Nintendo releases the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in New York and limited other North American markets. An immediate hit, Nintendo released the game nationwide in February 1986. Along with the NES, Nintendo released eighteen games that day, including: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew, and Super Mario Bros.
William Higinbotham and Robert Dvorak, Sr. show off a tennis simulator game they called Tennis for Two. Developed on a Donner Model 30 analog computer using an oscilloscope, it is the first known electronic game to use a graphical display. Higinbotham and Dvorak developed the game to show off to visitors to the Brookhaven National Laboratory where they worked. The game was only shown off twice, during the laboratory’s annual visitor’s day. While hundreds of visitors lined up to play the game when it was made available, little was known about the game for decades. While somewhat similar in gameplay to the later hit Pong, there is no known direct relationship between the games.
Atari releases their Video Computer System (known as the VCS and later as the Atari 2600). It took two years for the VCS to gain traction, but by 1979 it was the best selling gift of the Christmas season. Once it was established, the Atari VCS took the market by storm, popularized home video gaming, and helped cement the video game movement into mainstream culture.
Midway releases the video game Pac-Man to arcades in North America. While the Japanese release under the name “Puck-Man” occurred in May of that year, the game’s popularity didn’t take off until being released in the United States. Pac-Man will become the first true mega-hit video game in history, sparking “Pac-Man Fever” and catapulting the video game industry into mainstream culture.
The video game Mortal Kombat is released into arcades. Now one of the most popular fighting game series in history, the original Mortal Kombat became well-known for its graphic display of blood and deadly finishing moves known as “fatalities”. As often happens in situations like these, the controversy surrounding the game only served to fuel its popularity.
I remember the game becoming popular on the heels of Street Fighter II. I never really liked the game because I felt it was all flash and no substance. And the martial arts techniques portrayed were often really bad. But it was occasionally fun to knock someone’s head off.
August 22, 1987
The Legend of Zelda is released for the NES in North America. Considered one of the most influential games of all time, it was the forerunner of the role-playing video game genre and spawned one of the most successful series in video games history.
May 5, 1992
Id Software Inc. releases the game Wolfenstein 3D, the original first person shooter game for DOS computers. The game becomes an instant success, putting id Software on the map and launching the first person shooter genre. If you’re curious, you can play the game today on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad.