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Top 10 Most Significant Games Since 1800

The games which have had the biggest impact on popular culture and game design.


When I started my list of the 50 most historically and culturally significant games published since 1800, I envisioned it as a top 10 list. But it wanted to keep growing and growing, so I let it.

And so here, in a completely separate list, are my picks for the top 10 most significant games published since 1800.

1. Monopoly (1935)

Image courtesy of Hasbro / Parker Brothers

For 2 to 8 players, designed by Charles Darrow, published by Parker Brothers.
Not much needs to be said about Monopoly, the best-selling proprietary (non-public domain) game ever published. If it's owned by more people around the world than any other game on this list (and it is), and it's been played by more people than any other game on this list (and it has), then how can it not occupy the top spot?

2. Dungeons & Dragons (1973)

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro

For 2 or more players, designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, originally published by TSR.
Before Dungeons & Dragons, there was no roleplaying game market. After D&D, the term "RPG" became forever a part of our culture. It would be difficult to overstate the influence that Dungeons & Dragons has had on pop culture. It is the ancestor not only of countless tabletop games, but also numerous online games, including World of Warcraft.

3. Acquire (1962)

Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro

For 2 to 6 players, designed by Sid Sackson, originally published by 3M.
Acquire is the best-known game designed by one of the true giants of game design, Sid Sackson. When it was first published by Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing (3M) in the early 1960s, it introduced a new wave of strategy games to many adults. Acquire has been published in too many editions to count, in countries all over the world. It remains popular in strategy game circles, and I very much suspect that it always will.

4. Risk (1959)

Risk - 2008 Edition - Board Game
Image courtesy of Hasbro

For 2 to 6 players, designed by Albert Lamorisse and Michael I. Levin, published by Parker Brothers.
I have no doubt that there have been more games based on Monopoly than Risk (including those published by Hasbro and those published by other companies). But the games based on Risk have been, by and large, much more interesting. The game's central mechanic -- moving armies into a territory and rolling dice to see what happens -- is simple and in its own way quite elegant. But what makes Risk deserving of a spot on this list is the fact that it introduced countless people to the pleasures of battle games.

5. Settlers of Catan (1995)

The Settlers of Catan
Image courtesy of Mayfair Games

For 3 to 4 players, designed by Klaus Teuber, published by Mayfair Games.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you like board games, you should play The Settlers of Catan. It's a unique and tremendously fun gaming experience. The Settlers of Catan, with millions of copies sold, is the most successful designer game ever published.

6. Scrabble (1948)

Scrabble Diamond Edition
Image courtesy of Hasbro

For 2 to 4 players, designed by Alfred Mosher Butts, originally published by Selchow & Righter.
The most popular word game in the world, Scrabble is more popular now than ever. Technically, some people may play Words With Friends on their iPhone or Android, but it's really Scrabble. This crossword game has delighted players for generations, and that will not end anytime soon.

7. Magic: the Gathering (1993)

Magic: the Gathering - Card
Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro

For 2 players, designed by Richard Garfield, published by Wizards of the Coast.
What's a collectible card game? Before 1993, very few people would be able to answer that question. Today, millions of people are familiar with the genre because of Magic: the Gathering. Even non-collectible deck-building games like the Spiel des Jahres-winning Dominion owe a large debt to M:tG.

8. Trivial Pursuit (1982)

Trivial Pursuit Greatest Hits
Image courtesy of Hasbro

For 2 to 24 players, designed by Chris Haney and Scott Abbot, originally published by Horn Abbott Ltd.
Few games are as identified with a particular decade the way Trivial Pursuit is connected to the 1980s. It was a fad, but it also had staying power. And it reinvigorated the genre of trivia games in a massive way.

9. The Mansion of Happiness (1843)

The Mansion of Happiness
Photo © Erik Arneson

For 2 to 4 players, designed by Anne W. Abbott, published by Parker Brothers.
There's nothing particularly notable about the gameplay of The Mansion of Happiness, but the fact that it is the first commercially produced American board game is enough to earn it a spot on this top 10 list.

10. Crokinole (1876)

Crokinole - Northstar Board by Carl and Stan Hilinski
Image courtesy of Carl and Stan Hilinski

For 2 to 4 players, in the public domain.
I wrestled with which game to include in this final spot before settling on Crokinole. I chose it because Crokinole is the grandfather of countless dexterity games. And it doesn't hurt one bit that Crokinole is also a brilliant game on its own merits, still played by many enthusiasts today, including me.

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