I’ve been long of the opinion that videogames really made a giant leap in evolution in the late 90s. There are many games from the early 90s and even mid 90s that are still very well remembered as amazing classics, but I feel that these are games that you can really only enjoy through nostalgia. Just a few years later these had already aged rather poorly and already felt dated at the start of the 2000s. But something changed significantly later in the decade. True 3D graphics being of course a massive milestone that allowed for completely new forms of gameplay, but it seems that at the same time computers also became able to handle a much wider range of colors, allowing for more interesting textures and at least the illusion of lighting that wasn’t completely flat. There also came to be more things on the screen at the same time, which also impact the experience. But I think there also happened to be a giant leap in storytelling, which I think might be just as important as the introduction of 3D engines, and affected also games that still continued to use 2D graphics.
Here’s a few select game that just passed the 25 year mark recently.
- Duke Nukem 3D: 29 January 1996
- Resident Evil: 22 March 1996
- Quake: 22 June 1996
- Super Mario 64: 23 June 1996
- Tomb Raider: 25 October 1996
- C&C: Red Alert: 22 November 1996
- Diablo: 3 January 1997
- Final Fantasy 7: 31 January 1997
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: 20 March 1997
- Star Fox 64: 27 April 1997
- Dungeon Keeper: 26 June 1997
- GoldenEye 64: 27 August 1997
Yes, all these games are old as hell, in many ways just as clunky to play, and their graphics look like garbage. But compared to games that came out just before or even many that came out at the same time, these were stunning leaps forward. And more importantly, these are games that I think would still be a lot of fun for people who started played videogames only many years later, or who might not even have been born yet when these came out.
There are numerous older games that are historically just as significant and that can still be appreciated for their accomplishments. But I think the enjoyment people get from those is more of an academic interest. In 1997, we see the start of a transformation that is just as big as the leap from say Metropolis to Casablanca. Works from before are historic artifacts, but those made after the shift are simply old, but still works of the kind we enjoy today.