• Am I the only one who hates the term clone game?
  • Am I the only one who hates the term clone game?

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  1. #1
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    Am I the only one who hates the term clone game?

    This is a term I've heard throughout most of my life and it's usually irked me. There's a belief that games are an exception to a rule. When authors are inspired by other novels and take some notes for their own work (e.g. Sherlock Holmes obviously) or even film directors and script writers by other films, on rare occasions I see them get called out for it, but not nearly as often as with video games. Historically, once a game became a bestseller, other games with a similar general idea were usually called clones. These ideas were now sacred territory and any games taking inspiration were branded with that ugly title.

    I'd say the majority of the time I saw this with Nintendo games. During the console wars of the '90s and beyond this seemed to be one of Nintendo's trump cards. It's worth noting that some of Nintendo's most notable classics were "clone games" by the same logic.

    The one I used to hear the most was "Zelda clone". What most people don't know is that there was another game in particular from a couple of years before the original Zelda that was very likely a big source of inspiration (it was originally a very popular Japanese PC Engine game but got a late US NES release) called Hydlide:



    Because it was released after Zelda in the US it was often compared with it because of the similarities. In many cases it was called a Zelda clone which reminds me of how Outlaw Star has been called a Cowboy Bebop clone despite coming first. Probably the second most popular game to "clone" is Mario Kart. However, did you know that there was a kart game from a few years earlier that featured new technology that allowed for great visual effects? This included sprite scaling that gave a pseudo 3D look. You got to see the eight-directional kart sprites turn properly. It featured a roster of cartoony characters too. It put a lot of focus on drift mechanics as the title implies.



    Yup, Power Drift, made by... Sega? The games might have a lot of differences (it's faster-paced and doesn't have power-ups for instance) but if you've played the original Super Mario Kart you should be able to see the clear similarities. This game was even more popular than Hydlide. A major hit in the arcades. A Tetris "clone" by Nintendo is Dr. Mario.

    While I can't think of games that Metroid took inspiration from, it's used a huge amount of tropes from the Alien franchise. Many feel that Metroid Prime was an attempt to capitalise on Halo's success.

    One commonly brought up game that others have allegedly tried to "clone" is Mario Party. However, the concept of having a themed board video game with a bit of a narrative is actually quite old. Check out this Puyo Puyo spin-off:



    It might not feature mini games, but back in the 16-bit generation consoles and cartridges weren't really at the stage that would allow many mini games. This is shown in Mario Party Advance that doesn't even have multiple characters on a board. But when the Nintendo 64 came about, Nintendo had the freedom for this kind of thing (and their first attempt at a WarioWare-like prototype) and Mario Party turned out to be a great game.

    Obviously, this isn't only a thing with Nintendo games. Don't get me started on why Streets of Rage being a clone of Final Fight is also a dumb argument. It might seem like it, but my intention here wasn't just to shit on Nintendo. It's just that I notice the 'clone game" label being most commonly associated with games that have similarities to theirs. My examples were my way of dispelling the "clone game" logic. Even if Nintendo took inspiration from Hydlide, The Legend of Zelda is clearly a better game. My point is that taking inspiration is perfectly fine. It annoys me because I think a lot of publishers have hesitated to, for example, make party-style video game board games because of the accusations they'd probably face. Ironically I feel this label has crippled creativity because it's held devs back from innovating and improving on existing concepts.

    All that being said, aside from bootlegs that are made to be copies, I think there is only one instance of a game I can confidently call a clone game:

    It's a clone of Duck Hunt...

    ...a game made by Sega in 1968. The clone was called Duck Hunt and released by Nintendo in 1984 for the NES. Different technology for the gun, but the same title, theme and objectives.

  2. #2
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    You've certainly put a lot of thought into this. Judging by the response, I'd have to say that you're likely the only one among us bothered by that phrase in particular. I can't say that I'm a fan of the dismissal of a game or genre due to the thought of it being a "clone", as if only the EARLIEST possible rendition of the concept has any value. That said, I have written off plenty of things in my life for being "rip-offs" or "knock-offs" for better or for worse.

    I don't hate the term in particular, but I agree with you that the concept is frustrating because it's often used incorrectly as you've outlined. I think a lot of people confuse the first popular rendition of an idea as the "original". There's really no end to the discussion because you can almost always find an older game that the new game draws inspiration from.
    JRPG Enthusiast | OSN Crew Member | Don't ask me about movies

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