I don’t approve of the unnecessary, condescending violence on the female character, but this is a pretty good video recapping some of the ways Megaman X, that paragon of game design, teaches players what to do without the tutorial pop-ups now ubiquitous in gaming:
There are also a lot of good articles around examining ways various incarnation of Super Mario have worked to coach players. On the shorter side, I really like this one about forcing the player to realize the up-sized Mario can bash through bricks. Some longer tomes examining this aspect of Mario include:
I have to admit, originally I was adamant that I would not include any tutorial screens in Gold Leader. They didn’t fit the aesthetic, and what could you need coaching for in such a simple shooter? But people really did clamor for it. Worse, they didn’t experiment enough to realize not shooting regenerated health, never discovered that you could cycle around the screen, etc.. Still one of the two big complaints is that it doesn’t make more clear what the mission enemies are, even though they’re always shown first (except the final bosses, but by then you’ve seen everything leading up to them) and you get several warnings before failing, intended to help you realize what’s going on. I’m actually sort of happy with them because they look good, a tracker ensures each individual pop-up won’t show if it’s been seen 3 times, they reference your actual current control scheme, and the sub-system displaying them has a lot of fancy layout options—you can position them absolutely or relatively, chain them together, style them, all sorts of crazy. But, still, I was real bummed to eventually have to cave and add some tutorials in.