Nowadays, players can find a vast array of videogames that are similar to the ones they liked. Call of Duty players, for instance, are more likely to try Battlefield before ever thinking of playing Final Fantasy. Genres are well defined, and clone games are numerous, but few people know how the videogame genres were born.
Sometimes the line is blurry, and it might be tricky to say that a game was the first of the genre, but not impossible. Those influential games had either came up with an original mechanic or were the first to combine several traits that defined a genre.
Rogue: Rogue-Like & Rogue-Lite
Many people consider Beneath Apple Manor to be the first Roguelike game ever, but Rogue cemented one of the strongest elements of the genre. In Rogue, players had to explore a dungeon and reach its last floor to find the Amulet of Yendor. The dungeon has numerous dangers, but also several items and weapons that could provide help on the quest.
The defining characteristics of the game were the procedurally generated dungeons and permanent death. Dying in Rogue caused players to lose all experience and items collected, forcing them to start over from scratch.
Karate Champ: Fighting Games
Many other games had fist fighting, but Karate Champ was the first game to have hand-to-hand one-on-one martial arts combat. It featured 2 Karate Fighters, one on each side of the screen, facing each other in a clean battle. The player could perform up to 14 different moves with a combination of inputs. Mastering those moves could provide a significant advantage over the adversary.
All those concepts can be seen, but taken to a whole new level, in Street Fighter. Not only that, in Karate Champ, the fighters facing one another are wearing a white and a red gi, which most likely is the influence behind the origin of the two most iconic characters in Fighting Games History: Ryu and Ken.
Demon’s Souls: Souls-Like
Although Souls-Like games are arguably just Action RPG games, there is a combination of elements that make them something else. Demon’s Souls did not pioneer game mechanics, but a defining recipe that originated the souls-like genre.
A Dark Atmosphere, environmental storytelling, tough-but-fair difficulty, invulnerable dodge, and a Stamina Bar are just some defining traits that are commonly associated with the souls-like genre. All those elements can be seen in famous titles such as Dark Souls, Bloodborne, The Surge, Lords of the Fallen, Nioh, and Code Vein.
Wolfenstein 3D: First Person Shooters
Wolfenstein 3D, a lot like Karate Champ, was not the first game that had characteristics of its genre, but it was the game that defined it as Rogue did for Rogue-likes. You play as a spy who works for the allies and is trying to escape from Castle Wolfenstein. In this game, you navigate through the corridors of the castle in 3D, using a first-person view, and collecting and changing guns along the way.
This game is the game that caused all the other First-Person Shooters to exist. Many say that the original doom was just a clone that you shoot demons instead of nazis. They’re not wrong.
Wolfenstein 3D, Karate Champ, Demon’s Souls, and Rogue were all very special games. Do you remember any game that was unique until cloned? Is there a game that you know that created a whole genre? Let me know in the comments below!