15 Most Influential Video Games of All Time
Virtua Racing--Arcade (1992)

Virtua Racing, or perhaps more specifically, Sega's Model 1 hardware was absolutely essential to modern gaming. It wasn't the first fully polygonal game on the market--games such as S.T.U.N. Runner, I Robot, and Hard Drivin' came well before it--but along with Virtua Fighter, Sega's 1993 release on the same hardware, it introduced the concept of polygonal graphics to the masses.

The Genesis version used special on-cart processors to render the game's polygonal graphics.
Games like these and Namco's Ridge Racer (1993) and Tekken (1995) reinvigorated an arcade scene that was starting to get a little stale. By today's standards, these early games are merely a blocky, ugly mess. But back then, the not-so-round wheels on your F-1 car looked pretty realistic. Polygonal characters let developers better display motion-captured data, so the mo-cap business was given a huge boost by polygonal gaming, and realistic motion in games became, well, a reality.

Should companies still make 2D games?
No way, polygonal games look way more realistic.
Only when the game itself would work in a sprite-based format.
Yes, polygons are a scourge upon this Earth that should be eradicated!

The 3D hardware used to power Sega's Model 1 games gave way to continually more advanced 3D hardware--a sort of arms race that continues to this very day. Sega went on to create Model 2 hardware for games like Virtua Fighter 2, and the console market began to revolve around 3D performance as well. The Saturn was the first console to launch with polygonal gaming in mind--well, unless you count the Vectrex's simple, vector-based games. Soon after, the PlayStation was released, and the rest is, as they say, history.

The effects of polygonal rendering on games are obviously still felt today. Nowadays, polygonal graphics are the norm, and games that rely mostly on sprites are considered to be classic or "old-school." The world of gaming--on consoles, PCs, or even arcade games--is totally obsessed with getting ahold of stronger processors and better 3D performance. On top of that, power has increased exponentially since those early days of 3D. Today's next-generation consoles could probably run 100 different instances of Hard Drivin' at the same time, and there's no end in sight. Will 3D performance ever reach a plateau? Will graphics eventually become so realistic that we can't tell polygons from flesh? Only time will tell.

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