With a plethora of games being published each year, video games have grown into a massive industry. However many games go unnoticed, overshadowed by the years biggest blockbusters of proven franchises. Many of these franchises are good, but stick to the same old formula. Once in a while a standout game slips out and ends up altering the video game industry. These select games more often than not go on to be the future-repetitive franchises that people flock towards year after year. We do it for good reason too, because these games created something revolutionary that reignited our passion for gaming. Whether it be the massively popular Super Mario, the Halo series, or even just a casual game such as FarmVille. There once was a time when these franchises altered reality with their industry defining video games.
Mario Party – N64
Back in the good old days, family and friends spent time together a bit differently; maybe crowded around playing a board game or watching television. Perhaps they even took turns playing an iconic video game like Super Mario. However in 1998 waiting your turn ended when Nintendo took advantage of the growing video game craze and created something for the whole family. Building upon their popular Mario franchise, Nintendo created Mario Party. For once a game had solid mechanics, popping graphics, and the ability to allow the entire family to join each other. Families got hooked and competed to earn the most stars playing mini-games in a ritual for many family nights. Mario Party single-handedly brought party games into the living room.
Halo 2 – Xbox
Online gaming has been around for a while, but the consoles real multiplayer entrance onto the Internet is fairly newish (10 years or so). That’s not to say console manufactures weren’t working hard and polishing their services, but one game came in and brought online console gaming to the masses. Halo 2 revolutionized and set a standard for how online games should function on a console. Halo 2 created a simple user interface anyone could hop onto and quickly get into a game. Not only did Halo 2 make it simple to join a game, but it introduced the rank system. What this did was created a simple way to pair like-skilled players, so there’s an equal playing field. The rank system also created a new reason to play, and that’s to be a higher rank than all of your friends. Today I can’t imagine a game with out a simple lobby, or even a rank system for that matter.
Grand Theft Auto 3 – PS2 (Originally)
Online multiplayer may now be a staple of console gaming, but what if you want to just roam? Open world games let players explore and feel a level of freedom, one not seen in story-driven games. A few early games came into the genre, but the one that had the biggest cultural impact has to be Grand Theft Auto 3. This game perfected the open world game, which resulted in countless hours of content to waste time on, all without ever touching the main storyline. The city felt alive and real, creating an immersive effect. The incentives to continue the story was to unlock new areas of the map.
Crysis – PC (Originally)
Graphics are an important part of video games. Each new generation of consoles is judged largely on there graphical capabilities. But Crysis is a well-known PC game because of it’s crazy system-melting hardware requirements when it first launched. Crysis was beyond it’s time and only the best of the best hardware from the time could run it. Even today’s games are being compared to the original Crysis. Sometimes we get tired of the same old style and now almost every game tries to push graphics.
Borderlands – Multi-Release
Gearbox created a little game called Borderlands with what is known as cel-shading. How did this happen to a game that was shown with the same old realist, dark style of many sci-fi games? During testing the team at Gearbox decided with the current art direction their game might be labeled as a clone of other well-known post-apocalyptic games, and with the over-the-top mechanics such as insane jump height, realism might not be ideal. To stand out they ended up taking the game in a direction that has not been done in video games. It all paid off in a incredibly fun, highly replay-able game It also sort of reminds me of a comic book.
World of Warcraft – PC
This is another well-known game has that cartoony look, but revolutionized the industry in a different way. World of Warcraft changed MMO games forever by creating a game with stylized graphics, friendly to new players, and eliminating the need to actually play in a group. WoW (yes, it’s that big it has it’s own acronym) allows players of all skills to pick up the game and begin questing and creating their hero or villain. With plenty of quest that can be completed alone, this is part of the reason why WoW has a following of millions. Blizzard knows how to create an MMO and the importance of constantly updating the game with small updates, as well as expansions. WoW is the benchmark of how MMOs should be created, and it will be the standard for years to come.
FarmVille – PC (Facebook Originally)
I’ve been focusing on games that appeal mostly to the hardcore gamer, but what about the casual audience? Well Facebook is the most popular social network ever and it has brought many people together. One of the side-effects of Facebook are the time-wasting games, the most popular one being Zynga’s FarmVille. FarmVille may be the largest casual game to date by being wildly popular thanks to the amount of freedom the game gives you. It even allowed you to choose how long until the next time you visit, by choosing crops of various harvest times. Another way FarmVille became so big is by disguising spamy messages, by incentivizing you to invite friends to play to unlock things. How is that for a marketing plan? FarmVille might be fun for players, but it also wrote the formula for many developers to follow. Especially when it comes to the way they recruit new players through friend invites.
Game Boy & Tetris – Gameboy
So far all these games involved sitting in your home, how about taking games on the road? The Game Boy brought handheld gaming to the masses in a shared success with Tetris. Tetris was wildly popular for its addicting puzzle gameplay, and being bundled with the original Game Boy solidified its impact on gaming culture. It’s hard to find a person today who is not familiar with Tetris – even this newer generation can get it on their smartphones. I think one of the reasons the Game Boy was so successful was because of how addictive Tetris can be. The Game Boy revolutionized mobile gaming and brought us our current generation of the 3DS and PS Vita, but Tetris shares the spotlight for being so damn addictive.
Angry Birds – iOS (Originally)
The Game Boy changed gaming, but the mobile gaming craze has evolved to the point it’s taking over our phones. Arguably one of the most popular mobile games/apps is Angry Birds. This globally recognized game brought game developers into the realization that mobile smartphone games were the next profitable frontier. After struggling with distribution elsewhere, Rovio, the developers of Angry Birds, decided to takeover the iOS app store. After the success of Angry Birds the smartphone game market matured. With many developers trying to mimic the success of Rovio. Games come and go with time, but Angry Birds will remain another piece of history while another breakout success tries to define the industry yet again.
Video Games have been around for a while now, yet new ideas are emerging everyday. With time we will see more games come in and blow our minds with industry-changing ideas. Until then let’s enjoy family nights with Mario, or enjoy our alone time questing in an MMO. Just remember the video games that made it all possible, the ones that took the risk to create a little piece of gaming history. This is my ode to the industry defining video games.