Top 10 Video Games of the 1990s

In 1983, the video game industry market crashed and didn’t even recover till the Nintendo Entertainment System came out in North America in 1985. For the rest of the 1980’s,  Nintendo has dominated the gaming market in its entirety, like Disney dominated the animation department, until 1989 when Sega became a prime competitor with their slogan “Sega does what Nintendon’t.” Thus the console wars begun and throughout the 1990’s (and still to this day), console manufacturers have been in competitions with one another. Competition is great for business because it creates growth, ideas, and takes daring moves to make something special of itself. That’s why I still believe gaming in the 1990s was the greatest period of our lives because we were given games that made leaps to innovation, new genres in gameplay were created, new controls, better peripherals, story lines in games were more well written, voice acting were being produced, and production value were created than they’ve ever been and games still continues to grow today.

Because of the amazing leaps that the gaming industry was taking in the 1990s, it all of the sudden created a pop culture sensation where games were getting as much attention as Hollywood. Though there are still non-gamers that would think otherwise, but this was an era where video games were no longer just for kids anymore, they were made for everyone. But for some miraculous reason, I still favor for gaming in the 1990s, more so than being a modern gamer or a gamer of any generation. Part of it is because there are just so many problems with modern gaming that it frustrates me like paying for incomplete games for full price, paying more for downloaded content, everything needs to be online, PC gaming lost a lot of popularity, requirement to log in whenever you play a certain game (EA and Ubisoft), Installing and updating a games, and even fads that only last for a few years (motion gaming and music & rhythm gaming). Because of this, there is no excitement for me to see where is the gaming industry today is going and as a historian, I love to look at what happened in the past and see how did this era evolved to what it is today. You can almost wish that you could see more of this experience in gaming in the 2000s, but because there was so much room for improvement, 1990s gaming is more impressive. A while ago, I’ve completed making a top 10 list of the best games released in each year so please check them out!

I love this decade of gaming so much that it has been very difficult for me to pick only ten games that I really think is the best (not defined) of the entire 1990s. If there’s more than anything I would love to do than just make a list of my favorites of the 90s, is pretty much go back in time and start this decade all over again! There are just so many memories that I truly miss from this time and I missed the cultures and excitement & energy that people had when living in this decade. Playing these games today does bring me back to these times, but I rather have the the whole world to have the standards to say that these games are amazing rather than having the general public to distract themselves to the best graphics offered in video games. More so than just the games that we miss, it’s also the people that forgotten how good these games were that I miss even more; it does get lonely to go back into old games that deserves as much appreciation as some of us does. But without anymore stalling, these are the ten games that can beat anything that modern gaming is doing today and needs to be experienced to understand its glory and reputation of being great. 

Number 10.  –  Super Mario 64

The reason why Super Mario 64 is so beloved after all of these years since its release is simply because this is the best 2D video game franchise to jump shift into full 3D. It was so revolutionary that it set the standards of how we play and interacted in video games today. It took a long mile step in making Mario to be able to do acrobatics when he jumps, leaps, and do so many tricks, it was all fun to toy with as well platform. Also, being able to go anywhere on foot and have the physics and logic to go on any environment; underwater, up the hill, standing on snow, on slippery ice, it all felt very real. Not to mention that you have some of the finest levels and missions that any game could offer when trying to collect any Stars, which is of course the main objective of the game. I can easily say that every aspect of the game is very appealing because the animation quality is fast, everything is a wonderful sight to see, accomplishing a mission is always fun, and all objects are high detailed. Not only that, but exploring the castle and finding all of the secret, it’ just created such an everlasting impression on all of us that it became timeless. For all the reasons I’ve stated, it never lost an ounce of appeal since. Level design-wise, I find myself seeing other 3D platformers out there that are better, but gameplay-wise it can’t be compared. This is a landmark in the history of gaming; it changed how games are made, played, and enjoyed.

Number 9.  –  Crash Bandicoot: Warped / Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage

I chose both of these games, not because I became a fan of both Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games in this era of gaming, but these two games were the highlights of the Sony Playstation. While people were still playing Banjo-Kazooie and Mario 64, we had two 3D Platforming franchises that both made trilogies (never happened in a Nintendo console since SNES) and delivered qualitative and miraculous entertainment for all ages. My favorite of the Crash Bandicoot series always forever will be Warped and my favorite of Spyro has always been Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage.

Linear games in 3D graphics have always been a iffy for me, but not the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy on the PS1. The reason for that is they always offered something different, challenging, and fun for every couple of feet you make towards the end of each level. For Crash Bandicoot: Warped’s case, it totally succeeds in capturing everything special from Crash Bandicoot 2: The Wrath of Cortex and tripled it to the bare minimum. I love that almost every level (except some of the themes) felt every different from one another where they sometimes get out of the traditional Crash Bandicoot levels of breaking crates and collection the crystal, but also offer challenges like Coco riding a tiger across the Great Wall of China, motorcycle racing, and aircraft piloting. Even for the traditional Crash Bandicoot levels when he’s on foot, it all feels different thanks to the time-traveling theme that the third installment goes for from the jurassic era, medieval times, egyptian tombs, underwater levels, the future, and more. Even more of a rewarding experience, you also have very memorable bosses like Tiny, Dingodile, Dr. Nefarious Trophy, Dr. N. Gin, and Dr. Neo Cortex with Aku Aku’s evil twin Uka Uka and beating all of them grants Crash Bandicoot new powers and abilities. These powers are used to be in the later levels, not the other way around that creates backtracking like other 3D platformers. Sure, anyone can find Crash Bandicoot: Warped as a short game, but because of its charm it has more than a high replay value. In fact, this is perhaps the most replayed game ever. I don’t think that there’s ever a game out there that made me want to keep coming back to it again and again. Warped really utilized the playstation technology at its fullest from the colors, quick load times, fast pacing, amazing sound, vibration controller, and smooth animation were all just so damn lovable!
Ever since the Crash Bandicoot trilogy was completed on the Sony Playstation, Spyro came along to take over Playstation’s mascot craze and the sequel shows why Spyro is the best exclusive series. It was every part better than the original at a point where the original looks like shit in comparison. We’re talking about better supporting characters (Elora. Hunter, Professor, & Moneybags) that has so much charm, more gameplay features and bonus levels, a better bosses (Ripto, Gulp, and Crush), better voice acting, creative level designs, new power-ups and so many improvements that totally makes this a classic worth coming back again and again. On to the power-ups (similar to Crash Bandicoot: Warped), you also got the generic climbing on climbable ladders and headsmash, but the one thing I really love about this game is being able to swim underwater, and unlike any other game, these are the best swimming mechanics ever seen in a video game. Why is it that we’re still having problems swimming underwater in video games today, but Spyro 2 managed to pull it off perfectly well? Never have there been a game where I was so excited to have a level that has body of water or underwater stages that brings out all the joy out of me. And unlike the scavenger collecting 3D platformers like Banjo-Kazooie and DK64, Spyro 2 made collecting everything so simple, yet challenging which really avoids the laboriousness of having to find something you miss or have a mini game that’s impossible to beat. Every level doesn’t take too long to complete, all the challenges are varied and entertaining, and experience is just the most fulfilling 3D platformer.

It’s really impossible to see that Crash Bandicoot and Spyro series would ever be as speculator and enjoyable as when Naughty Dog and Insomniac worked on the series, but after the PS1 era, they worked on better projects leaving this two beloved franchises to be bastardized many years afterwords like a Disney direct-to-home-video sequel. But no matter how many bad ideas that later companies have done to these two series, we will always keep going back to these two games because they were the a complete platforming experience and nothing quite like it! It makes me wish that there were more games just like it, but since we live in a time where mediocrity is acceptable in the gaming industry today, we will never have games like the Crash and Spyro trilogies, but that’s what makes going back to these titles more rewarding each time!

Number 8.  –  The Legend of Zelda:
A Link to the Past

The Nintendo Entertainment System just has more than enough bad sequels (Mario Bros. 2, Castlevania II) and Zelda II is the most despised of all. We wanted nothing more than another Zelda game that plays like the original Legend of Zelda and that’s why A Link to the Past not only delivered, but gave us more than what we all asked for. The joys of playing on an over the head view point, sword slashing (and many methods of attacking) so many variety of enemies, find items and secrets, going through dungeons to solve puzzles, fight bosses that offer different challenges, and go anywhere you want as long as you have the necessary requirements like all formula of every Zedla game, but it never felt so grand! But the period in time of Zelda II to A Link to the Past was indeed a long time in the coming, it was well worth the wait.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past provides hours of action and a surprising amount of replay value as well. The graphics are vibrant and the music is infectious, which enhance the enjoyment. The story itself is well written and adds to the game’s charm. But most importantly, the gameplay is not only a huge improvement over the first Zelda game, but it was a completely new side of the Zelda world. Weather if it’s the iconic stormy opening, entering any temple, or facing any kind of creature, it was a huge adventure that no other game before it has even came close. And to go an extra mile, you have have a light and dark world to travel that made the adventure much bigger than anyone can imagine. Jump shifting from light and dark world is one of the coolest and innovative level designs that even the like of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes heavily borrows from. Not only that, but there are more than enough weapons, items, and gears that improves Link to the very warrior that you want to play as. Though he may be overpowering, but that’s the whole fun of this adventure, plus the puzzles are tough but fun as well.

I can argue this single Zelda title has more action and many ways to kill enemies than any other Zelda game to date and it didn’t feel like a waste at all. There’s a multitude of so many things to discover that it kept players connected for many years! It’s no wonder why this very title has been on Nintendo Power’s Top Game list for five years (though I do argue that there have been better SNES games after it) it should tell you why it’s so loved. The gameplay and adventure of Zelda: A Link to the Past felt seamless. Every subsequent Zelda takes their cues from this very game; as it introduced many familiar creatures, elements, and characters that would appear throughout the rest of the Zelda series. For those who wonders why I chose this game over the Ocarina of Time, here’s why. Ocarina of Time test my patience from really enjoying this game. From the opening, getting through boring dungeons, and even getting through the long-ass, painful dialog (The Owl, King Zora, and more) were all huge flaws that ruined most of the enjoyment. A Link to the Past is a game that never gets old no matter how many times you played it!

Number 7.  –  Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus

This is honestly one of the best sequel I’ve ever seen in my life. Oddworld Abe’s Oddysee has the best graphics of the 1990s and Exoddus brought so much more to the table to unimaginable possibilities. The fundamental gameplay from the previous game still remains, but Exoddus fixed everything that was flawed from Oddysee and made the closest thing to perfection. Communicating with NPCs never felt so good as you have simple control of all the Mudokins that you have to save, but it also adds so much to the challenge by giving each of them to react differently. Some are too pissed, depressed, or hyper to keep in control so Oddworld Inhabitants gave us more actions by allowing the player to solve their problem by saying sorry, stop fighting, and slap them to keep their sanity. But there are also the sympathetic blind Mudokins who had their sight taken away from them.

Possessing enemies returns to the series, but it works better than ever as you can control more than just the Sligs this time, you can control the Paramites, Scabs, the Glukins, and even your own exploding fart! The game’s humor is through-the-roof as it got me rolling on their slap stick, dry humor, and even cartoony nature. I really appreciate the fact that Abe’s Exoddus is much more light hearted than the dark and unsettling tone of Abe’s Oddysee, while still keeping the artistry and atmosphere that made Oddworld so fucking beautiful.

What makes this game one of my favorite 2D platformer ever is the fact that it offers so many brand new challenges that really test veterans of the genre. If the challenge is way too hard, then you can create your save points that creates player’s choice of check points, which really keeps the player from repeating on rescuing Mudokins whenever you die and give a more balanced gameplay. Even better, this game offers multiplayer which makes bringing a friend over to see who goes the farthest to be a fun experience. Abe’s Exoddus is simply the best Oddworld game and personally my favorite 2D platformer of all time. It perfected the cinematic platformer gameplay (from Another World), the charming appeal from top to bottom, best graphics of the 1990s, and even the best damn artistry ever seen in a video game! Abe’s Exoddus is a great example of how a game can stay true to its conceptual pursuit while still improving upon the original, all while keeping its soul intact.

Number 6.  –  Doom

It’s one word and it says it all. Who really needs a sequel of Wolfenstein 3D when all you have to do is to revamp the whole structure and formula, enhance the gameplay, and change the entire settings and sprites to hell filled with demons, zombies, and demonic aliens. I’ve had my say on Wolfenstein 3D being the founder of the first-person shooter genre, but Doom totally popularized it in ways nobody could imagine it! If adventure games didn’t interest people of the 90′s to start getting a computer and play games on it, Doom will! Sure, Mortal Kombat got the world to recognize violence in video games, but Doom capitalized it because of its incredibly well detailed gore, haunting imagery, and even hardcore action gameplay. I never seen a game so insane and so imaginative that it’s still worth coming back for another replay. It allowed players to find secrets, use pistols, chain-gun, rocket launchers, chainsaws, and the BFG 9000 to kill as many enemies in first-person, and so many more! To even expand on the game, Doom popularized modding as to redesign character’s skins, create their own levels, and so much more that’s still continuing to this day. Not only that, but it’s one of the pioneers of internet-connected multiplayer for computers as well! This game was so massive at one point, any game that was influenced or trying to get in the first-person shooter market were automatically called “Doom-clones” and we had more than enough of them throughout the 1990s. However, Doom prevails because it is never once boring! No matter how much better modern game’s graphics get, how much better game presentation presents itself, and no matter how many more innovations later games and future games succeeds, Doom will still be enjoyed because it’s an everlasting entertainment that’s immortal! Very rarely I can say that same thing with any other video game…

Number 5.  –  Castlevania:
Symphony of the Night

We all thought that there will never be another 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.

Number 4.  –  Donkey Kong Country 2:
Diddy’s Kong Quest

Though 1994 was the year of Donkey Kong Country, I’m one of those people who knows by heart that the sequel is better than the original. Sure, most of us who are emotionally attached to Donkey Kong are upset that he’s unplayable thanks to Kaptain K. Rool capturing him, but at least we have the next best thing; Dixie Kong. It was great to have Dixie Kong as a new playable character to help Diddy Kong because she’s just as fast as Diddy and she has a ponytail so long that she can spin so fast to propeller herself to long distanced platforms.

And better yet, you got yourself the richest and qualitative level designs that even make grown men emotionally weep, backed up with the most immersive soundtrack ever scored into a video game. I felt like life is complete whenever I adventure through this game as a kid because it has fantastic variety of levels that feels like the greatest pirate adventure of all time. Not only that, but the secrets, bonus levels, and collectable were so well crafted that it’s worth attempting to make that 100% completion, despite its hardcore difficulty. Though it doesn’t have a story nor any character development whatsoever (like any other platformer in existence), but I’ve grown such a huge emotional attachment to the adventure and atmosphere that this very game presents itself! And it’s clearly one of the main reasons why I’m proud to have this very game to be, not only a part of my childhood, but part of me as a gamer!

Number 3.  –  Chrono Trigger

This game did every single thing to be as epic and as thunderous as humanly possible. Yet, very little games out there could even come close to the quality of this very game. I always see Chrono Trigger as the game that was a build up on everything Squaresoft accomplished before this title and delivered with every ounce that they got! From top-to-bottom, start-to-finish this game is quality, quality, quality! It’s a game that demands your attention and will not let go of it until the final credits roll. It has everything that a game could ever need; a well fleshed out cast, devistating moves and team combos  that has never been done in an RPG, a fullfilling time travling experience, some of the greatest and memorable scores in video games, best antagonists you can ask for, and multiple endings to make the player have a sense of high replay value.

If you never played Chrono Trigger in your life, saying that you’re missing out is an understatement of the century; you owe it to yourself to play this game, even if you detest RPGs like I used to. When people say that Chrono Trigger will get people who hates RPG’s to become a believer, they are right because I used to hate RPG’s as it’s just a mathematic game in a fantasy setting. After I played Chrono Trigger from beginning to end, not only did I want to play more of this game, but I was eager to start playing other RPG’s of the genre. For a game that does that to me, personally, then it should really say something to you. I never been as satisfied as am I now after I played Chrono Trigger countless times because this was a time-traveling experience that I’ve never seen before and quite frankly, never see again!

Number 2.  –  Metal Gear Solid

Upon the game’s release & before the game became the popular franchise that it is now today, we all assumed that this was a stealth military simulator. And boy, were we all in for a treat for some of the most qualitative playstation game of all time. This is proof that not all military-themed games are simply accomplish a mission operation, but Metal Gear Solid instead made it a very deep and thought-provoking game that tackles the themes of survival, dangers of nuclear proliferation, government conspiracy, love, and passing on genes to future generations. This title did more than just revolutionizing the stealth game genre, it also showed that storytelling in video games can be very crucial and intelligent. It really gets the player suspenseful when it comes to how evil the plans of Fox Hound really are. Metal Gear Solid gets the player at ease to keep out of sight and it feels like the whole operation is more serious than any tone seen in a video game.

Hiding in boxes, crawling underneath objects, and using noise to distract enemies, Solid Snake really knows his stealth. Equipped with a radar, Snake must avoid detection lest he set off any alarms, which puts him in “alert mode” and forces him to hide. Once hidden, the “evasion mode” counter ticks away until the guards lose the trail and Solid Snake is back in “infiltration mode” once more. The dialog passing back and forth between Snake, the people in the operation, and the folks that he communicates on radio is really engaging like having an actual conversation with these characters as they are real. I love to listen to any of these wonderful voice acting and masterful screenplay all day if I have to as they offer so much emotion and valuable information from various characters.

Almost every aspect of the game thrills the player to continue playing and then face a member of FoxHound. Every time you face one of the members of FoxHound, they give Solid Snake different challenges of battle from hand to hand combat (Gray Fox) to sniper battle (Sniper Wolf). What’s surprising of them all is that most of these villains are not all evil, they are sympathetic and are driven by their motivations for a purpose. It’s all of those things that makes Metal Gear Solid truly surprising and feel like its more than just a video game. I defy anyone who thinks otherwise because this game achieved much more than anyone can imagine and it got the gaming industry as a whole to be smarter, passionate, and more important than ever before! I can’t imagine video games today could ever tell good stories or create such immersion today without the importance of Metal Gear Solid.

Number 1.  –  Panzer Dragoon Saga

Surprised to see this game at the number 1 spot? Well that’s because this underrated game was a humongous achievement and there has never been a game like it before, since, and after. Since we’re all now living in the Nintendo Generation, the only people left that will tell you that this game is good are the Sega Saturn fans who experienced it. What an achievement it was to turn a franchise that’s known for its on-rails shooting into THE BEST role-playing game of all time. If you really love the first two Panzer Dragoon games, don’t be discouraged that this is a different genre because this installment kept the many familiar aspects from the first two games to make it a worthy sequel; from the enemies, selecting what you want to interact, Dragon’s attack, etc. it all feels similar but is taken into a new and dynamic style. The one main reason why this gem is the best game of the 1990s for me because you have to remember that in 1997 we were all blown away by Final Fantasy 7, but when we got a chance to see Panzer Dragoon Saga it blew us away even more for having MUCH better graphics (actual transparency), voice-acting throughout, everything to be in full 3D, much better soundtrack, and even free roam in the game’s world that in every way imaginable succeeds over FF7.

The one thing I really dislike about console role-playing games (outside that they’re not as fun as table top RPG’s) is that when you’re in battle, characters stand around just taking turns on hitting each other or wait to get hit, which is completely static on to itself. But Panzer Dragoon Saga managed to make turn-based combat to look somewhat plausible by having the dragon you’re riding on and the enemies to battle up in the air. Unlike any RPG out there, you can maneuver around the enemy to its left, right, ahead, or behind them so that you can shoot them at their weak spot or mistakenly get hit at their most crucial area. This combat mechanic creates some of the most dynamic visuals and engaging battle sequences ever implemented in this media and no other RPG came even close to it since! Just like Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei, as your Dragon continues to level up, at certain levels he can evolve into an entirely different dragon. And if you don’t like how your Dragon looks you can either keep leveling up to a different look or you can change its stats to make it look different. That part of the game really beats the likes of Pokemon in their own evolution concept. The journey involves Edge riding his powerful dragon to avenge on his fallen comrades and rescue the mysterious girl from the ruins.

azelThe fan favorite, Azel, looked like she was going to be a generic damsel in distress that we need to rescue, only to find out later in the game that she is on Crayman’s side and becomes your biggest nemesis. Panzer Dragoon Saga’s plot is so well-told for it has so many twists and complete with emersion that I rarely see in video games anymore. There is without any doubt in my mind that this is the most underrated game of all time because it went miles ahead on what most people considers to be the best RPG’s (like FF7, Pokemon, Dragon Quest, or more), no other game feels anywhere like Panzer Dragoon Saga, and the end of the game succeeds in offering complete satisfactory. It’s such a shame that still to this day nobody gives Sega Saturn a chance and as a result there are only 300,000 copies of Panzer Dragoon Saga that were published by Sega which means that they are rare and very low number of people have experienced its magic. It doesn’t matter what type of gamer you are, but if you enjoy video games as a hobby or a personal journey within this interactive media, you owe it to yourself to play this game before you leave this Earth; you are missing out on one of the best games of all time! Panzer Dragoon Saga took me out of my regular life each time I put the game on, it embraced me and absorbed me into its own world. No other game can ever take its place in my heart and it’s a no brainer why this game should be remembered as the best video game of the whole decade of the 1990s!

The Top Listed Games of the 1990s!

                          10.      9.  

                     8.      7.      6.  

           5.      4.      3.  

                                          2.      1.  

If you’re interested, there’s a list of the Top 10 Video Games of the 2000s now available!

Related articles