Thirty years ago was a damn good year for gaming (I actually wouldn't know first hand, I was born in 1992) -- However what I do know is this era brought back console gaming from the fallout of the industry crash. We witnessed the rise to power of Nintendo and early years of SEGA, Square, Konami, Capcom, Activision, Electronic Arts, and plenty of other iconic companies and with that -- plenty of iconic franchises were born from this time period.
So let's go ahead and take a look back 30 years ago and break down the top 5 game franchises that began in 1987 (no sequels, brand new intellectual properties only) -- that would leave a lasting legacy to this day.
Developed by Distinctive Software -- which was originally founded in 1981 and later went defunct in 1991 and published by Accolade (later known as Infogrames) -- who since 2009 are also sadly defunct.
The Test Drive series however to this day lives on, now owned by Bigben Interactive as of writing this. Test Drive began its humble roots in 1987 and was released for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, and Commodore 64 for DOS operating systems.
With only five cars to choose from (Lamborghini Countach, Lotus Esprit Turbo, Chevrolet Corvette C4, Porsche 911 Turbo (930) and the Ferrari Testarossa) -- and a single course to choose.
However the course was broken up into five stages, each separated by a gas station. The gameplay was pretty basic over all, you'd simply drive on a two-lane road while avoiding other vehicles and outrunning police speed traps.
But for the time almost nothing like this existed on console, it was cutting edge in what was possible for a game like this. Today the series still lives on -- but it hasn't seen a release since 2012's Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends.
Developed and published by Capcom who unlike Test Drive's developers and publishers are still very much alive and kicking to this day. Street Fighter started its humble beginnings in 1987 as well, released originally for the arcades, the game would later release in 1988 and beyond for multiple systems. It received ports for DOS systems, PC Engine, TurboGrafx CD, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, and ZX Spectrum.
The game itself featured two player competitive fighting and up to 12 different characters -- however you could only play as Ryu as Player 1 and Ken as Player 2.
The other characters (Retsu, Geki, Joe, Mike, Lee, Gen, Birdie, Eagle, Adon, and Sagat) were purely AI controlled.
So basically you could only have a match between Ryu and Ken as Player 1 and 2, as for the main single player of the game itself, you go against AI controlled opponents from different regions.
All in all it didn't review too well from critics and wasn't really that notable, but Street Fighter II would change all of this and propel the franchise into main stream popularity.
The latest release in the series, Street Fighter V
Once Street Fighter II broke into the mainstream, the fighting genre would never be the same. Everything from spin off games, cartoons, movies and live action movies, Street Fighter is without a doubt the most popular fighting games in the genre. But it places #4 on this list simply because the original game wasn't very notable and vastly different to what the series would end up becoming.
Another game developed and published by Capcom and released in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The original art-work for the North American release is notorious for being incredibly bad, just look at that gun he's holding -- almost everything about that cover is so bad it's good.
However as we all know Megaman would shoot to superstardom in the late 80s and early 90s and would receive a plethora of games, including spin off games, comic books, and even a few cartoons.
As for modern day Megaman, Megaman 10 released in 2010. Things sure have... Changed?
However today Megaman is more or less in a weird state of limbo, hence why it's in the #3 spot. Capcom has seemingly given up on our blue hero and there hasn't been any major release for Megaman aside from re-releases and ports, however co-designer Keiji Inafune did decide to do his own thing for better or for worse in the form of Mighty No. 9.
Developed and published by Square and released in 1987 for the NES, the company now and days go by Square Enix since 2003 after both Square and Enix merged into a single company.
Final Fantasy was originally under the working title of "Fighting Fantasy" -- however Square at the time was on the brink of bankruptcy, so they decided to rename the game "Final Fantasy" -- ironically -- as they figured this would be their final game before shutting the doors.
However Final Fantasy ended up becoming a huge critical and commercial success for Square and would end up becoming one of the most prolific JRPG franchises of all time and is now celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and I'm sure we'll see more big announcements and plenty more Final Fantasy for a long time to come.
Before we get to my #1 pick, here are some honorable mentions of other notable games from 1987.
Developed and published by Nintendo and released in 1987 for the NES (although originally released in 1984 for the arcades) -- Punch Out on the NES was one of the definitive NES games of the era. But since its release it hasn't had many notable releases other than Super Punch Out for the SNES and since it was originally in arcades in 84' -- it didn't make the list.
Developed by Nintendo R&D1 (one of Nintendo's oldest development teams, they were making arcade games and Atari 2600 games prior to Nintendo ever creating their own hardware) -- and of course published by Nintendo. Kid Icarus was originally released in Japan in December of 1986, however it would later release in North America in July of 1987. The game overall received mixed critical reception upon release, but long term it became a cult classic on the NES. Sadly it didn't make the list simply because it was more or a less a one hit wonder for over two decades until 2012's Kid Icarus: Uprising on the 3DS.
Developed and published by Konami and released originally in arcades in 1987. Contra is one of the definitive run and gun games from the era and still has a lasting legacy to this day, the only reason it didn't make the list was simply because future releases just simply weren't as notable as others on the list.
Developed by Technōs Japan and published by Taito, Double Dragon is one of the definitive beat em' ups of the era and arguably along side River City Ransom kick-started the popularity in 2d beat em ups as a genre. Double Dragon is still going strong today, with its latest releases of Double Dragon Neon and the classically inspired Double Dragon IV. Once again the only reason it didn't make the list and trust me -- this was my original #5 -- I just feel future releases weren't as notable as the original trilogy.
Developed and published by Sierra On-Line, released originally in 1987 for DOS based systems. Leisure Suit Larry was basically an adventure game, in which the ultimate goal was simple; get laid.
Despite the game having barely next to no advertising due to the graphic content and humour, Leisure Suit Larry ended up being a sleeper hit and would go on to spawn plenty of sequels and remakes. However it didn't make the list because simply once again future releases aren't as notable.
Developed and created by Hideo Kojima and published by Konami and released originally in 1987 for the MSX2 and a few months later for the NES. Metal Gear is without a doubt one of my favourite franchises in gaming, this game arguably created the genre of stealth-action games as we know them today.
The concept of "stealth" in a video game in 1987 was almost unheard of.
Metal Gear would later see a sequel in 1990 in the form of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake which doubled down on the stealth aspects of the game, adding the ability to hide beneath objects and crawl. Metal Gear would then later come to the PlayStation in the form of a soft reboot known as Metal Gear Solid.
That incredible start menu music will forever be burned into my mind from when I first started the game up on my PlayStation.
Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear as a franchise itself would go on to receive critical acclaim (including from myself, check my video review) -- and would become one of Konami's most iconic franchises and would basically rocket creator Hideo Kojima into video game developer stardom, hence my placement for Metal Gear on this list.
The series would go on to tell one of the most intricate and extremely complex storylines in games spanning across decades between two very similar looking protagonists, but yet who end up being incredibly different.
The series would see plenty of sequels and spin off games and until recently the future of the franchise seemed bright and was gearing towards a Metal Gear 1-2 remake to complete the loop...
... But sadly the future now seems pretty dim for the series, with creator Hideo Kojima fired from Konami and his studio now having left Konami and the drama from what ensued has heavily damaged Konami's reputation and Metal Gear as a franchise. Konami however still insists Metal Gear games will be made, but considering what they've shown so far for the next upcoming Metal Gear title -- Metal Gear Survive, I can't say I'm impressed nor are the fans.
Did you play any of these games when they originally came out? Have you got any fun stories of your time with these 30 year old games to share? Let me know in the comments below!