The Influence of E3 – Part 1: The PlayStation, The JRPG, and Super Mario 64

All gamers have at least heard of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3. Ever since its inception in 1995, the convention has been the launching pad for many of the most impactful creations and conceptions in video game history. The years 1995 and 1996 were some very remarkable entries in E3’s legacy, which revealed both games and systems that would have a firm impact on the industry.

1995 marked the first E3 and it started off with a bang that would shape the game industry and console wars to come. Sony, after a failed deal with Nintendo to help the veteran game company’s next console, announced their first steps in the video game industry with the unveiling of the Sony PlayStation. This system would make great leaps in fantastic gameplay and set the stage for Sony in gaming.

Until this point, the video game industry (the console scene at large) had been dominated the past several years by Nintendo and Sega. What started as a mere partnership between Nintendo and Sony led to a large falling out between the two companies, and also gave way for Sony to become (and remain) a powerful force within video games. 1996, however, would show that Nintendo would not be left on the back burner. Capcom and Square (now Square Enix) would also make an impact that would be felt for some time after.

Capcom previewed the first Resident Evil, something that could be argued as the progenitor of the survival/horror sub-genre of video games. Though not the first horror game to ever be developed, the term survival/horror was coined to describe Resident Evil and it would not only give birth to a successful franchise, but the survival/horror genre would flourish thereafter.

Resident Evil’s combination of graphics, setting, atmosphere, and gameplay were nearly unprecedented at the time. Though inspired by classics like Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil took horror to the next level with its abilities on the Sony PlayStation. Though criticized by some for its poor voice acting/dialogue and its over use of horror clichés, this title still achieved great success and left a legacy that is still felt today in its respected part of gaming.

Square continued the event with a video that would create a lasting craze in America for Japanese RPGs. The video was of Final Fantasy VII, which would bolster interest in the Final Fantasy series as well as the JRPG genre, both of which were highly obscure in America at the time. Final Fantasy VII was the game that made the western world see JRPGs as something worth playing in a land where Western style RPGs widely dominated. It could also be said that Final Fantasy VII played a big part in PlayStation sales across the globe, which gave Sony all the more recognition as a video game company and gave Square a foothold in the United States for the future.

The expo was not to end there, however. Though the Sony’s unveiling of the PlayStation made a big splash at E3 ’95, Nintendo shot back in ‘96 and revealed the Nintendo 64. This system, even today, may not seem like anything special. However, it was what accompanied the system at E3 ’96 that made splash in the video games world: Super Mario 64

The platforming plumber debuted with the Nintendo 64 in his new 3D environment and gameplay. Though not the first foray into 3D, Super Mario 64 was definitely the most successful attempt at that time. Mario 64’s easy to control movement and gameplay mechanics, along with its open and varied environments made it arguably one of the most important games of all time as it would influence the way developers made and gamers looked at 3D gameplay.

Aside from that, Nintendo also set the standard for game controllers yet again (the first was with the SNES controller) with the inclusion of the joystick on the N64’s controller, making games like Super Mario 64 all the more accessible. This element of the controller would return in all since (motion controls notwithstanding).

In only two years, E3 had already made a reputation for showcasing the future of the video game industry, whether it was defining games or groundbreaking consoles. Nintendo and Sony largely dominated these years with their consoles and the games developed for them. However, in the years to come, even more changes would make their way onto the showroom floor and would continue to shape the video game industry. Genres revitalized by new titles, games that would shape generations, and a new contender in the console wars were on the horizon.