We might be about to make a controversial statement here, but we think that the 1990s were the best era for gaming. It was the decade that the first PlayStation came out and gaming became mainstream, but it was before the most advanced games became so complicated that all the joy got taken out of playing them. We appreciate the artistry and complexity of the games of the modern era, but most of them are either impossible to master or take weeks to complete. We miss the times when you could beat a game in a few hours if you were good at it. That’s why we’re glad retro gaming is a thing!
We could happily talk to you for hours about our favorite video games of the 1990s, but instead, we’ve set ourselves a challenge. We’re going to try to identify the best five video games of the decade. We’re including every genre and every format in that, so it’s not going to be easy! Some of the greatest games of all time were released during the 90s, and so we’re going to have to leave out some incredible titles. We suspect that we’re going to annoy a few of you by leaving out your favorite game, too! That’s OK; that’s what the comment section is for. We’d love to hear your opinions!
Let’s take a deep breath and dive right into our list.
Street Fighter II – All Formats, 1991
The first “Street Fighter” game was a failure and largely went unnoticed. The second “Street Fighter” game was a pop culture phenomenon. It inspired action figures and a laughably bad film with Kylie Minogue and Jean-Claude Van Damme in it. Its influence can still be seen today at DoveCasino.com, where “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior” is the most popular video game-themed online slots game of them all. We don’t generally try to measure success by finding out which online slots are popular, but there’s so much money being spent on that “Street Fighter” online slots game that it’s impossible to ignore.
Without “Street Fighter II,” the fighting game genre may never have existed. We might never have seen “Tekken” or “Virtua Fighter.” The graphics were stunning for 1991, and by giving each character their own backstory and specific ending, there was an incentive to try to beat the game with each of them. People still play this game at tournaments today. Also, Ryu is the best character. That’s a hill we’re prepared to die on.
Wipeout – PS1, 1995
When the first PlayStation launched, people were suspicious of it. It was a new format made by a company that people didn’t associate with gaming. Sony needed some impressive games to market their new machine, and “Wipeout” was the most impressive of them all. Nobody had ever seen anything like the superb-looking anti-gravity racing game, and they rushed out to buy it in droves.
“Wipeout” was so far ahead of its time that the graphics are still passable today, and the speed the game plays at is still unbelievable. It wasn’t all about good looks and speed, though – the game also had one of the greatest soundtracks ever created, including music from the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers. An official soundtrack album was eventually released and was so popular that it charted in the UK.
GoldenEye – N64, 1997
As a rule of thumb, video games based on movies are atrocious. There’s an exception to every rule, though, and “GoldenEye” is the biggest exception imaginable. This game, made for the Nintendo N64 as a marketing tool for Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as James Bond, was sensational. Every year there are rumors that it’s going to be re-made for the latest generation of consoles, and every year people end up disappointed when it doesn’t happen. They don’t stay disappointed for long, though, because they go straight back to playing the original on their 25-year-old consoles.
It’s hard to say what makes “GoldenEye” so great, but if you’re not sure where the hype comes from, fire up an old console and invite three friends round to play it with you. Something about that four-player split-screen mode makes it the most exciting video gaming experience imaginable. We’re not surprised that so many people hold it up as the greatest multiplayer game of all time. Sure, “Call of Duty” is great, but “Call of Duty” doesn’t have a character like Oddjob who escapes certain death by being too short to shoot at close range.
Mario Kart 64 – N64, 1996
There are multiple versions of “Mario Kart.” There’s one available right now for mobile phones that we’re led to believe is very good. We’re sure it is, but it won’t change the fact that this is the best version of “Mario Kart,” and it probably always will be. It’s a classic Nintendo game played on a classic Nintendo console, just the way that the company intended it to be.
No, “Mario Kart 64” is not as sophisticated a racing game as any of the “Forza” series or even the first “Gran Turismo” game for the PlayStation in 1997. Yes, the graphics are a little blocky. None of that matters. This game is all about fun, and it delivers that in bucketloads. Well, fun and infuriating your siblings by throwing a banana peel at them at the worst possible moment. That plays a part in our enjoyment of it, too.
Resident Evil – PlayStation, 1996
This is the game that created the survival horror genre. The “Resident Evil” franchise feels a little watered-down now because there are so many versions of the game (including a new one coming to the PS5 very soon after it launches), but back in 1996, nobody had ever seen or played anything like this. It was genuinely trouser-soiling terrifying. It was the creepiest game any of us had ever experienced, and some people were too frightened by it to finish it.
To a younger audience, it probably seems like a run-of-the-mill hack and slash game with zombies to kill and puzzles to solve. They couldn’t be more wrong. The fear of realizing that you were down to one bullet and there were multiple zombies on the other side of the door was unbelievable, and we still think that “Resident Evil” is the most atmospheric game of all time. Don’t even get us started on the crows and the music.
That’s our five, and we hope we’ve done the 1990s proud with it. Sorry if we left off something that you feel ought to be there. Now let’s hear yours!