The secrets behind your favourite classic video games

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These old-school video games have been loved for decades, but what is it that makes them so successful?

We’ve done the homework, so all you need to do is sit back and reminisce about those deeply memorable highlights of your childhood. What is it that makes these five nostalgic games so successful, even decades later? 

Mario Kart 64 (1997)


Mario Kart is not a classic racing game; it is a fantasy land full of promises where you can switch between iconic characters such as Italian-American plumbers Mario and his younger brother Luigi.  Although it’s been more than 25 years since Nintendo first decided to release the kart racing video game, it remains just as popular as ever with fans of all ages. 

Murdoch University gaming lecturer, Dr Brad Power, says Nintendo’s genius throughout this pop-culture series was the powerups, including speed boosts, traps or explosions.

“You’re either saved by powerups or not – but they do make for exciting and unexpected finishes and a lot of laughs with friends. The trailing racer does tend to be favoured, with more powerful items given for a realistic chance to catch up to race leaders. 

What a feeling it is when you get a boost, dodge an array of banana peels and explosive shells (thrown by envious friends) and slide to victory.”

Wii Sports (2006)


Nintendo’s Wii Sports was a cultural success because it was the world’s first easily accessible game that used innovative, simple motion controls. The game consisted of five traditional sporting experiences including tennis, baseball, golf, bowling and boxing.

Kyle Haddleton, Murdoch Esports President, says part of what made Wii Sports so successful was the broad appeal.

The game was loved by people of all ages for its user-friendly game-play and highly entertaining graphics that offered realistic sporting experiences in under ten minutes.
No warming up, or prior sporting experience was required as you only needed to pick up the controller and get ready for the pitch, serve or bowl. It had both an innovative yet realistic feel and will always be remembered as a fun, but highly competitive game to play with friends and family.
“Many parents at the height of its success were seen lining up trying to get their hands on a Wii for the iconic game!”

Fruit Ninja (2010)


Who would have thought the combination of ninjas and fruit was the key to success? Instructions to this game weren’t required as somehow you instinctively knew you had to cut up as much fruit as possible to reach a high score. 

According to Dr Power, games like Fruit Ninja worked because they were designed with the device in mind.

“These types of games were so popular as they focused on the capabilities of the device rather than trying to force traditional console controls – like an onscreen joystick. It pushed Australian developer Halfbrick to the top of the app store charts and spawned numerous sequels."

He said Fruit Ninja players would have spent hours, across many days, swiping their fingers ferociously on the screen trying to avoid bombs and slicing up individual fruits. 

“The fruit looked realistic, the music was pumping, the slices were precise, and it was exhilarating. What more did you want in a mobile game!”

Club Penguin (2005)


How can we ever forget the massively popular, multiplayer online game, Club Penguin?

The game, released in 2005, was based on a snow-covered virtual island that saw players take part in minigames and other activities as penguins. There were penguins with mohawks, piercings, hats and crazy wigs. Others were dressed as clowns, spies or even Santa (the sillier the better). 

Murdoch Esports President, Kyle,  deems Club Penguin a leader in its day because of how it combined gaming and social interaction in a safe, online space.  

Club Penguin was released when the internet was becoming mainstream. The game itself was simple to play and was designed so users could chat to friends or play mini-games, whilst in a safe, monitored space.

“You could log on at any time and embrace the gameplay by going for a walk around the icebergs, snowboard, watch others argue, catch up with friends, attend or host parties, or decorate your igloo.

“For many people, Club Penguin would have been a part of their early internet experiences and a classic childhood experience.”

Nokia Snake (2000)


Snake II, played on the Nokia 3310 mobile phone, was the Candy Crush of the 2000s. It not only became a household name, it become an obsession with people of all ages to use different tactics to try and beat the high scores of colleagues, family and friends. 

The objective was simple: players would ultimately guide a pixelated snake across a green screen to engulf bugs. 

Dr Power says that Snake was popular because humans enjoy the thrill of a chase. It also balanced simplicity and complexity, making it highly addictive.

“Instead of getting easier as you progress with powerups, extra lives, new abilities or upgrades, it gets harder to manage your ever-growing snake. The game is addictive, and highly competitive where players can spend hours crafting their vector snake, so its body fills the entire screen, leading them to victory. 

Whatever the reason for playing, users ultimately love the thrill of the chase. When the game ends you have nobody to blame but yourself.”
Want to be part of the magic that makes games come to life? If you’re keen to be part of the process that transforms fascinating ideas into a virtual reality, why not discover career opportunities in the billion-dollar industry.
Posted on:

4 Sep 2020



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