Just like anything else, video game trends can shift from season to season and year to year. Looking back at the past 30 to 40 years of game development, we can see when and how some trends emerged because of improved graphics, technology, and storytelling—but also because games, like other media, reflect our culture’s thoughts, hopes, and anxieties. Starting with the eighties, here are some of the biggest video game trends based on top sellers and nostalgic favorites.
In its infancy, video games were largely about the arcade. Gaming was frequently a social activity, and it was only in the eighties that video games eased out of the fad stage to establish themselves as a solid medium after surviving the crash of 1983 and the oversaturation of low-quality games in the market.
Thankfully, Nintendo came along to save the day. All of the top ten bestselling games, with the exception of Tetris, were the creation of this iconic studio. Their games were longer than the arcade staples—intended to be played and replayed to perfection—and were more likely to include a story. As far as video game trends go, there’s a reason these games are iconic, spawning clones even into today—they were among the first to be played in the home, and they’re a fond memory for developers working in the field today.
Characterized by punishing gameplay, the emergence of stories and fantastical settings, and a continued desire to push the medium to its outer limits, the 80s were a time of great innovation for the gaming industry, giving birth to many of the video game trends we’re familiar with today.