Sometimes the most influential video games aren’t the ones we think they are.
For example, many people – particularly more casual gamers – casually accept that GoldenEye 007 is the father of the first person shooter genre. It’s certainly one of the foundational games in the genre, but Wolfenstein 3D preceded it by five years, and can be more accurately characterized as having started the genre as we know it today.
Street Fighter, and really Street Fighter II, are believed by many to have been the original fighting games. But really, the 1984 arcade game Karate Champ kicked things off (and some will even argue for Heavyweight Champ, a 1976 game).
Even PUBG and Fortnite, two of the most popular current games that have popularized the “battle royale” style of shooter, aren’t as original as they seem. A recent article pointed out that Starsiege: Tribes was a predecessor some 20 years ago!
There are certainly other noteworthy examples, but we’re thinking about the same concept with an eye toward the future rather than the past. In other words, if examples like this exist from the history of gaming, what current or recent games might prove to be influential despite flying under the radar right now? By its very nature, this is an exercise in speculation. Some games do seem like sensible possibilities though.
Reigns has become a sort of mini-hit in mobile circles, and has even produced its own sequels in relatively short time. What’s gone somewhat understated though is that it effectively introduced a whole new style of narrative gaming. Taking more than a little inspiration from Tinder and similar dating apps, with their “swipe” decision-making, Reigns establishes you as the king (or queen, in the sequel) of a kingdom and challenges you to continually make decisions.
These decisions are presented in the form of cards, sometimes with little accompanying animations, and it’s your job to swipe right or left to make your call, with consequences immediately shown for how it affects different aspects of your kingdom. You rule for as long as you can before you die, are conquered, or are overthrown. It’s an amusing little game, but we can imagine it being the first in a decade-long series of swipe-based storytelling games.
The Room is another hit mobile game, and one that’s a little bit more difficult to discuss in this way than Reigns. This is because it doesn’t have a style or genre unto itself. It’s simply lumped in among other mysterious, progressive narrative games.
However, there’s just something about it that seems destined to lead to more. It’s frequently cited as one of the prettiest mobile games, or gaming series, in existence, and it has legions of players who are always begging for new installments. Whether The Room becomes a larger console series, transitions into virtual reality, or simply inspires similar knock-offs, it feels like the beginning of something rather than just another good cluster of mobile games.
You almost have to play Gonzo’s Quest to understand what makes it special, because on the surface it’s one of hundreds if not thousands of popular slot machine imitations online.
However, its description at one major gaming site speaks fairly well to what differentiates it, noting the background saga (surrounding a 1541 explorer in Peru) and pointing out that by creating a subplot, the design team gave the game a purpose.
It is the closest thing to narrative casino gaming we have outside of career progression poker player games, and it has the animation to make its narrative elements pop on a screen. If slot and casino gaming in 10 years are more like this, and a far cry from the dull old fruit reels, it will be because of Gonzo’s Quest.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
There are other examples of fairly free-flowing superhero games that came out before Batman: Arkham Asylum, primarily concerning Spider-Man.
For the most part though, superhero gaming has always fallen into a few styles. There are RPGs, fighting games, beat-em-up side-scrollers, and variations of all of the above. Batman: Arkham Asylum was more of a prestige video game however – a beautiful, semi-open world that really gave gamers the chance to embody the hero rather than just play a generic punch-and-kick character who happens to look like a superhero.
Given that we’re already seeing a new, high-end era of superhero gaming starting to materialize through the recent Spider-Man game on PS4 and some upcoming Marvel projects, it seems reasonable to expect we may ultimately look back and view Arkham Asylum as an exciting beginning.
Archangel VR is not entirely unique in the growing virtual reality category, but it’s arguably the best of its particular style – which is that of the on-rail shooter.
A review explained this concept succinctly, saying that other than what you see and how you use your arms, movement is handled by the game. You specifically control a giant combat robot rampaging through levels, but the game moves for you, which removes the awkwardness of controlling your “legs” with a joystick or something similar – one of the major hurdles VR faces.
As arguably the best of the on-rail shooters we’ve seen in VR, this game could truly be a foundational one in the event that this shooting sub-genre becomes the prevailing style of shooter in virtual reality.