World Video Game Hall of Fame announces 12 finalists for the Class of 2017

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior fought against Mortal Kombat for the hearts (and quarters) of arcade players in the early 90s. Next month, they’ll square off again as two (of the 12) finalists the World Video Game Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017.

Announced this morning by The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games, this year’s finalists also include Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy VII, Halo: Combat Evolved, Myst, Pokemon Red and Blue, Portal, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Wii Sports, and Windows Solitaire.

“These 12 World Video Game Hall of Fame finalists span decades, gaming platforms, and countries of origin… but what they all have in common is their undeniable impact on the world of gaming and popular culture,” said Jon-Paul C. Dyson, the Director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. “Whether it’s a pop culture icon like Donkey Kong, an innovator and true original like Portal, or a game like Wii Sports that transformed millions of living rooms into interactive zones for all ages, they’re among the most influential games of all time.”

An international advisory committee made up of journalists and scholars familiar with the history of video games will advise the Hall of Fame’s selection of this year’s inductees, which will be announced on Thursday, May 4, at 10:30 AM (Eastern Time).

You can learn more about all of this year’s finalists after the break.

Donkey Kong: Released in 1981, Donkey Kong helped to launch the career of legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and became Nintendo’s most profitable game to that point, selling an estimated 132,000 arcade cabinets. Perhaps most importantly, Donkey Kong introduced the world to the plucky plumber Mario… who became the star of numerous other games and one of the most recognizable video game characters in the world.

Final Fantasy VII: Square’s Final Fantasy VII took the already popular Final Fantasy series to new levels of technical achievement and story development when it debuted in 1997. It introduced 3D computer graphics, full motion video cut-scenes, and a deep, complex storyline to the franchise. The game sold more than 10 million units, making it the second most popular game for the Sony PlayStation, and helped to popularize the Japanese role-playing genre across the globe.

Halo: Combat Evolved: When Microsoft launched its Xbox system in 2001, more than 50% of the consoles sold alongside the launch game Halo: Combat Evolved. The science-fiction, first-person shooter combined an intricate storyline, memorable characters like Master Chief, and a dynamic multi-player experience. The game sold more than six million copies and inspired a number of sequels and spin-offs, as well as novels, comic books, and action figures.

Mortal Kombat: Mortal Kombat brought cutting-edge graphics and unique fighting styles to the arcade when it launched in 1992. The game’s over-the-top depictions of violence also spurred international debate, including Congressional hearings in the United States that helped lead to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in 1994. By pushing the boundaries in terms of content and what players could do with their in-game characters, Mortal Kombat spawned an entire franchise—including games, music albums, action figures, a theatrical stage show, and Hollywood movies.

Myst: Released by Broderbund in 1993, Myst welcomed players to a mesmerizing world of mysterious puzzles and haunting vistas. The game harnessed early CD-ROM technology—which offered high storage capacity but slow loading times. The discs paired well with the slow-paced, contemplative style of the game, though, and allowed the creation of an immersive world. Myst became the best-selling computer game in the 1990s, selling more than six million copies.

Pokemon Red and Blue: Pokemon created a multinational cultural phenomenon when it was released on the Nintendo Game Boy in 1996 as Pocket Monsters Aka (Red) and Midori ([Blue]). As of 2014, the Pokemon franchise has produced more than 260 million copies of its games, 21.5 billion trading cards, and numerous spinoffs including more than 800 television episodes and 17 movies.

Portal: Launched by Valve Corporation in 2007, Portal became an unexpected breakout hit because of its unique game play. Originally packaged with four first-person shooter games, Portal received the most critical acclaim of the compilation because of its game mechanics that relied on portal physics. Despite taking only about four hours to complete, the game inspired players to return again and again by offering numerous solutions to each puzzle. It went on to win numerous technical awards and to be named the “Game of the Year” in 2008 at the Game Developers Conference.

Resident Evil: Capcom’s Resident Evil, released in 1996, helped to popularize the “survival horror” genre of games. Combining many of the elements of earlier horror movies, the game tackled mature themes, such as zombies and the apocalypse. Resident Evil, aimed at a teen and adult audience, spawned comic books, novels, merchandise, themed restaurants, and a series of Hollywood films. The movies have grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide.

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior: Released by Capcom in 1991, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior helped to spark an arcade renaissance in the 1990s. The game inspired numerous sequels and an entire genre of one-on-one fighting games. Capcom sold more than 60,000 original cabinets and a staggering 140,000 cabinets and game conversion kits of the company’s “Champion Edition,” making it one of the top-selling arcade games ever.

Tomb Raider: Combining the best elements of action-adventure games with platform games and puzzle-solving, Tomb Raider (1996) provided gamers with a unique cinematic 3-D universe, cutting-edge graphics, and a female protagonist who remains an iconic figure in gaming. Largely thanks to the character of Lara Croft, and Angelina Jolie’s theatrical portrayal of her in a blockbuster movie, Tomb Raider enjoys a widespread appeal among gamers and non-gamers alike, and currently heads a franchise that has sold more than 58 million units worldwide.

Wii Sports: Wii Sports launched with the Nintendo Wii home video game system in 2006 and introduced motion-control technology to living rooms across the world. With a simple swipe of the controller, players could serve a tennis ball, hurl a bowling bowl, throw a left hook, or drive a golf ball. The simple mechanics made the game accessible to almost anyone—allowing it to be played by young children and seniors alike—and helped to redefine the idea of who is a “gamer.” Ultimately, the game helped Nintendo to sell more than 100 million Wii consoles worldwide.

Windows Solitaire: Based on a centuries-old card game, Windows Solitaire debuted in 1991 on the Windows 3.0 computing platform and became ubiquitous around the world. The game has been installed on more than one billion machines since its creation, tying its story forever to the rise of the home computer. It proved that some analog games can be even more popular in the digital world.

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John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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