It’s interesting to learn about video games. To explore the medium a little closer and comprehend gaming from both a technical and artistic side of things is eye-opening bliss. Why wouldn’t anyone want to understand what makes the video games they love so great?
I mean, doesn’t the typical gamer want to understand why people love Super Smash Bros. Melee so much?
Welp, I did. So I Googled and scavenged the Internet and found a crazy amount of gaming documentaries to watch, including to one specifically on the Smash Bros. community. Like all internet scavenger hunts, I did fall a little off course and ended up reading a whole tonne of information on the best keyboard for League of Legends too. There’s a handful of informative documentaries online that are completely free to watch and streamable concerning video gaming history, the history of things like league of legends boosting, high score heroes and small gaming communities. And I’ve dropped them all off in this list, dude.
Here are 17 of the best video game documentaries you watch online right now, totally free, via YouTube and Vimeo.
The History of Nintendo
Machinima uploaded this seven-part history of Nintendo on their YouTube channel that’s inciteful. It begins with Nintendo’s start as a card company that invented a game called “Hanafuda” in 1889, then it travels all the way through the launch of the Wii and the Wii U. It’s over an hour long in length, but luckily, for those of us who are always busy, the option to watch the entire documentary in smaller clips exists.
I Am Street Fighter
This hour-long documentary comes straight from Capcom. Uploaded on the official Street Fighter YouTube page, I Am Street Fighter was released in celebration of Street Fighter’s 25th anniversary. It chronicles the birth of entire series, starting at its initial development, leading toward its insane boom in the ’90s arcade scene, and then talking to some of the people who obsess over its phenomena. I Am Street Fighter also features interviews with Yoshinori Ono, the producer behind Street Fighter IV, and Seth Killian, former community manager at Capcom and respected Street Fighter commentator.
The Launch of the Sega Genesis
There’s plenty of Nintendo documentaries on the Internet, so it’s a relief someone stepped up to the plate to speak on Sega. Classic Gaming Quarterly released this nearly 30-minute documentary on the development and launch of Sega’s best-selling console, the Sega Genesis. It all went down in 1989.
Diggin’ In the Carts
Okay, video game music is both an incredible arrangement of sounds and a drastically underappreciated art. Red Bull Music & Culture created this amazing 15-minute long documentary on the history of Japanese video game music. This is really deep digging, as the documentary speaks with Junko Ozawa, one of Namco’s earliest sound team composers, and Hirokazu ‘Hip’ Tanaka, the man responsible for the soundtracks of Metroid and Tetris. Watch this documentary now and make sure your subtitles are on.
The History of Rare
Rare is one of the greatest gaming development studios, ever. Donkey Kong Country, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie, Goldeneye — the hits are plenty, influential, surprisingly different and legendary. Machinima did a five-part documentary on the start and ending for Rare, in case you’re wondering how it all began for the company.
Pixel Pioneers: A Brief History of Graphics
This five-part series by Ahoy explores the history of video game graphics, from its black-and-white origins to its full-color, immersive 3D environments. Learn a bit on polygons, pixels, sprites and the resurgence of classic side-scrollers up above. This is one of the more expansive, yet brief visual explorations on video game art out there.
Video Game Designer Lord British Goes to Space
How many video game developers do you know have been to space? Well, there’s probably only one and his name is Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, developer of the Ultima series. This short doc from Motherboard tells how Garriott took his childhood dream of flying to the International Space Station and made it into reality.
Five Genre-Defining Games Forgotten by History
If you know a little bit about gaming already, this might be your type of movie. This near hour-long documentary speaks on five different video games that totally defined their genre in gaming, most of which you may have no idea existed. These are the ones that really made gaming subgenres, but are forgotten by time. Games like Alpha Wave. Plenty of culture to be explored up above.
How Video Games Changed the World
Before Charlie Brooker created the satirical and often fucked up anthology tech show Black Mirror, he wrote and starred in a one-off video game documentary called How Video Games Changed the World. Originally airing on Channel 4, this documentary shows an entire history of the video game medium and explores 25 of the most significant releases in gaming. Being it was made for television, it’s not incredibly extensive, but it does bring some entertaining insight along with it. There are plenty of interviews packed in and Brooker’s sarcastic humor to keep the flow going.
Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe
Any series that starts off with a chiptune version of Grandaddy’s “A.M.” should be noted as awesome. Charlie Brooker explores gaming in the year 2009 for BBC Four. This is different from How Videogames Changed the World and features a few reviews and previews on upcoming titles. This is kind of a one-off time capsule of gaming journalism in 2009, equipped with a review of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand and The Beatles: Rock Band.
This brief doc explores a once-hidden arcade in New York called Chinatown Fair that closed down in 2011. Located in Lower Manhattan, Chinatown Fair was one of New York City’s oldest arcades and staples for the fighting game community. This documentary splices together conversations with the arcade’s regular patrons and explains what the arcade meant for its fans. Chinatown Fair was a devastating loss for New York City and its diehard gamers.
The Hotline Miami Story
Hotline Miami is one of my personal favorite indie games of the last decade. I was shocked to see Complex had created a little doc on the game, explaining its 2012 origins alongside interviews with developers Jonathan Söderström and Dennis Wedin. Catch a glimpse of how the game all began, why it’s so difficult and just how cool the development duo really are.
Video Game Invasion: The History of a Global Obsession
Uh, so this is a video game documentary hosted by Tony Hawk. Yeah, the pro skater Tony Hawk. It aired in 2004 and it’s a little dated. But don’t let that deter you from watching about 90-minutes worth of gaming roots. Let Tony Hawk skating in for his intro do that.
The Smash Brothers
Holy fuck dude, this documentary is long. This documentary on the phenomenon of Super Smash Bros. Melee spans over nine parts and clocks in at a whopping four hours and 18 minutes in length. This show portrays eight of the most prolific players in the Super Smash Bros. Melee community and touches on each of their careers. This may be a fan-made documentary, but its Kickstarter budget really made this a high production visual.
Free to Play
Valve uploaded a feature-length documentary that follows three pro gamers who play Dota 2. The movie documents each players’ routine and depicts the sacrifices they make to play at their most competitive level. If you’re looking to explore the million dollar e-sports scene, watch this for a better understanding of one of its biggest games.
Once Upon Atari
IGN delivered this insightful documentary on the origins of the gaming industry and the development of the Atari. It’s told by some former employees of Atari. It’s kind of cheesy, but if you can get past the way it’s delivered, Once Upon Atari holds a ton of information. Atari apparently was a super laidback company to work for and was totally okay if you wanted to smoke a joint before lunch. Rad.
Meet John Romero: One of the Godfathers of the First-Person Shooter
Motherboard meets up with John Romero, one of the creators of Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and Quake. Watch as he explains the story of his development history and how id Software started.