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The History of Action RPG
Written by Nicholas A. Krehbiel   
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The History of Action RPG
1990
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Action role-playing games, also known as action RPG(s) is a sub-genre of RPGs that has significant elements of real time action.

The Classic Action RPGs

An early game that had both real-time action and RPG elements was Dungeons of Daggaroth, made for the TRS-80, an early computer with color graphics. Dungeons of Daggorath (DoD) contained both dungeon crawling and real-time action, piloted by pressing keys on the keyboard.

In the west, developers kept working on the real-time RPG action possibilities, but in Japan the developers, with Nihon Falcom at the front, took another path.

Falcom's Dragon Slayer that was released in 1984 is a basic real-time treasure grab game. But its sequel Xanadu, from 1985, was a full-fledged RPG, complete with character stats and a quest. The new thing with the game was its real-time action elements. The game became very popular in Japan and it beat the record for PC game sales. The coming years of developments in Japan later defined the Action RPG genre in the east.In 1987 the game Ys was released and became a popular game that later had several sequels and remakes.

As time went on, The Legend of Zelda had a huge influence on in the action RPG genre even though it was, because of the lack of important RPG elements like exp, not itself an action RPG. Zelda II later implemented more RPG elements.

Dungeon Master was released by FTL Games in 1987. It was a dungeon crawl game that brought the genre to the next level for the coming years. In 1990 it was the first ever game to be the number one sold game in both the U.S. and in Japan.

In 1990 the game Crystalis for NES and Golden Axe Warrior for the Sega Master System were released. They both brought more RPG elements like exp, stats based items and spell casting systems into Zelda-like adventures.

In 1993 Secret of Mana was the first game to feature multiplayer action in an RPG.

Squaresoft released Seiken Densetsu for the Game Boy in 1991, a game that was called Final Fantasy Adventure or Sword of Mana in the U.S.. The action in Seiken Densetsu had a lot of similarities to the action in Zelda, but with more RPG elements. For the first time in an RPG, townspeople could be killed. Later there were even more similar games that kept adding more advanced RPG elements such as spell casting end exp functions.

At this time Capcom's games Dungeons & Dragons - Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara were released as arcade games - featuring a mix of beat 'em up and RPG.

With new console technology came more sophisticated action RPGs like Legend of Oasis and Tales of Eternia.

A mile stone in 1992 was Blue Sky Production's Ultima Underworld - The Stygian Abyss. It was using a 3D first person view with real time action

Diablo and the point-and-click genre

Diablo combined a simple point and click interface with the free service proviced by Battle.net In 1996, bringing new life to the PC action RPG market. Later there were several games that imitated Diablo but it and its sequels remains the leader in its own genre. This genre is very item-centric and keeps the RPG and story elements to a minimum, all in order to focus on the action. The puzzles are few and instead a typhical quest contains of merely slaying everything that moves at a certain location. When Diablo II was released it cought hordes of gamers all over the world and kept them in its grip for decades. 
 
 

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