The Strong Museum, New York's interactive museum dedicated to the history of play, has announced the shortlist of finalists to be inducted into their World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2017. The inductees will be announced at a live ceremony at the museum on May 4th at 10:30 AM local time.
The award recognizes individual electronic games of all types—arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile—that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general. Anyone can nominate a deserving title and the museum has been inducting games annually since 2015, with previous inductees including Sonic the Hedgehog, Tetris, World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto III, among others. Twelve games have made the shortlist this year, the finalists are;
Donkey Kong (1981): From designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's plucky little plumber first appeared in this arcade cabinet title - attempting to rescue his princess from the titular ape while dodging a never ending stream of barrels. The game quickly became Nintendo's biggest selling arcade cabinet, moving an estimated 132,000 units. Its lasting legacy is undeniable, not least for giving life to Mario. The Strong cites its legacy and impact as the reasons for its inclusion here.
Final Fantasy VII (1997): Sure to be a popular choice, the seventh entry in Square's iconic RPG franchise remains an enduring fan-favorite in the long-running series, as attested by the upcoming remake. It's not just the ten million units sold that warrants the game's inclusion on the shortlist but the technical achievement of bringing 3D animation and full motion video to the franchise for the first time. As the game's shortlist entry recognizes, it didn't just help cement the franchise's popularity. It can also be said to have directly influenced the success of Sony's first console.
Halo: Combat Evolved (2001): The first game in what has become one of the most well-known shooter franchises of all time released alongside the original Xbox and more than 50% of those consoles sold in its first year sold with Halo: Combat Evolved. The Halo franchise became huge for developer Bungie, spawning multiple sequels, animated movies, and comics. Much of that was thanks to the innovations of the first game which took a unique approach to level design and story, adding in layers of complexity to both that were rarely seen in the genre at the time. Add sales of over six million units to that and it's easy to see why Halo makes the shortlist for the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
Windows Solitaire (1991): One game on the shortlist that might raise a few eyebrows is Microsoft's digital version of the time-waster that is almost as old as human society, Windows Solitaire. First debuting on Windows 3.0 and included with every version of Microsoft's operating system since it's not technical achievement that earns Solitaire it's place but sheer ubiquity. When you think about it in those terms, the reason for its inclusion becomes clear. After all, it is estimated that the game has been installed on more than a billion machines since its creation, making it a potential claimant to the title of world's most widely owned game.
Mortal Kombat (1992): Though it later came to home consoles, Mortal Kombat first made a name for itself in the arcades. The graphics were cutting edge for its time and the gory violence that was so gleefully depicted earned as much praise from fans as it did condemnation from critics. The popularity of the series has spawned eleven main franchise games, an animated series, and a live-action movie. It can even be said that debates arising around the issue of graphic violence in the game led to the Congressional hearings which eventually resulted in the formation of the ESRB. Desirable or not, that's definitely a lasting legacy.
Myst (1993): This first-person, point-and-click adventure-puzzle game is one you'll hear the name of any time people discuss pioneering titles. Originally released on the Macintosh, Myst made use of the fledgling CD-ROM technology to create visually impressive environments and a thoughtful, immersive experience. The game also featured non-linear progression through its unvoiced narrative and multiple endings, which was almost unheard of at the time. Selling over six million copies, Myst was the best selling PC game of the 90's.
Pokémon Green and Red (1996): Originally released to Asian markets as Pocket Monsters Aka (Red) and Midori (Green), the Nintendo Game Boy titles quickly gained international fame. We hardly need to tell you that the franchise is stronger than ever today and these are the games that started the ball rolling. The Pokémon franchises lifetime stats are staggering, selling more than 260 million (combined) copies of the various games, 21.5 billion trading cards, and spawning 800 TV episodes and 17 movies.
Portal (2007): Small but perfectly formed, with a self-contained story in a short four hours of unique gameplay, the original Portal came bundled with Half-Life 2: Episode 1&2 and Team Fortress 2 in the collection known as the Orange Box. Despite these relatively humble beginnings, the game was much loved by fans and critics for the innovative portal-based puzzle solving mechanics and psychotic yet charming 'villain' GLADOS. The subsequent sequel proved that the concept was more than suitable for a full-length experience but the plaudits go to the original for daring to 'think with portals.'
Resident Evil (1996): The original Resident Evil released on PlayStation in 1996 and helped to define the genre known as survival horror. The game was memorable for all sorts of reasons, not least its accurate portrayal of B-Movie horror, complete with an introductory movie featuring live actors and some true-to-life B-Movie dialog. The game itself has seen several ports and a remake and kicked off the franchise that has spawned seven numbered entries, spin-off games, live-action and animated movies, and more.
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991): Like the other fighting game on this list, Street Fighter II was a darling of the arcades before later coming to home consoles in the version that the majority of us probably remember. It spawned the series that has become a staple of competitive gaming tournaments and arguably pioneered the genre of the one on one fighting game - introducing aspects like the six button configuration, directional guard, combos, and competitive multiplayer. The arcade version alone sold more than 200,000 cabinets between its original and champion editions.
Tomb Raider (1996): The first outing of Lara Croft, a character that would go on to be synonymous with gaming from a media perspective. Perhaps it was the positioning of Lara as a real heroine and self-sufficient star of the game that meant her character resonated with gamers and non-gamers alike. Whatever the case, it is that aspect of the game - spawning a truly iconic character - as much as the game's technical achievement as the forerunner of the third-person action adventure, that has earned Eidos' most enduring creation a place on the shortlist.
Wii Sports (2006): Wii Sports was the launch game for the Nintendo Wii that intended to demonstrate the versatility and nuance of its motion controllers. It succeeded by distilling gaming down to the basic ingredients that everyone can enjoy - simple, familiar games with intuitive controls. Its ability to appeal to an audience far beyond the breadth of the core console market was instrumental in the success of the Wii in general.
So that's the shortlist of finalists for the World Video Game Hall of Fame, we'll bring you the news on the winners when they're announced on May 4th. You can find more information on the awards and the admirable work of The Strong Museum on the organization's official website.
What do you think of the shortlist? Looking at the previous winners and this year's nominees, are there any glaring omissions you'd like to see join the hall of fame? Give us your thoughts down in the comments!