When it comes to the nostalgia of the arcade, many blockbuster titles rule the roost. Talks of Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and Donkey Kong are never far behind. Yet there are plenty of lesser-discussed titles responsible for the boom in casual gaming that has become popular today.
Mainly puzzle-based, these titles paved the way for games that work best when on a handheld, small-screen device. These are the games that helped shape mobile gaming.
Pong was the arcade classic that started it all. Made of two batons and two controllers, it was a rudimentary game of tennis, in which you had to get the ball past your opponent to score points. Released in 1972, it was actually conceived as a training exercise at Atari before being mass manufactured for public use.
It is so important to mobile gaming as its simplistic black-and-white look would experience a renaissance in the early days of mobile gaming. Mega hits such as Snake, bundled with the Nokia 3310, would never have existed were it not for the pixelated simplicity of Pong. It allowed devices to be looked at as something more than a communication tool and as a source of entertainment.
The first video slot machine launched a mere thirteen years after the first electromechanical slot. Named the Fortune Coin, it was developed by the Fortune Coin Co, a company based in California. While residing solely in casinos in the US, particularly the Las Vegas Hilton where it debuted, in Europe and the UK it was able to sit in traditional gaming arcades.
It was strikingly different due to its large Sony TV screen that replaced the standard mechanical drum display. Behind the façade, also had several changes. All the mechanical components were now replaced by circuit boards, turning them into a fully-fledged video game. The Nevada Betting Commission was responsible for a few adjustments to cheat-proof the machine before it rolled out across the state.
The legacy of the Fortune Coin machine is easy to see with today’s mobile gaming and online offerings. Despite the addition of extra games and offers of free spins, mobile and online slots have changed very little from the machine’s original inception. From jackpot slots to fruit-themed games, the idea of using winning combinations on each game and landing specific symbols on pay lines to form winning combinations remains. The thrilling sounds, visuals, and great all-around gameplay are still the driving force, pioneered by Fortune Coin.
Tetris has its history behind the Iron Curtain in the former U.S.S.R. Created by Alexey Pajitnov, he was a software engineer at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow where he programmed a geometric puzzle game. Named Tetrominoes, it consisted of a variation of twelve blocks that would fall onto a grid, which the player was tasked with lining up.
The game was extremely popular in the Soviet Union, available to anyone who had a computer. Soon, it filtered out into the west, and Pajitnov was contacted with requests to license the property. Originally, Tetris was available as a title for personal computers. However, the early days in which the game had been heavily bootlegged meant the game has created a wealth of arcade units. Every arcade across Europe, Asia, and the US would have some variation of it, if it bore the name and license, or not. It was one of the first real puzzle games to flood a market of shooters and combat games.
However, its real boost in popularity came in the form of the handheld Nintendo Gameboy, which bundled the game with it. The parallels between this and modern mobile gaming are obvious. Huge selling titles like Candy Crush, despite a few additions and improved graphics, have never strayed far from this initial concept.