By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
I am certainly not implying that these are all “dead” genres–though some are certainly on life support–but they have all definitely become more niche than they deserve to be and need to be more prolific. It is my belief that the game industry is at its best when every genre is not only represented, but is well-stocked, and that is something that unfortunately hasn’t happened since probably the late 90’s in the PlayStation/Saturn/N64 era (not coincidentally, my favorite gaming era). That needs to change, and here are the genres that I feel would create the most interesting diversity if they were to make a major comeback in the modern gaming landscape.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of shmups, especially the so-called “bullet hell” ones that are more about navigating your ship through curtains of gunfire with minuscule safe zones than they are about actually shooting things up. But I do it enjoy it when the genre experiences spikes of popularity that result in a wider variety of experiences, from the 2.5D experimentation of Einhander and G.Darius to the brilliant color-swapping mechanic of Ikaruga, and of course the ridiculously awesome shmup parody series Parodius. I would love to see shmups have another such spike and return to the mainstream consciousness so that we could see more of that variety again, not just the ones created for the super-hardcore fan that look indistinguishable from each other to the untrained–and more casual–eye.
4. Light gun games
When the Wii was first announced, one of the things that excited me most was the prospect of its ability to handle light gun games without the need for an expensive peripheral. And things were promising for awhile, with both solid new entries–Resident Evil Chronicles, Dead Space Extraction, House of the Dead: Overkill–and ports of arcade classics–House of the Dead 2+3, Mad Dog McCree, L.A. Machineguns. But that was sadly short lived, probably due in part to the Wii install base’s annoying habit of not really buying Wii games that aren’t either made by Nintendo or called Just Dance. The genre then attempted to continue its revival on the PlayStation 3, but the PlayStation Move never really caught on, nor did Namco’s ridiculously overpriced GunCon 3, and the brief return of light gun games was basically at an end. With the Wii U still supporting Wii remotes, and Duck Hunt recently brought to the Virtual Console, it isn’t impossible to see the genre take another shot at a lasting revival, and with so many fantastic light gun games still in need of proper home versions and many classic series in desperate need of a reboot–come on Namco, I still want Point Blank for Wii!–I continue to wish for a resurgence of this largely under-appreciated genre.
3. Non-peripheral music/rhythm games
I loved Rock Band and Guitar Hero as much as anyone. In fact, my love for plastic instrument-based music games goes back the arcade version of Guitar Freaks, which I went through great expense to import it and its controller for PS1 and mod my system for Japanese games specifically to play that game at home. But before our living rooms–and later, our basements and attics–became cluttered with plastic drums and guitars, the concept of a “music game” used to be very different..and very awesome. I’m talking Parappa the Rapper, FreQuency/Amplitude, Space Channel 5, Gitaroo Man, Elite Beat Agents, and so on. Games that weren’t just glorified karaoke and were actual games with music-based gameplay. There are still glimmers of these types of games, mostly in the indie space with stuff like Crypt of the Necrodancer, and Harmonix successfully funded their Amplitude sequel on Kickstarter. So the genre is definitely looking more upbeat than it has in a long time. But we’re still a long way from the genre’s PS1 and PS2 glory days, and with many of the people behind the genre’s best classics seemingly on a long-term break from game development–Masaya Matsuura, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Keiichi Yano–it’s still tough to be optimistic that we’ll ever see more than the very occasional entry in the genre. Here’s hoping that the new Amplitude is a big enough hit to inspire some of those old masters to come back to work and give us more of the games we love.
2. Non-sim racing games
Remember Burnout, Ridge Racer, Cruis’n, Project Gotham Racing, Rush, Midnight Club, Daytona USA, or OutRun? Most of them are either dead, relegated to the occasional digital HD remake, or stuck in free-to-play mobile hell. Those, and many, many, many other racing games and series, used to fill out a very diverse field of racing game experiences for those of us that aren’t gear heads and don’t require our racing games to feel exactly like real-life driving. I don’t know exactly when people seemed to stop caring about every racing game that wasn’t Gran Turismo, Forza, or Need for Speed, but these days that seems to be about all we have left. The fact that consoles are able to launch without a new Ridge Racer game to call their own and people don’t even bat an eye about that anymore shows you just how sad the state of arcade-style racing games has become. I miss racing games with crazy jumps, elaborate shortcuts, windows and billboards to crash through, and even the occasional missile to fire (some racing games used to have combat elements outside of kart racers, and some of them were a blast). Arcade racing games have been a staple of gaming since the very beginning when your car was literally just a decal on the arcade screen–to see them become basically a niche genre is heart-breaking.
1. Fighting games
It may seem odd to want a fighting game renaissance when the genre’s two all-time biggest contenders–Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat–are not only alive but still at the top of their game. But we need the fighting game genre to be huge again. We need Sega back in the game making more Virtua Fighters and finally bringing back Eternal Champions. We need SNK back cranking out their stable of franchises like they used to when they were so prolific they had a separate annual crossover franchise. We need Capcom remembering that they also have other franchises like Power Stone and Darkstalkers, and Namco to remember that most of us like Soulcalibur more than Tekken. And on top of all of those, a healthy fighting game scene also means room for a lot of the quirky, B-tier fighting games like Bloody Roar, Tobal, Power Instinct, Battle Arena Toshinden, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Rival Schools, Bushido Blade, et al, some of which are more essential titles than others but are each still worthwhile in their own right. And I for one find a genre–and gaming in general–far more interesting when it isn’t only the absolute best left standing and we have some of those more endearing and eclectic titles, and few types of video games were more interesting than the myriad fighting games we had back when the genre was at its peak in the 90’s.