Many happy returns!
Everyone’s rightfully celebrating the tenth anniversary of World of Warcraft at the moment, but WoW isn’t the only game blowing out the candles for a significant birthday this year. Turning back the hands of time (or, well, reverse-circling the D-pads of our mind), Cult of Mac pays homage to some of the other classic video games that changed everything.
What made the cut? Scroll through our gallery to find out.
Photo: Blizzard Entertainment
5 Years Ago: Batman Arkham Asylum (2009)
The most recent game on our list, Batman Arkham Asylum seemed to come out of nowhere to become not only the best Batman game ever created (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t all that difficult) but also a veritable titan of the DC publishing empire.
Telling the Grant Morrison-inspired story of everyone’s favorite Dark Knight Detective being locked in Arkham by arch nemesis The Joker, the game not only gave us a stunningly beautiful open world environment for Batfans to explore, but also nailed the fight dynamics, detective work and stealth that makes Batman so compelling. Given everything it’s influenced in the years since, if anything it’s tough to accept this game is only five years old.
Photo: Rocksteady Studios
10 Years Ago: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
I shared my thoughts on GTA: San Andreas when it was miraculously ported over to iOS late last year. The pinnacle of PS2-era Grand Theft Auto games, San Andreas took everything that made Vice City such a joy to play, and ramped it up a notch. Giant map, four times the size of its predecessor? Check. 240 vehicles instead of Vice City’s 60? Check. Immersive storytelling? Check. Pitch-perfect satire? Check. Blistering soundtrack? Mic check one.
In short, the game is perfect -- although how old does it make you feel to consider that it’s now as old as the mid-90s culture it was lampooning at the time?
Photo: Rockstar North
15 Years Ago: Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (1999)
I don’t know if this makes me a traitor to everything Apple stands for, but for me Age of Empires II pretty much nullifies every dull, uninspired, monopolistic move Microsoft has ever made. Set in the Middle Ages and putting you in charge of your choice of 13 different civilizations, Age of Empires II is the strategy game that made me fall in love with strategy games.
Despite not being the first such title (hell, it wasn’t even the first in its series), this game influenced many, many other games in the same genre. Is there a more rewarding video game experience than demolishing a castle with a fireball-hurling trebuchet? I don’t know if my heart could take it if there is.
Photo: Ensemble Studios
20 Years Ago: Donkey Kong Country (1994)
Arriving on games consoles in November 1994, Donkey Kong Country took the villain from an old Mario and turned him and his pint-sized nephew Diddy him into the stars of a whole new franchise. Donkey Kong Country was a relative latecomer to the platformer era of games, but it helped convince many people at the time of its release that there was still juice left in the SNES’s tank, after the arrival of the first generation PlayStation. Mission accomplished! Its stunningly modelled characters still stand up today, too. Which brings us to…
Photo: Rare Ltd.
25 Years Ago: Prince of Persia (1989)
Coming out of an era of clunky 8-bit sprites, Prince of Persia practically looked like a classic Hollywood Errol Flynn movie unfolding in front of you. Using rotoscoped graphics (i.e. digitized scans of real life movement), the game has a realism to it that still stands up today. Boasting enhanced sound effects, the Macintosh version was the best incarnation available. Oh, and that sword fighting fight dynamics? Perfect.
30 Years Ago: Elite (1984)
If you were interested in high tech, 1984 was a helluva year to live through. Not only did you have the very first Macintosh in computer stores, The Terminator bursting into movie theaters, and William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic Neuromancer in book stores, there was also Elite.
Redefining the way that video games looked and played, Elite was an open world 3-D title that all but created the space trading game. It seemed an impossible achievement in its day, and its infinite universe spawning gameworld still impresses today, even in an age of Grand Theft Auto V.
35 Year Ago: Asteroids (1979)
Released 35 years ago this month, Asteroids is one classic game that everyone reading this has surely played at some time in their lives. Interestingly, while Asteroids’ simplistic graphics may appear today to be a triumph of substance over style, at the time the game’s high resolution vector graphics were considered an amazing achievement. Its superb gameplay and iconic sound effects remain legendary today.
Photo: Atari, Inc.
40 Years Ago: Gran Trak 10 (1974)
Before he co-founded a little company by the name of Apple, Steve Wozniak worked at Atari, where he played one innovative single-player racing game for hours to get the inspiration for his own arcade title, Breakout. That game? Gran Trak 10.
Although it doesn’t look like much in a circa-2014 world populated by Need for Speed and Gran Turismo, Gran Tran 10 was a game changer at the time of its release. It also happened to be the first game to feature a steering wheel, four-position gear shifter, and accelerator and brake foot pedals in its coin-op iteration. A classic!
Photo: Atari, Inc.