With the rise of arcades in the 80s and 90s the gaming industry saw a huge influx of Mech games such as Mazinger Z, Cybattler, and Rohga Armor Force, but as time went on they have slipped more and more into obscurity. They went from having huge titles that consoles fought to get exclusives for like Steel Battalion, Zone of the Enders, and MechAssault to now, where you’ll be hard pressed to find any good mech-focused games from anyone other than an indie company. With this steady decline, will mech games continue to become more of a niche market, or will they be able to make a comeback?
There have been a lot of good mech games over the years, like the MechWarrior games. Early on there was the side-scrolling mech game, Metal Storm, on the NES in 1991. Armored Core started off strong, but ended up having falling numbers as it pumped out sequel after sequel. Phantom Crash was a gripping game that put upgrading a mech into the forefront. Mech Commander served as a popular, but punishing RTS game.
Of course, what arcade would be complete without the maneuverable cockpits that allowed players to live out their childhood dreams of piloting these giant robots?
The first popular mech cockpit appeared with the BattleTech Center in 1990 when it opened in Chicago. These cockpits pitted players against each other, and made them feel like they really were piloting giant robots. After this spark, more and more companies started to develop their own arcade cockpits. This includes the very popular Mobile Suit Gundam series, which debuted as an anime in 1979.
Many gundam games have done well, but the mid 2000s was their heyday when Bandai Namco released Kido Senshi Gundam: Senjo no Kizuna (Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield). This game used a panoramic optical display that let players do battle with other people in P.O.D.s across Japan. More recently Hawken had a very successful launch (raised $18 million from investors before release, and 8,357 players its second month on Steam), and seemed to show that mech games were far from dead, yet it stood alone among other mech releases that fell flat like TechWars online, Mech Runner, and Assault Suit Leynos.
Just because there has been a decline in mech game releases doesn’t mean they have stopped. Sadly, there are those that got released but have flopped like Armed Seven and Sunrider: Liberation Day. Mech games like Dynasty Warriors Gundam tried to insert mechs into a game that didn’t really need them. Dynasty Warriors Gundam basically put a mech cover over the classic franchise. They used the name Gundam to try and repackage and resell a game they keep remaking anyway. It is okay, but it still doesn’t really hit the mark.
However, among this dry spell there is a game that shows potential as a good example of a modern mech game: Thailand based Dual Gear. This game adds a fresh take on the mech genre by mixing in turn-based battling with fluid, giant robot action. However, this game be a good mech game, but it is still missing much of the support it really needs to be a great game.
The era of mech games may seem to be over, but there is one big thing that may reignite the passion of previous decades. Mega Bots.
MegaBots is an American company that challenged the Japanese company Suidobashi to a battle. What kind of battle? A giant robot battle. Two robots, piloted by humans, enter, and only one leaves. The American mech is called Megabot and is fighting the Japanese Kuratas. Being second to the punch for building a real life mech, the Americans sent out the challenge. Watch it in the video below.
The Japanese company was not amused, and responded to the challenge here.
Just like that, the battle was on! It was scheduled for this year, and right now the robots are being shipped out to a neutral ground where the fight will finally be announced.
With real life mech fighting starting to form, it gives another chance for generations to get excited about giant piloted robots.
Mech games have had a rough time lately. Their heyday seems long gone, but can they come back from this? Will the indie scene prove to be the new area where mechs will shine? Will Kuratas fighting Megabot bring back the excitement that surrounded mechs? Or are these games doomed to decline until they are only seen once every few years? There are a lot of questions, and no one knows what will happen for sure, but a lot of people seem certain of how this will turn out.