There’s a lot of top 5 lists out there. While most are mainly “best of” and “favorite” or “ultimate” lists, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to talk about Video Games that people have just overlooked, but have had a significant impact nonetheless. I’m also not planning on creating a hierarchy, the numbers don’t matter; 1 is not more or less important than 2 and so on. The only reason I’m numbering them is to make sure I can still count 🙂
And with that, on to the show:
1. Dragonstomper (Atari 2600)
This is a gem that is so hidden in the annals of video game history that people don’t realize it needed an extra peripheral to even function. Dragonstomper needed a peripheral called the Starpath Supercharger in order to just upload the information needed to play the game. The Supercharger itself was an elongated cartridge that had a audio cable attached to it. You had to put in a cassette tape, plug in the Supercharger. turn on the Atari, then play the tape. If all went well, you were blessed with a 10 minute load time before you got to the actual game.
But it wasn’t the load time, nor was it the extra peripherals that made this game. The fact is, Dragonstomper is known as the very first console RPG video game. You wandered through a wilderness, you had an inventory, random battles happened, and it wasn’t half bad…for its time. While we look at this game and think this is just standard fare, back then it was a technological masterpiece. All this for less than 15KB…yes, Kilobytes. This, compared to Final Fantasy 1’s 144KB or the first Dragon Warrior/Quest’s 49KB. This game was truly ahead of its time.
2. Guitar Freaks
When PaRappa The Rapper came out, it heralded a new genre; the music game. Notes run along a track towards a threshed point, and you’d have to press a particular button when that note hit the threshold. You got extra points for how accurate you hit the note to the threshold and negative points for missing (actually it was more like negative on a play meter; when that got to zero, you lost the game). After that game released, a plethora of music-like games started appearing in arcades all over Japan and in specialty arcades in the US.
Fast forward to 2005, Harmonix releases a small game known as Guitar Hero and it takes the US by storm. When compared to 1998’s Guitar Freaks, it has very similar elements except Guitar Hero sports 5 bottoms on the fret instead of Guitar Freak’s 3. Harmonix certainly took the music genre to the next level. But it’s very obvious that Guitar Hero got its inspiration from this game.
Now in 2015, Harmonix has recently announced that they are in production with Rock Band 4. Respect the roots!
Back in the day when you had to play a particular game, you had to meet certain requirements in order to enjoy the game fully. When you upgraded your computer, unfortunately, the graphics didn’t follow. Here comes Messiah and Sacrifice, both games from the mastermind of Dave Perry (of Earthworm Jim fame) featured graphics that adjusted to your computer’s specs and pumped out the maximum detail for your processor. It was mainly spawned from a surge of new graphics cards that could do that; Sacrifice (right off the heels of Messiah) heralded that revolution.
4. Adventure (Colossal Cave)
The Adventure game I’m talking about here isn’t the game that was released on the Atari 2600; this game came out way before that. This jewel came out in 1976 and wasn’t really anything graphically impressive. In fact, the whole game consisted of about 700 lines of code and was so small, the first iteration of the game could only be called ADVENT because the file size was too small to put the whole name. It was later renamed to Colossal Cave when the file could hold it and it had several iterations before disappearing into obscurity.
But what makes this game so…impressive? Well in today’s age of communication, Adventure was played on an experimental packet switching network funded by the government called ARPANET which makes this game the first true online game. With the online games taking up a huge chunk of the gaming industry, we have to give props to the OG.
5. Spasim/Maze Wars
Again, not exactly the most technologically advanced games, Spasim and Maze Wars both try to claim their foothold as the first…First Person game. However, for the sake of just being fair, I just chose both. Both released in 1974, these games pushed the 2d barrier even when the modern video game was still trying to push out of the text based adventure.
Spasim claims to be the first 3d multiplayer gam and has even issued a challenge for anyone to find an earlier 3d multiplayer game. The game held up to 32 players and was based around 3d ships looking for planets.
Maze Wars, on the other hand, claims to be the pioneer of the First Person Shooter. It featured a multiplayer shooting aspect and used a tile system for advancing through the maze. Not exactly “real time”, but still pretty impressive.
Again, not exactly the most technologically advanced game, Spasim and Maze Wars both try to claim their foothold as the first…First Person game. However, for the sake of just being fair, I just chose both. Both released in 1974, these games pushed the 2d barrier even when the modern video game was still trying to push out of the text based adventure.
Well that’s it. With technology moving so fast, we need to be aware of where a lot of these games got their start. If you feel like this list needs more games or if one of these games isn’t as influential as you believe, feel free to comment below.