30 Video Games From The 90s Everyone Played (But Forgot About)
The 1990s was a decade which yielded many innovations in gaming. It was the time in which games made the leap from sprite-based graphics to full 3D graphics. The introduction of discs instead of cartridges also meant games became much bigger and more detailed.
It also marked the period in which arcade games began to decline in popularity as home consoles became more common and more affordable. These consoles included the Sega Genesis and later the Dreamcast, Nintendo’s Gameboy and N64 and the Sony PlayStation.
It truly was a remarkable time for gaming. Game graphics and sound both made huge leaps over this period and we also saw the introduction of the first analog stick and haptic feedback functionality in a controller. Much of the technology introduced in the 1990s still underpins the games of today.
In terms of the games themselves the first person shooter, real-time strategy, survival-horror, and MMO genres were born in the ’90s. The end of the decade also saw the beginnings of online gaming support with online capabilities becoming standard on newer consoles.
Many popular gaming franchises also began in the ’90s and are still running now. These include The Elder Scrolls, Grand Theft Auto, and Warcraft franchises as well as the Mario Kart and Mario Party series.
So what about the other games? As well as the classics everyone remembers, such as the recently remastered Spyro franchise, there were many more games which everyone played but most people have forgotten. Here are 30 of those classics. How many can you remember?
Soul Edge is a fighting game and the first title in the Soul Caliber series. It was originally released as an arcade game before being renamed Soul Blade for its release on PlayStation.
The game was an experiment by Namco in exploring the idea of a weapon based fighting game. It was the first motion capture based game to be created.
It’s GameRankings and Metacritic scores are extremely high and it was hugely popular at the time. It is often forgotten however due to the fact that the rest of the series of games are all called Soul Caliber.
Unreal is often overshadowed by Unreal Tournament but it's actually an amazing first-person shooter. It is named after Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, an engine which still powers games to this day.
The plot centers around a prisoner aboard a spacecraft which crash lands. You take the role of that prisoner, the one human survivor who has nothing to lose.
It was incredibly popular back in the late ’90s and spawned a sequel and two other series based on the Unreal universe.
Virtua Fighter first became popular in the arcades back in the early to mid 90s. It was first released to arcades in 1993 and later to the Sega Saturn in 1994 and the Sega 32X in 1995.
It was the first fighting game to use 3D polygon graphics.
The game sparked a popular franchise with many fighting game fans flocking to play both the original and the sequels and spin-offs released throughout the decade. These included Virtua Fighter 2 and 3 as well as Virtua Fighter Kids and Fighters Megamix.
This classic side-scrolling platformer was hugely popular in the mid 90s. The edgy art style and surreal humor helped it stand out from the crowd. Throughout the decade Earthworm Jim was found on many consoles across the globe.
Four games were released between 1993 and 1999.
Over this time the series evolved from its 2D side-scrolling start to a free-roaming 3D extravaganza. As the gameplay and graphics evolved the series zaniness remained a constant, drawing in fans.
Back in 1999 a string of developers worked together to produce massively multiplayer online role-playing game Everquest. The first successful MMORPG to use 3D graphics, the game surpassed all early subscription expectations.
Everquest has its roots in MUD (multi-user dungeon) games and is also inspired by traditional role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons.
Positive reviews and a string of awards helped the game gain popularity early on. Despite many of us putting the title to the back of our minds the game actually continues to this day, with the latest expansion, The Burning Lands, due to hit shelves on December 11th.
25Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
One of the first ninja games to incorporate stealth, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was an action-adventure game released in 1998. The involving gameplay and interesting mechanics made this game a success.
It features 10 levels which increase in difficulty. Each level can be repeated as many times as needed to progress.
The Japanese version of the game is very different to the one we saw in North America and Europe. All versions however feature moves from martial artist Sho Kosugi and his son Kane, acquired using motion capture technology.
Back in 1995 Worms was one of the go to titles for anyone with friends round to play games, especially over here in the UK. The first game was a 2D artillery tactile game. Each player takes a turn to fire weapons at the opposing players worms.
The aim is to keep your own worms alive while destroying others.
You could play against your friends or an AI opponent. This simple format was insanely popular and there have been many titles in the series, the last one being Worms W.M.D in 2016.
Ape Escape is a third-person perspective platformer in which players use a variety of gadgets to chase and capture apes. Released in 1999 the game was hugely popular and many cite it as a PlayStation classic.
The controls was the first to use dual shock functionality and makes heavy use of the analogue control sticks.
The quirky title is fun to play and includes different environments, a wide range of gadgets and an array of vehicles. The series continued right through the 2000s with the last release being PlayStation Move Ape Escape in 2011.
22The Secret Of Monkey Island
Back in 1990, Lucasarts started the Monkey Island series with The Secret of Monkey Island. The popular adventure game became known for its humor and its player-friendly approach to gaming.
The game itself makes it difficult to fail, instead preferring to guide you through the story. This concept was unique for the time and was one of the draws of the game.
The open format allowed players to really explore the fictional islands the game is set on. The game was so popular it spawned several sequels throughout 90s.
The 1990s was also a decade in which PC’s became more common. The release of Windows 95 and Internet Explorer both marked huge advancements for home computing. Over the next few years, PCs would become more popular, bringing with them a range of simple games.
Windows 95 came with pre-installed games which defined 90s PC gaming.
These were Minesweeper, Solitaire, Freecell and 3D Pinball Space Cadet. Anyone who had a PC in the late 90s has played these games, often for hours. They are all simple and mostly terrible but for many, these were the first taste of pc gaming.
20Star Wars Episode 1: Battle Of Naboo
Sneaking onto the list is Star Wars Episode 1: Battle for Naboo, an arcade-style action adventure game based on the events in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.
For most, the game fared better than the movie and many gamers enjoyed the title, said to be a spiritual successor of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.
The game features 15 missions as well as unlockable secrets including three bonus levels. Although some critics were skeptical the game was hugely popular at the time.
Role-playing fans in the ’90s went crazy over Baldur’s Gate, a fantasy RPG game based on a modified version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules and set in Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting.
The game offers a top-down third-person view of a story comprising a prologue and seven chapters.
It is heavily dialogue based and a great game for anyone who loves role-playing games. Baldur’s Gate received positive reviews across the board and set a new and higher standard for RPG games to come.
Dungeon Keeper is a strategy game where you take control of a dungeon, building it up and defending it from attack.
This game was one of the earliest to put you in control of an evil character.
You played the bad guys in the game as hero characters tried to invade your dungeon full of evil minions. You had to not only defend your dungeon but use your minions to explore and attack the heros. This game and its sequel were Bullfrog classics.
Backyard Football is part of the Backyard Sports series and was hugely popular back in the late 90s. It was known for its quirky way of bringing playing sports as a kid onto console.
The series began with Backyard Baseball in 1997 and then Backyard Soccer in 1998 before Backyard Football was released in 1999.
The games feature child-sized versions of popular professional sports stars and are licensed by the US sports leagues including the MLB, NBA and NHL.
Ridge Racer is another game which was found in many arcades in the early 90s. Although my own memories of it are from the arcade, it was later released on the PlayStation.
The Ridge Racer series may not be as well known as some racing games but it has lasted long beyond its arcade days. The latest release in the series was Ridge Racer Draw & Drift in late 2016.
The basic gameplay has remained largely the same over the years and consists of track based races usually taking place on city streets. It’s come a long way over the years.
Ultima Online marked massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) come into their own. Building on the already known Ultimauniverse, Ultima Online was technology advancing at its best.
It began with a single world but expanded over the years to add new worlds, lands and features.
Breaking ground as a social and economic experiment in gaming, it was massive both in the late 90s and for years to come. Gaming on this level had never been done before and it blew the minds of RPG gamers.
14Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Metal Gear 2 is, not surprisingly, the sequel to the original Metal Gear. It was hugely popular back in 1990 when it was released. At the time the action-adventure stealth video game was groundbreaking in style, gameplay and graphics.
It builds upon the original game and takes the stealth mechanism to a new level. Since its release it has been built upon and re-released over the years. It’s technological advances and universal-acclaim made it a must have for many gamers in the 90s.
13Populus: The Beginning
Populus: The Beginning is a real-time strategy game which allows you to build a settlement and grow your tribe. It evolved from earlier titles in both graphics and gameplay. This incarnation puts you into the tribe to influence it, rather than having you be a God like figure.
In the UK this game was directly competing with The Settlers III, which followed a similar premise.
Playing God was a popular pass time for 1990s gamers as AI became more advanced and real-time strategy games increased in popularity.
This quirky puzzle-platformer from back in 1991 is considered a classic in my household. One of the best received video games of the early 90s it was cute, quirky and very addictive. The popularity of the game has led to many similar games as well as spin-offs and sequels.
Each level starts with a trapdoor depositing lemmings onto your screen. You then have to assign different tasks to lemmings in order to guide the rest into the exit, avoiding the traps along the way.
11Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
The Oddworld series of games are primarily action-adventure platformers. Each one takes place on Oddworld. The first game was released back in 1997 and was a huge hit among gamers.
In it you play Abe, a worker at a meat-packing plant. He is a very happy soul until he discovers that his boss intends to use Mudokon slaves as a new source of meat. He flees the plant only to return to save the Mudokon’s from their fate.
The game was so popular it was followed by a bonus game, Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, the following year.
Goof Troop is an early 90’s action-adventure game based on the television series of the same name. It was designed by Shinji Mikami, who would later direct Resident Evil.
The game allowed you to play as either Goofy or Max and there were five areas available for you to explore. Each area had a range of puzzles to solve. You also had to defeat enemies by throwing objects at them or knocking them off the stage.
The game was criticized by some for being too easy but the target market loved the title and it was a staple for many younger gamers especially.
Battletoads as a franchise began with Battletoads itself, a beat ‘em up game for the NES which was notorious for its difficulty. Despite the frustration of trying to complete the game this was a title loved by many.
The premise is simple, The Battletoads have to defeat the evil dark queen and rescue their stolen partners.
The game was a smash hit and spawned spin-offs including a Gameboy and Arcade version, both of which differed from the original. It also spawned a TV series and a crossover game, BattleToads/Double Dragon.
Back in 1993, just as real-time strategy games were starting to appear, there was Dune II. While it wasn’t the first RTS available its unique balance of complexity and innovation stood out. These days it is considered an archetypal game and layer of the foundations for titles such as Command & Conquer, Warcraft and Starcraft.
The plot is based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune.
You may recognize screenshots of the game as many RTS games which followed used the interface as a template. I just remember it being difficult for me as a newcomer to the genre but incredibly engaging. Just watch out for the worms.
Myst is an adventure puzzle game from back in 1993. It was developer Cyan’s first game for adults and their biggest project of the time.
The game takes you on a first-person journey through the world. Along the way you can interact with specific objects and items using a click and drag mouse based interface.
The concept was unique and intriguing and the game was a surprise hit. It was the best-selling PC game for a long while until The Sims took its crown in 2002.
Wolfenstein 3D was one of the earliest first-person shooters, released in 1992. The game itself is split into two sets of three episodes, based on the 1981 classic Castle Wolfenstein.
Players fought their way through rudimentary 3D levels divided into sections. As you journeyed through the game you found weapons and eliminated enemies.
Wolfenstein 3D was a surprising hit. It made around in $100,000 in its first month of release and won a string of awards including Best Arcade Game and Most Innovative Game.
In the 1990s, developers Bullfrog reigned. Established in the late 80s the studio became popular during the early 90s with a series of successful simulation games. One of the most well known and popular was Theme Park.
In this quirky construction and management sim game, you take control of a theme park.
You could create rides, market to customers and the aim is to make a profit. The game was a huge hit as it appealed to a wide audience, even many who didn’t usually play these kind of games.
The 1990s was also a decade of innovation for the then independent studio, Maxis. SimCity 2000 marked one of the highlights of their 90s line up which also included SimCopter, SimFarm, SimGolf and a few other titles you’ve likely never heard of.
SimCity 2000 was developed as a sequel to 1989’s SimCity, which had been an unexpected hit.
The game took advantage of leaps in technology to produce an engaging city sim game which added new features and gameplay elements to bring in audiences. The game won several awards and accolades.
3The Legend Of The Mystical Ninja
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja was the first game in the Japanese video game series Goemon to be released in North America and Europe.