Not many games can claim to have single-handedly created an entire genre, but Doom did just that.
Id Software's Wolfenstein 3D may have been the first-ever modern shooter, but Doom and its rampant stranglehold on the gaming industry of the '90s is what really kicked things off. At one point, it was estimated that the original Doom was installed on more computers than Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system — simply put, only a few select games can claim to have had as much influence as Id Software's demonic FPS.
Of course, with that level of success, it was only a matter of time before imitators started popping up. They may be known as "first-person shooters" today, but back in the mid-'90s, the games were labeled as "Doom clones" more often than not.
Additionally, while there were plenty of garbage shooters released during the '90s, there were also plenty of games that helped push the genre forward. These were titles that took the basic formula of Doom — run around and shoot stuff — and built on it. With the 2016 Doom reboot fast approaching, we figured it's time to look back at some of the most influential "Doom clones" ever created:
Release Date: Dec. 21, 1994
Believe it or not, Macintosh was actually a viable gaming platform back in the '90s. On top of that, Halo wasn't Bungie's first foray into first-person shooters, either.
Marathon featured a number of upgrades to the basic Doom formula: not only did it boast the ability to look up and down (yes, that was a new feature back then), but it also helped introduce dual-wielding and mouse controls to the genre.
However, Marathon's major contribution to the genre was a strong focus on story. Whereas most of the story in Doom had been left on the cutting room floor (Doomguy even had a name at one point), Marathon put its tale of a security officer facing off against rogue AI front and center. The themes of man working with and fighting against machine would become one of Bungie's trademarks, and Marathon would go on to influence the studio and its stories for years to come.
Release Date: Dec. 23, 1994
Developer: Raven Software
Just a few days after Bungie's Marathon hit Macintosh computers everywhere, Heretic launched on PC. It may not be a widely remembered as Bungie's first FPS, but that doesn't mean that Heretic didn't leave its own, unique mark on the genre.
Interactive environments may be commonplace today, but even something as simple as players getting swept down a river was a new concept in 1994. Heretic was full of moments like this — and for the first time, players felt like they were inhabiting an actual space and not some big square box of a room.
The idea of something like an inventory was also new. Heretic featured plenty of floating health pickups and power-ups like its predecessor, but players could also tuck certain items away for later use. It changed how players looked at their resources: sure, you could use the health pack right away ... but what if you saved it for later? That sort of thinking is still a huge part of gamers' mindsets, and Heretic helped start it all.
Star Wars: Dark Forces
Release Date: Feb. 28, 1995
Looking back at Doom, it's easy to see how simple the level design is. That's not a bad thing, it's that the game's various stages were all pretty flat — some featured inclines or elevators, but that was about as much verticality as you were going to get.
Star Wars: Dark Forces came along and changed that. Levels weren't flat maps for players to explore; they turned and twisted and folded back over on themselves. Progress wasn't about simply surviving from one side of the map to the other, it was about weaving back and forth through different floors and altitudes. It sounds simple now, but it actually made a pretty noticeable difference back in 1995.
As if all that wasn't enough, Kyle Katarn quickly became a fan favorite character in the Star Wars Expanded Universe — who knows, with Star Wars: Rogue One debuting later this year, maybe it's time for Katarn to make a comeback!
Duke Nukem 3D
Release Date: Jan. 29, 1996
Developer: 3D Realms
It's Duke Nukem. What more is there to say?
As previously stated, Doom wasn't known for its story. There weren't really any characters, save for a few bosses at the end of each campaign — Duke Nukem 3D, on the other hand, provided one of the most memorable characters in gaming history. He was a blend of every '80s action hero ever, spouting out one-liners and insults — and it was great.
Sure, the Duke's fallen on hard times as of late, but back then, Duke Nukem 3D was the closest thing to an interactive action movie you could get. It wasn't just about shooting everything on the screen anymore, it was about interacting with everything in the world and seeing how Duke would react. Again, it sounds like a simple upgrade, but back in the early days of the first-person shooter, the combination of a legitimately funny character and detailed world interaction was something no one had seen before.
Release Date: Feb. 20, 1996
Developer: Probe Entertainment
The Alien franchise has been struggling to find its footing in the video game industry for years now — which is strange, because Probe Entertainment absolutely nailed it back in 1996.
Everything about the game screamed Alien. The enemies, the weapons, the sound effects, the environment — all of it looked like it'd been ripped straight from the movies. Fans were no stranger to licensed games, but Alien Trilogy was one of the first examples of a developer truly understanding what made the franchise work in an interactive medium.
Not only that, but Alien Trilogy helped modernize something that most gamers take for granted: mission objectives. Progress in most shooters was still measured by how many enemies had been killed, but Alien Trilogy changed things up by giving players something more to do. It went a long way to making players feel like they were doing more than clearing out hallways with a shotgun, something that some shooters still struggle with today.
Now, after years of waiting, everything comes full circle: not only does the new Doom reboot take influences from the classic games, but a number of more recent FPS franchises as well. Hopefully, the blend of classic Doom and modern shooter comes together — otherwise, it might be another decade before fans see another entry in the series.
Bethesda's next-gen Doom reboot is set to hit store shelves on May 13.