Throughout the history of video games, various trends have come and gone. While most of these trends have never completely gone away, there have been some moments where we’ve seen a big burst in the industry. Here are some of the most notable trends we’ve seen over the years.
This trend is a current one, and we’re seeing a lot of it. The addition of jetpacks (or something similar) as the standard in FPS games—especially those with online play—is on the rise. Evolve, Titanfall, Destiny, and many others are putting in the jetpack, and it seems like this might be a trend for the next few years.
It’s hard to look at games like Call of Duty and Battlefield and remember that they were once part of this trend. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, it seemed like every single FPS game that came out was a WWII game. While we got many great games, by the time the trend ended, everyone was done. Gamers had played through WWII more times than they knew what to do with and were ready for a change. This trend ended pretty abruptly, too, with most of the series that survived this trend moving into modern combat.
Escort missions have been part of the gaming world for a while, and probably will remain until the end. In the 2000s, escort missions picked up some steam, though. In fact, they picked up enough steam that entire games were pretty much nothing but long escort missions. Resident Evil 4 and ICO are two notable games that follow that. During this time, games kept giving us escort missions, but thankfully, they found out that gamers really don’t like them that much. While the escort mission is still around, we can all breathe a collective sigh that at least for now it’s not a major trend.
Outlast, Slender, and many other indie games have embraced this return to survival as the main point of horror games—not fighting. Many horror games simply aren’t allowing for the option to fight, while others are making it very hard to do. Bigger games have also jumped on this trend with The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation, which deliver enemies that can’t be defeated and a lack of supplies. The trend is demanding a return to horror games that make us feel helpless, pulling the plug on action and making running, hiding, and escaping the big points.
Some of the notable games from this trend have actually survived, however, there was a rise in these games at one point, and it really was the heyday for them. Belonging mostly on the PS2, there were a great number of Action/Adventure games (which included a little platforming, usually) that featured cute characters. They appealed to younger gamers, but also seemed to try to pull in a slightly older market as well. Spyro is one of the oldest among them. Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter, Kingdom Hearts, and Sly Cooper were other notable games that went with this trend.
This trend is slightly different because it was determined by the technology of the time. With the release of the N64 and PSX, it was time for games to move forward and go to 3D. Many franchises made the jump—some more successfully than others. Some held on and didn’t release their first 3D game until much later, but the big jump happened in the mid-’90s. Consoles were made for it, gamers saw it with some of their favorite series, and so it went. The ones holding out finally seemed to convert in the early 2000s with the next round of consoles. I include it as a trend, though, because now the issue of 2D or 3D has gotten more murky. Every year, many 3D games come out, but so do many 2D games as well as games that mimic 2D, but are actually 3D.
The side scrolling beat ’em ups were huge in the ’90s. Be it with arcade games or home console, everyone had their favorites. There was Battletoads, Double Dragon, TMNT, X-Men arcade—the list goes on and on. They were usually fast-paced, challenging, had some freedom in play style, and a lot of fun. They saw a massive boom and then seemed to drop off around the time that the 3D games took off. Today, we still have a few (Castle Crashers), but nowhere near like they were in their heyday.
This trend is a little harder to pin down because it seemed to take off, slow down, take off again, and is now somewhere in the middle. It seemed to really kick off with DDR, as people were flocking to arcades to play the game, and then the dance pad was released for home consoles. A lot of other developers jumped on this and created games that used extra peripherals for rhythm games, which gave birth to things like Guitar Hero. The trend seemed to slow down, then motion gaming took off with the Wii, Kinect, and PlayStation camera. Suddenly, we were excited for Rock Band again. DDR may have left, but we had Just Dance, and everyone wanted to play these games again. They haven’t really disappeared, but it’s not exactly the same. For a while, everyone wanted to be the person that had the DDR pads, then you wanted to be the friend with the full Rock Band set. Now they are just kind of … there.
Sadly, this was a trend that was killed by technology. As with rhythm games, light gun games went through a few highs and lows. They were really popular in arcades and some early consoles. For whatever reason, light guns dropped off, then came back to arcades and consoles with new titles and took off again. The trend was killed for home consoles with TVs, though. Modern TVs can’t work with light guns, and gamers don’t seem to miss them enough for developers to find a way around the problem (minus a few game utilizing the Wii remote as a replacement). Now the only way to play them is at arcades, which are rather difficult to find in and of themselves.
Given that two listed trends found their rise thanks to arcades, it’s worth mentioning arcades themselves. Arcades really took off in the ’80s and were largely popular in the ’90s. Gamers loved their arcades, and since not everyone had home consoles, it was the only way for some people to play. Once home consoles started to show up in most homes, the arcade games started to get ported to them. Gamers were finally able to play more often at home and save money, so arcades started to disappear. They’ve kind of become a new trend, but in a different light. Arcade games have found new homes, but in full entertainment places (such as Dave & Busters), and it’s just not what it used to be. The games are still fun, but the atmosphere and crowds are entirely different.
There are, of course, many other trends that have happened in the gaming world, and many that will be happening in the future. These are the few that really stood out to me. Some we miss, some we are glad to see go, and some have evolved in different ways so that they are still here, but not really in the same way. The changing tastes and technology have meant shifts in what we’ve been playing over the years. It will be interesting to see what trends define our future as gamers.