Since the very first video game was created (a 1958 simple tennis game similar to Pong, by Physicist William Higinbotham), the world of gaming has been advancing through new technologies, story lines, and characters. Here, we chronicle some of the most revolutionary games and how they changed the gaming world.
An oldie but a goodie, Donkey Kong is in the Guinness Book of World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008 for “First Use of Visual Storytelling in a Video Game,” along with holding several other records. This use of storytelling through gaming would go on to influence thousands of games, creating the gaming world that we know today that is vastly dominated by story-led experiences.
Debuting in 1981, Donkey Kong has sold around 40 million games worldwide across the entire franchise. Through its success, Donkey Kong also established an even more well-known video game character: Mario. Mario first appeared in Donkey Kong four years before he had his own game.
What is there to say about the rivalry between Donkey Kong and Mario? It’s on like Donkey Kong!
Super Mario Galaxy
Moving along to one of the most famous video game characters of all time, Mario. Mario was featured in many games, including Super Mario Galaxy, which can be found in many ‘Top 10 Video Games of All Time’ lists. The storyline is the same as the first classic Mario game: Mario must rescue Princess Peach and save the universe from Bowser. Where this game differs from its predecessors is the setting -- outer space.
The game was lauded for its 3D graphics, gravity mechanics, and setting. Mario’s longevity over the years has been stunning, and well, he’s earned it.
Part 5 of the Elder Scrolls series from Bethesda Game Studios, Skyrim’s game tech was altered to critical acclaim, allowing for more detailed gaming. Bethesda Game Studios designed Creation Engine specifically for Skyrim. The new engine allowed for more detail and a more true-to-life experience. For instance, developers were able to give “weight” to tree branches in the Skyrim world, which affected how they would blow in the wind. Or a player could look at a small object in their hand and see lifelike detail, then quickly scan the surrounding areas and be able to take in vast scenery. This level of detail throughout a video game’s world was unprecedented.
This version of the Elder Scrolls also removed the character class system and allowed players more control over the customization of their character, for a more personalized game.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
One of the highest-rated sports video games, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 played off the original’s success with improvements to the graphics, the introduction of manuals, and cash rewards.
The game’s Playstation version remains one of the highest-rated game versions of all time, with a 98/100 on metacritic. From the game control, to the added advanced moves, to the soundtrack, this game wowed its users from the start and still holds its own in the gaming world.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is a great example in the industry of how to take a hit game, and expand upon it for an even bigger impact. The game added new skaters, more moves, more levels, and retained all of its predecessor’s high points.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Considered by most to be the best video game of all time, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the fifth in the game’s series, but the first with 3D graphics. The game “introduced features such as a target-lock system and context-sensitive buttons that have since become common across 3D adventure games”. source
Ocarina of Time also revived an ancient musical instrument, the ocarina. To progress in the game, the player must play several songs on the ocarina, leading to real-life interest in the instrument.
Link, the main protagonist, must complete various tasks to bestow order upon the fictional kingdom of Hyrule. Unlike its game cousin Super Mario 64, developed at the same time, Ocarina of Time’s “camera” focused on details within the game’s environment rather than the protagonist, which is typically the case with Mario.
Every game has the opportunity to leaves its mark on the world, and these five video games have helped shape the face of gaming as we know it today.
If you’re interested in learning what it’s like to be a game designer and how to make your own characters and worlds, check out the Envision Game & Technology Academy in partnership with George Mason University. We hope to see you there this summer!