I have spent my adult life examining the art and craft of game design; to demystify a field that even professionals within it still have trouble fully grasping. Through my site Game-Wisdom, I have literally interviewed developers from all around the world. From those just starting out, to established veterans like Jon Shafer, Chris Park, Zach Barth, and more. I have lost count of the number of developers I've spoken to who appreciate being able to talk to someone who speaks and understands the language of game design.

20 Essential Games to Study by Joshua Bycer

The purpose of this book is to look over the past 35 years of games to discuss titles whose design deserves to be studied by anyone with an interest in game design. While there are plenty of books that focus on the technical side of Game Development, there are few that study the nature of game design itself. Featuring a mix of console and PC offerings, I purposely left off some of the easy choices (Mario, Starcraft, Call of Duty, Overwatch) to focus on games that stood out thanks to their designs.


Key Features
• An informative breakdown focusing on the design and gameplay of successful games
• Written to be useful for students or designers starting out in game development
• Books focused specifically on design are rare
• Perfect for students and professionals alike, or can be read for the nostalgia and history


Anyone with a passing interest in games grasps the basics of influential titles such as Mario and Zelda. In his research, Bycer left out these and other easy choices to share other game designs that have stood the test of time. – David L. Craddock





Welcome to my first book on 20 essential games to study. I have always had an interest in game design and being able to talk about the art and craft of it. Despite so many games being released, it can be very hard to break down specifically why certain games work and others don't. It's important to study why certain games have stood the test of time. The goal of this book was to pick 20 games spanning the decades and platforms that are worthy for anyone to study with an interest in game design, whether you're an experienced developer or a student.

While this list certainly has blockbusters from several major studios, I also wanted games that became cult classics due to their innovative takes on design. Great games have a sense of timelessness, and if you did not grow up playing the ones listed here, this book will expose you to some of the all-time best titles; games like Super Metroid, X-Com UFO Defense, Devil May Cry 3, and more. Game design is as much an art as it is a craft, and it's not something that can easily be expressed in words. Throughout this book, I'm going to go into detail about where the craftsmanship comes in and what truly distinguishes the all-time greats from everyone else.

Please let me know what you think at josh@game-wisdom.com, as I would love to continue this series with additional games or focusing on specific genres.