This month, GoombaStomp is celebrating the year of 1996, and what a great year it was. You’d be hard pressed not to find a 1996 release which speaks to you in some way. Some of the most iconic IPs of today were born during this time. Many of these games turned into multimedia franchises which became pop-culture standards. Let’s take a look at some of the series’ that got their start in 1996 and continue to find success to this day.
In light of the newly released remaster, let’s start with Crash. Crash Bandicoot, originally released for the PlayStation in September of ‘96, was a big hit for Sony and developer Naughty Dog. This game was hugely innovative in its time, taking the classic 2D platformer gameplay we all know and love into the third dimension. Crash Bandicoot depicted a big leap forward in visual fidelity as well. The artists and programmers at Naughty Dog pushed the original PlayStation to its limits, resulting in an aesthetically stunning game that impressed even Shigeru Miyamoto himself at E3 that year. Crash became the de facto mascot for the PlayStation, helping Sony to compete with the plumbers and hedgehogs of the universe. Three games were released over the course of three years, alongside a fantastic kart racing entry in Crash Team Racing. After Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, Naughty Dog moved on to create a new properties, while studios like Eurocom and Vicarious Visions picked up where they left off. The series has laid dormant for some time now, sadly. Hopefully, the N.Sane Trilogy can reinvigorate the franchise. A PC release could work wonders…hint hint.
Another big hit for Sony, Tomb Raider was first released on October 25th, 1996. Developed by a British studio known as Core Design, this game spawned a multimedia franchise worth millions. 16 games, 2 live action films, a short animated series, 5 novels, and even comics have been released since then, with a brand new reboot of the film series on the way next year. That’s a lot of Lara Croft! The character became an icon for video games, one of the first female leads to do so. The original game showed players what action adventure games looked like in 3D and brought with it some of the earliest examples of cinematic gameplay. Lara Croft was everywhere immediately after the first game’s release and continues to be a popular series to this day thanks to the recent gritty reboot from Crystal Dynamics.
Capcom’s seminal horror franchise debuted in March of ‘96 to rave reviews and sales. Originally conceived as a remake of Famicom movie-tie in game Sweet Home, Resident Evil ended up becoming a worldwide phenomenon, taking its place as the king of survival horror. The first game, directed by Shinji Mikami, laid the groundwork for the entire genre. The Metroid-esque map design, spooky mansion setting, resource management, and jump scares set the standard by which all survival horror games would be measured. The series wavered a bit after the masterpiece that is Resident Evil 4, but the most recent release shows a lot of promise for the future. Resident Evil 7 is very much a return to form while still including modern gaming conventions, and the soon to be released Resident Evil 2 remake has people foaming at the mouth in anticipation. Just as with Lara Croft, Resident Evil has been turned into a multimedia powerhouse with tons of live action and CGI animated films, comic books, novels, toys, and even a themed restaurant in Japan. It’s fair to say Resident Evil isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
The juggernaut of today’s list, Pokemon Blue and Green first launched in Japan on February 27th, 1996. By the time they made their way over to the US as Pokemon Blue and Red in 1998, the franchise had found massive success. There’s something so satisfying about the classic gameplay loop of Pokemon. Catch, train, trade, battle, and repeat; such a simple and addictive design. The anime launched in 1997 and has run non-stop ever since, with a staggering 20 animated movies to top it off. The games have been a staple of Nintendo’s handheld lineup since the first entries. Pokemon quickly became a worldwide phenomenon and has managed to hold onto its relevance through new games, movies, and tons of merchandise for over 20 years now. The upcoming Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon and the unnamed RPG title for Switch can only boost the IP’s fame even further.
Id Software’s first foray into full 3D shooters took the world by storm in ‘96, lowering worker productivity by a staggering degree in the process. John Carmack’s groundbreaking Quake engine pushed the PC gaming industry to new heights, with fully 3D rendered and textured graphics. Quake’s fast-paced, frantic combat picked up right there DOOM 2 left off. This series really hit big with the online multiplayer focused Quake 3: Arena, again finding itself at the forefront of new technology. Arena is widely held as the first major success for online FPS games. After a long break, Quake is returning with id Software and Bethesda’s Quake Champions later this year.
There are so many more we haven’t covered here. Persona, Star Ocean, Diablo, Metal Slug….the list goes on. 1996 was a golden year for gaming, leaving a long lasting impression on everyone who’s ever held a controller. Great games, great tech, and even some decent multimedia content if you lower your standards a bit. Sometimes it’s important to look back at our history for inspiration and appreciation. Stay tuned to GoombaStomp for just that all month long.