better options? There are too many great titles to choose from, but this is a very disappointing choice indeed. Which games would you’ve liked to see?

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
What? This flOw made the cut? This is madness! This will not stand!

Nintendo GameCube

·         Metroid Prime 2: Echos

·         The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

·         Star Fox: Assault

·         Pikmin 2

Why is Metroid Prime 2 chosen over the original? Or why is Star Fox Assault in there? They’re not bad choices, rather odd ones. Oh and Baiten Kaitos and Doshin the Giant called; they both want their innovative designs back.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Baiten Kaitos is easily one of the most artsy games to be created ever!

Nintendo Wii

·         Super Mario Galaxy 2

·         The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

·         Boom Blox

·         Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure

I must admit, I didn’t even know what those last two titles were, let alone know what their merit was. That should speak for itself.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
At least Wii Sports didn't make it. Only your mom will be upset at that.

Sony PlayStation 2

·         Shadow of the Colossus

·         Okami

·         Gradius V

·         Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

The Playstation 2 has over a thousand games in its library and most of those have a decent fan base, so most people will probably be upset with any decisions made here. I’m one of those people that feels that games like Star Ocean or Odin Sphere could’ve easily fit a void or two in here.

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
Star Ocean: Until The End Of Time is still number one in my book.

Sony PlayStation 3

·         Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

·         Heavy Rain

·         Flower

·         Brutal Legend

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]

This is the Uncharted guy. He seems to be losing it, poor dude.

Additional Games(available for short play in exhibit, not included in vote)

·         Pac-Man (Arcade)

·         Super Mario Brothers

·         The Secret of Monkey Island

·         Myst

·         World of Warcraft

NoobFeed Feature - Smithsonian Art of Video Games Breakdown [Gamez 'R Art]
No exhibition would be complete without the juggernaut World of Warcraft, again by Blizzard.

That’s all the games they have.

Are you content with the choices? Let me know!


Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

comments powered by Disqus

  • Boo!! Star Ocean 3 should have been in there!!! but the choices were still great. Chrono Trigger should have made it for the SNES.

    Posted May 07, 2011

  • My elitist PC blood boils along with yours. Those are horrid choices, save maybe Portal. It's probably the fanboy blood boiling in me as well, but I think Stalker is way more relevant on an aesthetic level than Fallout.

    Posted May 07, 2011

  • I think Fallout is a decent enough winner. Its basic premise of trying to find the key towards restructuring a demolished Earth post-apocalypse has always been a great concept and its world has always been portrayed accurately as such. I get Minecraft's appeal of creating a universe, it's just strange there going so recent as to implement an unfinished game and there are better choices in world creator instances.

    Games like Civilization IV, Limbo, Braid or perhaps even FEAR deserved a place on there. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    Posted May 08, 2011

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Genres: Artcile
Themes: Feature, Editorial, Interviews, Opinion Pieces
Release Date: 2009-02-14

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