Remember the good ole days when you’d fire up that Nintendo console right after getting home from school? Or maybe you were the type of person to play StarCraft late at night with friends on their PC.
In any case, the ’90s era is arguably the most influential decade for gaming. If you aren’t aware, a lot of these were responsible for the spark of many renowned titles, including the ones we play today. We know that countless amazing games were released during this era, but to sum things up, these are the games that made a memorable impact on many gamers out there, including myself:
Considered as the father of console shooting games, GoldenEye 007 is a cornerstone for a lot of early-generation gamers. Initially released in 1997 for the N64, this game was able to successfully define what it takes to make a great first-person shooter on a controller since most FPS games at the time were only on the PC.
And although this pretty much the only successful James Bond game out there, it has a permanent place in a lot of our hearts as one of the most exciting games to have been released in the ’90s.
The Mario Kart series is arguably one of the best arcade-style racing games that have ever been released. With over six games released on home consoles, three on portable handheld consoles, four arcade games co-developed with Namco and one for mobile phones, the Mario Kart series has a total of fourteen titles.
When the very first Super Mario Kart came out in 1992 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), it became a revolutionary title for the gaming community. Then four years later, they released Mario Kart 64, which took everything about Super Mario Kart but made it even better with its stunning 3D graphics.
Not a lot of people probably expected how thrilling and heart-pumping this title can be; especially when you play with your friends. If you’re a fan of a little competition, Mario Kart holds that experience to be true. Just keep in mind that things can get a little too competitive, especially when that infamous “blue shell” comes into play.
Super Mario World
If you’ve ever owned a Nintendo, Super Mario was probably one of the first games you had to have on your roster. And when the SNES was launched in 1990, Super Mario World was one of the two launch games that were available to play at the time.
This is one of the most memorable titles for many retro gamers out there, and with reason! With the introduction of their world map system, the ability to save the game and of course the debut of the Mario Bro’s favorite sidekick, Yoshi, Super Mario World eventually became the console’s best selling game and may possibly be the greatest Super Mario game of all time.
Metal Slug Series
If you grew up often playing in arcade stores, the Metal Slug series shouldn’t be a stranger to you. Initially released in 1996, Metal Slug was created for Neo-Geo arcade machines and game consoles, although the original games have also been ported to other consoles and mobile platforms throughout the years even including the Nintendo Switch.
This run and gunner is one of the most thrilling 2D arcade-style games that we have played. Metal Slug’s graphical style and art design were so good that people who might be unfamiliar with the title might think this is just a modern game styled as retro. The game’s bosses are designed so well that fighting each one does not feel repetitive whatsoever, which makes it more fun and challenging. It’s no surprise why this series has not strayed far aesthetically across its many iterations throughout the years.
Street Fighter Series
When you come across a game series that has multiple crossovers, 22 official titles, and a real-life movie rendition, you can’t ignore the fact that it’s a game worth playing. Initially released in 1987, Street Fighter is a fighting video game franchise developed and published by Capcom.
It’s genuinely tough to think of another game that has defined its genre so well. And yes, before you even begin mentioning similar games (*ahem* Tekken), the Street Fighter series is a standalone title that cannot be compared to any other game. It’s mechanics, character selection and consistent updates make it an amazing fighter game.
And although legendary actor Jean-Claude Van-Damme was not enough to make their movie rendition a box office hit, the fact that it goes beyond gaming proves that Capcom’s series has reached a new level of success.
Launched in 1993, The series focuses on the journey of a space marine, popularly known as “Doomguy”, who fights hordes of demons and the undead. DOOM was one of the greatest first-person shooters to be released and can be considered as the founding father of the entire genre itself.
The first person horror-shooter wasn’t the first of its kind though; there were already games like Hovertank 3D, Catacomb 3-D, and the critically acclaimed Wolfenstein 3D, but none entered the public eye like Doom was able to.
Though the graphic violence and hellish imagery of the game were still questionable when it first came out, it eventually warmed up to consumers and became, and continues to be a beacon of inspiration for a lot of other first-person titles including Half-Life, Halo and Duke Nukem.
A successor to the developer’s hit series Doom, Quake is built upon both the technology and gameplay of its predecessor, and because of that, it has helped shape a lot of the games that we have been playing in the last two decades.
Released in 1996, Quake takes every aspect of Doom that needed work and made it way better. Like Doom, Quake was influential and genre-defining, featuring fast-paced, gory gameplay, but used 3D polygons instead of sprites. The first person shooter inspired popular LAN parties such as QuakeCon and also introduced online gaming; featuring multiple match types still found in many first-person shooter games today
Debuted in 1998, Half-Life was one of the last games of the ’90s that changed the game of FPS as we know it; The game was also the first product of Valve based on their Goldsrc engine, which is a modified version of Quake’s engine.
Apart from being a kickass alien shooter game, Half-Life was able to execute mechanics that greatly helped give a realistic gaming experience. To give you an example, this was one of the first games that had A.I. enemies worth playing against. I mean, the fact that you couldn’t stay in one corner or run and gun as you please was a crazy good concept at the time.
The title was eventually succeeded by Half-Life 2 and was even responsible for the birth of the highly acclaimed competitive shooter Counter-Strike. Half-Life even has a VR rendition called Half-Life: Alyx, which takes place between the first two games. Guess we’ll just have to keep waiting for Half-Life 3!
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
One cannot be content leaving this world without experiencing this breathtaking RPG Game. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is widely regarded as one of the best games of all time.
Released for the Nintendo 64, Ocarina of Time brought Zelda into the 3D era, which makes it the most important revolution in the franchise. From the first steps into the open terrain of Hyrule to the moment when Link retrieves the Master Sword to the final boss fight with Ganon, Ocarina of Time was an amazing title at every angle. It has also aged far more gracefully than most early polygonal games and is just as engaging today as it was in 1998.
BOOM Shakalaka! Even if you weren’t a basketball fanatic, I’m sure you’ve come across this game before. Initially developed in 1993 as an arcade game, NBA Jam found popularity with its photorealistic digitized graphics, over-the-top presentation and exaggerated take on two-on-two basketball play. There are no rules, no fouls and everything about it defies the laws of physics—which is why this game was so much fun to play!
I don’t know about you, but there’s something about throwing down monster dunks, catching fire, and trash-talking your opponent were all things that made NBA Jam such a blast back then.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Launched in 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a multi-platform game that revolutionized the skating industry and eventually shaped the future of extreme sports games as we know them.
Playing as the legendary Tony Hawk, the gameplay was simple and intuitive for all ages. And while physics felt somewhat unnatural from a modern perspective, it was more than enough for its time; all you had to do was start the game, do some tricks, get some combos going, and that’s all there is to it! That’s all it needed to be.
PC’s were not the first go-to platform for games at the time, with video entertainment consoles being the dominant platform that people would rather opt for. But when Blizzard came out with Warcraft: Orc’s and Humans in 1994, it birthed a new era for many gamers all over the world; And even with the release of Warcraft’s sequel a year later, the original Warcraft’s came out to be the developer’s highest-selling title back then, with over 100,000 copies sold within a year after launch.
As one of the pioneers of RTS games, the original Warcraft shaped the basics of its genre. Building bases, sending units to gather resources, and using those resources to produce units to gather together into armies were just some of the many features that many gamers loved about the game.
Legendary people will know how much this game has served a very important role in the world of real-time strategy (RTS) games. Debuting in 1998, Starcraft is arguably the best game of its genre during its time; and even today you can still find fans playing the original game despite having many iterations throughout the years. The game features a rich storyline, and unlike similar genre games, where StarCraft set itself apart was the incorporation of three distinct yet balanced factions that each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Apart from the game’s wonderful single-player gameplay, another notable feature that had a lot of people hooked on this game was the ability to play competitively online or locally with your friends; which made squeezing every single inch out of that 90Mhz Pentium processor back then well worth it.
At the dawn of the ‘90s RPG era, turn-based strategy games were highly popular due to the limitations of computing power back then. Luckily, Diablo was released at the right time in history to finally have the proper horsepower to make a legitimate game real-time; And although there were already a few RTS titles released before this game, nothing was comparable to Diablo.
Launched in 1997, the legendary hack and slash dungeon crawler that was developed by the same makers of Warcraft and Starcraft took a lot of gamers by storm. With its commendable gameplay, refined graphics and amazing storyline, Diablo eventually shaped the genre of real-time strategy games as we know it.
Metal Gear Solid
Originally released in 1987 for the MSX, you can say that the Metal Gear Solid franchise was responsible for the popularization of stealth-RPG games. Although it wasn’t the first game of its genre, there was something about taking the role of Solid Snake that wooed a lot of gamers, including myself.
When Metal Gear Solid was released for the original Playstation, it set a new bar for console gaming. Being the first 3D rendered game in the series, this is where Metal Gear Solid started to become a visually pleasant experience. Pair that with a sick storyline and intuitive gameplay mechanics and you have one heck of a game that will consistently have you on your toes from start to finish.
Released in 1997 for the original Playstation, the first-ever Gran Turismo surely has a place in a lot of our hearts. Developed during the emergence of 3D gaming, Gran Turismo was able to establish itself in the industry as one of the most realistic racing games up to this day. And although the original game wasn’t exactly graphically true to life, where the game excelled was its accuracy when it came to the vehicle specs in the game; which was the first of its kind at the time.
From trying out all the available cars to looking at each of their specs, to racing it on the track, the original Gran Turismo made us feel like we were really behind the wheel and held its name true to being a real-life driving simulator.
Pokemon Red & Blue
It wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t add this one to the list. Launched in 1996 for the Nintendo Gameboy, Pokemon Red & Blue was one of the most memorable games for a lot of kids and even adults alike during the ’90s gaming era. Many have spent countless hours exploring every corner of Kanto City, catching and battling endless amounts of Pokémon, and even have their own set of easter eggs and glitches which people have come to love.
To this day, you can still find a lot of die-hard fans playing these timeless titles, and it’s no surprise given that the Pokémon franchise has arguably been one of the most influential games to have ever been introduced to the gaming community.
It’s been more than 20 years since these games were introduced to the world, yet there is just something about going back to these old classics that modern games today will never be able to emulate. Sure, things didn’t look realistic compared to the games we have today, but at the time (if some of you can still remember), it was a breakthrough in the gaming community.
Being a part of that early development gave many gamers a genuine experience of what the future of gaming might hold, and if you were able to personally experience playing these games on their original platforms, consider yourself lucky. Hopefully we may be able to continue preserving this memorable era of gaming and pass it down for generations to come.