Welcome to the Video Games wing of the 2021 Shacknews Hall of Fame class. This category celebrates the games that have shaped the industry and the lives of millions of players.
When you're finished, use the Table of Contents links below to visit other areas of the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
When one typically thinks of the Nintendo Entertainment System and its platformers, specifically, they'll think of mascot-driven fare like Super Mario Bros., DuckTales, Castlevania, or Kid Icarus. One of the most overlooked gems of the genre in the early 8-bit days was Adventure Island, the game that saw players guide Master Higgins across a treacherous land filled with primitive creatures.
What made Adventure Island stand out was its power-ups. While they may not have the same iconic appeal as the ones from other games, the stone axe and the magic fireball proved pretty handy and fun to use, too. Oh, and let's not forget the skateboard, one of the few cases where players could strap on a helmet and ride to victory while making sure to avoid any obstacles in front of them.
If players during the golden age of arcades were taken into space or had to deal with anything space related, it was expected that they would have to fire in one direction. However, Asteroids called for something different. This game called for a full 360 degree radius.
Asteroids challenged players to clear off a full screen of massive asteroids, as well as any pesky flying saucers. However, the challenge was amplified by players having to exercise total control over their ship without crashing. It was one of the first space shooters of its kind and is remembered as a beloved arcade hit.
This cult-classic NES made our hall of fame for a number of reasons. First, it’s a unique blend of side-scrolling, vehicle-based platforming and top-down dungeon exploring. Secondly, it’s got that classic game grit as there was no password or save feature. Players had to get through the entire game without zeroing out their lives or they had to stop over. It was easy to approach, but took time to (Blaster) master. Very few games of the NES struck a balance between approachability and challenge, but Blaster Master did both while combining two game genres and definitely deserves its spot in our Hall of Fame.
Breakout was born out of Atari executives Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow's desire for a single player version of their smash hit Pong. Pong's minimal gameplay mechanics would be enhanced in Breakout with plenty of blocks to break.
The feeling when you get a path cleared to the top of the blocks and then get the ball taking out blocks from above is similar to the joy players may feel when they clear a Tetris. Breakout was an arcade classic, and it has been ported all over the place. It's also been cloned millions of times on mobile devices.
No-brainer Shacknews Hall of Fame inductee.
Before Castlevania came along everyone thought you needed a wooden stake to kill Dracula. Turns out that a long metal whip does just as good of a job and we all know that now thanks to Simon Belmont and his lineage of vampire hunters. The game and its massive haunted castle created an amazing horror atmosphere despite the graphical limitations of the era and it had one of the most banging soundtracks of all time. It’s also how we learned that you could store food in castle walls to keep it fresh. Who knew?
After taking a divisive sidestep with its sequel, Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse is looked upon with as much fondness as the original. While reverting to the formula of the first game, players were also greeted with a much higher challenge level. That challenge was balanced with the introduction of interesting new characters.
Among those new characters was Alucard, the son of Dracula, who would become a lasting staple in the Castlevania series and one of gaming's most iconic characters. Castlevania 3 is looked upon so highly that Netflix took its lead characters and based a full show around them.
When you talk about the SNES era of JRPGs, one game that is bound to come up within the first 5 seconds is Chrono Trigger. To this day it’s still thought of as an impeccable experience. We’re talking about an amazing cast of characters that includes a steam-punk robot, cave woman, and a knight who’s a frog-person. And while it wasn’t the first game to offer up multiple endings, it was one of the first to offer ones that ran the gamut from super-bad sad ending to ultimate happy ending.
If all that wasn’t enough, Chrono Trigger was also the game that coined the term “New Game Plus.”
Before railroads and pirate ships, Sid Meier built a reputation as an ace flight sim programmer. His desire to explore history and what-if scenarios led him to the concept of a strategy game where players rewrite history, one turn at a time.
Players started with a settler and spent hundreds of years building grand cities full of wonders, military bases, scientific achievements, and financial institutions. Victory was achieved by sending a space shuttle to Alpha Centauri or conquering the other civilizations controlled by AI or human players. Either option demanded a head for tactics, navigation, and resource management.
Sid Meier's Civilization was and still is one of the most influential strategy titles ever made, inspiring several sequels and defining the turn-based genre for decades.
Civilization 2 (or "Civ 2" to diehard followers) emulates the advancement of human civilization, like its turn-based predecessor, but introduced more options and finely tuned balance.
Brian Reynolds headed the design team responsible for creating deeper combat and more expansive diplomatic and trade options during play. More options and better balance has made Sid Meier's Civilization II one of the most popular entries in the long-running Civ franchise, a mainstay in any list of the best and most important strategy titles, and one of the best multiplayer games regardless of genre.
Zork may be one of the most popular, if not the most popular, series of text-based interactive stories ever developed, but it and similar games of its era can be traced back to Colossal Cave Adventure.
Accessible only by using terminals connected to mainframes that had the program, Colossal Cave was modeled after a real cave system. Creator William Crowther melded descriptions of his time spelunking deep below Kentucky with his pen-and-paper exploits in Dungeons & Dragons to create the story, which set the template for adventure games that followed: a riveting tale, more puzzles than enemies, and a sublime feeling of satisfaction when you cracked each puzzle wide open.
Westwood's Dune II real-time strategy game had potential, but Blizzard Entertainment's WarCraft: Orcs & Humans outdid it with more colorful characters and diverse tactics. Not to be outdone for long, Westwood responded with Command & Conquer, a sci-fi RTS with two factions, tons of units for players to command, and cutscenes as memorable for their intentional B-Movie acting and presentation as they were for presenting a story that gave players motivation for waging war against the Brother Hood of NOD or Global Defense Initiative (GDI).
Multiplayer games were fun and balanced, exactly what Westwood needed to stand apart in the burgeoning RTS space in 1995.
Contra is a rare example of a home port that is superior to its arcade source material. Konami's internal team reworked the NES version to take advantage of Nintendo's 8-bit hardware.
The game had more responsive controls and reworked levels, but missed none of the frenetic action that made the coin-op title a hit. Contra's difficulty practically demanded knowledge of the Konami code, but whether you gave you and a buddy 30 levels to work with or not, the straightforward gameplay—run straight ahead and clear the screen of enemies using a panoply of firearms—was a perfect match for the 8-bit era.
Super C on NES was the first sequel to Contra, but without a helpful "2" in the title to establish it as a follow-up, and with identical gameplay and graphics to the first title.
Contra 3 was the first 16-bit entry in the series and immediately looked, felt, and sounded like a true next-gen experience. While your objective—run forward with one finger clamped down on the fire button—hadn't changed, the audiovisual pedigree of Contra 3 put you in the middle of a 1980s action movie. Mode 7-enhanced graphics such as jets swooping toward you and dropping bombs that set levels on fire were experiences impossible to create on 8-bit hardware.
Contra 3 was a testament to the fact that certain gameplay paradigms can be paired with prettier aesthetics to create timeless experiences.
The PlayStation wasn't a viable competitor to Nintendo and Sega on its own. Sony needed a mascot, one with the attitude of Sonic the Hedgehog with the kid-friendliness of Mario.
Crash Bandicoot, designed by The Last of Us and Uncharted creator Naughty Dog, was the perfect fit. Released within days of the Nintendo 64 and Mario's foray into 3D platforming, Crash Bandicoot presented colorful levels, solid controls, a challenge level that ramped up gradually, and lots of collectibles for players to horde. Those factors made it one of the PlayStation's biggest titles and the start of a franchise remastered for new audiences in 2017.
A Star Wars FPS where you didn’t play as a Jedi was a pretty bold move back in the day, but Lucasarts knew what they were doing when they came up with Dark Forces. At the time its visually noteworthy lighting and level design immersed players in the Star Wars universe and offered up some extremely solid gameplay as well. It would establish protagonist, mercenary Kyle Katarn as a new hero for the expanding franchise as well.
In an era of "Doom clones" (how FPS games were known before the term "first-person shooter" took hold), Descent literally flipped the formula by letting players fly their small but deadly ship in any direction.
The game traded demons and blood for spaceships and explosions, and the topsy-turvy nature of play was a captivating new way to explore mazes. Although Descent never reached the lofty heights of Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, Quake, or Unreal, it was one of the most unique and memorable shooters of the 1990s. Considering the wealth of creativity in design during that era, that alone makes it worthy of inclusion in the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Blizzard's recipe for success is taking a strong gameplay formula and making it more accessible to mainstream audiences. Roguelikes were text-based, difficult to play, and extremely challenging.
Newcomer Condor, Inc.—later renamed Blizzard North—sought to change their reputation by adding graphics and, at the persuasion of their colleagues at Blizzard Entertainment, real-time gameplay and online multiplayer. Both Blizzards contributed to the success of Diablo. Blizzard North created gameplay so simple it could be done using only a mouse, and the addictive, slot machine-like nature of randomly generated loot; plus atmosphere that became more unsettling as your hero ventured deeper into the labyrinths beneath the town of Tristram. Blizzard Entertainment helped test the gameplay and build Battle.net, Blizzard's free multiplayer service that let players team up with friends or strangers to explore dungeons.
The resultant game defined the action-RPG sub-genre, one of the most popular game types of the 2010s and 2020s.
Day of the Tentacle is one of the best point-and-click adventure to ever grace the PC. The LucasArts classic shipped in 1993, and featured some amazing puzzle-solving mechanics and a time-traveling portable toilet.
The game has been ported to countless platforms including mobile devices, and is highlighted by an amazing story with some hilarious characters.
Day of the Tentacle built on top of the foundation laid by Maniac Mansion and created a path that lead to even more amazing entries in the point-and-click adventure genre. We never would have had Grim Fandango without Day of the Tentacle. Welcome to Canton, Purple Tentacle. Please try not to take over the world.
With 32-bit machines on the horizon, Nintendo needed to buy time while its engineers finished the company's 64-bit platform. Rare Entertainment, a stalwart partner of Nintendo's, showed off innovative graphics that convinced Nintendo to let Rare borrow its Donkey Kong mascot for a new type of platformer.
Donkey Kong Country swung onto Super NES in 1994. Its gameplay checked all the boxes of a great platformer: tight controls, lots of secrets, and diverse levels. The graphics were stunning and unrivaled in the 16-bit era, proving to consumers that the Super NES still had gas left in the tank.
The original Donkey Kong Country dazzled players with graphics thought impossible on 16-bit systems. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest took those graphics and expanded on them, with more robust gameplay added for good measure. There were more secrets, and finding them was more intuitive yet no less challenging. Diddy and Dixie boasted unique attributes that made them more useful than the Donkey and Diddy pairing from the first game, and level types were more diverse, ranging from roller coasters and caverns flooded with lava to jungles cloaked in fog, mazes choked with brambles, and pirate ships riddled with hidden areas to discover.
Add in more useful animal buddies and a higher difficulty ceiling for advanced players, and Donkey Kong Country 2stands as one of the finest 2D platformers ever made.
Few arcade games in the 1970s and early '80s bothered to tell a story. Donkey Kong set itself apart from other quarter guzzlers by introducing a simple premise (giant ape kidnaps damsel in distress) and keeping you intrigued through simple cutscenes such as Kong grabbing Pauline and climbing higher every time you get close, and a rudimentary but effective ending showing Mario (known as Jumpman) reuniting with his love, Pauline, at the end of the four-level gauntlet.
Donkey Kong took place on four single-screen stages, and navigating each stage's jumps and traps felt satisfying and kept players coming back for more. The game's colorful characters, challenging arrangement of jumps and obstacles, and simple goal set designer Shigeru Miyamoto on his path to video game stardom and gave the industry two of its most iconic characters.
Released in mid-December 1993, Doom was Wolfenstein 3D to the power of 10. The premise of solving mazes while shooting monsters is intact, but everything else is amplified. Rooms are more complex. Moody lighting transforms corridors and small rooms into shadowy spaces where death could be lurking in any corner. The weapon selection was more tactical and more viscerally satisfying. The monsters, a gallery of demons from hell, were more intimidating. Movement was smoother.
Above all, Doom introduced deathmatch: Almost from the moment its shareware episode was available for download, office and university networks buckled under the weight of rockets and BFG blasts. Doom's three main episodes—plus a fourth, Thy Flesh Consumed, added to The Ultimate Doom in 1995—remain fun today, but John Carmack's decision to release the game's source code has allowed its modding community to continue supporting it nearly 30 years later.
Dragon's Lair was a very different kind of arcade game. While it revolved around a brave knight infiltrating a dragon's domain, players didn't control Dirk the Daring directly. Instead, they had to use their reflexes to hit the right button at the right moment, otherwise Dirk would shatter into a pile of bones.
The influence of the original arcade Dragon's Lair is undeniable. It's the father of the modern day quick-time event, which has since been injected into hundreds of games. Beyond that, the art was at the top of its class. Animator Don Bluth, the man behind classic movies like An American Tail and Anastasia, provided an astonishing amount of animation, much of which accounted for certain player choices. Bluth's art is fondly remembered today, even by the animation giant himself, who recently got back into games with the Banner Saga series.
Duck Hunt was an arcade game that, like many Nintendo coin-ops, was a bigger success at home. Its inclusion with Super Mario Bros. on a single cartridge game NES owners two games to play instead of one, and was especially appealing to players who were still getting a handle on Super Mario's more complex controls and levels. Anyone could understand picking up Nintendo's plastic Zapper and blasting ducks as they flapped and quacked their way into the sky.
The dog giggled if ducks escaped, and rather than annoy players, the dog became one of Nintendo's most iconic characters, even making an appearance as a playable fighter (along with one of the ducks) in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
While video game adaptations of film and television shows are usually known for being top-tier, you wouldn’t know it if you’d only played Capcom’s catalog of Disney games. While you could throw just about any of them in here DuckTales is really the standout here. Players helped Scrooge McDuck pogo jump his way around the world, amassing a fortune in diamonds and gems, while taking on his rogues gallery of enemies. You even went to the Moon! DuckTales could’ve been phoned in, but instead it came in like a hurricane, just like life in Duckberg.
Hail to the King, Baby! First year of eligibility and Duke is heading to Canton. This classic FPS game was built on 3D Realms' Build Engine, and set the bar for being over-the-top and edgy at the time. The game really did its best to recreate the feel of a mid 1990s action movie in a first-person shooter format with explosive moments in the campaign.
Duke Nukem is a brash, talkative character who can jump, drop Holodukes, and even fly with a jetpack. Duke 3D really stuck out of the crowd of Doom-likes that were popping up trying to compete with id Software. The Duke Nukem 3D shareware release dropped almost a month before Quake's Qtest beta test dropped, and that price of zero dollars was hard to argue with. 3D Realms would end up releasing the full game in April of 1996, and it was good.
The game had some very amusing weapons, featuring one of the finest RPGs in video game history, a mighty fun shotgun, Pipe Bombs, and tons of great enemies to shoot with them like literal Pig Cops. The Shrink Ray was also a hoot, especially when shrinking your friends in Dukematches.
Duke Nukem 3D really shined in LAN settings, and Dukematches were definitely a staple in college dorms across the country leading to the turn of the century. The game was featured in the Semifinal Round of the Shacknews World Championship at E3 2018, so it should be no surprise that we got this Duke Nukem 3D Shacknews Hall of Fame induction completed as fast as humanly possible. It 0wns.
North America hasn't had much exposure to the Mother series of RPGs. For many years, the only game available out west was the second game in the series, Earthbound. It would prove to be a cult classic, offering standard turn-based RPG gameplay, but with a much more modern and contemporary narrative than more fantasy-based fare like Final Fantasy or Secret of Mana.
Beyond being modern, Earthbound stood out for being weird. Players would get attacked by strange aliens, wild animals, cars with faces on them, Salvador Dali clocks, hula-hooping foes, cups of hot coffee, and other wacky enemies. It also introduced mechanics that were unlike anything seen in games, much less RPGs, at that time. Players would have to call home or else they would get homesick and suffer negative status effects. They could bank money with their dad to use at a later time. They could try and reduce damage from a massive enemy hit by simply hurrying up and finishing a battle before the HP counter would tick to zero.
Plus, there's not enough that can be said for the genius of the game's final boss fight. What happens when four children take on an actual god? It goes exactly the way a normal person would expect it to and the way the fight unfolds is nothing short of brilliant.
F-Zero was a launch title on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991, and introduced the world to Mode 7 graphics technology. The game featured amazing characters and cars that traveled at break neck speeds. There would be no Mario Kart without F-Zero, as the game set the groundwork for Nintendo's future racing titles.
While the franchise is sitting on the shelf at Nintendo HQ in Kyoto, today's induction honors the original title on the SNES. F-Zero was incredibly challenging, introduced some legendary music, and has been ported to countless Nintendo consoles.
Captain Falcon isn't from Smash, kids. He's the Ronald McDonald of F-Zero, and now he is heading to Canton to spend eternity being honored in the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Final Fantasy's title makes increasingly less sense as time passes and more franchise entries are released, but the original game on NES set the industry on an amazing path. Countless JRPGs are influenced by Final Fantasy, The game's turn-based gameplay, overworld design, and customized party build options provided a great example to the industry for how RPGs would be made going forward.
While this is the first game in the massive franchise to be inducted into the Shacknews Hall of Fame, it certainly won't be the final one.
Another legendary JRPG from the golden age of the SNES. Final Fantasy 2 in the US was actually the fourth installment in the series, but only the second to be localized for an American audience. For players familiar with the original NES Final Fantasy there was a lot of new here. It told an epic tale of loss and redemption that revolved around some of the series’ most well-known characters including main character Cecil and his transformation from a dark knight to a paladin.
Many of the series’ familiar musical pieces also made their first appearance here. And it would be undeniable that Final Fantasy 2 (US) opened the floodgates for what would end up being a renaissance for the JRPG genre in North America.
Final Fantasy 3 may be the peak and swan song of the 16-bit JRPG era. It still stands as a masterpiece today for a number of reasons that includes an amazing roster of characters, a masterpiece of a story, and one amazing operatic experience. It’s also the first appearance of the franchise’s iconic Moogles. That right there is probably enough to warrant FF3 a spot in our Hall of Fame.
As far as arcade classics go, Frogger encapsulates the idea of a simple premise mixed with difficult execution. Taking a frog and escorting it across a busy highway sounds easy on paper. Facing down moving vehicles, avoiding falling into deep waters, and making sure not to step on an alligator is much harder in practice.
All of this helped make Frogger into a pop culture staple, one that's been referenced in books, television, and beyond. Yes, that includes a 1998 episode of Seinfeld where poor George tried to get a Frogger arcade machine across a busy street. It ends exactly the way you think it does.
While Lucasarts put out a number of noteworthy point-and-click adventure games, not many of them were met with mainstream success. That was not the case for Full Throttle, which would sell over a million units during an era where a game like this was lucky to move 100,000 units. The rock and roll biker gang adventure seemed to be the perfect game at the perfect time for Lucasarts, and was our first glimpse at just how much its designer Tim Schafer loved heavy metal. A cut psychedelic scene would also go on to become the roots of fan-favorite series Psychonauts.
Galaga is a classic arcade space shooter that was developed and published by Namco. This game's minimal design featured enemy spaceships at the top of the screen and a player-controlled spaceship at the bottom.
Players could move their ship left and right while firing their laser at enemies as fast as possible. Like many games of its time, and its predecessor Galaxian, Galaga was a game about achieving a high score, and avoiding enemies and their lasers gets increasingly difficult as players progress. Those seemingly simple gameplay mechanics made Galaga an arcade classic, and even more valuable as a home console game. The prospects of playing Galaga without losing quarters is hard to resist, and the game has seen ports to many different platforms as a result.
Galaga is truly a timeless classic and a worthy inductee into the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Gauntlet's simple gameplay—top-down view of mazes and players in control of fantasy archetypes that hacked and slashed their way through each dungeon—proved lucrative and addictive in arcades. Most coin-op games were space-themed shooters; Gauntlet offered a change of scenery by replacing starships and laser beams with fantasy characters and swords and spells.
Every character had strengths and weaknesses, so finding players willing to control classes different from yours increased the party's odds of survival in tougher sections. Gauntlet was inspired by TSR's Dungeons & Dragos tabletop RPG, but its faster pace and easy-to-master controls made it accessible to mainstream audiences who didn't have dice or pen and paper on hand.
In many ways, Heretic is the fantasy sibling to Doom’s sci-fi horror. John Romero even helped a fledgling Raven Software put the whole thing together using id’s Doom Engine. Instead of guns and demons, Heretic had wizard staffs and, well, demons too, but it was still a whole new ball game. The atmosphere of Heretic was fear-inducing to say the least, with the team integrating random spooky sounds to keep players on their toes and constantly looking over their shoulders. This was definitely a game that was enhanced by playing it alone in the dark. Heretic would go on to spawn several sequels and the spin-off series Hexen.
Kirby's Dream Land was the result of a collaborative effort between two Shacknews Hall of Fame inductees. Satoru Iwata and Masahiro Sakurai set out to create a new intellectual property, and ended up with one of the most adorable characters of all time.
Kirby is now one of the most popular Nintendo franchises around the world, and was another shoe-in for induction into the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
The Legend of Zelda was a perfect video game for its time when it launched on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. The first adventure of Link came on an iconic gold cartridge. At the time of release, The Legend of Zelda broke new ground on how expansive an action-adventure game could be.
The game's overworld music is simply iconic, and has continued to inspire a whole generation of fans. The mixture of dungeons, different biomes, and secrets introduced some staples of video game design. Who doesn't remember the first time they navigated Death Mountain successfully or the first time they discovered a Fairy Fountain?
The Legend of Zelda introduced one of the best stories in video game history. The mythology of the Triforce, the "IT'S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE" meme, and countless other images from the game are burned into the brain cells of countless Nintendo fans. The Hero of Time will now be honored for eternity at the Shacknews Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Prophecy fulfilled.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past established so many things that we take as given in the series. For starters, there’s the way that the game plays with the past, present and future. And yeah, they called it a flute, but we all know it was an ocarina. Beyond that, A Link to the Past still has some of the best dungeon designs of the series. And of course you could mess around with a chicken and find out just how deadly they can be the hard way. While it may have been A Link to the Past, this Zelda game was ahead of its time in a number of ways.
The origins of Link’s Awakening is one of the most interesting in the history of video games. It was basically an after-hours passion project of Kazuaki Morita that started life as a potential hand-held port of A Link to the Past. Over time, more team members would hop on board as they sort of hodge-podged together the classic Game Boy title. It’s interesting to the series as it does not feature the titular Zelda, nor does it take place in Hyrule. There’s even several cameos from other Nintendo games, such as the Chain-Chomp from Mario Bros and the one and only Kirby.
Link's Awakening stands out even among so many other iconic Zelda games not only for it’s unique story and settings, but also for being an early hand-held hit.
Dying is easy, especially in the early days of video games. For Lemmings, dying was not only easy, it was very probable. In this classic game from DMA Design, players would look to guide a required number of lemmings to an exit. They couldn't control the lemmings directly, but rather had to control other elements to help them avoid obstacles that would kill them. This often involved giving specific lemmings special abilities that would help them lead their friends to safety.
Lemmings was one of the first games of its kind and introduced a new dimension to strategy games. The game proved wildly popular on both PC and consoles and would lead to several sequels, as well as inspire imitators, like the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. It even inspired other strategy games, including the original Warcraft.
Lemonade Stand was one of the earliest games on the Apple II platform. Players would have to balance inventory management and factor in weather changes into their lemonade prices. It was one of the first business simulation games ever released and for that reason it deserves to join this illustrious first Shacknews Hall of Fame inductee class.
All roads in the NFL lead to Canton, Ohio, and we had to include Madden NFL 95 in our first Shacknews Hall of Fame inductee class. The SNES/Genesis title was a full realization of what could be accomplished with 16-bit football. The playbooks, teams, franchise mode, and gameplay set Madden up for decades of video game football dominance.
Madden NFL '95 was truly one of the best sports games of its era, and is now joining other iconic football titles in the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Nintendo never shies away from experimenting in game design, and Mario Paint is a fine example of that spirit of innovation. The game shipped with a Mouse, allowing players to express themselves in the Mario universe like never before. Mario Paint actually featured a music sequencer, making it even more awesome.
Mario Paint is another example of how Nintendo can be ahead of their time with some products, and a lot of the game's genius was fully realized when Super Mario Maker shipped on the Wii U. The spirit of giving players tools to create in the Mario universe started with Mario Paint and remains alive and well with the Super Mario Maker franchise. Wahoo!
You'd be forgiven if you believed id Software's Wolfenstein 3D was the first FPS game. In fact, id Software created two other first-person shooters before Wolfenstein, but before Hovertank 3-D and Catacomb 3-D, Maze War was the first 3D maze game and the original FPS.
Developed by students Greg Thompson, Steve Colley, Howard Palmer, and Dave Lebling in the early '70s, Maze War was not only the first FPS, but a game of many other firsts, too. It introduced a first-person perspective to games, a level editor players could use to design labyrinths, an observer mode (known as spectator mode in contemporary titles) for players to follow the action, and network play over client-server architecture.
Maze War was simple in execution, but every FPS that followed, including and especially id Software's, followed the formula its creators engraved in code.
If you ask a Mega Man fan which title in the series is their favorite, you’ll probably hear them gush over Mega Man 2 for a while. While the original Mega Man was not the success that Capcom had hoped for, the dev team seemed to know they had something special here and spent their personal time developing the sequel.
Mega Man 2 would go on to become the highest selling game in the series. If all that wasn’t enough it has one hell of a soundtrack with some of the most memorable tunes including the legendary Wily Fortress 1 theme.
After years of Mega Man games on NES and Game Boy, many fans believed Capcom's once iconic "Blue Bomber" was played out. Mega Man X kept enough of what made the 8-bit games so fun to play and added trappings that appealed to new and veteran players alike.
Story played a larger role in Mega Man X, and the power-ups you won from Robot Masters after defeating them were more versatile than those of previous games. Secret upgrades were especially intriguing: In various stages, you could find hidden upgrades that let you dash and unleash more powerful attacks, adding a layer of movement and physical puzzle solving absent in previous Mega Man titles.
While never as popular as Metal Gear Solid and its sequels, the original Metal Gear was director Hideo Kojima's first attempt at many of the gameplay elements later MG entries depended on to find success.
Displayed from a top down view, the original Metal Gear had series mainstay Solid Snake sneaking past guards, relying on resources to escape close encounters, and had more story than most games in the 8-bit era. Snake began his mission without weapons, but finding arms to bear against enemies, or figuring out ways to succeed without building an arsenal, presented challenges to sink your teeth into. Most players may be more familiar with the NES port, but Metal Gear launched on the MSX2, a PC popular in Japan and regions of Europe.
No matter what platform you discovered it on, Metal Gear was a blend of action and suspense few other 8-bit games could match.
The arcade era of video games was chock full of Contra-clones, but Metal Slug was more than that. It took the core elements of the genre and added an iconic tank you could plow through levels in and POW’s you could rescue for power-ups and points (if you were skilled enough to beat a level without dying). It’s also hard to deny the wonderful and unique cartoon art style that helped imbue a sense of humor which kept you laughing as you marched through bullet Hell.
When the original Metroid launched for the NES back in 1986 it was like nothing that had come before it. It immersed players in a sci-fi world that wore its Ridley Scott inspiration on its sleeve. It also hid the fact that main character Samus Aran was female until you beat the game (or knew the code to unlock Samus with no helmet), which helped an entire generation of young men realize it’s okay to play as a girl while also giving young female gamers a new icon for representation in gaming. Metroid would go on to help define an entire genre of video games alongside Castlevania.
On the surface, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (which later dropped "Mike Tyson" from the title after the infamous boxer's unending controversies proved too hot for Nintendo to handle) was a fighting game.
Players who looked closer discovered one of the most intense puzzle games of the 1980s. Each opponent had a weakness, and while your goal was to either knock them out, you accomplished that goal by studying their patterns and exploiting openings in their defense. Punch-Out!! rewarded dexterity by giving you stars for dodging attacks, and those stars could be spent on super punches that drained a significant portion of your opponent's health bar—or, if unleashed at the right moment, put them down for the count.
Despite a critically acclaimed sequel in 1994 and a 2009 remake on the Wii, the original Punch-Out!! remains a fan favorite for the novelty of its brawler-meets-puzzler gameplay.
Missile Command was a big hit during the golden age of arcades, largely because it was a product of its time. During the hysteria of the Cold War, the prospect of missiles flying across continents was a real concern. If nothing else, players could at least simulate the idea of missile defense through this game, which would require them to intercept missile fire and incoming weaponry.
It wasn't based on any license, but Missile Command is one of the few games that was based on a real-world phenomenon. That makes it a fascinating time capsule, one that's pretty fun to play, too.
Street Fighter II redefined the one-on-one fighter in 1991, but many of the games that followed were imitators with near-identical art styles, characters, and special attacks. Mortal Kombat kept the best-two-out-of-three-rounds format but eschewed everything else. A four-man team at Midway filmed martial artists and digitized them to create photorealistic (for the time) graphics. Movement was stiff but hard-hitting, and blood flowed after every uppercut, roundhouse, and special attack.
The game's most notorious feature, the fatality, let you kill your opponent in brutal fashion. Fatalities wowed arcade audiences but sent parents and politicians into a tizzy, leading to formation of the ESRB and video game ratings. It was a necessary step for the industry, but never mistake Mortal Kombat for being all sizzle and no steak. Its characters and lore captivated players as much as its hard-hitting gameplay, if not more, and gave rise to a franchise that has sold billions of dollars in games, toys, movies, and other merchandise over nearly 30 years.
While PAC-MAN is an icon, it would be hard for you to argue that his female counterpart, Ms.PAC-MAN, isn’t just as iconic. This game took everything that was great about PAC-MAN and improved upon it while wearing high heels. The AI was much more challenging, there were new mazes, there was even a story that played out in between levels. Ms.PAC-MAN expanded the PAC-FAM of games in extraordinary ways and stands beside her male counterpart as a true icon of gaming.
To many, Myst was less a video game and more an escape to the ideal fantasy world. There were no guns, no demons, no goofy characters you had to listen to in order to progress. Every scene was picturesque, and navigation was simple: click to move, click to interact. Seamless movement wasn't possible with the technology of 1993, so developer Cyan Entertainment took a slideshow-like approach to moving through environments. Animations ranged from quick and simple to full-motion video, and the puzzles were complex enough that most players made good use of the blank journal included with the game.
Myst was a slower-paced, more serene and thoughtful experience that almost single-handedly popularized CD-ROM, a newer media format at the time of the game's release.
NBA Jam made a powerful statement: Simulation sports games like Madden were boring, with their rules and deep playbooks. Midway combined the faces of popular NBA player with fast action to create one a fast-paced, two-on-two baller that went down as one of the most critically and commercially successful in arcade history. The dunks were bombastic, and sinking multiple uninterrupted shots set the ball on fire for your player, increasing your odds of making shots and shattering glass backboards with every dunk.
NBA Jam's tight controls and cartoonish graphics were fantastic, and Tim Kitzrow's excited announcer's voice added spice to now-famous lines such as "From downtown!" and "He's on fire!" and, perhaps most popular, "Boom-shakalaka!"
NHL '94 is considered one of the greatest sports games ever made, and may be the greatest hockey game ever released. It helped put the NHL franchise on the map, and its influence is still felt more than 25 years later. The impact of NHL '94 was so great that it's been released alongside annual NHL games such as NHL 14 and NHL 21.
The Nintendo Entertainment System was full of challenging platformers, but few were more difficult than Ninja Gaiden. It was Dark Souls before there was Dark Souls, as players died again and again while trying to make that one pesky jump or dodge that enemy shuriken that would knock them back down a cliff.
While Ninja Gaiden was the cream of the crop when it came to tough-as-nails platformers, its innovations in gaming cannot be overlooked. It was one of the first console games to ever feature cutscenes. As primitive as they may look to the modern gamer, this is where the trend of enhancing a story through art and text first began, further establishing gaming as a potential storytelling medium.
The Oregon Trail was an example of that rare breed of "edutainment" game that packed in as much "tainment" as it did "edu." Developed by three student teachers, the game started as a text-based adventure played on Teletypes connected to mainframes. Players typed commands to travel, trade, and hunt. Later, The Oregon Trail was developed for the Apple II with cartoonish graphics that enhanced the text-driven experience. The game taught players some of the perils encountered by pioneers on the pilgrimage west and gave them opportunities to have fun by hunting wild game and naming the members of their party after friends or maligned teachers and classmates.
There were myriad ways to perish, and while the reality behind succumbing to snakebites, diseases, drowning while fording rivers, and other pitfalls was sobering, players still got a kick out of alerts informing them that their least-favorite teacher had died of dysentery.
Legend has it that PAC-MAN’s creator, Toru Iwatani, was inspired by a pizza missing a couple of slices when he created what would go on to be one of the greatest games of all time. Whether that’s true or not, there’s no arguing that he truly made a legend of gaming that day. PAC-MAN has gone on to inspire a countless number of spin-offs, cartoons, and even Buckner & Garcia’s hit single “PAC-MAN Fever”, which peaked at number 9 on the Billboard charts. PAC-MAN continues to be a staple in gaming and pop culture, even getting his own battle royale in the form of PAC-MAN 99 most recently.
Anybody who plays a game like Tomb Raider or Uncharted might look at something like Pitfall and find it quaint. Make no mistake about it, though. Pitfall helped inspire those games in big ways, introducing early 80s home console players to a dangerous jungle filled with wild animals and killer hazards.
Pitfall featured a whopping 255 screens, each one featuring different obstacles, enemies, and treasures. Staying alive was a challenge in itself, but Pitfall's 20-minute time limit gave it an added sense of pressure. There was nothing like it in gaming at the time and proved to be a pioneer in action gaming.
Quake started as a slower, more scenic game than Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, but ended up as the game one could argue it was always destined to be: Just like those other games, but in a true 3D engine. The additions of 3D spaces and physics allowed for new gaming constructs, many of which, such as rocket jumps and bunny hopping, were unknown to id Software's designers at the time of release.
Quake included levels organized into four episodes, and those maps alternated between futuristic military installations and medieval castles, but once again, the game's multiplayer stole the show. Lead tech engineer John Carmack continued building Quake after release, releasing QuakeWorld for faster connection speeds and easier play over the Internet, and ports such as glQuake that took advantage of emerging 3D accelerator cards (known today as GPUs).
Quake deserves credit for promoting machinima—movies scripted within game engines—and esports, now one of the most lucrative and popular forms of entertainment in the world.
Rare is often recognized for its output in the 90s and 2000s. People remember the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, the Banjo-Kazooie series, and more recent efforts like Sea of Thieves. However, one of the studio's earliest efforts that put them on the map was R.C. Pro-Am, a racing game on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
R.C. Pro-Am stands out as one of the best single-player racing games of its era, giving players intuitive driving physics, challenging track layouts, high speed for its time, and power-ups. It would help pave the way for a handful of classic arcade-style racers, including Blizzard's Rock 'n Roll Racing and Nintendo's Super Mario Kart.
Resident Evil didn't create the survival horror genre, but director Shinji Mikami coined the term and set the mold for the genre's staple elements going forward: cinematic camera angles that sometimes impeded gameplay but never failed to enhance the atmosphere; slow, creeping dread that built as you explored the mansion's derelict corridors and zombie-infested great halls; and puzzles that served as brief respites from what awaited you in the dark.
Cheesy writing and voice acting added to rather than detracted from the game's charm, but resource management was the game's most important feature: Do you spend one of your few bullets on that zombie in the west hallway, or do you snake by it and hope you can dodge before it lunges and grabs you? Should you use your last ink ribbon to save your progress even though you're out of bullets and one zombie-bite away from death, or make your way back to the green herb you couldn't carry earlier?
Every choice mattered, and that series of life-or-death decisions made for one of the most memorable experiences of the 1990s.
Sam & Max started life as surreal, non-sequitur comic book characters. An anthropomorphic dog and bunny detective duo that seemed to have an obsession with delicious frozen treats, mayhem, and solving cases: What part of that wouldn’t make an excellent video game? It turns out a well-written point-and-click adventure would cement their legacy and set them up to be one of Tell Tale Games most iconic franchises a decade or so down the line.
“A product can be quickly outdated, but a successful brand is timeless” - Stephen King
Like any consumer focused business, today’s video game industry follows the path that leads to the most money. This has led to an overabundance of games that pander to the lowest common denominator; games that involve no critical thinking, logic, reasoning, or any real skill other than pointing and shooting, trash talking, button mashing, or fighting to be the last man standing. In the beginning of PC games coming into existence, there was adventure. The first PC games consisted of choose your own adventure type stories where you could actually choose wrong, die, and have to start over. Adventure puzzle games were the next step that laid the foundation for all games currently in existence. One of the most iconic, genre defining, captivating, exciting, and thoroughly enjoyable adventure puzzle game franchises is Monkey Island.
Seeing the message, “Now to go bed,” over and over and over again after the end credits of the first game in the franchise, The Secret of Monkey Island, has been emblazoned in my memory forever. It was 3:30 in the morning and all I could think was, “how the heck do they know?” The pride I felt in those moments was immeasurable and only duplicated when I stumble across a new adventure puzzle game. Yes, achieving the highest kill count after a 10 minute round in Call of Duty or any online first person shooter game feels great. The difference between the two is the build up and payoff when it is over. The intrinsic versus extrinsic reward. The knowledge that you did it on your own because you wanted to and not because you are competing against anyone else.
That you were able to pick up the controller after throwing it because you could not figure out a puzzle and it had been over an hour but after walking away you resisted the urge to consult a walkthrough, had a stroke of brilliance, logged back in and could finally progress the story forward only to hit another wall and repeat the process again. You challenged yourself, practiced problem solving, self control, emotional regulation, and demonstrated resilience by seeing it through.
Adventure puzzle games are the ultimate test that separates true gamers from poser noobs with no gaming street cred. Completing an adventure puzzle game without the help of a walkthrough is a thoroughly exhausting, time consuming, frustrating, and ultimately the most rewarding gaming experience in existence. True gamers are not defined by achievements, trophy’s, or number of followers. True gamers have experienced the internal rush of relief and complete and utter joy only someone who has completed an adventure puzzle game on their own could know.
If you want to define yourself as a gamer, take a break from the look at me, love me, compliment me, follow me gaming culture that is currently dominating the industry and work through an adventure puzzle game on your own. Streaming it live does not count even if you disable chat. Do it for you, not the gram, and maybe then you can consider yourself a real gamer.
SimCity set the bar for city builders and created a whole universe of simulation games. The original title was a commercial hit, selling 300,000 copies on PC and topping 2 million units sold on SNES. The SNES version even featured Bowser as a special disaster event. From budgeting to optimal infrastructure building strategies, SimCity shaped a whole genre of games. Welcome to Canton, SimCity.
Arcade brawlers were a big hit in arcades in the late 80s, especially ones based on popular franchises. The Simpsons wasn't quite the hit that it would eventually become, with its best years ahead of it. However, The Simpsons Arcade Game was a huge hit, thanks to its distinct characters, artwork and wacky visuals inspired by creator Matt Groening, and its crushing difficulty that would demand more and more quarters. Plus, it was one of the first games of its kind to introduce tandem attacks.
The Simpsons is a series that's often taken for granted, especially as it just keeps on ticking after more than 30 years. However, The Simpsons Arcade Game is a gem of a time capsule, looked back upon with all of the love of the show's fifth season.
Snood's rise to popularity may have occurred in the late 90s, but it was one of the better Mac games when it launched in 1996. The puzzle game was inspired by Bubble Bobble, and really became a high score competition in dorm rooms across the world.
Snood is great, and it is no surprise that it is being inducted into the Shacknews Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility.
It’s plausible that Sega wouldn’t still be around today without the help of their iconic blue hedgehog mascot and the first two Sonic games have a lot to do with that. The company needed a contender to Nintendo’s Mario Bros. and the blue blur was the perfect answer. While Mario may have had a few hidden routes here and there on levels, Sonic was all about carving your own path from point A to point B at blazing speeds.
When Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came around, it cemented Sonic and Tails as one of the most recognizable duos in gaming history. Sonic 2 may even be the first example of drop-in/out co-op play, as players could grab the 2nd controller and fly around as Tails. Today we raise a chili-dog to Sonic’s legacy.
While Sonic’s legacy was well intact by the time the Sega CD was released, it still managed to innovate in some interesting ways. The biggest probably being the fact that there were three different versions of most levels in the game. Sonic was able to travel between past, present, and future at certain points in levels which would change the aesthetics as well as the routes available for players to take. And it’s undeniable how banging the animated intro and “Sonic Boom” theme song are.
There were few greater challenges in the golden era of arcades than stopping an invading horde of alien spaceships. Space Invaders put players in control of a lone vessel defending the world against a full fleet of enemies.
The mixture of ideas is what helped make Space Invaders so iconic. Simply aiming and taking out ships while avoiding their fire was not enough. The enemies would all move in one direction until hitting a wall and going the other way, all while continually moving farther and farther down the screen. The increased pressure that came with hitting those last few ships helped define a lot of childhoods back in the day and it's another experience that has transcended pop culture.
Star Fox for SNES may not be a looker in the present day, but the game was a revolutionary moment for Nintendo when it released in 1993. The game showcased the Super FX chip technology and provided an excellent framework that was built upon in the Star Fox 64 sequel for N64.
Star Fox had a lot of replay-ability, with branching paths for players to explore. The SNES entry introduced another set of iconic Nintendo characters including Slippy Toad, Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi, and Fox McCloud.
I don’t know exactly how they did it, but somehow Atari managed to capture the feeling of being Luke Skywalker and blowing up the Death Star using only vector graphics and a proprietary controller. Heck, even the chiptune arrangements of John William’s classic Star Wars soundtrack were amazing. Throw in some choice movie quotes and you have a fine example of solid licensing. It also really shows off just how unique arcade cab offering could be.
Sure, some consoles have peripherals that can enhance the gaming experience, but it will never be quite the same experience as making a canyon run while playing Atari’s classic Star Wars arcade cab.
Before Street Fighter II dragon-punched its way onto the scene in 1991, arcades were on their way out. Capcom's sequel revitalized game rooms and defined how one-on-one fighters should work going forward.
The game's formula was deceptively simple: a colorful cast of characters with basic punches and kicks, thematic stages, and special moves performed by entering "codes" such as rolling your joystick down, to down-forward, to forward, and pressing a punch button. The combination of punches, kicks, and specials that were unique to most characters (except for Ken and Ryu, who were palette swaps to save memory) made for matchups that rarely had the same outcome and brought players to arcades and droves.
Capcom sold over 200,000 SF2 cabinets between the 1991 original and its first two upgrades, Champion Edition and Turbo Hyper Fighting, proving that arcades still had legs and the one-on-one fighter was a genre ripe for exploration.
Konami was really on a roll when they released Sunset Riders and it was definitely a crown jewel for them at the time. The wild west side-scrolling shooter looked amazing with its vibrant colors, cartoonish characters, and slapstick humor. There are very few games where your character can get taken out by accidentally walking on a pitch fork on the ground and having it pop up and slap you in the face.
And much like Konami’s X-Men cab, the 4-player version had a double wide screen, which made it a very popular game for groups of friends or people looking to make new friends at the arcade.
Before Super Mario Bros., most platforming games took place in single-screen environments, and even games with larger spaces to explore had to redraw rather than scroll the screen when you reached an edge. Captained by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, Super Mario Bros. catered to the imagination by scrolling smoothly from left to right, revealing a vast world far beyond what players could see as they played.
That world unfolded across 32 levels comprising settings such as sunny fields, gloomy fortresses filled with pits and traps, towering mushroom platforms, and underwater environments, all with power-ups gave players an edge against King Koopa and his minions. The goal was to rescue Princess Toadstool (now Princess Peach), but the real draw of Super Mario Bros. was its tight controls and conquering its plethora of run-and-jump challenges.
While other Mario games have surpassed it, Super Mario Bros. remains the standard bearer for 2D platformers, a genre as popular today as it was in 1985.
The real Super Mario Bros. 2 (later released in the U.S. as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels) was so difficult and poorly designed at points that it could have tarnished Nintendo's and Shigeru Miyamoto's legacies. For the third entry, Miyamoto and co-designer Takashi Tezuka wisely stuck to what worked by using Super Mario Bros. as a base and building out from there.
Super Mario Bros. 3 was everything the previous sequel should have been. Tighter controls, more and more inventive power-ups such as the Frog Suit and Tanuki Suit, world maps that allowed players to have some say in which challenges to tackle next, and more secrets. Every 2D Mario—and arguably every 3D Mario—has stood on the shoulders of this giant, and countless designers such as Yacht Club Games (Shovel Knight, 2014) and id Software have been influenced by Miyamoto's and Tezuka's genre-defining hit.
Super Mario World is one of the most amazing side-scrolling platformers ever created. The game was a perfect SNES launch showpiece that featured almost every technological advantage the new console had over its predecessor, the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The music in Super Mario World perfectly kicked off an era of amazing video game soundtracks on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Each world in the game had its own style and sound. Super Mario World also introduced some new gameplay mechanics with the Cape power-up and a new mountable dinosaur named Yoshi. Yoshi!
Iconic boss battles, secret exits to levels, one of the best overworlds in a Mario game. Super Mario World is insanely great in the best ways and deserves to reside alongside the other Shacknews Hall of Fame 2021 inductees in Canton, Ohio until the end of time.
The transition to 3D gaming proved exceptionally difficult for many classic franchises. Not all of them made the transition gracefully, but they all had Mario to help lead the way. Super Mario 64 was one of the first major series to jump to 3D and it did so amazingly. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out our recent celebration of the game's 25th anniversary.
- (Feature) A New Mushroom Kingdom: 25 years of Super Mario 64
Kart racers have come and gone since Mario and his friends and foes took to race tracks in 1992. What do they have that other racers lack? Character. By the time Super Mario Kart raced onto Super NES, Mario was bigger than Mickey Mouse. Every kid recognized the popular plumber, his brother, Luigi, his nemesis, Bowser, and the rest of its colorful cast of character. Each racetrack had offensive and defensive power-ups that could turn the tides of a race, shortcuts to exploit, and memorable layouts.
Future entries in Nintendo's bestselling Mario Kart franchise have topped the original, but it's still fun to play, and is still the template from which sequels and imitators spring.
Super Mario Bros. helped define platformers. While Mario would venture into various side activities, like kart racing, nobody ever expected him to exit that one genre and explore one so radically different like role-playing games. With the aid of Squaresoft, Nintendo took Mario into an exciting new frontier, putting the portly plumber in his very first RPG.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars wasn't just an average Mario game. It was a game that showed the true potential of storytelling in a Mario title, introducing new characters, side tales that went beyond the Mushroom Kingdom, and even explored new and unexpected dyanmics in the relationship between Mario and his nemesis, Bowser. It was unlike anything ever seen out of this franchise to this point and opened up wild new possibilities going forward, ones that Nintendo continues to explore to this day.
- (Feature) This is no platformer: Super Mario RPG Turns 25 - Part 1
Super Metroid took everything about the original Metroid and made it, well, more super. While the plot was still light, it established much of the franchise’s lore and expanded upon the explorative nature of the original Metroid. To this day, it’s still thought of as the standard for every side-scrolling Metroid game that has come since. You can even catch people donating to save the animals or let them die at the end of the game during just about every Games Done Quick event.
Puzzle Fighter made the scene towards the end of the arcade era and left a strong impression on gamers of that era. It combined iconic figures from Capcom’s various fighting games and pit them against each other in a brand-new type of battle. Puzzle games like Bust-a-Move and Tetris may have had a versus mode, but this was all versus. Players would compete to build the biggest gems of the same color and then break them with a crystal, which would send a pattern of timer-based gems onto their opponents playing board.
It was bright and colorful and featured a number of fan favorite characters from Street Fighter and Darkstalkers in cute, chibi-style form. Believe me when I say that a super combo finish can be just as satisfying in Puzzle Fighter as any fighting game out there, maybe even more so.
Tecmo Bowl was one of the most successful sports video games to grace the NES console. Featuring fellow Shacknews Hall of Fame inductee Bo Jackson, the game had minimal gameplay mechanics with only four plays to choose from in the playbook.
While the game looks underwhelming by 21st century standards, players took Tecmo Bowl very seriously back in the 1980s. All NFL greats end up in Canton, Ohio, so it should come as no surprise that the iconic Tecmo Bowl is being inducted into the Shacknews Hall of Fame in our inaugural class.
Tecmo Super Bowl is a classic football game for the NES and SNES that was simple enough for most people to play. The 8-bit era didn't always have the best sports games, but both Tecmo Super Bowl and its predecessor Tecmo Bowl really shined.
Countless hours were spent in basements with friends and families trying to beat each other with your favorite team. Arbitrary rules like banning your opponent from choosing the 49ers were made up. The game even features a Season Mode that gives you the opportunity to win the Super Bowl. People are still playing this game to this day, with some regional esports leagues still kicking it old school.
Get this, the Browns were even good in the game. That alone should secure this football classic a spot in Canton, Ohio at the Shacknews Hall of Fame.
Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (not to be confused with the game of the same title on NES in which you could swap out turtles as you played) represented a huge leap forward for beat-em-ups in arcades.
TMNT allowed four players to control the four turtle brothers through every stage. The graphics were a step above the game's peers, with many characters looking like they were lifted out of the hit cartoon. While the gameplay was limited to an attack and jump button for each character, the smooth animations and pumping soundtrack made TMNT one of Konami's biggest coin-op hits.
Tekken was already well-known in the fighting game scene when Tekken 3 came out, but many people will tell you that this is where it truly came into its own. The series got a visual facelift for 3, and several tweaks were made to get the gameplay feeling more fluid and fights more visually appealing. It’s also the first appearance of Eddy Gordo, a character designed to give newcomers an easy point of entry and give them a chance against the more serious players out there.
When the game made its way to the Sony PlayStation not only did it manage to capture the essence of the arcade fighter, it added some great modes that included volleyball and a side-scrolling brawler. Tekken 3 was truly a banger both in the arcades and on home consoles, making it a perfect candidate for our Hall of Fame.
Tetris might be the perfect video game. If aliens were to land here, I would hand them Tetris on a Game Boy or sit down and play Tetris on the NES. Tetris is a universal language. The gameplay balances intuitive design and thrilling problem-solving puzzles in real-time. Classic Tetris, as it is called these days, is one of the most exciting esports in the world. Their tournaments are even being broadcast on ESPN.
There's now a whole lot of Tetris out there, but this induction is about the OGs on NES and Game Boy. You know the music, you curse the Tetris Gods for terrible line piece timing. This classic franchise was one of the first games we considered when the Shacknews Hall of Fame deliberations began. Welcome to Canton, Tetris.
In the realm of science fiction shooters, System Shock is remembered fondly by the PC gaming fanbase. As a first-person shooter, it stood proudly alongside its peers. However, it also stood out for its unique ideas that would eventually inspire dozens of other franchises, including the future BioShock.
System Shock was all killer and no filler in a lot of ways. There were no NPCs to be found, instead telling its story through logs and emails. That allowed the shooting to flourish, which it did thanks to a unique C/C++ engine that would emphasize rich environments, tight physics, and crisp shooting. It was so far ahead of its time that many PC systems at the time could not, in fact, run it elegantly.
System Shock is a sci-fi shooter unlike any other and remains one of the standout titles in the genre today.
While video games had fully embraced its platformers by the mid-90s, few of them had the epic adventure feel of a movie like Indiana Jones. Who was bold enough to explore ancient ruins filled with dangerous traps and fearsome wild animals? The answer, as it turned out, was not Indiana Jones, but rather a new character named Lara Croft.
Tomb Raider is remembered for many things, but its lead heroine is the main one. Lara Croft was a fearless adventurer, diving head-first into danger and confronting the various perils put forth by ancient legends. While women acting as lead characters in video games is much more common today, it was unheard of in the 90s. This made Lara a trailblazer, paving the way for future heroines.
This is just scratching the surface on Tomb Raider's innovations in gaming, so for further reading, be sure to check out our long-read on the franchise.
- (Long Read) Ascendant: The Fall of Tomb Raider and the Rise of Lara Croft
Blizzard's real-time strategy formula was still nascent when it developed a sequel to 1994's WarCraft: Orcs & Humans, but for many, it peaked with WarCraft 2.
Players controlled the Orcs or Human factions and gathered resources to fund production of buildings, troops, and upgrades. The formula was simple, but in action, WarCraft 2 was a beautifully illustrated romp across maps set on land and sea. Strategies for success varied whether the map was set on land or required you to mine oil to fund production of ships, and the simple controls made gameplay easy to pick up but difficult to master, especially as matches entered the late-game stage where one wrong move spelled disaster for less experienced players.
WarCraft 2's charming characters and simple but engrossing story that unfolded in mission briefings added to gameplay that was even more fun against other players when connected via modem or local area network.
Wave Race 64 is a shining star of the Nintendo 64's extensive racing game catalogue. The game showcased some amazing water graphics for its time, and is entering the Shacknews Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility.
Any game that comes packaged with a world almanac is guaranteed to induce groans from players—unless that game is Broderbund's Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?.
World is Carmen Sandiego? was one of few "edutainment" games that entertained as much as it educated. You rose through the ranks on the Apple II, starting as a gumshoe detective and chasing Carmen's minions over the world by analyzing trivia for clues where they were headed next. Paging through the included almanac to solve mysteries made you feel like a detective.
The game spawned many sequels, but the original, which has been remade and re-released on many planforms since the original Apple II version in 1985, is arguably the most charming and original.
The first commercial video game, Computer Space, featured a spaceship trying to avoid hazards among the stars. From there, we got shoot-em-ups, and those led to dogfight games where players pit their aviation skills against one another to see who ruled the skies.
The original Wing Commander became known as one of the most cinematic space flight simulator games yet when it arrived in 1990. The view of the cockpit looked like something straight out of Star Wars, but extra features such as an AI-controlled wingman who carried out your orders and the intricacy of dogfighting was more sophisticated than anything players had seen.
Wing Commander's gameplay was wrapped in a fun story that gave you a reason to shoot down other ships, and was the first step in a long-running series that continually raised the bar for game of their type.
Wolfenstein 3D wasn't the first FPS, but it popularized the budding genre by bringing it to the mainstream. Through blazingly fast movement, nonstop action, and the most gore this side of Midway's Mortal Kombat, Wolfenstein 3D took the precept of solving a maze and added frenetic gameplay to create an experience unlike any most players had seen.
The creators at id Software transplanted the core premise of "move fast and shoot all the things" into other, better games, but Wolfenstein 3D remains fun today for the same reason it was fun in 1992: It was fast, it was brutal, and its audiovisuals transformed the PC from a business machine into a viable gaming platform.
Sure, there were some 4-player co-op games in arcades back in the day, but the X-Men arcade cabinet may be the only 6-player cab to ever exist. Konami’s classic side-scrolling brawler featured a massive double-wide screen and took up a hefty amount of real estate at arcades, which was a bold move considering how valuable space was. The game took its cues from the “Pryde of the X-Men” animated pilot and was obviously meant to be part of a much larger media tie-in. Players could take on the role of their fave mutants like Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and, of course, Dazzler.
X-Men really was a one-of-a-kind arcade experience and is a shining example of Konami’s golden era of beat ‘em ups.
X-Men vs. Street Fighter was one of the most influential fighting games in the 90s, introducing fans to a novel new concept called the crossover fighter. This took two great tastes and mashed them together to make something greater. In this case, Capcom and Marvel Comics brought together the burgeoning Street Fighter Alpha series and combined it with the X-Men animated series of the early 90s. This led to dream matches that nobody ever even knew they wanted, like Ryu vs. Wolverine and Zangief vs. Juggernaut.
It also introduced a whole new sub-genre of fighting game to both audiences and Capcom itself: tag fighters. While the Street Fighter series would continue as a one-on-one affair, the Versus series of fighters would see characters come together as teams, leading to new mechanics, new possibilities, and new dream matches.
For more on X-Men vs. Street Fighter, check out our 25th anniversary feature.
- (Feature) Worlds Collide: X-Men Vs. Street Fighter - 25 Years Later
Lucasarts didn't always focus on Star Wars titles, but when they did, they helped put out some of the best. For the PC gaming realm, the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games were among the greatest Star Wars titles ever released, putting Jedi, Sith, and bounty hunters to the side and focusing on a different side of the franchise: space flight. Lucasarts put together a phenomenal narrative across these games, culminating with Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. On top of that, the dogfighting was unlike anything seen on PC at the time and was a pleasure to experience over the course of 50 missions.
According to magazine ads by developer Infocom, the purpose of Zork was to unleash the world's most powerful graphics technology: Your imagination. Consisting entirely of test, Zork played like an interactive novel. The game's designers wrote simple yet evocative descriptions of environments and obstacles, and left it to you to type combinations of verbs and nouns (go north, pick up lantern) to interact with the world.
Primitive by today's standards, Zork was the test bed for every adventure and narrative-driven game that followed, graphics or no graphics.
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