Donkey Kong, Halo: Combat Evolved, Pokémon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II have been inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, beating out finalists that had included Final Fantasy VII, Microsoft Windows Solitaire, Mortal Kombat, Myst, Portal, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, and Wii Sports.
Between them, they have created gaming icons, redefined the first-person shooter on console, challenged us to catch ’em all, and set a new benchmark in the fighting genre, and all had their own impact on the games industry at large.
Released in 1981, Donkey Kong helped to launch the career of legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and became Nintendo’s most profitable game to that point, selling an estimated 132,000 arcade cabinets. Donkey Kong also introduced the world to the plucky plumber Mario—who became the star of numerous other games and one of the most recognisable video game characters in the world.
“Without Donkey Kong there would be no Super Mario Bros., a member of the inaugural class of the World Video Game Hall of Fame,” says Jon-Paul Dyson, director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. “But Donkey Kong is also about much more than one character. Its overarching narrative of love and its vibrant graphics brought the game to life in a way that few other games could in the early 1980s. It captured the hearts of a generation.”
Halo: Combat Evolved
When Microsoft released its Xbox system in 2001, more than 50 percent of the consoles sold with the launch game Halo: Combat Evolved. The science-fiction, first-person shooter games combined an intricate storyline, memorable characters like Master Chief, and a dynamic multi-player experience. The game sold more than six million copies and inspired a number of sequels and spin-offs, as well as novels, comic books, and action figures.
“Until Halo’s launch, the most successful shooters required a personal computer and the precision offered by a high-quality mouse,” The Strong’s associate curator Shannon Symonds reasoned. “Halo proved a console could be just as effective, if not better, than a PC. It also boasted one of the strongest multiplayer experiences of its time and created a legion of hardcore fans that refer to themselves as the Halo Nation.”
Pokemon Red and Green
Pokémon created a multinational cultural phenomenon when it was released on the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996 as Pocket Monsters Aka (Red) and Midori (Green). The game challenged players to collect 151 unique monsters, and Nintendo coined the ubiquitous catch-phrase, “Gotta catch ‘em all!” As of 2014, the Pokémon franchise has encompassed more than 260 million copies of its games, 21.5 billion trading cards, and numerous spinoffs including more than 800 television episodes and 17 movies.
“Pokémon Red and Green launched a franchise that has taken the world by storm, vaulting many of its characters, such as Pikachu, into popular, mainstream culture,” Symonds explained. “Nearly two decades after its inception and with the introduction of Pokemon Go, ‘Poké-mania’ shows little sign of fading.”
Street Fighter II
Released by Capcom in 1991, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior helped to spark an arcade renaissance in the 1990s. The game inspired numerous sequels and an entire genre of one-on-one fighting games. Capcom sold more than 60,000 original cabinets and a staggering 140,000 cabinets and game conversion kits of the company’s Champion Edition, making it one of the top-selling arcade games ever.
“Street Fighter II allowed for head-to-head battles between human opponents, instantly attracting spectators and generating fierce tournament play in arcades across the world,” explains Jeremy Saucier, assistant director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. “This communal style of gameplay reinvigorated the arcade industry in the 1990s and helped give birth to a generation of fighting games.”