How ‘Mario’ opened the door to comfort shooters

The plumber, Nintendo’s mascot, peaceful as can be, is in spite of himself and surprisingly facilitated the arrival of FPS on consoles.

Back in the late 1980s. On microcomputers and consoles, some games were starting to use a first-person view. Labyrinths, adventure games or vehicle simulations share the beginnings of this new perspective. But the first representative of the First Person Shooter (FPS) was the result of the imagination of John Carmack and John Romero, who realized that there was Catacomb-3D, in 1991, pioneered the genre. If it is not a question of guns, but of magical powers, the concept is well born. The publisher, id Software, then exploited the niche with a more contemporary version, Wolfenstein 3D, released in 1992, where you play as a soldier fighting against the Nazi regime. A title that has long remained as a reference of the genre.

Wolfenstein 3Done of the very first popular FPS.©id Software

Outdated controllers

The PC’s strength in this area comes from its famous keyboard-mouse duo. The combination of the two accessories makes it possible to aim with the mouse while carrying out the movements of his character with the keys of the keyboard. A big advantage, which makes the development of the genre on a console almost impossible, because the models of the moment have only a few action keys and a simple directional pad. So no FPS for Nintendo’s NES or Sega’s Master System and Megadrive. So the PC remains the sole master of this new genre, which will be renamed for a while after the name of one of its most iconic representatives: sentence.

sentence marked history so much that it gives its name to the genre.©id Software

A game from hell

Released in 1993 by id Software (again), sentence causing major changes in the initial principle. Technically though it’s still fake 3D using distorted textures to simulate a three dimensional look. It is more fluid, with better and different textures and enemies. It even introduces light effects, a first for the time. The setting is a futuristic world where people have accidentally opened the gates of Hell, and where the player must fight demons of all kinds in the shoes of a “space-marine”. At the same time, the developers have added a multiplayer function that allows you to compete in a network, which contributes to the impressive success of the title, becoming a real social phenomenon.

The cartridge for the Super NES version has a blood red color that evokes the game’s violence.©id Software

When FPS was called ” sentence-like “

On December 10, 1993, sentence was adapted for the Super Nintendo. Nintendo’s latest actually has two keys on the sides to recreate the “strafe”, a lateral movement that until now was impossible on consoles. This adaptation of a title with a sulphurous reputation for its violence on a console from a publisher known for more innocent titles is surprising, but marks the first step from the shooting game to consoles that were previously absent -access. This is the beginning of a long series of adaptations of the flagship game, which gives its name to the genre: the sentence-like.

Earthquake transforms FPS with its multidirectional aiming system.©id Software

An unattainable goal

After the real tornado caused by the release of sentence, the genre is experiencing rapid growth and development. Building on the ever-increasing PC performance, titles such as Duke Nukem 3D (1996) developed an irreverent FPS character, aimed at an older audience. His hero would become a video game icon for his humor, his cult lines and his incomparable quickdraw of bad man. However, the 3D Realms title sees its success overtaken by an FPS with major innovations, Earthquake, from id Software. Always running to maintain leadership in the field, the publisher has created a first all-real-time 3D game, to which an important possibility has been added: aim up or down, and no longer just to the sides. The adaptations on consoles seem to be heavily compromised…

The Nintendo 64 controller starts a revolution with the very first analog stick.©Nintendo

Analog, logical solution

And it is at this important moment that our favorite plumber, Mario, has become a key element in the possibilities for consoles to adapt these games that are sorely lacking in them. Nintendo’s latest console has been delayed at launch, facing two new machines, Sony’s PlayStation and Sega’s Saturn. But even before its release in June 1996 in Japan, the Nintendo 64 stood out not by its performance, but by one important element: its controller. For the first time, a game console was equipped with an analog stick, as opposed to digital directional crosses. It is therefore possible to measure the extent of movement printed on the stick, in all directions. Next to it, there are four keys intended to control the camera in some games at launch. And all these changes were prompted by the requests of one Shigeru Miyamoto.

The first 3D adventure of mario has shaken the game console controls.©Nintendo

A revolution associated with mario

Because the global success of mario and his designation as the brand’s mascot, Nintendo considers the plumber for each of its console launches. And for this highly anticipated move to 3D, Super Mario 64 will change the platform game genre. To achieve this, its designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, needed new ways to direct his character. Therefore it was at his request and on the basis of the needs of his game that the new functions of this atypical controller were further designed. Seen for the first time at a salon in November 1995, it did not fail to surprise the competition.

Sony was the first manufacturer to offer a controller with two analog sticks, an essential requirement for FPS.©Sony

Sony earns double

In a very competitive context for console manufacturers, the smallest changes are tested, copied or improved. Sony was the first to react to this major development, unveiling at the 1996 PlayStation Expo a new version of its PlayStation controller, called the Dual Analog Controller. With two analog sticks, the ancestor of the Dual Shock once again brings new solutions to develop FPS on the console. But, in the meantime, Nintendo has taken advantage of these possibilities, even more so than the general public remembers.

A historical double agent

The year 1997 marks a great victory in the battle between consoles and PC to conquer the FPS genre. With the release of Golden Eye 007, from the Rare studio, the Nintendo 64 is equipped with a game that is as impressive in single player as in multiplayer and takes full advantage of the possibilities of its controller. Even better, an often overlooked feature was added by the developers. By connecting a second controller, it is possible to play with two analog sticks, one for movement, the other for aiming. Therefore, from a historical point of view, the first console FPS that imitates the possibilities of the keyboard-mouse duo.

mix shows, by leaving with the Xbox, the importance the genre has taken on consoles.©Bungie

A genre that went major

Subsequently, all manufacturers, Sony being the leader, will rush to the breach, chasing the PC. Some licenses from the past will be adapted to the transition, but it is mainly future releases that will benefit from this paradigm shift. For game publishers, this is also a great opportunity to see potential sales explode and focus solely on PC for FPS. This market is really plagued by piracy, which is more complicated with consoles.

In some years, titles such as Medal of honor where call of duty will make the peak of shooting game lovers. An ambitious new manufacturer, Microsoft, and its first Xbox in 2001 couldn’t go wrong, with its engine releasing another major FPS, mix. If not mario, therefore, the entire history of FPS on the console, without a doubt, is very different. Amazing, right?

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