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Most American Games of All Time

In honor of the Fourth of July holiday we give you a list of the games we feel best portray the great ups and downs of our great country.

By Carrie Gouskos and Jeff Gerstmann - posted July 4th, 2006

4th of July is a very special time for Americans. It's a time that we get to sit around in plastic loungers, drinking beer and incurring second-degree burns from stupid fireworks tricks. Oh, we also get to celebrate the birth of our country.

For some of us, the birth of America is a very important time, for others, we couldn't be less impressed. But the beautiful thing about America is that even if we're disgusted by some of the ugly parts of our past, we're entitled to enjoy those opinions and celebrate them. Well, that's the idea anyway.

The following is a list of the games we feel best portray the great ups and downs of our great country. We may be a little irreverent at times, but America, we love you just the same. Happy Birthday.

The Americanest!

Bad Dudes

No Caption Provided Publisher: Data East
Developer: Data East
Release Date: 1989
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The year was 1986, and rap legends Run DMC came out with "Peter Piper", a song that would change the American lexicon for decades to come. Ahem. "He's a big bad wolf in your neighborhood. Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good." It was this humble beginning that fostered the title of Data East's anthology about two simple American heroes, Bad Dudes.

Bypassing subtlety and going straight for the jugular of American stereotypes, Bad Dudes is about two guys with the most American Gladiator-esque names this side of Sabre, Blade, and Stryker. Their task? To save the country from foreign (and by foreign, we mean the deadly ninjii) invasion. And who are they to protect? There's no damsel in distress here, no. They must save the very icon of independence, the father of freedom, the pater of patriotism, the president of the United States, who, just happens to be modeled after one of the most American presidents in history, President Ronnie (W. Reagan).

The foreign hordes are seemingly endless, but success is sweet, since you can top off your adventure by catching a burger with President Ronnie at the end. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Deer Hunter

No Caption Provided Publisher: WizardWorks
Developer: Sun Storm
Release Date: Dec 31, 1997
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There are exactly three sights that epitomize the American lifestyle: the view of the Lincoln Memorial at nighttime, the Stars and Stripes waving in a cool summer breeze, and crosshairs bearing down on a helpless deer grazing in the wilderness. Deer Hunter, the game, is primarily devoted to the last one, although it inarguably captures the essence of all three.

Bambi beware.
Bambi beware.

One of the best-selling games of all time, Deer Hunter has, for years, flown off the shelves of Wal-Marts and Costcos across the land and into the hands of the eager mammal-slaying masses. In the game, you can mimic the great American pastime of hunting by donning your camouflage gear, assigning relevant statistics to your hunter, and heading out into the classic American wilderness. While there, you must track deer using a number of different tools, overcome the obstacles of weather or blown calls on your deer horn, and make sure you properly disable as many four-legged foes as possible.

Since Deer Hunter is tremendously boring, it's not entirely clear why so many people in this fine country have latched onto it and made it one of our national video games. Perhaps because it serves as a model for the fundamental American rights, to bear arms, to take overpopulation into your own hands, and to rough it out in the wilderness on your own. Or something.

Duke Nukem 3D

No Caption Provided

Publisher: GT Interactive
Developer: 3D Realms
Release Date: Jan 31, 1996
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There are few game characters who epitomize the classic American male macho archetype better than Duke Nukem, star of approximately three games (spin-offs, map packs, mobile games, and non-existent sequels notwithstanding), but it was most notably Duke Nukem 3D, the first-person shooter, which launched Duke Nukem from part-time action hero to household name. Duke is bona fide all-American in all his crew-cut, steroid-induced, grimacing glory. Put it this way: Duke Nukem is the kind of tough that demands the sort of silly Internet fads typically reserved for suckers like Chuck Norris.

Part lover of ladies, part misogynist, Duke Nukem famously defends the barely clothed women of Earth from alien invasion by using an arsenal's worth of guns against them (both the women and the aliens). The character, though not based on anyone in particular, brings to mind the entire Jean-Claude Van Damme catalog-- simultaneously--especially the dancing scene in Kickboxer. With much homage to Army of Darkness, Duke Nukem tops the entire run-and-gun-and-oogle experience by shouting such memorably stolen lines as "Come get some!" and "Hail to the king, baby!"

And he travels by jetpack. If that doesn't scream "fear of male inadequacy euphemism" to you, then you're just not paying attention.

Ford vs. Chevy

No Caption Provided

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Games
Release Date: Nov 9, 2005
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Throughout America's history, there have been plenty of long, drawn-out, and bloody conflicts. But arguably, even those battles pale in comparison to America's longest-running war. Costing billions of dollars annually and often causing Civil War-like splits along family lines, the ongoing squabble between Ford and Chevy is currently the most serious problem we, as a nation, must face. But unfortunately, there's no end in sight.

Another casualty of this war: horrific paint jobs
Another casualty of this war: horrific paint jobs

Thankfully, there's now a way to reenact several of the key battles in this dramatic war with Ford vs. Chevy, which was released on consoles last year. The two-sided battle raged onto our television screens, earning a whopping 5.0 from GameSpot. Unfortunately, this barely mediocre game does a poor job of representing this uniquely American conflict, with only a team-racing mode thrown in to make it seem slightly different from all of the other run-of-the-mill racers out there. With this game, you can experience epic battles like Camaro vs. Mustang, F150 vs. SSR, even Model T vs. Chevy 490, all without having to set foot into an auto shop or bar. Truly, this is the way that all future wars should be fought. Just, you know...don't invite Toyota or anything.

The poor quality of the game has no bearing on the internal turmoil that burns deeply inside each and every one of us. Which side are you on? And if you say "Mopar," just know that we're going to break a beer bottle over your head.

Freedom Fighters

No Caption Provided

Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Io Interactive
Release Date: Oct 1, 2003
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Since the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of the Cold War, American pop culture has been absolutely obsessed with the concept of evil Russians who are determined to rule the world, invade American soil, and drop the hammer (and sickle) on the free world. One need only look to such classic films as Red Dawn, Jumpin' Jack Flash, or Spies Like Us for incontrovertible proof of this. While the Russians aren't quite the bad guys they used to be back in the '80s, it didn't stop Io Interactive from spinning us a Red Dawn-like yarn about a Russian invasion and the scrappy group of American citizens who band together to form a resistance movement and deal the invading forces a major blow.

How do they deal this blow? With the blessing of the Second Amendment, baby! Though perhaps the right to bear arms doesn't include the right to blow up Russian-controlled gas stations and carry around with a bunch of hand grenades and all the other firepower that Freedom Fighters offers, we're pretty sure the Founding Fathers would do the same thing if they were in the shoes of plumber-turned-rebel Chris Stone.

Madden NFL 06

No Caption Provided

Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: Aug 8, 2005
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America is sort of like Burger King: We want things done our way and, as such, we aren't about to conform to standards set by other countries. After all, there's a reason you still run the mile in gym class and not the "1610 meters." So is it any wonder that a bunch of Yanks took the name of the world's most popular sport, used it to describe a completely different game, and redefined the sporting landscape in the US? Regardless of what the rotisserie baseball geeks will tell you, it's the NFL that is America's true sporting pastime.

And because of that, John Madden--in all his turkey-duck-chicken-stuffing glory--has become an American icon. Talk about a resume: Super Bowl-winning coach with the Oakland Raiders; a legendary broadcasting presence on CBS, Fox, ABC, and, soon, NBC; and, oh yeah, it's his name that just happens to be on the best-selling video game series of all time. So raise your pom-poms, Turducken legs, or the Green Bay Packers cozy that protects your favorite game-day beverage, and let's all salute the Coach together. Because about the only thing that could make him cooler now is if his lower half were replaced by tank treads. We've got our fingers crossed.

Oregon Trail

No Caption Provided

Publisher: MECC
Developer: MECC
Release Date: 1985
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Americans of a certain age, namely the children of the Reagan-era '80s educational system, received their first classroom computer experience almost universally with the Apple II edutainment games from developer MECC. The most famous of these, by far, is Oregon Trail, a brief overview of the life of 19th-century American settlers on a trip along the titular road, which stretches across the American heartland from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City.

Oregon Trail may very well be considered the epitome of American games, used nationwide as a teaching tool to model an important part of the early American settler society. Players were memorably tasked with making their way across the country by Conestoga wagon (the only way to travel!), maintaining the health of their family members, taking care of their wagons, and hunting for food and provisions along the way. Failure to properly manage the trip resulted in death, and the countless tombstones that littered the path of the Oregon Trails in elementary schools across the land were inscribed with heartfelt messages that depicted mankind's constant battle with mortality in three simple words, "Pepperoni and Mushrooms."


No Caption Provided

Publisher: Bootleg
Developer: Namco
Release Date: 1981
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The year was 1980, and arcades had certainly started to take hold, but the appeal was still very narrow. Jean-jacketed thugs with switchblade combs were running rampant on the games of the early '80s, stealing quarters and sneering all the while. To put it mildly, if that business was going to overcome the pool-hall stigma it received during the pinball era, it was going to need to become something that the whole family could enjoy. And the game that made that all possible is the game that effectively brought video gaming to the American mainstream: the Namco-developed, Midway-licensed maze game, Pac-Man.

Billy Mitchell holds the world record for both Pac-Man and days spent wearing an American flag tie.
Billy Mitchell holds the world record for both Pac-Man and days spent wearing an American flag tie.

It was developed in Japan, and sure, it caused a real stir over there. But in the States, Pac-Man caused the first real video game craze, absolutely flooding arcades with something they probably rarely saw back then...women. And those women brought quarters. And they waited in lines just to play Pac-Man. Before long, the little yellow ghostbuster was big enough to set off one of the most American things that can possibly happen: a full-fledged merchandising craze. T-shirts, mugs, clocks, trading cards, scratch-off games, tabletop video games, a board game, a Saturday morning cartoon show, a breakfast cereal, and yes, about a billion sequels. Pac-Man was even named Man of the Year. Well, by Mad magazine, anyway.

In 1982, one-hit wonders Buckner & Garcia reached number eight on the US charts with a song titled "Pac-Man Fever," a song so American that it might as well be the national anthem.

Railroad Tycoon

No Caption Provided

Publisher: MicroProse
Developer: MPS Labs
Release Date: 1990
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Few things are more American than the American Dream, Horatio Alger's noble belief that hard work and determination is the surefire recipe for financial success. Over the years, Americans like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie perfected this lifestyle, rising quickly to the top of the heap and making the big bucks. You know, so that nobody else could.

Railroad Tycoon is the video game embodiment of this principal, putting you in the shoes of a budding railroad entrepreneur (you can imagine you're the young Cornelius Vanderbilt, if that's your thing) and letting you build a huge train empire. You must manage money, resources, and budget your workforces like the great industrial capitalists of US history.

The downsides to a failed railroad system in this game might not be on par with the downsides of failed capitalism in the early 20th century in the US, but if you can convince your younger sister or brother to do the more tedious tasks, like laying track for you while you smoke Havanas and drink scotch, then you will do your forebears proud, all the same.

WWE WrestleMania 21

No Caption Provided

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Studio Gigante
Release Date: Apr 20, 2005
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Some of our greatest American heroes made their bones in the squared circle, defending their honor in full-on extreme unarmed combat--true Americans like Triple H, John Cena, and everyone's favorite, the Canadian Crippler, Chris Benoit. OK, wait, forget that last one.

While Canada's wrestling roots certainly run deep, the world of professional wrestling is a lot like apple pie in that it's about as American as you can get. Plus, it reflects the country's melting-pot roots, bringing in international greats like Nikolai Volkoff, The Mountie, and the Ugandan Headhunter, Kamala. OK, fine, Kamala was actually from Mississippi. You got us again.

In America, we like a woman who can take a good punch.
In America, we like a woman who can take a good punch.

Whether it's guys cutting themselves on the forehead with tiny blades and puffing up their cheeks to make a head wound gush blood, or the ever-popular practice of stomping on the mat with your foot every time you punch to make the punch sound like it's creating a booming noise, it's hard not to love "sports entertainment" in some way. Of course, capturing all of the excitement of the in-ring action and outside-the-ring drama is something that has eluded most game developers.

These days, the only viable wrestling game series is THQ's SmackDown! series, developed by the fine folks at Yuke's in Japan. Prior to that, though, each console got its own game, and the Xbox received the last "made-in-America" wrestling game, WWE Wrestlemania 21. Unfortunately, the product was released with a fairly severe online bug, though even when fixed, the game was really lacking. But while the best wrestling games may be coming out of Japan these days, Vince McMahon's WWE is nothing if not rabidly American. After all, how else can you explain the nearly insane amount of time "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan is getting on WWE's TV programming these days? Hooooooo!

Make Your Voice Heard

Do you have your own definition of American games that you'd like to share? Give us your thoughts on the long history of American games whether they're truly patriotic or dubious by dropping a comment below. Please adhere to the topic and keep the discussion civil.

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