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The 10 Biggest Fads In Gaming History

VO: Todd Haberkorn WRITTEN BY: Kurt Hvorup
As soon as a game becomes popular, everyone tries to get a slice of the pie. There are our picks for the biggest gaming fads of all time.

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Biggest Fads in Gaming History

With all the shifting priorities in the industry, it’s easy to see why some things in gaming just don’t go very far without crashing to a halt. Welcome to Mojoplays! For this video we’ll be looking at some of the biggest fads in gaming history.

FMV Games

New technology tends to usher in a wave of change, but that doesn’t always mean the change will endure. Case in point: early in the 1990s, the shift from floppy disks to CD’s meant more data could be stored... and more system-taxing games could be produced. With this advancement came full motion video, a method of integrating pre-recorded video clips into gameplay that’d been pioneered in the arcades. Suddenly there was a flood of games using FMV as a key storytelling or even game design element, like the infamous “Night Trap” and later “Wing Commander” games. Alas, a confluence of issues – from high production cost to the limited nature of FMV-based gameplay – lead to FMV largely being abandoned.

Doom Clones

In the mid 90s, you couldn’t step a foot in any direction without bumping into the legacy of id Software’s “Doom”. Developers looking to find success of their own began drawing upon the fundamental design elements of that acclaimed shooter, resulting in an influx of so-called “Doom” clones. Some works straight up relied upon modified versions of the “Doom” game engine as a framework, while others opted to lay a thematically distinct skin over vaguely similar gameplay. By the time the new millennium rolled around, though, the notion of “Doom” clones had given way to an entire new subgenre - the first-person shooter.

Arcade Fighting Games

With the one-two punch of “Street Fighter II” and “Mortal Kombat”, the early portion of the 1990s soon found themselves dominated by a particular breed of fighting game. Placing emphasis on learning button combos and competiting against other players, these one-on-one fighting games took hold in the arcades of the day. Other series such as “Fatal Fury” and “Tekken” further reinforced certain wider design trends for the genre, such as diverse rosters and character-specific endings. Unfortunately, arcades were already on the decline before the technological advance and increasing appeal of home console. All this did was speed up the end of an era.

World War II Shooters

Towards the end of production on “Saving Private Ryan”, Steven Spielberg decided to explore the potential of video games to manage that same careful exploration of World War II. So he and Dreamworks Interactive set about developing what would become “Medal of Honor”, a pulp action shooter that managed to ride the line between entertaining and reverent. Of course, the success of “Medal of Honor” meant a veritable conga line of imitators was not far off; the 2000s saw several dozen shooters borrow the Second World War setting for their own purposes. Eventually genre leaders like “Battlefield” and “Call of Duty” moved away from their roots, as the market had became over-saturated with such games.

2D to 3D Jumps

As with many stories about game design practices falling out of favour, this one begins with something good courtesy of Nintendo. Their 1996 masterwork “Super Mario 64”, flanked by other notable platformers that year, proved highly effective at translating 2D game features into a 3D sandbox space. Naturally, this gave various companies the idea of following in Nintendo’s footsteps, attempting to force their worlds and gameplay into a three-dimensional play space at any cost. Over time, the wider public caught on to a harsh reality: a lot of the resulting games were middling fare at best. A lot of beloved properties and niche series saw their end here, victims of a passing fad.

Battle Royale

Once upon a time players flocked in droves to survival games like “DayZ”, initially compelled by the stark presentation and focus on quasi-realistic combat. However, a significant portion of gamers were more interested in the player-versus-player side of things, suggesting there was money to be made there. In 2017, the game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” would not only run with that concept, it would significantly streamline the notion of players fighting one another in a limited space. The addition of a shrinking play area and removal of traditional survival elements proved key to the game’s success... while also laying the way for a fair few increasingly tiresome copycats, one of these being “Fortnite”, which would eventually surpass PUBG’s popularity and become a cultural phenomenon.


Despite being toyed with in works like the “Defense of the Ancients” mod for “Warcraft III”, it would take another decade for the notion of multiplayer online battle arenas to catch on. The emergence of trend-setters like Valve’s “Dota 2” and Riot Games’ “League of Legends” gave rise to numerous games striving for that same kind of recognition. Few managed to carve out much more than a slim niche, with many more falling into obscurity or being outright discontinued by the developers. As new interests began to draw away the wider populace’s attention, only the biggest names in the genre could endure.

Mobile Gaming

Cellphones had certainly existed for a good while before efforts were made to integrate gaming into the experience. However, it was the 2008 launch of Apple’s App Store that truly shook things up; it opened the way for all manner of software, and the developers behind it, to flourish. With profitable works like “Angry Birds” illustrating a clear interest in general public-aimed games, mobile game after mobile game cropped up with greater frequency. By the 2010s mobile app stores were packed to the brim with thousands of free-to-play or freemium titles – except the average quality of these games had begun to vary wildly as time passed. Enthusiasm has its limits, and the mobile scene had burnt through its share.

Motion Controls

We doubt anyone was quite prepared for the Wii to become a cross-generational success story, never mind the financial boon it ended up being for Nintendo. So it was that the games industry looked upon the Wii’s integration of motion controls and opted to borrow that concept for their own gain. Microsoft went in a more ambitious direction with the controller-less Kinect device, Sony had the PlayStation Move, and a host of other companies put out cheaper alternatives to the Wii Remotes. Setting aside the abundance of options to consider, none ever quite managed to even match the Wii in quality. Little by little, the audience desire for such hardware faded away.

Modern Military Shooters

At the time it was considered a bold leap for “Call of Duty 4” to move its franchise’s focus to modern-day conflicts, yet few can deny its impact or widespread acclaim. From that point on, many of the major shooter franchises elected to follow in that game’s footsteps, with the market seeing a massive rise in present-set action titles. Little by little, the public was driven to weariness and indifference by a variety of factors, be it the uniformity of the visual design or the lackluster single-player content. Add on some high-profile creative misfires – such as that of “Medal of Honor: Warfighter” - and it’s clear why companies backed away from the modern military shooter en masse.

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