can become stale, outdated and milked, they have to be invented first.
To that end, no game console has more genre-defining titles than the Nintendo
Entertainment System. Modern gaming owes very little to the simple shooters
that dominated the 2600's library and much more to the incredible flexibility
the NES had to offer in its power. Below is a bit of what we owe Nintendo
and its licensees for innovating. (And check out our tribute to the NES'
library when we choose our favorite games from each genre -- you might
be surprised!) ·
"action" game: Always a bit of an encompassing genre, it was first
defined by Nintendo's "Action Series," which included Super Mario Bros
and Castlevania. The former went on to become the best-selling game of
all time worldwide and gave Nintendo that magic touch which still survives
in many of their games today. Castlevania, along with other first wave
titles like Stinger and Gradius, established Konami as a premiere action
game developer. Spike pits, hidden items, power-ups, secret passages located
above the screen - all the frustration and angst you've learned to love
first began on the NES.
console RPG: Up until Dragon Warrior's release in the U.S., the best
machine for role-playing games was something akin to an Apple II computer.
That all changed with the phenomenal success of Enix's Dragon Warrior and
Square's Final Fantasy, both brought over from Japan by Nintendo of America.
The genre used a system that emphasized storytelling and exploration over
endless dungeon crawling. It took a while for console RPGs to become mainstream
in the US (NOA never did popularize the genre themselves), but play the
first Final Fantasy today and you'll be surprised how close it feels to
the upcoming ninth game in the series.
action/RPG: This hybrid genre took off in the US much more quickly
than its more methodical and slower-paced cousin, the traditional RPG.
Western gamers found it much easier to acclimate to the arcade-like gameplay
of action/RPGs. The Legend of Zelda, one of Nintendo of America's first
NES-exclusive hits, has become the standard by which all action/RPGs are
judged. SNK's lone NES action/ RPG entry, Crystalis, has even outlasted
its insolvent parent company by getting re-released on the Game Boy Color
earlier this year by Nintendo.
2D shooter: We're obviously not saying the NES invented 2D shooters
(duh), but games like Gradius and Alpha Mission refined the genre to new
heights. Sure, River Raid and Scramble were earlier examples of vertical
and horizontal shooters, but it was only a hollow framework aching to be
filled. Gameplay necessities like power-ups, elaborate level designs, huge
end-level bosses and a tangible "ending" have forever changed the landscape
Of course, like
all good revolutions, there are to be a few casualties. If we could go
back to 1987, break into NOA headquarters and alter history, here are two
things we would have changed:
sports game franchises: While we appreciate Jaleco for developing the
basic look for all modern baseball games in Bases Loaded, did they really
need to crank out three sequels that looked (and played) exactly the same?
The same could be said (although to a lesser degree) of Tengen's RBI Baseball
bad movie/TV license games: It started with crap like E.T., Return
of the Jedi, Cloak and Dagger and Raiders of the Lost Ark on the 2600,
and continued on the NES with The Addams Family, Airwolf and Friday the
13th. THQ got its start in the business by rushing out NES junk like Home
Alone and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Both games you'll be
getting hands-on with when you enter the Seventh Circle of Hell.) Bad movie
licensed games haven't gone away, and probably won't anytime in the near