Obscure Computer Games That Inspired Developers To Code


One of the most commonly given pieces of advice to writers is to read as widely as possible to gain as much inspiration as possible for your own work, and this is just as true for people who want to learn programming and how to design games.

George R.R. Martin wrote in A Dance of Dragons that a reader lives a thousand lives whilst a non-reader lives only one. Someone who plays a lot of different games has the same kind of experience.

Much like how Mr Martin was inspired by Louis L’Amour, most games are inspired by the pioneering work of that which has come before, including the man who created the game that is the centrepiece of the Minecraft modding course.

Here are some obscure games that inspired many developers to create their own.


Whilst quite a few people know the story of the creation of Minecraft, few have played the game that perhaps inspired its creation above all others.

Zach Barth created Infiniminer in an exceptionally early state in early 2009 as a competitive mining game using a voxel-based block art style that allowed players to explore.

The creator of Minecraft adopted this style with immensely successful results.

Dwarf Fortress

Whilst the game has finally gotten its moment in the sun thanks to a highly popular release on Steam, Dwarf Fortress spent the first 20 years of its development (yes, two whole decades) developing a cult following but being relatively obscure.

The reason for this was that the game was an immensely complex procedurally generated simulation of a group of Dwarves who try to build a fortress, typically with hilariously catastrophic results.

It was hard to understand, especially in its classic form where everything was represented by ASCII text symbols and everything was described in immense detail.

However, all of the developers who played it went on to create other similarly ambitious projects such as Rimworld, Oxygen Not Included and, of course, Minecraft.


If you have ever played a game with a procedurally generated world, permanent character deaths and emphasising difficult choices you cannot come back from, you have played a game inspired by the 1980 game Rogue.

A commercial flop on release, it seemed like everyone who played it or bought a copy created a game inspired by it, with directly inspired games including Moria, Angband, NetHack, Ancient Domains of Mystery, One Way Heroics and the Mystery Dungeon series (best known for the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games).

It would eventually become an inspiration for so many independent games such as The Binding of Isaac, Hades, Spelunky and One Step From Eden.