History of Eastern role-playing video games

Eastern role-playing video games (RPGs) are RPGs developed in East Asia. Most Eastern RPGs are Japanese role-playing video games (JRPGs), developed in Japan. RPGs are also developed in South Korea and in China.

Japanese computer role-playing games

Origins (early 1980s)

Yamaha YIS503II MSX Personal Computer

While the Japanese video game industry has long been viewed as console-centric in the Western world, due to the worldwide success of Japanese consoles beginning with the NES, the country had in fact produced thousands of commercial personal computer games from the late 1970s up until the mid-1990s, in addition to dōjin soft independent games.[1] The country's computer market was very fragmented at first;[1] Lode Runner, for example, reportedly required 34 conversions to different hardware platforms.[2] The market eventually became dominated by the NEC PC-8801 and PC-9801, though with some competition from the Sharp X1 and X68000; FM-7 and FM Towns; and MSX and MSX2. A key difference between Western and Japanese systems at the time was the latter's higher display resolutions (640x400) in order to accommodate Japanese text which in turn influenced game design. Japanese computers also employed Yamaha FM synthesis sound boards since the early 1980s, allowing video game music composers such as Yuzo Koshiro to produce highly regarded chiptune music for RPG companies such as Nihon Falcom. Due to hardware differences, only a small portion of Japanese computer games were released in North America, as ports to either consoles (like the NES or Genesis) or American PC platforms (like MS-DOS).[1] The Wizardry series (translated by ASCII Entertainment) became popular and influential in Japan, even more so than at home.[3] Early Japanese RPGs were also influenced by visual novel adventure games, which were developed by companies such as Enix, Square, Nihon Falcom and Koei before they moved onto developing RPGs.[1][4] In the 1980s, Japanese developers produced a diverse array of creative, experimental computer RPGs, like a Cambrian explosion, prior to mainstream titles such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy eventually cementing genre tropes by the 1990s.[5]

Japan's earliest RPGs were released in 1982. The earliest was Koei's Underground Exploration, released in March 1982.[6] It was followed by Pony Canyon's Spy Daisakusen, released in April 1982; based on the Mission: Impossible franchise, it replaced the traditional fantasy setting with a modern espionage setting.[7][6][8] It was then followed by Koei's The Dragon and Princess (ドラゴン&プリンセス) for the PC-8001 in 1982; it featured adventure game elements and revolved around rescuing a kidnapped princess.[9] Following a random encounter, the game transitions from a text adventure interface to a separate, graphical, overhead battle screen, where a tactical turn-based combat system is used.[10] Also in 1982,[11] Koei released another early Japanese RPG, Danchizuma no Yuwaku[12][13] (Seduction of the Condominium Wife),[11] a PC-8001 title that also featured adventure game elements in addition to eroge adult content.[11] These early experimental Japanese RPGs from 1982 are considered "proto-JRPGs" and predated the arrival of Wizardry and Ultima in Japan.[14]

In June 1983, Koei released Sword & Sorcery (剣と魔法) for the PC-8001, and it also revolved around rescuing a princess in addition to killing a wizard.[15] That same year, Koei released Secrets of Khufu (クフ王の秘密), a dungeon crawl RPG that revolved around a search for the treasure of Khufu.[9] ASCII released its own RPG that year called Arfgaldt (アスキー), an FM-7 title also featuring adventure game elements.[9]

Also in 1983, Nihon Falcom released Panorama Toh (Panorama Island) for the PC-88. It was developed by Yoshio Kiya, who would go on to create the Dragon Slayer and Brandish series of action RPGs. While its RPG elements were limited, lacking traditional statistical or leveling systems, the game featured real-time combat with a gun, bringing it close to the action RPG formula that Falcom would later be known for. The game's desert island overworld also featured a day-night cycle, non-player characters the player could attack or converse with, and the need to survive by finding and consuming rations to restore hit points lost with each normal action.[16]

Hydlide screenshot
Screenshot of the original NEC PC-8801 version of Hydlide (1984), an early open world action role-playing game.

The trend of combining role-playing elements with arcade-style action mechanics was popularized by The Tower of Druaga,[17] an arcade game released by Namco in June 1984. While the RPG elements in Druaga were very subtle, its success in Japan inspired the near-simultaneous development of three early action role-playing games, combining Druaga's real-time hack-and-slash gameplay with stronger RPG mechanics, all released in late 1984: Dragon Slayer, Courageous Perseus, and Hydlide. A rivalry developed between the three games, with Dragon Slayer and Hydlide continuing their rivalry through subsequent sequels.[18] Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer, released in 1984, is a historically significant title that helped lay the foundations for the Japanese role-playing game industry.[19] It was a real-time hack & slash dungeon crawler that is considered the first action role-playing game.[20][21] Dragon Slayer was a major success in Japan,[22] and contributed to the emergence of a distinct action role-playing game subgenre on Japanese computers during the mid-1980s, with Nihon Falcom at the forefront of this new subgenre.[23] Hydlide, an action RPG released for the PC-8801 in 1984 and the Famicom in 1986, was an early open world game,[24] rewarding exploration in an open world environment.[25] It also added several innovations to the action RPG subgenre, including the ability to switch between attack mode and defense mode, quick save and load options which can be done at any moment of the game through the use of passwords as the primary back-up, and the introduction of a health regeneration mechanic where health and magic slowly regenerate when standing still, a feature also used in Falcom's Ys series from 1987 onwards.[26] The Tower of Druaga, Dragon Slayer and Hydlide were influential in Japan, where they laid the foundations for the action RPG genre, influencing titles such as Ys and The Legend of Zelda.[27][28]

Also in 1984, The Black Onyx, developed by Bullet-Proof Software, led by Henk Rogers, was released on the PC-8801 in Japan. It became one of the best-selling computer games at the time and was voted Game of the Year by Login, the largest Japanese computer game magazine at the time. The game is thus credited for bringing wider attention to computer role-playing games in the country.[29] In early 1984, Mugen no Shinzou (Heart of Fantasy) featured a large open world.[6] The cyberpunk RPG Psychic City,[30] released by HOT・B for the FM-7[31] and PC-8801 in 1984, departed from the fantasy theme common in other RPGs at the time (such as Hydlide and The Black Onyx) in favour of a science fiction plot, set in a post-apocalyptic city devastated by World War III and where the protagonist fights using psychic/telepathic abilities. The game later served as the basis for the 1987 NES RPG Hoshi wo Miru Hito.[32]

Dragon Slayer's success led to a 1985 sequel Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu,[22] which became the best-selling PC game in Japan.[33] It was a full-fledged RPG with character stats and a large quest,[33] with action-based combat setting it apart from other RPGs,[23] including both melee combat and projectile magic attacks,[22] while incorporating a side-scrolling platform game view during exploration and an overhead view during battle.[22] Xanadu also featured innovative gameplay mechanics such as individual experience for equipped items,[33] and an early Karma morality system, where the player character's Karma meter will rise if he commits sin which in turn affects the temple's reaction to him.[21][33] It is also considered a "proto-Metroidvania" game,[34] due to being an "RPG turned on its side" that allowed players to run, jump, collect, and explore.[35] The way the Dragon Slayer series reworked the entire game system of each installment was an influence on Final Fantasy, which would do the same for each of its installments.[36] According to GamesTM and John Szczepaniak (of Retro Gamer and The Escapist), Enix's Dragon Quest was also influenced by Dragon Slayer and in turn defined many other RPGs.[19] Falcom would soon become one of the three most important Japanese role-playing game developers in the 1980s, alongside Enix and Square,[19] both of which were influenced by Falcom.[19][37]

Hydlide II: Shine of Darkness in 1985 featured an early morality meter, where the player can be aligned with justice, normal, or evil, which is affected by whether the player kills evil monsters, good monsters, or humans, and in turn affects the reactions of the townsfolk towards the player.[26] Magical Zoo's The Screamer, released for the PC-8801 in 1985, was an early example of a real-time shooter-based RPG. Set after World War III, the game also featured elements of post-apocalyptic science fiction as well as cyberpunk and bio-horror themes.[38][39] Square also released their first RPG that same year, which was an early futuristic sci-fi RPG for the PC-8801,[40] Genesis: Beyond The Revelation,[41] featuring a post-apocalyptic setting.[40] Other sci-fi RPGs released in 1985 include The Earth Fighter Rayieza by Enix,[42] and Kogado Studio's MSX game Cosmic Soldier, which introduced an early dialogue conversation system, where the player can recruit allies by talking to them, choose whether to kill or spare an enemy, and engage enemies in conversation, similar to the later more famous Megami Tensei.[43]

Golden Age (late 1980s–early 1990s)

The late 1980s to early 1990s is considered the golden age of Japanese computer gaming, which would flourish until its decline around the mid-1990s, as consoles eventually dominated the Japanese market.[40] A notable Japanese computer RPG from around this time was WiBArm, the earliest known RPG to feature 3D polygonal graphics. It was a 1986 role-playing shooter released by Arsys Software for the PC-88 in Japan and ported to MS-DOS for Western release by Brøderbund. In WiBArm, the player controls a transformable mecha robot, switching between a 2D side-scrolling view during outdoor exploration to a fully 3D polygonal third-person perspective inside buildings, while bosses are fought in an arena-style 2D shoot 'em up battle. The game featured a variety of weapons and equipment as well as an automap, and the player could upgrade equipment and earn experience to raise stats.[44][45] Unlike first-person RPGs at the time that were restricted to 90-degree movements, WiBArm's use of 3D polygons allowed full 360-degree movement.[45]

Another 1986 release was Falcom's Xanadu Scenario II, an early example of an expansion pack.[46] The game was non-linear, allowing the eleven levels to be explored in any order.[47] Dragon Slayer Jr: Romancia simplified the RPG mechanics of Xanadu, such as removing the character customization and simplifying the numerical statistics into icons, and emphasized faster-paced platform action, with a strict 30-minute time limit. The action took place entirely in a side-scrolling view rather than switching to a separate overhead combat screen like its predecessor. These changes Romancia more like a side-scrolling action-adventure game.[36][48][49] Square's 1986 release, Cruise Chaser Blassty, was a sci-fi RPG that had the player control a customizable mecha robot from a first-person view.[40] That same year also saw the arcade release of the sequel to The Tower of Druaga, The Return of Ishtar,[50] an early action RPG[51] to feature two-player cooperative gameplay,[50] dual-stick control in single player, a female protagonist, the first heroic couple in gaming, and the first password save system in an arcade game.[52]

In 1987, Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family (Legacy of the Wizard) returned to the deeper action-RPG mechanics of Xanadu while maintaining the fully side-scrolling view of Romancia.[49] It also featured an open world and nonlinear gameplay similar to "Metroidvania" platform-adventures, making Drasle Family an early example of a non-linear, open-world action RPG.[48] Another "Metroidvania" style open-world action RPG released that year was System Sacom's Sharp X1 computer game Euphory, which was possibly the only Metroidvania-style multiplayer action RPG produced, allowing two-player cooperative gameplay.[44] The fifth Dragon Slayer title, Sorcerian, was also released in 1987. It was a party-based action RPG, with the player controlling a party of four characters at the same time in a side-scrolling view. The game also featured character creation, highly customizable characters, class-based puzzles, and a new scenario system, allowing players to choose which of 15 scenarios, or quests, to play through in the order of their choice. It was also an episodic video game, with expansion disks released soon after offering more scenarios.[53][54] Falcom also released the first installment of its popular, long-running Ys series in 1987. Besides Falcom's own Dragon Slayer series, Ys was also influenced by Hydlide, from which it borrowed certain mechanics such as health-regeneration when standing still, a mechanic that has since become common in video games today.[19][26] Ys was also a precursor to RPGs that emphasize storytelling,[55] and it is known for its 'bump attack' system, where the protagonist Adol automatically attacks when running into enemies off-center, making the game more accessible and the usually tedious level-grinding task more swift and enjoyable for audiences at the time.[56] The game also had what is considered to be one of the best and most influential video game music soundtracks of all time, composed by Yuzo Koshiro and Mieko Ishikawa.[56][57][58] In terms of the number of game releases, Ys is second only to Final Fantasy as the largest Eastern role-playing game franchise.[56]

Hydlide 3: The Space Memories, released for the MSX in 1987 and for the Mega Drive as Super Hydlide in 1989, adopted the morality meter of its predecessor, expanded on its time option with the introduction of an in-game clock setting day-night cycles and a need to sleep and eat, and made other improvements such as cut scenes for the opening and ending, a combat system closer to The Legend of Zelda, the choice between four distinct character classes, a wider variety of equipment and spells, and a weight system affecting the player's movement depending on the overall weight of the equipment carried.[26] That same year, Kogado Studio's sci-fi RPG Cosmic Soldier: Psychic War featured a unique "tug of war" style real-time combat system, where battles are a clash of energy between the party and the enemy, with the player needing to push the energy towards the enemy to strike them, while being able to use a shield to block or a suction ability to absorb the opponent's power. It also featured a unique non-linear conversation system, where the player can recruit allies by talking to them, choose whether to kill or spare an enemy, and engage enemies in conversation, similar to Megami Tensei.[59] Also in 1987, the survival horror game Shiryou Sensen: War of the Dead, an MSX2 title developed by Fun Factory and published by Victor Music Industries, was the first true survival horror RPG.[60][61] Designed by Katsuya Iwamoto, the game revolved around a female SWAT member Lila rescuing survivors in an isolated monster-infested town and bringing them to safety in a church. It was open-ended like Dragon Quest and had real-time side-view battles like Zelda II. Unlike other RPGs at the time, however, the game had a dark and creepy atmosphere expressed through the story, graphics, and music,[60] while the gameplay used shooter-based combat and gave limited ammunition for each weapon, forcing the player to search for ammo and often run away from monsters in order to conserve ammo.[61] That same year saw the release of Laplace no Ma, another hybrid of survival horror and RPG, though with more traditional RPG elements such as turn-based combat. It was mostly set in a mansion infested with undead creatures, and the player controlled a party of several characters with different professions, including a scientist who constructs tools and a journalist who takes pictures.[62]

Star Cruiser screenshot
Star Cruiser (1988), an early role-playing shooter, combined first-person shooter and role-playing game elements along with 3D polygon graphics.

In 1988, Arsys Software's Star Cruiser was an innovative action RPG released for the PC-8801.[63] It was notable for being an early example of an RPG with fully 3D polygonal graphics,[63] combined with first-person shooter gameplay,[64] which would occasionally switch to space flight simulator gameplay when exploring outer space with six degrees of freedom. All the backgrounds, objects and opponents in the game were rendered in 3D polygons, many years before they were widely adopted by the video game industry.[63] The game also emphasized storytelling, with plot twists and extensive character dialogues,[63] taking place in a futuristic science fiction setting.[65] It won the 1988 Game of the Year awards from the Japanese computer game magazines POPCOM and Oh!X.[66] Star Cruiser was later ported to the Mega Drive console in 1990.[64] Another 1988 release, Last Armageddon, produced for the PC-8801 and later ported to the PC Engine CD and NES consoles in 1990, featured a unique post-apocalyptic storyline set in a desolate future where humanity has become extinct and the protagonists are demon monsters waging war against an alien species.[67] The Scheme, released by Bothtec for the PC-8801 in 1988, was an action RPG with a similar side-scrolling open-world gameplay to Metroid.[44] That same year, Ys II introduced the unique ability to transform into a monster, which allows the player to both scare human non-player characters for unique dialogues as well as interact with all the monsters. This is a recurring highlight in the series, offering the player insight into the enemies, to an extent that very few other games allow to this day.[56] Also that same year, War of the Dead Part 2 for the MSX2 and PC-88 abandoned certain RPG elements of its predecessor, such as random encounters, and instead adopted more action-adventure elements from Metal Gear while retaining the horror atmosphere of its predecessor.[61]

1988 also saw the debut of Telenet Japan's Exile, a series of action-platform RPGs,[68] beginning with XZR: Idols of Apostate. The series was controversial for its plot, which revolves around a time-traveling Crusades-era Syrian Islamic Assassin who assassinates various religious/historical figures as well as modern-day political leaders,[69] with similarities to the present-day Assassin's Creed action game series.[70] The gameplay of Exile included both overhead exploration and side-scrolling combat, featured a heart monitor to represent the player's Attack Power and Armour Class statistics, and another controversial aspect of the game involved taking drugs (instead of potions) that increase/decrease attributes but with side-effects such as affecting the heart-rate or causing death.[69] An early attempt at incorporating a point-and-click interface in a real-time overhead action RPG was Silver Ghost,[71] a 1988 NEC PC-8801 game by Kure Software Koubou.[72] It was an action-strategy RPG where characters could be controlled using a cursor.[71] It was cited by Camelot Software Planning's Hiroyuki Takahashi as inspiration for the Shining series of tactical RPGs. According to Takahashi, Silver Ghost was "a simulation action type of game where you had to direct, oversee and command multiple characters."[73] Unlike later tactical RPGs, however, Silver Ghost was not turn-based, but instead used real-time strategy and action role-playing game elements.[71] A similar game released by Kure Software Koubou that same year was First Queen, a unique hybrid between a real-time strategy, action RPG, and strategy RPG. Like an RPG, the player can explore the world, purchase items, and level up, and like a strategy video game, it focuses on recruiting soldiers and fighting against large armies rather than small parties. The game's "Gochyakyara" ("Multiple Characters") system let the player control one character at a time while the others are controlled by computer AI that follow the leader, and where battles are large-scale with characters sometimes filling an entire screen.[74][75]

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes in 1989 departed from the action-oriented gameplay of previous Dragon Slayer titles, and instead used a more traditional turn-based combat system.[76] In 1990, Data East's Gate of Doom was an arcade action RPG that combined beat 'em up fighting gameplay with fantasy role-playing and introduced an isometric perspective.[77] That same year, Enix released a unique biological simulation action RPG by Almanic that revolved around the theme of evolution, 46 Okunen Monogatari, a revised version of which was released in 1992 as E.V.O.: Search for Eden.[78] That same year, Alpha Denshi's Crossed Swords for the arcades combined the first-person beat 'em up gameplay of SNK's The Super Spy (released the same year) with RPG elements, while replacing the first-person shooting with hack & slash combat.[79] Also in 1990, Hideo Kojima's SD Snatcher, while turn-based, abandoned random encounters and introduced an innovative first-person shooter-based battle system where firearm weapons (each with different abilities and target ranges) have limited ammunition and the player can aim at specific parts of the enemy's body with each part weakening the enemy in different ways; an auto-battle feature could also be enabled. Such a battle system has rarely been used since,[80] though similar battle systems based on targeting individual body parts can later be found in Square's Vagrant Story (2000),[81] Bethesda's Fallout 3 (2008), and Nippon Ichi's Last Rebellion (2010).[82]

In 1991, Nihon Falcom's Brandish was an early overhead action RPG to use mouse controls, where the player could move forward, backward, turn, strafe and attack by clicking on boxes surrounding the player character.[83] The 1991 Dragon Slayer title Lord Monarch departed from the action RPG gameplay of its predecessors, instead using an early form of real-time strategy gameplay.[76] The erotic adult RPG Dragon Knight III, released in 1991 for the PC-8801 and as Knights of Xentar for MS-DOS, introduced a unique pausable real-time battle system,[84][85] where characters automatically attack based on a list of different AI scripts,[85] though this meant the player had no control over the characters during battle other than to give commands for spells, item use, and AI routines.[84] That same year, Arcus Odyssey by Wolf Team (now Namco Tales Studio) was an action RPG that featured an isometric perspective and co-operative multiplayer gameplay.[86] The sequel to the first-person shooter role-playing game Star Cruiser, simply called Star Cruiser 2, was released in 1992,[87] for the PC-9821 and FM Towns computers.[88] T&E Soft released the PC-98 game Sword World PC in 1992 and a console version Sword World SFC for the Super Famicom in 1993.[89] It was officially based on Sword World RPG, a popular Japanese table-top role-playing game. The video game versions were multiplayer titles and early attempts at recreating an open-ended, table-top role-playing experience on video game platforms, being set in the same world as Sword World and implementing the same rules and scenarios.[90] Wolf Team's Dark Kingdom, released for the PC-98 in 1992 and ported to the SNES console in 1994, featured a unique storyline that revolved around the players conquering the world as a villain instead of saving the world.[91]

Decline and independent titles (late 1990s–2000s)

From the mid-1990s, the Japanese computer game industry began declining. This was partly due to the death of the NEC PC-9801 computer format, as the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation became increasingly powerful in the console market while the computer market became increasingly dominated by the IBM Personal Computer and Microsoft Windows 95. This led to many Japanese PC manufacturers either continuing to develop for Windows 95 or moving over to the more lucrative console market. While most developers turned their attention to the console market, some developers dedicated to content unsuitable for consoles (such as eroge and complex military strategy games) continued their focus on the PC market.[1]

In 1996, Night Slave was a shooter RPG released for the PC-98 that combined the side-scrolling shooter gameplay of Assault Suits Valken and Gradius, including an armaments system that employs recoil physics, with many RPG elements such as permanently levelling up the mecha and various weapons using power-orbs obtained from defeating enemies as well as storyline cut scenes. These cut scenes also occasionally contain lesbian adult content.[44]

Lastly, in the late 1990s, a new Internet fad began, owing to simplistic software development kits such as the Japanese RPG Maker series (1988 onwards). Influenced by console RPGs and based mostly on the gameplay and style of the SNES and Sega Genesis games, a large group of young programmers and aficionados across the world began creating independent console-style computer RPGs and sharing them online.[92] An early successful example was Corpse Party (1996), a survival horror indie game created using the RPG Maker engine. Much like the survival horror adventure games Clock Tower (1995 onwards) and later Haunting Ground (2005), the player characters in Corpse Party lack any means of defending themselves; the game also featured up to 20 possible endings. However, the game would not be released in Western markets until 2011.[93] In an interview with GameDaily in 2007, MTVN's Dave Williams remarked that, "Games like this [user generated] have been sort of under the radar for something that could be the basis of a business. We have the resources and we can afford to invest more... I think it's going to be a great thing for the consumer."[94]

Steam and resurgence (2010s)

In the 2010s, Japanese RPGs have been experiencing a resurgence on PC, with a significant increase in the number of Japanese RPGs releasing for the Steam platform. This began with the 2010 release of doujin/indie game Recettear (2007) for Steam,[95] selling over 500,000 units on the platform.[96] This led to many Japanese doujin/indie games releasing on Steam in subsequent years.[95]

Beyond doujin/indie titles, 2012 was a breakthrough year, with the debut of Nihon Falcom's Ys series on Steam and then the Steam release of From Software's Dark Souls, which sold millions on the platform. Other Japanese RPGs were subsequently ported to Steam, such as the previously niche Valkyria Chronicles which became a million-seller on the platform, and other titles that sold hundreds of thousands on Steam, such as the 2014 localization of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (2014) and ports of numerous Final Fantasy titles. Japanese developers have been increasingly considering Steam as a viable platform for the genre, with many Japanese RPGs available on the platform.[95]

By 2015, Japan had become the world's fourth largest PC game market, behind only China, the United States, and South Korea.[97] The Japanese game development engine RPG Maker has also gained significant popularity on Steam, including hundreds of commercial games. Every year, hundreds of games released on Steam are created using RPG Maker, as of 2017.[98]

Japanese console role-playing games

Origins (mid-1980s)

The earliest role-playing video game on a console was Dragonstomper on the Atari 2600 in 1982.[99] Bokosuka Wars, originally released for the Sharp X1 computer in 1983,[100] was ported to the NES console in 1985, and was a commercial success in Japan, where it laid the foundations for the tactical role-playing game subgenre.[101] Other notable early console RPGs included ports of Namco's 1984 arcade action role-playing games: The Tower of Druaga,[28] which was ported to the NES in 1985,[102] and Dragon Buster,[103] the first video game to feature a life meter (called "Vitality" in-game),[104] also ported to the NES in 1987.[105]

Dragon quest battle 2
Dragon Quest (1986), which combined the overhead exploration of Ultima with the first-person menu-driven combat of Wizardry,[106][107] created a streamlined gameplay format that made console RPGs accessible to a wider audience.[108]

In 1985, Yuji Horii and his team at Chunsoft began production on Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior).[109] After Enix published the game in early 1986, it became the template for future console RPGs.[110] The game was influenced by the first-person random battles in Wizardry, the overhead movement in Ultima,[111] and the mystery storytelling in Horii's own 1983 visual novel game Portopia Serial Murder Case.[112] Horii's intention behind Dragon Quest was to create a RPG that appeals to a wider audience unfamiliar with the genre or video games in general. This required the creation of a new kind of RPG, that didn't rely on previous D&D experience, didn't require hundreds of hours of rote fighting, and that could appeal to any kind of gamer.[109] Compared to statistics-heavy computer RPGs, Dragon Quest was a more streamlined, faster-paced game based on exploration and combat, and featured a top-down view in dungeons, in contrast to the first-person view used for dungeons in earlier computer RPGs. The streamlined gameplay of Dragon Quest thus made the game more accessible to a wider audience than previous computer RPGs.[108] The game also placed a greater emphasis on storytelling and emotional involvement,[113] building on Horii's previous work Portopia Serial Murder Case, but this time introducing a coming of age tale for Dragon Quest that audiences could relate to, making use of the RPG level-building gameplay as a way to represent this.[112] It also featured elements still found in most console RPGs, like major quests interwoven with minor subquests, an incremental spell system,[114] the damsel-in-distress storyline that many RPGs follow,[115] and a romance element that remains a staple of the genre,[116] alongside anime-style art by Akira Toriyama and a classical score by Koichi Sugiyama that was considered revolutionary for console video game music.[109]

The gameplay of Dragon Quest itself was non-linear, with most of the game not blocked in any way other than by being infested with monsters that can easily kill an unprepared player. This was balanced by the use of bridges to signify a change in difficulty and a new level progression that departed from D&D, where in the 1st and 2nd editions, players are given random initial stats and a constant growth rate. Dragon Quest instead gave the player some extra hit points at the start and a level progression where the effective rate of character growth decelerates over time, similar to how the more recent editions of D&D have balanced the gameplay.[117] Dragon Quest also gave players a clear objective from the start of the game and a series of smaller scenarios to build up the player's strength in order to achieve that objective.[118] The ending could also be altered depending on the moral dialogue choice of whether or not the protagonist should join the antagonist on his evil conquest towards the end of the game.[119] The game also had a limited inventory requiring item management,[120] while the caves were dark, requiring the use of a torch to display a field of vision around the character.[111] With Dragon Quest becoming widely popular in Japan, such that local municipalities were forced to place restrictions on where and when the game could be sold,[114] the Dragon Quest series is still considered a bellwether for the Japanese video game market.[121] Dragon Quest did not reach North America until 1989, when it was released as Dragon Warrior, the first NES RPG to be released in North America.[114] The release of Dragon Quest was followed by NES remakes of the early Wizardry and Ultima titles over the next several years by Pony Canyon.[122]

Other releases at the time were the action role-playing games Deadly Towers (1986) and Rygar (1987), which were notable as some of the first Japanese console RPGs to be released in North America, where they were well received for being a new kind of RPG that differed from both the console action-adventures (such as Castlevania, Trojan, and Wizards & Warriors) and American computer RPGs (such as Wizardry, Ultima, and Might & Magic) that American gamers were previously more familiar with at the time. Deadly Towers and Rygar were particularly notable for their permanent power-up mechanic, which at the time blurred the line between the power-ups used in action-adventures and the experience points used in RPGs.[123]

Evolution (late 1980s)

In 1987, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei by Atlus for the Nintendo Famicom abandoned the common medieval fantasy setting and sword and sorcery theme in favour of a modern science-fiction setting and horror theme. It also introduced the monster-catching mechanic with its demon-summoning system, which allowed the player to recruit enemies into their party, through a conversation system that gives the player a choice of whether to kill or spare an enemy and allows them to engage any opponent in conversation.[124] Sega's original Phantasy Star for the Master System established a number of genre conventions, with its "strong plot that involved quest for revenge and corruption by power, background stories for party members, individual spells that required magic points," and combined sci-fi & fantasy setting that set it apart from the D&D staple.[125] It also featured pre-defined player characters with their own backstories, which would later become common in console RPGs.[126] It was also one of the first games to feature a female protagonist and animated monster encounters,[125] and allowed inter-planetary travel between three planets.[127] Boys' Life magazine in 1988 predicted that Phantasy Star as well as the Zelda games may represent the future of home video games, combining the qualities of both arcade and computer games.[128] Another 1987 title Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord was a third-person RPG that featured a wide open world and a mini-map on the corner of the screen.[129] The Dragon Slayer series also made its debut on the NES console (and thus to American audiences) in 1987, with the port of Legacy of the Wizard (Dragon Slayer IV), a non-linear action RPG featuring a Metroidvania-style open world,[48] and the release of Faxanadu, a side-story to Xanadu.[130] Wonder Boy in Monster Land combined the platform gameplay of the original Wonder Boy with many RPG elements,[131] which would inspire later action RPGs such as Popful Mail (1991).[132]

The Magic of Scheherazade, released in 1987, was notable for several innovations, including a unique setting based on the Arabian Nights, time travel between five different time periods, a unique combat system featuring both real-time solo action and turn-based team battles, and the introduction of team attacks where two party members could join forces to perform an extra-powerful attack.[130] Castlevania II: Simon's Quest was an action RPG that combined the platform-action mechanics of the original Castlevania with the open world of an action-adventure and RPG mechanics such as experience points.[133] It also introduced a day-night cycle that affects when certain NPCs appear in certain locations and offered three possible multiple endings depending on the time it took to complete the game.[134] Square's Cleopatra no Mahou was an adventure RPG with a unique plot revolving around archeology.[135] Square's original Final Fantasy for the NES had a character creation system that allowed the player to create their own parties and assign different character classes to party members, who in turn evolve through an early class change system later in the game.[136][137] It also featured concepts such as time travel;[138] side-view battles, with the player characters on the right and the enemies on the left, which soon became the norm for numerous console RPGs;[139] and the use of transportation for travel, "by ship, canoe, and even flying airship."[140] While creating Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi took inspiration from certain elements in Hayao Miyazaki's anime films, such as the airships being inspired by Castle in the Sky.[141] Some of these 1987 releases proved popular and went on to spawn their own RPG franchises, particularly the Megami Tensei, Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy series. In particular, the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series remain popular today, Final Fantasy more so in the West and Dragon Quest more so in Japan.

In 1988, Dragon Quest III introduced a character progression system allowing the player to change the party's character classes during the course of the game, and keep a character's stats and skills learned from previous classes.[142] This class-changing system shaped the gameplay of future console RPGs, especially the Final Fantasy series,[143] While the earlier Dragon Quest games were also non-linear, Dragon Quest III was the most substantial example of open-world gameplay among the early Dragon Quest games. It also allowed the player to swap characters in and out of the party at will,[117] and another "major innovation was the introduction of day/night cycles; certain items, characters, and quests are only accessible at certain times of day."[144] Final Fantasy II, is considered "the first true Final Fantasy game", introducing an "emotional story line, morally ambiguous characters, tragic events," and a story to be "emotionally experienced rather than concluded from gameplay and conversations." It also replaced traditional levels and experience points with an activity-based progression system, where "the more you use a skill, the better you are with it,"[145] a mechanic that later appeared in SaGa,[146] Grandia,[147] Final Fantasy XIV,[148] and The Elder Scrolls.[145] Final Fantasy II also featured open-ended exploration,[145] and had a dialogue system where keywords or phrases can be memorized and mentioned during conversations with NPCs,[149] the theme of an evil empire against a small band of rebels (similar to Star Wars), and the iconic chocobo, a fictional creature inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.[141] That same year, World Court Tennis for the TurboGrafx-16 introduced a new form of gameplay: a unique tennis-themed sports RPG mode.[150]

Phantasystar2 top down
Sega's Phantasy Star II (1989) was an important milestone in the genre, establishing conventions such as an epic, dramatic, character-driven storyline,[125][151] and science fiction setting.[152]

In 1989, Phantasy Star II for the Genesis established many conventions of the genre, including an epic, dramatic, character-driven storyline dealing with serious themes and subject matter, and a strategy-based battle system.[125][151] Its purely science fiction setting was also a major departure for RPGs, which had previously been largely restricted to fantasy or science fantasy settings.[152] The game's science fiction story was also unique, reversing the common alien invasion scenario by instead presenting Earthlings as the invading antagonists rather than the defending protagonists.[125][151] The game's strong characterization, and use of self-discovery as a motivating factor for the characters and the player, was a major departure from previous RPGs and had a major influence on subsequent RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series.[152] It also made a bold attempt at social commentary years before the Final Fantasy series started doing the same.[153] Capcom's Sweet Home for the NES introduced a modern Japanese horror theme and laid the foundations for the survival horror genre, later serving as the main inspiration for Resident Evil (1996).[154][155] Like Resident Evil, Sweet Home featured the use of scattered notes as a storytelling mechanic and a number of multiple endings depending on which characters survived to the end.[156] Tengai Makyo: Ziria released for the PC Engine CD that same year was the first RPG released on CD-ROM and the first in the genre to feature animated cut scenes and voice acting. The game's plot was also unusual for its feudal Japan setting and its emphasis on humour; the plot and characters were inspired by the Japanese folk tale Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari. The music for the game was also composed by noted musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.[157] Also in 1989, the early enhanced remake Ys I & II was one of the first games to use CD-ROM, utilized to provide enhanced graphics, animated cut scenes,[158] a Red Book CD soundtrack,[159] and voice acting.[158][159] The game offered a "much larger, more colorful world, populated with lifelike characters who communicated with voice instead of text," heralding "the evolution of the standard role-playing game" according to RPGFan.[160] Its English localization was also one of the first to use voice dubbing. Ys I & II went on to receive the Game of the Year award from OMNI Magazine in 1990, as well as many other prizes.[158]

1989 also saw the release of Dungeon Explorer, developed by Atlus for the TurboGrafx-16, which is considered a pioneer title in the action RPG genre with its multiplayer cooperative gameplay,[161] allowing up to five players to play simultaneously.[162] That year also saw the release of Super Hydlide, the Mega Drive port of the 1987 MSX action RPG Hydlide 3: The Space Memories, which adopted the morality meter of its 1985 predecessor Hydlide II: Shine of Darkness where the player's alignment changes depending on whether the player kills humans, good monsters, or evil monsters, and expanded its predecessor's time option, which speeds up or slows down the gameplay, with the introduction of an in-game clock setting day-night cycles and a need to sleep and eat. It also made other improvements such as cut scenes for the opening and ending, a combat system closer to The Legend of Zelda, the choice between distinct character classes, and a weight system affecting the player's movement depending on the weight of carried equipment.[26] The Final Fantasy Legend, the first in the SaGa series, adopted Final Fantasy II's activity-based progression, expanding it with weapons that shatter with repeated use, and added new ideas such as a race of monsters that mutate depending on which fallen foes they consume.[163] The game also introduced the concept of memento mori, with a theme revolving around death, while the plot consisted of loosely connected stories and sidequests rather than an epic narrative.[164] That same year, River City Ransom featured elements of both the beat 'em up and action RPG genres, combining brawler combat with many RPG elements, including an inventory, buying and selling items, learning new abilities and skills, needing to listen for clues, searching to find all the bosses, shopping in the malls, buying items to heal, and increasing stats.[165] It was also an early sandbox brawler reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto.[166]

Golden Age (1990s–mid-2000s)

The ‘golden age’ of console RPGs is often dated from the 1990s[167][168] to the early 2000s.[169] Console RPGs distinguished themselves from computer RPGs to a greater degree in the early 1990s. As console RPGs became more heavily story-based than their computer counterparts, one of the major differences that emerged during this time was in the portrayal of the characters, with most American computer RPGs at the time having characters devoid of personality or background as their purpose was to represent avatars which the player uses to interact with the world, in contrast to Japanese console RPGs which depicted pre-defined characters who had distinctive personalities, traits, and relationships, such as Final Fantasy and Lufia, with players assuming the roles of people who cared about each other, fell in love or even had families. Romance in particular was a theme that was common in most console RPGs but alien to most computer RPGs at the time.[170] Japanese console RPGs were also generally more faster-paced and action-adventure-oriented than their American computer counterparts.[171][172] The console RPG market became more profitable, which led to several American manufacturers releasing console ports of traditional computer RPGs such as Ultima, though they received mixed reviews due to console gamers at the time considering them to be not "as exciting as the Japanese imports."[171]

During the 1990s, console RPGs had become increasingly dominant.[173] Console RPGs had eclipsed computer RPGs for some time, though computer RPGs began making a comeback towards the end of the decade.[174]

Early 1990s

In 1990, Dragon Quest IV introduced a new method of storytelling: segmenting the plot into segregated chapters.[175] While this made the game more linear than its predecessor,[117] it allowed for greater characterization, with each chapter dedicated to a particular character's background story. The game also introduced an AI system called "Tactics" which allowed the player to modify the strategies used by the allied party members while maintaining full control of the hero.[176] This "Tactics" system is seen as a precursor to Final Fantasy XII's "Gambits" system.[177] Final Fantasy III introduced the classic "job system", a character progression engine allowing the player to change the character classes, as well as acquire new and advanced classes and combine class abilities, during the course of the game.[178][179] That same year also saw the release of Nintendo's Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi, a game that set the template for the tactical role-playing game genre and was the first entry in the Fire Emblem series.[180] Another notable strategy RPG that year was Koei's Bandit Kings of Ancient China, which was successful in combining the strategy RPG and management simulation genres, building on its own Nobunaga's Ambition series that began in 1983.[175] Several early RPGs set in a post-apocalyptic future were also released that year, including Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II, and Crystalis,[181] which was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Crystalis also made advances to the action role-playing game subgenre, being a true action RPG that combined the real-time action-adventure combat and open world of The Legend of Zelda with the level-building and spell-casting of traditional RPGs like Final Fantasy.[182] That year also saw the release of Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, which featured an innovative and original branching storyline, which spans three generations of characters and can be altered depending on which character the protagonist of each generation marries,[183] leading to four possible endings.[125]

Final Fantasy IV (1991) helped popularize dramatic storytelling in RPGs (alongside the earlier Phantasy Star games) and introduced the hybrid "Active Time Battle" system.

In 1991, Final Fantasy Adventure, the first in the Mana series, featured the ability to kill townspeople.[181] The most important RPG that year, however, was Final Fantasy IV, one of the first role-playing games to feature a complex, involving plot,[184] placing a much greater emphasis on character development, personal relationships, and dramatic storytelling.[185] It also introduced a new battle system: the "Active Time Battle" system, developed by Hiroyuki Ito,[186] where the time-keeping system does not stop.[187] On the battle screen, each character has an ATB meter that gradually fills, and the player is allowed to issue a command to that character once the meter is full.[188] The fact that enemies can attack or be attacked at any time is credited with injecting urgency and excitement into the combat system.[187] The ATB combat system was considered revolutionary for being a hybrid between turn-based and real-time combat, with its requirement of faster reactions from players appealing to those who were more used to action games.[189] That same year, Crea-Tech's Metal Max was an early non-linear, open-ended, post-apocalyptic, vehicle combat RPG that lacked a predetermined story path and instead allowed the player to choose which missions to follow in whatever order while being able to visit any place in the game world.[190][191] The ending also can be determined by the player's actions, while they can continue playing the game even after the ending.[191] The game also allowed the player to choose the character classes for each player character as well as create and modify the tanks used in battle.[190] The Metal Max series continued to allow tank customization and open-ended gameplay,[192] while also allowing the player to obtain an ending at almost any time, particularly Metal Saga, which could be completed with an ending scenario just minutes into the game, making it the shortest possible RPG.[193] Telenet Japan released a console remake of its 1988 action-platform RPG Exile,[91] which was controversial, with a plot revolving around a time-traveling Crusades-era Syrian Islamic Assassin who assassinates various religious/historical figures as well as modern-day political leaders,[69] with similarities to the present-day Assassin's Creed action game series,[194] while the gameplay of Exile involved taking drugs that increase or decrease statistics and affect the player's heart-rate, displayed using a heart monitor.[69]

In 1992, Final Fantasy V improved on the ATB system by introducing a time gauge to indicate to the player which character's turn is next,[195] and it expanded the job system by offering more customization options with more than 22 job classes and giving each character greater flexibility by allowing them to learn secondary abilities from each job before changing classes.[189] The job and ATB systems continued to be used in later Final Fantasy titles,[189] and helped differentiate the series from the character class systems and turn-based systems of traditional CRPGs.[196] 1992 also saw the release of Dragon Quest V, a game that has been praised for its involving, emotional family-themed narrative divided by different periods of time, something that has appeared in very few video games before or since.[111][197] It has also been credited as the first known video game to feature a playable pregnancy, a concept that has since appeared in later games such as Story of Seasons, The Sims 2 and Fable II.[198] Dragon Quest V's monster-collecting mechanic, where monsters can be defeated, captured, added to the party, and gain their own experience levels, also influenced many later franchises such as Pokémon, Digimon and Dokapon. In turn, the concept of collecting everything in a game, in the form of achievements or similar rewards, has since become a common trend in video games.[199] Dragon Quest V also expanded the AI "Tactics" system of its predecessor by allowing each ally's AI routines to be set individually.[200] Shin Megami Tensei, released in 1992 for the SNES, introduced an early moral alignment system that influences the direction and outcome of the storyline. It gave the player the freedom to choose between three different paths: Chaos, Law, and Neutral, none of which is portrayed as right or wrong. The deep personal choices the player makes throughout the game affects the protagonist's alignment, leading to different possible paths and multiple endings. This has since become a hallmark of the Megami Tensei series.[201] Another non-linear RPG released that year was Romancing Saga, an open-world RPG by Square that offered many choices and allowed players to complete quests in any order, with the decision of whether or not to participate in any particular quest affecting the outcome of the storyline. The game also allowed players to choose from eight different characters, each with their own stories that start in different places and offer different outcomes.[202] Romancing SaGa thus succeeded in providing a very different experience during each run through the game, something that later non-linear RPGs such as SaGa Frontier and Fable had promised but were unable to live up to.[146] The SaGa series has since become known for its open-ended gameplay.[202] The series is also known for having an activity-based progression system instead of experience levels, and since Romancing Saga, a combo system where up to five party members can perform a combined special attack.[146] Unlike other RPGs at the time, Romancing SaGa also required characters to pay mentors to teach them abilities, whether it was using certain weapons or certain proficiencies like opening a chest or dismantling a trap.[202] Data East's Heracles no Eikō III, written by Kazushige Nojima, introduced the plot element of a nameless immortal suffering from amnesia, and Nojima would later revisit the amnesia theme in Final Fantasy VII and Glory of Heracles.[203] Climax Entertainment's Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole was an early isometric RPG that combined the gameplay of an open-world action RPG with an isometric platformer, alongside an emphasis on varied puzzle-solving as well as strong characterization and humorous conversations.[204] The TurboGrafx-CD port of Dragon Knight II released that year was also notable for introducing erotic adult content to consoles,[205] though such content had often appeared in Japanese computer RPGs since the early 1980s.[40] That same year, Game Arts began the Lunar series on the Sega CD with Lunar: The Silver Star, one of the first successful CD-ROM RPGs, featuring both voice and text, and considered one of the best RPGs in its time.[206] The game was praised for its soundtrack, emotionally engaging storyline, and strong characterization.[207] It also introduced an early form of level-scaling where the bosses would get stronger depending on the protagonist's level,[208] a mechanic that was later used in Enix's The 7th Saga[209] and extended to normal enemies in Square's Romancing Saga 3 and later Final Fantasy VIII.[210]

In 1993, Square's Secret of Mana, the second in the Mana series, further advanced the action RPG subgenre with its introduction of cooperative multiplayer into the genre. The game was created by a team previously responsible for the first three Final Fantasy titles: Nasir Gebelli, Koichi Ishii, and Hiromichi Tanaka. It was intended to be one of the first CD-ROM RPGs, as a launch title for the SNES CD add-on, but had to be altered to fit onto a standard game cartridge after the SNES CD project was dropped.[211] The game received considerable acclaim,[212] for its innovative pausable real-time battle system,[213][214] the "Ring Command" menu system,[214] its innovative cooperative multiplayer gameplay,[212] where the second or third players could drop in and out of the game at any time rather than players having to join the game at the same time,[215] and the customizable AI settings for computer-controlled allies.[216] The game has influenced a number of later action RPGs.[215][217] That same year also saw the release of Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, which introduced the use of pre-programmable combat manoeuvers called 'macros', a means of setting up the player's party AI to deliver custom attack combos.[125] Madou Monogatari, a 1989 MSX and PC-98 computer RPG ported to the Game Gear handheld console in 1993, had several unique features, including magic-oriented turn-based combat that completely lacked physical attacks, and the replacement of numerical statistics with visual representations, where the protagonist's condition is represented by her facial expressions and sprite graphics while experience is measured in jewels that encircle the screen, with the only visible numerical statistic being the collected gold.[218] That year also saw the release of Romancing Saga 2, which further expanded the non-linear gameplay of its predecessor. While in the original Romancing Saga, scenarios were changed according to dialogue choices during conversations, Romancing Saga 2 further expanded on this by having unique storylines for each character that can change depending on the player's actions, including who is chosen, what is said in conversation, what events have occurred, and who is present in the party.[219] PCGamesN credits Romancing SaGa 2 for having laid the foundations for modern Japanese RPGs with its progressive, non-linear, open world design and subversive themes.[220]

In 1994, Final Fantasy VI moved away from the medieval setting of its predecessors, instead being set in a steampunk environment,.[221] The game received considerable acclaim, and is seen as one of the greatest RPGs of all time,[222] for improvements such as its broadened thematic scope,[223] plotlines, characters, multiple-choice scenarios,[224] and variation of play.[225] Final Fantasy VI dealt with mature themes such as suicide, war crimes, child abandonment, teen pregnancy, and coping with the deaths of loved ones.[226] Square's Live A Live, released for the Super Famicom in Japan, featured eight different characters and stories, with the first seven unfolding in any order the player chooses, as well as four different endings.[227] The game's ninja chapter in particular was an early example of stealth game elements in an RPG, requiring the player to infiltrate a castle, rewarding the player if the entire chapter can be completed without engaging in combat.[227] Other chapters had similar innovations, such as Akira's chapter where the character uses telepathic powers to discover information.[227] That same year saw the release of the 3DO console port of the 1991 PC RPG Knights of Xentar,[228] which had introduced a unique pausable real-time battle system,[85] where characters automatically attack based on a list of different AI scripts chosen by the player.[85] FromSoftware's first video game title, King's Field,[229] a first-person RPG, is noted for being one of the earliest known 3D console role-playing games. In addition, the game is known for its difficulty and unconventional structure, and would go on to influence FromSoftware's future RPG titles including Shadow Tower[229] and Demon's Souls, the latter described by its staff as a spiritual successor to King's Field.[229] Robotrek by Quintet and Ancient was a predecessor to Pokémon in the sense that the protagonist does not himself fight, but sends out his robots to do so. Like Pokémon, Robotrek was designed to appeal to a younger audience, allowed team customization, and each robot was kept in a ball.[230]

Late 1990s

During this period, comparatively few Eastern RPGs were released in Europe. The market for the genre was not as large as in Asia or North America, and the increasing amount of time and money required for translation as JRPGs became more text-heavy, in addition to the usual need to optimize the games for PAL systems, often made localizing the games to Europe a high-cost venture with little potential payoff.[231][232] As a result, JRPG releases in Europe were largely limited to games which had previously been localized for North America, thus reducing the amount of translation required.[232]

In 1995, Square's Chrono Trigger raised the standards for the genre, with certain aspects that were considered revolutionary in its time, including its nonlinear gameplay, branching plot,[233] the "Active Time Event Logic" system,[234] more than a dozen different endings,[235] plot-related sidequests, a unique battle system with innovations such as combo attacks, and lack of random encounters.[233] It also introduced the concept of New Game+,[236] though this game mode has its origins in the original Legend of Zelda.[237] Chrono Trigger is frequently listed as one of the greatest video games of all time.[238][239][240][241] That same year, Square's Romancing Saga 3 featured a storyline that could be told differently from the perspectives of up to eight different characters and introduced a level-scaling system where the enemies get stronger as the characters do,[210] a mechanic that was later used in Final Fantasy VIII.[242] Enix's Dragon Quest VI introduced an innovative scenario with a unique real world and dream world setting, which seems to have had an influence on the later Square role-playing games Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy X. Dragon Quest VI also improved on the inventory management of its predecessors with the addition of a bag to store extra items.[243] Meanwhile, Quintet's Terranigma allowed players to shape the game world through town-building simulation elements, expanding on its 1992 predecessor Soul Blazer,[244] while Square's Seiken Densetsu 3 allowed a number of different possible storyline paths and endings depending on which combination of characters the player selected.[245][246] Beyond the Beyond introduced a turn-based battle system dubbed the "Active Playing System," which allows the player to increase the chances of landing an improved attack or defending from an attack by pressing the X button at the correct time during battle, similar to the timing-based attacks in the later game Final Fantasy VIII.[247]

In 1996, the tactical RPG Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu gave players the ability to affect the relationships between different characters, which in turn affected the storyline as these relationships led to different characters appearing in the second generation of the game's plot.[227] Enix released tri-Ace's sci-fi action RPG Star Ocean, which also gave players the ability to affect the relationships between different characters through its "private actions" social system, where the protagonist's relationship points with the other characters are affected by the player's choices, which in turn affects the storyline, leading to branching paths and multiple different endings.[227][248] Treasure's Guardian Heroes allowed players to alter the storyline through their actions, such as choosing between a number of branching paths leading to multiple different endings and through the Karma meter which changes depending on whether the player kills civilians or shows mercy to enemies.[249][250] Sega's Sakura Wars for the Saturn combined tactical RPG combat with dating sim and visual novel elements, introducing a real-time branching choice system where, during an event or conversation, the player must choose an action or dialogue choice within a time limit, or not to respond at all within that time; the player's choice, or lack thereof, affects the player character's relationship with other characters and in turn the characters' performance in battle, the direction of the storyline, and the ending. Later games in the series added several variations, including an action gauge that can be raised up or down depending on the situation, and a gauge that the player can manipulate using the analog stick depending on the situation.[251] The success of Sakura Wars led to a wave of games that combine the RPG and dating sim genres, including Thousand Arms in 1998, Riviera: The Promised Land in 2002, and Luminous Arc in 2007.[252] That same year, the first installment of the Story of Seasons series introduced a new form of gameplay: a role-playing simulation centred around managing a farm. The series would later inspire popular social network games such as FarmVille in the late 2000s.[150]

Final Fantasy VII (1997), with its use of 3D graphics and CD-ROM discs, was an important milestone that popularized the genre worldwide.

The next major revolution came in the mid-to-late 1990s, which saw the rise of 3D computer graphics and optical discs in fifth generation consoles. The implications for RPGs were enormous—longer, more involved quests, better audio, and full-motion video. This was clearly demonstrated in 1997 by the phenomenal success of Final Fantasy VII, which is considered one of the most influential games of all time,[253][254] akin to that of Star Wars in the movie industry. With a record-breaking production budget of around $45 million,[253] the ambitious scope of Final Fantasy VII raised the possibilities for the genre, with its more expansive world to explore,[255] much longer quest, more numerous sidequests,[253] dozens of minigames, and much higher production values. The latter includes innovations such as the use of 3D characters on pre-rendered backgrounds,[256] battles viewed from multiple different angles rather than a single angle, and for the first time full-motion CGI video seamlessly blended into the gameplay,[254] effectively integrated throughout the game.[253] Gameplay innovations included the materia system, which allowed a considerable amount of customization and flexibility through materia that can be combined in many different ways and exchanged between characters at any time, and the limit breaks, special attacks that can be performed after a character's limit meter fills up by taking hits from opponents.[254] The materia system is similar to, but more sophisticated than, the slotted item system in Diablo II (2000).[257] Final Fantasy VII continues to be listed among the best games of all time, for its highly polished gameplay, high playability, lavish production, well-developed characters, intricate storyline,[256] and an emotionally engaging narrative that is much darker and sophisticated than most other RPGs.[258] The game's storytelling and character development was considered a major narrative jump forward for video games and was often compared to films and novels at the time.[259]

The explosion of Final Fantasy VII's sales and the ascendance of the PlayStation represented the dawning of a new era of RPGs. Backed by a clever multimillion-dollar marketing campaign,[260] Final Fantasy VII brought RPGs to a much wider console audience and played a key role in the success of the PlayStation gaming console.[261][262] Following the success of Final Fantasy VII, console RPGs, previously a niche genre outside Japan, skyrocketed in popularity across the world.[263] The game was soon ported to the PC. The game was also responsible not only for popularizing RPGs on consoles, but its high production budget played a key role in the rising costs of video game development in general, and it led to Square's foray into films with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.[253]

Later in 1997, Square released SaGa Frontier, which expands on the non-linear gameplay of its Romancing Saga predecessors. It has a setting that spans multiple planets and an overarching plot that becomes apparent after playing through each of the different characters' quests that tie together at certain places.[264] The characters have several different possible endings each,[265] and there can be up to 15 characters in the party at the same time, organized into three groups of five characters.[266] The ambitious amount of freedom the game offered was a departure from most RPGs in its time, but this led to a mixed reception due to its lack of direction.[267] Quintet's 1997 release The Granstream Saga was an early fully 3D action RPG that had a unique third-person one-on-one combat system and a storyline that, while being mostly linear, offered a difficult moral choice towards the end of the game regarding which of two characters to save, each leading to a different ending.[268] LandStalker's 1997 spiritual successor Alundra[269] is considered "one of the finest examples of action/RPG gaming," combining platforming elements and challenging puzzles with an innovative storyline revolving around entering people's dreams and dealing with mature themes.[270]

In 1998, Square's Xenogears was acclaimed for the ambitious scope of its storyline, which spanned millennia and explored themes rarely dealt with in video games, including topics such as religion and the origin of mankind,[271] and social commentary dealing with racism, poverty, war, and human psychology, along with narrative references to the philosophies of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche.[272] It is today considered one of the greatest examples of video game storytelling.[271] That year also saw the rise of monster-collecting RPGs which, although originating from Megami Tensei, Dragon Quest V, and Robotrek, was further advanced and popularized by Pokémon, which featured multiplayer gameplay and was released in North America that year.[230] Pokémon has since become the best-selling RPG franchise of all time.[273][274][275] Another 1998 title, Suikoden II, was acclaimed for its "winding, emotionally charged narrative" that involved recruiting an army and gave players the choice of whether to "redeem or kill" key characters.[276] The same year also saw the release of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, which was considered an action RPG at the time and was "poised to shape the action RPG genre for years to come."[277] While it is still considered one of the best games of all time, its status as an action RPG continues to be debated, much likes its predecessors.[276]

In 1999, the cinematic trend set by Final Fantasy VII continued with Final Fantasy VIII, which introduced characters with a proportionately sized human appearance. The game also featured a level-scaling system where the enemies scale in level along with the player's party.[242] Similar level-scaling mechanics have been used in a number of later RPGs, including The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Silverfall,[278] Dragon Age: Origins,[279] Fable II,[280] Fallout 3, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.[281] Square also expanded on the non-linearity of SaGa Frontier with their 1999 action RPG Legend of Mana,[282] the most open-ended in the Mana series,[283] allowing the player to build the game world however they choose, complete any quests and subplots they choose in any order of their choice, and choose which storyline paths to follow,[282][284] departing from most other action RPGs in its time.[285] That same year, Square's survival horror RPG Parasite Eve II featured branching storylines and up to three different possible endings,[286] while the sci-fi RPG Star Ocean: The Second Story boasted as many as 86 different endings,[287] with each of the possible permutations to these endings numbering in the hundreds, setting a benchmark for the amount of outcomes possible for a video game. Using a relationship system inspired by dating sims, each of the characters in Star Ocean had friendship points and relationship points with each of the other characters, allowing the player to pair together, or ship, any couples (both romantic heterosexual relationships as well as friendships) of their choice, allowing a form of fan fiction to exist within the game itself. This type of social system was later extended to allow romantic lesbian relationships in BioWare's 2007 sci-fi RPG Mass Effect. However, the relationship system in Star Ocean not only affected the storyline, but also the gameplay, affecting the way the characters behave towards each other in battle.[288] Another 1999 RPG, Persona 2, also featured dating elements, including the option to engage in a homosexual relationship.[289] That same year saw the release of Chrono Cross, which became the third game to receive a perfect score from GameSpot, after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Soulcalibur.[290] The game featured two major parallel dimensions, where the player must go back and forth between the worlds to recruit party members, obtain items, and advance the plot, with events in one dimension influencing the other.[291] Like its predecessor Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross featured a New Game+ option and multiple endings, with at least a dozen possible endings based on the player's actions.[292]

Early 2000s

In 2000, Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast introduced online gaming to consoles and was responsible for pushing console gamers "to dial up with the Dreamcast to play online and to experience a new style of play."[293] It resulted in taking "consoles online" and defining "small-scale multiplayer RPGs," paving the way for larger-scale MMORPG efforts such as Final Fantasy XI, setting the template for small-scale online RPGs such as Capcom's Monster Hunter series and some of the later Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games, and giving rise to "an entire pantheon of multiplayer dungeon crawlers that continue to dominate the Japanese sales charts." More generally, Phantasy Star Online made "both online gaming and the concept of fee-based services a reality for consoles," paving the way for the online gaming services later provided by all three of the seventh-generation consoles.[294] That same year, Vagrant Story introduced a pausable real-time battle system based on targeting individual body parts,[81] using both melee and bow & arrow weapons;[295] similar body-targeting battle systems were later used in Bethesda's Fallout 3 (2008) and Nippon Ichi's Last Rebellion (2010).[82] That year also saw the release of the PlayStation 2, which would become the best-selling game console of all time, due in large part to its large variety of Japanese RPGs (including franchises such as Final Fantasy, Grandia, and Tales) that established its dominance over the RPG market.[276]

In 2001, Final Fantasy X made advancements in portraying realistic emotions through voice-overs and detailed facial expressions, which have since become a staple of the series, with Final Fantasy X-2 and other subsequent titles (such as Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy XII) also featuring this development. It also replaced an overworld map with the traversing of real-time 3D environments, which has also become a standard of the series, as demonstrated in Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII.[296] The game introduced several other gameplay elements to the series, such as its Conditional Turn-Based Battle System and Overdrive Limit Breaks. It became a major worldwide success, largely due to its "dynamic" presentation, "movie-quality CGI" cutscenes, and "well-scripted, well-acted dialogue," that helped it become a major success, helping to establish the PlayStation 2 as "the console of choice for gamers looking for a cinematic experience and narrative polish" that had been lacking in most previous RPGs. Around the same time, the first entry in the Shadow Hearts series was released. The series would later be acclaimed for its darker Lovecraftian horror narrative revolving around "an emotional journey through the reluctant anti-hero's quest toward redemption."[276] Much like the Chrono series, the Shadow Hearts games offer multiple endings.[297]

In 2002, Final Fantasy XI for the PlayStation 2 (and later the PC and Xbox 360) introduced the massively multiplayer online role-playing game genre to consoles. In 2003, Final Fantasy X-2 for the PlayStation 2 followed the "stylish narrative formula" established by Final Fantasy X, though with a more "Charlie's Angels-esque" approach. That same year saw the release of the more experimental Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the third main entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series. Much like its predecessors, it was "psychologically challenging" and featured a branching narrative with multiple endings. Nocturne "carved out a toehold for the series in America with its post-apocalyptic adventure set in a bombed-out Japan" where instead of "trying to stop the apocalypse," the "demonic main character's end goal is to assert his will on the new world."[276] The same year, Konami's Game Boy Advance handheld video game Boktai had a unique stealth-based action gameplay that made use of a solar-power sensor.[298]

Mid 2000s

In 2004, Dragon Quest VIII was released and became the first game in the Dragon Quest series to have 3D graphics and voice acting. In 2005, Kingdom Hearts II was released, which solidified the Kingdom Hearts series as the new JRPG series. In 2006, Final Fantasy XII was released. It was the first Final Fantasy game to have enemies on the field, seamless battle transitions, an open world, a controllable camera and customizable AI. When it was released it became the first Final Fantasy game to get a perfect score from Famitsu Weekly magazine.

Relative decline (late 2000s)

With the arrival of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, mainstream interest in Japanese console role-playing games has steadily begun to decline. The first indication of this decline began with the revival of WRPGs on home consoles that started with the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the Xbox 360 in 2006. Western console role-playing games have since become far more popular in the West than Japanese console role-playing games on home consoles. Though, JRPGs have continued to be released, their sales in North America and Europe have greatly fallen compared to WRPGs. Subsequent games like Fallout 3, Fable II and Mass Effect received far more attention on consoles, especially in the Western media.

Also, Western critics have generally considered most newer JRPGs to be either average or subpar. Mainstream JRPG series such as Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel, other games such as Star Ocean: The Last Hope and Nier have been seen as only decent, not great.

Handheld game consoles, however, particularly Nintendo handhelds such as the Nintendo DS, have featured a number of innovative RPGs during the late 2000s.[299] Square Enix's The World Ends with You (2007) featured a unique dual-screen action combat system that involves controlling two characters at the same time.[300] Level-5's Inazuma Eleven (2008) introduced unique soccer football RPG gameplay incorporating sports game elements.[301] The Atlus title Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (2009)[302] blends together both traditional and tactical RPG gameplay along with non-linear adventure game elements[303] as well as an innovative demon auction system and a death clock system where each character has a specified time of death[304] and the player's actions has consequences on who lives and dies.[305] On the PlayStation Portable (PSP), Half-Minute Hero (2009) is a role-playing shooter featuring self-referential humour and a 30-second time limit for each level and boss encounter.[306] Infinite Space (2009) by PlatinumGames is a hybrid of tactical role-playing game, real-time strategy and space simulator elements,[307] and features a non-linear branching narrative with numerous choices that can have dramatic consequences,[308] and an epic scale spanning hundreds of planets.[309]

Aftermath (early 2010s)

In the early 2010s, new intellectual properties such as Xenoblade Chronicles from Monolith Soft and The Last Story from Mistwalker found a home on Nintendo's Wii console late in its lifespan, gaining unanimously solid reviews. Many reviewers claimed the games revitalized the genre, keeping its best traits while modernizing other gameplay elements which could appeal to a wide audience. Xenoblade, in particular, revitalized the genre with an extremely expansive open world compared to the size of the Japanese archipelago. However, Nintendo of America announced its decision to not localize the games, not having enough faith in their commercial appeal to American audiences. In response, a widespread internet campaign known as "Operation Rainfall" petitioned the release of Xenoblade', The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower in America, with participants flooding Nintendo's official Facebook page with requests and sending mail to NOA's headquarters. The former two games were released in America in 2012, with Xenoblade debuting at the top of GameStop's best seller list the week of its release. However, despite this, the sales of both games were far less than those of console WRPGs such as Mass Effect 2 and Fallout 3.

On handhelds, the 2010 Atlus title Radiant Historia introduced a unique take on the concept of non-linear branching storylines that gives the player the freedom to alter the course of history through time travel across two parallel timelines.[310][311] The 2010 PSP version of Tactics Ogre features a similar "World" system that allows players to revisit key plot points and make different choices to see how the story unfolds differently.[312] Imageepoch's 2011 title Saigo no Yakusoku no Monogatari (Final Promise Story) for the PSP has a strategic command-based battle system where enemies learn from previous skirmishes and where characters can die permanently during gameplay which in turn affects the game's storyline.[313]

In 2011, Nintendo made a conscious effort to revitalize the Pokémon brand with the Pokémon Black & White duology, which streamlined the battle system and introduced an entirely new lineup of characters in a new region based on New York City. These games were followed up with a direct numbered sequel in 2012, a first for the main series. 2012 also saw the release of Pokémon Conquest, a crossover with the Nobunaga's Ambition series of strategy role-playing games.[314]

In 2012 and onwards, a surge in new JRPGs such as Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona 4 Golden, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Shin Megami Tensei 4, Tales of Graces, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Tales of Xillia are generally well received by fans of the genre and some critic reviewers while a number of popular WRPGs such as Mass Effect 3 and the PC version of Diablo III suffered from poor feedback by non-critic reviewers, especially on Metacritic. However, JRPG installments from mainstream franchises such as Paper Mario: Sticker Star performed well below expectations, continuing the decline of mainstream JRPG franchises except Pokémon. With the exception of Pokémon games, individual JRPG sales continue to pale in comparison against individual WRPGs such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim[315] and Guild Wars 2.[316] However, JRPGs released by Nintendo continue to prosper, with Dragon Quest IX,[317] Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Bravely Default[318] selling well above expectations for the genre, and Final Fantasy XIV has reported such a strong revenue that Square Enix, its publisher, had expected turning a profit,[319] so while certain games may still be ill-received, others are performing fairly well.

New directions and renaissance (2010s)

Hunting RPGs are a type of action RPG subgenre featuring the player and an optional team of up to three other players hunting down larger monsters with a set amount of time, using weapons crafted from the materials extracted from the map and/or from the monsters themselves. Unlike most RPG genres, the monsters have no health bars or hit points, but have stronger attack and defense stats, forcing the players to use survival items and coordinated strategies to eliminate a specific monster. First appeared in Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise, these games later expanded the hunting RPG genre into other games as well, such as Bandai Namco Entertainment's God Eater franchise.

Soulslike games are a relatively new genre born due to popularity of the Souls series.[320][321][322][323][324] Those games generally have common elements like high difficulty, high-risk combat with hard-hitting enemies, sparse checkpoints, and enemies dropping souls (or some other resource used for upgrading stats and/or weapons that is lost upon death), but the player has one chance to regain the dropped souls if they can reach the place of their death without dying again. Examples of this type of game are: Dragon's Dogma, Lords of the Fallen, Bound by Flame, Bloodborne, DarkMaus, Nioh, The Surge, Ashen.

Since 2016, Japanese RPGs have been experiencing a resurgence,[325][326][327] as part of a renaissance for the Japanese video game industry.[328][329] In 2016, the global success of Pokémon Go helped Pokémon Sun and Moon set sales records around the world.[326] Final Fantasy XV was also a major success, selling millions. There were also other Japanese RPGs that earned commercial success and/or critical acclaim that year, including Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Bravely Second, Fire Emblem Fates, Dragon Quest Builders, World of Final Fantasy, Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky and I Am Setsuna.[327]

In 2017, Japanese RPGs gained further commercial success and greater critical acclaim.[325][328] The year started strong with Gravity Rush 2,[328] followed by Yakuza 0, which some critics consider the best in the Yakuza series, Nioh which is considered to have one of the eighth-generation's best RPG combat systems, and then Nier Automata which has gameplay and storytelling thought to be some of the best in recent years.[325] Persona 5 won the Best Role Playing Game award at The Game Awards 2017.[330] Some Japanese RPGs that were previously considered niche became mainstream million-sellers in 2017, including Persona 5, Nier: Automata,[328] Nioh,[331] and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 on the Nintendo Switch.[332] 2017 was considered a strong year for Japanese RPGs, with other notable releases including Dragon Quest VIII on the Nintendo 3DS, Tales of Berseria, Valkyria Revolution, Ever Oasis, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Ys VIII, Etrian Odyssey V, Dragon Quest Heroes II, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood, and Tokyo Xanadu.[333] In 2018, Monster Hunter: World sold over 10 million units,[334] becoming Capcom's best-selling single software title,[335] and Square Enix's Octopath Traveler sold over 1 million units.[336]

South Korean role-playing games


South Korea's RPG industry began with translations of RPGs imported from Japan and the United States. The first fully translated Japanese RPG in Korea was Phantasy Star (1987) for the Sega Master System, which was licensed by Samsung and released as the Samsung Gam*Boy in South Korea, on April 1989. The country's first fully-fledged computer RPG was Sin'geom-ui Jeonseol, also known as Legend of the Sword, released for the Apple II computer platform in 1987. It was programmed by Nam In-Hwan and distributed by Aproman, and was primarily influenced by the Ultima series. In the late 1980s, the Korean company Topia began producing action role-playing games, one of which was Pungnyu Hyeopgaek for the MS-DOS in 1989. It was the first Korean title published for IBM PC compatibles and is set in ancient China. Another action RPG released by Topia that same year was Mirae Sonyeon Conan, a video game adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki's Japanese 1978 anime series Future Boy Conan, for the MSX2 platform.[337]

1994 saw the release of two major Korean RPGs: Astonishia Story, and an MS-DOS enhanced remake Ys II Special, developed by Mantra. The latter was a mash-up of Nihon Falcom's game Ys II (1988) with the anime Ys II: Castle in the Heavens (1992) along with a large amount of new content, including more secrets than any other version of Ys II. Both games were a success in Korea, Astonishia Story more so.[338][339]

Commercial online gaming became very popular in South Korea from the mid-1990s. Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds, designed by Jake Song, was commercially released in 1996 and eventually gained over one million subscribers. It was one of the earliest massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Song's next game, Lineage (1998), enjoyed even greater success gaining millions of subscribers in Korea and Taiwan. This helped to secure developer NCsoft's dominance in the global MMORPG market for several years.


In 2002, the sprite-based Ragnarok Online, produced by Korean company Gravity Corp, was released. Though unknown to many Western players, the game took Asia by storm as Lineage had done. The publisher has claimed in excess of 25 million subscribers of the game, although this number is based upon a quantity of registered users (rather than active subscribers).[340] 2002 also saw the release of MapleStory, another sprite-based title, which was completely free-to-play—instead of charging a monthly fee, it generated revenue by selling in-game "enhancements". MapleStory would go on to become a major player in the new market for free-to-play MMORPGs (generating huge numbers of registered accounts across its many versions), if it did not introduce the market by itself.

In October 2003, Lineage II (NCsoft's sequel to Lineage) became the latest MMORPG to achieve huge success across Asia. It received the Presidential Award at the 2003 Korean Game awards, and is now the second most popular MMORPG in the world. As of the first half of 2005 Lineage II counted over 2.25 million subscribers worldwide, with servers in Japan, China, North America, Taiwan, and Europe, once the popularity of the game had surged in the West. To date, the Lineage franchise has attracted 43 million players.[341]

Chinese role-playing games

Heroes of Jin Yong (1996), a Taiwanese tactical role-playing game based on the popular historical novels by Jin Yong, featured a number of melee and ranged kung fu skills to train and develop, as well as a grid-based movement system.

China has a number of domestically produced games. These include Westward Journey, Perfect World, and The Incorruptible Warrior. There are a large number of domestically-produced MMORPGs in China, although many generally remain unheard of outside the country.[342]

See also


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Further reading

External links

Arcade game

An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games or merchandisers. While exact dates are debated, the golden age of arcade video games is usually defined as a period beginning sometime in the late 1970s and ending sometime in the mid-1980s. Excluding a brief resurgence in the early 1990s, the arcade industry subsequently declined in the Western hemisphere as competing home video game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox increased in their graphics and game-play capability and decreased in cost.

Dōjin soft

Dōjin soft (同人ソフト), also sometimes called dōjin games (同人ゲーム), with dōjin sometimes transliterated as doujin or doujinshi, are video games created by Japanese hobbyists or hobbyist groups (referred to as "circles"), more for fun than for profit; essentially, the Japanese equivalent of independent video games or fangames. Most of them are based on pre-existing material ("modding"), but some are entirely original creations. They are almost always exclusive to Windows-based PCs, but a few notable exceptions also exist for the Dreamcast, a console on which homebrew development was popular.Dōjin soft are typically available in "demo" or "trial" (体験版 taikenban) form for free on the internet, with full versions available for purchase. One game, French-Bread's brawler Ragnarok Battle Offline, a homage/spoof of the MMORPG Ragnarok Online so impressed Gravity Corp. (the original game's designers) that it has been given an official release outside Japan.

Like fangames, dōjin soft frequently use characters from existing games, anime, or manga. These unauthorized uses of characters are generally ignored and accepted by the copyright holders, and are seen as encouraging a greater fan community. There are also many dōjin soft titles which are completely original, or feature only vague allusions to other series.

While most dōjin soft sales occur at anime and video game or anime conventions (such as Comiket), there is a growing number of specialized internet sites that sell them. Some titles sell well enough that their creators can make a full-time job out of their "amateur hobby". One particular circle, TYPE-MOON, has since become a commercial videogame developer.

Dōjin soft games typically do not get released outside Japan due to language barriers. Recently, independent Western developers have offered to help translate these games for release in other markets, with one of the first known successful examples being Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, developed originally by EasyGameStation in 2007, and then localized and released by Carpe Fulgur in 2010 for English audiences, which had a modest success with over 300,000 units sold in these markets. This approach has been used to bring other dōjin soft games, particularly visual novels and dating sims, to the West.

Early history of video games

The history of video games spans a period of time between the invention of the first electronic games and today, covering a long period of invention and changes. Video gaming reached mainstream popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, when arcade video games, gaming consoles and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since then, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern culture in most parts of the world. The early history of video games, therefore, covers the period of time between the first interactive electronic game with an electronic display in 1947, the first true video games in the early 1950s, and the rise of early arcade video games in the 1970s (Pong and the beginning of the first generation of video game consoles with the Magnavox Odyssey, both in 1972). During this time there were a wide range of devices and inventions corresponding with large advances in computing technology, and the actual first video game is dependent on the definition of "video game" used.

Following the 1947 invention of the cathode-ray tube amusement device, the earliest known interactive electronic game as well as the first to use an electronic display, the first true video games were created in the early 1950s. Initially created as technology demonstrations, such as the Bertie the Brain and Nimrod computers in 1950 and 1951, video games also became the purview of academic research. A series of games, generally simulating real-world board games, were created at various research institutions to explore programming, human–computer interaction, and computer algorithms. These include OXO and Christopher Strachey's draughts program in 1952, the first software-based games to incorporate a CRT display, and several chess and checkers programs. Possibly the first video game created simply for entertainment was 1958's Tennis for Two, featuring moving graphics on an oscilloscope. As computing technology improved over time, computers became smaller and faster, and the ability to work on them was opened up to university employees and undergraduate students by the end of the 1950s. These new programmers began to create games for non-academic purposes, leading up to the 1962 release of Spacewar! as one of the earliest known digital computer games to be available outside a single research institute.

Throughout the rest of the 1960s, digital computer games were created by increasingly numerous programmers and sometimes sold commercially in catalogs. As the audience for video games expanded to more than a few dozen research institutions with the falling cost of computers, and programming languages that would run on multiple types of computers were created, a wider variety of games began to be developed. Video games transitioned into a new era in the early 1970s with the launch of the commercial video game industry in 1971 with the display of the coin-operated arcade game Galaxy Game and the release of the first arcade video game Computer Space, and then in 1972 with the release of the immensely successful arcade game Pong and the first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, which launched the first generation of video game consoles.

Eighth generation of video game consoles

In the history of video games, the eighth generation of consoles is the current generation. It includes those released since 2012 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. For home consoles, the eighth generation began on November 18, 2012 with the release of the Wii U, and continued with the release of the PlayStation 4 (PS4) on November 15, 2013, and Xbox One (XBO) on November 22, 2013. The Wii U was the first to be discontinued (on January 31, 2017) to make way for the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017, which is still considered as part of the eighth generation. These video game consoles follow their seventh generation predecessors from the same three companies: Nintendo's Wii, Sony's PlayStation 3, and Microsoft's Xbox 360, respectively.

For video game handhelds, the eighth generation began in February 2011 with the Japanese release of the Nintendo 3DS, the successor to the Nintendo DS, followed by a North American and European release in March. Nintendo released additional variants in the 3DS family, such as the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 2DS XL. The successor to the PlayStation Portable, the PlayStation Vita, was released in Japan in December 2011, and then to Western markets in February 2012. The non-handheld variant of the PlayStation Vita, the PlayStation TV, was released in Japan in November 2013, North America in October 2014, and Europe and Australia in November 2014.In 2016, refreshed versions of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One—the PlayStation 4 Pro and "Project Scorpio"—were announced (with the former being launched in November and the latter being released the following year as Xbox One X). Both of these consoles were aimed at providing upgraded hardware that supports 4K resolution rendering. On the other hand, Nintendo began to phase out its Wii U console in favor of a new hardware platform in 2017—the Nintendo Switch—which carries a tablet-like form factor with detachable wireless controllers, and which can also be placed in a docking station for audio/visual use with a television. The Switch was highly successful in its first year of sales, especially in comparison to the older Wii U. In its first year, it sold 3.2 million units in Japan (breaking a record set by the PlayStation 2), and had already outsold the Wii U by January 2018. Based on 4.8 million units sold in the United States by the end of 2017 (1.5 million in December 2017 alone), Nintendo officially declared that the Switch had outpaced the seventh-generation Wii as the fastest-selling home video game console of all time in the United States.

Fifth generation of video game consoles

The fifth-generation era (also known as the 32-bit era, the 64-bit era, or the 3D era) refers to computer and video games, video game consoles, and handheld gaming consoles dating from approximately 1993 to 2002. For home consoles, the best-selling console was the PlayStation (PS) by a wide margin, followed by the Nintendo 64 (N64), and then the Sega Saturn. The PlayStation also had a redesigned version, the PSOne, which was launched in July 2000.

For handhelds, this era was characterized by significant fragmentation, because the first handheld of the generation, the Sega Nomad, had a lifespan of just two years, and the Nintendo Virtual Boy had a lifespan of less than one. Both of them were discontinued before the other handhelds made their debut. The Neo Geo Pocket was released in 1998, but was dropped by SNK in favor of the fully backwards-compatible Neo Geo Pocket Color just a year later. Nintendo's Game Boy Color (1998) was the winner in handhelds by a large margin. There were also two simply updated versions of the original Game Boy: Game Boy Light (Japan only) and Game Boy Pocket.

Some features that distinguished fifth generation consoles from previous fourth generation consoles include:

3D polygon graphics with texture mapping

3D graphics capabilities – lighting, Gouraud shading, anti-aliasing and texture filtering

Optical disc (CD-ROM) game storage, allowing much larger storage space (up to 650 MB) than ROM cartridges

CD quality audio recordings (music and speech) – PCM audio with 16-bit depth and 44.1 kHz sampling rate

Wide adoption of full motion video, displaying pre-rendered computer animation or live action footage

Analog controllers

Display resolutions from 480i to 576i

Color depth up to 16,777,216 colors (24-bit true color)This era is known for its pivotal role in the video game industry's leap from 2D to 3D computer graphics, as well as the shift from home console games being stored on ROM cartridges to optical discs. The development of the Internet eventually made it possible to store and download tape and ROM images of older games, eventually leading 7th generation (not 6th generation) consoles (such as the Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and Nintendo DS) to make many older games available for purchase or download, such as popular games from this generation. There was considerable time overlap between this generation and the next, the sixth generation of consoles, which began with the launch of the Dreamcast in Japan on November 27, 1998. The fifth generation officially ended with the discontinuation of the PlayStation (namely, its re-engineered form, the "PSOne") in late 2006, a year after the launch of the seventh generation.

First generation of video game consoles

The first generation of video game consoles officially began in 1972 with the first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey (which began development in 1968 by Ralph Baer under the code name "The Brown Box"), and lasted until 1977, when pong-style console manufacturers left the market en masse due to the video game crash of 1977; also, microprocessor-based consoles were introduced. In Japan, the generation continued until 1980, with the Color TV-Game series.Defining characteristics of first-generation consoles include:

Discrete transistor-based digital game logic

Games are native components of consoles (rather than based on external or removable media).

Entire game playfield occupies only one screen (non-scrolling).

Objects on screen consist of very basic dots, lines or blocks.

Colours of graphics are basic (mostly black and white or other dichromatic combination; later games may display three or more colours).

Either single-channel or no audio

Lacking features of second-generation consoles, such as microprocessor logic, ROM cartridges, flip-screen playfields, sprite-based graphics, and multi-color graphics

Fourth generation of video game consoles

In the history of computer and video games, the fourth generation (more commonly referred to as the 16-bit era) of game consoles began on October 30, 1987 with the Japanese release of NEC Home Electronics' PC Engine (known as the TurboGrafx-16 in North America). Although NEC released the first console of this era, sales were mostly dominated by the rivalry between Nintendo's and Sega's consoles in North America: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES; the Super Famicom in Japan) and the Sega Genesis (named the Mega Drive in other regions). Handheld systems released during this time include the Nintendo Game Boy, released in 1989, and the Sega Game Gear, first released in 1990.

Nintendo was able to capitalize on its success in the previous, third generation, and managed to win the largest worldwide market share in the fourth generation as well. Sega, however, was extremely successful in this generation and began a new franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog, to compete with Nintendo's Super Mario series of games. Several other companies released consoles in this generation, but none of them were widely successful. Nevertheless, there were other companies that started to take notice of the maturing video game industry and begin making plans to release consoles of their own in the future.

The emergence of fifth generation video game consoles, circa 1994, did not significantly diminish the popularity of fourth generation consoles for a few years. In 1996, however, there was a major drop in sales of hardware from this generation and a dwindling number of software publishers supporting fourth generation systems, which together led to a drop in software sales in subsequent years. Finally, this generation ended with the discontinuation of the Neo Geo in 2004.

Some features that distinguish fourth generation consoles from third generation consoles include:

16-bit microprocessors

Multi-button game controllers with many buttons (3 to 8)

Parallax scrolling of multi-layer tilemap backgrounds

Large sprites (up to 64×64 or 16×512 pixels), 80–380 sprites on screen, though limited to a smaller number per scan line

Elaborate colour, 64 to 4096 colours on screen, from palettes of 512 (9-bit) to 65,536 (16-bit) colours

Stereo audio, with multiple channels and digital audio playback (PCM, ADPCM, streaming CD-DA audio)

Advanced music synthesis (FM synthesis and wavetable sample-based synthesis)Additionally, in specific cases, fourth generation hardware featured:

Backgrounds with pseudo-3D scaling and rotation

Sprites that can individually be scaled and rotated

Flat-shaded 3D polygon graphics

CD-ROM support via add-ons, allowing larger storage space and full motion video playback

Golden age of arcade video games

The golden age of arcade video games was the era when arcade video games entered pop culture and became a dominant cultural force. The exact time period is disputed, but key moments include the release of Space Invaders in 1978 and the vector-based Asteroids in 1979—moments made possible by the increase in power and decrease in cost of computing technology. This led to the rise of both video game arcades and video games in other media, such as songs, cartoons, and movies like 1982's TRON. Other iconic games from this era include Pac-Man, Defender, Galaga, Donkey Kong, and Centipede.

History of video games

The history of video games goes as far back as the early 1950s, when academic computer scientists began designing simple games and simulations as part of their research or just for fun. At M.I.T. in the 1960s, professors and students played games such as 3D tic-tac-toe and Moon Landing. These games were played on computer such as the IBM 1560, and moves were made by means of punch cards. Video gaming did not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when video arcade games and gaming consoles using joysticks, buttons, and other controllers, along with graphics on computer screens and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since the 1980s, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern popular culture in most parts of the world.

One of the early games was Spacewar!, which was developed by computer scientists. Early arcade video games developed from 1972 to 1978. During the 1970s, the first generation of home consoles emerged, including the popular game Pong and various "clones". The 1970s was also the era of mainframe computer games. The golden age of arcade video games was from 1978 to 1982. Video arcades with large, graphics-decorated coin-operated machines were common at malls and popular, affordable home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision enabled people to play games on their home TVs. During the 1980s, gaming computers, early online gaming and handheld LCD games emerged; this era was affected by the video game crash of 1983. From 1976 to 1992, the second generation of video consoles emerged.

The third generation of consoles, which were 8-bit units, emerged from 1983 to 1995. The fourth generation of consoles, which were 16-bit models, emerged from 1987 to 1999. The 1990s saw the resurgence and decline of arcades, the transition to 3D video games, improved handheld games, and PC gaming. The fifth generation of consoles, which were 32 and 64-bit units, was from 1993 to 2006. During this era, mobile phone gaming emerged. During the 2000s, the sixth generation of consoles emerged (1998–2013). During this period, online gaming and mobile games became major aspects of gaming culture. The seventh generation of consoles was from 2005 to 2012. This era was marked by huge development budgets for some games, with some having cinematic graphics; the launch of the top-selling Wii console, in which the user could control the game actions with real-life movement of the controller; the rise of casual PC games marketed to non-gamers; and the emergence of cloud computing in video games.

In 2013, the eighth generation of consoles emerged, including Nintendo's Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, Microsoft's Xbox One, and Sony's PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. PC gaming has been holding a large market share in Asia and Europe for decades and continues to grow due to digital distribution. Since the development and widespread consumer use of smartphones, mobile gaming has been a driving factor for games, as they can reach people formerly uninterested in gaming, and those unable to afford or support dedicated hardware, such as video game consoles.

List of home video game consoles

This is a list of home video game consoles in chronological order, which includes the very first home video game consoles ever created, such as first generation Pong consoles, from the first ever cartridge console Odyssey, ranging from the major video game companies such as Magnavox, Atari, Nintendo, Sega, NEC, 3DO, SNK, Sony, Microsoft to secondary market consoles.

The list is divided into eras which are named based on the dominant console type of the era, though not all consoles of those eras are of the same type. Some eras are referred to based on how many bits a major console could process. The "128-bit era" (sixth generation) was the final era in which this practice was widespread.This list does not include other types of video game consoles such as handheld game consoles, which are usually of lower computational power than home consoles due to their smaller size, microconsoles, which are usually low-cost Android-based devices that rely on downloading, or dedicated consoles past the First Generation, which have games built in and do not use any form of physical media. Consoles have been redesigned from time to time to improve their market appeal. Redesigned models are not listed on their own.

Second generation of video game consoles

In the history of video games, the second-generation era refers to computer and video games, video game consoles, and video game handheld consoles available from 1976 to 1992. Notable platforms of the second generation include the Fairchild Channel F, Atari 2600, Intellivision, Odyssey², and ColecoVision. This generation began in November 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Channel F; followed by the Atari 2600 in 1977; Magnavox Odyssey² in 1978; Intellivision in 1980; and then the Emerson Arcadia 2001, ColecoVision, Atari 5200, and Vectrex (all in 1982). But, by the end of the era, there were over 15 different consoles (see table below). It coincided with, and was partly fueled by, the golden age of arcade video games, a peak era of popularity and innovation for the medium. Many games for second generation home consoles were ports of arcade games. The Atari 2600 was the first to port a game in 1980, with Space Invaders, and ColecoVision bundled in Nintendo's Donkey Kong for the system when it was released in August 1982.

Built-in games saw limited application during this generation due to the invention of game cartridges by Jerry Lawson for the Fairchild Channel F, the first system of the generation, although some consoles, such as the RCA Studio II, still came with built in games, but also had the capability of utilizing cartridges. The popularity of the game cartridge grew after the release of the Atari 2600, and from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, most home video game systems used cartridges, before the technology was replaced by optical discs. The Fairchild Channel F was also the first console to use a microprocessor, which was the driving technology that allowed the consoles to use cartridges. Other technology was also improving during this era: screen resolution, colour graphics, audio, and AI simulation.

In 1979, gaming giant Activision was created by former Atari programmers, and was the first third-party developer of video games. By 1982, a glut of consoles, over-hyped game releases, and low-quality games from new third-party developers began to appear, over-flowing the shelf capacity of toy stores. An over-saturation of consoles and games, coupled with poor knowledge of the market, saw the video game industry crash of 1983 and marked the start of the next generation. Beginning in December 1982, and stretching through all of 1984, the crash of 1983 caused major disruption to the market, primarily in North America, and caused some developers to collapse and the market to not fully recover until the 3rd generation. Due to this, almost no new games were released in 1984. The second generation officially ended on January 1, 1992, with the discontinuation of the Atari 2600.

Seventh generation of video game consoles

In the history of video games, the seventh generation of home consoles began in late 2005 with the release of Microsoft's Xbox 360, and continued with the release of Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3 (PS3) and Nintendo's Wii the following year. Each new console introduced a new type of breakthrough in technology: the Xbox 360 could play games rendered natively at high-definition video (HD) resolutions; the PlayStation 3 offered HD movie playback via a built-in 3D Blu-ray Disc player; while the Wii focused on integrating controllers with movement sensors as well as joysticks. Some Wii controllers could be moved about to control in-game actions, which enabled players to simulate real-world actions through movement during gameplay (e.g., in the Wii sports tennis game, the user swings the controller to hit the on-screen image of a tennis ball). The seventh generation of handheld consoles began in November 2004 with the North American introduction of the Nintendo DS (NDS) as a "third pillar", alongside Nintendo's existing Game Boy Advance and GameCube consoles. Another handheld console, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), came out in December. By this generation, video game consoles had become an important part of the global IT infrastructure; it is estimated that video game consoles represented 25% of the world's general-purpose computational power in 2007.Joining Nintendo in the motion market, Sony Computer Entertainment released the PlayStation Move in September 2010. The PlayStation Move features motion-sensing gaming, similar to that of the Wii. Microsoft joined the motion-sensing scene in November 2010 with its Kinect (previously announced under the working title "Project Natal" in June 2009). Unlike the other two motion systems (for PlayStation 3 and Wii), Kinect does not use controllers of any sort, and instead makes the players act as the "controllers". Having sold eight million units in its first 60 days on the market, Kinect claimed the Guinness World Record of being the "fastest selling consumer electronics device". While the Xbox 360 offers wired as well as wireless controllers as a standalone product, all PlayStation 3 controllers can be used in wired and wireless configurations.

As for handheld systems, the Nintendo DS (NDS), launched on November 21, 2004, features a touch screen and built-in microphone, and supports wireless IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) standards. Additionally, the revised version of the NDS, the Nintendo DSi, features two built-in cameras, the ability to download games from the DSi store, and a web browser. The PlayStation Portable (PSP), released later that year on December 12, 2004, followed a different pattern. It became the first handheld video game console to use an optical disc format, Universal Media Disc (UMD), as its primary storage media. Sony also gave the PSP robust multimedia capability; connectivity with the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, other PSPs; as well as Internet connectivity. The NDS likewise had connectivity to the internet through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and Nintendo DS Browser, as well as wireless connectivity to other DS systems and Wii consoles. Despite high sales numbers for both consoles, PSP sales have consistently lagged behind those of the NDS; thus, the PSP can claim the distinction of being the best-selling non-Nintendo handheld gaming system.A crowdfunded console, the Ouya, received $8.5 million in preorders before launching in 2013. Post-launch sales were poor, and the device was a commercial failure. The business was wound down due to financial problems and sold to Razer Inc., which discontinued the Ouya in July 2015. Additionally, microconsoles like Nvidia Shield Console, Amazon Fire TV, MOJO, Razer Switchblade, GamePop, GameStick, Ouya, and even more powerful PC-based Steam Machine consoles have attempted to compete in the video game console market; however, even though some of these machines are theoretically powerful on paper, they are seldom referred to as "seventh generation", "eighth generation", or any generation consoles.The seventh generation slowly began to wind down when Nintendo began cutting back on Wii production in the early 2010s by discontinuing the original Wii model in the Western world in 2011, then discontinuing the system altogether in Japan in October 2013. Nintendo ceased production of its Family Edition around the same time, leaving the Wii Mini as its only surviving variant as of 2014. Shortly afterwards, Sony announced they were discontinuing the production of the PSP worldwide that year, following an earlier announcement from Nintendo that it had discontinued its original line of NDS family devices to move onto the Nintendo 3DS line, while continuing to support the Nintendo DSi. Microsoft then announced, in 2016, that they would discontinue, but continue to support, the Xbox 360 at the end of April, making it the first seventh-generation console to cease production altogether. The following year, Sony announced that it would soon discontinue its PS3 line in Japan, and, within a matter of months, in the rest of the world. Around that time, 2017, the Wii Mini and the Nintendo DSi were also discontinued, marking the complete and final end to the Wii consoles, DS line. In late 2018, the last game release for the Wii, Just Dance 2019, was released, effectively ending the seventh generation of consoles.

Sixth generation of video game consoles

In the history of video games, the sixth-generation era (sometimes called the 128-bit era; see "bits and system power" below) refers to the computer and video games, video game consoles, and handheld gaming devices available at the turn of the 21st century, from 1998 to 2005. Platforms in the sixth generation include consoles from four companies: the Sega Dreamcast (DC), Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2), Nintendo GameCube (GC), and Microsoft Xbox. This era began on November 27, 1998, with the Japanese release of the Dreamcast, which was joined by the PlayStation 2 in March 2000, and the GameCube and Xbox in 2001. The Dreamcast was the first to be discontinued, in 2001. The GameCube was next, in 2007, the Xbox in 2009, and the PlayStation 2 in 2013. Meanwhile, the seventh generation of consoles started in November 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360.Bit ratings (i.e. "64-bit" or "32-bit" for the previous generation) for most consoles largely fell by the wayside during this era, with the notable exceptions being promotions for the Dreamcast and PS2 that advertised "128-bit graphics" at the start of the generation. The number of "bits" cited in this way in console names refers to the CPU word size, and had been used by hardware marketing departments as a "show of power" for many years. However, there is little to be gained from increasing the word size much beyond 32 or 64 bits because, once this level is reached, performance depends on more varied factors, such as processor clock speed, bandwidth, and memory size.The last official Dreamcast games were released in 2002 (North America and Europe) and 2007 (Japan). The last GameCube games were released in 2006 (Japan) and 2007 (North America and Europe). The last Xbox games were released in 2007 (Japan) and 2008 (Europe and North America). Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 was the last game for the PlayStation 2 (in Europe), which was released in November 2013. The last PS2 game, Final Fantasy XI: Rhapsodies of Vana'diel, was released in 2015, marking the end of this generation.

Star Cruiser

Star Cruiser (スター クルーザー, Sutā Kurūzā) is a role-playing first-person shooter video game developed by Arsys Software and released in Japan for the PC-88 and Sharp X1 home computers in 1988. The game was ported by Arsys Software to the NEC PC-98 and Sharp X68000 computer platforms in 1989, and then ported by Masaya (NCS) to the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) home console in 1990.The game is considered innovative and ahead of its time, for being an early example of an action role-playing game with fully 3D polygon graphics, combined with early first-person shooter gameplay, which would occasionally switch to space flight simulator gameplay when exploring the open-ended outer space with six degrees of freedom. All the backgrounds, objects and opponents in the game were rendered in 3D polygons, many years before they were widely adopted by the video game industry. The game also emphasized storytelling, with plot twists and extensive character dialogues, taking place in a futuristic science fiction setting.Namco licensed the Mega Drive version of Star Cruiser for a North American release entitled Star Quest, which Namco planned to publish for the Sega Genesis in July 1994. However, the North American release of Star Quest was eventually canceled. In September 2016, an English translation beta patch was released through ROM hacking, followed by a complete translation patch in November 2016. In early September of 2018, Twitch streamer spolan_sergey had showcased an In Progress English translation of the Sharp X68000 version of the game in a four part broadcast lasting a combined 24 hours and change across three days, done primarily as a Beta Test; currently, it is unknown as to when this translation will be publicly released.

Tabletop role-playing games in Japan

Role-playing games made in Japan made their first appearance during the 1980s. Today, there are hundreds of Japanese-designed games as well as several translated games. Traditional RPGs are referred to as tabletop RPGs or table-talk RPGs (TTRPG, or TRPG) in Japan to distinguish them from the video role-playing game genre.

Third generation of video game consoles

In the history of computer and video games, the third generation (sometimes referred to as the 8-bit era) began on July 15, 1983, with the Japanese release of two systems: the Nintendo Family Computer (referred to in Japan in the abbreviated form Famicom, and later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, to the rest of the world) and Sega SG-1000. This generation marked the end of the North American video game crash, and a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan. Handheld consoles were not a major part of this generation, although the Game & Watch line from Nintendo had started in 1980 and the Milton Bradley Microvision came out in 1979 (both considered second generation hardware).

Some features that distinguish third generation consoles from most second generation consoles include:

D-pad game controllers.

Screen modes with resolutions up to 256×240 or 320×200.

25–32 colors on screen, from a palette of 53–256 colors.

64–100 sprites on screen, each with 4–16 colors and 8×8 to 16×16 pixel sizes.

Up to five channel (primarily square wave) mono PSG audio.The best-selling console of this generation was the NES/Famicom from Nintendo, followed by the Sega Master System, and then the Atari 7800. Although the previous generation of consoles had also used 8-bit processors, it was at the end of this generation that home consoles were first labeled, and marketed, by their "bits". This also came into fashion as next-generation 16-bit systems like the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis were marketed in order to differentiate between the generations of consoles. In Japan and North America, this generation was primarily dominated by the Famicom/NES, while the Master System dominated the European and Brazilian markets. The end of the 3rd generation of video games was marked by 8-bit consoles becoming obsolete in terms of their graphics and processing power (compared to 16-bit consoles).

Video game crash of 1983

The video game crash of 1983 (known as the Atari shock in Japan) was a large-scale recession in the video game industry that occurred from 1983 to 1985, primarily in North America. The crash was attributed to several factors, including market saturation in the number of game consoles and available games, and waning interest in console games in favor of personal computers. Revenues peaked at around $3.2 billion in 1983, then fell to around $100 million by 1985 (a drop of almost 97 percent). The crash was a serious event which abruptly ended what is retrospectively considered the second generation of console video gaming in North America.

Lasting about two years, the crash shook the then-booming industry, and led to the bankruptcy of several companies producing home computers and video game consoles in the region. Analysts of the time expressed doubts about the long-term viability of video game consoles and software. The North American video game console industry eventually recovered a few years later, mostly due to the widespread success of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985; Nintendo designed the NES as the Western branding for its Famicom console originally released in 1983 in order to avoid the missteps which caused the 1983 crash and avoid the stigma which video games had at that time.

Video gaming in China

Video gaming in China is a massive industry and pastime that includes the production, sale, import/export, and playing of video games. China is the largest, highest grossing and the most profitable video game market in the world, since 2015. The landscape of the topic is strongly shaped by China's average income level, rampant software piracy, and governmental measures to control game content and playing times. In 2011, China's PC game sector was worth $6 billion, the largest in the world. Arcade games are also a thriving industry in China. Console games were banned from the country in 2000, but the ban was lifted in July 2015.In esports, China has been the world leader in terms of tournament winnings, possessing some of the best talents in the world across multiple video games, as well as one of the largest pool of video gamers. As of 2017, half of the top 20 highest earning esports players in the world are Chinese.China has been described as the 'Games Industry Capital of the World', with its market size exceeding the US in mid 2017, and some of the world's largest video game companies.

Video gaming in South Korea

In South Korea, video games are considered to be a major social activity, with most of the games being cooperative or competitive. Locally developed Role-playing games, FPS, MMORPG and Mobile games have proven to be very popular in the country. Professional competition surrounding video games (especially those involving real-time strategy games) also enjoy a substantial following in South Korea—major tournaments are often broadcast on television and have large prizes available.

South Korea has developed a strong economy in Asia through the development of creative industries (i.e. Online Game). New York Times culture writer Seth Schiesel has commented "When it comes to gaming, Korea is the developed market... When you look at gaming around the world, Korea is the leader in many ways..." Statistic provided by Korea Creative Content Agency shows that the industry has gained an average growth of 14.9% in sales since 2008. This statistic may reflects an increasing interest in online gaming, especially the youth. Although it is difficult to mark an exact period that is responsible for increasing trend in online gaming; however, it is quite clear that gaming has become much more than activity for leisure.

South Korea has been known for their pre-eminent infrastructure in video gaming, and their dominance in eSports scenes. Many of the best video game players and coaches in the world were trained or originated from South Korea, and the country's pro leagues and tournaments across numerous video games are often acclaimed by many to be the "most prestigious and competitive".

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