NextGen #21 – September 1996

We’re slowly getting closer to catching up with the Nintendo Power Retrospectives, as we come to NextGen’s coverage of the N64 launch.

Cover: Video Games are old enough now that we’re starting to get Top 100 lists. NextGen’s list though, going from how it’s advertised on the cover, seems somewhat questionable, considering that they are billing games that have either just come out or haven’t been released yet.

Interview: We have the rise of the retro scene going on (though NextGen calls it a “cult), so tie in with that, we have an interview with Eugene Jarvis – designer of Robotron & Defender, and currently designing Crusin’ World. Jarvis gets into the rise of the arcade game, and the level of mechanical simplicity needed for an arcade game to succeed – you have to be able to pick up and get a handle on the game in 10 seconds, which can lead to some limitations in the evolution of the genre.

Now, Jarvis is impressed with what’s going on with first-person shooters, and what’s going on with network and internet-enabled multiplayer. I’ll say from the interview, he’s less into exploration+puzzle-based adventure games and RPGs, as his view is that the presence of a story reduces the game-play space. Fallout (which has already been previewed as GURPS), and Deus Ex (which is admittedly already a ways off) would beg to differ.

There is also some discussion of whether you need to be a gamer to design games. Jarvis says yes, though he also poo-poos prospective designers who ask about retirement & benefits. On the one hand, I understand this sentiment, because games at this time were still a young medium, and arguably still are. It’s just that now games are in a comparable space to the 1960s and maybe ‘70s now, while it was in the equivalent of the ‘20s and ‘30s then. However, because I also pay attention to the comics industry, I’ve also seen what’s happened to great comics artists like Gene Colan & Marv Wolfman, and how they struggled to pay for their medical expenses in their retirements – so that matters. This sentiment also definitely fits with the problem with normalizing crunch in the video game industry.

The end of an Era

News: The N64 has launched in Japan, and will be coming out in the US soon. We have a bunch of coverage of that, but in the sidebar is one equally big story – Tom Kalinske is out at Sega of America.

Top 100 Games of All Time: On the one hand, the game industry, as of this issue, is barely old enough to drink, so this seems awfully pretensions, as much as I hate that word. On the other, with how short the age of the game industry is, what would be on this list hasn’t had a chance to ossify the way that more recent lists are more likely to have a lot of the same titles, in different orders. So, we’re more likely to have deep cuts that otherwise would have been lost to the ages, so to speak. Here is the ranking, with a few additional notes on some of the more obscure titles.

  1. Super Mario 64
  2. Tetris
  3. Super Bomberman 2
  4. Civilization (series)
  5. Mario (series)
  6. Virtua Fighter 2
  7. Street Fighter 2 (series)
  8. Lemmings
  9. Quake
  10. WarCraft II
  11. Virtua Racing
  12. Ms. Pac-Man
  13. Defender
  14. Elite
  15. Marble Madness
  16. Populous (series)
  17. Final Fantasy (series)
  18. Micro Machines
  19. Doom (series)
  20. Sonic (series)
  21. Daytona USA
  22. Tekken II
  23. X-Wing/TIE Fighter
  24. Lurking Horror – Horror text adventure game from Infocom based on King and Lovecraft
  25. Nights into Dreams
  26. X-COM: UFO Defense
  27. Sam & Max Hit the Rode
  28. NFL GameDay (‘95)
  29. Syndicate
  30. Madden Football (series)
  31. Herzog Zwei
  32. Wipeout XL
  33. SimCity 2000
  34. Nobunaga’s Ambition (series)
  35. Duke Nukem 3D
  36. Rescue Raiders/Armor Alley – sort of a hybrid RTS game with a Choplifter perspective, designed for the Apple II
  37. Super Mario Kart
  38. Zork (series)
  39. Asteroids
  40. NHL Powerplay
  41. “Snake Game”
  42. EF2000 – Flight sim where you control an Eurofighter
  43. Rolling Thunderbolt
  44. Spectre VR (multi-player tank combat game)
  45. Outrun
  46. Formula One Grand Preix 2
  47. Worldwide Soccer 2
  48. World Series Baseball (1995)
  49. Command & Conquer
  50. Donkey Kong
  51. Panzer General
  52. Spaceward Ho! – Space Simulation game
  53. The Sentinel – A 3D puzzle game.
  54. Mechwarrior 2
  55. Ultima (series)
  56. Dragon Warrior/Quest (series)
  57. Sega Rally
  58. Star Wars Arcade
  59. Super Sprint
  60. Wizardry (series)
  61. Ikari Warriors (the first one)
  62. The Bard’s Tale (series)
  63. Robotron
  64. Zelda (series)
  65. Bump ‘n Jump
  66. A Mind Forever Voyaging
  67. F/A-18 Hornet 2.0 – specifically the Mac version.
  68. Pong
  69. Links (‘91)
  70. Metroid (series)
  71. FIFA Soccer (‘94)
  72. Phantasy Star (series)
  73. AH64-D Longbow
  74. Tempest (original)
  75. Balance of Power – the Chris Crawford strategy game
  76. NBA Live ‘96
  77. Shining Force (series – not including the other Shining games)
  78. Track & field (Konami series)
  79. King’s Quest (series)
  80. Falcon Gold
  81. River Raid
  82. Virtua Cop (series)
  83. Joust
  84. Centipede
  85. Leisure Suit Larry (series)
  86. Jumping Flash
  87. Discs of Tron
  88. Knight Lore – isometric game from Rare (when they were Ultimate) for the ZX Spectrum
  89. The Epyx Games series (Summer/Winter/California)
  90. Xevious
  91. Resident Evil
  92. Hard Hat Mac – PC Platformer from EA
  93. Burning Force – shooter for the Genesis
  94. Rave Racer (not the other games in the Ridge Racer series.
  95. Strike (series)
  96. Galaga
  97. Space Invaders
  98. R-Type (just the first one)
  99. NBA Jam (series)
  100. Trinity – a Text adventure game about stopping the Trinity nuclear tests.

Now, a lot of the list is solid. While the inclusion of some very new titles is questionable, even then some of the titles are solid picks, such as with Quake. I also don’t mind the combination of some games into series – as it helps mitigate some of the issues like trying to decide which of the Dragon Warrior games is the best for your ranking – and it works well for this era of Madden, considering that sports games tend to live and die by calculated, incremental improvements. And, even in cases where a series goes through a clear ongoing decline, I could see picking a range of games in the series to pick. That said, I do think there should have been a restriction for sticking with just one game or game series per real world sport.

Alphas (Previews): We have a preview of Ultima Online, which, even more than AOL’s Neverwinter, will kick off the era of the MMORPG, and lead to a shift in popularity from MUDs to that genre. We also have a bunch of interviews with game developers and execs – particularly Brian Fargo, who is focusing on Engage (Interplay’s online matchmaking service) and “Wild Bill” Stanley (formerly of Microprose) who is starting his new company, Interactive Magic.

Finals (Reviews): We have our first N64 reviews, with Pilotwings 64 and Super Mario 64, with both games getting 5 stars. On the Playstation side, Delphine has a new cinematic action game in 3D with Fade to Black, and the first Namco Museum collection. The Saturn has an action RPG with Legend of Oasis, and the PC has Chaos Overlords and the Earthworm Jim collection.

Letters: We have a letter from Doug Millikan, who is actively working on some research on force feedback – Millikan did the force feedback setup for the Hard Drivin’ arcade cabinet.

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