written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
The Strong National Museum of Play officially welcomes six video games in the inaugural class of its World Video Game Hall of Fame. These six games are all games I have an extensive experience with and were instrumental in how I grew up over the years. The first six are: Doom, Pac-Man, Pong, Super Mario Bros, Tetris, and World of Warcraft. All are worthwhile of being the first six and deserve all the praise in the world.
But what’s next? A Hall of Fame is a collection of the greatest of the greats, and while these first six are arguably deserving of the title, I plan to pick a few that I feel should be inducted as the years go by… since we here at LG love a good ol “Top 5,” the following five titles are games I believe belong among the greats in the Video Game Hall of Fame.
Final Fantasy (1987)
Before the original Final Fantasy, most of our games held a clear cut objective. Rescue the princess, defeat the mother ship, take oddly shaped blocks to line up with other oddly shaped blocks to make lines that disappear upon construction. But a true story, a narrative that grabs you from the opening scene to become something much more than what you originally expected was hard pressed to find in games of the time.
Developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and released in 1987, it’s weird to think of how such a huge, world-wide phenomena came from such humble beginnings. Originally given the name Fighting Fantasy, this was a gamble at the time and Square was reluctant to go forth with the project. If not for the success of Enix’s Dragon Quest, Square wouldn’t have granted Sakaguchi the permission to green-light the project. Eventually the iconic title of Final Fantasy was given to the game, had it not sold well Square would have gone bankrupt and Sakaguchi vowed to quit the game industry if his vision proved to be a flop.
Fast forward to 27 years later, while the vision has shifted in recent years, the contribution Final Fantasy had to gaming history is without question one of the its most shining examples of what is possible when you roll the dice and hit that jackpot. This risky move ultimately paid off as the decades went by.
Many young gamers now may never even blink when the name is mentioned, but when the Sega Dreamcast was released in 1998, this was THE console seller for this exciting new generation of games. While not the first game to adopt an “open world” mechanic, it was one of the first games to craft a living world and pioneered the Quick Time Event game mechanic used in so many contemporary titles. This was a huge leap forward for games, featuring a revolutionary for its time day and night cycle with changing seasons and an open city that reacted to the player. This pioneer for modern sandbox games felt like our very first glimpse into what the future of games would eventually hold for us.
Though the game was a commercial failure and the subsequent sequel never gained the footing the original did, the series which was originally planned as a trilogy ended on a cliffhanger in the sequel (released on the dying Dreamcast and the Xbox 360). Despite the commercial failure of this ambitious game, we as gamers can’t discount what Shenmue meant to gaming culture. It showed us what an open-world-living-city game can be, and without a game like Shenmue I’d be hard pressed to think that some of its predecessors would have been the same.
I still wonder “what-if” when it comes to this franchise, what if it was a success and became a historic series with spin-off titles, annualization, DLC, and pre-order bonuses. At its time, Shenmue had the highest ever production budget in game development. To turn a profit, game journalism website IGN stated that every Dreamcast owner at the time had to have bought the title twice. Just another case of being far too ambitious for its era.
Mortal Kombat (1992)
Looking back at this arcade fighter from 1992, there isn’t much that really ties it to where the franchise is today. While Mortal Kombat X touts impressive visuals with gag-reflex testing fatalities, 1992 was a very different time for the franchise. Regardless of the quality of the first game, it’s undeniable what this franchise contributed to gaming history.
Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, originally they were working on a fighting game featuring Jean Claude Van Damme (who coincidentally played a character in the film adaptation of MK’s primary arcade rival). This (thankfully) feel through and the duo turned their efforts toward a fantasy-themed fighting game. Early entries were 2D fighters that utilized digitized sprites of live actors to portray the kombtants… a first step to “photo-realism” in games maybe? This of course brings us to the main point behind my inclusion of this title… not what the game brought but what the controversy built.
A step forward to proving games weren’t just for kids, this hyper violent (for its time) fighter sent bored moms and clueless political figures (on both sides of the two-party system) into a frantic tizzy. Convinced that unless parents were warned about the “ultra realistic” *fucking-eye-roll* violence of Mortal Kombat, children might attempt to tear out their friend’s heart or rip their head off… spine in tact… from their shoulders, because ya know… children are basically superhumans. This gave rise to the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB for short) looking to do for video games what the MPAA does for films. This was a huge leap forward in gaming and something that has shaped the current landscape of games culture. Personally, I’m not opposed to the ESRB… I feel parents should be armed with this information, and much like how it falls to the parent’s discretion whether to let their child watch R-rated movies… the same should be applied to M-rated games.
The Legend of Zelda (1986)
Miyamoto-san’s other gaming-child deserves a coveted spot in this Hall of Fame. Developed back in 1986, The Legend of Zelda centered around the mythical hero Link (or BUTT, or PEEN, or FART, or whatever juvenile name I may have given him) as he embarks on a quest of legendary proportions. At the time, the game featured a massive world, unheard of before in video games. Exploration is the key and upon first taking up arms in Hyrule, you are free to roam while solving puzzles and slaying monsters to further the game’s narrative.
Miyamoto has stated that The Legend of Zelda was inspired by adventures he experienced in his youth. As a boy, lil Shigeru explored the hillsides surrounding his childhood home in Sonobe, Japan where he ventured into forest with secluded lakes, mysterious caves, and rural villages… now if they have told me he also attacked chickens and stole rupees from said rural villagers (while cutting their bushes) it would be the complete inspirational package. Miyamoto referred to the creation of the Zelda franchise as an attempt to bring to life a “miniature garden” for players to explore.
This was one of the first video games I beat as a kid, and for that point it holds a very special place in my heart. The franchise has grown to become a world-wide phenomena, touting 17 official entries in the series while continuing to be one of Nintendo’s strongest properties. With no indication of this series slowing down, I foresee a future where every generation of gamer will get to experience the tale of a boy named Link (or BUTT, or FART etc) and a Princess named Zelda.
Halo 2 (2004)
The most recent game on this list is also the only game on the list to be a sequel. Halo: Combat Evolved was the reason gamers invested in Microsoft’s Xbox console. While not the first western made console, it took a major risk attempting to step into a spotlight held by the heavy hitters of Sony, Sega, and Nintendo (all Japanese companies). After the phenomenal success of Halo: Combat Evolved it was only a matter of time before Bungie capitalized n the success with a sequel.
Like the first game, Halo 2 included a widely popular and competitive multiplayer mode. This gave rise to the popularity of Xbox Live to allow players to play with and against other players. This also gave rise to Major League Gaming, founded in 2002 it became the frist console gaming league in the United States to be televised back in 2006. The spotlight of the league was their Halo 2 pro series. Though Halo: Combat Evolved helped launch the MLG brand, it was the second game in the series that made it a household name.
E-sports wouldn’t be what they are today without Halo 2, and even the rise of Twitch and Let’s Plays I feel would not be what they are now if not for how MLG popularized watching other people play video games.
Gaming has come a long way, from humble beginnings to truly cinematic experiences. While still a new form of entertainment, there’s no slowing down to what we can expect from the future of gaming.
This was my list, what games would you induct into the Hall of Fame?