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Genre Turning Point / Video Games

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  • Super Mario Bros.
    • In the field of video games, Super Mario Bros. defined the 2D platformer, as well as ensuring the resurrection of the video game home console in the United States after The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Previous entries, such as Pitfall and Nintendo's own Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong, took place on a single screen or series of screens. Super Mario Bros' innovative scrolling screen was so influential that even the name of the genre was changed, being popularly known as "sidescrollers" until the leap to 3D.
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    • And then another Mario game, Super Mario 64, set the standard for 3D platformers for years to come, and was the first 3D platformer to successfully use a joystick.
    • Yet another Mario game, New Super Mario Bros., proved with its high and unexpected popularity that looking to gaming's past is not a sign of creative stagnation. Hence, the massive influx of retro-flavored games afterward, including Nintendo's own Donkey Kong Country Returns.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog helped define part of the culture of The '90s by creating the Mascot with Attitude, and showing how fast gameplay could work as a platformer. In the process, it created the Console Wars between Sega and Nintendo.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time made platforming "realistic" with its use of parkour, and set the stage for, among other things, Tomb Raider: Legend, Assassin's Creed (which was, not coincidentally, made by the same studio as Sands of Time) and Uncharted. Back in 1989, Prince of Persia did the exact same thing, with its realistic platforming and fighting.
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  • Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II as it was known to North American audiences) seemed like this to North American audiences, since it was one of the first plot- and character-heavy console RPGs to get a western release. In reality, the genre had been going strong for a long time in Japan, but it was the first to get widespread western release and therefore represented a turning point in terms of getting them worldwide.
  • Final Fantasy VII rewrote the rulebook for the 3D RPG genre, popularizing highly cinematic presentation enabled by CG rendering and the newly increased storage space of CDs, and dynamic camera angles and movement in battles presented in 3D.
  • Street Fighter II altered the face of the fighting game, shifting focus from side scrolling brawlers onto one on one fights, varied character rosters, and competitive two player modes. It also had a good bad bug that let you "Combo" moves together.
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  • Virtua Fighter likewise proved that fighting games could easily make a transition into 3D, in addition to showcasing more natural forms of combat as opposed to the fireballs and wuxia of its 2D brethren.
  • In the '90s and early '00s, several games each popularized pieces that would coalesce into the modern First-Person Shooter genre that we know today.
    • There had been games like Wolfenstein 3D before it, but none had the immediate impact of Doom, the Trope Maker that popularized the genre in the mainstream consciousness. Notably, it was the first FPS to offer multiplayer (via LAN or dial-up modem).
    • Quake was not the first FPS game with built-in Internet multiplayernote , but it played a large role in turning it into one of the staples of the genre. Virtually every FPS released since Quake includes a multiplayer mode, with many FPS fans buying games solely for the multiplayer and never touching the single-player.
    • Rarely does a licensed game redefine conventions. Yet this is exactly what GoldenEye did in 1997. Not only did it set the standards for every shooter of its generation, but more importantly, it showed that FPS games on consoles didn't have to be watered down compared to their PC counterparts, and could be legitimately great games in their own right. It would also bring multiplayer FPSes to a wide audience, allowing up to 4 players to shoot each other up on one screen and one console; before then, the only way to enjoy multiplayer FPSes with that many players was to do it on a PC with each player having their own machine. Finally, it's credited, together with Team Fortress Classic and MDK that same year, with having popularized the headshot by introducing location-based damage.
    • Half-Life introduced in-game scripted setpieces, intelligent AI, diegetic environments, the Unbroken First-Person Perspective, and story-driven progression rather than a simple sequence of key and switch hunts.
    • Unreal Tournament popularized announcements for every action in the game (such as headshots, combo kills and kill streaks) as well as Instagib (all players spawning with a One-Hit Kill weapon).
    • Medal of Honor and Counter-Strike popularized the military shooter, with a much greater focus on realism and authenticity as opposed to over-the-top action and sci-fi storylines.
    • Halo brought in Regenerating Health and the Limited Loadout, in addition to mixing up the gameplay with environments which alternated between wide open spaces and tight corridors and mixed on-foot and vehicular action. These elements existed prior to this, but Halo blended them into a kind of alchemic formula that stuck.
    • And a year later, Metroid Prime successfully fused the FPS with the adventure genre, creating a first-person shooter where the focus was not on combat, but rather exploration and puzzle-solving. Those had long been staples of video games, but Metroid Prime really was the codifier for their inclusion in the FPS genre. To this day, almost every modern FPS can trace its roots back to either Halo, Metroid Prime, or Medal of Honor.
    • Half-Life 2 popularized advanced physics engines (and integrating physics into gameplay), intelligent emergent AI (especially for allied NPCs which had beforehand been universally useless), several graphical staples (such as auto-generated realistic lip sync and HDR lighting), and the narrative of the alien enemy as an unstoppable, nigh-untouchable eldritch force that you could only fight indirectly via mind-controlled proxies.
    • More recently, the outstanding success of the Modern Warfare trilogy (particularly the first one) single-handedly shifted the standard setting of 'realistic' military shooters from World War II to the Modern Day. Battlefield and Medal of Honor, among others, followed suit. Beyond that, it also popularized the ideas of progression-based perk systems and player loadouts in multiplayer, as well as the idea of single-player campaigns being highly scripted, cinematic affairs designed akin to rollercoaster rides and presented like summer action movies. Such was its impact that even games outside of the genre took notice and adapted elements from it. More impressively, it also shifted the genre as a whole into being totally dominated by one franchise. Call of Duty is now the second biggest video game property of all time,note  with no few series in general and no FPS series being remotely in the same league.note  It is widely played by people who rarely touch other shooters, or sometimes even video games in general.
    • Even more recently, the Blizzard Entertainment's newest IP, Overwatch officially codified the Hero Shooter into it's own entire subgenre, as well as further popularizing semi-hero shooter mechanics like having specific classes with different loadout options and unique stats and abilities, as well as a shift to less grittily realistic settings.
  • Castle Wolfenstein was one of the first games in the stealth game genre, but it wasn't until the success of Metal Gear Solid, Thief, and Tenchu: Stealth Assassins that the genre began to attract attention. Other stealth game series, like Splinter Cell and Hitman, have continued this with quirks of their own.
  • PC gaming was generally seen as inferior to console gaming until the advent of Doom, which was made by a shareware company, causing gaming companies everywhere to rethink their business model.
    • Shareware in general (where you gave away part of your program for free, and the user would pay you money for the full thing if they liked it) was seen as a really stupid idea that could never possibly make money. Apogee Software and Epic MegaGames came along and proved that the model could be profitable, at least with games. Apogee made a lot of money with the game series Kingdoms of Kroz, and Epic with ZZT. This is way BEFORE the days of the Internet, which made distributing shareware easy. Apogee later changed their name to 3D Realms and created Duke Nukem 3D, and Epic went on to create the Unreal and Gears of War series.
      • Game-wise, Duke Nukem (Apogee), Jill of the Jungle (Epic) and Commander Keen (Id) popularised shareware. One from each major company.
  • Gears of War lead third person shooters as a genre to strategic cover-based gameplay. While third-person cover shooters had some precedents before it (notably WinBack and Kill.Switch), Gears of War is when the concept truly solidified and became a regular feature of the genre.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Grand Theft Auto III completely revolutionized both the Wide Open Sandbox and the content that it was considered acceptable for video games to show. It wasn't the first 3D open-world game (titles like Driver, Ocarina of Time, and DMA Design's own Body Harvest predate it), nor was it the first graphically violent game (it wasn't even the first to start a moral panic over video game violence). However, its success helped it stand head and shoulders above its progenitors, providing players with a massive world that was packed to the rafters with things to do, including any sort of vice and debauchery they could imagine. To this day, the template for most open-world games is essentially a refinement of what GTA III accomplished. Unfortunately, it also helped sell the idea of video games as Murder Simulators.
    • Its sequel Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, meanwhile, revolutionized video game soundtracks. Before, music in video games was usually either specifically composed for the game, made up of a handful of more-or-less obscure/underground musicians, or composed of no more than about a dozen licensed tracks, usually from a single genre (such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater's Punk Rock soundtrack). The Houser brothers, however, used their connections in the music industry to secure the rights to a soundtrack composed of over a hundred songs from some of the biggest pop and rock icons of The '80s, contributing to the game's Miami Vice/Scarface atmosphere like nothing else. Vice City's soundtrack is still held up as one of the greatest ever seen in a video game, and it's been the norm for games to use licensed tracks from big-name artists ever since.
    • On a more negative note, Grand Theft Auto V's online multiplayer mode, Grand Theft Auto Online, has been held up as a harbinger of all of the exploitative monetization practices that would plague gaming during the Eighth Generation. It was the first AAA, $60 retail game to employ microtransactions in a big way for its online economy, a model previously restricted to free-to-play mobile and browser games, and other developers, taking note of how lucrative this model became for Rockstar Games, adapted it for their own online games. To quote Tyler J. of Cleanprincegaming:
    "Like it or not, the game was breaking new ground. Unfortunately, they broke that ground directly over Hell."
  • The original Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Mortal Kombat 3 introduced some mechanics to the fighting game genre
    • The game introduced juggling to fighting games, a game mechanic later improved by other franchises such as Tekken. Basically, if a player knocks their opponent into the air, they can keep attacking them. It had Game-Breaker potential, so combo-breaking measures were put in place in later games not only of the series, but also of other franchises.
    • The game also popularized simplified move commands, more exactly buttonless motions (such as ← ← →) and simplified motion+buttons (← → 👊 ). These commands would later become standard for specialized command moves.
    • Mortal Kombat series also was one of the first fighting games to put an emphasis on Lore. Later expanded on with the addition of story modes with Mortal Kombat 9, see below
  • Mortal Kombat 9 did this for storytelling in fighting games. Before then, story was often considered a complete afterthought that casual players can look up in the manual, and was often only vaguely referenced as each character only had an arcade ending and nothing else. It was generally agreed that story didn't matter in fighting games, with the reasoning is that they're meant for competitive play and one doesn't need a story for why two people are fighting each other. However, once MK9 came out, it completely flipped the script on the idea of what can be done with a story in fighting games. Basically, it proved that you can have a fully cinematic story in a fighting game, and have it be compelling for gamers. MK9 made it perfectly reasonable, if not expected, for a fighting game to have a full-fledged story mode, and the term "fighting games don't need a story" has slowly waned from being "universally accepted" to "a lazy excuse not to have content". Since then, nearly all big-name fighting games have included one, with other developers likely taking cues from the success MK9 had.
  • Dragon Quest took RPGs down a completely different path. Its emphasis on story and simplistic combat was a major culture shock for American gamers when they got their hands on it (Western RPGs at the time consisting mainly of shallow stories and cripplingly complex gameplay), but it definitely had a following, and it spawned the subgenre we now refer to as the JRPG.
  • The Xbox Live service (and its child service, the Xbox Live Arcade) provided two previously rare functions on consoles — it allowed for the onset of downloadable content expansions to console games, and it allowed for the download of small games directly to a console's hard drive, starting with titles such as Namco arcade games. With the Xbox 360, this eventually allowed for the download of entire Xbox games, but this and several other download networks ushered in a new era of independently produced games, which themselves are sometimes deconstructions and reconstructions of classical video-game concepts. The industry has essentially come full-circle.
  • For the Interactive Fiction genre, Photopia. Before Photopia, games often used Mind Screw surrealism or High Fantasy loosely bound by a huge Story Arc. After Photopia, plot and puzzles became more important to the feel of a game, and slice-of-life realism overtook surrealism as the most popular environment in Interactive Fiction.
    • The release of Inform (and much more so Inform 7) revolutionized the medium, if not the genre. It made it possible for non-programmers to write Interactive Fiction software.
  • Steam did a lot to revive PC gaming in the Turn of the Millennium. Before it became popular, PC developers were fleeing to consoles en masse due to both the growing threat of piracy and, later, the backlash that intrusive DRM systems caused within the gaming community. Steam offered not only a relatively consumer-friendly form of DRM, but a whole slew of other features (unified friends lists, an Achievement System, etc.) that had previously been exclusive to consoles. As a result, developers felt more confident releasing their games on PC through Steam, with the knowledge that they were not only tougher to pirate, but that, even when they were inevitably pirated, the pirate copies would lose their Steam functionality in the process.
    • Steam also helped to create the market for indie gaming by offering a way for small developers to get their games to consumers without the costs and hurdles associated with retail stores. Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network quickly followed its lead, spreading the indie love to console gamers.
  • Baldur's Gate is widely regarded as having saved the Western RPG genre from slow extinction, setting up a Real-Time with Pause engine to replace the then-standard turn-based mechanics and putting a strong emphasis on story and Character Development. Since then, strong writing has been expected of WRPGs, and purely turn-based games are almost never released anymore. Those in the know also credit Baldur's Gate for saving its parent franchise, Dungeons & Dragons, from the tar pit that it had been driven into in the 1990s.
  • The Legend of Zelda was the first console game to use a battery-backup save feature and codified or outright named a huge number of tropes used in action adventure games ever since. The complexity of games after this point would never be the same again, as it was now possible to make a game that couldn't be beaten in a few hours.
  • Metal Gear Solid went a long way towards moving action games away from having nothing more than an Excuse Plot, instead making the story an integral part of the gaming experience. The story, voice acting (particularly in a time when almost every game's voice acting ranged from mediocre to awful), and Character Development were particularly pointed out for praise and those three things noticeably made the gameplay and action sequences more intense than any other action games on the market at the time, particularly the Boss Battles. It also examined some surprisingly adult subjects—like PTSD and nuclear proliferation—which would have been unheard-of a decade before it came out.
  • Survival Horror games had a number of major game-changers.
    • Resident Evil was the big one. There had been antecedents like Maniac Mansion, Alone in the Dark, and Phantasmagoria, but Resident Evil made the genre into a showcase of what the new PlayStation console could do. It embedded a heavy Adventure Game influence in the genre with its key hunts, puzzles, and inventory management, established zombies as the mook of choice for many games, and spawned a wave of imitators and a long-running franchise. Moreover, RE also impacted the broader zombie genre, beyond just video games. Not only is the series credited as having revived the genre following its dormancy from the mid-'80s onward, a wave that eventually reached film in the early '00s with 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, and — appropriately enough — RE's film adaptation, it also popularized the idea of zombies as having biological origins in the form of The Virus. Before RE, the source of the zombie plague was as likely to be supernatural as it was to be scientific (the original idea of the cinematic zombie was derived from Haitian Vodou), and George A. Romero's Living Dead Series never definitively explained where zombies came from, with characters offering explanations ranging from a radioactive space probe to The Scourge of God.
    • One of the most successful of RE's imitators, Silent Hill, introduced a more psychological take on the genre inspired by Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft, with evil cults, demonic forces, and the town being an Eldritch Location. It, too, spawned a successful series, and influenced a lot of the more explicitly supernatural takes on the genre.
    • Resident Evil 4 is particularly notable here, as it managed to be a turning point for two genres, with the reasons for both being intimately related. Whereas survival horror before then (including prior games in the series) was known for starving the player of resources in order to increase tension, RE4 gave the player an NRA convention's worth of guns and ammo and proceeded to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them, producing a high-octane, adrenaline-filled thrill ride. RE4's brand of survival horror was no longer about the fear that you don't even have the resources to overcome this one zombie, but rather, from fear that the angry mob of parasite-brainwashed villagers or Big Creepy-Crawlies in front of you would overwhelm you no matter how many bullets you could fire at them.

      At the same time, by jettisoning past RE games' cinematic camera angles and clumsy controls in favor of an over-the-shoulder POV and a more fine-tuned aiming system, RE4 inadvertently wrote the book for the modern Third-Person Shooter formula as people realized that there was a really good shooter in there. Starting with Gears of War, which refined the system for a more conventional action shooter experience, nearly every third-person shooter since the mid-'00s bears some influence from RE4 — ironic, given that RE4 wasn't even part of that genre to begin with. In a case of Tropes Are Not Good, none of this was lost on longtime RE fans, and as both later games in the series and other survival horror franchises went in a more action-heavy direction, a not-uncommon opinion emerged in the late '00s and early '10s that RE4, as good as it was on its own merits, wasn't just a Franchise Original Sin for the RE series, but a Genre Original Sin for survival horror as a whole.
    • In the mid-late '00s, survival horror was thought to be a dying genre, unable to compete in the increasingly big-budget gaming marketplace. And then came Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which revolutionized indie horror and almost singlehandedly put the genre back on the map. Many of Amnesia's design elements — an unarmed and highly vulnerable protagonist, a first-person perspective, heavy use of Interface Screw — formed part of the DNA of numerous horror games both indie and big-budget in the 2010s.
    • While Silent Hills was unfortunately cancelled, the Playable Teaser demo released for it was enormously successful and influential. It introduced the idea of setting the game in an enclosed, limited, and mundane place that slowly turns more and more sinister as the player traverses it, inspiring games like Allison Road and most notably Resident Evil 7: biohazard.
  • The huge critical and commercial success of Gran Turismo in 1998 proved that simulation racing could be made just as accessible, fun, and mass-market as the likes of Mario Kart and Daytona USA without sacrificing depth and realism, opening the doors for the sub-genre to co-exist and succeed next to its arcade racing brethren. It also demonstrated that tuning cars could be made fun and engaging by turning it into an RPG-like system of upgrades and better parts (the term "CarPG" was often used to describe it), a system that spread so far that it's now simpler to list the racing games that don't allow players to upgrade and customize their vehicles.
  • While they're far from the first Bullet Hell games, the Windows-era Touhou games with their intricate bullet patterns and use of humanoid characters rather than mechs and fighter ships effectively redefined the Shoot 'em Up genre, especially within the doujin shooter scene; since 2002, it's hard to find a doujin shmup or even a commercial one that doesn't fill the screen with intricate bullet patterns. That said, some feel that the saturation of bullet hell games makes it difficult to find more "classical" shooters ever since Touhou popularized bullet hell, or shooters that don't use what detractors refer to as a "loli" or "jailbait" aesthetic.
  • beatmania is not the first Rhythm Game, but it introduced the idea of scrolling notes, something that has become the standard for the genre, and has been reflected through other Konami rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution, non-Konami Asian-developed rhythm games such as Pump It Up and Love Live! School Idol Festival, and finally, Western rhythm games such as Frequency, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band.
  • Dance Dance Revolution set the standard for dancing rhythm games; rather than have the player push buttons to play, the player has to move their body, resulting in something more dance-like than previous dance games as well as a classic form of Exergaming.
  • Before Need for Speed: Underground, arcade-style racers involving licensed vehicles, especially previous NFS games, were just games that gave the opportunity for players to enjoy the coolest cars in some fantastic environments in illegal street races, although it was nothing too crazy. You're just driving a car, winning races, and running from police. EA Black Box's Underground, with some thanks to the popularity of The Fast and the Furious, brought in organized illegal street racing to the gaming world with modified tuners decorated in vinyls, nitrous oxide tanks providing a means to accelerate quicker, storylines to keep things interesting, changed powersliding to drifting with special events revolving around them, and added in some drag racing events, all to enjoy from the safe, legal comfort of players' homes.

    This made both NFS and arcade racing more than just driving a nice car either from point A to point B or around closed looped tracks to the eyes of many fans, especially new ones. Underground 2 and 2005's Most Wanted helped reenforce this mindset with Wide Open Sandboxes and the latter's reintroduction of police chases (the two Underground games took place exclusively at night, which gave a somewhat unrealistic excuse for why the illegal street racing was not picked up on by police).

    However, Tropes Are Not Good, because not every arcade racing game fan cares about (what they may call) Rice Burners, and after Black Box stopped being Need for Speed's main developer thanks to their botching of ProStreet and Undercover, the franchise went into a dark period where fans would argue whether or not the series should move away from the Underground style or return to it. This affected the fan reception of the otherwise critically-acclaimed Shift sub-series and the Criterion entries of Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted.
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in 1999 revolutionized not only extreme sports games, but arguably extreme sports themselves. While a few attempts had been made in the past at bringing such sports to gaming (such as Cool Boarders, 2Xtreme, and 1080° Snowboarding), Tony Hawk nailed the sweet spot between fun and accessibility on one hand and realism and authenticity on the other. Games like SSX, Aggressive Inline, and Skate all built on the foundation that Tony Hawk had laid down. Moreover, it also gave a huge boost to the popularity of skateboarding in real life; between 1999 and 2002, the number of skateboarders worldwide skyrocketed by sixty percent.
  • The Xbox made Microsoft the first American company since Atari to become a major player in the Console Wars, officially breaking the monopoly held by the Japanese since The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. This was a major sign that the Great Crash's lingering aftereffects were gone for good.
  • Starcraft was a turning point for the real-time strategy genre, from a largely singleplayer focused genre to one where multiplayer and even professional play was considered central to the game design. While Starcraft itself still largely was a campaign and singleplayer focused game, the immense popularity of multiplayer matches, especially in South Korea, and Battle.net enabling more online play, all later games in the genre see greater focus on balancing it's factions based on an equal starting point. On a less important note, the vast aesthetic differences between the visceral Zerg, utilitarian Terrans and high-tech protoss marked a turning point in faction design, where even functionally identical structures, as well as the Worker Unit are made entirely distinct for each faction, as well as different factions increasingly having their own methods of advancing up the tech tree.
    • The real-time strategy genre suffered another turn with the release of Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, both games by Relic Entertainment. Those games shifted the focus of the genre from base-build and resource gathering to a more dynamic style, with greater focus on micromanagement. Nowadays, most RTS games don't feature the old-school "collect resources, build your army, smash your enemies" style of gameplay, and those who do, have these mechanics downplayed.
  • Initial D Arcade Stage redefined arcade racing games, introducing a number of competitive elements such as an emphasis on one-on-one "battles" rather than "grids" of racers, the option to challenge players who are in mid-game to a race, a card system for saving player data, and tuning options to upgrade and fine-tune one's vehicle. These features helped create a major Fighting Game-style tournament scene, something that had never been seen with previous racing games in arcades.
  • For quite a while, there were Multi User Dungeons, the precursors of modern-day MMORPGs. They codified many of the popular gameplay features that we see today, but it wasn't until games like Neverwinter Nights - the AOL Gold Box-esque game, not the later Bioware one - that graphics were used. Similar genre busters later seen, which further canonized what's sometimes called the 'Diku' (after Diku MUD, itself very definitely a trope codifier), were 1997's Ultima Online and 1999's Everquest.
  • Diablo wrote the book for the modern Western action role-playing game, combining Hack and Slash gameplay, an RPG-style leveling system, and an innovative loot mechanic in a formulation that games ever since, in all genres, have drawn inspiration from. As Matt Gerardi of The AV Club put it, "twenty years after Diablo, every game is Diablo."
  • The Batman: Arkham Series was this for licensed games in general. Before Arkham Asylum, it was common for studios to invest money in AAA license titles that were often tie-ins that adapted the movies rather than serve as an adaptation of the license tailored to the video game medium. Although some of these tie-ins were well-received, many were pilloried for being cheap cash grabs whose narratives and world are too dependent on ongoing movies to stand out. However, the Arkham series became highly praised for creating a unique take on the Batman mythos and charting its own universe and story independent of the then-ongoing The Dark Knight Trilogy. Subsequently, all AAA licensed games are set in alternate universes with movie tie-ins relegated to mobile games. In fact, the Spider-Man games have begun to distance themselves from the movies with Insomniac's Spiderman PS 4 taking Arkham's approach in adapting the license by having the game's world existing in its own universe. There’s also an Avengers project that Marvel is partnering with Square Enix on that is following the same mold. Most famously, where The Lord of the Rings had movie tie-in hack-and-slash licensed games, for The Hobbit, Monolith Studios made a game-centric adaptation of the licensed property, leading to the critically acclaimed Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Monolith explicitly cited Rocksteady as their inspiration noting that it raised the bar for adapting licensed properties by insisting that it work first and foremost by providing entertaining gameplay.
  • BioShock, upon its release in 2007, brought a sea change to both video game storytelling and video game journalism, with this article at The AV Club outlining the myriad ways it impacted the medium.
    • On the side of gaming itself, BioShock popularized audio diaries as a means of storytelling, such that most games with a narrative story now use them, or something like them, to deliver background details on the world and characters. It also popularized moral choice systems, which would be further refined over the years by games like Mass Effect and inFAMOUS. Furthermore, its deconstructionist twist around the halfway mark, one that went against everything that players are typically told to do in a video game of this sort, was a massive shock to casual gamers expecting just another sci-fi shooter. It was hardly the first game to employ any of these ideas (in fact, it was envisioned as a Spiritual Successor to System Shock 2), but it was one of the first highly-polished, big-budget AAA titles to do so and become a mainstream success. Their spread throughout the game industry since then is such that BioShock's impact can feel muted today.
    • In the realm of gaming journalism, meanwhile, BioShock's exploration of the nature of video game narratives and tropes helped bring a new breed of more intellectual game critics and writers into the mainstream, as people picked apart the game's big twist and its presentation of the morals and political ideas at the center of its story. Those who criticized various aspects of the game and its sequels wound up birthing the term "ludonarrative dissonance" with their complaints about how they felt that the action-packed gameplay didn't match up with the themes running through the story. These criticisms would later give birth to the Environmental Narrative Game genre, which largely eschewed conventional competitive gameplay in favor of storytelling. Notably, Gone Home, one of the more famous games of this type, was developed by a team whose founding members got their start on the Minerva's Den story expansion for BioShock 2.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night completely changed not just its own series but the entire platforming genre. Before it, Metroidvania games were rare and generally based heavily on Metroid; the majority of platformers were linear. (Half of the name Metroidvania itself was, of course, referring to this game.) Afterwards, open-world Metroidvania titles became increasingly common to the point of being the norm, linear platformers became increasingly uncommon, and many Metroidvanias included some form of RPG mechanics.
  • Sony's Dual Analog controller for the PlayStation, and especially its more famous successor the DualShock, quickly became the standard by which all video game controllers were measured. It wasn't the first default video game controller (as in, the one packed in with the console itself, not an add-on) to have full analog control — the Nintendo 64 beat it to the punch in that regard — but by having two analog sticks, character and camera control in a 3D environment were greatly simplified. Not only has it remained in basic service through four generations of PlayStations and counting with only minor changes, but every controller since from Microsoft and Nintendo (save for the Wiimote, a throwback to the original NES controller) has been heavily influenced by its layout of "two analog sticks for each thumb, a D-pad on the left, four face buttons on the right, and two trigger buttons for each index finger".
  • For better or for worse, Unreal Championship had quite the hand in the proliferation of Downloadable Content and patches/updates for console games, by being the first console game ever to receive a downloadable patch and a content pack. This caused a lot of controversy over the viability of post-release game patches for console games and, considering all the controversy of delivering unfinished games on developer's part for different reasons, it didn't go well. At all.
  • Wii Sports became the Killer App for the Wii by demonstrating how to make motion controls work in a game: namely, tie them directly to actions that people perform when they engage in those activities in real life, thus flattening out the learning curve by having new players simply apply their real-world knowledge of how such things should work to the game instead of having to learn a complicated button scheme. Playing baseball, golf, or tennis meant swinging the Wiimote the way one would a real baseball bat, golf club, or tennis racket, bowling meant engaging in an underhand motion similar to throwing a real bowling ball down a lane, and boxing had players put up actual jabs, hooks, and blocks. Virtually every successful motion control game since took the principles laid out in Wii Sports and applied them to other activities (for instance, driving a car by turning the Wiimote like a steering wheel, or aiming a gun by pointing the Wiimote like a pistol). This video by Cleanprincegaming goes into more detail.
  • For better or worse, FarmVille pioneered the entire business model of casual video games (particularly mobile and browser games) in the 2010s, with its free-to-play format built upon microtransactions and social interactivity.
  • The Team ICO Series were hugely influential on The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games, with their impact stretching to the present day:
    • ICO is credited with ushering in the arthouse game, and for its mammoth influence on visual and environmental storytelling over cutscenes and dialogues. The mix of puzzles, platforming, and combat in both games was a huge influence on the revived Sands of Time trilogy of Prince of Persia and the Uncharted games, as well as codifying the importance of a supporting NPC companion, inspiring the likes of Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2), Elizabeth (Bioshock Infinite), and Ellie (The Last of Us). Its cinematic presentation, heavy emphasis on art direction and visuals for atmosphere and setting has likewise been cited as a major influence on FromSoftware's Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
    • The boss fights in Shadow of the Colossus were immensely influential on many developers and subsequent games, for their presentation, their distinct designs and looks, and the manner in which the fighting style and environment of the boss arena communicated and indicated personality, theme, and story. The game especially invented the Colossus Climb, which has been mimicked, homaged, and parodied numerous times.
    • The prestige and critical acclaim of these games also played a major part in inspiring Sony to focus on console exclusives, attracting several developers and development teams with the promise of creative freedom and generous budget in exchange for planting their flag with Sony. Sony's focus on console exclusives in the sixth, seventh, and eighth generations ultimately led it to build a library that has come to rival Nintendo's, and one which the Xbox often Can't Catch Up with. Indeed Sony even announced their Cloud Service on PC (Playstation Now) with the promise of access to console exclusives that PC gamers otherwise would not have been able to play (legally that is). Included among the stable at launch was ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, both of which have been remastered and kept in print in both the PS3 and PS4 era.
  • FromSoftware created a new genre of Action RPG called "the Soulsborne-like" games, in the wake of its Breakthrough HitDark Souls 1. The success of Dark Souls, its sequels and its Spiritual Successor Bloodborne, pioneered the most influential combat system in the seventh and eighth generations of consoles, updating old arcade and 2D style techniques (namely hitboxes, high difficulty, stamina meter, attrition) to the modern console.
    • They also pioneered high difficulty in mainstream gaming, showing that a game with "tough-but-fair" combat could be commercially successful despite a high barrier of entry for the casual gamer. The games likewise focused heavily on environmental storytelling over cutscenes (with the plot, World Building, and characterization communicated via flavor text, objects, clues, item descriptions) communicated interactively, putting heavy emphasis on telling stories in a way only video-games can.
    • Within a few years after it came out, Soulsborne games have cropped up in multiple places such as Lords of the Fallen and Nioh, while the highly popular Assassin's Creed series featured a combat system heavily inspired by it for Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt by CD Projekt RED was one of the most influential games in The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games, proving that a narrative focused RPG game with heavy immersion in lore, theme, and setting could become a major mainstream success, which overnight made CDPR (a relatively niche company) into a major AAA developer. Along with Dark Souls, it became a Genre Popularizer for the Action RPG.
    • The massive open-world RPG of Witcher 3 subsequently came to inspire the direction of sandbox games in The New '10s, with even Nintendo acknowledging it as a reference for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while also inspiring the Assassin's Creed series, as well as opening the doors for developers and IP from Eastern Europe, leading to games such as Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
    • Witcher 3 has also been acknowledged as a game which brought respect and mainstream attention for the medium. It's success proved that video games were a fitting medium for literary adaptation, with many highlighting the sophisticated use of RPG games to explore a Morality Kitchen Sink while also dealing with the topic of Domestic Abuse in its "Bloody Baron" quest in a mature way. Its success revived interest in the The Witcher books leading to translations of remaining stories into English for the first time, and also inspiring a Netflix adaptation starring Henry Cavill.

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