From where we’re sitting, the late 1990s were a great purity to attach the phrase “Back in the day…” The year 1997 is a great representation of golden era giving birth to so many redefining games and also take a huge leap with such titles to make video games a pop culture phenomenon that it now is today. In a lot of cases, these seemingly discounted, tainted claims are pretty tough to dispute. This was around the time when the Sega Saturn started loosing its appeal (despite bad marketing with Sega of America) because the Sony Playstation had titles that grabbed everyone’s attention like the juggernaut called Final Fantasy 7. Meanwhile the Nintendo 64 gave us multiplayer experiences in our living rooms that no other console before has ever provided. With that being said, these are the games that forever revolutionized gaming into the the peaks of popularity that no other year before it has ever had.
Number 10. – GoldenEye 007
There were multiplayer first-person shooters before GoldenEye, if you knew how to work the Internet. GoldenEye was what made console multiplayer FPS’s mainstream. GoldenEye invented sitting in a room with your friends and shooting them. It invented calling three friends up to waste six-straight hours in front of the TV. It invented punching Jimmy Zubulake in the arm because he was being cheap with the rocket launcher. It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time when casual, living-room death matches didn’t exist. If not for GoldenEye, we might not have first-person shooters to be successful on consoles. The question is why is this game so low? As much of an important historical figure this game is, the single player was lackluster. Some missions can be surprisingly short and there are just not the right length for a mission, plus the enemy A.I. is simply laughable. It’s really not that good, it’s overrated. I would really rather watch the movie that it’s based on instead of playing this game. If it wasn’t for the multiplayer, then GoldenEye wouldn’t make it on the list.
Number 9. – X-Men vs. Street Fighter
When King of Fighters ’94 brought all of the separated SNK fighting games together, it became popular to have cross-overs in the fighting game genre. Capcom made a wise-move of instead of making another Street Fighter II installment, they managed to make a cross-over with the X-Men characters, with so many redesign of Street Fighter characters to go along with it (Cammy White’s shadowloo is one example). Basically, Capcom used the Marvel’s Super Heroes engine and put it at its full potential with better animation quality (looks almost like the X-Men animated series), more fast paced, and the inclusion of tag teaming. This was the first time that any Capcom game managed to have the tag team concept that was so easy to pull off and with so many characters to choose from both franchises, it’s a no brainers to spoil the players to have two to choose. Remember, this was the first huge step before they brought out the future Marvel vs. Capcom series that we all know and love today. But give X-Men vs. Street Fighter a try so you can experience what it was like before Capcom cross-over fighters were too cluttered.
Number 8. – Die Hard Arcade
I argue that this is so much better than GoldenEye by every means of the definition. Not once did I find this 3D beat’em up to be at all boring; it was totally action packed and unbelievably insane, shall we say. The sad thing is that never was the 3D beat’em up genre ever again been this good. It combines elements of both punch-and-kick style games and straight shooting games. If Die Hard Arcade can be compared to anything, it would probably be viewed as a souped-up Final Fight. The action keeps you interested and the fighting is tough, but not so tough that it gets frustrating. The vast array of weapons available for use by characters in this game are great. Players can pick up guns, mace, trash cans, brooms, axes, and missile launchers. There’s almost always an opportunity to hurt the enemy with something other than your hands or feet and that’s the fun of it all. And best yet, between fights, you have quick-time events where John McClain uses a deadly blow on his opponent. Even though similarities between the game and the Die Hard movie trilogy are few and far between, I’d say this video game tie-in is well worth playing.
Number 7. – Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Words cannot describe how frustrating the original Crash Bandicoot really was. You can forget about making a 100% completion with that game because it’s so loathing, but Crash Bandicoot 2 improved on every single thing over the original. It make linear gameplay to look incredibly fun because there’s always something new to do and a new challenge ahead every couple of steps you make when getting closer to the end of each level. From smashing so many crates, jet riding in space, ride on a jet ski, ride on a baby polar bear, running from a giant polar bear, and so many more! Nearly every level that this game offers is really, really fun! Without this title, I seriously doubt that anyone would still be talking about Crash Bandicoot today because the original trilogy is still loved by Playstation fans everywhere.
Number 6. – Final Fantasy VII
There’s two sides of me when I think of this game; 1) I’m tired of hearing the never ending hype surrounding this game and 2) I appreciate everything that this title has done for the Sony Playstation. People back in the 1990s are easily amused to game with the best graphics and FF7 delivered with a solid gameplay, experience, and story. It raised the bar for console role-playing games and since then none has ever had imediate success as this very title. The Materia-based battle system still influences game design today, the story features one of the most tragic plot twists of all time, and the graphics (at the time) were beyond anything we’d ever seen. Everyone knows how outdated they are, but some reason, the game’s presentation still gives me a warm, nostalgic feeling whenever I still look at the game. Final Fantasy 7 made the series into one of the biggest moneymakers in gaming history. Its story was engrossing and well paced, throwing you straight into the action and grabbing hold or your attention throughout, the battle system was accessible, and well thought out, and the aesthetics and art design had the perfect mix of themes and emotion. This game was many peoples introduction to the world of RPGs and to be honest, at the time you probably couldn’t find a better ambassador.
Number 5. – Star Fox 64
We all were disappointed that Star Fox 2 for the Super Nintendo was never released, however Nintendo took all the amazing concepts of the game that almost made it, into a redefined classic that became one of the most replayed games that ever existed. Every Nintendo 64 fan will always say how many times they’ve played this on-rails flight shooter and for good reason, there’s always something new to shoot, or blow up, every ten seconds within each level. Unlike the SNES original your anthropomorphic wingmen buddies speak properly this time, rather than the garbled alien sounding language some might remember from before. The voice acting is of a surprisingly good quality, and the dialogue is very witty and memorably quoted (barrel-roll!). There is so much variety, action and fun on offer it is hard to see who this game could not appeal to.
Number 4. – Mario Kart 64
This is perhaps my favorite racing game of all time. That’s all thanks to the memorable level design, basic and useful weaponry, and wonderful cast of characters. Any kart racing game that tried to have their take on the genre always revolve back to the very influence that this game holds. The sad reality is that there could never be a better Mario Kart game than 64 because everything is so balanced. Best yet is the multiplayer that can go up to four players and you can either race each other or play the many mini games that is competitive and fun all at once. Remember those times when the blue shell stayed on ground, how you still keep moving when you’re hit by any object, and last place didn’t take everything that’s powerful? Unless if the modern and future Mario Kart games fixed all of the flaws that they have, Mario Kart 64 will still remain as not only the best Mario Kart game, but also the best Kart racing game in general.
Number 3. – Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Dammit, Abe’s Oddysee was beautiful. Everyone says that video game graphics in 1990 doesn’t age well, but the Oddworld series proves otherwise; it looks like it was made yesterday because of its high artistic value of both the visual design and soundtrack were hard to deny. Oddworld was exactly as its name implied, and that was a huge part of the appeal. It took the cinematic platformer gameplay from Another World and went an extra kilometer. Enemies and allies both had personality, and responded in different ways to specific stimuli as opposed to just predictably walking left or right. But what this game brought new on the table is that you’re able to communicate with NPC’s. This is where every living thing in Oddworld starts to show their personality as they react to almost everything you do. If you fart they laugh, if you give them any command (follow, wait, say hello, etc.) they’ll do as you say, and if you get caught, enemies will try to kill you in a realistic fashion. The result was a world that engaged the player in a cerebral and contemplative way;a fresh concept for 2D platformers. It’s another reason why I hate the video game industry for being so forgetful because Oddworld was praised for it’s interactivity and artistry that it has done for video games in general and that’s why I still hold it very close to my heart!
Number 2. – The Curse of Monkey Island
Who may enjoy The Curse of Monkey Island? Everyone. You have to be a dreadfully staid gamer if you do not find yourself entertained by this title. While fans of the previous games in the Monkey Island series may get the biggest laughs out of the twisted plot connections across the trilogy while reminiscing elements that are oddly familiar, no previous knowledge of the Monkey Island series is needed to enjoy this game wholeheartedly (which is good because you can skip the awful Monkey Island 2). It was almost as if Lucas Arts’s previous releases that used the SCUMM engine where all building up to the mastery of this very title. The voice-acting is solid, and the animation quality and presentation almost looked like a 90s cartoon. Unlike most adventure games, The Curse of Monkey Island has many action sequences in this game. At the beginning there is the cannon firing, but the real action begins with the hilarious ship to ship combat after you leave Plunder Island. This mini game is a combination of the classic game Pirates! and the insult sword fights from Secret of Monkey Island. LucasArts has learned a lesson from fan feedbacks about the action sequences in Full Throttle, so adventure gamers who do not like action play can relax because your adventure experience should not be affected by your combat skills. This game is simply the pinacle of adventure games and it is the of the reason why Monkey Island is still the most talked about series in the whole adventure game genre. It has so many epic and awesome moments and the humor is just so irritably funny. In the end, The Curse of Monkey Island is more than just a worthy sequel to a classic LucasArts series, it is simply the best adventure game ever!
Number 1. – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
We all thought that there will never be a game like Super Metroid, since the game didn’t sold successfully upon its release and it looked like Nintendo gave up the franchise. But along came Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that proves otherwise and created the sub-genre called “Metroidvania.” Konami took the side-scrolling idea to its fullest in this title. The game’s enormous maps, huge range of weapons, constant enemies, and excellent balance all still puts this squarely on the all-time list, no questions asked! The only people to be surprised at the fact that Symphony of the Night took the number one spot on my list are those unfortunate enough to never have played it. Even with its atrocious voice acting and horribly scripted dialogue, Symphony provided a simple story all Castlevania fans should love: after Richter defeated Dracula in Rondo of Blood, evil still seemed to emanate from Castlevania, so Alucard decides to put an end to the evil once and for all and destroy the castle completely. Meanwhile, Richter has been missing since he defeated Dracula all those years ago. Alucard doesn’t use a whip, but fights with a sword and shield and has access to a variety of otherworldly powers that he inherited from his father. Symphony built on Rondo’s tight controls and immense boss fights, Simon’s Quest’s open world and RPG mechanics and Castlevania 3’s intense platforming. The result was absolutely groundbreaking. Symphony borrowed from Super Metroid, dawning the phrase, “Metroidvania”, describing titles where your character must backtrack to previously explored locations in order to expand on them fully using newly unlocked abilities (double jump, shape-shifting, flying, etc.). Looking at this list in hindsight reminds us that Symphony of the Night is arguably, one of the greatest video games of all time. Every section of the game has a different enemy variety, different challenge, so many secret to behold, so many different ways to attack and destroy your opponents, but all the same Castlevania appeal. With legendary graphics, a terrific soundtrack and perfectly tuned gameplay, SOTN is a fantastic experience regardless of era or age. A true masterpiece in every sense of the word.
- Top 10 Video Games of 1998
- Top 10 Albums of 1997
- Top 10 Movies of 1997
- Top 10 Video Games of 2007
- Top 10 Video Games of 1996
- Top 10 Video Games of 1995
- Top 10 Video Games of 1994
- Top 10 Video Games of the 1990s