I’m actually very familiar with Marathon! I grew up in a Mac household when that was a quite niche thing, and so the few Mac-native games we got were precious. Marathon is among the best of them (shout-outs to Delta Tao, Ares . . .) and definitely fits this pattern; I know the Halo bros of the 2000s didn’t know a thing about Marathon because I often had that very conversation over Live.
And as you suggest, Pathways/Marathon were broadly influential on how western devs started to approach narrative: from a consumer perspective Mac-exclusive games were mostly unknown to Windows users, but among game devs, Macs were a superior platform for sound artists and 3D modelers to work on, so most computer game developers would have Macs in the office and be aware of things as major as Bungie’s output.
multiplayer/coop which I think is an underappreciated aspect of the Marathon games
You could play the campaign of Marathon (at least Durandal/Infinity) in LAN co-op with up to 8 players. This was not only exceptional at the time but actually groundbreaking from a technical standpoint.
Good luck finding enough people for a match in 2020, but the Xbox 360 port of Durandal brought the decade of Halo multiplayer game design backwards into new maps and modes, including a series of “Firefight”-ish arenas. I highly recommend it if you can arrange it.
Kind of shame they went “mainstream” and went in a mostly boring SF direction.
This could easily be its own thread but the weird Bungie sci-fi never went away! It only became more subtle, pushed first to hidden collectibles and then to just subtext. The really beautiful secret of Halo is how it seems like— and functions, to global acclaim as— a mainstream oo-rah story about the Master Chief kicking ass, but really follows on Marathon by its real cast being AIs too vastly intelligent and immortal to care about any individual organisms.
Bungie slowly bled its oldschool creatives in the years between Halo CE and Destiny, but Destiny still seemed to be following this trend right up until the troubled, sudden changes it saw in the very last minutes of development. (If you have no idea, search stuff like “destiny story change”) With the nature of the contractual relationship between Activision and Bungie it’s one of those things we might never hear the full picture of.