Grandpappies of Modern Gaming
Games that predate or exist on the first generation of home consoles. These are the first of the first, the games that are often imitated but seldom perfected as they were on these relics of quarter-popping days gone by. Many of these games existed in arcade cabinets before home systems even existed. No games after 1990 are allowed here.
These games are listed by date, not alphabetically.
OXO, or Noughts and Crosses, is a strong contender for the very first video game ever!
Well, at least the very first "modern" video game, as it had actual graphics generated in real time and displayed on a screen - a definition that would disqualify earlier games such as Bertie the Brain and Nimrod, which used lightbulbs for output. It was also a program that ran on a general purpose computer, rather than a machine built strictly for a single game like those two.
OXO is one of the programs included with the Edsac simulator.
While there were computer games since the 1950s, they were all "mind games" like tic-tac-toe or nim. Everything changed when a bunch of MIT students decided to create something more interesting to demonstrate the power of the laboratory's DEC PDP-1 computer.
The concept of Spacewar! is simple, a battle between two spaceships. However, there is a star in the center of the field, constantly attracting both spaceships. If you know what a "gravitational slingshot" is: yes, you can pull that off here. So not only this was the first space shooter, it was also the first game to use realistic physics. They also built a detachable "control box" - the first gamepad.
Spacewar!'s gameplay was perhaps a bit too complicated, so the shooting genre evolved into a different, more linear direction. However, its influence can be seen in Asteroids and Gravitar.
An emulated version can be played online, here.
The Oregon Trail
Platforms: HP 2100, Univac, Apple II, MS-DOS, many others
What, 1971? Bet you didn't think it was that old. The original version was written by three teachers from Minnesota for the HP 2100 minicomputer. Later it was ported to the UNIVAC and the CDC Cyber mainframes, with huge improvements in historical accuracy. All of those were only accessible from teletypes or terminals, so their popularity was still very limited. But the Apple II port brought something else: The Oregon Trail became its original killer app, the program that convinced countless schools to use such machines in education, which in turn made countless kids want their own computers at home. Oh, this version also added graphics. And dysentery.
- Play it online: Apple II version, MS-DOS version.
- Some articles about its history: Motherboard, Digital Antiquarian, Smithsonian Magazine, Google Arts & Culture.
Platforms: Arcade, dedicated consoles, everything under the sun
Are you ready for the best video game experience in your lifetime? Want something to connect with that older relative who had to live through these awful dark ages of video games? Want a game so balanced and well-made that it shines with a splendorous luster, as if crafted by GOD HIMSELF? Look no further, because Pong is here:
Brush up on those reflexes, grab that paddle and get reboundin'. The premise is simple: you move a paddle vertically and bounce a ball back and forth with another player or CPU. You get points for each successful ball you get past the opponent. It's the most condensed form of entertainment this side of Tetris, a facet that makes it impenetrable to critics or naysayers as people who don't recognize these games as the sheer zenith of video gaming just look like idiots.
What's that? Objectivity doesn't exist, and neither do absolute bests? FUCK YOU. Pong is a testament that objectivity DOES exist, because even after 40 years this game is still playable and remembered, while most have since forgotten about Call of Duty 15 or whatever else the little kids play. There are literally hundreds of Pong sequels and clones, like Breakout, which produced even MORE clones (Arkanoid, Shatter, etc.), but you should have a great time with the original. Reimagined from some tennis game on the Magnacocks Odyssey that no one cares about.
Be sure to read Ben Parrish's FAQ.
Platforms: Imlac PDS-1, Xerox Alto, Xerox Star, Palm OS, Nextstep, classic Mac
You like Quake, UT, and all that shit? It all began here! Maze War is the root of the first person shooter genre. While it was not true 3D with free movement (you could only move tile by tile, and make turns of 90 degrees), it had many essential features of the genre, such as network play, a radar, level editing, and an observer mode.
Read a nice article by Engadget about it here.
Snake / Worm
Platforms: Every freaking motherboard known to mankind. Also on all those old Nokia cellphones.
If you ever had any old Nokia phone you sure as hell know Snake. You move a elongated bunch of pixels on a fixed screen and can turn 90 degrees, collect the dots which raises the length of you snake and keep at it until you crash into the walls or your own tail.
Simple concept and great for casual fun, such that it is still getting clones even today on current mobile platforms.
Rogue and its petite relatives
Genre: ROGUELIKE. Yes, it's like itself. We are entering the endless recursion, Captain.
Platforms: Every goddamn console. Yes, it has THAT many relatives.
You thought videogames are hard? NO, THEY AREN'T. Roguelikes ARE HARD (at least, the proper ones). Everything is simple: you choose a race and a class. Then, you enter the randomly generated dungeon. Your goal is to get to bottom of the dungeon, snatch the main artefact and get out.
Sounds simple? Nope.
'Cause those monstahs gonna rock you so hard, you will die thousands of times before even catching a glimpse of the bottom floor, not even touching the main artefact, not even talking about getting out.
Good current roguelikes include ADOM, Angband, Nethack, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup,TOME and if you would like to consider it one The Binding of Issac is pretty rougelike with flashish/newgroundish graphics also has permadeath and is mildly disturbing.
Genre: Run and Gun
Platforms: Arcade, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Famicom, Wii Virtual Console
A long forgotten pioneer of gaming, back in the early ages. Pioneering the run and gun genre, military themes, vehicular combat, and 'NADES.
The point of the game is to go through the front line, hence the name, and throw a grenade into the enemy base. Before you can get anywhere near the base, you have to take on a barrage of soldiers with only a pistol and two grenades. As you go on you can pilot tanks and pretty much roll over infantry and fuck up other tanks.
Now on the Wii Virtual Console.
Genre: Turn Based Strategy / Space Exploration Simulation
Platforms: Atari 400/800, Commodore 64, IBM PCjr, MSX-2, NES, PC-8801 MKII, Sharp X1, iOS
Have you ever played a turn-based strategy game? How about a sim? Like multiplayer? Meet the godfather of them all: M.U.L.E. This game is so good that there is still a thriving community of players to this day and there is even an online version for free. It has been re-released over and over on many systems for over 30 years now and just came out on iOS.
What's all the fuss about? Well, M.U.L.E. is just one of the absolute best, most balanced strategy games of all time! Pick your species then go out there and colonize planet Irata. Your cooperation (or dickery if that's how you roll) will determine if Irata becomes a thriving new homeworld or remains an impoverished dustbowl just past the garbage dump of space. Mine for ore, farm, gather rare gems, improve your M.U.L.E.s (labor droids), win the shirts off the other players at the betting table and be careful of natural disasters and wild animal attacks. You can become a land baron hiking up prices of food or found a communist utopia. It's all up to you! Oh, and did I mention that you'll need to eat food and sleep or you can die? The NES version also has actual digitized speech. This game TALKS! Forget Sim City, screw Final Fantasy: M.U.L.E. is where the action is.
Genre: Adventure - Dungeon Crawling
Platforms: Arcade (laserdisc), Sega CD, Game Boy Color, PC, DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray Disc, PlayStation Network (PS3 & PSP), Wii, DSiWare, IPhone, IPad, Android OS
Sick and tired of FMV games that have you press x to not die? If so, then this game is not for you.
Dragon's Lair is a fully animated game during which you (as Dirk the knight) must carefully assess the environment around you, then press the correct button at the correct time to survive. Each room is made up of at least one scene you must pass to see the game continue. Survive long enough and you can kill the dragon and rescue the smoking hot princess! This old game has graphics that rival or beat modern games. Click the image at right to see the detail. I'll wait here while your jaw drops. That's the start: it gets better from there.
Did I mention this is fun? No, really! Watch beautifully rendered animation made by Don Bluth (back before he went stupid) with detailed environments full of amusing and creative ways to die/survive. There is at least one different way to die per room and each one has it's own animation. There is only one way to survive each scene and, again, each one has it's own animation. Yes, they had this much detail back in 1983. Modern games have no excuse!
Even if you don't have the patience to play Dragon's Lair, watch a video of it (HD). It's amazing. In fact, watch two (not HD) or more: this game is randomized so no two playthroughs are exactly the same. Again, modern games have no excuse!
This game has a sequel that is just as amazing animation-wise, but full of batshit insanity/awesome and a time machine. Example: at one point you shrink down to the size of a mouse and fight a cat on top of a flying piano played by someone who looks like Mozart. Dodge the cat long enough and Mozart turns around to reveal it's actually Elton John at his most fabulous! Yes, this actually happens. Care to watch the madness? (not HD)
|Consoles||Nintendo Color TV-Game - Magnavox Odyssey - Coleco Telstar|
|Other||CDC PLATO - Old and Busted|