90s Video Games

90s Video Games


90s is considered the third decade in video games industry – because many would call 70s the first decade due to the rise of commercial video games. Before the 70s, video games existed only as novelties passed around by programmers and technicians with access to computers. Home computers entered the market in 1977.

In addition, 90s is often noted for the innovations in the video games industry. It was a decade of transition from sprite-based graphics to full-fledged 3D graphics. Above all, 90s gave the rise to several new genres. For example genres such as – the first person shooter, real-time strategy (RTS), survival horror, fighting games and MMO. Besides that, handheld gaming became more popular throughout the decade.

Console gaming changed like it has never changed before – from 8bit to 16-bit, from simple sound effect to CD audio with background music and voice samples. Intros changed from picture and text presentation to full motion videos.

Computer gaming improved even more – with the drop of PC Speakers and rise of Sound Blaster, defunct of Floppies and revolution of CD-ROM. You could modify and upgrade your PC with better and better ingredients. But most of all, PC games got bigger, more detailed and advanced (more possibilities, better graphics).

Arcade games, however, began to decline as home consoles became more common. Despite that, many great arcade classics were released in the 90s.

But let’s get started with console innovations!

Innovations in the 90s

Fourth Generation of Video Game Consoles

90s started with fourth generation of video game consoles. Fourth generation actually started in 1987 – but between 1990-1995 ruled the gaming industry. During this period, 2D graphics had improved over the previous generation and experimentation began to occur with 3D graphics, although 3D games were more prevalent on the PC at the time.

Some of the most notable systems released during this generation were the Mega Drive/Genesis (1988) and the Super NES (1990). A rivalry between Sega and Nintendo occurred during this generation, starting the 2nd major console war.

In fact, rivalry between the Sega and Nintendo is the most notable topic if you start thinking about 90s video games, at least the first part of the decade.

Some of the new features
  • 16-bit microprocessors
  • Multi-button game controllers with many buttons (3 to 8)
  • Parallax scrolling of multi-layer tile map backgrounds
  • Large sprites (up to 64×64 or 16×512 pixels), 
  • 80–380 sprites on screen, though limited to a smaller number per scan line
  • Elaborate color, 64 to 4096 colors on screen, from palettes of 512 to 65,536 colors
  • Stereo audio, with multiple channels and digital audio playback
  • Advanced music synthesis (FM synthesis and wavetable sample-based synthesis)
In specific cases
  • Backgrounds with pseudo-3D scaling and rotation
  • Sprites that can individually be scaled and rotated
  • Flat-shaded 3D polygon graphics
  • CD-ROM support, allowing larger storage space and full motion video playback

Fifth Generation of Video Game Consoles

Fifth generation of video game consoles actually started in 1993 – but between 1995-1999 (even early 2000s) ruled the gaming industry. The fifth generation is most widely known to be the 32/64 bit era and for being the transition period for video games to evolve into the third dimension.

The Nintendo 64 (1996), PlayStation (1994), and Sega Saturn (1994) are considered to be the big three gaming systems of this generation – However, Saturn was a failure and is considered being the biggest mistake and downfall of Sega.

PlayStation and Saturn replace cartridges with CD-s, however Nintendo continued using them with the Nintendo 64 due to the load times on CDs at the time and became one of the last cartridge based systems in mass production.

Some of the new features
  • 3D polygon graphics with texture mapping
  • 3D capabilities – lighting, Gouraud shading, anti-aliasing and texture filtering
  • Optical disc (CD-ROM) game storage, allowing much larger storage space
  • CD quality audio recordings (music and speech)
  • Wide adoption of full motion video, displaying pre-rendered computer animation
  • Analog controllers
  • Display resolutions from 480i/480p to 576i
  • Color depth up to 16,777,216 colors (24-bit true color)

Computer gaming innovations

One can not talk about 90s video games without talking about PC gaming. We would all agree – there were awesome computer games in the 80s (And even 70s) – however, 90s was the decade to define the computer gaming future.

First of all, Sound Blaster (1990) changed the way we hear games. No offense, but PC Speaker sound just couldn’t compete with Arcades and Home Consoles.

Secondly, there was a “CD-ROM Revolution” in the early 90s – which allowed much bigger games to be produced. In addition, CD audio could be used.

Thirdly, the coming of PCI makes gaming computers customizable – meaning that user could attach new cards and other expansions to a computer’s motherboard. This of course led to the creation of network cards, sound cards, and even graphics cards.

Finally, the rise of Windows OS. PC gaming had a reputation for being difficult – MS-DOS was not easy to use for users with below-average tech knowledge. It wasn’t always easy to get the games installed and running. Yes of course, Windows 95 didn’t change all of that overnight, but it certainly put us on the right path.

Gameplay Videos of the 90s

Following playlist features the best 90s Video Games. New episodes will be added as frequently as possible, and one day should include all the best video games released between 1990-1999. Take a look, if you like!

Playlist has more than 20 videos (as of today, 10.04.2020)

Following section is superficial and will be upgraded as I go through the years (currently I play games released in 1990). Skip if you must!

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90s in Chronological Order

In following section I will take a closer look at the 90s Video Games – Year by year (1990-1999). I will update this article as I go!

1990 in Video Games

In 1990, Sega Mega Drive was released in Europe. Sega also released Game Gear, handheld console with colors in Japan. 

Nintendo finally releases 4th generation console, Super Famicom in Japan. It was their answer to Sega Mega Drive aka Sega Genesis. Super Famicom was later released as Super Nintendo in North America (1991) and Europe (1992).

NEC releases the TurboExpress handheld console, SNK releases the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System (AES) home console. Amstrad introduces its only console, the Amstrad GX4000, which fails to garner interest and is discontinued the following year.

Read more about 1990: Here

1991 in Video Games

In 1991, Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America. Super Mario World was the original pack-in game for the SNES. Additionally, F-Zero and Castlevania IV were among the most notable releases. 

In the end of the year, Sega releases the Mega-CD in Japan. For the Genesis, Sega releases Sonic the Hedgehog – which later becomes the pack-in game and defining title for the console. Furthermore, Road Rash was another huge hit for the Genesis.

Finally, Atari updates their Lynx handheld system with a smaller form-factor, better screen, and longer battery life.

1992 in Video Games

In 1991, Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in Europe. Besides that, Nintendo releases the Super Scope for the Super Nintendo. 

At the same time, Sega released the Mega CD as Sega CD in North America. Also, a combined Mega Drive and Mega CD was released, called Wondermega. Besides that, Sega also released the Model 1, Sega’s first arcade system board supporting 3D polygon graphics.

The Amiga 1200 computer is released. It’s the final lower-cost Amiga model before Commodore’s bankruptcy. Also, Apple IIgs was discontinued, ending the Apple II series.

Philips released the CD-i multimedia home console, which was a failure.

Additionally, Atari Corporation drops support for the Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit family, Atari 7800, and software for those systems.

1993 in Video Games

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1994 in Video Games

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1995 in Video Games

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1996 in Video Games

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1997 in Video Games

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1998 in Video Games

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1999 in Video Games

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Best 90s Video Games

It is impossible to create a list that everyone agrees with – therefore I am going to present you multiple lists created by others.

List by Thegamer.com

Thegamer.com has created a list of 30 most important games of 90s – listed in chronological order. Find the full article with descriptions: Here

30 Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon And The Blade Of Light (Released April 1990)
29 Sonic The Hedgehog (Released June 1991)
28 Final Fantasy IV (Released July 1991)
27 Street Fighter II (Released August 1991)
26 Sid Meier’s Civilization (Released September 1991)
25 Super Mario Kart (Released August 1992)
24 Virtua Racing (Released August 1992)
23 Mortal Kombat (Released October 1992)
22 NBA Jam (Released February 1993)
21 Doom (Released December 1993)

20 Theme Park (Released 1994)
19 The Elder Scrolls: Arena (Released March 1994)
18 Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (Released November 1994)
17 Tekken (Released December 1994)
16 Command & Conquer (Released September 1995)
15 Pokémon Red And Blue (Released February 1996)
14 Resident Evil (Released March 1996)
13 Super Mario 64 (Released June 1996)
12 Tomb Raider (Released October 1996)
11 Goldeneye 007 (Released August 1997)

10 Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game (Released September 1997)
Ultima Online (Released September 1997)
Gran Turismo (Released December 1997)
Metal Gear Solid (Released July 1998)
Half Life (Released November 1998)
Thief: The Dark Project (Released November 1998)
Mario Party (Released December 1998)
Crazy Taxi (Released 1999)
Silent Hill (Released January 1999)
Unreal Tournament (Released November 1999)

List by Screenfellows.com

And then there is another list by screenfellows.com – 50 Best Games of the 90s. You can find the original article with descriptions: Here

Let's start with 50 to 31

50) Donkey Kong Country. Rare, 1994 (6.8)
49) Mortal Kombat. Midway Games, 1992. (6.9)
48) Another World. Delphine Software, 1991. (7.0)
47) F-Zero X. Nintendo, 1998. (7.2)
46) Mortal Kombat II. Midway Games, 1993. (7.2)
45) Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. Capcom, 1991. (7.3)
44) Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. KCEJ, 1990 (7.4)
43) Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. Factor 5, 1998 (7.4)
42) Star Wars: X-Wing. LucasArts, 1993 (7.4)
41) Diablo. Blizzard Entertainment, 1996. (7.4)

40) Roller Coaster Tycoon. Chris Sawyer Productions, 1999 (7.5)
39) NBA Jam. Midway Games, 1994 (7.6)
38) Quake III: Arena. id Software, 1999 (7.6)
37) Final Fantasy V. Square, 1992 (7.7)
36) Mario Kart 64. Nintendo, 1996 (7.7)
35) Banjo-Kazooie. Rare, 1998 (7.8)
34) Super Smash Brothers. HAL Labs, 1999 (7.8)
33) Duke Nukem 3D. 3D Realms, 1996 (8.0)
32) StarFox 64. Nintendo, 1997 (8.1)
31) Unreal Tournament. Epic Games, 1999 (8.1)

And let's continue from 30 to 1

30) Sonic the Hedgehog 3/Sonic & Knuckles. Sonic Team, 1994 (8.2)
29) Resident Evil 2. Capcom, 1998. (8.2)
28) Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic Team, 1991 (8.2)
27) Half-Life: Opposing Force. Gearbox Software, 1999 (8.3)
26) WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness. Blizzard, 1995 (8.3)
25) Resident Evil. Capcom, 1996 (8.4)
24) Final Fantasy VIII. Square, 1999 (8.4)
23) Star Wars: Dark Forces. LucasArts, 1995 (8.4)
22) Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Team Sonic, 1992 (8.5)
21) Final Fantasy Tactics. Square, 1997 (8.5)

20) Thief: the Dark Project. Looking Glass Studios, 1998 (8.5)
19) Final Fantasy IV. Square, 1991 (8.6)
18) GoldenEye 007. Rare, 1997 (8.7)
17) Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. LucasArts, 1997 (8.7)
16) Super Mario Bros 3. Nintendo, 1990 (8.8)
15) Grim Fandango. LucasArts, 1998 (8.8)
14) System Shock 2. Irrational Games, 1999 (8.8)
13) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Nintendo, 1991 (8.9)
12) Final Fantasy VI. Square, 1994 (9.0)
11) StarCraft. Blizzard, 1997 (9.0)

10) Chrono Trigger. Square, 1995. (9.0)
9) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Nintendo, 1993 (9.1)
8) Super Mario World. Nintendo, 1990 (9.3)
7) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nintendo, 1998 (9.3)
6) Super Mario 64. Nintendo, 1996 (9.3)
5) Super Metroid. Nintendo, 1994 (9.5)
4) Metal Gear Solid. KCEJ, 1998 (9.5)
3) DOOM/DOOM II: Hell on Earth. id Software,  1993/1994 (9.5)
2) Final Fantasy VII. Square, 1997 (9.6)
1) Half-Life. Valve, 1998 (9.8)

To be honest – These lists are not flawless! Many great games are missing!

90s Game Consoles

Thegamer.com list top 10 video game consoles released in the 90s. You can find the original article with descriptions: Here

10 Virtual Boy (1995)
Atari Jaguar (1993)
Sega Game Gear (1990)
Neo Geo (1990)
Sega Dreamcast (1998)
Sega Saturn (1994)
Super Nintendo (1990)
Game Boy Color (1998)
Nintendo 64 (1996)
Sony PlayStation (1994)

Some of the highly popular consoles in the 90s – Sega Genesis, Nintendo NES, Turbografx-16, Nintendo Gameboy – were actually released already in the 80s.

Nintendo SNES Mini

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