Games That Helped Inspire Skyrim
The amazing graphics are one of the things that sets Skyrim apart from other fantasy RPGs and helps to establish the game as one of the best in a generation (you don’t win over 200 game of the year awards for nothing, do you?). Skyrim was released in 2011, but what if the game had been released way back in 1988? Recently the Skyrim Fansite became aware of a YouTube video created by chubbiecherub that shows what Skyrim may have looked liked as an 8-bit video game from the Golden Age of gaming (you can check out the YouTube video at the bottom of this article). The mock-up title screen with the Skyrim logo made us smile, and the 8-bit theme song made us laugh! Not only did we get the itch to fire up a Nintendo NES, we started thinking about other fantasy video games that are now classics. In some way, Skyrim wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for these forerunners. Here then are three retro video games that helped inspire Skyrim.
Adventure was the very first action-adventure game for a video console. Released in 1979 for the Atari 2600, Adventure became an instant classic and was the Skyrim of its day. The game was open-world, and included multi-screens of castles and mazes. Players controlled a hero (represented by a square) and could move wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The goal was to hunt down an enchanted chalice and return it to the gold castle before being eaten by one of the game’s three dragons. True, you didn’t get to absorb a dragon’s soul and become the Dragonborn, but you could slay a dragon with a sword. The game has seen a revival of sorts, and is available for download via the Xbox 360 Game Room.
The Bard’s Tale
Inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, The Bard’s Tale was released in 1985 for the Apple II (later released for the MS-DOS and Nintendo platforms) and was wildly popular. Back in the day, The Bard’s Tale was one of the first games to incorporate 3D graphics and animated character portraits (combat though was described in a text window — primitive compared to the graphics and cut-scenes of today’s games like Skyrim). Players could form a party of six characters from various classes (bard, warrior, magician, rogue, monk, etc.), and explore maze-like dungeons, fighting monsters and gaining treasure and experience points. The more experience characters gained, the greater their skill advancement. Even today, RPG games like Skyrim rely on leveling systems based in part on the classic tabletop and video “dungeon crawls” from yesteryear.
A discussion of fantasy RPGs isn’t complete without mentioning Ultima. In fact, the game franchise still has a thriving fan base. The game was first released in 1981 with the eight additional installments coming out over the next 18 years (the final installment, Ultima IX: Ascension came out in 1999). The Ultima series truly is massive — the nine installments are divided up into three separate trilogies: The Age of Darkness: Ultima I-III, The Age of Enlightenment: Ultima IV-VI, and The Age of Armageddon: Ultima VII-IX. The series was innovative for many reasons, but it was the very first game that introduced a code of conduct in which players had to consider the consequences of their actions (similar systems are now considered commonplace in games like Skyrim). Not only was Ultima one of the earliest open world fantasy RPGs, the series gave rise to Ultima Online in 1997 — one of the first and most successful MMORPGs ever. Bethesda is following a similar pattern with Skyrim, now taking the leap into MMORPG gameplay with the upcoming release of The Elder Scrolls Online (to learn more about The Elder Scrolls Online be sure to check out our most recent ESO articles).
Over time, gameplay has refined and graphics have improved, but without a doubt, Skyrim and other games in the fantasy RPG genre owe a debt of gratitude to the early forerunners that helped set the stage for today’s video games. Adventure, The Bard’s Tale, and the Ultima series are just a few games that were the trailblazers of their time. Are there other games that you believe helped inspire Skyrim? Let us know your thoughts and be sure to check out our latest Skyrim wallpapers. Until next time!