The Greatest Years of E3: Moments that Shaped the Video Game Industry


All true video gamers have, at least, heard of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3. Ever since its inception in 1995, the convention has been the launching pad for many of the most impactful creations and conceptions in video game history. Out of all the great moments from the event, I thought I would recap what I think are the greatest and most eventful years in the history of E3. This is in no way a countdown, just a recap of events that are, in my opinion, the most significant.

1995 marked the first E3 and it started off with a bang that would shape the game industry and console wars to come. Sony, after a failed deal with Nintendo to help the veteran game company’s next console, announced their first steps in the video game industry with the unveiling of the Sony PlayStation. Though not the greatest system ever, it made great leaps in fantastic gameplay and set the stage for Sony to become a powerful force within the industry.

The 1st Sony console - The Sony PlayStation

After Sony stole the show the year before, E3 1996 would have to have quite the announcements to keep up with the history making agenda E3 would soon be known for.

The game that made JRPGs an American favorite

Capcom previewed the first Resident Evil, something that could be argued by some as what kicked off the survival horror genre of video games. Square (now Square Enix) continued the event with a video that would create a lasting craze in America for Japanese RPGs. The video was of Final Fantasy VII, possibly the most successful and popular Final Fantasy or JRPG to date.

The expo was not to end there, however. Though the Sony PlayStation made a big splash at E3 ’95, Nintendo topped them in ‘96 with the unveiling of the Nintendo 64, accompanied by the hugely successful and history making Super Mario 64, not the first foray into 3D gameplay, but definitely the most successful and groundbreaking of the time. Nintendo also set the standard for game controllers again (the first being the SNES control, which became the blueprint for all subsequent controls to date, motion controls not-withstanding) with the inclusion of the joystick on the controller, which would return in all controllers since.

The most well reviewed Zelda game to date

Two years of gaming continued on this generation of consoles. In 1998, though no systems were debuted, due to the success of the current ones, that did not mean that E3 1998 would let itself go stale. Duke Nukem Forever, which would become the longest running joke in video game history, made its first appearance. If would only take 13 short years for the game to come to complete fruition.

Duke was not the only superstar to take the stage during the expo. Half-Life made an appearance in its final stages of development and created quite a favored reaction, for good reason, as it would go on to be one of the most successful first-person shooter series ever. Along with that, Nintendo presented the final version of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the most well received Zelda game in history. Both of these games would set the bar for future games in their respective genres.

With the sixth generation of consoles officially ushered in by the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, 2000’s E3 continued down that road with the unveiling of the PlayStation 2, which would become the juggernaut of that generation of consoles and the bestselling video game system of all time. It was featured with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

Sega's last console - The Sega Dreamcast

Microsoft continued to expand on that generation with the showing of an early Xbox system with an early Halo: Combat Evolved, back when the game was still a 3rd person PC title.

The next generation of consoles didn’t start in 2004, but Sony made everyone aware that it wasn’t far off. In their press conference, they revealed that the PlayStation 3 will be right around the corner. Nintendo, not to be shown up, showcased the first trailer for the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Lastly, the Unreal Engine 3 was first demonstrated, a graphics engine that would go on to be used in several successful games throughout the years.

The next year, in 2005, gave way to the seventh generation of consoles with Nintendo announcing the Revolution (what would later be called the Wii), however, they chose to save the revealing of the revolutionary motion controls until the next Tokyo Gameshow.  Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3, after the announcement the year before. Finally, Microsoft showed the Xbox 360, completing the triangle of consoles that would make up the longest lasting console generation to date.

The 7th Generation - The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the Wii

With the latest E3 not too far behind us, those announcements won’t be mentioned, since they are still fresh in our memory. More than likely, many of these announcements have had an impact on us as gamers one way or another, and the event will continue to shape and evolve the gaming industry for as long as it lasts. One thing you can always expect from E3, it will be something to talk about for years to come.


Music Credits: Super Mario 64 “Koopa’s Road”, “Koopa’s Theme” – Original Composer: Koji Kondo – Remixer: Sole Signal – Overclocked Remix.org

About Tyler Lee

Freelance video game journalist, published author, nerd.

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