The 90s were an interesting time; the internet was finally a thing, multicolored windbreaker tracksuits were cool, and parents thought that Gushers were an acceptable substitute for fruits in a child’s packed lunch.
The 90s saw a huge leap in video game technology as well, and 90s kids were treated to a decade of innovative and incredible gameplay. Here are some of the highlights.
Super Mario World
Frankly in a list like this, with 3D becoming a mainstay in 90s games by the halfway point, you’re not going to see a ton of 2D. But here is one of the best 2D platformer games ever made, Super Mario World. Of course, Mario transitioned to 3D with the N64, and while there have been some side-scrolling games that have simply been rendered in 3D, this is one of the last true 2D side-scrolling games in the vein of the others that made Mario a household name. The game also introduced the rideable Yoshi character who has had several video games of his own.
Speaking of Mario, he may have been one of the first to make the transition from 2D to 3D platformer, but Crash Bandicoot was born in 3D and arguably did it better. Naughty Dog, the company behind the hugely popular Uncharted series, created three excellent games for the PS1 and a kart racing spinoff that many have argued is as good if not better than Mario Kart 64. Crash was fun, innovative, and managed to dance that fine line between genuinely endearing and insufferably cheesy.
The thing is, the game really should not work; after the success of Sonic the Hedgehog, everyone tried their hand at a fast-talking anthropomorphic animal and most of them were predictably insufferable. Crash just simply did it better, and knew how to shift the focus on the levels instead of the main character while still giving him a personality.
Many will point to Halo as the game that redefined first-person shooters, but Half-Life was, truthfully, a more influential game for a number of reasons. First, the story was excellent and revolutionary, and the game featured facial animations and graphics that were, at the time, unparalleled. Secondly, the creators encouraged the modding community to play with the code of the game, thus creating the video game mod culture that exists today, and the hugely successful Counter Strike, which has ruined more internet friendships than forum debates about who was the better Star Trek captain.
Metal Gear Solid
This is the game that really proved that video games could actually carry a powerful narrative arc, feature excellent acting, and still be a ton of fun to play. Metal Gear Solid did all of this all while redefining the stealth genre and creating the framework for it that has largely been followed in follow-up titles and other series like Splinter Cell. It’s on of the few video games that is not afraid to be a little strange at moments, and yet incredibly poignant at others.