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How 13 Classic Video Games Got Their Names

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1. Pac-Man

It’s not easy to create a game based solely on the concept of eating. But Namco employee T?ru Iwatani did just that in 1980 by taking the idea of a pizza with a slice missing, and then having it eat a bunch of dots while being chased by ghosts in a maze. (Iwatani has also said that the shape is a rounded version of the square Japanese character for “mouth.") The name of the game, Pakkuman, was inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeia, “paku-paku," which describes the sound of eating, similar to the English word “chomp." As the game was brought to market, the title morphed into Puck Man.

But when Puck Man made his way to North America there was concern that the arcade cabinets would be vandalized by making the P into an F to spell something entirely different. A compromise was reached and the game became known as Pac-Man instead. Thanks to the American marketing machine, the name Pac-Man was eventually adopted for the game all over the world.

2. Metroid

The name of Nintendo's classic game is actually a combination of two words: metro, as in another word for subway, which is an allusion to the game's underground setting; and android, referring to the game's protagonist, Samus Aran, who appears to be a robot through most of the game. (Really old spoiler alert: Samus is a woman.)

3. Tetris

When Russian game designer Alexey Pajitnov named his famously addictive video game, he decided to combine two words: tetromino and tennis. A tetromino is a geometric shape comprising four squares. Tennis was just Pajitnov's favorite sport.

4. Grand Theft Auto

According to one of the original game's developers, Gary Penn, GTA was initially called Race 'n' Chase. And instead of only playing a car-stealing gangster, the game gave you the option of being a gangster-chasing police officer, too.

5. Wolfenstein 3-D

id Software's Wolfenstein 3-D essentially created a whole new genre – the first-person shooter – but its name is hardly original. The title roughly translates to “wolfstone” and was first used in 1981, when Muse Software released Castle Wolfenstein for the Apple IIe. The object of the game was to find secret Nazi plans and get out of the titular castle alive. But Castle Wolfensteinwasn't a simple run-and-gun action game like its namesake; while the player did occasionally have to kill enemy soldiers, the preferred method of play was to sneak around and evade capture. This makes it one of the first games in the “stealth” genre that has since spawned titles like Metal Gear and Splinter Cell.

Because 1992's Wolfenstein 3-D was heavily influenced by the original game, id Software hoped to use the name if it wouldn’t be too expensive to license. However, Muse Software had gone out of business in 1987, so the name was no longer protected by copyright and was free to use.

6. Doom

After the success of Wolfenstein 3-D, id Software programmer/designer John Carmack was already hard at work on a follow-up. The concept for the new game was said to be Aliens meets Evil Dead II, so the game's working title, It's Green and Pissed, seems pretty self-explanatory. But Carmack admits that a game with that name might have been a hard sell. Instead, inspiration struck while he was watching the Tom Cruise/Paul Newman billiards film, The Color of Money.

http://youtu.be/xa2OAhf0R_g

There's a scene where Cruise's character, Vincent, is holding his custom pool cue case, waiting for the next game on a table. The winner of the current game walks over to him and asks, “Whatchu’ got in there?” Vincent rubs the case and asks, “In here?” He smiles a cocky grin and replies, “Doom.” Vincent then goes on to destroy his opponent, which is what Carmack thought he and his id buddies would do to the industry once their new game hit the market. He was right.

7. Guerrilla War

In 1987, SNK released the top-down view “run and gun” arcade game, Guerrilla War. The game featured two unnamed beret-wearing rebels firing machine guns, tossing grenades, and comandeering tanks as they invade a tropical island in a righteous quest to overthrow an evil king.

That's the American version of the game anyway.

If you lived in other parts of the world, you played Guevara – essentially the same game, except it stars heroes of the Cuban Revolution: Che Guevara as Player 1, and Fidel Castro as Player 2. The game was (loosely) based on real events from the Cuban uprising, and the “evil king” you fight in the game was Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban dictator.

Since America was still fighting the Cold War, all mentions of the historic events and figures were removed from the U.S. game, but the rather obvious 8-bit portraits of Che and Castro remain.

8. The Legend of Zelda

Zelda is the princess that the hero, Link, is trying to save. According to the game's creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, the name was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, simply because he liked the sound of it.

As for Link, he was originally going to be named Chris or Christo after Shigeru's godfather, but the name Link was ultimately chosen because he is meant to be a “link” between the player and the fantasy world of the game. Of course if you don't like the name Link you can always give him whatever name you want at the start of a new quest. If you decide to call him Zelda, you'll unlock an Easter Egg that lets you play a harder version of the game.

9. Final Fantasy

The year was 1987. Four years earlier, Hironobu Sakaguchi had left school mid-semester so that he could take a job as a game developer at a company called Square. Now, though, he was starting to wonder if this video game thing was really for him. He decided to give it one last shot with his latest title – an expansive role-playing game - but if it wasn't a hit, he was going back to college to finish his electrical engineering degree. As a sort of inside joke, he decided to call the game Final Fantasy, because he figured it would most likely be his last. It wasn’t. The game sold 400,000 copies for the Nintendo Entertainment System, has gone on to sell millions of copies across nearly every gaming platform in existence, spawned 13 sequels, and more spin-off titles than you can count.

10. Yars' Revenge

One of the best-selling games ever for the Atari 2600, Yars' Revenge, is named after Atari's then-CEO, Ray Kassar. The insect-like alien species, the Yar, is Ray spelled backwards. The planet they come from, Razak, is a phonetic spelling of his last name backwards.

11. Q*bert

When game developer Gottlieb’s Warren Davis and Jeff Lee started to create what would become Q*bert, they initially called their project Cubes after the M.C. Escher-inspired boxes that the main character hops around on. After they added the ability to shoot balls of slime from the character’s snorkel-like nose in order to defend himself, they changed the name to Snots and Boogers. But when it was decided that slime-ball-shooting made the game too complicated, the name didn’t really make sense anymore, so the marketing team started brainstorming.

One idea was to name the game @!#?@!, the curse-word grawlixes that appear whenever the player gets caught by a bad guy. They also thought about naming it after the main character who, until then, didn’t have a name. Someone came up with Hubert, which was later combined with Cubes to make Cubert. But as the art designer made the logo, he changed it to Q-bert, only to later have the dash become an asterisk, resulting in the game’s final name.

12. Halo

The road to the Xbox’s “killer app” was hard for game developer Bungie Studios. After starting life as a real-time strategy game called Solipsis, named after the planet where the game took place, it was eventually retooled as a first-person shooter. It was also christened with many different monikers through these development stages, including Star Maker, Star Shield, Hard Vacuum, The Crystal Palace, and, oddly enough, The Santa Machine and Monkey Nuts. (Monkey Nuts was replaced with Blam! after the company’s co-founder decided he couldn’t tell his mother he was working on a game with a title like that.)

Eventually the simple, spherical planet of Solipsis became a “Halo,” a man-made ring inspired by the Culture novels of sci-fi author Iain M. Banks. Although the company was concerned that the angelic name might be too soft for hardcore gamers as a title, Halo stuck and actually fit in well with the plot focusing on an invasion of alien religious zealots.

13. Donkey Kong

Although “kong” was a common Japanese nickname for “ape," no doubt inspired by the 1933 film, King Kong, how exactly the first half of the name Donkey Kong came to be is something of a mystery. One version of the story says the title was supposed to be Monkey Kong, but there was a miscommunication that led to a misspelling. Another story is that game designer Shigeru Miyamoto was looking up words in a Japanese-English dictionary and found the word “donkey” as a synonym for both “stupid” and “stubborn”. Whatever the case may be, it didn’t matter to Universal Pictures how the first half of the title came to be; they were more interested in the second half.

Universal sued Nintendo in 1982, because they felt Donkey Kong was too similar to King Kong – in name and in concept. Nintendo hired attorney John Kirby, who was able to show that there were significant differences between the two, but the nail in the Universal coffin came from a 1975 case in which Universal sued RKO Pictures, the producers of the 1933 film, in order to film a remake. Universal claimed they were filming an adaptation of the original film’s novelization, which had fallen into the public domain. In that case, it was determined that the 1933 film’s characters were now in the public domain, though not the film itself. Shortly after, Universal bought some of the rights to the characters, but not all. So when they sued Nintendo, they did so knowing that the characters were partially in the public domain, because they had used that exact argument a few years earlier.

Nintendo won the suit and Universal wound up paying $1.8 million for legal fees and damages. To show their appreciation, Nintendo bought John Kirby a sailboat christened Donkey Kong, and it’s rumored that the bubbly character Kirby from the 1992 game Kirby’s Dream Land is named after him.

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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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10 Unlikely TV Shows That Got Turned Into Video Games

Video games based on outside properties have come a long way since the likes of Atari’s E.T., which was so poorly received that it almost destroyed the gaming industry. Now video games based on movies and comic books are routinely among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed titles every year.

Video games based on television shows, on the other hand, are a different story—which might have something to do with some of the more bizarre shows that have been adapted over the years. Here are 10 unlikely TV shows that got turned into video games.

1. DALLAS QUEST (1984)

In 1984, the family drama, corporate intrigue, and 10-gallon hats made famous in Dallas found their way onto the Commodore 64 in the form of Dallas Quest, a text adventure that puts players in the role of a renowned detective hired by Sue Ellen to track down a mysterious map that leads to a South American oil field (and, of course, piles of Dallas-y oil money).

By inputting commands (such as “look” or “dig”), players can investigate the Ewing estate, traverse through hazardous jungles, or (in one spectacularly odd sequence) tickle an anaconda to get to the bottom of this mystery. Much like the show itself, Dallas Quest rewards the eagle-eyed player that pores through the mountains of dialogue that leave hints and clues for each puzzle. Though text adventures are long extinct, and likely can’t hold the attention of most modern gamers, the spirit of Dallas was a perfect match for the genre.

2. ALF (1989)

Remember ALF? Well here he is in video game form, complete with all of his loveable cat-snatching hijinks. The game revolves around ALF attempting to find the parts necessary to repair his spaceship so he can take a joyride to Mars to visit his girlfriend. Along the way, players journey through dank caves, city streets, and the Tanner family home as Alf fights off wave after wave of enemies.

The game does occasionally stray from the typical side-scrolling formula by introducing underwater levels and a section where ALF needs to ride a flying Segway to victory. The whole thing ends up with ALF on the moon, where his spaceship repair kit just so happens to be.

3. THE ADVENTURES OF GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1990)

If the mere prospect of releasing a video game based on Gilligan’s Island wasn’t strange enough, consider that this 8-bit oddity hit shelves about 23 years after the sitcom had gone off the air. This crude action game puts players in the role of the Skipper (followed closely behind by Gilligan) as he traverses the island, completing a number of tasks, like building a hut during a storm or finding Mrs. Howell’s wedding ring after it is stolen by a bird (players are rewarded with a jar of caviar once they return it to her).

Much like the show itself, the game consists of a lot of walking around; overcoming the occasional obstacle like gorillas, tigers, and cannibals; and wrangling the computer-controlled Gilligan long enough to complete the game’s story. To its credit, the game tries its best to replicate the dialogue found in the show with some banter that feels authentic to the characters (though there's sadly no button to whomp Gilligan with your hat).

4. HOME IMPROVEMENT: POWER TOOL PURSUIT! (1994)

Remember the episode of Home Improvement when Tim Allen had to battle an army of velociraptors, mummies, and scorpions the size of Buicks? Well it had to exist somewhere, because in 1994 that was the entire premise of a Super Nintendo game called Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit.

The plot begins with a line of power tools going missing on the set of Tool Time, which obviously leads to Tim arming himself with a chainsaw to hunt vampires and other ghouls. The whole affair is a standard side-scroller, complete with power-ups (in the form of hardhats) and a choice of weapons like a nail gun and flamethrower. The game does manage to capture the spirit of the show in one way: There was no instruction manual included in the box. Instead, players were just left with a fake booklet with a sticker plastered across it that read “Real Men Don’t Need Instructions.” We’ll grunt to that.

5. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: THE GAME (2006)

Desperate Housewives doesn’t exactly lend itself to a typical gaming genre (though a Street Fighter II-inspired fighting game sounds intriguing), but this Sims homage is probably the most appropriate for the show. In this game, players are tasked with creating their character—the new Housewife on the block—along with her husband and children. In typical soap opera fashion, your new housewife also has amnesia and has to piece her life together (and stir up salacious drama).

Gameplay objectives include shopping, gardening, socializing, and housekeeping, all while navigating a story that involves finding out your neighbor’s deepest, darkest secrets. Oh, you can also have an affair with pretty much anyone on your block, including the mailman and your maid. In that respect, Desperate Housewives: The Game might be the most faithful game on this list.

6. THE OFFICE (2007)

Few shows were as big as The Office was at its peak, so it’s only natural that someone would try to squeeze a little more cash out of the show by turning it into a video game. The problem is: How would an Office game actually work? In 2007, developer Reveille came up with a gameplay model that mixed the show’s humor with fairly casual gameplay reminiscent of Diner Dash.

This PC title featured the main Office cast as exaggerated bobblehead versions of themselves, with players running around Dunder Mifflin, playing pranks and handing off different supplies (folders, cash, paperwork) to the appropriate worker. There are some memorable quotes from the show sprinkled throughout, as well as some Easter eggs from the series, such as Pam laying Michael’s Foreman Grill on the floor to prank him. It may not be the in-depth Office simulator you were hoping for, but it’s an easy way to kill an afternoon.

7. LITTLE BRITAIN: THE VIDEO GAME (2007)

It’s only fair that a TV show as crude as Little Britain gets a game that’s equally as rough around the edges. There’s no story to progress through in the game; instead, there are seven mini-games to play, all centered around different characters from the BBC comedy. This includes a rather nonsensical roller skating mini-game with Vicky Pollard; Lou and Andy in a diving competition; and Marjorie Dawes in a Pac-Man rip-off.

The idea was for the mini-games to mirror the sketch comedy style of the show. It didn’t quite work, as the game predictably received unanimously horrid reviews.

8. IRON CHEF AMERICA: SUPREME CUISINE (2008)

In this Nintendo Wii adaptation of Iron Chef America, you can grate, mince, and dice your way to victory through the use of the system’s motion controls. The game boils down to a series of mini-games that you have to complete quickly and efficiently as you cook the dish the show’s host gives to you.

With voice acting provided by the show’s hosts, including Alton Brown and Mark Dacascos, Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine is as faithful an adaptation of the show as you’re likely to find. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to fun, as both the Wii and Nintendo DS versions of the game have been soundly battered by critics.

9. MURDER, SHE WROTE (2009)

If you think Murder, She Wrote doesn’t lend itself to the world of gaming, you’d be wrong. It just doesn’t lend itself to the world of modern gaming. Taking its cues from the point and click adventure games of the ’80s and ‘90s, this 2009 release features five murder mysteries, leaving players to find the culprit behind each. Clues are discovered by watching conversations unfold and then clicking around locations until hints present themselves.

Though the game sets up the type of plots that a viewer would find in the Murder, She Wrote TV series, none of the actors lent their voices to the game; the mere likeness of Dame Angela Lansbury is all you’ll get. The game must have done something right, though, because Murder, She Wrote 2: Return to Cabot Cove came out just a few years after the original.

10. GREY’S ANATOMY: THE VIDEO GAME (2009)

Part dating simulator, part surgery minigame, 2009’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game attempted to squeeze all of the romantic dalliances, brooding, and occasional doctoring of the show into one cohesive title. During the course of the game, players take control of a number of Grey’s main cast, including Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, as you guide them through the everyday drama that is being a doctor, including surgeries and flirting with your co-workers.

For Dr. Grey, you start the game out with a decision to make: Do you play hard to get with Dr. Shepherd, or do you go right at him and make some not-so-thinly-veiled advances on him in the elevator? As Dr. Yang, an early mission has you literally destroying bubbles of doubt as you build up your courage meter. Each decision dictates what graphic will appear afterwards (like whether or not you get to make out with Dr. McDreamy during your shift).

Some of these challenges do involve simulated medical procedures, but don’t expect anything harder than clicking and dragging your way to an easy victory (thankfully the Nintendo Wii graphics are as detailed as a WikiHow page, so you won’t get squeamish).

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