J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings set the standard for most fantasy based games. It is ideal in that it has two distinct sides to the battle, a clear division which makes it easy to identify the bad guys. A "good" vs. "evil" as it were. So as in the books, the "good" side, typically has Humans, Elves, Hobbits (or halflings) and quite often more nature oriented creatures, and the evil side has the "monsters", aka Orcs, Trolls, Ogres, etc. and the more "industrial" activities.
Many fantasy games are based on more Celtic origins such as Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC). DAoC took an interesting twist on computer games, instead of having good vs. evil, split the teams up into 3 groups. Hibernia was based on the mythology of Elves, and it's landscapes based on Ireland. Albion is the "human" realm based on knights of the round table, Stonehenge, etc. Midgard is based on Norse mythology and it's landscape is snowy fjords.
World of Warcraft owes it's origins to the popular desktop strategy games "Warhammer". Warhammer itself is based on Tolkienian fantasy which pits Humans/Elves/Haflings against Orcs/Trolls/Monsters.
Star Wars made flying in space shooting lasers cool to everyone. It popularized futuristic (although by Star Wars Lore it's in a time and place a long time ago and far far away) spaceships and faster then light (Hyperspeed?) travel.
Knights of the Old Republic is the first games by Bioware in it's "3rd Person RPG" genre that has become a massively successful franchise. The game is based on the Star Wars universe but takes place 4000 years prior to the storyline of the Star Wars movies. It still includes all of the same elements, Good (Jedi) vs. Evil (Sith), light-sabres, ewoks, droids and wookies.
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