Older Than the Internet: Which Games Predate the Web?

By Vedwik
January 23, 2023

Today, entertainment focuses on the intersection of gaming and technology. The latest developments in gaming tech push the latest frontiers, including today’s VR and AR innovations from PlayStation and Xbox. Not only are they steering the creative future of gaming, but they’re also revolutionizing when and how people game.

This is nothing new, either. While the internet is the focus of today’s gaming sector, which focuses on global multiplayer modes and international eSports leagues, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, early forays into gaming, such as Pong and Sword of Damocles, bridged cutting-edge technology with recreational gaming.

And some of these pre-internet games have stood the test of time. In fact, some of the world’s most popular digital games predate the internet… and electricity. Let’s dive in below.


Poker

When the World Wide Web took off in the early 90s, some of the very first gaming sites focused on poker. With an origin that traces back to the mid-1800s on the US’s western frontier, the game was largely played in the west—and in casinos. However, as online platforms took off, more people began to explore poker terminology and different variations like Omaha. 

These early poker rooms from the 1990s helped catapult interest in online poker, which took off in the early 2000s. Today, virtual poker players can qualify for events like the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour by competing in virtual competitions. The WPT now estimates that there are 100 million online poker players worldwide.

Super Mario Bros. & Donkey Kong

Just about everyone has heard of the characters from these early Nintendo games, including Mario, Peach, and Donkey Kong. However, not many people realize that these arcade games predated the internet. (Though the World Wide Web was live in 1983, not many began to access it with regularity until 1995.)

Super Marios Bros. was released in 1983 and Donkey Kong two years before in 1981. That marks another interesting factoid that not many Nintendo fans may know: Mario and Donkey Kong’s first appearance was in Donkey Kong… not Super Mario Bros.

Tetris

Similar to poker and Mario, Tetris is one of the most ubiquitous games in existence. But it also has one of the most intriguing origin stories of any modern game. In the early 1980s, one Soviet engineer, Alexey Pajitnov, was charged with monitoring a supercomputer. While messing around with programming, he invented Tetris in 1984, which was based on a game from his childhood. 

Created alongside some of the world’s most innovative computing technology, Tetris is now known as one of the earliest and most influential video games ever created. In fact, it’s so significant that there’s even a medical condition tied to the game, called the Tetris Effect.

Final Fantasy

Though not quite on par with the other titles mentioned above, the original 1987 Final Fantasy release has led to some of gaming’s most celebrated RPGs. In particular, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X are hailed as the series’ best for their character development and creative narratives.

The original release was lauded for the same reasons. Though it only took a few hours to complete, it introduced gamers to a new type of adventure—one that focused on a cohesive storyline along with game mechanics. In essence, this helped steer the RPG genre into the 1990s and 2000s.

Go

Poker developed organically for a few centuries on the American frontier. Some point to an origin in Germany’s pochen, while others point back to Persia’s As-Nas. But there’s a much older game that predates the internet and is played by millions worldwide: go. 

The game originated in China around four thousand years ago, which makes it one of the oldest still-played games in the world. Unsurprisingly, go was also one of the first games to go digital. But it’s also one of the most complex. In fact, Google’s DeepMind AI branch only managed to create an AI-based go opponent back in 2016 after three decades of work.





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