Final Fantasy VII in particular tends to suffer from this. At the time of its release, it was regarded as a revolutionary milestone and hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. Having a troubled protagonist (who may have Identity Amnesia) chase around a UnfetteredOmnicidal Maniac might seem played out, but at the time you would've been hard-pressed to find many RPGs with that formula. While earlier Final Fantasy games had troubled heroes, Final Fantasy VII was the first with a hero who turns out to be an Unreliable Narrator questioning his existence. Also, on a technical level, the first few seconds of the opening sequence, with the camera panning out slowly from a classic piece of shiny magic rock to a dark futuristic city, were initially meant to be shocking - and they were. Finally, the Plotline Death of Aerith was originally a huge shock felt across the gaming industry, but is today perhaps the video-game example of It Was His Sled. It was not the first to kill off a party member for real (Final Fantasy II beat it to the punch), but it was the first to try to portray such a death with a feeling of loss rather than it being an intense, dramatic moment.
It's also hard for newer gamers to appreciate (in any sense of the word) the thoroughly screwed-up nature of the cast, even though FFVII was released long before BioWare made collections of tortured individuals de rigueur for Western RPGs. It even beat Planescape: Torment by two years, a game in which the thoroughly screwed-up nature of the cast is a major plot point.
Final Fantasy VI. Getting rid of the Crystals, which were a key staple of Final Fantasy before this game, was highly controversial at the time, and the game paved the way for the Anachronism Stew and Schizo Tech that the series is most widely known for. The exclusion of the Crystals is lost on most modern fans, and a common criticism is that the cast is shallow and unexplored and the gameplay is easy and simple. The game's Big Bad Kefka is frequently written off as a goofy Joker knock-off, but prior to Kefka, Final Fantasy villains fit the generic Tin Tyrant / Evil Overlord mold, and Kefka's insane wisecracks and clown-like appearance were a huge departure. Similarly, rather than turning into a generic monster as the Final Boss, Kefka became a Physical God, and the final battle had many parallels to The Divine Comedy. These days, JRPGs including Final Fantasy frequently have angelic and divine final bosses, and Faux Symbolism is par for the course, especially with Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy IV was revolutionary during its time because the game introduced a more developed storyline and had Character Development; characters actually think about what they have done and what they must do to have a better future for themselves and the story itself still has the "save the world" plot, but it also has much more behind it so that the story isn't just about world saving. Nowadays, people snub the game for having characters being predictable and the story being too simplistic, even though said people forget that the game using those concepts back when it was new was mind blowing at that time.
Final Fantasy VIII. At the time, the idea of compromising a traditional "save the world" plot for one that was more focused on character development was practically unheard of in video games.
Dragon Quest created many of the tropes still used by JRPGs today, to the point where the older games are often labelled "archaic" or "outdated".
The series has been doomed to almost-niche status abroad due to the following: long localization holdups with the 8-bit generation games rendering them either obsolete or in competition with the new 16-bit generation, the temporary folding of Enix's American wing, and last but definitely not least, the game to break the genre in the West and define it, Final Fantasy VII, stood in stark contrast, being more about outrageous battle systems and cinematic spectacle.
While a few recent games have gotten some pretty good remakes, going back to the original Dragon Quest VII can be a bit hard. Even at the time it was released in North America (2001) it looked a bit dated. The game was originally made for the 64DD in 1996, moved to the PlayStation in 1997, and spent a few years in Development Hell. It showed, especially with successor systems within a few months or even weeks.
Golden Sun has a hatedom that has pretty much attacked the game for being a "generic Game Boy Advance RPG" - without realizing that there wasn't really that much else available on the Game Boy Advance at the time (maybe in Japan). Considering that the Game Boy Advance was a new format in itself, Golden Sun still had some rather detailed environments and perhaps the best use of the Game Boy Advance sound systems for a while — it was perhaps one of the first games released on the format to actually use a lot of the potential technology it had, other than a few others like Bomberman, Advance Wars, and maybe Mario Kart, amongst a slew of remakes (like Breath of Fire and Super Mario Bros.) and licensed games.
Adventure for the Atari 2600 makes this Older Than the NES. Old codgers and video game historians recognize the game as revolutionary. Your character is graphically represented on screen. He can pick up graphical representations of items. The items can be left anywhere in the game world and the game will "remember" where they are. Graphically represented enemies with AI that changes based on the environment. And the game has an actual goal and ends when you complete the goal, instead of going on forever.
Half-Life, being the first modern, highly scripted first person shooter with adaptive AI, now seems somewhat typical after being endlessly copied, ripped off and modified by just about every FPS that came after it (for a concrete example, see this forum thread).
Half-Life also popularized the seemingly-simple concept of placing weapons in realistic locations (weapon lockers, dead security guards, enemy drops) rather than the floating weapons of Doom or Quake. SiN did this too, and was released slightly earlier, but didn't enjoy the same level of popularity.
Its sequel, while absolutely revolutionary in 2004, now seems dated and cliched when just about every single other FPS game now contains the level of physics, graphics, vehicles and what-have-you that made it such a hit at the time.
Though interestingly, what most if not nearly all shooters didn't really do was crib its design choices as opposed its tech, especially newer shooters which are more content to either rip off Call of Duty, Halo, or if they're feeling rebellious, even older shooters from the Doom/Quake era. The way Half-Life 2 handles narrative, pacing, puzzles (physics are old hat now, but physics puzzles are rarely seen in action games of outside of this series) and level design is still rarely seen, making it a unique experience even today, and why a good number of PC gamers consider it to be the best FPS of all time.
Bungie's Marathon series, or Pathways Into Darkness. They were among the first FPS games to feature a complex storyline that drove the gameplay, alternate fire, and the ability for computer players to move the mouse in order to rotate their character's view (including the ability to look up and down and side to side without restrictions). By today's standards, though, it's hard to believe that these games were once revolutionary.
Jurassic Park Trespasser, granted, part of the reason it was hard to get into was the fact that it was an Obvious Beta. But at the time, a game like that was actually highly ambitious.
Hydlide, originally released in 1984 for the PC-88, was one of the first Action RPGs ever (along with Dragon Slayer from the same year), but by 1989, when the NES version was first released in North America, it was much more primitive than similar games (especially The Legend of Zelda and Ys series).
The first Mega Man Battle Network game definitely fits this trope, especially if you've played even the second and third games (considered the best with the fifth and sixth often competing). It was released in 2001, when the Game Boy Advance was still a very new format. Nowadays, it can practically pass for a Touch-screen telephone game with how bare-bones it is compared to even the second, which introduced style changes for replay, the third which added customization outside of and in addition to style changes, and so on and so on until you get the Surprisingly Improved Sequel of the fifth and sixth. It can only compare to the terrible fourth game. It practically seems like an Obvious Beta when you play it, nowadays (very few wood chips, HP gets recovered, bosses top out at a thousand HP, game just gets disgustingly easy).
Atelier Iris. In an odd combination of Seinfeld Is Unfunny and No Export for You, when it finally came over to the U.S. in 2005. "So it's a standard JRPG with "alchemy crafting"?" While the "standard JRPG" bit is, well, not exactly false for Iris, what a lot of Western consumers fail to understand in shrugging off the crafting system is that the progenitor of the Atelier series, Atelier Marie, was the first JRPG to not only feature a very robust (in the case of Marie, absurdly robust) crafting system, but was the first JRPG to feature alchemy heavily. After Marie and its sequel sold a quarter million copies each, you suddenly had alchemy coming out of the woodwork in Japanese pop culture and nearly every JRPG in the wake of Marie has featured some kind of crafting system. The problem is, due to some poor business decisions on the part of multiple parties, practically everything else that was influenced by Atelier crossed the Pacific before it did, and the original games never came over at all. So the Atelier series is regarded as punctuation in the story of RPG history in the West, when in fact it seems to have had nearly as much influence on game design in Japan as other staple series.
GoldenEye 007, one of the first Video Games based on movies that didn't suck (in some ways, it was better than the movie), now suffers from this. At the time, the game was basically the first console First-Person Shooter done right and is, in many ways, the reason why the genre became so popular on consoles (before, it was almost entirely PC based). But by today's standards, its lack of online play (not its fault, since it was on the Nintendo 64), crude aiming system, heavy dose of Escort Missions, lack of voice acting (again, not its fault, it was on the Nintendo 64 and was an early game on the console to boot), large amount of linearity (which is ironic, since at the time GoldenEye was possibly the least linear game on the market) and dated graphics. Ironically, there was another James Bond FPS for the N64 that vastly improved graphics, control, missions, and plot, but it's not nearly as well-remembered as GoldenEye.
GoldenEye was the first time many, if not most, gamers of the day ever had something like a sniper rifle to play with. Today, it's hard to realize how cool it was to take your buddy out from 300 yards away in ANY FPS, not just a console game.
Ironically, GoldenEye was also largely responsible for instigating this trope with a game released just a few months prior: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Upon release, Turok was among the most critically acclaimed games on the Nintendo 64, widely praised for its impressive weapons arsenal and lush/detailed jungle landscapes. Unfortunately, once GoldenEye was released and blew everybody away with all the traits mentioned above, Turok's flaws (namely its bizarre and unconfigurable control scheme and over-emphasis on item collecting) became much more noticeable. While Turok 2: Seeds of Evil was also highly regarded upon release (due in no small part to its at-the-time mindblowing graphics), subsequent Turok games garnered less enthusiastic responses, with Turok Evolution often being credited as one of several games that bankrupted Acclaim Entertainment. After the 2008 Turok reboot garnered a lukewarm response from both critics and gamers alike, it's pretty safe to say that the series is now Deader Than Disco.
Among the PC gaming crowd, Halo itself may count as well. Most shooters nowadays have Regenerating Healthnote Halo is one of the few that accounts for regenerating shields in its story; health is depleted separately in the first game, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach and does not replenish on its own, let you carry only two weapons at once, use the weapon you're holding as a melee weapon instead of using a separate weapon that you have to switch to (e.g., a crowbar), allow you to throw grenades without making you switch to them first, have enemies drop their weapons and equipment when they die instead of just having weapons pre-placed on the stage, etc. All of these elements were around before Halo, but never all in the same game. Halo was all that in one game, and on a console. It was also the first console game to include networked multiplayer, which soon gave birth to online multiplayer.
For the console players, it was the first time ever being allowed to multiplay through local network, up to 16 players at a time; by hooking up tv sets and systems; network play over the internet was available since Doom, but it was considerably harder to set up properly; Quake 3 Arena and Counterstrike predate true online multiplayer for PC by a couple of years; in fact, what really constitutes a seinfield is unfunny option is the SERVER BROWSER, it is unthinkable today to ship a multiplayer game without a server browser or online match up making system on consoles; but there was a time where you had to manually search for games; and in that regard Halo was indeed the FIRST FPS on console to feature a robust match making system.
With the level of detail and fancy graphics in most modern mapsets, it can be quite jarring to come back to the original official Doom levels and find them looking downright primitive in comparison.
Ironically, given the sorts of design directions that FPS games have taken since the turn of the millennium, DOOM has become Vindicated by History in that its simple, fast-paced gameplay and free-form level design is considered by many as a welcome alternative to the slower and more "realistic" style of later games within the genre.
Elite. David Braben and Ian Bell's game was completely groundbreaking when it was published in the mid '80s with its open-ended trading and shooting gameplay, and massive universe of stars and planets. It's still talked about with fondness by those who spent hours at a time playing it back then. To many who didn't play it in the '80s it's hard to see what all the fuss is about.
The immediate successors, however, either due to slightly improved interface (or perspective shift), customization, or storyline, did not suffer so terribly. Chalk most of it up to youngsters these days being untrained to deal with vector graphics and unable to gauge depth properly. It is still a commonly used and cherished game mechanic, since it's tough to mass-produce this sort of thing to the point of disgust without sinking a company. Star Flight and Privateer to name just a pair of the oldest.
Also, Shin Super Robot Wars hasn't aged particularly well compared to other older SRW games. It doesn't help that the pilot and robot roster is relatively small compared to 4th, and it doesn't have much at all in the way of new seishins, skills, or unique features. In comparison to modern SRW games, Shin might be a boring experience.
And it isn't just the ancient parser adventures - even the most advanced of Interactive Fiction games get overlooked now, because who wants to type their commands in, after years of You Can't Get Ye Flask leaving a bad taste in peoples' mouths?
Even more popular graphic-point and click adventure games. Maniac Mansion has thankfully aged well (In part because of a fan remake) but one would notice that the fan remake actually removes over half the commands due to redundancy. (Course, Day Of The Tentacle also did that.) Perhaps the hardest hit by this phenomenon is Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. Compared to Maniac Mansion, the game was very linear, full of Unwinnable by Design and Unwinnable by Mistake moments, despite being much longer than Maniac Mansion. (This was before they started their famous "No dying" and "Can't mess up" policies.) This was actually pretty standard design philosophy at the time, but playing it nowadays would get one calling it the "Black Sheep" of Lucas Arts's games.
Return To Zork, a "revolutionary" example of a text adventure going graphical, has not aged well. The digitized actors and voice acting is pretty laughable nowadays with how stiff and pixelated the movements are, and how...distorted the voices sound. Not to mention, it's pretty needlessly obtuse with loads of commands that're redundant (But hey, it is Zork, after all.) The sheer amounts of Guide Dang It moments can be enough to alienate a lot of new players.
Star Ocean. This happened primarily to the first two games when they were each given an Enhanced Remake. The first Star Ocean game was actually, for the most part, drastically different in story than most other RPGs (with a few exceptions like Fallout and a couple Shin Megami Tensei games who often used elements of sci-fi) and the fact that this game was actually credited as the one that pushed the SNES's technology to the limit. People often criticized it as "There isn't enough sci-fi, there's magic so it's not sci-fi", "It's Short, so It Sucks ", or "They Changed It, Now It Sucks" regarding the changes to their PSP versions. The plot for the first Star Ocean game is very similar to an episode of Star Trek, and the plot for the second one (called a Cliché Storm by some reviewers who had played the PSP remake) was actually far more original for the time than it seems now. The entire skill system (which was actually pretty in-depth and thorough) is often ignored, and the amount of recruitable characters and somewhat complex recruitment branches (giving some more replay value than the typical "you get these eight characters but can use only three or four at a time"-RPG) is considered just one part of a cliché storm. Let's also not forget that it was one of the first games that featured optional "Private Actions" to develop characters since the plot was written with only the required characters needing to be involved.
Tales of Phantasia. This was a complaint when it had finally been localized. The first two Tales games (Phantasia and Destiny) may also be somewhat hard to get into with how their battle systems (which was actually a rather major change in what RPG gamers have been accustomed to since the days of Dungeons & Dragons and what was just showing up in action games like World of Mana and Secret of Evermore) are much slower and simplistic than in the more recent games in the series like Vesperia and Dawn of the New World. You were restricted to just a 2D plane, there wasn't a lot of comboing, and the action froze to display spells & Special attacks. Also added was the fact that in Japan, Tales of Phantasia was called "The game that sings" for having a theme song, unlike most other games at the time. Nowadays everyone more or less expects the games to be fast-paced action or else they don't fulfill the Action Quota produced in part byPhantasia and Destiny. And having a theme song? Psssh... nearly every game's got one of those now.
Some of these were subverted by the Enhanced Remakes the two had. (the PlayStation version of Phantasia is considered the best version of Phantasia).
For that mater, play many of the early Tales Series games. Many of them don't exactly age well, with Tales of Destiny II being hit the hardest - it wasn't until after this game that they decided to start becoming a Deconstructor Fleet, so it can be a bit jarring to see how blatantly Mary Sue-like that Kyle and Reala are without any form of deconstruction. The Playstation version of Tales of Destiny also falls right into the valley...in part because the Enhanced Remake was just that much better.
Dragon's Lair. When new technology opened up new potential doors for media for the video games' storytelling, it can be rather hard to appreciate some of the early attempts at adding voice and cutscenes to games beyond this game's rather simplistic gameplay. Especially games like King's Quest V and VI or the first two Lunar games. King's Quest V was a rather early example of adventure games and RPGs using more media to spread information and the story. Nowadays people will probably view the cutscenes on YouTube and just laugh at the stiff animation, the voice acting, or the syncing (Usually a fault of the software used to put the file on YouTube), often praising games like Daggerfall for "doing the FMVs right" without acknowledging that even the most recent of those games (Eternal Blue) was made at least two years before Daggerfall was even finished. (And even then, Daggerfall's videos could all be counted on one-hand.) Despite how rather laughable the cutscenes and voice acting is nowadays, one may have to consider that with the exception of Lunar: Eternal Blue (which was made in 1994), all of those games were released within the range of 1990-92, and even then, the technology was rather new for the time. (King's Quest V, for example, showed a lot of people the potential of using CD-based games as opposed constantly switching out floppy discs.)
Another funny example are the people saying that Ghaleon is just another silver-haired pretty villain who is a result of developers trying to create another Sephiroth. Now take one look at the release dates mentioned above and try reading that again with a straight face... By the time people watched Sephiroth burn down Nibelheim, the exploits of the Magic Emperor Ghaleon were already five years old. And when he returned for round two? Three years old... and don't even get some of these people started on the rather effeminate looking Zophar (who really isn't that effeminate looking on the Sega CD until he absorbs the power of Althena) who is also considered another Sephiroth ripoff... despite trying to take over the universe of Lunar at least three years before Sephiroth did.
Full motion video. Many early attempts in the '90s are seen today as really, really corny (Morgan Webb of X-Play said on one episode that there was once a time in which community theatre actors could find work in games). Heck, the FMV games nowadays have this really "grainy" appearance, while the old attempts at CGI now look like everything is made out of plastic and rubber. It can be hard to appreciate some games like The 7th Guest, which was one of the first games period to even use the CD format, let alone combine live-actors acting out scenes and pre-rendered CG-I. (Of course, the game in question may be hard to get into for otherreasons beyond how dated it is.)
Rebel Assault II was released two years before Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, and was the first piece of Star Wars media to use live-action footage since Return of the Jedi. It was a huge deal at the time, and brought Lucasarts a giant surge of popularity (to the point that it had several compilation packages based around its inclusion). Today, it's hard to look at the footage from II (especially compared to the aforementioned Knight, which has actual actors and actually feels like a legitimate entry into the canon, rather than just a Gaiden Game) and not laugh at the stilted dialogue, cheap props and bad effects, even though it was theKiller App for the company.
Voice acting. Many classic games from the late '90s such as Silent Hill 1, Resident Evil, and to a lesser extent, Metal Gear Solid have some pretty narmy voice acting by modern standards, but at the time, they were considered revolutions in video game story telling. Indeed most of the best remembered video games of the PlayStation era were hits because of the then fresh and exciting "3D graphics, voice acting, movie inspired plots" formula.
The inverse is also true in Metal Gear Solid, as it was one of the first video games to take voice acting seriously in order to deliver a compelling story, which is now the norm these days.
This was actually what one of the criticisms when the Sega Saturn version of Magic Knight Rayearth came out. The reviewer found no problems with the game itself, he considered the localization of a game that was 3 years old already a wasted effort.
Hydro Thunder has fallen victim to this. It's very hard to imagine how it was innovative when pretty much every aspect of it (outside of the boat racing) has been immitated (mostly very poorly) and used. Mention it to anyone who wasn't around or into the arcade scene in the late '90s and you'll be bound to hear a bunch of groans complaining how they've seen it all before.
Metroid. Samus Is a Girl. So what's the big deal? It's quite forgotten that the original was released at a time when female protagonists (or any female fitting any trope besidesDamsel in Distress) in video games were essentially unheard of, even the trend of required token females in fighting games hadn't started yet. A rather dull twist today was one hell of a shocker at the time.
Mortal Kombat. The violence of the first game, and its depiction of digitized characters mutilating, decapitating, and just plain murdering each other with their Fatalities caused quite a stir during the early 1990s with both players and parents. Nintendo caved in to the Moral Guardians when it came to "their" version of the game for the Super NES, which had all the blood removed and some of the FatalitiesFinishing Moves changed, resulting in significantly less units sold than its uncensored Sega Genesis counterpart. Arguably, Mortal Kombat could be cited as the game that single-handedly created the ESRB. Nowadays, the violence of the Mortal Kombat series seems cartoony and tame compared to some of the more disturbing games released since the rating system has been established, such as Manhunt and Silent Hill.
Not to mention the game seems almost like a gimmick nowadays, what its graphic violence and intriguing atmosphere/storyline hiding an otherwise primitive fighting system, both of which can now be found in more complex games.
Mortal Kombat 4 specially suffers from this. While the game was nothing special in the gore department, the use of swift good-looking 3D graphics made it a successful game. If you check the reviews of the time, it usually got pretty decent scores (6.5/10 to 8.5/10). Most people nowadays consider it a horrible game, forgetting that it was the first 3D Mortal Kombat game not to hit the Polygon Ceiling.
Admittedly, Mortal Kombat did drift from its harsher origins over the course of the series. Fatalities in later titles were less about the raw violence and more about the spectacle. Kano went from ripping people's hearts out in the first game to using his Eye Beams to blow up his enemies by the third. It's still a finishing move, but the extremeness of the MK3 fatality just lacked the cold-bloodedness and disturbing vibe the first game had.
Night Trap also helped cause the ESRB to be formed, or was one of the prime motivators. Seeing it now, it's amazing to think of how it was supposed to be so offensive on the Sega CD. Of course, even then, there wasn't any actual violence (implied, not actually shown), and many of the things that were shown were so fantastical people couldn't possibly replicate it. (As it was filmed) However, the sex... oh boy... a girl in a nightgown that looked like something in the '50s (however, the game's biggest criticizers at the time were people who hadn't actually seen it).
Phantasy Star. A lot of the tropes of JRPGs in general come from this series, including the mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy elements, customizing party lineups by swapping out party members, and the emotionally shocking but dramatically effective storyline deaths of important protagonistsnote Technically, Final Fantasy II had protagonists meet their demise over the course of the story but they were the fourth party member and not any of the main three. Now it's all par for the course. In addition, while the Phantasy Star games were generally Darker and Edgier than the Final Fantasy games of their day, ever since Final Fantasy VII, the majority of RPGs have been at least as grim as anything in the quadrilogy.
It does technically hold onto one claim to fame, though it is unfortunately at home in the 'Dark Horse' of the original quadrilogy. And that is a branching storyline caused by marital succession. Granted, such a thing is probably a massive pain in the arse to script then implement, so it is no surprise few others have a constantly refreshing cast of characters.
Most of the early Western RPGs (such as Heavy On The Magick on the European 8-bit computers, or Dungeon Master on the Amiga and Atari ST) had little plot intrusion in the game with much of that sort of thing being in the "The story so far..." section of the instruction manual. Nowadays, while there are still segments of the gaming population that prefer games to have as little story as possible, even a story-lite game like The Elder Scrolls still has a main plot thrown into the game with a few token cinematics.
Amusingly, early RPGs copied each other so much there was little effective difference between them: Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy were, if not the same, at least very similar thematically. Now, due to the proliferation of the RPG format, there are any number of different RPG genres. Which sort of makes it the reverse of Seinfeld Is Unfunny: earlier RPGs copied shamelessly, newer RPGs are much more diverse. Sort of.
Early Western RPGs were so mechanically similar that you could frequently import parties developed in other games. You could play Bards Tale 2 with your Wizardry party.
Quake. The original game was an immense hit in its day due to its technological innovations. But its once-shocking 3D graphics now look... underwhelming, due to low polygon counts and lack of texture filtering. Though the overall atmosphere and art design still hold up quite well despite the limitations.
Even Quake's other claim to fame, that is, being the first widespread online FPS is relatively unimpressive to today's gamers. In a day and age of gaming networks like Steam, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, Quake's lack of a server-browser, let alone a gaming network (excluding early 3rd party networks like M Player and MSN Zone) seems downright primitive. Still, considering today's gaming dominated by multiplayer FPS's, Quake's popularization of online gameplay makes it one of the most important technical feats to this day.
The originalStreet Fighter. Back then, arcade games were almost universally simple affairs. Punch, kick, jump, shoot, duck, defend on occasion, maybe if it got really wild, you had an alternate weapon. Large sprites, one-on-one gameplay, a pair of analog buttons which produced a variety of strikes (later replaced by the now-standard six-button grid), holding back to block, super-lethal attacks unleashed by secret joystick movements, and unique opponents with a variety of styles and attacks... all of these were amazing innovations. Especially for Capcom, which at the time had almost nothing but platformers and various Shoot Em Ups. It was a huge success, better than anyone could've imagined. Today, good luck finding someone who remembers that this game existed, much less will admit to liking it.
Street Fighter II accidentally introduced animation cancelling, and as a result, the entire concept of combos in fighting games. This glitch single-handedly extended the life of video arcades for a decade. Today, the system seems clunky and sometimes unresponsive, and overpowered to bootnote The basic Ryu/Ken combo of jumping roundhouse, crouching forward canceled into fireball originally did over 45% damage and instantly dizzied the opponent; then again, it was a glitch, and not an integrated component of the game engine.
Super Mario 64. A lot of people complain that it is unwieldy and unimaginative, unaware that, outside of a couple crappy (even for their time) games, there really didn't exist 3D platformers in 1996.
Or, hell, even the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES. With it's abundance of repeated level styles, there's some people who don't realize that this game kickstarted Nintendo's juggernaut of a series. Back in the 1985, 32 side-scrolling levels (with many secret areas) was simply immense for a game world (at the time of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, many games made do with only a few static screens), and Mario's Goomba Stomp and forgiving Jump Physics made for much livelier gameplay than most earlier platformers, where characters couldn't jump high and often needed a powerup to have any chance of defeating enemies.
Donkey Kong, in its day, was the Arcade Game that Nintendo couldn't manufacture enough copies of to satisfy worldwide demand. Players who grew up in an age when only the most amateurish Platform Game would have only four screens might wonder why it became so phenomenally popular.
Ape Escape. Nowadays, the game is plagued by Damn You, Muscle Memory and what is now considered terrible camera controls (in part because a standardized control scheme is "Right analog stick for camera, left analog stick for movement".) However, at the time, Ape Escape was a huge experiment in 3D control... as well as for the PlayStation in general. For one, it was the first game to require the DualShock controller.
The System Shock games, System Shock 2 in particular. Despite being one of the most undersold games ever, never really moving beyond Cult Classic, System Shock 2 was a very well put together and innovative PC game. It was so good it has at least two Spiritual Successors. Both BioShock and Dead Space copy its sold blend of Survival Horror/shooter in a Sci-Fi environment with vending machines, upgrade stations allowing for a good deal of customization, and special powers (often used in puzzle solving), and a plot where everyone's turned into monsters and the only normal people are either on the other end of the radio, die five seconds after you meet them, or are the villains. However, improved graphics and gameplay, combined with the fact that not as many people played System Shock create such moments as Dead Space being described as "like BioShock, but on a spaceship."
Ultima. Yahtzee once described the series as "needlessly obtuse", which would make sense if there was anything better available at the time the games were released (which is only true for Ultima IX and perhaps Ultima VIII).
The early Ultima games were often described as "RPG/adventure hybrids" at the time, because they brought into RPGs such revolutionary elements as talking to NPCs and solving puzzles beyond "use key on door".
The Ultima Underworld games, along with The Elder Scrolls: Arena, revolutionized RPGs with 360 degrees of 3 dimensional freedom, before the term FPS had even been coined. It looks less impressive compared to today's RPG hack-n-slashers.
The first Virtua Fighter is horribly bland if you've played any 3D fighting game that came later (let alone, later entries in the series), yet words fail to describe how innovative and astonishing it was when it came out. Of course, the very name indicates that it was made to demonstrate something new at the time.
The Legend of Zelda I, compared to the newer games, would look like it's missing a lot of the elements that are staples of the series (such as towns full of NPCs, traveling by way of a horse or vehicle, and lots of dialogue and cutscenes) but at the time, it was an epic adventure the likes of which was almost completely unheard of in a console game, just because you had a more free-range environment, a whole arsenal of inventory items and needed a save feature just to finish it (this was an early NES game, and most of those games at the time were the kind you could finish in a single sitting (at least in principle), or used a password system).
For that matter, theNintendo 64games. They were a spectacularVideo Game 3D Leap at the time, and are the base for every third-person game that exists now, having introduced features such as the now ubiquitous Camera Lock-On. However, just like Super Mario 64, the low-poly graphics and mostly square environments don't look nearly as good today, especially when compared to newergames.
Sonic Adventure, has often been noted to not have aged well compared to later 3D games, due to having many gameplay styles you have to play to complete the game and feeling rather slow compared to later games, which may contribute to the low critical scores that the HD rerelease garnered.
Logistics and diplomacy in a wargame. From the west came Virgin Interactive with Overlord with trade, military pacts, and planetary bombardment, and from the east came Koei, with Nobunaga's Ambition. Both were the first in their genres to combine obsessive resource management with the trappings of a standard setpiece wargame. How much your troops had trained and with what. How much food you had. The market of the food itself. The market behind your weaponry. Spying. Assassinations. Treaties. Aid pacts. Black markets. Taxation. Dividends. And in Nobunaga's case, even marriage was accounted for, as an alternative option to uniting your empire with another's. The information overload was staggering for its time, possibly even for some now. This was not merely there to bolster the wargame part ala Total War either. It was vitally important to do all these things at once lest you fall behind and face unexpected defeat in the coming battle.
Similarly, M.U.L.E. was all about managing and developing your resources on a newly-founded colony world.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series is a microcosm of this trope. When the Marine player character in the first game is permanently killed by the nuke in "Aftermath", it was a huge break from other FPS games of the era. The fact that you controlled a dying character in the middle of a nuclear blast zone (and had no say over whether he lived or died), and that all your efforts in the American campaign were for naught was a huge deal then, and flew in the face of conventional video game tropes. The sequel, however, does the same thing 3 separate times, and for players who played MW2 before the original, the effect of the "Aftermath" level is lost.
To a minor extent, the bonus merchants in the Baldur's Gate 2 Collector's Edition. At the time the game was released, having these two merchants was a huge deal, as they not only were highly-exclusive bonuses that were only limited to a comparative handful of game owners, but the equipment they sold was much better than anything else at the beginning of the game. Fast forward through a generation of Pre-Order Bonus and CE content offers, and its hard to see what the big deal is.
The original Battle Arena Toshinden was one of the most highly-rated games for the original PlayStation when it originally came out. It was one of the most advertised launch titles for the platform in North America, as well as the third game to ever get a score of 98% from Game Players magazine (the other two being the SNES port of Super Street Fighter II and Final Fantasy VI). However, the sequels got progressively worse reviews (the fourth one wasn't even released in North America) and the original game is now seen as a joke compared to the original Virtua Fighter and Tekken (which had its console releases around the same time).
Graphics-wise, they're comparible (with Toshinden arguably a notch above). Gameplay wise, VF and Tekken hold up. BAT... doesn't.
The SOCOM series, full stop. During the PS2 days, SOCOM blended the best aspects of PC tactical shooters (mainly Counter-Strike, Delta Force and Rainbow Six) and made the gameplay palatable for console gamers. Combine this with the ultra-popular PS2 and the result? Six million total sales between the first two games. However, SOCOM's relevance was symbiotic with Sony's problematic online gaming support, which suffered from the PS2's lack of a built-in hard drive (making patching impossible and dropped games were common). Then Halo 2 was released, and Xbox Live's popularity exploded. And then, the worst combination for the series: PS3's lackluster launch handicapped the console, developer Zipper did not make another SOCOM game for years, and many different tactical shooters flooded the console market (e.g., the "Tom Clancy's" line of shooters, Battlefield variants, and especially Call of Duty). By the time SOCOM 4 was released, only longtime fans remained interested. Worse, SOCOM 4's attempts to convert new fans was a failure, and the remaining fans are caught into a bitter civil war with the franchise. Now that developer Zipper has shut down on March 2012, the franchise looks to be a footnote of the PS2 days, and little else.
The first Persona game. It was made in 1996, and... quite honestly hasn't aged very well. It kicked off a series, and was a cult hit, but the sequels (even the second games, which followed the original formula, not the madly popular dating sim) polished the franchise so much better the first game is much, much harder to just pick up and play than the later installments. This is one of those games where you spend either a couple hours poking around constantly finding the items... or five minutes with a guide.
If you think that the Literal Split Personality or the escapism are cliché, it's worth noting that you'd be hard pressed to find any more of that back in 1996.
The Second Reality Project was one of the first major Super Mario World hacks. Completed in 2002 (around Lunar Magic's really early years), the game just had level edits and nothing else. But the creator did do a remake incorporating newer graphics, levels and other things.
Heck, Rob-Omb's Quest probably looks lousy today compared to other Super Mario World hacks, but around the time it came out, (many) people were impressed by the custom Super Mario Bros. 3 music, overworld and level ideas.
Even the SMB3 music seems bland compared to the custom music that can be inserted into a SMW ROM hack now.
ExGFX? Well, although some people still like playing Super Demo World: The Legend Continues, it still doesn't have all the ASM and custom music that newer SMW hacks nowadays have. It's still a great hack to play though.
The first hack that demonstrated what ASM editing can do? Brutal Mario was pretty famous for the custom bosses, sprites and other features, but had bad level design. Nowadays, there are many other hacks that incorporate ASM.
Kaizo Mario World. Remember that at the time, all those cruel tricks were actually original, and even things like the Kaizo Trap or invisible coin blocks were used sparingly and in a clever way. And things like invisible/underwater Bowser, that Big Boo boss in the second, the final Reznor fight and many of the levels were actually fairly well designed, it's just the imitators that came since copied so much of it that the game itself is old hat.
Other hacks have issues with this too. Ore World 1 and 2 were extremely old examples of Mario hacks with lots of ASM in the form of custom bosses and sprites, and were actually kind of impressive back in the olden days. Nowadays though, the fact their custom sprites/bosses are extremely basic and somewhat poorly designed, along with the fact everything but the ASM was generally low quality has meant that the games have practically been forgotten. Another example is the Super Mario World Returns hacks by KT. They were notable about a decade ago for being the first ever hacks to have custom sprites in levels, having enemies from other Mario games as basic mooks you could fight throughout the adventure. Now of course, with sprite tool actually existing and many more interesting examples of custom sprites being made, their design is just coming across as dated to anyone who plays them.
Breath of Fire II, for the Super NES. Compared to today's games, its mild swearing (a single "damn" and "hell"), explicit references to death, and religious themes (including a Corrupt Church and explicit references to gods) may seem tame; nonetheless, it was definitely Darker and Edgier than anything ever before seen on a Nintendo system.
Resident Evil did for video games what Night of the Living Dead did for movies. Zombies. Used to be, zombies were about as common or less likely for one to encounter as the old 1980s stand-by enemies, the robot and the ninja. Then Resident Evil came along. Nowadays, zombies are almost as ubiquitous in games as crates. Not to mention the entire shift in what a Survival Horror title even is. These days, the genre is more focused on action, with combat being quicker and more frantic and story and level progression more fast-paced. This is a far cry from the "tank/turret-style" controls and complex puzzle-oriented gameplay of the first Survival Horror titles.
Renegade was the first "belt-scrolling" Beat 'em Up and pioneered such features as throwing enemies. The Japanese version launched the Kunio-kun series, and the Westernized version was popular enough to get its own line of sequels. Even as a Beat 'em Up it gets little respect nowadays, likely in part because even the arcade version lacks the Co-Op Multiplayer that became a staple of the genre. Seanbaby, describing the NES port as one of the "Top 20 Worst NES Games," claimed sarcastically that "there just weren't any other games involving guys walking around and fighting bad guys on the street." To a large extent, there weren't: it came before such better-remembered games as Double Dragon and Final Fight.
Similar to Kaizo Mario World, Fire Emblem ROM-Hacks. Mageknight404 mentions that in his Blitz Tactics Universe series, the hack is really dated, but at the time was probably the best rom-hacks of Fire Emblem Elibe. It was actually one of the first games to do stuff like change around the event data, so that the characters were not actually just cutting the lines from a Fire Emblem Elibe game and replacing them with their own. However, playing it now, you'll notice that the characters are obviously splices or edits, while some of the custom faces fall right into the Uncanny Valley. In addition, the custom music will seem out of place, the events will seem weird, there are glitches (Such as brigands with sword ranks) amongst other things. However, it -was- merely a beta, after all, and recently the game was revamped and re-released, given a name change to The Last Promise, and is generally a vast step up from the original version.
The idea of a main character who was a Jeigan was also a rather novel concept.
Grand Theft Auto III was both revolutionary and hugely controversial when it came out in 2001. While games like Driver and Body Harvestnote The latter of which, incidentally, was made by DMA Design, the same studio that made GTA III and later became Rockstar North. had done Wide Open Sandbox gameplay before, none came close to the scope and production values of GTA III. The game had respected Hollywood actors voicing characters both major and minor, and combined driving, exploration, and combat in a way that had no rival at the time. Players could run around an open world, steal cars and run down pedestrians with them, kill anybody they saw (including cops) with a wide array of weapons, and pick up prostitutes to get health (and then kill them to get their money back), earning it the award of "Most Offensive Game of the Year" from GameSpy and other publications.
Nowadays, with many Wide Open Sandbox games that have built upon GTA III's gameplay foundation (including later installments in the Grand Theft Auto series itself), things like the clunky shooting mechanics, the Excuse Plot, and the long load times between areas of the city stand out more. The presence of Hollywood celebrities voicing characters isn't that impressive when nearly every AAA game released nowadays has big-name voice talent. Lastly, the edgy content seems tame in comparison to Manhunt, Saints Row, God of War, and the "No Russian" mission in Modern Warfare 2 (the F-word isn't even used in the game).
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was also revolutionary in that it was one of the first mass-market games ever made to feature a soundtrack made up almost entirely of well-known, licensed music tracks from more than one artist. Typically, a game either used in-house music (which tended to be fairly simplistic) or had a single artist or band (more often than not a fairly obscure one) produce the music. The fact that Vice City had nothing but licensed music from many of the most famous artists of The Eighties, across multiple genres, blew the minds of both reviewers and the public at large, and is credited as being a big part of the game's '80s vibe. Now days, licensed music tracks tend to be the rule rather than the exception in many Wide Open Sandbox games and even some non-sandbox games.
On a similar note, the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was probably the first mainstream game to use an extensive licensed soundtrack. While most of the bands (except maybe Primus) were pretty obscure outside the Punk community, it was quite impressive at the time to hear such a wide range (ie. more than just one or two) of different bands in a video game. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, meanwhile, perfected this formula by offering a wider range of musical styles (basically anything from Punk to Rap to Metal) and larger assortment of mainstream bands. Just about every game with licensed music thereafter has owed a lot to the first two Tony Hawk games.
Before THPS, Road Rash for the 3DO pioneered the fully licensed soundtrack with bands like Soundgarden, Monster Magnet, and Paw.
When Duke Nukem 3D was released in early 1996, just hearing the word "Damn!" uttered at the very beginning was pretty hardcore, let alone being able to do things like dance with (or kill) strippers. Today, with far more brutal and foul-mouthed games having been released ever since, it's hard to look at this game as little more than a standard mid-'90s FPS with a cheesy 80's action movie gimmick, as the reception for Duke Nukem Forever demonstrates.
Beyond that, the gameplay was an immense leap forward from the DOOM era only three years beforehand. The environments represented multiple realistic buildings with destructible environments, scripted cinematic events like missile launches, interactive items like light switches and playable billiards, working mirrors and remote security cameras, and incredible use of verticality with the jetpack and underwater segments. Just being able to look up and down was a technical achievement and is now of course taken for granted.
Connected with the previous one is, well... the WWII era of Call of Duty. While there certainly had been FPS games before where you fought alongside groups (including the Omaha Beach level of the aforementioned Allied Assault), the idea that you could constantly be having a squad (or larger!) of men fighting alongside you for basically the entire game, with at least a few of them having something of a personality, was such a leap forward that the marketing slogan for the first game was "Nobody Fights Alone." Nowadays, that's standard operating procedure in basically every military FPS. Ironically, while the WWII Call Of Duty games were among the best-selling FPS of their day, they are now more of a footnote compared to the more modern setting games.
Hell, Call of Duty has suffered from this badly in general. Call Of Duty 4's multiplayer was viewed as pretty advanced for the time, with class customisation and smooth multiplayer, and reasonable graphics. However, the problem seems to be that the series has become too formulaic, with a lack of general change until the announcement of Black Ops 2.
The original Cool Boarders was the first major snowboarding game on the market. It set the bar for an entire generation of snowboarding franchises like Amped, SSX and Shaun White's Snowboarding. Yet, Cool Boarders had a whopping five tracks, two characters, a handful of boards, an incredibly slow top speed and absolutely no competitive mode to speak of. It looks like a glorified demo in comparison to later snowboarding games, especially within its own series (to the point that Cool Boarders 2 in 1997 is considered to be the "true" start of the franchise). Later franchises reused Boarders' Competition mode, trend of qualifying jumps, unlockable characters and boards. However, all those franchises wouldn't have succeeded (or would have been drastically different) if Cool Boarders hadn't started the trend.
Xevious was one of the earliest and most influential Vertical Scrolling Shooters, but nowadays reviews aren't so good for an Endless Game with bland 8-bit graphics, boring enemy designs, an annoying soundtrack and a total lack of power-ups.
The original Sierra games like King's Quest were revolutionary at the time, and the American games industry would not be the same if Sierra adventure games had not existed, yet, even a relatively short time after the originals came out, everyone with a computer and their dog could program a game like that. It was when they grew the beard with King's Quest III and onward, introducing such things as evolving plots, characters that functioned as people rather than just obstacles, varying flesh-out environments and graphics that actually looked liked there was an actual artist on board rather than a 5-year old with a paint program that they began to stand out as legitimate products rather than just simple high school projects. In fact, King's Quest was often used to train new programmers, and while it shows with one and two, take a look at three or even four that look far more polished.
Video game vocal tracks, in the '90s, were actually a pretty big deal. Mind you, certain songs (such as the DK Rap) were panned even then. But JRPG vocal tracks in particular, such as "Wings" and "Eyes on Me", were highly regarded at the time. Today, with fully-licensed music being the norm in video games and Western RPGs like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect having overtaken the JRPG's spot in terms of popularity nearly a decade ago, modern gamers see these songs as sort of overdone and kind of show-offy attempts at depicting emotional scenes, utilizing the PS1's CD format.
Pa Rappa The Rapper was a major innovation back in 1997, because no one else had seen a Rhythm Game before (this was before even Dance Dance Revolution), and the Paper People graphics was considered revolutionary for a game back then. Years later, Paper Mario would re-revolutionize Paper People graphics, and further rhythm games would re-revolutionize the rhythm game genre. Parappa's simplistic rhythm mechanic is considered completely obsolete, as every rhythm game after it uses a better system than "Press a certain button at basically random times".
Joe Montana II Sports Talk Football released back in 1991 was the first football video game to actually have continous commentary.
Devil May Cry 1. When it came out, reviews lauded the first game for its fast action and deep gameplay; today many players who try it find it kind of slow, clunky and limited (not to mention the infamous triangle jump). It has the right to be, since it basically set all the foundations of the modern Beat 'em All genre, four years before God of War and Itagaki's Ninja Gaiden.
Even edutainment titles are not immune. Any young one who was raised on games like that from the mid-90s to the late 2000s probably played an interactive book of some sort — the type where you can choose to have the story read to you, or have it read first and then being able to click on everything in the page and have it come to life. Some of these included the Disney Animated Storybooks and GT Interactive's games based on the Little Critter stories. They filled the edutainment market so much that it becomes easy to forget Living Books started the whole trend. Back when they did it, it was unlike anything that had been done before. It's not as glaring as some other examples since very few of the clones were able to live up to the standards Living Books set, but it's definitely part of the reason Living Books didn't last forever.
Anyone who counts the post Playstation 2 era as the main base of their video game experience will be extremely unlikely to appreciate just how revolutionary Shenmue was to the Wide Open Sandbox genre. It was one of the first truly interactive city environments that actually felt like a living breathing world: NPC's were at work or home depending on the time of day, real time weather effects that could actually be set to mimic the actual day to day weather of 1986/1987 Japan, arcades that featured classic arcade games such as Space Harrier, the range of dialogue was extensive even if it did constantly loop itself and, most importantly, invented the Quick Time Event. Today however it has been copied and surpassed by so many internationally famous franchises such as Grand Theft Auto all it is most likely remembered for by modern gamers is its infamously bad voice acting that admittedly even at the time was outdated when you consider the original Metal Gear Solid came out a year beforehand and pretty much set the trend for all vocal performances to come.
The note here about Quick Time Events needs to be expanded because unlike its overshadowed contributions to sandbox games; QTE's are now more or less in every genre of modern game imaginable from third person shooters to RPG's. They are now in fact so widespread that some reviewers today are so sick of them they even downgrade their ratings just on the basis of their presence. Yet as hard as it may be to accept now, back in 2000 the concept of having such interactivity in a cut scene on a console game was unheard of. The closest we had were basic things like the odd text box popping up with a simplistic right or left style choice.
These days it is nearly impossible to play a game of Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade without passersby calling it "Guitar Hero for your feet," despite the former predating the latter by seven years.
Amongst DDR fans, the older games tend to look primitive, due to the slower framerate, lack of gameplay modifiers, and more distracting graphics.
Pong. The ultimate example of this trope. Whilst not the first ever video game as is widely believed, it is the first game to truly make the medium popular which is far more important in establishing whether something will become commercially viable or not. Indeed this sheer popularity is most likely the reason why essentially no one today can name what came before it without the aid of Google. Pity therefore, that even gamers who grew up with it probably think of it as nothing more than two lines and a dot on a hazy monochrome screen.
Xenogears: It's hard to believe that, in the late-90's, this game almost didn't see an American release because of its religious overtones. Compared to what a lot of more recent games get away with in terms of religious content, it's hard to believe that the game's surprisingly reverent treatment of the topic was met with so much controversy.
Even stranger: Final Fantasy Tactics, released almost one year earlier, had much stronger and harsher religious overtones. But there were no qualms about giving that game a US release. And let's not even get started on the satanic overtones of ID Software's mid-90's games.
Front Mission, the series was Band of Brothers with giant robots with a bit of 24 mixed in. However, Square thinking that westerners wouldn't appreciate such a story and had created a route meant to cater to the American Public with a more traditional anime inspired plot and another which is very similar to previous titles. Too bad they didn't realize that nowadays, moral greyness and protagonists with complex personalities are the norm as seen with Front Mission Evolved.
Multiplayer gaming in general. Before online play became the norm, nearly all forms of multiplayer were done on the same console in the same room. Back in the day, multiplayer was considered to be extremely engaging and the bar was set higher when the Nintendo 64 made 4 player multiplayer popular. Gamers who didn't grow up in the time where multiplayer gaming was new think games that didn't have online play were boring.
Save points. The ability to save your game at a predetermined point was considered revolutionary and sometimes challenging during its heyday. Today's games now mostly have auto saving and/or checkpoints, which makes dying very trivial, and people today don't see Save Game Limits as a good thing.
Conkers Bad Fur Day has fallen victim to this, but not in the way you might think it has. Rather, it was among the first video games to use context-sensitive gameplay, meaning that you were given unique abilities based on the situation at hand. How? By stepping on a Context Sensitivity Pad, where you were granted otherwise impossible abilities until stepping off. Compared to the context-sensitive gameplay of later games like God of War, Conker's seems very clumsy and limited. On the other hand, the game's liberal use of Vulgar Humor is still pretty unique, and probably the only reason one would be likely to choose it over a more recent platformer like Ratchet & Clank or Super Mario Galaxy.
If you're used to modern iterations of Tetris, the slower piece movements and the stricter engine (pieces lock into place once they touch the floor or object, rather than being allowed to slide for a few frames) of older entries, such as the ones released for the NES and the Game Boy, can feel like poor quality and Fake Difficulty in hindsight.
Older Shoot 'em Up games, especially compared to more modern games that specialize in pretty visuals and Bullet Hell. Show Raiden or 1943 to someone who got into the genre through Touhou or CAVE games and you'll probably get some negative remarks about dull visuals and boring patterns.
The first Valis game, as originally made for the PC-88, is practically unplayable by modern standards, with its choppy framerate, stiff controls and grinding for health. Even the cinematic cutscenes (predating Ninja Gaiden by two years) are barely even animated. Yet this Japanese PC game was popular enough to spawn a series that went on to greater glory, despite the original development team going (temporarily) independent and the commercial failure of the Famicom version that frustrated players in its own way.