Video Game Hall of Fame inducts Halo, Donkey Kong, others

Attention Halo Nation: Halo: Combat Evolved is in the World Video Game Hall of Fame, inducted along with Donkey Kong, Pokemon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II.

Xbox sci-fi shooter joins Pokemon, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter 2 in The Strong's class of 2017

From left to right: Halo Combat Evolved, Donkey Kong, Pokemon Red and Green and Street Fighter II, The Strong's 2017 inductees into the Video Game Hall of Fame. (Bethany Mosher/The Strong)

Attention Halo Nation, Halo: Combat Evolved is in the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

The science fiction shooter game that enthralled a legion of fans after its 2001 launch with the Xbox system is one of four games to be inducted into the hall Thursday. Donkey KongPokemon Red and Green and Street Fighter 2 round out the young hall's third class of honorees.

All will be on permanent display at The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, where the hall of fame was established in 2015 to recognize an industry that the Entertainment Software Association said generated $30.4 billion (US) in revenue in the U.S. last year.

Halo: Combat Evolved helped popularize the first-person shooter for home consoles. Previously the genre thrived on the personal computer. (Bethany Mosher/The Strong)

"Until Halo's launch, the most successful shooters required a personal computer and the precision offered by a high-quality mouse," said The Strong's associate curator Shannon Symonds. "Halo proved a console could be just as effective, if not better, than a PC."

More than half of the Microsoft Xbox consoles initially sold included the launch game and players gave it high marks for its intricate storyline, characters like Master Chief and multi-player capability. The self-described "Halo Nation" of fans that emerged bought up 6 million copies, along with sequels, spinoffs, books and action figures.

An international committee of video game scholars and journalists chose the World Video Game Hall of Fame's class of 2017 from among 12 finalists that also included: Final Fantasy VIIMicrosoft Windows SolitaireMortal KombatMystPortalResident EvilTomb Raider and Wii Sports.

Inductees were chosen based on their longevity and impact on the video game industry and pop culture. Nominations of arcade, computer, console, hand-held and mobile games came in from more than 100 countries, The Strong said.

Donkey Kong was a star of arcades and at the time of its 1981 release, and Nintendo's most profitable game to date. (Bethany Mosher/The Strong)

Jeremy Saucier, assistant director of the Strong's International Center for the History of Electronic Games, told CBC News that heated discussion often emerges among gamers each year after inductees are announced. One of the biggest reactions was from fans of The Legend of Zelda, which was not included in the inaugural class in 2015.

But Saucier welcomes the debate. "It keeps us thinking about what are really the games that, today, people are still playing and still talking about, and still really invested in?" he said.

Donkey Kong dominated arcades

Twenty years before Halo, fellow inductee Donkey Kong was a star of arcades and at the time of its 1981 release, Nintendo's most profitable game to date. Even more notable than its sale of an estimated 132,000 arcade cabinets is the game's launch of the plumber character Mario, who led the spinoff Super Mario Bros. into the hall of fame's inaugural class.

Another Nintendo entry, Pokemon Red and Green, was released on the Game Boy in 1996 as Pocket Monsters. With the catchphrase "Gotta catch 'em all!" players were challenged to collect 151 unique monsters, which soon migrated to 21.5 billion trading cards, 800 television episodes and 17 movies.

Pokemon Red and Green launched on the Game Boy in 1996, and has since ballooned into a franchise that includes over a dozen games, 21.5 billion trading cards, 800 television episodes and 17 movies. (Bethany Mosher/The Strong)

"Pokemon Red and Green launched a franchise that has taken the world by storm, vaulting many of its characters, such as Pikachu, into popular, mainstream culture," Symonds said.

Capcom's Street Fighter 2 is credited with helping to spark an arcade renaissance in the 1990s, The Strong said.

Capcom's Street Fighter II is credited with helping to spark an arcade renaissance in the 1990s. (Bethany Mosher/The Strong)

The game "allowed for head-to-head battles between human opponents, instantly attracting spectators and generating fierce tournament play in arcades across the world," Saucier said.

Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat?

Saucier told CBC News that one of the most difficult discussions this year centred around whether to include Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat — or both.

Street Fighter 2 predates Mortal Kombat by a year, and largely defined the genre of one-on-one fighting games.

Mortal Kombat was one of the finalists for the class of 2017, but was edged out by fellow brawler Street Fighter 2. (Midway Games/Wikipedia Commons)

But Mortal Kombat's graphic violence became a media sensation in North America unlike few before it, and was one of the key games — as well as Night Trap — that spurred the creation of the industry-wide rating system, now known as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

"Mortal Kombat had a tremendous impact on the way that we talk about video games," said Saucier.

"But I think Street Fighter 2, for the industry, was an archetype for the fighting genre. It really popularized the genre in a way that games like Mortal KombatTekken and so many other fighters were able to build on."

Nominations for the World Video Game Hall of Fame's class of 2018 are open.

with files from CBC News