Follow TV Tropes

Following

Tech Demo Game

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/s_l600_1.jpg
Wii Can Show U How to Play.
"...but can it run Crysis?"
Advertisement:

Whenever some new technology comes out, companies want to find ways to market their product. The best way to do it is to show it off. This usually happens in the PC hardware world where graphics card vendors put out tech demos to show it off. Or in an environment that's limiting such as video game systems, smartphones, and tablets, a proof of concept to show that hey, that piece of hardware really can do it.

And what a better way to show off the technology by having users interact with it in a fun way. This is where the Tech Demo Game comes in. It can be loosely described as a tech demo disguised as a game. But this isn't like an Obvious Beta, the developer tried in earnest to make a fully functional game that plays relatively well. What qualifies as a tech demo game however, is one of the three:

Advertisement:
  • In PC gaming, a game that has such a ridiculously high hardware requirement for the best settings possible.note 
  • In other platforms, a game that is there to show off what the system can do. This includes peripherals for that system.
  • Generally, it felt like the developers had something new they wanted to show off and the game is the only excuse to do so.

Note that this trope has nothing to do with the respective quality of a game in itself, and many games started with the motivation of being a tech demo end up as extremely well received classics for much more than just their technical aspects.

Compare Wreaking Havok.


Advertisement:

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Arcade 
Before the PC positioned itself in the 2010s as the high performance gaming platform of today, arcade games were well-known for being capable of doing things that consumer hardware couldn't do, or at least without being prohibitively expensive for consumers. From the manufacturer's perspective, their large physical size makes it much easier to just cram tons of big iron in a fridge-sized cabinet instead of having to spend billions of dollars developing a pint-sized graphical powerhouse; from the owner's perspective, it's OK to pay thousands of dollars for a single arcade machine if said machine will generate revenue and eventually pay itself off, especially if it's a highly attractive-looking game with crowd-drawing next-generation graphics; and for the final customer, the comparatively low price of a single arcade credit makes next-generation graphics so much more accessible to the player.

While consoles and PCs of today can match arcade games in terms of performance, and modern arcade games use PC-based architecture, modern arcade games can still provide an experience that's impractical or expensive to replicate at home. After all, what sounds more attractive to the average consumer: Going to an arcade to try the latest game with killer graphics and unique controls for $1, or spending $600 on a specialized controller (the alternative being extremely clumsy controls on a standard controller) for a game one is not sure of just yet?
  • I, Robot provided a demonstration of 3D raster graphics. It even had a minigame Doodle City.
  • Hard Drivin' is seemingly the first 3D racing game. The 3D board it featured was actually quite huge, looking like several modern-day computer motherboards stacked.
  • The games made for the Model 3 hardware developed by Sega and Lockheed Martin (S.C.U.D Race (Sega Super GT in North America), Virtua Fighter 3, Daytona USA 2, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, etc.) all deserve a mention. They were released in the mid to late 90's, a time when the best looking graphics you could get on home consoles came from the PS1 and N64. Except these games boasted visuals that surpassed those of even most early Sega Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 titles! It helps that the hardware used for the Model 3 and its predecessor used technology derived from Lockheed Martin's flight simulators, which was no small expense—arcade operators who went by the bleeding edge would have to spend quite a fortune on a Sega Model machine.
  • Virtua Racing, Sega's first 3D arcade game, was originally designed as a proof-of-concept demo for the state-of-the-art polygonal graphics hardware on which Virtua Fighter, Wing War and Star Wars Arcade would also run. It was released in 1992. A time when the Sega Megadrive and the SNES were the most powerful home consoles available.
  • Darius shows off three screens side-by-side being used for one game, resulting in an aspect ratio of 4:1 (12:3). The seamless look is achieved by having only one screen be upright while the other screens are laid on their backs and reflected at the player with a mirror, eliminating the problem of the screens' bezels getting in the way. Darius II comes in both this configuration and a more compact 2-screen 8:3 setup, and much later, Dariusburst Another Chronicle brings this setup back (after Taito decided to go with just one screen for Darius Gaiden and G-Darius) but with widescreen monitors, for a 32:9 ratio.
  • DJMAX Technika is one of the first arcade games to use an infrared touchscreen. Infrared touchscreens allow for multiple touches at once like capacitive touchscreens used on smartphones and smart tablets, but do not require that the user's hands be bare in order to operate. The same technology would later be used in other arcade games such as Reflec Beat and maimai.
  • Galaxian³ was a theme park attraction that ran for ten years and used a 360-degree screen powered by 16 projectors and up to 28 players on two floors playing the Rail Shooter game at once. This game would later be distilled into a much more arcade-friendly but still impressive form with two screens and a 6-player capacity, and was billed as the "World's Largest Arcade Game!"
  • Silent Scope features a screen inside of the sniper rifle controller's scope, and players have to actually look into the scope at this mini-screen to reliably shoot their targets.
  • Police 911 is basically the answer to the question, "What if there was a game like Time Crisis, but you actually had to move your body to dodge attacks rather than using a pedal?" It's one of the first arcade games to use sensors that detect the player's bodily movements, years before the introduction of Microsoft's Kinect peripheral. Mocap Boxing by the same company uses largely the same technology, but in a boxing game.
  • DoDonPachi II: Bee Storm was mostly just developed to show off the PolyGame Master arcade hardware, and was outsourced to Taiwanese company IGS. CAVE, the developer of the series, would later make a proper DDP game, DoDonPachi dai ou jou, for the same hardware, having seen that the hardware is capable of handling such a game.
  • RayForce for the Taito F3 hardware is designed to show off the hardware's sprite scaling and rotating properties, with scenic fly-bys of space stations and descents to Earth and its layers of rock that would do the Super NES proud.
  • GUITARFREAKS 8thMIX & drummania 7thMIX were the first games to use Konami's eAMUSEMENT online service, one of the first instances of cloud networks for video game player data. This allows the player to have their records, unlocks, etc., on any machine connected to the network, without needing to store it locally (i.e. in a floppy disk, controller memory card, or some other form of removable media) or having it be protected by a username and PIN but only limited to the machine the account was made on.
  • The dance stage on Dance Rush is basically an infrared touch panel (similar to those of DJMAX Technika and CHUNITHM), except for the players' feet.
  • The dedicated cabinet for X-Men — the 1992 Konami arcade game — is best known for using the same 2-screen setup as Darius II, as well as accomodating six players at the same time.
  • The King of Fighters Neowave was created so that SNK Playmore could test out the new Atomiswave hardware before the next mainline game. Unfortunately, this means that they didn't try very hard with the game itself, as other than the return of Saisyu as a playable character and a young Geese Howard, the roster is ripped character for character from KOF 2002, along with everyone's sprites, and the game is another relatively plotless Dream Match Game like 2002 (there isn't even a single line of written dialogue in the game.)
  • The Street Fighter III series was this for Capcom's CPS3 arcade board. The series' Final Boss, Gill, had an asymmetric half-red half-blue character design that averted Sprite Mirroring specifically to show off the graphical capabilities of the CPS3.
  • Before unleashing Mortal Kombat 4 on arcades, Midway Games put out War Gods as a sort of proof-of-concept as well as to test the fighting engine, by using the game engine from Mortal Kombat 3 and putting it in a 3D environment where side-stepping and 3D movement are possible. How did it go? To quote SCXCR, "Mortal Kombat 4, while 3D graphically, had 2D fighting."

    PC 
After the arcade market fell out of fashion in the Western hemisphere starting the 2010s, the PC evolved to fill the void left behind by the powerful arcade machines. Unlike consoles, which are developed as one single monolithic device that can only be purchased whole, high performance PCs are typically purchased by their individual components and then assembled together; as a result, companies can focus all their individual resources towards developing extremely high-performance models of one specific piece of hardware, all of that while simultaneously keeping a comparatively low barrier for the final customer to enjoy next-generation graphics (if your CPU and RAM are decently powerful, you can purchase a graphics card that doesn't cost much more than a current generation console yet greatly surpasses them in pure graphical power). The large size of a standard ATX PC and its roots as a business machine mean the PC typically has much better ventilation and more room for big iron infrastructure than a console — the heat caused by raw horsepower and the large amounts of electricity it requires are simply not a concern when water-cooled GPUs, 20 cm case fans and kilowatt power sources are available.

Whereas consoles have tightly sealed and locked architectures that do not allow any programming outside of their official frameworks, the PC is a wide open architecture where the developer can even directly control both CPU and hardware with assembly code. And on top of that, whereas developing a game for future consoles is impossible because console technologies change dramatically with each new release, developing a game for future computers is possible, because computer technologies can easily remain with active support for as long as 10 years — running a PS2 game on a PS4 Pro is impossible without an emulator, but running a Windows 7 game on Windows 10 with no special configuration is usually still possible. These factors combined have led many PC game publishers to develop games specifically intended to squeeze all the power a PC can deliver — in some cases, even going as far as making games intended to be run on hardware from 5 years and onwards.
  • Taking a first-person game and squeezing it into 96kb of space is what .kkrieger did. And with high-end graphics, too.
  • Crysis. When released in 2007, only a handful of computers could actually handle the "High" setting at 1280x800. Even fewer could run the "Very High" setting at 1280x800 above 10FPS. Yahtzee summarized it best, saying that the game must have been designed for some ultra high-tech supercomputer from space. Although the lower settings could perform well and still look better than most games at the time. All the way through 2013, it was still used to benchmark new hardware.
    • One pitfall with Crysis was that it was coded with the assumption that CPU clock speeds would progressively increase over time, as what Intel once boasted when they were still marketing Netburst. This didn't pan out and as such clock speeds stagnated over the past decade. Crysis can utilise multiple cores to some extent, but even on a top-tier Threadripper the game couldn't simply muster spreading its workload across all cores. This accounts for why the Scrappy Level "Ascension" was removed on the console releases, as it was too resource-intensive even on PC.
    • The MechWarrior Living Legends Game Mod wrenched up Crysis's tech-demo status to another level, being capable of bringing all but the most godlike computers to their knees (on "Ultra" graphics) when it first came out - with much larger levels than Crysis, more effects, vehicles, and 32 players. Later optimization updates and the switch to running on the more optimized engine used by Crysis Warhead brought significant improvements to performance.
    • Crysis 2, while still quite heavy-duty graphically, was criticized for being somewhat "nerfed" in terms of graphics. In response to this criticism, Crysis 3 was once again developed with a no-holds-barred, "fry-your-GPU" mentality. The game was published in February 2013, but could only be played reliably in 4K with maximum detail at 60 FPS until mid-2018 when the Geforce RTX 2080 Ti hit the shelves.
    • And now Crysis Remastered is going to up the ante with its highest graphical setting literally called "Can it run Crysis?". This setting means infinite view distance, no asset pop-up, always maximum level of detail, and absolutely no tampering with the full, untransformed graphics to ease the load on the GPU. As of September 2020, literally not even a Geforce RTX 3090 can squeeze 30 FPS out of Crysis Remastered on that setting at 4K.
    • An extremely Justified Trope in this case. Far Cry, Crysis and Crysis 2 were all developed specifically to show off the first three versions of the CryEngine. This trend was dropped for a while, with the engine being given incremental updates rather than big new versions. It started again more recently on a slightly lower key with The Climb being developed to show off the new CryEngine V in VR, although this was more of a traditional tech demo rather than a full game that also functioned as one.
  • Battlefield 1942. In order to take advantage of the large draw distance (which was unheard of at the time), one needed 1GB of RAM for maximum draw distance. The trouble is, RAM was expensive back then, and most of the world was fine on 256MB.
    • Battlefield 3 has no ability to use Direct X 9. This means it is not playable on Windows XP machines. It was arguably one of the first applications that had a real impact in driving people to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.
  • Cryostasis had extremely advanced fluid simulation on release. Ironically, more recent computers have a LOT of trouble running the game thanks to a lack of multi-core processor support.
  • Supreme Commander has much greater multi-core support than most games, with performance scaling heavily with the number of cores.
    • Somewhat less conspicuously, it is also one of the few games that can accommodate multiple monitors in a useful way.
      • It, along with STALKER, was also one of the first mainstream games to seriously interact with the user space address limitations on memory, making the movement to LARGE_ADDRESS_AWARE and eventually 64-bit operating systems becoming relevant to normal users.
  • Just about every single one of id Software's games has started off (before further development) as an excuse to show off whatever piece of technology John Carmack had just recently mastered:
    • Commander Keen was made to show off the smooth-scrolling graphics engine, which was once thought only to be possible on systems with dedicated scrolling hardware, and was previously used to develop a proof-of-concept game resembling Super Mario Bros. 3 (that was never released). The SMB3 demo was initially pitched to Nintendo in hopes of getting a home computer conversion to be approved, but Nintendo unsurprisingly declined.
    • Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were made when Carmack decided to one-up Looking Glass Studios and their Ultima Underworld series' 3D visuals.
      • Carmack claimed he could make a faster renderer, not a better one. Ultima Underworld and System Shock were far more punishing on the hardware of their era than even Doom was.
    • Quake was the company's first fully-3D game, and explicitly demanded to be run on the recently launched Intel Pentium processor.
      • While Quake was primarily designed to run only on the CPU, its experimental support for hardware accelerated graphics was one of the major factors driving the introduction of graphics cards to the consumer market.
    • Quake II showed off a brand new game engine with colored lighting, and like Unreal five months later, spurred more and more consumers to buy graphics acceleration cards.
    • Doom 3 had extremely complex lighting that required either a Geforce 4 Ti 4800 or an ATI Radeon 9800XT, the most powerful GPUs at the time. Its lighting was complex enough that the original version still looks impressive from the standpoint of lighting and shadow effects, well over 10 years after its release back in 2004.
    • In turn Quake IV stressed processing power due to its more wide open spaces and more advanced shading than Doom 3.
    • Rage is basically a demonstration of their new id Tech 5 engine, and especially its Virtual Texturing feature (an improvement on the MegaTexture technology developed earlier).
    • DOOM (2016) didn't really introduce anything ground breaking at first on initial release, but it was the game's inclusion of the Vulkan API render path in an update that showed just how superior Vulkan was — which was at the time just recently open sourced by AMD — compared to the previous go-to open source graphics API which was OpenGL. This allows even lower midrange video cards to achieve 60 FPS at 1080p on the highest quality settings.
  • Unreal's graphics were near-unparalleled at the time of its release and various setpieces were intentionally designed to show off things its competitors couldn't do. For instance, the first level was set in a crashed prison ship with the sort of dingy brown and grey textures you'd seen in the original Quake I... and then you set foot out in the open world, with vibrant greens and blues and draw distances that surpassed anything seen before. It also played a major part in heavily increasing the sales of graphics accelerators.
  • Shattered Horizon has very advanced benchmarking tools. Not surprising when it's from the same developer responsible for the 3DMark line of benchmarks. On top of this, it requires DirectX 10, and by extension Windows Vista or later.
  • Audiosurf is a less traditional demo. It shows off its developer's interactive audio visualizer.
    • Ditto with The Polynomial - Space of the music.
  • Serious Sam came with various attempts to show off its engine (there's even a built-in tech map, accessible from the menu, which is literally a gallery of the engine's graphic effects).
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator X is sometimes accused of this. Nowadays, a budget gaming PC can run it on full settings with minimal lag. When it was released... less so.
    • The Microsoft Flight Simulator series was always designed with future hardware in mind as a means of "future-proofing" the software. The problem with FSX is that the developers made the wrong prediction about where the hardware market was headed. They thought that CPU's would stay single core while becoming progressively faster, and so FSX is wholly unable to take advantage of the multicore CPU's that were starting to become prevalent at the time; it also doesn't help that the software is largely CPU bound and only uses the GPU for rendering the final image. The developers also missed the boat (plane?) on 64-bit, and to this day the software continues to be plagued by the infamous "out of memory" error, especially if the user is running a lot of third-party add-ons.
    • The original Microsoft Flight Simulator was a benchmark test for IBM PC compatibility, along with Lotus 1-2-3. Computer magazines would test IBM PC clones with both programs, as it was assumed that if a computer could run them, it could run every other IBM PC program.
  • When the first installment of IL-2 Sturmovik came out in 2001, it was the most advanced combat flight sim of that day, both on a physics level and a graphics level. While it wasn't a game few computers could run, it certainly required a quality rig to get full enjoyment of the game. Some of the highest graphics settings in the game only became fluidly usable several years later, when most home ordinary gaming PCs caught up in their average performance. While the graphics of the series' first generation have grown more dated after over a decade, the games in the series still have a technically impressive physics and damage model, as well as highly realistic audio.
  • A lot of games by the defunct Rage Software really showed off the capabilities of then-current 3D technology. Expendable and especially Incoming were often bundled with graphic cards.
  • Space Manbow showed off the graphical capabilities of the MSX2+, in particular its smooth horizontal scrolling.
  • Mirror's Edge based its entire art style around the Beast global illumination software, which simulates indirect lighting to make colorful scenes look almost photorealistic.note  While the game itself sold poorly, GI later became a standard feature of Unreal Engine 3 and is used in games like Dragon Age: Origins and Infinity Blade.
  • Vette, being one of the very first true 3D PC games (and the first Wide Open Sandbox driving game), severely choked hardware of the time at full detail.
  • Outcast had gorgeous environments, bump-mapping, great particle effects, and even very good-looking water... but it brought 1999-era computers down to their knees because since the terrain was "height field with some software raycasting" (commonly mistaken for voxels), it wasn't compatible with 3D accelerator cards, thus using a software-rendered engine that took a heavy toll on the slow CPUs of the time.
  • Say what you will about Jurassic Park: Trespasser, but it had a lot of concepts that soon became standard for FPS games. As well as a tendency to make computers chug framerates down to the single digits when copious amounts of blood was on screen.
  • The Source Engine tends to get a game just to demonstrate a new feature.
    • Half-Life 2: Lost Coast featured the newly developed HDR and was specifically designed to show off these features with its shiny beaches, dark and light areas and bright sunlight.
      • Playing with the developer commentary makes this even better, with real time demonstrations of the engine.
    • When the Orange Box came out, Valve added a bunch of cinematic stuff to the engine. Most notably the physics in the opening scene of Episode 2 and the trailers for Team Fortress 2
    • Left 4 Dead's most visible feature was the touted "AI Director", which dynamically adjusted what was going on in the game based on the performance of the players. Left 4 Dead 2 would improve upon the AI Director and the game was also a test for the dismemberment effect on the cannon fodder zombies when they were hit at specific body parts.
    • Portal 2 and Counter-Strike Global Offensive touched on lighting effects.
    • Before submerging deep into the virtual reality ocean with Half-Life: Alyx, Valve released two VR tech demos loosely within the Portal universe. The first, known as The Lab, is specifically a tech demo for the HTC Vive, hardware that Valve assisted during development and that works out of the box in Steam. The second, known as Moondust, is a tech demo for the Knuckles EV2 controller, which was developed by Valve and allows much better input on virtual reality games, including detecting when a specific finger on your hand is moved and how hard your grip is on the controller.
  • Gore Ultimate Soldier was made by 4D Rulers with a heavy eye on the Doom/Quake development model. The game was a showcase for the developer's AMP engine, which they hoped to license out heavily and make a killing. However, the game's reception was mediocre, and the only other game ever made with the engine was the budget FPS Secret Service: Security Breach which was universally regarded as terrible. That said, Gore had a competent, Quake-style single-player campaign (something Quake III and Unreal Tournament didn't even bother with), even if it cut corners a bit by heavily re-using models and levels from the multiplayer.
  • The Ur-Ur-Example: back in 1961, some guys at MIT were trying to work out how best to demonstrate the capabilities of the new PDP-1 computer they'd got from DEC. They decided to cook up a test program; quoth the author, "the team’s PDP-1 test program was built upon three fundamental tenets. Firstly, the program had to use as many of the computer’s resources as possible and push it to the limit. Secondly, it had to be interesting and, as much as possible, unique upon every run. Thirdly, it had to be engaging and interactive. In short, it had to be a game." That game? Space War.
  • If you believe the promo video, Star Citizen is partly intended by its developer to be a demonstration that PCs can bring more hardware power to creating realistic graphics than consoles can. Unlike Crysis its recommended system requirements are met by most of the higher-end PCs currently on the market, but are expected to overpower even the upcoming eighth-generation consoles. Brave souls wishing to test motherboard-based graphics against the initial alpha releases were advised to "keep a fire extinguisher on standby", and after the launch of the Hangar Module, at least one alpha-tester reported that rendering the hangar caused his video card to melt.
    • Part of this is because the game runs on a modified version of CryEngine 3, the same engine used by Crysis 3.
    • Unfortunately, the game has been going through a somewhat idiosyncratic version of Development Hell. While it could certainly stress any PC at the time of its Kickstarter funding, five years down the line with no release in sight it's looking more and more likely that when it is eventually finished it will not be anything special, running an already-outdated engine that will be happy on any low-end PC.
  • Dwarf Fortress and its intent to create the most detailed and accurate simulation of real-world weather and geology possible with Procedural Generation might also count, depending on what you're trying to do in it. Handling the pathfinding of 100+ dwarves and their pets, or draining a large volume of water, will certainly give your poor comp a kick in the processor. Handling spring thawing, or winter freezing, is another infamous lagbomb, though thankfully a short one. And all of this using only ASCII characters for graphics. Most of the really advanced fortresses in the game tend to be abandoned/retired not because of a crisis, but because the Frames Per Second started hitting single digits and wouldn't go back up, slowing the game to a bit of a crawl.
  • BattleZone II shipped with over-the-top requirements to fuel its unmatched graphics. The strain it put on reviewer's computers was one of the chief criticisms - plus the plethora of bugs in in the initial release)
  • King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella was a showcase for Sierra's newest game engine, the Sierra Creative Interpreter or SCI. It was also the first game to support sound cards like the Ad-lib and Roland MT-32. Both cards were thus widely supported by game developers in the late '80s and early '90s. Likewise, King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! was one of the first games to feature full voice acting on the CD-ROM version and full 256-color VGA graphics. Too bad they used an amateur voice cast.
  • Republic: The Revolution. If you spend any time in the rooftop view (3D mode), it becomes painfully obvious that the game was intended to simulate the life of an entire city in full detail, down to the individual street names, cars, and every single artificially-intelligent resident. Unfortunately, while the simulation part was largely successful (after all, the director and lead designer Demis Hassabis later went on to work on general artificial intelligence), the devs had failed to use it for any gameplay more gripping than a rather bland, repetitive, and overly-complex Euro Game. As a result, most of the game time is spent in the "Risk"-Style Map of the city, while the intricate simulation running in the background goes mostly unnoticed and unused.
  • Boneworks is often held up more as a series of Virtual Reality physics demonstrations tied loosely together rather than as a coherent game. It released before the seminal Half-Life: Alyx, was built by a smaller team, and beat many of Alyx's mechanics to the punch.

    Console 
Nintendo Consoles
  • Gyromite and Stack-Up were made to give ROB something to do at the NES's launch.note 
  • Duck Hunt is meant to make use of the NES Zapper peripheral, being one of the first Light Gun Games ever.
  • Battle Toads can be noted for its fast paced gameplay, virtually no slow down or flickering, and then advanced effects, such as the waving fire in Volkmire's Inferno and the rotating Dark Queen's Tower.
  • Name any first-party Super NES game. These games would show off the Mode 7 capabilities of the system. Some notable examples would be Super Mario World, F-Zero, and Pilotwings. Star Fox was this for the Super FX chip.
    • Pilotwings is a Tech Demo series. Whenever it is released it shows off the latest graphical tricks.
  • The original Donkey Kong Country was an effort to prove the aging SNES was capable of high-quality graphics.
  • Super Mario 64 not only showed off the N64s graphics, but it was also meant to show off the controller. This brought to light a direct flaw in the N64's controller, in that it seemed at first to be built solely with Mario 64 in mind and no other game. (Why would a 2D game need camera buttons?) But then developers figured out how to use the camera buttons as action buttons. For instance, they provided the classic 6-button layout for fighting games, and Zelda famously used them for quick access to your inventory.
  • Wave Race 64 was made to show off the water effects of the N64, particularly the undulation of waves, which was impossible on earlier consoles.
  • Star Fox 64: The game is programmed to show off the then-new tech of force feedback, supplied by the Rumble Pack controller accessory (One of which was packed in with the game). It demonstrates this technology by means of glorious, wonderful, dome-shaped explosions (as well as the expected feedback when you bump your ship into things).
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time arguably fits this trope, displaying several graphical effects unseen before and a (then) large overworld with plenty of side-quests. This game was probably the most hardware-intensive game of its time - the developers were forced to program the game engine to run at just 20 frames per second (~17 in PAL regions!).
  • Luigi's Mansion was this for the Gamecube. Fire effects, water effects, ice effects, transparent, glowing ghosts, Luigi's flashlight, the Poltergust 3000's wind tunnel, cloth effects... it goes on. It shows off the high poly count by repeatedly showing off how round it can make locked doorknobs. Heck, it even shows off the analog shoulder buttons and the C-stick, as both are integral to the game. It was even a test for stereoscopic 3D at some point in development.
  • Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader was originally made as a tech demo in 1999 for the then-unreleased Nintendo GameCube. After this tech demo received great praise from the audience viewing it at SpaceWorld 1999, the creators of the game, Factor 5, decided to make a full-fledged game out of the demo as part of the Rogue Squadron series.
  • Donkey Kong 64 was developed as a showcase of the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak and the advanced graphic techniques it allowed, including dynamic lighting, and so came bundled it. (The Expansion Pak wasn't used by the game as a hackish patch for a Game-Breaking Bug as the Pop Culture Urban Legends claimed.)
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask showcased in a better light on what the Expansion Pak could do; not only the textures were better looking, but there was also a bigger draw distance, more polygons, and there was even motion blur.
    • The N64 version of Turok 2 was one of the first games for the system to use the Expansion Pak for high resolution textures, and its framerate was also rather sluggish.
  • In a somewhat more literal example, Pikmin was brought to life from the original GCN tech demo, "Mario 128"; both the demo and the game were designed to showcase the GameCube's ability to both rapidly generate objects on the fly and run multiple dynamic AIs simultaneously.
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee proudly showed off the GameCube's ability to show detailed character models. Pausing the game gives camera control to the player, allowing to behold the characters from more angles.
  • The developers of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker stated in an interview that the game takes place in an ocean to show off the GameCube's power and ability to render wind effects. The cloth physics engine that resulted is still impressive to this day.
  • Super Mario Sunshine was created to show how well the GameCube can handle water. It's one of the most impressive things about the game and to this day it still shows.
  • Wii Sports and Wii Play show off the Wii Remote's motion abilities. Wii Sports Resort and Wii Play: Motion show off WiiMotion+. Wii Fit shows off the Wii Balance Board, however it has yet to be implemented well in any other game.
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was further proof of concept the Wiimote could do first person shooter games.
  • And now, with the release of PlayStation Move and Microsoft's Kinect, we're seeing variations on Wii Sports for those systems: Sports Champions on the PS3, and Kinect Sports on the Xbox 360.
  • Nintendo Land is Wii Sports' successor for the Wii U, showing off the new WiiU Game Pad. In fact, many of the minigames included in Nintendo Land were shown in prototype form as tech demos at E3 2011, when the Wii U was first announced. Game & Wario, similarly made up of prototypes, was even considered as a preinstalled game on all new Wii U consoles.
  • 1-2-Switch is this for the Nintendo Switch. The game is intended to show off the console's single Joy-con playstyle, the motion controls, and the HD rumble (advanced haptic feedback) technology.
  • Super Mario Galaxy, while not a direct example, was used to show off several things not seen before in a Wii game, like the unique gravity system and the amazing space opera-like scenery. Heck, the reason the minigames are there is probably to show off the controller!
  • Elebits and Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure were Konami and Capcom, respectively, experimenting with the Wii Remote's unique controls.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was pretty much a huge advertisement for how accurate the WiiMotionPlus is, while still being comfortable for long playtimes. Heck, a good chunk of the development period was dedicated to deciding on a control scheme.
  • High Voltage's The Conduit provides a showcase of their Quantum3 engine, which can produce some pretty nice graphics on the Wii.
  • ZombiU is the game to show how the Wii U's game pad will work in gameplay with a variety of different controls taking advantage of the inbuilt touch-screen and motion controls.
  • Super Demo World, a Rom Hack of Super Mario World, was created to show off the abilities of Lunar Magic, a rom editor.
  • Tonic Trouble was reportedly created so that Ubisoft could both test the engine they'd designed for Rayman 2: The Great Escape, along with learning the ins and outs of 3-D platforming design.
  • Nintendo Labo takes what 1-2-Switch started and asks players to put the Joy-Cons inside of other, homebuilt objects, demonstrating just how versatile the controllers' rumble, motion sensing and IR camera can be.
  • Ring Fit Adventure also furthers what 1-2 Switch started by having the player insert the Joy-Cons into exercise accessories so the features of the controllers could be used for fitness and tracking of bodily bio signs.
  • FAST Racing League shows that a full-fledged 3D racing game can be crammed into the 40 MB limitation of WiiWare games. Its sequel, Fast Racing Neo, later ported to the Switch as Fast RMX, was praised by Digital Foundry for its graphical detail and use of advanced features like physically-based rendering and small footprint at just around 556 MB. It isn't entirely surprising as Shin'en Multimedia was an offshoot of the Demoscene group Abyss, with its founding members applying what they have learned during their demoscene days.
  • Mario Kart Wii shows that Nintendo can put up to twelve players in a single online race. The 12-player format has since become the standard for Mario Kart netplay.

Sony Consoles

  • Ridge Racer was a bare-bones driving game that just so happened to show off the original PlayStation's 3D effects spectacularly. (In fact, the original arcade version did a lot more - 60fps at 640x480 compared to the PS1's 30fps and 320x240.)
  • Final Fantasy VII. Square really took the opportunity to show off some of the stuff they couldn't do on the SNES, like polygons and pre-rendered cutscenes. The game also manages to show off the CD-ROM format's main advantage over the Nintendo 64's ROM cartridges, in that the former allows for bigger games that can be spread across multiple discs if necessary, rather than being severely pared down to fit on a far smaller cartridge.
    • Interestingly enough, it was originally to be a tech demo for Nintendo, but they wanted Ocarina of Time to hold that title.
    • To test their graphics engine for Final Fantasy VIII, Square created Parasite Eve.
    • Final Fantasy XIII was meant to be a PlayStation 3 launch title and spent roughly seven years in development because it was being developed with a brand-new graphics engine that was meant to be used in all future SquareEnix games (the PS3 launched in 2006, FFXIII at the turn of 2009). The same engine was used for Final Fantasy XIV, an MMORPG, while the graphics engine was made for single player games, which ended up being part of the reason why the game bombed so hard before it got rebooted - it prioritized graphical fidelity over basic gameplay (most infamously, potted plants had the same number of polygons as player characters).
  • From a graphical perspective, The Legend of Dragoon can be considered this.
  • The creators of Roll Away maxed out the PlayStation hardware without realising with all kinds of fog effects, transparent polygons and a giant skybox.
  • While the Dual Shock had been out for a while before its release, Ape Escape was designed specifically to push sales of the controller by splitting movement and actions between the two joysticks.
  • Zone of the Enders was treated by Kojima Productions as a warm up to see what they could do with the PlayStation 2 hardware before tackling Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which used the same engine (and the demo of which was a major selling point for Zone of the Enders). It shows, too: The game doesn't take very long to beat, and many of its environments look like they're straight from the PS1 era.
    • Its sequel, The 2nd Runner, though much longer and more complete than the original, does a lot of tech-demoing in its own way. It used particle effects to great, err, effect, along with showing how many independent units the engine could keep track of at once. This came right before Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which then used many of those same techniques to a greater extent to render copious Scenery Porn of a jungle environment.
  • Any game from Atari's Melbourne House studio, now known as Krome Studios Melbourne, during the PS2 era. Transformers (2004) for one, had sprawling environments and lots and lots of foliage, and yet it still runs at 60 frames per second.
  • Silent Hill 2 was, in addition to its better-known qualities, a demonstration of the PlayStation 2's ability to generate volumetric fog. Given that Silent Hill had not really attained a great deal of wide popularity before the second game grew the beard, as much of the buzz surrounding Silent Hill 2 before its release was about its graphics and the fog effect as it was the monsters or characters.
    • Another feature that doesn't exactly get a lot of attention was that shadows were cast realistically by objects when the flashlight shined over them. Not exactly an easy to do feature, especially in 2001.
    • Silent Hill 3 was one of the first games to fully utilize the PS2's vector units.
  • Fantavision seems to have been made because firework explosions are excellent exhibits for the smooth textures and higher resolution of the PlayStation 2.
  • Killzone 2 is arguably a tech demo for the PlayStation 3. Heck, even one of the commercials for the game (the one where it tracks a bullet fired from the player character) can be downloaded and run on the system, in real time.
    • The original Killzone was this even moreso.
    • Killzone: Shadow Fall continues the trend, which is good because it's a launch title for the PlayStation 4.
  • Lair appeared to be an attempt to show off the PlayStation 3's ability to do Motion Control and native 1080p graphics. It couldn't do either very well.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Naughty Dog's later games demonstrated that some blockbuster games don't need a large amount of space on the hard drive to be installed on. They also pushed the PlayStation 3 to its limit, often making its fans noticeably loud just to cool it down.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots shows off all the PlayStation 3's hardware features. Surround sound, Bluetooth headset support for Otacon's codec calls, motion control for the Screaming Mantis battle, and most importantly, Blu-Ray for holding loads and loads of long-winded cutscenes (the latter point is even lampshaded when Otacon calls Snake and tells him to swap to the second disc, but then he remembers that the game is on Blu-Ray).
  • The Playroom on the PlayStation 4 was to show off the revamped PlayStation Eye and DualShock4. It ended up showing off peoples' private parts instead before being forgotten.
  • Part of the purpose of the Knack is to demonstrate the PlayStation 4's ability to handle a large number of discrete objects on screen - the main character in his largest form is made up of hundreds of independently rendered pieces.
  • LittleBigPlanet offers an internal example: the games' story modes are really just designed to show off the Level Editor.
  • The upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart shows off various aspects of the PlayStation 5: The SSD's ability to near-instantaneously load in assets, raytracing, and the Dualsense's adaptive triggers.

Xbox Consoles

  • Shrek for the Xbox. Gameplay-wise it was pretty hard and repetitive, but programmer Rich Geldereich managed to pull off some pretty impressive effects for a game of its time, as it was meant to be a showcase of what Microsoft's then-new console can do. The game earned the distinction of being the first commercial title to use deferred shading, years before STALKER and Grand Theft Auto IV further popularised it.
  • Malice also provided a demonstration of the Xbox's bump mapping capabilities but ended up being released for both Xbox and PS2 several years after people stopped caring about it.

Sega Consoles

  • Alien Soldier was tailor made to push the Sega Genesis hardware to its absolute limits, much like Gunstar Heroes before it. This is made apparent by its impressive presentation, featuring massive multi-segmented sprites, buttery smooth framerate and amazing sound design. Blast Processing indeed.
  • 1994 saw the release of two first-person shooters for the Genesis, a console otherwise completely divorced from that genre due to hardware limitations. Zero Tolerance from Accolade saw a full western release, while Acclaim's Bloodshot only came out in Europe. Despite the novelty of being on the Genesis, neither game saw much success in the wake of established properties like Doom.
  • Sonic Adventure did this for the Sega Dreamcast. You know you wanted to play that game once you saw Sonic running from that killer whale in the commercial. The whole reason that Chaos was made of water was because they wanted to show off the system's capabilities - this is especially apparent in the cutscene where Perfect Chaos floods Station Square & bursts out of a building.
  • soniNeko is a ROM Hack of Sonic the Hedgehog created mostly as a vehicle to show off the author's MIDI-to-SMPS (the music format most Sonic games on the Genesis use) conversion tool. It does have other features, but the extensive soundtrack is definitely the centerpiece.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog CD takes full advantage of the Sega CD's hardware enhancements. It shows off the add-on's FMV capabilities (however limited they are), Mode 7-like effects, sprite manipulation, and CD-quality audio.
  • In response to Star Fox and its Super FX chip, Sega created its own add-on GPU chip for the Sega Genesis, dubbed "Sega Virtua Processor." The only game released with one was the Sega Genesis version of Virtua Racing. Unfortunately, the hardware required made this single cartridge have a retail price of around $100 USD, nearly double the $60 MSRP of Star Fox. At the time, the 32X add-on for the Genesis/Mega Drive was in development and highlighted the problems of SVP chip games: adding extra processing power to the 32X meant that the hardware could be purchased once and applied to every 32X game, rather than each game needing it's own extra hardware in the cartridge. There's evidence that a modular pass-thru of the SVP chip was prototyped, but ultimately scrapped because of similarity to the 32X.
    • The lack of adoption of the SVP is further complicated by a potential patent issue. The pass-thru version of the SVP chip was patented in Japan, but never in the United States. However, Codemasters, the company that made the Game Genie had already patented a device similar enough that attempts to market the pass-thru SVP would likely have gotten into a nasty legal fight. It's likely that any hypothetical profits from such a device already had a potential to bust, but a potential patent suit made the add-on dead on arrival.

    Handhelds 

Nintendo Handhelds

  • The Nintendo 3DS had a bunch of these built in. There was Face Raiders and a handful of AR cards to show off its 3D camera and Augmented Reality capabilities, and StreetPass Mii Plaza for its StreetPass mode (the Puzzle Swap puzzles are small 3D animations originally demonstrated at E3 2010).
    • Soon afterward, Pokédex 3D was released to demonstrate not only Augmented Reality and StreetPass, but also that you can get stuff off of an online eShop.
    • Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D was mostly created to test the waters; Resident Evil: Revelations is the first "proper" 3DS RE game.
    • Devil Survivor Overclocked was used by Atlus as a way to gauge how much space was available for voice acting, demons, etc. Shin Megami Tensei IV uses this knowledge and even expands on it.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: The Naked Sample was a literal tech demo developed by Konami to show off the capabilities of the 3DS hardware. Konami later released a proper 3DS port of MGS3, but it wasn't as technically impressive as the Naked Sample version.
    • Xenoblade was ported to the 3DS to show off the so-called "New Nintendo 3DS" hardware revision (to the point where it's incompatible with the original hardware).
  • In addition to be an all around superb game itself, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was this for the DS. Every single hardware function of the DS, including its ability to fold closed, got showcased at least once to solve puzzles or defeat monsters.
  • WarioWare is often used as a testing bed or to show off new technology on Nintendo handhelds. Wario Ware: Touched! was used to exemplify the DS's control scheme, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves was used to showcase the Wii, etc.
    • Similarly, Sega made Feel the Magic: XY/XX to experiment with the DS.
    • Developer Toshio Iwai also developed Electroplankton because of his interest in the system as well.
  • Wario Land 4 was made to test the capabilities of the Game Boy Advance, such as rotating sprites and distortion effects. Metroid Fusion would then be built upon the same engine that Wario Land 4 used and looking through the game's Dummied Out data reveals that some of the assets from Wario Land 4 were still in the game (likely for testing).
  • Practically everything developed by the French duo Velez and Dubail on Nintendo handheld systems are, while not necessarily groundbreaking on a gameplay standpoint, a showcase of what can be done on the likes of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. While far from the only studio to produce polygonal 3D games on the Advance, Velez and Dubail was praised by reviewers for their work on what is perceived to be a 2D-only system.
  • The Game Boy Color version of Cannon Fodder is one of a handful of games to sport full motion video, complete with PCM audio.
  • Metroid Prime: Hunters was proof the Nintendo DS could run online multiplayer first person shooter games, to the point it was the Metroid game that least resembled Metroid, aside from Metroid Prime Pinball.
  • The Game Boy Color version of Toy Story Racer, while nothing too spectacular on a gameplay standpoint, was praised in retrospect for its use of Full Motion Video in its race tracks (a la Hot Wheels Stunt Track Driver), a feature that is uncommon on the 8-bit handheld.
  • Super Mario Advance was to the Game Boy Advance what Luigi's Mansion was for the Nintendo GameCube. As a port of the Super Mario All-Stars version of Super Mario Bros. 2 with extra bells and whistles, the game showed that the little handheld could do everything that its big brother the Super Nintendo Entertainment System could do and then some. It featured sprite rotation, stretching, and scaling, all without external hardware which the SNES required for all of these things. It was also fully voice-acted, a first for 2D Mario games and for a handheld game. It even showed off the GBA's ability to do multiplayer with only one Game Pak. The fact that a handheld was doing all of this in 2001 was revolutionary.
    • Even right when you boot the game up, it shows off the system's tech as during the intro it shows a shadowy frame that partially obscures everything except what can be seen on the Game Boy Color's screen, only for it to fade away near the end to show off how bigger and wider the screen on the GBA is.
  • Super Mario 64 DS demonstrated the 3D capabilities of the Nintendo DS. For the first time ever, a full-fledged 3D Mario game on a handheld console. Not only that, but it looked better than the original Nintendo 64 version with more detailed models and fully-textured environments. Keep in mind that while the Game Boy Advance was capable of 3D, the DS was the first handheld gaming system designed with 3D in mind, beating the PlayStation Portable to market by just a few months.

Sony Handhelds

  • Welcome Park is a built-in Play Station Vita app that shows users how to use the full range of the PlayStation handheld's functions (the front and rear touch-screens, dual cameras, gyroscopic sensor, etc.)
  • Little Deviants, a PS Vita launch title, is a collection of minigames. It takes full advantage of every hardware input. Touchscreen, rear touchpad, accelerometer, augmented reality, you name it.
  • Killzone Mercenary can be considered one on the graphical side. One of the goals it achieved was proving that the Vita can handle a PS3 engine.
  • Tearaway utilizes all of the Vita's functionality and shows just what it can do in creative ways.
  • Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (the PS3 version) was used at a PS Vita tech demo to show that one could simply port a home console game over to the handheld. Capcom was amazed at how easy it was.

Mobile Games

  • Infinity Blade is the first Unreal Engine 3 game on handhelds, and thus was designed to be a showcase for the engine, making use of the iPhone's biggest strength (its console-quality amount of RAM) for photorealistic baked lighting. Some consider it a Dancing Bear.
  • Tappy Chicken is a small little mobile game that's basically Flappy Bird in everything but name. What makes it significant, though, is that it was made by Epic Games using Unreal Engine 4, and is meant to showcase the engine's massive versatility compared to its predecessors, as well as its ease of use (since it was made by one person with no programming ability).

    Amiga 
  • Shadow of the Beast started out as a tech demo, but looked so damn good they had to turn it into a game. The original authors are under no illusions regarding its playability.
  • Drakkhen is a very, very early example of a partially 3D video game in 1989, an RPG with a 3D world. It later served the same role when ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which could replicate the effect with Mode 7.
  • Cinemaware's games, including Defender of the Crown and It Came From The Desert, were explicitly designed as showcases for the Amiga's video and sound capabilities, even if they were ported to other platforms.

    Multiplatform/Misc. 
  • In general, an Updated Re-release for an older game on a newer console, especially one that just came out, is meant to show off the comparatively improved capabilities of the newer console. For example, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is meant to show off how the Wii U is superior to the Nintendo GameCube. When the re-release is ported to a handheld, it is also meant to show off the handheld's capabilities, such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D showing off the Nintendo 3DS.
  • In general, this is enforced to an extent by console manufacturers. Ever wondered why every DS or 3DS port of a game had stylus/microphone-based minigames tacked on? Contractual obligation to show them off.
  • 2006's Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis demonstrated the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), which is later utilized in Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption.
  • Sonic Unleashed was the first game to use the Hedgehog Engine, which not only provided prettier backdrops and more consistent lighting through baked GI light probes (to amend complaints that Sonic stuck out like a sore thumb), but it could simulate Sonic's trademark more accurately than previous games. The engine was reused in Sonic Generations, to arguably even greater effect. Unfortunately, many of the engine's innovations were being developed by other companies around the same time (like DICE with Mirror's Edge and Studio Liverpool with the Wipeout series), limiting the Hedgehog Engine to Sega's own studios.
  • Team Bondi's L.A. Noire was a showcase for their facial animation technology.
  • Backbreaker started as an attempt to show off Natural Motion's Euphoria physics engine with a simple "Dodge the tacklers" football game, but eventually was expanded into a full simulation.
  • One of the major selling points of The Force Unleashed was its use of the Euphoria animation engine, the same one used for Backbreaker and Grand Theft Auto IV, enabling fluid character motion and physics based on Force powers.
  • Rayman Origins is the first game to utilize the UbiArt Framework, which smoothly integrates artwork into the game and easy animation of 2D characters. It shows in the huge amount of Scenery Porn and cartoony characters.
  • Hydrophobia was created with the purpose of showing off HydroEngine, the engine behind its pretty sophisticated fluid simulation effects.
  • Square Enix has reportedly stated that everything they do, at least regarding a good portion of their games, were done just to show off.
  • Cybernoid's Live2D wanted to create a sort of standard for making 2D based character graphics... but specifically aimed for visual novels first.
  • The notorious CrazyBus was created as a demo app to showcase the author's BASIC compiler and sound driver that targets the Genesis architecture. Well, it certainly did show off the sound driver...
  • Ron Edwards' Trollbabe was less of a commercial Tabletop RPG than a showcase of alternative approaches to conflict resolution and narrative power distribution in pen-and-paper RPGs, which were at the time just being conceptualized on The Forge (2019). While not as famous as Edwards' previous game, Sorcerer, Trollbabe had a much larger enduring impact on the indie RPG thinking, thanks to pioneering many of its future design staples.
  • The Elder Scrolls series made both the Video Game 3D Leap and Multi-Platform leap starting with Morrowind. Every game since has combined a massive world with graphics (especially Scenery Porn) that push their systems to the limits of their technical abilities.
  • Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire is a "hyper-reality" experience using the latest virtual reality technology. At only 15 minutes long, the game is effectively a demonstration of the technology's capabilities.
  • Guilty Gear Xrd was ArcSys' attempt to create a 2.5D fighting game with the look and feel of the previous 2D sprite-based games, and this faux-2D style was carried over into future ArcSys fighters such as Dragon Ball Fighter Z, Granblue Fantasy Versus and even KILL la KILL - IF, a 3D anime arena fighter.
  • Catherine was partially created as a testbed for Atlus' P-Studio to familiarize themselves with HD consoles and with a new engine (Gamebryo) before developing Persona 5. While P5 ended up using a different, in-house engine, its graphical stylings and lighting effects are very similar to what was presented in Catherine.
  • A primary marketing ploy for Middle-earth: Shadow of War was to promote the upgraded version of the Xbox One, the Xbox One X, releasing around that game's launch (Q4 2017). By extension it also promoted the PS4 Pro which released Q4 2016. Both are able to support massively high quality textures, better load times, and the choice of either 4k resolution or 1080p and a consistent 60 frames per second. Some of the game's graphical hiccups on the base console versions lead fans to speculate it was compromised simply to sell the new hardware. Even though the game-play received praise.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report