A recent conversation I had reminded me of something, which I share with you now.
Students of any artistic medium should are expected to study the more famous/important works within that medium. A graduate of a film school who had never heard of Citizen Kane, a graduate of an art school who couldn't recognize the work of Van Gogh, or a graduate of a creative writing program who never read Shakespeare would all be considered rather embarassing to their schools. So, it's up to the school to make sure their students get exposure to the great works of their field. So it should be with the study of video game design.
Let's assume for the purpose of this exercise that a teacher can find some way to gain access to any game, regardless of technical constraints. Let's also assume that there are no time constraints, and "how do I fit all of this in the core curriculum?" is someone else's problem.
The question: if you were to make a list of games that all students of game design should know about, what games would be on that list? This should mostly involve games that did at least one thing really well or poorly with respect to game design (not technology or art), i.e. those games that we should be able to learn something from. The games that, intentionally or not, made some contribution to the field of game design.
Here's my own list, so far:
Classic Non-digital: Chess, Go, and at least one card game featuring trick-taking and trump (Spades, Bridge, Whist, etc.)
Modern Non-digital: Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Magic: the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons (at least read the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide)
Arcade: at least one ball-and-paddle game (Pong, Breakout, Arkanoid), at least one LaserDisc game (Dragon's Lair, Space Ace, etc.), Pac Man, Gauntlet, Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter 2, at least one side-scrolling shooter (Gradius, R-Type, etc.), Tetris
PC: at least one Roguelike (Rogue, Nethack, Angband), Archon, any game from the Civilization series, Warcraft 2, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Star Control 2, Ultima IV
Console: Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, any game from the Pokemon series, any game from the Harvest Moon series, any cart-racing game (Mario Kart, etc.), any realistic racing game (Gran Turismo, etc.), at least one side-scrolling adventure game (Super Metroid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, etc.), any tactical RPG (Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, etc.), any modern Western RPG (Knights of the Old Republic, Oblivion, etc.), any modern Eastern RPG (Final Fantasy, etc.), any modern 3D platformer (Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper, etc.)
Feel free to post arguments against any from the above list, or any games not on the list that you'd add.