Retro Monday – Daring Debuts

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Quick, take a glance at your gaming collection. Now what are the chances that at least one of these games in your collection has a number next to it? Pretty good, I’d imagine, and as much as we bemoan the state of constant sequels in the gaming industry, we’re also suckers for a good one as well.

Few franchises have survived several years of gaming, but those that have, will always have a special place in the hearts of gamers. Join us as we take a look back at the games that debuted to wide acclaim, setting the stage for endless sequels that were always aiming to build on and improve upon the original.

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

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Do you have a fetish for green tunics and princess-rescuing? Then that bizarre itch of yours most likely started with the very first game to feature the iconic character of Link as he made his way through the kingdom of Hyrule. Princess Zelda was being held hostage, thanks to that jerk Ganondorf as usual, and there was a whole mess of assorted creatures with an axe to grind against Links’ head.

Before the first Zelda game, fantasy titles were generally a straight forward affair. Go here, tap A, kill beastie and save the day. TLOZ however was an amazing breath of fresh air however, giving the genre some incredible depth, making players actually think, and asking them to constantly backtrack, explore and use new tactics in order to complete the game.

25 years later, and we’ve seen a franchise grow to become one of the signature money-makers for Nintendo, with the latest title, Skyward Sword, set to release later this year.

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

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Also known as Sonikku za Hejjihoggu in Japan (No,seriously,look it up), the blue speedster with an attitude became a fan favourite, with innovative gameplay that emphasised speed and quick reflexes, a first for the industry at that stage.

Long levels, hidden bonuses and addictive gameplay with solid mechanics set the stage for numerous sequels, culminating in some of the finest titles to ever grace a console. Sadly, the signature Sega creation has been wallowing in his own dust over recent years, churning out lacklustre games that have just failed to recapture that spark that the original titles generated.

But for those of who remember that first time playing a Sonic game, he’ll always be our favourite Steve Urkel voiced character.

Mega-Man X (1993)

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We’re all familiar with the original Mega-Man, a hero in blue with a blaster that set out to save the world from Dr Wily and his various, themed robot henchmen, but even we grew a tad tired once his umpteenth adventure rolled around.

The fans wanted a change, and Capcom knew that it was time to take the franchise in a new direction. Thus was born Mega-Man X, a more radical version of our favourite hero, with more firepower and a better range of attacks with which to save the day.

New types of enemies, better visuals and more exciting, collectible weapons and power-ups reinvigorated the franchise, as well as introduced us to new playable characters, creating a more challenging, but variable gameplay experience, setting a new precedent for the sequels yet to come.

Grand Theft Auto (1997)

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By the late nineties, just plain old violence was becoming rather stale. We needed an injection of new ideas, fresh mechanics and something that would shock the apathy out of our systems.

And the very first Grand Theft Auto was just what the doctor would have ordered, if he had been overdosing on his own meds. Taking place in a city that was rank with crime, corruption and violence, GTA set the stage for gaming to be controversial all over again.

People could be killed on a whim, cops were an annoyance that had to be dealt with permanently, while actual killing sprees were encouraged with rampage sections, while the game itself could even be played in a realistic manner if players wished it.

It was an amazing showpiece of technical skill and savagery, that showcased one particular trait that came to dominate gaming in later years. Freedom was its name, and GTA set a precedent that many games followed, as it emphasised giving players the choice to act like violent psychopaths or law abiding citizens, helping the franchise develop into a household name with several sequels and expansions over the last decade and a half.

FIFA International Soccer (1993)

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Football had been a generally vanilla affair, until EA managed to get their hands on an official license for the sport. Showcasing a mix of the best teams in the world with some new gameplay views, this was the sports title to have for Christmas all those years ago.

Despite having some notorious bugs that made scoring a one-sided, easy affair, FIFA International Soccer was a runaway hit, putting a lot of greenbacks into the EA coffers, which made them roll out a new version on an annual basis.

While some versions have been glorified titles with just a quick coat of fancy new visuals, there have been more hits than misses, such as with last years version, and with the internet also abuzz over FIFA 12 this year, it looks like the franchise is here to stay for a very long time.

Have a particular gaming memory that corresponds to the article above? Drop us a comment below and let us know which game shaped your life particularly.

Last Updated: October 3, 2011

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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