This Month in Gaming History: January

The year that Chicago saw its most significant game release that doesn’t involve blood and dismemberment.

January 1976

Sega releases the arcade game Heavyweight Champ, widely considered to be the first video game to feature hand-to-hand fighting. The arcade cabinet featured boxing glove controllers that players moved up for high punches, and down for low.

January 1977

Electronics giant RCA tries their hand at video game console making with the RCA Studio II. The ill-fated system only displayed black and white visuals and featured a very primitive – even for the time – sound system. Also, it launched just 10 months before the Atari 2600, so that was pretty much that for the Studio II.

January 13, 1982

Score one – a BIG one – for Chicago gaming: Bally Midway releases Ms. Pac-Man, a sequel to Pac-Man created without any consent from Pac-Man‘s parent company Namco. The story about how that all played out is too complex to condense down to a few sentences, but it is an interesting one that you should definitely read up on. Needless to say, it ended up with the previously-unauthorized Ms. Pac-Man becoming not only a very-much authorized game, but one of the most beloved titles of gaming’s “Golden Age.”

January 1985

Apparently January is a good month to debut pioneering fisticuff video games as Konami releases Yie Ar Kung Fu. The game’s premise – the player takes on a cast of over-the-top fighters one at a time in head-to-head matches of stylized martial arts – is often cited as being a huge influence on the fighting game genre that was just a few years away from taking over the gaming world (the original Street Fighter would follow two years later).

January 29, 1996

After two outings as an unremarkable 2D platform hero, Duke Nukem enters the FPS space with the critically-acclaimed Duke Nukem 3D, often cited alongside Doom and Wolfenstein 3D as laying the foundation for the modern FPS genre. Duke Nukem Forever is already two years into its development cycle by this time.

January 21, 1998

Kicking off one of the years that always comes up – and rightfully so – in “Best Year In Video Game History” discussions is Resident Evil 2, making its North American debut a week before its Japanese launch. A new “Dual Shock version” would come out a mere 11 months later, the same day as the release of its definitive port.

January 31, 1999

SimCity 3000 comes to PC, the third core installment in that series. It would be the last SimCity game with a launch that wasn’t plagued by bugs and complaints of performance issues. Who hasn’t had to deal with bugs and complaints of performance issues, am I right? Hello? Why is nobody returning my fist bump on that one?