It’s the 50th anniversary of the video game company Konami, which means it’s a good time to remind gamers what makes the game developer so special. Several of my favorite franchises of all time were produced by Konami from the days of the arcade to the present day and I’m going to highlight their best ones.
Konami was first founded in 1969 as a jukebox rental and repair business by Kagemasa Kōzuki in Osaka, Japan. Kōzuki transformed it into an amusement machine and video arcade company in the seventies (the decade where games like Pong, Asteroids and Space Invaders first gained popularity).
Konami’s first coin-operated video games were released in Japan in 1978 and they had success in 1981 with Scramble, Super Cobra and especially Frogger.
They initially licensed their games to American companies when they released their games in the States but in 1982 they self-published their own games after establishing Konami of America.
It was around this time that they expanded into the home console market, releasing games for the Atari 2600, MSX home computer and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Their popular games in this era included Gradius, Castlevania, TwinBee, Contra and Metal Gear.
The popularity of the NES grew the company’s revenue significantly in the nineties.
After the start of the 3D gaming revolution in the mid-nineties, Konami divided into subsidiaries that focused on different game series, including the company Bemani (which specialized in rhythm games), but in 2006 they were all merged into one development division called Konami Digital Entertainment as the parent company transitioned into a pure holding company.
In 2012 they even got so big that they were able to absorb game company Hudson Soft and all their franchises, which included Adventure Island, Bonk, Star Soldier and their most popular series Bomberman.
Eli’s Favorite Konami Games
One of my favorite arcade games up there with Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. The object of Frogger was to navigate a frog to its home in the swamp while avoiding obstacles such as street traffic and alligators. That great music made the experience even more memorable.
Gothic horror action-adventure franchise Castlevania began on the NES in 1986 and was one of the most popular games on that system and the Castlevania series remains popular to this day. Most of the games are brilliant and challenging platformers. My personal favorites are Super Castlevania IV for the Super NES starring vampire hunter Simon Belmont, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16 in America) starring Richter Belmont and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for PlayStation starring Alucard the son of Dracula.
An elite group of soldiers known as the Contra Unit send two of their commandos Bill Rizer and Lance Bean to an island to destroy the evil Red Falcon organization in this side-scrolling two-player run and gun action game. As you can see in the above image, the game transcends into pseudo-3D when they infiltrate the enemy bases. This is another Konami game that gained popularity on the NES but the arcade version remains the quintessential version, and it was incredibly fun when playing with a friend.
I wrote an entire article last year about why this series is so incredible but I always jump at the chance to praise it again. This stealth action game from Hideo Kojima always felt like an incredible film with equally incredible gameplay elements implemented within the story. Solid Snake is my favorite character in Konami history and the Metal Gear saga has some of the best writing in video game history.
The Goemon games are loosely based on Ishikawa Goemon the Noble thief of Japanese folklore, and they are set in a cartoony version of feudal Japan full of other references to that country’s lore. These action-adventure games are not as well known in America, however the first game to be released in the United States, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the Super NES, was excellent.
Dance Dance Revolution
Konami’s most popular game is this arcade game that made its debut in 1998. Dance Dance Revolution was the rhythm game that paved the way for Guitar Hero. It required you to follow the scrolling pattern of arrows that moved across the screen and move your feet to the corresponding arrows on the floor in a way that made it appear you were dancing. The game was like the dancing version of karaoke and it received worldwide acclaim.
The Silent Hill series is a survival horror game series that first appeared on the PlayStation. A lot of people viewed the first game as a clone of Capcom’s Resident Evil but it surprised people by actually rivaling Resident Evil in terms of scares, which in this game were more psychological than the jump scares in Capcom’s game. A number of people actually consider it one of the best video games ever made.
Now you have an idea of why Konami is one of the hugest game companies in the world. Several of their games are masterpieces of interactive entertainment. Hoping for another 50 years of fun games!