The Best Video Games By Year In The 1990s

By the 1990s the video game industry had found its footing and was in full swing. Going into the decade Nintendo was the clear leader of the industry, with Sega having just recently got into the gaming world. By the end of the decade, Sony had also joined the fold with the PlayStation. The 90s was an incredible decade for gaming, and these are the best games by year.

Super Mario World (1990)

Five years on from the success of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo released their follow-up console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario World was a launch title for the system and would help to showcase the power of the new 16-bit console. The game was able to introduce new elements that were unable to be included in previous games due to hardware limitations, such as Yoshi. Despite being over 30 years old, Super Mario World hasn’t aged due to the colorful and bold art style, which helps the game look great even in 2021. Honorable mentions include The Secret of Monkey Island, F-Zero, and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (1991)

Like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was the first game in the series on the brand new SNES, following the success of The Legend of Zelda 1 and 2 on the NES, with this title going back to the style of the original. A Link to the Past is often regarded as the best in the series if you ask a fan that prefers the 2D games. The game saw many new elements come to the game that would go on to be staples in the series, such as locations and items. Honorable mentions include Another World, Civilization, Lemmings, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Street Fighter 2.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (1992)

Sega became Nintendo’s main competitor in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, with Sonic the Hedgehog becoming the main rival to Super Mario. 1992 saw the second game in the series released, and it is certainly the best of the 2D Sonic games, and perhaps the best in the entire series. Growing up, you were either a Sega kid, or a Nintendo kid, but regardless of which side you were on, it is hard to deny how fantastic this game is. Honorable mentions include Dune 2, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Kart, and Wolfenstein 3D.

DOOM (1993)

In 1993, DOOM revolutionized the FPS genre, bringing 3D shooters to the masses, despite it being pre-dated by Wolfenstein 3D the year prior and not actually being a 3D game. The popularity of DOOM was immediate, largely thanks to the shareware version of the game, and its influence helped define the genre in the 90s, with many future titles taking inspiration from it. Without Doom, the FPS genre could look completely different from what it is now. Honorable mentions include Daytona USA, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Mortal Kombat 2, NBA Jam, Phantasy Star IV, Secret of Mana, and Star Fox.

Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Rare were tasked with creating a platformer game following the success of the Super Mario Bros series. What we got was one of the best platformer games on the 90s, with Donkey Kong making his first appearance since the classic Donkey Kong arcade games. The art style used made the game the best-looking game of the time, and it also features an incredible soundtrack that still holds up today and is a shining example of what a video game soundtrack should be. Honorable mentions include DOOM 2, Earthbound, Final Fantasy VI, and Super Metroid.

Chrono Trigger (1995)

Chrono Trigger is often regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, sitting at an impressive 96% on Game Rankings. The game originally didn’t see a European release, not releasing in the region until the DS version in 2009. Europe truly missed out on one of the best RPGs of all time. If you missed this back in the day, now is a perfect time to finally go and check it out. Honorable mentions include Command & Conquer, Wipeout, and Yoshi’s Island.

Pokemon Red & Blue (1996)

When Pokémon was first released in Japan in 1996, and later in the west in 1998, it became an instant hit and helped spawn the biggest media franchise in the world. Pokémon Red and Blue, or Red and Green in Japan, is where it all started, with players setting out on a brand new adventure to collect a variety of creatures called Pokémon with the aim to battle them and become the best trainer in the world. The game became an instant smash hit and the talk of the town, with an anime, trading cards, and plenty of merchandise being released shortly after. Honorable mentions include Duke Nukem 3D, PaRappa the Rapper, Quake, Resident Evil, Super Mario 64, and Tomb Raider.

Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Final Fantasy 7 helped to bring the JRPG genre to the mainstream following its release in 1997. Up until this point, the genre had remained fairly niche, but that all changed with the PlayStation classic. Final Fantasy 7 has gone on to become one of the most influential games of all time, with the title selling over 13 million copies, becoming the best-selling entry in the series. Honorable mentions include Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Goldeneye 007, Quake 2, and Tekken 3.

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time (1998)

1998 is perhaps the greatest year in gaming history, with dozens of incredible games released that could have easily taken the spot on this list. But, it can be argued that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the greatest game of all time. Critics seemed to think so at the time as the game holds the highest score on Metacritic with 99%. Honorable mentions include Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Resident Evil 2.

Shenmue (1999)

Released in 1999, the martial arts-themed action-adventure game became a defining title for the Sega Dreamcast. The open-world game was one of the first to introduce Quick Time Events, for better or worse, and Shenmue was seen as unprecedented due to the game featuring a day-and-night system, variable weather effects, NPCs with daily schedules, and various minigames, something that wasn’t seen in video games at the time. Honorable mentions include Age of Empires 2, Quake 3: Arena, Silent Hill, System Shock 2, and Unreal Tournament.

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