by Chris Kelley
The first round of the Video Game Hall of Fame has passed and some really great games were among the inductees. “Super Mario Bros,” “Pac-Man,” “World of Warcraft,” “Tetris,” “Doom” and “Pong” were all games that in many ways outlived their original release, whether it be in fond memories of simpler times, countless sequels, or in the case of “World of Warcraft,” monthly subscriptions that people still pay years after its debut. When considering what makes a game worthy of being inducted, one must consider not only the “fun factor” of a game, but its place in history and the innovations it brought to the industry. That being said, here are five games that should be considered for the next round of the Video Game Hall of Fame inductees.
“The Legend of Zelda” is a game packed with secrets, challenges and a certain level of freedom to explore. Players start with a gift of a sword from a mysterious old man whose line “It's Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This” has been parodied across every corner of the Internet. Link, the main protagonist of the game, has since become a very iconic character in his green tunic and hat. The game spawned many sequels; most of them good. Many other games in this series also deserve a mention, but the truth is, they wouldn't even exist if the original title hadn't broken ground and established a basic formula for the series. The game provided a challenge not only in sheer difficulty of some of the enemies, but by forcing the player to truly explore every inch of the game. Several times in the course of the game, players need to access a secret area of the map using items they collected from dungeons they've completed. The problem with that is that this game existed before the Internet, so simply finding those secret areas could be next to impossible. But for the true adventurer, this was merely a hurdle on a quest of great danger and excitement.
“Super Mario Kart” for the Super Nintendo was the first game in the chaotic madness that is “Mario Kart.” Most racing games, in my opinion, are for gear heads, appealing to the mechanically inclined who can appreciate slick looking cars with revving engines. “Super Mario Kart,” on the other hand, is for anyone seeking an unpredictable, fun time with friends. Racers participate in multiple races while collecting items to help them knock other players out of the running for the coveted first place. The game also featured a Battle Mode, designed for nothing more than blasting each other with Koopa shells, banana peels and invincibility stars. Players have three colored balloons spinning around them and are out of the action when they take three hits from other players' items. “Mario Kart” is also a game that has spawned multiple sequels, all with the same central theme, winning first place. However, each game has its own special variation, most recently “Mario Kart 8” for the Wii U, which introduces Anti-Gravity portions of tracks where racers can drive their karts or motorcycles on upside down stretches of track.
“Goldeneye 007,” an iconic shooter for the Nintendo 64, is a game many will look back on with fond memories. One of the best first person shooters of the era, it is perhaps best remembered because of its inclusion of a four player multiplayer feature. It went on to become the third best-selling game for the Nintendo 64, despite a weak debut at E3, a popular expo focused on showcasing the greatest in electronic entertainment. At the time, first person shooter games were much more popular on PC because of the more solid controls of mouse and keyboard. Then “Goldeneye 007” broke that mold and forged a new path for shooters. The multiplayer featured special mods such as “Paintball Mode” where guns could splatter the wall with various colors of paint. “The Man with the Gold Gun” was a mode where only one player could control the Golden Gun, capable of taking out any player in just one shot, with the drawback of only having one bullet to fire before having to reload. I personally remember playing “Slaps Only” which took out all weapons other than the ability to karate chop each other and “License to Kill” which would be a one hit kill. This was close quarters combat, and silliness, at its finest.
“Metroid,” a side scrolling adventure game with a fairly complex upgrade system for its time, put you in the Power Suit of Samus Aran, a female bounty hunter protagonist with a connection to the mysterious Chozo. The Chozo were a bird like race of super intelligent beings who created Samus' upgradeable Power Suit. Each upgrade Samus unlocked on her adventure allowed her to access new areas which were either inaccessible or far too dangerous to attempt before. This game was incredibly difficult, but was highly rewarding as players don't discover Samus is a woman until beating the game. Upon completing “Metroid,” players get the chance to play through again, this time as Samus without her Power Suit. It's purely cosmetic, but the revelation that the protagonist is a fearless, powerful and intelligent woman hidden behind all that armor is refreshing and something we should see more of in today's game industry.
“Sonic the Hedgehog” is one of the most iconic characters to come out of the budding game industry in the ‘90s. TV shows, lunchboxes and books featuring the famous “Blue Blur” were huge staples of my childhood. I'm pretty sure the lyrics “Sonic the Hedgehog, you can't catch what you can't see” sung to the Sonic theme is going to be permanently etched into my brain until I die, and I'm okay with that. ‘Sonic 3’ was such an improvement to the rest of the series it really stands out on its own. ‘Sonic 3’ was the first game in the series to allow you to save your progress. You could also start over on a save file with Super Sonic unlocked. This added a huge amount of replay value because once you unlocked Super Sonic, the game became both easier and more difficult at the same time. Super Sonic in ‘Sonic 3’ could be activated by double jumping once the player collected over 50 rings. The ring count would deplete for the duration of Sonic's transformation. The transformation not only looked cool, it changed the “Blue Blur” to a invincible golden wrecking ball. Sonic's increased speed, acceleration and the ability jump higher allowed players to access more areas, however it could quickly come crashing down as even Super Sonic couldn't stand up to crushing spike platforms, falling in pits or drowning. Sonic 3 was the second in the series to feature connectivity to another game in the series, Sonic and Knuckles, adding not only another playable character, Knuckles the Echidna, but also added new levels, and ability to turn into Hyper Sonic. Unlocking this transformation added a special space battle at the end with the series antagonist, Dr. Robotnik (see also Dr. Eggman). ‘Sonic 3’ was one of the very first platformers which allowed simultaneous control of two characters. ‘Sonic 2’ also did this, but an improvement to the mechanics of Sonic's little buddy, Tails (Miles Prower), the two tailed fox, allowed the second player to assist Sonic in a new way. Tails was not only invincible, but could also fly using his spinning tails. Sonic could jump and latch on to be lifted a short distance allowing him to reach new areas with the help of a friend. My brother and I played this game a lot when we were kids. I'll remember it for the good times I had with him, but it really shines for its innovations to multiplayer play and dual game connectivity.
All of these games are great choices for induction into the Video Game Hall of Fame. They are games that people can look back at with memories of playing with friends and family members. Whether it be sharing tips and secrets in “The Legend of Zelda,” “Metroid” or ‘Sonic 3,’ or dominating each other in “Mario Kart” or “Goldeneye 007,” these games have influenced people's interest in the games they play today. They have also been foundational in the development in new games as developers surely look back fondly and remember what made these games so great.