World Video Game Hall of Fame Announces 2021 Finalists

Which video games will make it into the World Video Game Hall of Fame this May? Can Carmen Sandiego find the way? Will Call of Duty battle to victory?

The Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York, has announced 12 finalists for induction in 2021: Animal Crossing, Call of Duty, FarmVille, FIFA International Soccer, Guitar Hero, Mattel Football, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Pole Position, Portal, StarCraft, Tron, and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

The World Video Game Hall of Fame recognizes electronic games that meet the following criteria: icon-status — the game is widely recognized and remembered; longevity — the game is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over time; geographical reach — the game meets the above criteria across international boundaries; and influence — the game has exerted significant influence on the design and development of other games, on other forms of entertainment, or on popular culture and society in general.

Fans may vote for their favorite finalists from March 18 to March 25 as part of a “Player’s Choice” ballot at The three games that receive the most public votes will form one ballot and will join the other ballots submitted by members of the International Selection Advisory Committee, which is made up of journalists and scholars familiar with the history of video games and their role in society. (The public, collectively, will have the weight of one judge.) The final inductees will be announced in a virtual ceremony by The Strong museum on Thursday, May 6, at 10:30 a.m.

The shortlist follows the jump.

  • Animal Crossing: Nintendo’s Animal Crossing debuted in 2001 and found mass appeal with its open-ended social simulation and leisurely gameplay. Players took on the role of a human moving into a village filled with anthropomorphic animals. The game had no specific objective, giving players the freedom to complete activities and collect objects as they liked. The mellow gameplay proved a success with casual and advanced gamers alike, and it bred numerous sequels. The game’s latest installment for the Nintendo Switch proved a huge hit during the pandemic isolation of 2020, breaking the record for the most digital downloads of a console game in a single month (31 million worldwide).  
  • Call of Duty: Released by Infinity Ward/Activision in 2003, Call of Duty helped popularize the cinematic, first-person war genre. Set during World War II, the game combined fast-pace action with a deep, rich narrative. Its squad-based, multiplayer mode provided a reason for gamers to return again and again. Call of Duty continues to generate sequels and spinoffs, and it was the catalyst for one of the best-selling electronic game franchises of all time with more than 300 million total units sold.
  • FarmVille: This free-to-play game from developer Zynga changed the video game industry and how people play online with its debut in 2009. Millions created their first social media account just to play this simple Flash game on Facebook. The basic mechanics of the game—plow, plant, and harvest to expand your agrarian business—charmed a wide range of social media users and made “gamers” out of people of all ages. In 2010, a year after launch, FarmVille boasted nearly 83 million active users per month, and it was succeeded by several sequels.
  • FIFA International Soccer: FIFA International Soccer was not the first sports simulation video game—nor even the first one about soccer—but it is the most popular sports game franchise of all time, with sales continually bolstered by annual releases from publisher Electronic Arts. First launched in 1993, the game garnered worldwide success and launched a franchise that has sold more than 325 million games by 2021.
  • Guitar Hero: Launched in 2005, Harmonix’s Guitar Hero challenged players to unleash their inner rock star by following on-screen notes and strumming to the beat of popular music on a plastic guitar. Its wide appeal, licensed music, and social gameplay spawned other similar titles, including the popular Rock Band. Activision, which acquired the game’s rights, released versions of Guitar Hero for nearly every platform, including home consoles, computers, and handheld and mobile devices. The Guitar Hero series has sold more than 25 million units worldwide and more than 60 million tracks, earning more than $2 billion.
  • Mattel Football: Released in 1977, Mattel Electronics Football was the first blockbuster handheld electronic game and introduced millions to portable gaming. Its popularity generated an entire segment of electronic toys and games and paved the way for handheld systems like Nintendo’s Game Boy and today’s mobile devices.  In 2010, Time magazine named it one of its “All Time 100 Gadgets.”
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator: For nearly four decades, Microsoft Flight Simulator has provided millions of players endless hours of game play by providing highly realistic but intuitive recreations of real-life airplanes. Its simple premise and accessible content disguises the advanced programming that has made it so successful. Since its launch in 1982, the game has been regularly updated and remains the most popular, longest lasting, and most influential flying sim of all time.
  • Pole Position: First hitting arcades in 1982, Pole Position motored to the top of the racing game genre with its realistic gameplay. The game came in two configurations, and both included a steering wheel, gear shift, and gas pedal, thrusting players into the driver’s seat. Created by Namco and distributed in North America by Atari, the game became the highest grossing arcade game of 1983 in the United States. Atari ported the game to console systems, and it has been rereleased numerous times in the past three decades. It inspired many of the 3D racing games that followed.
  • Portal: Released by Valve Corporation in 2007 as part of a five-game compilation entitled The Orange Box, Portal became an unexpected breakout, often receiving more critical acclaim than the other four titles combined. Viewed as a major advance in puzzle games, Portal provided a unique gaming experience accompanied by witty dialogue, an ever-twisting plotline, and unforgettable characters. It sold a respectable four million copies, but it was most lauded for its technical and design achievements.
  • StarCraft: California-based developer Blizzard Entertainment took the real-time strategy genre to new heights in 1998 with the debut of StarCraft. The single-player mode of the immersive, science-fiction game proved popular, but the multiplayer mode, which included a ladder ranking system, turned it into the largest e-sports title of its day.  Starcraft won multiple Game of the Year Awards, and generated its own lines of novels, graphic novels, licensed toys, clothing, and gaming accessors.
  • Tron: Midway’s Tron was the first arcade game paired with a Hollywood movie. When it entered the arcade in 1982, its combination of challenging gameplay, innovative cabinet design, and unique control grip made it a hit with gamers. The film entered theaters two months later, riding on the back of the game’s buzz, but the game ultimately outshone the movie, earning more than $60 million to the film’s $33 million in the U.S.. The film and game inspired a new film version in 2010—which spurred a new wave of console, PC, and mobile games—proving its cultural relevance even decades later.
  • Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?: Released by Brøderbund in 1995, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? spawned one of the best-selling “edutainment” franchises, combining education and entertainment. Designed for the first generation of graphic-enabled personal computers, the title made learning world geography fun for millions of students as they searched for the whereabouts of the mysterious Carmen Sandiego. The game, which launched several sequels, also inspired a hit show on American Public Broadcasting in the 1990s and an animated series on Netflix (2019-2021)—helping propel Carmen Sandiego and her world-traveling ways into the cultural zeitgeist.

[Based on a press release.]

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8 thoughts on “World Video Game Hall of Fame Announces 2021 Finalists

  1. In the mid-to-late 1970s my folks bought us a primitive console game. Although I’ve done some googling, I’ve not been able to figure out who made it (alas, my memory of the console is muddy after all these years), but it hooked up to the TV and you could play Pong (single player and multi-player) and a primitive racing game where you “drove” an Indy car by dodging left and right as other Indy cars came down from the top of the screen; you were “passing” them. The other cars dropped down; pardon me, you “accelerated,” faster and faster until you crashed. I can’t recall if there was a way to control your acceleration or not…. (The Indy car graphics were not much more elaborate than the pong paddles; just white slightly tapered rectangles with square “wheels” at the corners, to my recollection.) I don’t believe there was any way to add games, unlike the cartridge game consoles that came out later. Or if there was a way, my folks didn’t buy any for it….)

  2. My roommate at camp (don’t ask what kind of camp) had the Mattel football game. We got so good on the basic mode that it was a matter of time management so you would score and use up as much time as possible so your opponent couldn’t score. Amazing how much fun you could have with three rows of LEDs.

    For Tron, I’d pick the Discs of Tron which was the sequel to the original game. In arcades, they had versions with enclosed cabinets that was as close to VR you were going to get in the 80s.

    I’m not sure which of the shortlist I’d pick. Most are iconic in their own way. Some like Call of Duty, Animal Crossing, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and FIFA went on to be huge gaming franchises. Others like Portal are very inventive and added new game play elements.

    He just smiled and gave me a pixel scroll sandwich

  3. @CassyB There were a bunch of Pong-like arcade games that came out in the mid-70s. (Wikipedia lists 902 of what they consider First Generation home video game systems.) Racing games were a lot rarer than Pong variants which often just changed the number of paddles and called it some other sport.

    It might be URL’s Video Action IV Indy 500 which came out in 1976. Someone has a YouTube video up here which shows the pong games and the racing games. Racing game starts at about the 3 minute mark and you may wish to turn down your volume as it’s a bit loud and annoying.

  4. They’re doing a good job of maintaining their eye for quality – I’ve barely quibbled with any of their shortlisted candidates to date.
    (Today, I’d vote for Pole Position, but that will change tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.)

  5. I remember playing Guitar Hero at a party and then the day after buying a Playstation just to play it. A fantastic game.

  6. I remember taking my first Guitar Hero controller back to the store where I bought it, convinced there must be something wrong with it because I was out of time with all the notes. Turns out the problem was not with the controller….

  7. @Jack Lint, oh my god. I think you’ve found it! That very much matches my memory (other than I hadn’t remembered color, but forty years of seeing black-and-white pong images may have de-colored my memory).

    Thank you so much!

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