The video game industry has come a long way since the late 90s. The industry has grown exponentially over the years, and we now have some of the most technologically advanced games the world has ever seen with even more exciting and innovative concepts and designs.
However, the new era of games was not created overnight. There were games that laid the foundation and shaped the industry as we know it today. Unfortunately, some of these amazing games and their contributions have been overlooked. In this article, we explore five forgotten games from the late 90s that shaped the industry as we know it today.
1. American McGee’s Alice (2000)
American McGee’s Alice is a twisted and dark retelling of the classic fairytale, Alice in Wonderland. The game’s designer, American McGee, sought to create a game that was not merely fun to play but also told a compelling story that was strong in narrative. He succeeded, and the game quickly became a cult classic.
The game stood out for its unconventional and surreal design style that was far different from anything gamers had experienced before. The game’s environments were strange and twisted, making the world around Alice seem like a dream-like nightmare.
The game was also notable for its use of modified id Software’s Quake III Arena engine, which was the first time that such advanced technology had been used in a third-person game. The game went on to inspire future game developers to think outside the box and push the boundaries of game design.
2. Shenmue (1999)
Shenmue was first introduced in 1999, and it was a revolutionary game that many hailed as a masterpiece even though most people don’t know about it. The game was designed by Yu Suzuki and created by SEGA’s AM2 team, and it was the most expensive game ever created at the time.
Shenmue was a slow-paced, story-driven game, and it was the first open-world game that gave players an immersive experience of exploring a fully-realized world. The game also introduced the quick-time event (QTE) gameplay, a concept that would go on to become a staple in the video game industry.
In Shenmue, players had a chance to interact with various non-playable characters, discover hidden secrets, and explore the atmosphere of a realistic world. The game was ahead of its time and provided a blueprint for the development of modern open-world games such as Grand Theft Auto.
3. Thief: The Dark Project (1998)
Thief was a first-person action-adventure game that was developed by Looking Glass Studios in 1998. The game was centered around the character Garrett, a master thief who used stealth and cunning to navigate through the game’s levels.
Thief introduced several innovative gameplay mechanics that would later go on to become conventions in the genre, such as sneaking past guards, utilizing darkness and shadows, and using gadgets like lockpicks and water arrows.
The game was also the first to incorporate specific game mechanics that allowed for players to choose approach options with more freedom. Players could choose between being a ghost, using non-lethal weapons or violence, creating an open sandbox-style gameplay experience that encouraged exploration and experimentation.
4. Deus Ex (2000)
Deus Ex was a game that was ahead of its time in terms of gameplay mechanics and narrative structure. Developed by Ion Storm, Deus Ex was a first-person role-playing game that allowed players to experience a dystopian world fraught with conspiracies and political upheaval. The game’s story was complex, but instead of spelling everything out to the player, Deus Ex was known for forcing players to pay attention to the story’s details and nuances.
The game’s key strength was that it allowed players the freedom to approach problems with different solutions and provided multiple endings as a result of the player’s choices. Deus Ex was a game that put the player in control, and its narrative that was rich in depth and complexity would go on to inspire future games like Dishonored, Fallout, and Bioshock, amongst others.
5. Sacrifice (2000)
Sacrifice was a real-time strategy game that was developed by Shiny Entertainment and published by Interplay. The game deviated from the conventional structure of the genre and allowed players to move with their god-like units around the world. The game’s graphics were cutting-edge for the time, and the art design was unique and unparalleled in RTS games.
What set the game apart was the way in which it allowed players to control their armies. Instead of direct control of units, players had to use spell casting mechanisms to provide suggestions to the computer-controlled troops. The game also employed resource management mechanics and exploration, which was different from traditional RTS games that relied solely on war strategy. Sacrifice’s unique design influenced titles like Total War, Warcraft III, and Age of Empires III.
The games listed above were groundbreaking titles they shaped the course of the video game industry way back in the 1990s. They are an integral part of our history, and we hope that they receive the recognition they deserve. The fact that current games take inspiration from design elements and mechanics of these games is a testament to why we must remember them and acknowledge their contribution to the industry.