Major video game publishers became major publishers by redefining genres with a single game. In the ’80s, Nintendo changed the gaming world forever with Mario and subsequently dominated the side-scrolling genre, reviving the entire gaming industry. Capcom redefined, or created, the one-on-one fighting genre in 1991 with the release of Street Fighter 2, spawning countless imitators. Rarely has one single company redefined multiple genres, especially in such a short time span, like Sega did in the early-’90s with a series of arcade releases that altered the entire video game landscape. More impressive was the fact that these three game-changing titles all came from a single division of Sega, the AM2 department, led by mastermind game designer Yu Suzuki. These three classic arcade games serve as bookmarks in the history books of their respective genres, holding places in history so significant that the annals of retro gaming history are filled with references to “before” and “after” the release of each one of these legendary Sega arcade games.
Daytona USA – 1993
Prior to the release of Daytona USA, most racing games were merely exercises in moving a forward-scrolling car sprite left or right while hoping to do so fast enough to make it to the next checkpoint. Time was of the essence but even the best examples of the racing genre, games like Sega’s Outrun, seemed to lack the sensation of speed that one would expect from a game approximating a race car experience. Arcade racing games were forever redefined and expectations of the genre rose when Sega unleashed Daytona USA in 1993. The game’s environment was covered in texture-mapped polygons, the tracks had banked corners, and the car had the ability to power slide. The blazing speed of the game and the Hornet car moving along multiple planes, flipping across the screen in dramatic fashion if crashed, marked a sea change in the way gamers played racing games, and Daytona USA became one of the most important video games of all-time. Daytona USA did more to advance the racing video game than every single driving title from the previous ten years combined.
Virtua Fighter – 1993
Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat had already hit the market, bringing fighting games to the forefront of the video gaming world. The impact was felt but it could have been a fad relegated to early-’90s nostalgia had Sega’s Virtua Fighter not advanced the genre into the next generation of gaming. Prior to Virtua Fighter’s release, fighting games typically gave each combatant a handful of special moves and utilized nearly every button on the controller in order to execute these actions. Sega set Virtua Fighter in a polygonal world and brought hundreds of special moves to its virtua world, using only three buttons due to cleverly designed control schemes. The game was accessible yet deep and ensured that fighting games would successfully transition into the late-’90s and beyond. Virtua Fighter inspired Tekken and countless other iconic 3D fighting games throughout the ’90s.
Virtua Cop – 1994
Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter had a profound impact on the two most popular video game genres of the ’90s, but one cannot overlook the influence that Virtua Cop had on the arcade world. Light-gun games did well in arcades because gamers enjoyed shooting at things, but the genre had been stagnant for years, literally and metaphorically speaking. Light-gun games were dominated by digitized and FMV graphics, but those formats limited the excitement since the bad guys’ actions were pre-programmed. Virtua Cop’s polygonal modeling allowed the bad guys to actually react differently depending on where they were hit. The bad guys fell in then-dynamic ways, giving a sense of realism to the whole experience. The action was intense and the virtua perspective on the classic light-gun genre spawned multiple sequels and eventually gave rise to the House of the Dead franchise.
More from this contributor:
Three Video Game Released That Would Have Saved Sega’s Ill-Fated Saturn: Retro Gaming
The 12 Best Classic Light-Gun Video Games of All-Time
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