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Shenmue (シェンムー Shenmū?) is a 1999 adventure video game developed by Sega AM2 and published by Sega for the Dreamcast, produced and directed by Yu Suzuki. Suzuki coined a genre title for its nonlinear gameplay, "FREE" (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment), for the game, based on the interactivity and freedom he wanted to give to the player. Suzuki intended to achieve this by simulating aspects of real life through the game, such as the day and night system, real-time variable weather effects (unheard of in a game of this kind at the time), fully voiced non-player characters with their own daily schedules, quick time events, and various other interactive elements such as vending machines, arcades, and convenience stores.[1]

Shenmue borrows gameplay elements from several different genres, but largely consists of an open world adventure segments with real-time 3D battles interspersed throughout. It was the most expensive video game at the time, with a production cost of $47 million,[2] equivalent to $64 million in 2011.[3] The game was followed by a 2001 sequel, Shenmue II, with at least one more planned as a Dreamcast series. The budget for Shenmue amounted to $70 million,[4] equivalent to $95 million in 2011.[3] However, production on the series ended with the second game, leaving the story at an unresolved cliffhanger.


Shenmue has been included in several "greatest games of all time" lists. In 2006 and 2008 it was voted at numbers 81 and 63 respectively on IGN's "Readers' Choice Top 100 Games Ever" list.[5] In 2008, it was voted number 25 on GAME's "Greatest Games of All Time" list, based on a user poll with over 100,000 votes.[6] It was also ranked at number 42 on Empire magazine's "100 Greatest Games of All Time" list.[7]

Shenmue is regarded as a major step forward for 3D open-world gameplay, and considered the originator of the "open city" subgenre later popularized by Grand Theft Auto III in 2001.[8] Shenmue was originally touted as a "FREE" ("Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment") game offering an unparalleled level of player freedom, giving them full reign to explore an expansive persistent sandbox city with its own day-night cycles, changing weather, and fully voiced non-player characters going about their daily routines. The game's large interactive environments, wealth of options, level of detail and the scope of its urban sandbox exploration has been compared to later sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto III and its sequels, Sega's own Yakuza series, Fallout 3, and Deadly Premonition.[9][10][11][12] Shenmue is even considered superior to Grand Theft Auto V in certain areas, such as the ability to talk to any pedestrian, walk into almost any store or building, day-night cycles, stat building, commercial mini-games, and melee combat.[13] Even prior to release, the February 1999 issue of Computer and Video Games magazine recognized Shenmue as "the first go-anywhere, do-anything game that players had dreamed about since the dawn of video games."[14]

Shenmue also introduced the quick time event mechanic in its modern form and coined a name for it. The mechanic has since appeared in many later titles, including popular action games such as Resident Evil 4, God of War, Tomb Raider: Legend, Heavenly Sword, and Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy.[15]

In 2010, ranked Shenmue at #2 in its list of "15 Games Ahead of Their Time," citing its "ambition and scope," various "forward-thinking" mechanics such as real-time weather effects, "day and night cycles, and massive playable environments," its quick-time event mechanic, and for giving players a "living" world to explore, concluding that it "was ahead of its time in nearly every aspect of its design."[16]

In 2011, Kurt Kalata (of 1UP and Gamasutra) stated that it is "remarkable" that "years after Shenmue's release, the game's environments are still some of the best to come out of any video game ever."[17]

On April 30, 2013, M! Games, the leading game magazine in Germany, announced on their website,, that it will hold a tournament poll called Bundesspielewahl 2013 (which translates to Federal Election Games 2013) on the site to determine "The #1 Ultimate Best Game of All Time" with 128 video games competing, including Shenmue.[18] From May to September, Shenmue has beaten Assassin's Creed II in the first match, Guitar Hero in the second match, Chrono Trigger in the third match, Resident Evil (2002 video game) in the fourth match, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in the Quarterfinal match, Super Mario World in the Semi-final match, and Super Mario 64 in the Final match to become the Bundesspielewahl 2013 tournament winner. [19]

On September 23, 2013, M! Games officially announced Shenmue as "The #1 Ultimate Best Game of All Time".[20]


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