Medal of Honor: Allied Assault(PC - 2002 - 14 games total)
Of all one billion World War II games, this is the one that really mattered. Authentic weapons, thunderous sound effects and super secret, behind-the-scenes espionage make this one wild ride from the first shot fired to the climactic final mission.
Why it soared
Did you see the Omaha Beach level in this? Utter chaos. At the time, it was practically on par with films like Saving Private Ryan, creating a whirlwind of unintelligible noise and pockets of flying debris as you tried to complete this famous mission. Most of us will never know what it was like on that day, scared witless, surrounded by rapid gunfire and unfamiliar terrain, but for brief moments, with this one level, you felt true appreciation for how insanely hard it must have been in real life. It wasn't just a blast to play, it made you comprehend how poorly we all would handle that situation if it were presented in any other way than a monitor, mouse and keyboard. Outside this one breathtaking level, online options allowed 64 people to duke it out simultaneously in a broad variety of play types. Other single-player missions mimicked the best WWII films' set pieces, hurling tanks, snipers and Axis forces your way at every possible turn. In other words, this was the definitive war game of the time, and potentially the most influential World War II title ever.
What it did for the franchise
Despite all its bells and whistles, Allied Assault didn't add a whole lot to the themes set in place by the first two PlayStation titles. The latter also focused on historically accurate missions with slight embellishments, authentic weapons and as-real-as-it-gets sound effects. Powerful music accompanied the series prior to AA as well, so in reality the only thing it did was crank everything through the roof and add a great deal of multiplayer options (much like Burnout 3 did for its franchise). No Medal of Honor game after this was quite as well received, and it wasn't until last year's Heroes that another entry focused so heavily on internet play. In fact, since Allied Assault and its console counterpart Frontline, the series has slowly morphed from "sneak behind enemy lines and gather intelligence" to "follow the glowing icons on your radar and shoot shoot shoot!"
Who it inspired
Have you walked through a game store in the past six years? Then you've no doubt noticed the glut of WWII games on the shelves. You can thank Allied Assault and Frontline for that. Their immense success, both critically and at retail, made the already stuffed FPS genre ripe for new whoring. Gamers gobbled up anything that let you mow down Nazis, be it first person shooters, RTS games or third-person action adventure titles. Competitors like Call of Duty have since overshadowed the Medal of Honor series (and moved on to another war). Shooters existed well before this franchise, as did games based on the same subject matter, but AA made certain every publisher under the sun would have some kind of WWII game up for sale.