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Quantum Leap: Which Nintendo-Created Game Moved The Industry Forward?

With the results now in, Gamasutra readers sound off on which Nintendo-created game represents a Quantum Leap in the game industry, with opinions ranging from Super Mario 64's innovative camera to Pilotwings' open ended gameplay, and more.

Jason Dobson, Blogger

April 12, 2007

11 Min Read

Following Shigeru Miyamoto's keynote speech given during this year's GDC, Gamasutra asked readers to nominate the one Nintendo-created game which created a Quantum Leap in the game industry. Now a month after that inspirational speech, the answers have been tallied, some of which represent an interesting take on Nintendo's contributions to the industry. Specifically, the question asked was: "Which Nintendo-created video game has made the biggest 'quantum leap' for the game industry? Which aspects of its design and execution spurred the game biz to greater things?" We now present to you some of the more interesting responses received: I'd have to give the vote to Mario 64. As much as I love older Nintendo games I feel they mostly show evolutionary, not revolutionary designs. Mario 64 took a gameplay mechanic we all love, platform "run & jump" gaming, and showed the game industry just how to implement controls, cameras, and level design to actually translate that gameplay to the world of 3D. Other products have learned so much from it that all game developers owe Nintendo props for Mario 64. - Randy Angle, Pronto Games, Inc. Super Mario 64. The near-flawless execution of the "Mario" Camera. For the first time, it enabled the player to explore a 3D world with controls that didn't feel bulky and awkward. - Jordan Johnson, Pandemic The original Pilotwings for the SNES made the biggest 'quantum leap' of any Nintendo developed game. Although much praise circulates for Super Mario 64's 3D execution, seldom is Pilotwings (1991) given proper credit for yielding 'go anywhere' 3D gameplay. Pilotwings was an eye opener to a new type of game, which wasn't on 'rails'. There were PC games presenting the 'go anywhere' concept for years but none of them executed the ambitious concept with such elegance. Another kicker was the inclusion of excellent 'physics'. Pilotwings hails from 1991, a period of time when displaying multiple sprites on screen was still a challenge! Impressive 'physics' wasn't something a typical player even noticed. Looking at the game today, the physics are still impressive, demonstrating the ingenuity and foresight of the original developers. There are many excellent Nintendo developed titles and a high percentage of them pushed the industry forward. Upon release many critics shrugged Pilotwings off as a mere tech demo. Granted, it was a showcase for the SNES hardware, no one can deny the game’s technical prowess but that was never the real issue for critics. It was relegated to tech demo status mostly because it didn't deliver copious amounts of 'on-rails' content, as people were accustomed to. It's 16 years later and I can still play the game with glee for hours, which isn’t something I can say for most of its contemporaries. I hold that fact as a clear testament to Pilotwings’ elegant gameplay design, which was clearly a 'quantum leap' ahead of its time. - Jeremy Alessi, Alessi Games LLC You're asking for a Nintendo Quantum Leap award NOW? How can we talk about Super Mario Bros. in '86 or Super Mario 64 in '96 when Nintendo is in the middle of a quantum leap right now? We could very well be witnessing the birth of an industry-wide shift! It's POSSIBLE Nintendo's lower development costs could drastically increase our creative ambition. It's POSSIBLE their new controller could be our key to unlocking a ridiculously large and previously unreachable market. Wii Sports MIGHT go down in history as the world's most successful tech demo. (That's all it really is anyway. That's all Pong ever really was, too.) We might even look back to say this was when we really established an identity independent from Hollywood! But it's too soon to tell. Who knows, we could also look back and find Wiis collecting dust in attics across the world because we failed to comprehend the system's unique nuances and consumers grew weary of buying cheap port after cheap port. Really guys? A Nintendo QL award now? Well, can Wii Sports be the beginning of something really big? . . .it's possible. - Matthew Allmer, Rendered Vision Considering every subsequent 3-D platformer has copied the template Mario 64 left behind and considering how appallingly bad the genre was before its release, I say that, for better or worse, Mario's first foray into the third dimension has been Nintendo's most influential design. - Anonymous In my opinion the game that has made a quantum leap would be Mario 64. It was first full 3D game with solid camera, and that game really blew everyone away and made others follow it. - Anonymous I think Super Metroid was a great gem of gaming when it was released. While it wasn't graphically revolutionary or didn't push the envelope as far as revolutionary gameplay, the design aspects of the game were top-notch. It was probably one of the most well-designed games ever. Everything in the game, from the level design, enemies, plot, game flow, the various game systems, interface, was just so tightly-integrated that playing the game just felt 'right'. You never felt as if you were getting bored, or stuck. The design of the game really helped add a level of immersion that is very rarely in games, both old and new. - Saam Tariverdi, Parsalian Nintendo has taken so many industry-shaking quantum leaps that naming just a single one is hard and somewhat unfair to all the other great innovations. However, looking at games before and after Super Mario 64, I don't think there's any doubt which game has showed the way for interactive entertainment eons forth. It's true that Super Mario 64 wasn't the first 3d game. Not even the first 3d platformer. But it was the game that refined and defined how you played 3d games from 3rd person perspective with sophisticated analogue control and a 3d camera that player was able to manipulate as he/she wished. Most importantly it was a game where advancements of technology were not used just for the sake of technology, but for the sake of more fun gameplay experience, which, for me, has always been one of the key definitions of Nintendo. - Anonymous None knew how 3D graphics should be used before Super Mario 64. Nintendo gave birth to the 3D platform, nailed perfectly how the camera needed to behave, gave meaning to the analog stick and shaped future controllers, and germinated the free-roaming style. - Julio Nobrega, InSe While there are many Nintendo games that have helped move the industry forward, we have yet to see a game that has made as significant an impact as Super Mario 64. There hasn't been as memorable a transition as the one from 2D to 3D, and SM64 was at the forefront of that leap. As both gamers and developers we were used to thinking about games from one particular perspective. Not only did SM64 attempt to make a functional 3D platformer, but it succeeded in setting the standard for how third-dimensional action games would be played for years to come. The game validated the use of the analog stick, which is now the standard for all console and PC controllers. The game also presented and overcame the challenges of designing playable and entertaining levels in 3D that would be fully interacted with. Simply put, Super Mario 64 not only presented a case for the future of 3D platformers, but it was still such an entertaining and gameplay-rich experience that it remained the best of its kind for an entire console generation. However, more than any other technical or design accomplishment, SM64 simply "wowed" anyone that first laid eyes on the game. More than any other title ever released it justified the purchase of a game console, and once the game was played it didn't disappoint. It was such a thrilling experience to control Mario in a 3D world that every challenge thrown your way was an enjoyable excuse to experiment further with the new possibilities presented to you. If there's ever a game that matches the leap forward Super Mario 64 injected in the industry, don't be surprised if it comes from Nintendo. - Carlos Mijares, Full Sail Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was rated as one of the best video games of all time. It even got a perfect score of 10/10 on gamespot.com. Ocarina of Time taught game developers what mechanics and types of gameplay that core and non-core gamers liked to play with. For example, lock-on targeting system, puzzles that could be easily figured out, yet it would take a few times to accomplish for an unskilled gamer, and by the end of the game, it made most players feel accomplished. - Neil Hogan When I was growing up, Nintendo's Game & Watch series got me hooked on the Nintendo brand. While the Nintendo character-based G&W were interesting, it was Fire that got my attention. The animations were simple, but, as the little man bounced around on the screen, the unpredictability of the bounce arcs created the illusion of realistic physics. It was this kind of varied gameplay made it stand out from the other G&W. The Game and Watch series was the Quantum Leap which not only solidified Nintendo's domination in the handheld gaming market, but mobile gaming as we know it today. For me, personally, it was Fire. - Jaime Kuroiwa, Konami Digital Entertainment Super Mario Bros took the industry out of a slump and made video games a retailer supported business once again. Despite it's timeless and legendary status with players around the world, Super Mario Bros and the NES contributed so significantly to the resurgence of home gaming that it's hard to view any other game as it's equal. - Dustin Clingman, Zeitgeist Games, Inc. If you could only chose one, why wouldn’t it be Super Mario Bros.? The video game industry was a dump. The fallout from the console wars (I like to call it the “Atari Wars”) of the early 80’s was cataclysmic for the industry. If you were standing in the shadows afterwards you thought “well that was fun while it lasted, too bad we will never see that again.” No one knew, no one could have expected what was looming on the horizon and a couple of years later would be not only the savior, but would forever change video games all together. Anyone that was alive then knows it, and for those people that weren’t you have the NES and SMB to thank for your Halo’s and your Gears of War and everything else in between and beyond. The release of the NES was huge, but not as big as Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros. was to the video game industry what the K-Car was to Chrysler. (Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy and would not be here today if it weren’t for the introduction of the K-Car line of cars) I can remember playing Sword Quest for the first time on the Atari platform and I remember getting to one area and thinking “man look at those birds…or ducks…or paper clips”. You weren’t sure what you were looking at to be honest. But I remember playing SMB and saying “Holy S***! There is a Turtle and a walking mushroom, and some…THING in a cloud dropping …uhh things on me but I can see what it is, it has spikes and stuff and…” It was amazing. You had NEVER seen anything like that on a home console. You might be able to in an arcade, but those were affected in the fallout of the console wars as well. The graphics in games, video game systems as a whole, what games were about, how you played, the goals of each game, everything can go back to Super Mario Bros. Well you could go back even further, but the advancements that were made in SMB, a single game, from what we saw before that were amazing. I remember playing Pitfall and thinking “well I will eventually get to the end….”. When you played SMB you could tell there was a goal, after the first level. “Sorry Mario but our princess is in another castle.” That said it all, you knew there was more to the game, and when the next level loaded it was on. You had a goal, as opposed to just playing to see if there was an end (most games before that had no ending, just roll over your points). The first time you see the small plumber on the screen and you could tell that he had a large mustache, and was wearing suspenders, and you were fighting a mushroom or a giant what appeared to be hybrid turtle-dinosaur, you could see that, the detail in the graphics was there. You play Jungle Hunt and it looks like there are green clouds with pinkish/brownish lightning coming out of it. Not a forest canopy with vines. The games that followed SMB would only bring better advancements in gaming because of that game. Everyone wanted to be the next big thing. John Romero realized that SMB was a game to use as the platform for other games, and that is how id Software got off the ground, with John mimicking that game and building on it to create Commander Keen. Building better games graphically, with more storylines, with endings, goals and depth, SMB ushered in a gaming revolution that exists still today. Everyone is still building upon the foundation that, that game laid down. - Jeremy Snowden

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