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Everything has its roots, even video game genres. Sometimes all it takes is one avant-garde idea to completely shape an entire genre. The games below are highly influential in the video game genres we see today. Plenty of game development hinges on taking inspiration from other games that did things well, so we’re looking back on some significant games that helped shape genre standards.
Dragon Quest: The Father Of The Console RPG
Surprisingly enough, Dragon Quest’s standard gameplay was inspired by western RPGs, such as Ultima and Wizardry, but Dragon Quest carved out its own identity with its elegantly simple battle system. Part of what the creators wanted was easy, pick up-and-play mechanics. That’s exactly what they achieved with their combat interface that’s still used today with its command setup, such as attack, magic, and items. More importantly, though, it gave birth to the console RPG, and many of its mechanics are still the backbone of modern RPGs, right down to story progression. Dragon Quest not straying from its roots is really not all that surprising – letting go of a formula that influenced a genre so strongly must be hard.
Megami Tensei Teaches Pokémon The Monster Pursuit
Pokémon often comes to mind when gamers think of monster collecting; Pikachu is one of the most iconic gaming mascots, after all. But here’s food for thought – the Megami Tensei series focused on monster recruitment before Pokémon. The series does not have cute monsters like Pokémon’s Jigglypuff. Megami Tensei’s demonic monsters are for those looking for darker friends. Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei first introduced players to demon collecting when it hit Japan in 1987 (though it never released in the U.S.). It wasn’t until the 1990s that the series made its way to the U.S., around the same time as Pokémon. Many games have since followed the monster recruitment trend like this year’s Final Fantasy XIII-2, and the upcoming Studio Ghibli and Level-5 collaboration: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
Alone In The Dark Sets The Standard For Survival Horror
In 1992, Alone In The Dark set the groundwork for the survival horror genre. In fact, many consider it the first real 3D horror game. Alone In The Dark has all the things that make the survival horror genre thrive – focusing on exploration, starting you off weaponless with only your fists and feet, using your wits to complete puzzles, and creating a suspenseful atmosphere with slamming doors and booby traps abound. One unfortunate thing that has been lost, though, is Alone in the Dark’s non-linearity; you didn’t have to find the octagon crank to get where you were going. Silent Hill and Resident Evil no doubt took a page from Alone In The Dark’s gameplay and psychological thrills to surge a genre all about surprising you with jump scares.
Street Fighter II Inspires The Fighting Genre
Almost all games contain some sort of fighting, but what if a game distilled that gameplay to its purest form? In 1987, Street Fighter entered the arcade arena to mass appeal. But the true explosion of fighters didn’t come until the release of Street Fighter II in 1991; that’s when the game caught fire worldwide. Maybe it was the easy rules, the competitive charge, the martial arts mastery, or getting your initials on the leaderboards, but Street Fighter II inspired the ‘90s fighting craze. Several developers took note, and we see Street Fighter’s roots amongst series such as Mortal Kombat, Dead Or Alive, and Tekken. Even more to its credit, Street Fighter is still around today and it’s still on top, showing many fighters how you keep the fighting genre inspired.
Gauntlet: Why We Hack-And-Slash
In a world with Castle Crashers and Marvel Ultimate Alliance, who would have thought that a multiplayer dungeon crawler would work on an arcade machine? But 1985’s Gauntlet pulled it off and it did it with one of the best lines in gaming ever, “Red warrior needs food badly!” Gauntlet’s overall influence on the hack-and-slash genre today includes classes, multiplayer, and loot. Simplistic and all about hacking-and-slashing the night away, it’s amazing how many games still successfully follow Gauntlet’s formula. Little did Midway know that Gauntlet’s addictive setup would fuel games like Diablo, where countless gamers have lost hours upon hours dungeon crawling all in the name of more loot.
[Next Up: The birth of the first-person shooter, a new dancing pastime, and a hockey game that changes sports games ....]
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Good memories with DDR. I remember a couple years ago in high school, me and the boys used to go to the mall arcade with some towels and play the hell out of it. Also I played the hell out of NHL 94 on my SNES. Great times
I agree that these games set standard, although IDK much about the history of Megami Tensei. Also since, RE keeps evolving, I wouldn't mind seeing a new old-school Alone in the Dark.
I'm not the only person who knows that little fun fact about Megami Tensei? Yes! Also, it should be noted that the first game was based on a novel that never made it out of Japan, afterwards the games developed their own plots and mythos, and added Shin to the name. For those wanting a more adult Pokemon, play a Megami Tensei game. Also, the 'mons' are all from mythology, your end game party could include folks like Shiva and Susano-o.
I've been playing DDR for long time, and still playing it today and that'll be my Weekend routine.
Nice list btw....
Kim, if you could see me now, I'm slow clapping holding back tears. Nice piece! Just to add on Street Fighter 2 spawned the quarter stick and hold back then forward plus a button system that has been used in almost everything, even NBA2k12. An arcade feature that made SFII revolutionary for arcade rats was the fact that if you were good enough and the machine was in a high traffic area, you could literally play for hours for $0.25. People would line quarters up along the bottom of the screen and wait for their shot at the winner. Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam followed suit as well as every fighting game and most other games that had a vs. option. Side note: Do you know how long it took Chicago to learn how to perform a Dragon Punch? In less time then it took GameFan, Game Pro, and EGM to release the cheat sheet for the game. Throwing dragon punches was a big deal back then, it meant you was nice!
You brought up Ultima! Aww Man the memories! You guys should find Roberta Williams and ask her how do you use the crank on the satyr statue in The Colonel's Bequest. It was like 10 kids on the South Side of Chicago that would of 100%ed that game otherwise. To this day Colonel's Bequest is one of the best character driven games ever created.
Interesting article...i like it a lot.Ahhh Sid meier...you did so much..made so many people waste so much of there time...you are like a evil mastermind.And good to see wolfsenstein getting credit,most people just skip to doom and be like omg its what made fps it was the first is the best...no..its was not the first..get it right.
What an amazing article.... It was awesome.
This This is a great list of first's. I have played a few of then back in the day.