Every developer is always looking for that one new feature that will make their game stand out from the crowd. Some games do so in fine form, while other games follow the sheep and produce something which is very much expected. Below are a bunch of titles that came through with their own unique mechanic that made them stand out from the crowd and in turn ended up with a fanbase because of it.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – Manual
Many skateboarding games had come and gone over the years leading up to the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, but once Neversoft launched this popular game there was no looking back. The ease with pulling off tricks made it a huge success, but going back to old school days and claiming the highest score was what made it stand out. Without the inclusion of a manual, there were no combos to be had and would have been much less fun without it. The transfer extended this feature in the second game, but the manual will forever be that move that helped us pull off enormous combos.
DOOM – Glory Kills
The recent reboot of the DOOM series returned to form with the game being as frantic as the original was and keeping everything on-screen at a blistering pace. The game has always been about gore and wasting your opponents. Well, DOOM went one step further and introduced glory kills. Basically, a humiliating way for any foe to meet his end and to boot you also received a whole bunch of goodies for killing each demon in that way. Imagine DOOM without glory kills in the modern era? It would just feel wrong.
Mortal Kombat – Fatality
In the mid-90s there was only one fighter that mattered – Street Fighter II. Mortal Kombat came out of the blue with its take on popular martial arts movies at the time, like Bloodsport, and introduced something new the fighting games – Fatalities. Being that guy in the arcade who could have Sub Zero rip out the spine or have Jonny Cage knock a foes head right off, meant you were by far the coolest guy in that room. To this day it’s a unique feature that’s stood the test of time. Gamers just love some gore, it seems.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Glider
Nintendo’s latest Zelda game has many, many reasons for standing out from the crowd. It’s a very unqiue open-world game, but the feature that made it a pleasure was the inclusion of the glider. Jumping off the top of a mountain and gliding over to an area that is barely in sight changed everything up. It brought with it a sense of vertically which, perhaps, has only been matched by the Batman Arkham series. Still, there’s just no better way to traverse such a huge world than using the glider.
Burnout – Takedowns
Arcade racers take everything that’s realistic in simulation racers and turns it on its head. The burnout series quite literally went against the grain in that you were rewarded for driving in oncoming traffic to grow your burnout meter and in turn gain boost. Want that boost in record time? Smash your foes into walls using takedowns. Never again has an arcade racer made any mechanic as much fun as this was. EA… I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive you for killing this series.
Soul Reaver – Shifting planes
Oh Raziel, how we would love to return to your world once more. The mechanic of shifting between the material and spectral planes has never been matched or bettered in any game since this series launched in the late 90s. The fact that Raziel’s world completely changed, based on what plane he was in, made it a game for those who lusted for souls and a hunger for real head-scratching puzzles. It’s as unique as it gets.
Gravity Rush – Manipulating gravity
The Vita launched with some fantastic features, but there weren’t many games that grasped just what could be done with the tools at their fingertips. Studio Japan needed little time to once again wow us in our first adventure with Kat as the lead. The Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2 was impressive, but Gravity Rush’s gameplay mechanics required you to manipulate gravity and use it as the main mechanic to play the game. A very underrated series that is begging for more people to play it.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Sprinting
There were some FPS games that included the ability to sprint early on in the FPS days, but nothing was quite as prominent as the addition to sprint as it was in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This simple addition made the already fast-paced action, that’s, duh, based on modern warfare all the more frantic. Running up to someone to perform a quick knife kill – those were the days.
Portal – Portals
Yes, Prey included portals in its game before Portal launched, but there is no denying that Portal is the game that got it right. To date there is nothing that plays like Portal other than spin-offs of the same series. The entire game revolves around the portal mechanic and with Portal 2 it allowed two players to join forces to up the puzzle trickery that Valve could throw at you.
Max Payne – Bullet Time
In the late 90s and early 2000s there was just one movie series that mattered – The Matrix (well, next to Lord of the Rings) and game developers took note. The first guys to get it working in a game was Remedy Entertainment. By a press of a button, Max could leap out from cover, in bullet time, and mow down a bunch of goons. Without bullet time Max Payne was just your general third-person shooter, but it made it stand out from the overcrowded genre.
Souls series – Online message system
You either love or hate the Souls series. The difficulty in this series is that of legend. It’s not a game that holds your hand, which is perhaps half its charm in a world of spoon-feeding games. The online message system is perhaps the best use of an online mechanic we’ve seen in a single player game to date. Players can leave hints for new players to read, which tells them about any incoming threats. However, these messages could be there to fool you too. It’s exceptionally unique and we hope more games use this feature in the future.
Splatoon – Squid form
Nintendo has always taken their kid-friendly approach very serious over the years and because of that, it’s got a reputation for being a ‘kiddies format’ (one online game with us in Mario Kart and you’ll find out just how “kiddie” it is…). Therefore the shooting genre has been difficult but for them to crack until someone at Nintendo discovered paint and squids. Splatoon 2 is now one of the most beloved and played games on the Switch. Your aim is to paint a stage in your colour and end up with the biggest percentage. As soon as your tank runs dry you can morph into squid form that can speed through the ink of your team’s colour and, while doing so, refills you ink tank. Simple but super effective to make it a very unique game.
Dead or Alive series – Interactive level design in a fighter
Dead or Alive, unbeknown to some, has been around for as long as the Tekken series has. It’s just that it only received much love and support once the second game in the series launched. That’s due to the second game coming with levels that formed a part of the fighting. Unlike Tekken and most other 3D fighters at the time, you could smash opponents into walls or knock them down to whole new levels to discover. There is still no fighter that includes the level design into the outcome of a fight quite as the Dead or Alive series does.