8 games that wouldn't exist without Lemmings
As Lemmings turns 25 this week, we look at the legacy of the influential puzzle game.
The classic puzzle game Lemmings turns 25 years old this week. Created by small Dundee studio DMA Design, and released back in 1991, it quickly became one of the biggest-selling games of its time, selling over 20 million copies on more than 20 different systems.
It's fair to say that a lot of games that have been released since the early 1990s owe something to Lemmings. Whether they used gameplay elements that evolved from those in the puzzler, or simply wouldn't have existed at all without DMA Design's classic, all these games have at least a bit of Lemmings in them.
Grand Theft AutoLet's start with the most important one. Grand Theft Auto is obviously one of the most successful gaming series of this millennium, but it may never have happened had Lemmngs not been such a huge success. Would DMA have still been making games like GTA years later had they not made a hit game?Red Dead Redemption
Of course, the success of Grand Theft Auto led to another load of fantastic games courtesy of Rockstar. Bully, LA Noire, and best of all, Red Dead Redemption. Imagine a world without being able to roam the Wild West as the rootin' tootin' gun shootin' John Marston. Rockstar's cowboy epic is heading to Xbox One's backwards compatibility list imminently, so why not pay tribute to Lemmings by playing one of the legendary titles its success gave birth to?
Command And Conquer
At first glance Westwood Studios' iconic real-time strategy game looks very different from Lemmings' comedy puzzle gameplay. However, Lemmings was something of a spiritual ancestor to the RTS genre, as it was one of the first big games to introduce the idea of 'indirect control'. The idea of giving each Lemming a task (building bridges, punching through walls) and letting them perform it automatically while you move away and focus on something else is one of the key principles of RTS gaming. Whether it's Command And Conquer or StarCraft 2, you're always choosing units and assigning them tasks.
Team17's strategy game had a lot in common with Lemmings. It was developed in the UK, was originally made for the Amiga, let you destroy masses of scenery and went on to become massively popular. Yet it was the studio's choice to make the lead characters tiny sprites that showed the influence of Lemmings most clearly. DMA's game showed that you didn't need to have big, detailed sprites to design charming characters, and Worms took a leaf out of its book, starring the dinkiest of heroes with bags of personality.
Plants vs Zombies
You could argue that all tower defence games owe something to Lemmings, so we've gone with Plants vs Zombies because it's one of the most famous. Although at first glance it seems like a very different sort of game, the tower defence genre as a whole is all about resource management – seeing how many quantities of each skill you have, assigning those skills to certain members of your squad at the right time, then sitting back and hoping they can use those skills to avoid being killed. Which is exactly how you could describe Lemmings, too.
Mario vs Donkey Kong series
Of all the games inspired by Lemmings, Nintendo's Mario vs Donkey Kong series is the most obvious example. Although the first Mario vs Donkey Kong was a standard platformer, the second game – March Of The Minis – was, more or less, a DS version of Lemmings as you used the stylus to guide a series of little robotic Marios to the exit on each stage, helping them avoid enemies, obstacles and traps along the way. Although the following four games in the series all mixed things up a bit, the general idea of guiding Mini-Marios to an exit remained the same.
One of the main elements of Lemmings that hooks you in is the feeling that you're guiding a little squad through a dangerous area and trying to get them through safely. This feeling is just as strong in Sony's PSP game Patapon, in which you use rhythmic drum beats to guide a small army through enemy-infested battlefields. Each series of beats issues a different command to the army, and between each stage you can arm your little soldiers with new weapons. It's basically a military version of Lemmings, then.
There's nothing more devastating in Lemmings than when you make a wrong move, and your long line of cute rodents wanders willingly to certain death courtesy of a trap or bottomless pit. Similarly, there's nothing more devastating in Sega's Dreamcast game ChuChu Rocket than when you make a wrong move and your long line of cute rodents wanders willingly to certain death at the hands of a hungry cat. One game has you assigning skills, the other has you laying directional tiles, but both teach you the agony of being responsible for mass rodent slaughter.
MORE: Street Fighter 2 is 25! Take our anniversary quiz