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Recently re-released in an updated edition, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die sums up everything you need to know in the title. Spanning several decades all the way back to the early '70s, the book covers a mass of noteworthy titles outlined and explained by a multitude of media experts.
What needs to be made clear from the outside is that this is not a countdown list. Everything starting with Oregon Trail onwards is there for breaking new ground or being a testament to solid genre gameplay.
There is no obvious lean towards favouring PC over console or vice versa, with many exclusives on either side being part of this listing. Furthermore, while many classics and prominent titles are namechecked, others which have fallen by the wayside or faded from memory get recognition too. For every Quake, StarCraft and BioShock there is a Jet Force Gemini, Cannon Fodder or Cybernator.