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Nike to sports, McDonald’s to hamburgers, Apple iPod to mp3 players; almost every major consumer industry has a handful of iconic companies that embody almost everything that industry is about. But what about the video gaming industry? An industry that has existed for decades, is the love of schoolkids everywhere and whose subject matter sparks the interest of art galleries, movies, the Guinness Book of World Records, must have icons of its own!

This list hopes to pick out the icons that not necessarily look the coolest or the most beautiful, but are recognisable and punchy like the Nike tick.

Number 5: The NES Controller


Everyone who plays games knows what the NES controller looks like, even if they haven’t used one! This highly unergonomic but punchy device began a revolution in gaming for the masses. While not the first gamepad, it was the first to take off and become popular.

Prior to the NES controller, gamers had two button joysticks, remote controls, even keyboards with teletype printers to receive game messages. The ease with which we kick back and relax in our couches with our wireless controllers was done almost as well two decades ago with this controller. In addition, wIth its bold black Dpad and bright red button design, it definitely stood out from the pack, and its simple image remains burned into the heartfelt memories of many millions of veteran gamers today.

Number 4: The Space Invader


Just like every other popular icon, the Space Invaders arcade game concept is one that has been burned into the public consciousness. Everyone knows that you’re a little ship that shoots these guys. What is most interesting about the space invader however, is that it is the only icon in this list…with multiple forms.

Few people have a solid idea of what the Space Invader looks like, but everyone knows a space invader when they see one. This room for interpretation has allowed the Space Invader to literally invade our world, from crop circles, memes, even underwear! A truly iconic piece of gaming history that is worthy of this list.

Number 3: The T-shaped Tetris block


In spite of its relatively tender young age of 23, Tetris is a game that feels as old as time. It has graced almost every gaming platform and operating system conceived since its birth, and whose concept is so simple it makes an ideal practice piece for fledgling gaming programmers.

It has a mental quality named after it, features prominently in Japanese television, and may even cure post traumatic stress! More importantly though, of all the different tetrominoes, why the T-shaped one?

Because it’s a T which stands for Tetris!

Number 2: Mario Mario

Mario Mario

Quite possibly the most popular of video game icons today, Mario has been around for so long and invaded so much of our culture, Nintendo may have created someone more badass than Chuck Norris! Mario has appeared in hundreds of games crossing multiple genres from beat-em-ups, racing and even RPGs, creating some of the most memorable games in videogame history.

The Mario theme is one of the best known songs in gaming history, Mario’s italian accent is one of the most distinctive voices in gaming history, and even his game’s sound effects have more punch and notoriety than the rev of a Harley Davidson! What icon could possibly beat that?

Number 1: Pacman


Now this, is an icon. Everything an icon requires – simplicity, distinctiveness, global recognition, if there’s any icon to represent all of gaming, it’s Pac-Man. But you may protest, why did he beat Mario? First, unlike Mario, Pac-man is so simple that he could actually be a logo – not a mascot!  Second, while many may think of Mario to represent all of gaming, he can’t be because he’s Nintendo’s mascot!

Playstation, Xbox, PC, mobile and every other form of gamer needs an icon as well, and Pac-man is the only icon with enough character and distinctiveness to do so…without any loyalty to a specific platform.

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  1. Totally agree with the list. Awesome job!

  2. avatar Chris

    Wow, great article; the way you layed it out and then explained in detail and to great effect on how all these icons have come to shape our gaming culture and history, great work, I wanna’ see more!

    • avatar WeinerMan

      Sorry I’m late, on the way to school I saw a giant fntoailg ring in the air. I touched it and suddenly I was spinning in a trippy maze until I somehow found my way to the centre and collected some shiny thing that looked like candy. Then I fell out of the ring and hit my head on the pavement, and I only regained conciousness half an hour later. I went home, and had a lie down until I felt better, then came back.(Not read all of the other entries, so if this has been done, you may slap me)

  3. avatar Jacob

    Um…Xbox has a mascot…Master Chief. What are you smoking? The PC does too…Gordon Freeman. The Playstation has too many top titles to really make any of them stand out. I guess the Helghast will suffice though.

  4. avatar Jacob




  5. Master Chief might serve as a mascot for Xbox360. Gordon Freeman might be able to serve as a mascot for PC gaming. Kratos might be able to serve as a mascot for Playstation gaming.

    But for the same reason as Mario, they cannot represent all of gaming because of that affiliation. This list chooses Icons. Mario was included because even though he is a mascot and not an icon, his history was too long to ignore. None of those characters has such history.

  6. avatar Matt

    Gordon can’t be a mascot for PC, Half-Life has seen SEVERAL console releases. I agree to all except #5! I’m not really sure what would fill it’s place, but I know for sure I never think about that when I think about gaming.

  7. Hi Matt,

    That’s precisely why it’s so low on the list. The Nintendo Entertainment System was the entry point of a huge number of today’s mature console gamers, and the controller was its logo. The NES controller defeated the Sony Dualshock for that position purely because of its simpler, more punchy design which is better suited as an icon for gaming.

  8. Great article Hung, it was a short and sweet read, but feels so big.

  9. Thanks Adam, I was very very concerned that I didn’t “pad” this article enough, I’m glad I made the right choice. :]

  10. People need to realize that recent gaming characters/designs that have had 1, maybe 2 games are not “Icons” yet. Look up the definition of an icon.

  11. avatar WHAT?!

    No Sonic? This list is bunk.

    • avatar Kolchi

      Can I do multiple?1. Sorry psfreosor, homework is way past uncool! 2. Sorry sir, I was at the’s my was robotocized..*sobbing*..they say it’s irreversible! So I had to be by his side the whole time so I didn’t do my homework..I hope you’ll understand.. 3. Sorry sir, I was busy trying to collect the chaos emeralds and freeing animals from robots trying to stop this fat guy from taking over the know how it is.

  12. avatar Solstice Zero

    Good list. Keep up the good work.

  13. avatar poster

    my post got deleted i love fun

  14. avatar Kevin

    Sonic definately should have been on there.

  15. I LOVE Sonic. I was EXTREMELY sad to have to remove him from this list. He was removed because although he is a fantastically well designed character (I greatly prefer his sleek look to that of the rotund Mario), fact is, his legacy is fading away. He doesn’t have “cult” status anywhere except within the gamer community. The general population doesn’t know him anymore.

  16. @ Jacob

    The Helghast? Okay…

    I can show my mom a picture of Pac-Man and Mario and she’ll know who they are instantly.

    I could probably walk down the street and show a picture of a helghast to 100 people and maybe 5 of them will give me an answer and even so, that answer will probably be something like…

    “Uhh… a ghost monster from da playstation…”

  17. avatar Pff

    this list is beyond your time

  18. Would have been cool to have the Atari logo but it’s not with this article just not right.

  19. avatar OkiDoki

    Wheres Sonic?

    • avatar Dontae

      I love Facebook for that reason too! Over the sumemr I hosted an Arbonne party for a friend who was selling it. The attendees were a girl I went to high school with that I hadn’t seen since then, my Mom, an online friend I’d never met in real life, a woman I met through a meetup group and a family friend. It was crazy, but so fun to have all those world collide!

  20. avatar nick13b

    Fist of all great article I think it does a great job at listing the best icons. Show mario and pac man to anyone in the world and they know who it is but as for master chief and crash bandicoot, I only know of their existence cause I play slot of video games. My family would not have a clue who the chief is let alone sonys whatever their nonexistent icon is…

  21. avatar Ironman195

    Sorry, but the Atari 2600 Joystick (with ONE button) is way more recognizable than the NES pad. Maybe the tots won’t recognize it but anyone else of age should be able to.

  22. avatar David Macphail

    Sonic The Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot should’ve made this list.

  23. No Crash David sorry, it just hasn’t been around for so long like the others. It’s been around a fare amount of time, not enough to be an icon though.

    • avatar Ralph

      Bonjour,j’ai te9le9charge9 tout ce qu’il faut, mis les roms dans les dossiers dnamede9es mais cela me marque toujours “roms not found”.Que faut il faire exactement pour qu’elles apparaissent j ai tout essaye9 je deviens fou merci d avance

  24. I suppose if I were to rewrite this, I could probably replace the NES controller with Sonic, as they both have legacy within the gaming community, not so much within the general population.

    Atari logo definitely is not embedded in public consciousness like the others.

    The Joystick was considered – it’s definitely more “distinctive” than the NES pad, but the NES pad redefined how we played games, and was also a far more popular controller on a more popular console. Few people kept the original Atari joystick to my knowledge, because it sucked.

    Thanks Nick and Adam :]

  25. avatar Nicholas

    YES! Master Chief and Halo have been left out of a list for once – finally, they realise they are not that great and is not the best set of games of all time. I sould have guessed probably Sonic or the Mushroom to be on that list too, but those are some great selections. Finally, IGN has not pushed out another rubbish article!

  26. avatar Eward

    i disagree with Hung. Sonic Should have been on the list instead of the NES controller. In case you forgot there is also a Sonic cartoon. Ask anyone : blue Hedgehog? and they’ll know who you’re talking about. You actually could have added the Contra code to this list: up, up, down, down, L, R, L,R, select, start (it’s fun to play with a friend).

  27. Nicholas: lol, I’m not sure if I should be flattered or confused to be compared to IGN…so I’ll pick flattered, thanks xD

    Eward: Actually, you agree with me. Look a whole two comments above you. And contra code is an icon within the gaming community, not the public consciousness.

  28. avatar Eward

    @ Hung-Su to be more clear I felt you should have had Sonic on the list, and i believe Sonic has a little bit more pull in the general community than other gaming icons because of the cartoons. You should have actually made the list just a tad longer, maybe 6 or 7 most recognizable gaming icons.
    I should have said this before good article by the way

  29. avatar @ Edward

    If this was a top 10 list, sonic would be on, but it isn’t.

    Sonic does NOT have more pull than these 5 amongst non-gamers. My mom doesn’t know Sonic’s name off the top of her head, but she sure as hell knows what the rest of them are.

  30. Sonic is cool but I think the NES controller is something that anyone knows.

    • avatar Caroline

      sorry i’m late teacher. I was ruinnng here at super sonic speed when i got to labyrinth zone. i continue through the deadly maze sliding down water falls that somehow unexplainable led into the same water fall, i fought off deadly badnicks, i even dodged dangerous spears trying to shishkabob me! Finally i was less than one minute out of the level when water starts filling the room i’m in! i looked and looked for an exit but i couldn’t find one. i was slowly ruinnng out of air. I started to hear the drowning music. my heart started racing as i looked for air. there was only one second left on the clock and i finally find an air bubble, but by the time i reached it it was too late ..i got a game over and had to start over. -sobs-

  31. avatar JYamato

    I kind of disagree with your T-shaped tetris block, usually the I shape is the more recognizable for me (only block you can get tetris with of course). maybe a joystick or something would be better for something.

  32. avatar Jill

    Everyone saying X should have been on is forgetting the fact that the icons are supposed to be recognizable by everyone, young and old, gamer and non-gamer. This list has all those qualities. Sonic, Atari, etc. do not have those qualities. In fact, I don’t even know what image to associate with Atari. I’ve heard of it before but that’s about it.

  33. avatar DrBlindsy

    Hm. I LOVE this list. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything I COULD disagree with. I might have chosen the “L” block for Tetris though haha, just because its my favorite block. Other then that, this list is the bee’s knees!

    :D Thanks for sharing :D

  34. avatar Chris

    Awesome list. Couldn’t agree more. 5 seems a bit on the short side for a list, but I can see where you run into the trouble of picking exactly what to put. Like, the Playstation logo would be recognizable, but I wouldn’t call it an icon. And hardly any non-gamers would even recognize the Atari logo anymore.

  35. avatar Doubledown Tandino

    2 I think should be on the list:

    The Atari logo
    The pong board

  36. avatar I2oi3

    these would make for some good images/symbols to use on my blog! Thanks for compiling!


  37. avatar William

    PacMan does NOT have an eye.

    • avatar Luana

      NES: 1983 in Japan 1985 in America 1986 in Canada 1986 in Europe Sega Master System:japan in 1985.1986 in North America 1987 in Europeso that means the NES came out fist. if you like the master tyssem better than the NES good for you. I also liked the master tyssem as well but not as much as the NES.

  38. avatar Alexis

    “The (Atari) Joystick was considered – it’s definitely more “distinctive” than the NES pad, but the NES pad redefined how we played games, and was also a far more popular controller on a more popular console. Few people kept the original Atari joystick to my knowledge, because it sucked.”
    – That is why it should be on the list. The list is not about the best, but the more recognizable.

  39. avatar okay

    this is retarded

  40. avatar umm

    I’ve never heard of any of these characters.

  41. avatar Name Name

    Nothing from the current decade?

  42. avatar Bill Hartzer

    I still have an NES controller (hooked up to my kids’ tv). We still like to play duck hunt on it.

  43. avatar Shrayas

    Agreed !

  44. avatar id

    What about the “Quake” symbol? I can even recount how many hours of my life were wasted playing Quake1/2/3.

  45. avatar Ripped off from "Getting Old Sucks"

    When I was a kid, video games only cost a quarter! And all you were was a dot, who ate _other_ dots!

  46. avatar Budo

    You replace the NES Controller with the Atari 2600 joystick, and you have yourself a perfect list there.

  47. avatar DrSparc

    I agree with the others that the Atari 2600 joystick is more of an icon than the NES controller.

  48. avatar rahnyc4

    good article. all of these are instantly recognizable. i would also list the original gameboy, but thats me. oh and the atari 2600 isnt a more iconic controller than the nes, so i disagree. if you showed the average person that atari controller, they wouldn’t even able to tell you what system it belong to. the nes is basically the most familiar video game controller there is.

  49. avatar Sergio

    I think I would have shifted the Space Invader to number 2, I believe it has a much greater iconic status than you give it.

  50. Hi everyone, thank you for the comments.

    Chris: Yes, I did feel that the article was a bit short at first, but I cannot honestly think of how the article would be “improved” or made more appealing by making it longer.

    Doubledown Tandino: Atari logo is a flat no for reasons already discussed. The pong board is just a rectangle. You can’t show it to someone and expect them to think of games.

    William: True, but the image was so simple, especially compared to Mario just before, that I didn’t feel that making it simpler would feel right.

    Alexis: “Distinctive” is not the same as “recognisable”. I meant distinctive in the sense that if you put the 2600 joystick in a pile of other controllers, it would stick out. But the NES controller is burned in the memories of more people. It’s more “recognisable”.

    umm: You are a rare specimen.

    Name name: No, I don’t feel that any of the public gaming icons/mascots have burnt themselves into PUBLIC consciousness. Just about EVERYONE knows Mario and Pac Man. EVERYONE. Characters from this decade have burned themselves into the minds of current gamers, but not the general public on a worldwide scale.

    Bill Hartzer: Please shoot the dog.

    Shrayas: :]

    id: I do love quake, and wasted most of my high school life playing quake 2 with eraser bot. But, it’s an icon only within the PC gaming community, not the worldwide general public.

    Ripped off: I suddenly feel quite young. :]

    Budo: Such a list is so subjective, it’s impossible to be perfect. :/

    DrSparc: See my discussion above with Alexis.

    rahnyc4: The gameboy was a tough one. I ended up settling for the NES, because the NES was a family device while the Gameboy lent itself to being the schoolkid’s plaything. That, and the NES controller is simpler and more punchy looking.

    Sergio: Arguably, the Space Invader could be swapped with the Tetris block, but I don’t think I could move it ahead of Mario.

    • avatar Jose

      what we offer here is drastically dieffrent in quality. No wonder everyone in the world LOVES their Sonic and all of my local friends agree with me that it sucks. Ours must be doing something dieffrent. I will say that their ice cream is awesome. Had an ice cream cone just a few hours ago.

  51. avatar tylor

    IMO Sonic doesn’t deserve a place, but it’s odd to say he doesn’t have cult status anymore given the longevity of his comic book series and the fact that’s he’s starred in at least one cartoon series.

  52. avatar tylor

    Great article though : ).

  53. avatar Ruben

    I was wondering who could have beaten Mario, but after seeing the yellow chomper, I could only smile and agree. Great article. xD

  54. tylor: You’re quite right, Sonic has plenty of cult status left. And he probably has plenty of iconic power left, so on recollect, he could probably have beaten the NES controller.

    Ruben: Thanks a heap for that :] Appreciation is always appreciated xD

    • avatar Angeliito

      Sorry my assignment was late, but some heeghdog named silver accidentally teleported me to the past you see! Yeah! Needed help taking care of something called .what was it? the iblis trigger! Right! So, if you could give me an extra day on my assignment please? Sorry I’m tardy, I had to stop at the student store, I was late and I was short 50 rings for a new pencil, So I had to take a lap around the school and find some.*show’s the teacher the blue pencil*

  55. avatar Roy

    Great write up. Not too short or too long.

  56. avatar Luke

    Pong > Tetris block

    • avatar Nounou

      crazeekamikazee / @JoostRevo Fair fair, I haven’t noticed it to be heonst but now you pointed it out that is true. but for the Pal version there an improvement in smoothness. plus they add 2 modes for each game(all 3 being original normal easy ) and fixed bug’s and add spin dash to the first sonic game. you could add Knuckles to each game. with time attack mode to. plus there was a 3D mode which you could watch movies and look at art. I really like this version.

  57. avatar ice365

    love the list but the t-block was a serpise you could of made it link or one of the other zelda people

    • avatar Tara

      I Have seen many of your videos, and uglhoath I really enjoy watching them. Its obvious that your biest when it comes to game consoles because of the fact that your a big sega fan. The reason I’m pointing this out is because you always talk about how good the build quality of the sega genesis is. I even remember you saying something about the genisis being made better that the snes. I have a snes and a model 1 2 genesis and the snes is built like a rock, the genesis’s however feel really cheap

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  59. avatar Tomek

    OMG I loved this game as a kid I havnt thought of this game in soooo long it only got out done by sonic sialbpnl thanks for bringing back great memories Mark:)

  60. avatar asif

    who thr hell is gordon freeman?

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