For many sportsman and musicians around the world there exists some sort of recognition system, more commonly known as the Hall of Fame, attributed to individuals that have made a significant impact on the industry during their time in the limelight. While not quite on a grand of scale as sports and music, the video game industry has only recently started keeping scores for releases that have had the most impact on the industry over the past three decades in the Video Game Hall of Fame.
The World Video Game Hall of Fame was started two years ago, run by The National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. While the initial list was quite small, the list was extended to 12 just a few days ago. Some of the criteria for judging the process on being inducted include Icon Status, Longevity, Geographical Research and Influence. Each of the 12 games are on display in the museum. Here’s a list of those games:
Doom – 1993
In an era where games were once again on the rise, the sci-fi, first-person shooter, Doom was launched in 1993 by id Software. If your, or your parents, bought a computer during the early 90s, there’s a significant chance you would have played the game, which was bundled as shareware for its first of three episodes (each with 9 levels). This meant that the first part of the game was played by an estimated 15-20 million people.
The game made great strides in both 3D and FPS titles, which popularised the genre. The story was straightforward, as you play an unnamed space marine, later known as Doomguy, fighting against the hordes of demons released from Hell.
GTA III – 2001
Grand Theft Auto III was the first open-world, FPS video game in the franchise, whose first two titles featured a top-down 2D view of the game. The game was developed by DMA Design and published by Rockstar Games, and released in October 2001 for PS2, the following year on Windows PC, and 2003 for Xbox. The 10th anniversary of the game also saw the release to mobile for Android and iOS devices. The game was actually the fifth release in the GTA franchise, which was set Liberty City, with the story revolving around the up and coming gangster, Claude, after he was shot and left for dead being betrayed by his girlfriend, Catalina.
The game received great reception and was scored 97/100 on Metacritic, with particular emphasis on the sound, gameplay and open-world design. The game was the most sold title of 2001, having sold over two million in just 4 months after its release. It was also the second-highest seller of 2002, having only been surpassed by another in the franchise, Vice City. There are many attributing factors to why this game became so popular amongst gamers, one of which was the realism it provided over its initial 2D games, playing through as a character seeking revenge. Some of the more controversial aspects of the game, such as causing mayhem, killing random people, or picking up a prostitute, all the while completing missions, may also have added to the appeal.
The Legend of Zelda – 1986
Originally released in Japan as Zeruda no Densetsu, and also known as The Hyrule Fantasy, the action-adventure came is one still loved by many fans. The game was developed and published by Nintendo by creators Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. The story unfolds in the land of Hyrule, where the protagonist, Link, aims to collect the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rescue his princess, Zelda.
The game follows Link in top-down 2D, as he navigates through the Overworld and numerous dungeons while defeating enemies and collecting secrets along the way. The game was released on Nintendo’s Family Computer Disk System, which, along with a few other games, brought great success for Nintendo in the 80s and 90s. The game enjoyed huge success as well, which was the first NES title to sell over 1 million copies, and more than 6.5m overall. The game was also one of the first to save progress on the console platform, achieved by means of the battery-powered edition.
The Oregon Trail – 1971
Pong may have been the game that most gamers first played, and thus think that it was the first video game to be released, but The Oregon Trail was developed the year before, in 1971, by Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger. The game was initially designed to teach school children about the pioneer life on the Oregon Trail in the 19th century, where the player takes on the role as the wagon leader to guide their party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Willamette Valley, Oregon, on the Oregon Trail via a covered wagon in 1848.
I cannot personally attest to the value of this game, as it’s the only one on this list I haven’t actually played myself. Its success, however, is undeniable, having sold over 65 million copies worldwide, although that figure spans all 10 versions of the game over a period of 40 years. School computers in the States came bundled with the game for more than 20 years and became the staple to almost all kids in the country, hence it wide-reaching popularity.
Pac-Man – 1980
Originally released in Japan 36 years ago in 1980, and known as Pakkuman, the arcade gamed, developed by Namco, and is still played by many across the globe. Video game designer, Toru Iwatani, actually appeared in the movie Pixels in 2015, where he attempts to calm Pac-Man after it goes rogue. It’s impossible to speak of the 80s arcade scene without mentioning Pac-Man, the poster child of the era.
Pac-Man still has a wide-reaching marketing footprint, with many merchandises still on sale today. The game was even celebrated on Google Doodle, where you can play the game directly from a Google search [https://www.google.com/search?q=pac-man]. While not as popular, the game was also released in different media forms, such as an animated television series and a comic book. In an era where space shooters, such as Space Invaders below, were the most popular games at the arcade, Pac-Man spawned a new genre and is believed to have generated $2.5 billion (in quarters, or respective local currencies) in arcades across the world.
Pong – 1972
While it may not hold the title as the first game, it has a few firsts of its own. It is one of the first arcade video games, and officially the first sports video game. The simple concept and design is based on a tennis match (or table tennis), which is played on Pong in 2D graphics. It was also one of the first games to reach worldwide popularity. The game was developed by Allan Alcorn and released by Atari, synonymous with gaming in the 70s, in 1972. The game was originally not planned for public release and was assigned to Alcorn as a training exercise to familiarise himself with video game development, which he had no previous experience with. The idea for the game was actually based on work done by Magnavox Odyssey who sued Atari as a result. The end result was something that amazed Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, co-founders of Atari, that they decided to manufacture the game for commercial use.
Yet another interesting fact to the popularity of the game was how it established the first arcade machine. During the prototyping phase, Alcorn bought a black and white TV from a local store, which was used to provide the sound effects as well, soldered wires to some controls, and placed it in a large box to be displayed. Bushnell and Dabney were once again impressed and decided to test its marketability for profits by placing the game at a local bar. And the rest is history.
The Sims – 2000
The Sims franchise is one of the best-selling game series of all time, having sold more than 175 million copies by 2013. The original game was developed by Maxis and published by EA in 2000. The Sims is a sandbox game with no set tasks and story to complete or playthrough. Players take control of Sims (simulated people), purchasing a house or building one themselves, and set out to satisfy their desires to grow, learn, and even have kids of their own. Maxis released many expansion packs after its release, bringing in new items to purchase once you’ve worked your way to the top of the Sims pecking order.
One of the game designers, Will Wright, was inspired to create a “virtual dollhouse” after having lost his own home during the Oakland firestorm in 1991. The Sims plays through the development of building your own house from the ground up and rebuilding his life. While many people don’t know this, it does add a new perspective to the franchise. Given its sandbox nature with no tasks at hand, the game has the possibility to continue forever. And that is where the game achieved most of its success. Players would spend inordinate amounts of time glued to the development of their Sims without any end in sight.
Sonic the Hedgehog – 1991
Sega’s mascot, Sonic The Hedgehog, achieved great success across all of Sega’s consoles in the 90s, after having taken over the reins from Alex the Kidd. Known in Japan as Sonikku za Hejjihoggu, the game was developed by Sonic Team for Sega, which started in 1990 and released in 1991. Sonic and his team of friends battle against the evil Dr Robotnik, a mad scientist who has imprisoned the South Island’s animals in robots and stolen the magical Chaos Emeralds. Throughout the gameplay, Sonic must free all the animals and recover the emeralds, while at the same time collect rings (which double as his health), in a left-to-right 2D environment similar to Super Mario. The controls also included jumping and fast spinning capabilities.
Sega set out to compete directly with Nintendo and their mascot Mario and achieved great success for their game. The soundtrack was composed and produced by Masato Nakamura, which added to the game’s appeal and success, featured over two hours of music, many of which became songs in their own right. The game was initially bundled with the Genesis console, which, at the time of launch, sold more than twice the number of Super NES consoles in 1991. Introductions such as springs, loops, and the fast-paced nature of the game all added a new dimension to the side-scrolling genre. No doubt that Sonic deserves his place on the Video Game Hall of Fame.
Space Invaders – 1978
Along with the US, Japan was one of the forerunners of the video game industry in its early days, and with successful titles such as Space Invaders, they were developing really good, and industry-changing games. Space Invaders was one of the first shooting games, where players would seek to shoot down enemy aliens with a laser cannon. The game’s creator, Tomohiro Nishikado, used reference materials from Breakout, The War of the Worlds, and Star Wars, and had to design new hardware on which to run the game.
The game almost single-handedly increased sales of the Atari 2600 in 1980 four times over. The pixelated alien has since become a popular cultural figure in the gaming industry and even used as an icon for many gaming programmes. In Japan alone, Taito, the game’s publishers, had installed more than 100,000 arcade machines with Space Invaders and grossed more than $600 million as a result. It was estimated that by 1982 the game had grossed more than $2 billion worldwide, with a profit of almost $500 million.
Super Mario Bros. – 1985
Arguably one of the most well-known games, Super Mario Bros. was developed by Nintendo in 1985 as the sequel to Mario Bros. released in 1983. Players play as the character Mario, or in two-player mode as Luigi, as he traverses the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Peach (or Toadstool as she was earlier known in the US) who was captured and placed in a dungeon by King of the Koopa race, Bowser.
While Super Mario Bros. was popular in its own right, it was also one of the most significant games in the industry at the time of the gaming market crash in the early 80s. The game is attributed as reviving the industry, for which Nintendo cashed in as well with more than 40 million copies sold for this game alone, which was a world record for most games sold on a single console, held for more than 30 years. It is voted by many websites and gaming media as the number one game of all time because of its popularity and importance to the industry. It also had extremely catchy theme songs for the different types of levels. Queue the music.
Tetris – 1989
Tetris was the brainchild of Russian game designer, Alexey Pajitnov, and was originally released in 1984 while working for Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. The game was based on the popular Russian game, Tetrominoes, which consisted of different shaped elements made up of four segments. The name is derived from the Greek word Tetra and tennis, Pajitnov’s favourite sport. The game was the first entertainment software to be exported out of the USSR to the US.
Although popular itself, the game achieved overwhelming success as a bundled port for the Game Boy handheld console, which released at the same time in 1989. It was also the first compatible game for the Game Link Cable, which allowed two Game Boys to link for multiplayer. The success of the handheld was largely thanks to the ported game. Within two weeks of its release in 1989 in Japan, the company had sold out the 300,000 units it manufactured, a feat that was resembled in the US with sales of 40,000 units on the first day alone. The Game Boy sold more than 64 million units, and up to 120 million combined with the Game Boy Colour.
World of Warcraft – 2004
World of Warcraft (WoW) is the fourth instalment in the Warcraft franchise by Blizzard and was released in 2004, which coincided with the 10 year anniversary of the original game’s release. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) genre was defined by the game, which has seen the market grow tremendously since.
The game reached its peak in 2010, with 12 million active subscribers, which settled down to 5.5 million at the end of 2015. In 2014, it was estimated that a total of 100 million accounts had been created over the game’s lifetime, an indication of its success. The game is split into various modes, such as PvE, PvP, RP, RP-PvP, etc. Characters are developed to gain new talents and skills, for which they are broken down into two professions, producing or gathering, at its most basic, but with multi-faceted upgrades to choose from. While the battles, gameplay and easy learning kerb for beginners contributed to the game’s success, features such as Questing provided an important part of the storyline to captivate players. The high amount of quests, with great rewards, for character growth, added to the role-playing intensity.
And that concludes the list of the video game hall of fame, some of the most noteworthy games defining the industry in the respective periods. There are quite a few others that may eventually break into the list, such as the original Tomb Raider, Donkey Kong, Contra, Mortal Kombat, to name but a few. Can you think of any others that deserve credit for making great strides in the industry?