15 years ago 2K’s BioShock took the world by storm

Cover art of BioShock 2 featuring a Big Daddy and Little Sister.

Image: 2K Marin/2K

For those who play video games, 2007 is often considered one of the best years of the means. It was a year of stunners: Microsoft had to manhandle and halo 3, Nintendo took super mario to the Milky Way, Duty blew open the world by getting modern, and so on. It cannot be underestimated how much that year exactly kicked in the ass for games, and in the upper echelon at the time was 2K Games’ bioshock, who is 15 years old today.

Developed by 2K Boston (later Irrational Games) and the now-defunct 2K Australia, and directed and written by Boston-based Ken Levine, BioShock is a first-person shooter set in the 1960s. After surviving a plane crash, the protagonist Jack discovers the underwater city of Rapture, built as a refuge for society’s elites by its creator, business magnate Andrew Ryan. The city was the perfect utopia, but everything eventually went wrong when a gene-altering substance called ADAM was discovered.

Using serums known as “plasmids” gave everyone in town superpowers. Thus, a class struggle ensued: On the one hand, Ryan ordered his superhuman, wet-suit-wearing Big Daddies to protect young girls called Little Sisters as they harvested ADAM from dead bodies. And on the other side was Atlas, a man who convinced the now-poor citizens of Rapture to revolt against Ryan, with both sides using Plasmid-wielding citizens called Splicers to conduct skirmishes across the city.

Image for article titled BioShock is everywhere in games, yet nowhere on its own

Image: Irrational Games/2K

Originally exclusive to Xbox 360 and Windows, BioShock rave reviews, with particular praise for the atmosphere and story, which incorporates ideas from author George Orwell and, in particular, philosopher Ayn Rand. By the end of its debut month, 490,000 copies had been sold and by March 2010, 4 million had been sold across all systems. (In 2008 and 2009 it was ported to the PlayStation 3 and Mac respectively.)

For a while, BioShock fever swept through the industry. It was included in the Smithsonian’s exhibit devoted to the art of video games, and has been hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. Along with the original Mass effect and 2008 braid, the game has been used as an example when arguing the merit of video games as an art form. And it spawned two sequels: 2010’s BioShock 2 from 2K Marin was a direct sequel in which players controlled a Big Daddy named Sigma a decade after the original game, giving the ability to use Plasmids and search for his missing Little Sister. Other way around, endless by returning private detective Irrational, Booker DeWitt attempted to extract reality-distorting Elizabeth Comstock from the sky city of Columbia in 1912. Both games were supposed to receive story DLC, but it was the “Burial at Sea” expansion for endless which definitively connected it to the story of the original game.

In the years that followed BioShock went quiet, attempts have been made outside of 2K and Levine to go for the same narrative highlights of that first game. You can see his bones in other games like Naughty Dog’s The last of us, machine games’ Wolfenstein reboot, and Arkane’s Prey or dishonored without much effort. (endless is technically the first Dad Game, as it was released just a handful of months before the original The last of us.) cyberpunk 2077, which arguably contains better combat and immersive sim elements than bioshock, has a piece of the historical piece shooter in it. You could probably even argue that something like Disco Elysium or burger sleeper is also affected by it.

Image for article titled BioShock is everywhere in games, yet nowhere on its own

Image: 2K games

But for the franchise itself right now it’s just…consists. Part of the problem is the lack of follow-up: fourth entry it’s said to be in the works, but due to development issues plaguing the entire franchise, it feels more like an idea than reality. And although he left the series after 2013, Ken Levine has not been able to release a game in the past nine years. All that’s left for the fans to do is replay the old games, perhaps discuss how time has treated the sequel in particular. Netflix has plans on make a movie out of the first game, something original in the cards back in 2008, but it remains to be seen whether the streamer can actually deliver on that. But the real question about it? BioShock’s future, if it has one at all, what else can it bring to the table that the original trilogy didn’t already cover?

Let us know your thoughts on the BioShock franchise in the comments below. Do we think we could use another submission, or should we let it harvest as kindly as possible?

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest miracle and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on Film and TVand everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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