Here’s our list of video game anniversaries to remember—we have to ask though? How old were you when these games came out?
It’s hard to believe that Variable‘s first anniversary is fast approaching. This time last year, this site was just an idea floating in the heads of two guys looking to start a scrappy tech site focused on the Philippines. Now, 12 months later, that scrappy tech site is…still a scrappy little tech site, but one with more than a few great stories under its belt.
But with the anniversary coming up, we wanted to celebrate by taking a look at anniversaries of some of our favorite things in the world—video games. With the medium now over half a century old, a number of titles and franchises are marking important anniversaries this year as well.
To limit our scope and make sure we don’t just chase after every long-running game franchise out there, we’re limiting ourselves to multiples of five—those games that have hit their fifth, tenth, fifteenth, twentieth anniversary and so on.
Donkey Kong (1981)
When talking about video game anniversaries, what better game to get it on than Donkey Kong. As Nintendo’s first big franchise character Donkey Kong holds an important place in video game history. After all, his game’s also featured a certain mustachioed plumber (then carpenter) named Mario—maybe you’ve heard of him.
But big DK’s contributions go beyond having helped give gaming’s most recognizable character his start. The games were also a place where Nintendo could showcase innovation. Most arcade games of the time, which featured the same repetitive levels looping over and over. But Donkey Kong and its sequels featured unique level designs that presented different challenges for players.
Beyond that, in the nineties, Donkey Kong was also where Nintendo, with the help of Rare, made their first experiments using then-new CG graphics. With Donkey Kong Country, Nintendo and Rare figured out how to transform CG into the 2D sprites that the Super Famicom could handle, giving players a glimpse of the future of video game graphics.
With how decidedly unprolific Nintendo is with the franchise, Metroid is a game that tends to get lost in the shuffle. Yet it’s also one of the most important games ever developed thanks to the fact that it gave us Samus Aran, the first female video game protagonist.
The way the game did this was also quite unique. Nowhere in the game, nor in its manual (remember those), did Nintendo hint that Samus was a woman. It was only when players finished the game within a certain time limit was Samus’ gender revealed. And thus, not only did video gaming get its first lady but the art of speedrunning was also born.
Thanks to how Nintendo hid the “secret” of Samus’ gender, players soon learned the joys of trying to finish a game as fast as possible. Since then speedrunning has developed into its own thing, with players racing each other to claim the world records for completing games.
And of course, Metroid also lends its name to the “Metroidvania” genre alongside Castlevania. Indeed, without the gameplay loop established in Metroid, 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night would likely not existed, changing the course of that series.
“I wanna be the very, best…” goes the first line of the eponymous anime’s opening song. The fact that you—and a lot more—can sing what comes next already says loads about the well-loved franchise. From a game where you catch 150 blocky monsters and train them to fight battles, Pokémon is now the highest-grossing media franchise of all time, with a universe that now spans eight generations and over 800 monsters.
In line with the franchise’s 25th anniversary, Pokémon announced the release of Pokémon Brilliant Diamon and Shining Pearl, remakes of the Sinnoh region games, on November 19, 2021, as well as a prequel with Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which is scheduled for release next year.
If you’re new to the franchise, don’t fret: There’s a Pokémon game just for you, whether you’re looking to play OG Kanto or interested in what the latest region Galar has to offer.
Final Fantasy XV (2016)
There used to be a time when people didn’t think that Final Fantasy XV would come out, after all, the game started as the much delayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Yet come out it did, five years ago, in 2016.
Even back then, FFXV was admittedly a flawed product. The game’s final third proceeded mostly on rails—a sure sign that it was rushed. At the same time, it buried much of its lore and worldbuilding under mountains of supplementary media. But even with these and other flaws, the game still brought a sense of hope to long-suffering Final Fantasy fans.
For the first time in over a decade, Final Fantasy had returned to its open-world roots. No longer were players forced to go down a linear path. Just like with the old Final Fantasy games players could roam around the world and get caught up in adventures of their own. And if they got tired of walking, the game also brought back the player-controlled airship—a flying car in this case. This was something players had not seen since 2000’s Final Fantasy IX.
Dark Souls (2011)
If Final Fantasy XV brought a sense of hope to Final Fantasy fans, Dark Souls brought hope to fans of Japanese RPGs in general. The mid-2000s brought with them a sense that Japanese RPGs—and Japanese games in general—had stagnated. People thought that the games couldn’t bring anything new to the table that they hadn’t seen before.
Then a small company called From Software released a game for Sony called Demon Souls.
While not a big hit, the game gained a cult following that led Bandai Namco to get from to develop a spiritual sequel, leading to 2011’s Dark Souls. Now, 10 years after that game’s release, we’ve seen a whole new subgenre of RPG, the so-called “Souls-like”, flourish.
At the same time, people have once again gained an appreciation for Japanese games. Dark Souls‘ challenging but fair design identified by many as something that couldn’t have come from shooter-obsessed America.
Suikoden V (2006)
We’re huge Suikoden fans here are Variable—and for good reason. Not only does the franchise have a solid storyline, but it also has unique characters and great villains. The latter, of course, is very evident in Suikoden V, the last installment of the franchise before it went on hiatus.
Unlike other games where the villain tends to be one-sided, that is, they’re fixed on world domination, revenge or even obsession; Suikoden V‘s main villain actually wants you to succeed and change the system for good. It’s just too bad she doesn’t live to see it come to fruition.
So there you have it, our six video game anniversaries to make you feel just a little bit nostalgic for the good times. Are there any titles that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Ralph Gurango contributed to the feature.
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