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Top 10 Video Games That Were Before Their Time

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Max Bledstein, These titles were ahead of the curve. Join WatchMojo.com as we countdown our picks for the Top 10 Video Games That Were Before Their Time. For this list, we’re looking at the games that dared to try something new, but either didn’t catch on with the gaming crowd right away, or were hindered by the technology at the time. If you’re looking for games that did become trendsetters and revolutionized the industry, be sure to check out our list on the Top 10 Revolutionary video games.
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Script written by Max Bledstein,

Top 10 Video Games That Were Before their Time


These titles were ahead of the curve. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 video games that were before their time.

For this list, we’re looking at the games that dared to try something new, but either didn’t catch on with the gaming crowd right away, or were hindered by the technology at the time. If you’re looking for games that did become trendsetters and revolutionized the industry, be sure to check out our list on the Top 10 Revolutionary video games.

#10: “Pokemon Snap” (1999)

This on-rails, first-person photography game for N64 would’ve benefited from social media. Think about it, It’s gameplay required you to photograph Pokémon, with extra points given if you caught them in special poses, like a surfing Pikachu. Naturally, you’d want to send your shots to your buddies, but, to do that, you had to bring your game cartridge to a certain Blockbuster Store in your area for printing . The 2007 Virtual Console rerelease did feature the ability to save your photos to an SD card, but that’s still not very practical, especially if your game data was also on that card.

#9: “Shenmue” (2000)

AAA titles have come to rule the gaming landscape, and this open world action-adventure game for Dreamcast arguably had the first budget of one, costing $47 million to make. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t completely bombed at retail, seeing as there was very little market for it on the doomed Sega console. This isa bit of a shame, since it was one of the earliest games where you could interact with nearly everything in the world and real time weather effects – a feature that was unheard of at the time.

#8: “Winback: Covert Operations” (1999)

Known as Operation Winback in Europe, The cover system in “Gears of War” was cool, but we can’t imagine CliffyB designing it without the influence of this third-person shooter for the N64, and later the PS2. It was the first title of its genre to feature such a system as a core mechanic, anticipating it by a few years. Your pistol also came with a sweet laser sight for aiming, a mechanic later seen in games like “Metal Gear Solid 2” and “Resident Evil 4.”

#7: “Deus Ex” (2000)

The FPS was a fairly linear genre until this game, which reinvented it with its use of non-linear missions. It also wasn’t afraid to mix genres, as it introduced some pretty restrictive RPG elements. Most importantly though, aspects of the story could change based on how violent you were, anticipating the multiple narratives later used by developers like Telltale in their “Walking Dead” series and others. Even with all the advancements in the genre to date, few games can match the amount of variables and possible outcomes that the game has anticipated and planned for.

#6: “Metal Gear” (1987)

Despite kicking off one of the most storied franchises in gaming history and being an early entry in the stealth genre, the game was let down by the hardware at the time. It was originally for the MSX2, and the computer’s weak hardware limited how many bullets and enemies could be on screen, preventing mastermind Hideo Kojima from making the action game he had envisioned. Not only could the titular metal gear not even move during the final fight, but the dialogue had to be severely abridged to

#5: “Starsiege: Tribes” (1998)

Although this title initiated a legendary series of squad-based FPS PC games, we can’t help but wish that it’d come a long a bit later. It featured online-only gameplay at a time when many gamers were confined by 56K modems, making for substantial lag. Not to mention, in 1998 the concept of an online only game was pretty ambitious, as many gamers were still apprehensive of online play. In spite of this limitation, the game became a pioneer of vehicle and class-based combat, plus that skiing mechanic just can’t be beat.

#4: “Phantasy Star Online” (2001)

Yet another title who’s online features were also hindered by the 56k modem era. The MMORPG was arguably more influential, since it allowed cooperative gameplay on the Dreamcast at a time when online interaction on console was mostly limited competitive modes. There were MMOs out for PC already, but this was on a console. It innovated even further by allowing you to find people to cooperate with through its lobby system, and letting you trade Guild cards with them, which let you email them whenever they went online.

#3: “Hunter” (1991)

“Grand Theft Auto” was crucial in gaming history for its open-world, mission-based gameplay, but it, and it’s precursor Bod Harvest, we’re technically already aping this action-adventure game for the Amiga. It had 3D graphics and was sandbox-style, like “GTA,” and the combination of these features makes it seem strikingly modern by today’s standards, particularly since it came at a time when 2D games was still widely popular. Also like “GTA,” you could choose how you got around, be it by jeep, boat or helicopter. Most impressive of all, this game was put together by a single guy named Paul Holmes – not too shaby compared to huge development teams needed for today’s AAA productions.

#2: “Jurassic Park: Trespasser” (1998)

The technology available when this FPS PC game was released wasn’t quite prehistoric, but it did limit it from reaching its potential. Its engine was the first to use ragdoll physics, and its dinosaurs had movement algorithms, allowing their animations to be calculated in real time. Unfortunately, many computers of the time weren’t powerful enough to faithfully render the game. To make matters worse, EA rushed the game onto store shelves to coincide with the VHS release of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, forcing a lot of featuers to be cut and not leaving enough time to iron out the many colossal bugs.

Before we get to our number one, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions:

“Starflight” (1986)


“Thief: The Dark Project” (1998)


“Star Fox” (1993)


“Crysis” (2007)


“kill.switch” (2003)

#1: “Elite” (1984)

Topping our list is a space simulator for various early home computers which wasn’t quite as futuristic as its sci-fi setting, but it certainly came close. The open-ended gameplay of its eight procedurally generated galaxies paved the way for both space combat games and sandbox style adventures. It’s 3D graphics, with their hidden line removal, were revolutionary for time – remember this was 1984 we’re talking about, Return of the Jedi had come out only one year earlier. On that note, One feature that everyone remembers was that to travel between stars, you used a hyperspace jump, and the title felt like a hyperspace jump for gaming.
Do you agree with our list? What game do you think came too soon? For more revolutionary top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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