The year’s end is approaching (and wow, what a year, huh?) and I’m sure many of you are feeling anxious about 2017 and what it holds. With all the uncertainty ahead, I’ve found myself reflecting on games of the past.
It may have been a tumultuous year but 2016 was also the 35th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX81 and the Sega Mega CD was 25 years old this year!
I looked into other gaming related anniversaries and was surprised just how many had significant birthdays this year, so naturally I compiled a list.
1. Duke Nukem 3D
Yep, the wise cracking, casually misogynist Duke turned 20 years old this year, how apt that much like contemporary 20 year olds he wants to kick ass, enjoys toilet humour, sarcastic quips at everything and likes to perv on women.
Those of you who were in the Quake camp, during the mid 90s Quake/Duke Nukem wars will be pleased to know it also celebrated it’s 20th birthday this year.
Real lemmings don’t have green hair nor do they idly follow each other over cliff edges, committing cult-like mass suicide but their blue robed sprite counterparts in the 1991 game Lemmings celebrated 25 years of existence in February.
If you’re outraged at the misinformation generated about those cute little rodents because of this game, let’s not also forget that hedgehogs are not blue and gorillas don’t usually wear ties.
3. The Legend Of Zelda
This game that shaped my life despite only being 4 months old when it was released in February 1986 is now 30 years old. Three whole decades. That information still hasn’t hit me in the way I expect it will in 10 years time but one thing’s for sure, I would still happily play The Legend Of Zelda today.
I can’t speak from experience because I wasn’t around in 1981 but when Defender was released there was nothing else around that sounded or looked liked it. It stood out in arcades and its popularity meant it was still in arcades when I was a kid.
Defender turned 35 years old this year and though it was inspired by Chess and Space Invaders it provided inspiration to the entire games industry as it was the very first side scrolling game and featured a mini-map at the top of the screen to show the players position – something commonplace in most games today.
5. Alex Kidd In Miracle World
Aww, little Alex is all grown up, as this year marked the 30th anniversary of the game. This game was in-built into the Sega Master System II console and for kids like me, who came from families where games were a luxury item bought only for birthdays or Christmas, the inclusion of a game in the console itself was amazing.
I played this game religiously after school most evenings, challenging my my mum and dad to see who could get furthest through the game. You see, memory cards weren’t that big a thing back then so if you died, you had to start the *entire* level again.
6. Resident Evil
It only feels like yesterday that I heard Barry call Jill Valentine the ‘Master of unlocking’ but it was in fact 20 years ago.
You know what else was 20 years ago? Crash Bandicoot and Diablo! That’s right, our childhoods and respective formative years! You’re welcome.
7. Dragon Quest
Often seen as a template for most JRPGs that followed it, Dragon Quest (which was released in the US and Europe much later as Dragon Warrior) is an important game for the genre.
In Japan, the game is a national institution and it has a huge following. The excitement that surrounds Dragon Quest in Japan can even be seen in a programme about the game series by NHK that was created specially to celebrate it’s 30th anniversary this year.
8. Sonic The Hedgehog
Sega’s speedy, blue, naked (albeit for running shoes) mascot turned 25 this year and his popularity and notoriety can still be seen after a quarter of a century. That’s pretty impressive!
Sure, this game had many confused children turning to their parents to excitedly ask “Are there really blue hedgehogs?!” but it was a turning point in Sega’s history. There was finally a rival to Mario, thus began the Sega Vs Nintendo Playground Wars of the 90s.
… Go Team Sonic!!
Many frogs have lost their lives on busy roads and in dangerous rivers since 1981 (making Frogger 35 years old!) and if you’ve ever played it you’ll know the frustration of multiple, seemingly unavoidable deaths. It wasn’t just cars or alligators to fear, there were 9 different ways to die.
Though, that’s considerably less ways to die than their real life counterparts, at least the little guys in Frogger didn’t have to contend with pesky humans wanting to eat their legs.
10. Donkey Kong
If you ask someone randomly in the street to name a famous gorilla other than King Kong, the most popular answer would be Donkey Kong (Sorry Harambe, you’d be a close second but know you’re always in our hearts).
Conceived by Shigeru Miyamoto, Donkey Kong was released in 1981 making him 35 years old. It’s a fun arcade game but I sometimes worry poor DK doesn’t get enough credit, I mean it’s not fair, without him, Mario might not have received his own game series. He wouldn’t even be the flagship face of Nintendo without him! #JusticeForDonkeyKong
Thirty years ago, Metroid combined the platforming style of the Super Mario Bros. series with the explorational nature of adventure games like The Legend of Zelda and it was glorious.
Samus Aran, though not the first playable female protagonist in video games (that goes to the character Toby “Kissy” Masuyo from Baraduke a year earlier), she was perhaps the first mainstream female protagonist. Thirty years on, there are many more but there’s still a long way to go for the ladies of video games.
12. Command & Conquer: Red Alert
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since we had to watch that awkwardly acted romance between Stalin and one of his aides…I for one would rather have forgotten! Bad acting aside (because lets face it, those useless Soviet subs were worse), C&C is the chief of real time strategy games and it demands your respect.
No, it’s not just a Foo Fighters song and if you don’t know who the Foo Fighters are either then I may as well be writing this in another language!
Breakout is an Atari game by Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, it was released in 1976 making it 40 years old, the eldest on my list.
The game itself is extremely addictive and I’ve seen and played many imitations of it over the years. You essentially control a paddle that moves horizontally, knocking a moving ball all over the screen in an attempt to destroy bricks above you. Bricks that for some reason can avoid gravity…
The sequel to Galaxian is now 35 years old and it’s perhaps one of the most successful titles of the Golden Age of video games. I often wonder if Starship Troopers took its inspiration from this shooter, after all, the enemies are various insect-like aliens.
15. Tomb Raider
Twenty years on and the Tomb Raider franchise is still going strong with the latest installment, also named Tomb Raider receiving largely positive reviews. Protagonist Lara Croft has changed in appearance too, becoming less overtly sexual and more realistic.
In her 20 years, Lara has explored the world, uncovered artifacts, been played by Angelina Jolie on film and survived some treacherous situations.
In fact to celebrate, Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration was released last month.
Other notable birthdays in 2016:
- Phantasy Star Online, Paper Mario, the Game Boy Advance, the GameCube, Max Payne, Silent Hill 2, Civilization III and Grand Theft Auto III all turned 15 this year.
- Pokémon Red and Blue, Quake, Diablo and Crash Bandicoot all turned 20 this year.
- Bubble Bobble, Kid Icarus and Castlevania all turned 30 this year and the BBC Micro turned 35 this year.
Well, that’s enough looking to the past. Time to face the future! Let us know what video game anniversaries you’re looking forward to in the comments section.