There are many video games on the market right now, and many of them are classified into specific genres. However, sometimes genres tend to restrict or limit video games, requiring them to adhere to certain principles. Sometimes, they serve as a simple checklist for games to clear off in order to be classified into that genre.
However, there have been times in video game history when certain releases have ended up going above and beyond of what the genre required. These games have left their mark on the industry as well, with their legacy being carried on in other new releases.
Other games strived to accomplish this as well, but ultimately failed to see it through, existing now merely as a footnote and cautionary tale of what games should not be like. Here are 5 video games that changed their genre, and 5 more that tried to but failed.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinions
5 video games that changed their genre
1. Halo: Combat Evolved
While it might seem quite underwhelming now, Halo: Combat Evolved changed FPS shooters when it was launched in 2000. It provided many useful improvements to the gameplay of shooters, especially on consoles, which were later adopted by future games and became standards for the industry.
Halo launched at a time when sprinting in shooters was not common, so one can assume the state of games during the early 2000s. The controls were a significant change, which allowed console players to utilize the twin sticks for aim and movement, respectively, which had not previously been done at the time.
Another significant change was the responsive gunplay, which was new to FPS games back then. The level design was also a new and refreshing take from the corridor shooting or cover-based combat of other games of the time. Finally, the enemy AI was one of the best in the industry and was able to utilize flanking and grenade throws to keep the player moving at all times. While these are common features now, Halo is what brought about these changes for the first time.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 has set the bar for open-world video games in recent years. The wide open landscape of the in-game world that players were treated to is enough of a statement to prove that fact, and yet, this video game has tons of finer details to support it too.
Realistic NPC reactions, as well as animal behaviour, dynamic environment with characters reacting to the weather, believable physics and horses reacting to cold are just some of the finer details that make this game so enjoyable. Realism is at the core of this video game, and yet, it never feels like a burden.
Many games have tried to cash in on such promises, but with not as much success. Prime amongst them was Cyberpunk 2077, which boasted a living breathing Night City, but delivered only the generic open-world that players are already used to. Only time will tell if any game can live up to Rockstar’s current monument.
3. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
The Yakuza video game series is popular enough that it stands on its own. It is well-known for its flashy yet engaging combat as well as fun and interesting narrative. The majority of the series follows protagonists Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima’s criminal but morally justifiable actions.
The latest game in the series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, changed a lot by introducing new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga, a departure from the serious Kiryu and the over-the-top Majima. However, even more revolutionary was the revamped battle system, which was originally teased as an April Fools joke, but was worked into the game due to its great reception by the fans.
Changing things up from the intricate 'beat ‘em up fighting' styles from the previous games, Like a Dragon had a real-time RPG turn-based combat mechanic. With a 4 character limit, it utilized Ichiban and his party in a fight, giving each some distinct and characteristic moves. While no one would have expected a Yakuza game to take this route, it was at the behest of fans that this change came about in the game.
4. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
In a show of how a game did not only change its own genre, but also inspired a whole new sub-genre of games as well, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ditched the linear approach to 2D side scrollers of its time. Released in 1997 for various consoles, this video game contributed to how games as a whole changed over the coming years.
Taking inspiration from Simon’s Quest (a previous game in the series), Symphony of the Night allowed players to explore areas at their leisure and fight enemies along the way. Certain areas in the game would be locked, which could be accessed later with items gathered through the main story.
Now famously dubbed as 'Metroidvania,' this doubling back and going through previously accessed areas was largely made popular by the Castlevania series as well as Metroid. Symphony of the Night was one of the first video games to introduce this concept and paved the way for many future games with this formula.
5. PUBG: Battlegrounds
It's quite clear as to how PUBG changed the gaming industry as a whole. As the first standalone video game to showcase a battle royale mode, Battlegrounds first launched in 2017 and turned the shooter-multiplayer genre on its head. Inspired by the Japanese movie known as Battle Royale, PUBG recreated this setting inside its in-game world by pitting players against each other to be the last one standing.
PUBG originally started out as a mod for DayZ, a game inspired by the Hunger Games books/movies. At the time, the creator of this mod, Brendan Greene, was known as 'PlayerUnknown' in his online profile. Greene went on to become the creative developer at Bluehole, who then released the first standalone battle royale, PUBG.
This video game changed the landscape of gaming, inspiring future games to adopt this format, with Fortnite being the first one in 2018. Currently, there are numerous battle royale games out there, even as a part of esports, with PUBG still retaining its spot in the top 5 most popular games in the genre that it created.
5 video games that tried but failed
1. The Quiet Man
Published by Square Enix, The Quiet Man is an action-adventure video game that set out to give players a unique experience, which could only be done in an interactive format. The game introduces a deaf protagonist and tries to give players the authentic feeling of playing as one.
This led to the game mostly lacking in audio cues, with much of the sound and voice acting being muffled and unclear. While this might sound like a good design choice on paper, the execution was not up to the mark. The game’s story was too convoluted and comprehending it without a proper explanation meant getting a headache.
On top of that, the entire fighting mechanic was not all that intuitive, and it was way too repetitive. The game was just a sequence of alternating exploration areas followed by 1v5 brawls, which wasn’t enough to keep players interested.
2. Crackdown 3
Crackdown 3 was set to be released with many sought-after features that were never seen in an open world. The video game was going to up the ante from the over-the-top action and mayhem of the Saints Row series, promising that players could destroy the environment of the open-world if they so wished to.
However, when the game launched, this claim was ultimately proven to be untrue. The open-world featured no such large-scale destruction, with it being limited to the multiplayer mode in a small-scale part of the city in the game. Without this feature, Crackdown 3 had little to offer.
Featuring basic gameplay and a monotonous open-world that saw nothing new from the past games in the series, this installment was quickly swept under the rug. Crackdown has possibly died down as a series since then, now known as an example of how games that do not evolve are quick to be discarded.
3. Fallout 76
Fallout 76 was set to be a multiplayer live-service game set in the Fallout universe, where players can explore and partner up in the radioactive wasteland. However, it would seem that Bethesda wanted to shake up the multiplayer formula by making this a game purely about the players and nothing else.
This led to a creative decision that, in hindsight, was mostly the wrong one. When the video game was released, the open-world had no NPC characters at all. Possibly, Bethesda had counted on the fact that this would make the experience feel more authentic, with players having only themselves to count on without any pre-programmed AI.
However, as it turned out, no matter how many players play a multiplayer game, it needs NPC characters. Otherwise, the world just feels hollow. The game lacked any and all human dialog, aside from other players using voice chat (which isn’t always fun), and the robots littered around the world did little to liven up the atmosphere. It was only 2 years later that Bethesda was able to correct this mistake by finally introducing NPCs via the Wastelanders expansion.
Peter Molyneux, creator of Fable, is known for making false promises, and these were aplenty before Fable launched for the first time in 2004. Thus, before the game arrived, it was set to revolutionize open-world RPGs, with features such as online multiplayer, the ability to sire children, and an overall dynamic environment.
As this entry is in the second part of this list, one can assume how many of these features made their way into the finished game. The answer is none of them. Online multiplayer as well as the ability to create your own children wouldn’t be available until at least 4 more years till Fable 2 in 2008. The dynamic environment promise, however, is something no game has yet come close to accomplishing.
This was because Peter Molyneux had implied that in the game, players would be able to get an acorn off a tree and then watch it grow into a new tree on its own, throughout the course of the game. Yet it has been 12 years since the last Fable game was released and with a reboot in development, who knows what this game might bring to the table.
All set to be the next big multiplayer game like Destiny 2, Anthem was an EA and BioWare collaboration, which had previously seen quite a lot of success. Action-adventure games like Mass Effect have done wonders and MMORPG like Star Wars: The Old Republic is still active to this date.
As BioWare prepared for this new looter-shooter video game, incorporating Iron Man-esque mech suits with different abilities, the hopes were high. Large-scale multiplayer games generally didn’t have the intricate story design of the likes of BioWare fame, so the video game was set to be a fresh take on this.
However, the final product failed to deliver on nearly all fronts. Its live service model failed immediately, with there being no proper endgame where players could keep having fun. The missions were repetitive and boring, while BioWare’s trademark could only be made out if one squinted hard enough. This video game simply strived for too much at the same time.
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