When a new console generation starts there is a variable amount of time before you play something and you are truly blown away at what is possible with the new hardware. It feels like at that moment the potential of the coming years will run wild and that the medium is moving forward. So let's go generation by generation and talk about what we thought that moment or game to be.
I started gaming with the SNES as my first console so I don't have a moment or game in mind for this one. If I had to guess I probably would have said Link to the Past. The feeling of the opening is something that resonated with me right away.
This one I expect to be a blowout. It's gotta be Mario 64. I don't know if it is possible for another game to replicate the impact this game had at launch. Moving Mario around in 3D was something truly special and it happens almost as soon as you start the game. Beyond the 2D to 3D jump I think a big part of it too was just being able to run around and explore the world around you in a way that Mario games hadn't allowed you to before.
For me the game that really impressed me this generation was Super Smash Bros Melee. I was amazed at the increase in detail of the fighters as well as how much larger the game seemed than its predecessor. Looking back I think part of this feeling was also due to the fact that Melee played quite a bit better than its 64 counterpart.
Gears of War was visually impressive but for me the first game to really amaze me was BioShock. I remember watching the opening moments and when you surface from the wreckage of your plane I waited for the game to load up and it never did. Once I realized that all of this was happening realtime and headed in to the lighthouse. I didn't know what to expect with this game but the level of storytelling and atmosphere was an experience that I felt hadn't been done before. It had I'm sure to some degree but that coupled with the graphics blew me away.
Wii U/Xbox One/PS4
The catalyst in me making this thread was Batman Arkham Knight. I feel like for the first time I saw what the new systems are going to be capable of. Arkham City was my GOTY back in 2011 so I had high expectations for this one and I was not disappointed. Arkham Knight feels like a next generation game because it expands so much in every direction. The visuals are hugely improved, the world is bigger and more dynamic and there is more content than in the previous games by a good deal. I can't think of one specific moment and given that it is a new release I wouldn't want to ruin anything for anyone anyway. So I'll just post a gameplay demo that's reflective of the game that was released pre-launch.
Those are the moments that made me feel like the next generation of gaming had truly begun. What are yours?
Hahaha... I thought Stephen was going to be a -2 forever. That was hilarious.
Eh, for me, it'd go like this:
NES: Super Mario Bros - Yeah, we weren't even that acquainted with the concept of console generations, yet, but I remember being super surprised at the beautiful backgrounds on this game, after having been raised on Atari 2600 games. You mean you could have trees and clouds in the background? On a home TV? Get outta here!
Genesis/SNES: Altered Beast - Yeah, it was a terrible game in most respects - something we sort of realized even back then. But the first time I played it, we knew SEGA wasn't playing around. Those transformations were epic and the sound was incredible, relative to our video gaming experience up to that point. I do remember the colors in SMW looking like a step above the Genesis, but it wasn't as big of a leap as NES to Genesis.
N64 - Mario 64 - I was starting to fall out of interest in gaming at this point, but I do remember being surprised and delighted by Mario 64 when I first came across it.
PS2 - Final Fantasy 10 - Again, wasn't paying a lot of attention to gaming at the time, but I remember thinking that the sprites in 10 looked a lot like the FMV characters in 7. That felt like quite a leap to me.
Wii/360/PS3 - Wii Sports - The HD Twins had many great looking games early on, but I never really got on board with the major gameplay styles of this gen. So it's really only motion control I remember being excited about. And, in many respects it never really got better than Wii Sports (though Resort is up there).
Wii U/PS4/Bone - I haven't played a single game on the 1/4 consoles. And the Wii U has never felt like a giant leap forward in any respect. Sooooooo... Kid Icarus Uprising gets my vote.
Wii Sports is a pretty good answer. The biggest thing that held it back for me was that it still felt a bit tech demoy. It did a good job of showing what the technology was capable of but didn't have much substance beyond that. If they had fleshed the sports out more it probably would have had a bigger impact on me. Wii launch though I was pretty heavily invested in to Twilight Princess.
It's unoriginal, but yeah, it's Super Mario 64 for me. This is the only time where I felt a launch game showed me every capability of the new system. I never played games before the NES so I can't speak about that. Super Mario World didn't look much better than late NES games, so it wasn't until later that the SNES really started to feel like a step above. It wasn't until Metroid Prime that I felt I was seeing stuff on GameCube not possible on the N64 (excluding graphics). Wii is trickier to nail down since it added features else than power, but I did appreciate stuff like the Wiimote, Channels, online features, etc. I don't think I've played anything on Wii U that felt impossible on Wii with a graphical downgrade.
I agree with a lot of you guys so far, but I'm having a really hard time with the sixth generation. I personally felt like I was immediately in the "next generation" of gaming as soon as the Sega Dreamcast hit... that was actually the point at which I was finally satisfied with the state of 3D graphics, and I still feel like that. PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube came along and improved on matters even further, but they never really offered anything that blew me away from a lot of the experiences I had already had on Dreamcast before they even hit. I feel like the Dreamcast, had it survived, could have held up just fine in that generation in a way similar to the Genesis, where you can tell that it's technically inferior but not to the point where it would have mattered all that much.
The problem is that I still can't pin it down to a specific game... Shenmue maybe? That felt like something I would have never been able to play on the N64 or PlayStation.
I'm still tempted, however, to point to a game like Metal Gear Solid 2, Devil May Cry, or even Halo. I just don't know!
I got my start casually playing games on my brother's Sega Genesis when I was a kid. It had been out for a while by that time, and I couldn't compare the games I played to those from a previous generation. I was just barely old enough when Ocarina of Time released for it to leave a strong impression on me. I could grasp some of its masterful details and appreciate it as a groundbreaking 3D game while I watched by brother play through it for the first time. The epic boss battles, beautiful music, and relatively complex story wowed me like nothing I've seen or played before. It was at that point when I saw the Nintendo 64 as a system that had amazing potential.
Here are a few more examples past that generation:
Gamecube - Super Smash Bros. Melee - I was a pretty big Nintendo fan by this point, and seeing a bunch of characters and worlds that I had grown to love in a more technically sophisticated light blew me away. Melee set most of the groundwork for my expectations of what the Gamecube could bring.
Wii - Elebits - This charming game was the first on the Wii to get me excited about motion controls. I don't mean to dismiss the impact of Wii Sports, but I got more out of the first-person aiming in Elebits than the motions that I couldn't consistently get the hang of in Wii Sports. Not only did Elebits put me on board for motion-controlled games, but it came from a third party developer! I excitedly anticipated the results of Nintendo's efforts with this technology as well as those from third parties.
Wii U - Game & Wario - This game uses the Wii U GamePad in some very clever, fun, and unexpected ways. I sometimes think about how Game & Wario's mechanics and ideas could be implemented into other Nintendo games on the Wii U. It may not be a deep compilation of concepts, but it and Nintendoland are the first games to deliver experiences build around the GamePad that resonated with me.
Yeah, that's why I'm totally with Nintendo on pursuing new ways to play games over better graphics.
I've learned that it's a controversial thing to say in gaming communities, and I get massively downvoted on Reddit when I do (which won't stop me), but the obsession with highly detailed graphics is hurting the industry... like, really badly. It's the reason games cost so much, which is the reason that publishers won't take risks, which is the reason why every game now looks and feels the same. It's also the reason a game is considered a flop if it doesn't sell 5 million copies. Meanwhile, you have indie developers continuing the tradition of putting gameplay and design first, usually opting for a stylized art style which oftentimes ends up looking more interesting than "AAA" games anyway... and will surely age better.
The first time I played Mario 64 was life changing.
SNES – Super Metroid N64 – Mario 64 GCN – Metroid Prime PS3 – Uncharted "8th gen" – not sure I've had that moment yet, The Order 1886 has the best graphics of any video game I've ever seen, but the gameplay was just so-so. Something that looks like The Order yet plays like Bloodborne, that will be my moment!
I could feasibly comment on every console generation, but I'm just going to stick with the ones I feel most strongly about.
2nd Gen: AD&D: Treasure of Tarmin (Intellivision / 1982): Likely the first RPG I've every played, Tarmin absolutely blew me away back in the day. Full 3D maps, Ioot pickups of weapons, spells & armor, full range of baddies to fight. This game was incredibly revolutionary it's time.
5th Gen: Tie
Super Mario 64 (N64 / 1996): First console game to fully realize 3D spacial movement, Mario 64 sold the industry on the leap from 2D to 3D gameplay. A revolution in game design and an excellent game to boot.
Resident Evil (Playstation / 1996): Juxtapose to Mario64, RE sold a generation on cinematic gaming. Not the first to use pre-rendered style (Alone in the Dark '92), Resident Evil nonetheless sold a generation on the possibilities of cinematic immersion in a survival horror setting.
6th Gen: ESIII: Morrowind (Xbox / 2002): Released only a few months after console launch, Morrowind proved to be one of the very first 3D sandbox rpgs that are commonplace today. I actually wasn't very familiar with Bethesda's Elder Scrolls franchise before Morrowind landed, but I caught wind of its potential shortly before launch and managed to pre-order and generate some hype prior to release. I fell head over heals with both the game and the gameplay style, and it remains one of my favorite genres and developers to this date.
Third Generation: Super Mario Bros. (NES) - suddenly video games were way more than just single-screen action diversions. Amazing.
Fourth Generation: Street Fighter II (SNES) - An "arcade perfect" translation of a hit game, now available on my home system?!? Mind = blown.
Fifth Generation: Final Fantasy VII (PSX) - Graphics never looked this good. The immersion was unparalleled. Game was awesome, too.
Sixth Generation: Soul Calibur (DC) - A BETTER than arcade perfect port of a great game, now on my home console?!? Mind = BLOWN. WIDE. OPEN.
Seventh Generation: Feel the Magic: XY/XX (DS) - Gameplay that was no only unheard of, but impossible prior to the release of this hardware. Amazing.
Eighth Generation: ...nothing really, yet. Not even on 3DS! There are good games out there, sure. But nothing really amazingly new or exciting. Just...basically the same stuff we've had before, but (slightly) better looking. This generation is really flatlining. Disappointing.