Dudes and Dudettes, wazzuuuuuup? When my wife—the lovely and talented N. Alysha Lewis, (go read all her shit)—told me to write something for this fine website I said, “Why not?” And when she said I should write a Best of the Decade list I said, “Sure.” And when she failed to specify which decade my devious little mind kicked into overdrive. So Mme. Lewis let this be a lesson to you, never trust your husband. Because today we’re kickin’ it old school my dudes and ranking the Top 10 Games of the 90s! Booyah!
This will be no easy feat. The ’90s covered nearly three console generations and saw the release of some of the most influential games of all time. While the top 10 won’t include a game from every year—sorry 1992, you gave us Sonic 2 but you also gave us Night Trap so you’re in time out—I will include at least one Honorable Mention for each. Let’s kick it!
There are people out there who would be livid that I put this so low but I just don’t really like First Person Shooters. I’m doing this purely out of recognition for the impact which Doom had on the industry. For better or worse, Doom cemented the FPS’s hold on gamers. Also, fighting demons is cool.
Honorable Mention for 1990: Commander Keen
Fun fact: I don’t really like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). It had really good games, but the sound fonts were often grating and the sprite work was not appealing to me. I am a diehard Zelda fan, and there are no major Zelda games that I dislike, but Link to the Past is one that I rarely think of replaying. Also Link has pink hair, but Nintendo pretty much never acknowledges it. Let Link dye his hair, you cowards!
Honorable Mention for 1991: Street Fighter 2
GoldenEye is very good, and it did wonders for 3D multiplayer. Although… it’s just another game with a white male protagonist. I mean, most games have that, but the 90s gave us Tomb Raider. Should I have picked that, since it starred a woman who was unabashedly tough in a time when that was rare? Or is it disqualified for its rank sexualization of Lara Croft and her absurd bust? But then they’re both games that are, however obliquely, glorifications of white colonization.
Honorable Mention for 1992: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
This is tough. Ten years is a long time, and each year it seems more games were produced than in the last. And so many of them were great. Final Fantasy 6 had maybe the best story of any game at the time, and its story is still a standout today. It’s all about banding together in the face of destruction and of trying to thrive in a world where unknowable forces are out to get you.
Honorable Mention for 1993: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Maybe I needed more than 10 games. Maybe I should have done the top 5 from every year. But that’s too indulgent. Then it just becomes a list of games I know. Super Smash Bros. at least deserves to be on the list, no matter what. It gave an unprecedented feeling of freedom, of being able to see the things you love interact in ways they usually never would. It was like playing with toys. And this was symbolized by Master Hand: an unfeeling hand reaching into a box and pulling out dolls, making them dance for its amusement. But… are we the hand or the dolls?
Honorable Mention for 1994: The King of Fighters
It was then that I began to feel the futility of my actions in writing this post. I was looking down on myself, seeing me as I am now and as I was throughout those years I was trying to chronicle. And for what? A momentary distraction. A lark. A pathetic defiance of the cold darkness that was creeping in at the edges. There were things in that darkness. I was calling to them, yet I couldn’t stop. Le sigh.
Metal Gear Solid was a proof of concept for what story-driven games could accomplish in a 3D space.
Honorable Mention for 1995: Jumping Flash!
The universe is a gnawing mouth that grinds us between its teeth, just like the Piranha Plants that assail Mario from Level 1 in Super Mario Bros. 3. Had I not chanced to look up exactly when I did, I never would have seen it. I never would have had to grapple with such a stunning rebuke of what I held to be true: a gossamer web seemed to tether it to nothingness. But it wasn’t nothingness, not really. I wonder, did it see me? And can it also shoot fireballs?
Honorable Mention for 1996: Crash Bandicoot
I hear it all the time now. The thin, reedy wail of the pipes at the Gates of Dawn. They grow louder by the day. Some great god is coming to stomp me out of existence. Does it wear a red cap? Is that all we are? Goombas? Little shapes shuffling back and forth, waiting for some more powerful being to come and crush us?
Honorable Mention for 1997: Final Fantasy 7
What is a man? Miserable, yes. But less even than a pile of secrets.
Honorable Mention for 1998: Resident Evil 2
A child is plucked from the normal flow of time and forced to live as two people of two different ages in two vastly different worlds. When his quest is complete he returns to a childhood where no one knows what he has done; where he has aged far beyond his years, and is aware of the horrors that lurk in the future and the vast cosmic powers that surround him. He is unsure if he saved everyone from a terrible fate or if he now lives in a new timeline, free to forget how much everyone he loved suffered. He is changed.
It’s only a game. Yes. Just a game.
Honorable Mention for 1999: Silent Hill
And that’s my list of the top 10 games of the 90’s! Let me know what you think by tweeting us @thepromptmag. Did I get it right, or were my choices whack? Catch you on the flip side dawgs, I’m outtie 5000!