A Timeline of the History of Storytelling in Video Games.




Colossal Cave is created. It is text-based maze game, is developed by William Crowther based on his actual adventure in a cave. The game is used as a template and is greatly modified in the coming years.


Colossal Cave is picked up by Don Woods, who incorporates fantasy characters with allusions to the popular Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It becomes one of the first games to merge a known genre with another game. It becomes a wildly popular among the computer literate and many spin-offs are soon created. 


Adventure is commercialized and ported to Atari VCS.  The common console allows the game to be enjoyed by the general public.  


Zork is released on the TRS-80 home computer.  It is the direct successor to the mainframe game Adventure, and is the first commercially released text parsing game.


Mystery House is released for the Apple II computer by On-Line systems (now Sierra On-Line).  The first adventure based text parsing game which also combined graphics.


Akalabeth is released for the Apple II computer.  It is the predecessor to the popular Ultima series.  It is the paramount RPG playing experience.


Donkey Kong is released in the arcades.  It introduced the “save the princess” theme used in many later games.


Pitfall is released for the Atari 2600.  It is the first game with a side scrolling environment.


Super Mario Brothers for the Nintendo Entertainment System is released.  It successfully combined the “save the princess” theme from Donkey Kong, and the side-scrolling environment first implanted in Pitfall.


The Legend of Zelda is released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  It follows the “save the princess” theme, but also adds Role-playing game elements.  The first console game to implement a save game feature.


Starflight is released on the PC.  The game pioneered open-ended gameplay, allowing players to control the storyline.


Mega Man is released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  One of the first console games that allowed the player to progress a non-linear fashion.


Populous is released for the PC.  This is the first god game ever released, giving the player complete control of the game environment.


Super Mario Brothers 3 is released. SMB3 sells over 17 million copies due to the success of the movie released beforehand, “The Wizard,” based on the future release of the game.


The Wing Commander series is started. The series brings the idea of movie quality cinematics and plot into the mainstream of gaming.


Super Mario World is released. With new technology allowing more space and multimedia, the Mario world is vastly expanded.


Sonic the Hedgehog is released, starting a series of Sonic games. Sonic was one the first characters designed specifically to show off a technological advance – in this case processor speed.


Wolfenstein 3D is released. Wolfenstein introduces the public to a new genre, the first person shooter, which at first pulls gaming away from storytelling and pushes it toward violence.


Star Control II is released. The game is a milestone is the progress of genre merging. The game is an epic sci-fi space shooter role-playing game.


Tie Fighter is released. Based in the Star Wars universe, Tie Fighter is one of the first games to place the player on the known “bad guy” team (the Empire) and actually keep the player in that role until the end.


Both Warcraft II and Command & Conquer are released. Both pioneer the real time strategy genre which takes story to a grander scale with armies and nations rather than instead of individuals.


Myst is released. Myst is played through still frame pictures and is entirely puzzle based. It is one of the most unique and popular games ever.


Resident Evil is released. It is the first mainstream survival horror game. The game is so popular that many people buy Play Station for the sole purpose of playing it.


Ultima Online is released. It introduces the massively multiplayer online role-playing game genre. Through the game people from around the world can play in the same world and share quests together.


The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is released.  The game is the first 3D incarnation of Zelda and its stunning portrayal of the story sets a new precedence for console action/adventure games. 


Metal Gear Solid is released.  A brilliant example of cinematography in video games, this title employs new technology in order to present its action based story in a fluid and cohesive manner.  Additionally, it solidifies the stealth/action genre by implementing it in a way that makes it accessible to everyone.


Half-Life is released.  In addition to revolutionizing the first person shooter in terms of gameplay, the game makes notable improvements to storytelling.  Rather than using typical FMV sequences, the story is driven by in game dialogue and scripted events.


StarCraft is released.  Though there had been earlier story driven real time strategy games, this game takes the genre to new heights.  It presents its story through the use of pre/post mission briefings, in game dialogue, and FMV sequences, further allowing the player to become immersed in the story.


EverQuest is released.  While not the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game, it still is significant in that it presents the genre in a new way through more elaborate character creation, a larger game world, and more player to player interaction.




The Sims is released.  The game follows the format of earlier “Sim” games, however this time it simulates daily life.  It is an interesting evolution of story telling in that there is no predefined story; rather the player must create their own based on how they allow their “Sim” people to live and interact.


Grand Theft Auto 3 is released.  The first two games in the series did much in the way of establishing it, however this game redefines it.  By allowing the player to either play through a well written and implemented story, or simply explore a fully functional 3D city, the game gives players a sense of freedom like no other previously seen in an action game.  The game’s crime based storyline causes more controversy than had ever been seen over a video game.


Max Payne is released.  An action /shooter in nature, the game takes storytelling in new and different directions.  Through the use of intermittent novel like narrations by the main character, the very dark story is engrained in the players mind.


WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos is released.  The third installment in the WarCraft series, the game differs greatly from previous story driven real time strategy games.  Through the use of a very advanced 3D game engine, the majority of the story is told on the virtual battlefield as events unfold during gameplay.  


Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided is released.  The first Star Wars role-playing game, and the first massively multiplayer game based on a movie license.  Though plagued with inherent launch glitches, the game is still immensely popular and applies one of the most comprehensive imaginary worlds in recent history (Star Wars) to a game genre that can fully express it.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is released.  Another Star Wars RPG, however this time a single player only game.  The game is described by many as one of the best Star Wars experiences since the original trilogy.  Its countless FMV sequences, hours of spoken dialogue, and fully developed/well written story make the game an instant success and a notable leap in storytelling. 


World of WarCraft is released.  The first massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the WarCraft universe, the game makes marked improvements to how story is presented. 

 NOTE: All information contained within this timeline is derived from research in the History section, thus the same citation page applies.