By Tom Tolios / June 12th, 2015
So the inductees for the inaugural Video Game Hall of Fame ceremony were recently announced. It’s a pretty respectable list despite claims that some of the choices are dubious. Personally, I believe all six are worthy candidates for anything deigning to call itself a ‘video game hall of fame,’ but, if I may be candid here for a moment, there are some other candidates that are probably just as worthy of such a distinction, if not moreso. If one takes a moment to ponder the vast assortment of video games ‘for your consideration’, it’s easy to make some choices that not only WILL get in (some day) but also that SHOULD get in if the voting process is at all fair and objective. So, let’s take a look at some games that I believe will one day be immortalized in the Video Game Hall of Fame and some games that need to be inducted at some point because, let’s face it, they deserve it. For my list, I chose to stick with the arcade scene because, even though there were have been plenty of notable games for the home market through the years (I recently called The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt the greatest video game ever made in my review), the following choices have been here longer sonny, and they’re entitled to the first crack.
GAMES THAT WILL GET IN
How this one didn’t make the inaugural cut is beyond me. Not only is this game among the earliest efforts in gaming to provide a specific narrative for the characters, expertly explained by author Chris Kohler in his outstanding book Power Up! How Japanese Video Games Gave The World An Extra Life, but it was also at the center of a famous lawsuit that changed the way the industry looks at copyright law. Donkey Kong was also the subject of a well-known documentary called The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which has transformed it from just another classic gaming experience into a cultural touchstone for our times, highlighting just how important video games have become to our society. Mario’s first appearance is a timeless platformer that’s aged more gracefully than most of the games of the era because of its legendary balance, challenging stages and the hand-eye prowess required just to reach the next stage. Even today, 34 years after its release, Shigeru Miyamoto’s game about a fat Italian plumber trying to rescue a damsel in distress from a goofy-looking giant ape continues to be a gaming obsession.
The story of Defender‘s creation and release is almost as legendary as the game’s cruel difficulty factor. Boasting a scrolling horizontal screen, a radar at the top, enemies that could mutate if they captured humans and merged with them, hyper fast shooting action with five buttons (unheard of at the time), an apocalypse mode where failure to protect mankind resulted in the planet’s destruction, but not the end of your gameplay as you soldiered on despite no place to call home and enemies all around, Defender almost didn’t even exist. The story goes that creator Eugene Jarvis and his team were working on the hardware all the way up to the eve of the AMOA (Amusement & Music Operators Association) Trade show in 1980, and when it debuted no one really cared much about it at the event. It was considered too difficult for gamers to grasp with the hard challenges it presented and all the extra buttons. But when it was released to arcades, it was an instant hit with audiences of the era and it’s still touted as one of the most hectic game experiences you will ever have.
Pong may widely be regarded as the ‘first’ video game, but Space Invaders was the first smash success the industry ever had. The game had a methodical pacing that ramped up as you played and a very simple premise. Aliens are descending from the skies and it up to you, your slow-moving and slow-shooting gun platform (or tank or whatever you wanted to call it — it was your quarter, after all) using four bunkers as defense against the, ahem, invading horde. With each consecutive enemy you killed, the rest moved faster and faster horizontally, back and forth between the edges of the game screen, with the last few being extremely difficult to hit because of their speed. You are, in a sense, your own worst enemy because, the closer you get to defeating a wave of aliens, the harder they become to finish off. The game’s droning beat, which sped up with every enemy you killed, ramped up the tension to a crescendo that whipped many players into a panicked, button-mashing frenzy. Back when scores in video games were a thiiing, Space Invaders was the first that gave arcade goers a sense of pride about their valiant struggle, as the game cabinet saved and displayed your efforts during the “attract” mode. Space Invaders gained even more fame when it launched on the Atari 2600 home console (along with another game mentioned below).
In many ways, Centipede was the natural evolution of Space Invaders, a vertical shooter where the purpose was to move around the screen blasting away at incredibly annoying and difficult enemies that were small, evasive and came at you with a slinky-like vengeance that was so fast they could be on top of you in a heartbeat. The game’s sound effects featured a pulse-pounding beat that heightened the tension to nearly unbearable levels. Also, the long, snaking enemies gained in speed and evasiveness as they ducked and weaved between obstacles that had to be whittled away at some times, but were also extremely useful in trapping foes in bottlenecks where you could shoot them with greater ease. The pace was frantic, and the trackball controls weren’t for everyone, but the mobility and speed the game featured were unlike anything people had experienced before or since. Fans simply couldn’t get enough. One can question whether or not a game that could be described as ‘Space Invaders on steroids’ deserves to make the cut due to its derivative nature, but I assure you that almost everyone considered it a completely different but equally fierce beast worthy of praise. I was there in those arcades as a starry-eyed youth, kids. I saw it happen. And Centipede had wormed its way into our collective heart overnight.
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
What can be said about Street Fighter II: The World Warrior that generations of gamers haven’t already said with their enthusiasm for not only this series but the fighting game genre in general? More than any other game in history, Street Fighter II’s greatest claim to fame may be how it birthed a genre unlike anything that had come before. Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, Blazblue and the list goes on and on and on. Even 3D fighters such as Tekken and Dead or Alive owe their existence to Street Fighter II, which proved there was a market for wildly distinct characters with varying movesets and appearances beating the living hell out of each other. It can be argued that any number of fighting games or series are better than Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, and those debates are being had out in the vast world of ‘da innanetz,’ but there is only one series that continues to be the standard by which all others are judged. Even in Japan, where Tekken is king of the fight scene, no series creates more buzz than Street Fighter II. There is simply no denying this game’s importance in the annals of the industry. With Street Fighter V on the way as a Sony console exclusive to indicate how much cache the series has with the industry’s hardware manufacturers, this IP has shown that it’s not only a veritable evergreen franchise but it’s one that has taken root in the industry’s collective consciousness, from CEO to avid gamer. That it didn’t make the first cut is shocking, to be honest. There’s at least one game in the list of 2015 inductees I wouldn’t hesitate to strike from the group to make room for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. Just calling it like I see it.
Pages: 1 2CentipedeDefenderDonkey KongDragon's LairGalagaMissile Commandmortal kombatSpace InvadersStreet Fighter II: The World WarriorWorld Video Game Hall of Fame