In 1983, video games were dead. The industry was over saturated as companies like Atari focused more on pushing as much content as possible instead of how quality those titles were. And if it wasn’t for a small Japanese toy company called Nintendo, (insert dramatic music) video games might not even exist as we know them today.
Nintendo released game changers like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, classics that are still enjoyed by gamers of all ages to this very day. But it wasn’t until the ’90s when they released titles that completely redefined the genre and laid the groundwork for modern video games. Here’s their 10 best from that decade.
10 Super Smash Bros. 64 (1999)
Casuals players enjoy Brawl and the Wii U game, pros like Melee, and everyone likes Ultimate. So who is Smash 64 for? Well, it’s definitely for a niche crowd to say the least — a great game that hasn’t aged the best compared to other Smash titles — but regardless, one that started it all.
This game was huge when it came out. Mario, Pikachu, Link, Kirby and other Nintendo superstars in the same game is an idea that just can’t fail. The genius came from the game play, a battle royale between video game hall of famers that can be enjoyed by your grandma or a slightly pale, adamantly stoic, anime glasses-wearing professional.
9 Kirby’s Adventure (1993)
Kirby’s Adventure is a legendary platforming game that introduced the world to Kirby’s now iconic copy ability. The game came at a time when it seemed Nintendo already had reached their quota for mascots with Mario, Link, Samus and Donkey Kong blazing their own trails.
Little did everyone know that one of Nintendo’s most iconic characters was right around the corner in the form of a pink puff ball who could become 24 different versions of himself. It was an awesome new mechanic for the time, and the game has still aged incredibly well, making it a must play for those who enjoy the new Kirby games or platforming in general.
8 Super Mario World (1990)
Speaking of platformers that forever changed the genre; Super Mario World came in like a wrecking ball, establishing a world that looks much like the modern Mushroom Kingdom we see today.
Like the newer games, you started off in a map-sized world where you’d navigate to each individual level. Along the way you’d encounter road blocks on the map or witness events appear that could now be taken on. It was the first time that a game truly felt lived in, like inside that cartridge was a rich universe waiting to be explored. It’s a platforming classic and hasn’t aged a day since it released.
7 Mario Kart 64 (1996)
Mario Kart 64 is another one of the titles that absolutely brought the house down when it released back in 1996.
Like Super Smash Bros. this one could be enjoyed by everyone — late nights with your friends at college, grudge matches against your dad or even with a sibling, even if they did go the wrong way for most of it. Also like Smash, this game is just so uniquely original that any attempt to copy it is immediately chalked up to plagiarism.
6 Earthbound (1994)
You just have to respect the group of people that were fans of something before it ever blew up. The days of watching Rick And Morty when it was just some obscure science cartoon on Adult Swim, or reading Game of Thrones back in the 90’s when anyone surely would’ve called you a nerd for doing so.
Earthbound is the video game version of this hipster phenomena — praised to death today as it rightfully should be — but, only appreciated by few when it released in 1994. Now it’s seen as one of the best RPG’s to have ever come out, with it’s wistful atmosphere but strangely mature content material.
5 Mario Party 2 (1999)
Mario Party 2 is the GOAT of Mario Party games. The mini-games were fire, the boards some of the most distinct to this day, and it was packed with so much attention to detail (the things that every Nintendo fan clamors for).
While the graphics may be it’s only down fall, it more than makes up for it with everything else. There was no BS luck element added here where you had to ride in the same vehicle or random bonus stars were included. All you got, and all you needed, was great mini-games, unique boards, and a few friends to enjoy it all with.
4 GoldenEye 007 (1997)
For some, it can be difficult to appreciate this Nintendo game for what it was — a janky 1v1 first person shooter that is more fun if you’re not sober.
Ok, maybe that’s not what the devs intended, but GoldenEye has the case of being a once great game that laid the groundwork for FPS’s to come. The problem was the controls; N64 fans will tell you to get used to it, but if you’re only familiar with more modern FPS’s it’s enough to steer you away. Oh, and in terms of graphics and gameplay it hasn’t aged the best either… but hey, at the time it was a beast!
3 Super Mario 64 (1996)
By 1996 Nintendo couldn’t be stopped — they had already had enough classics under their belt that they didn’t have to prove anything else to anyone. And then they came out with Super Mario 64 and everyone was like “that’s it, I can die happy. GG.”
Depending on whether your more of a Zelda fan or a Mario fan, this is the holy grail of gaming. A title that will always hold up, and in one play through will convey to you all the great things about video games. Tight controls, iconic villains, creative maps, amazing music — graphics that were really good, but not so much now — either way, it’s a masterpiece.
2 Pokémon Red & Blue (1996)
What the heck was going on in 1996!? Well, North America would know it as the time when Super Mario 64 was occupying the time of every gamer on the planet.
But Japan knew it as the time when Super Mario 64 was the game of choice at home, and Pokémon Red and Blue for when your outside the house. Super Mario 64 is the better game, but Pokémon was the bigger game changer (although it could be argued). It proved that mobile video game was a force to be reckoned with, and not only that, but it embedded it’s way into our lives where now it is culture itself.
1 Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
You can make a case for any of the top three in this list to be the best that Nintendo released in the 90’s. But there’s something about Ocarina of Time that just makes it feel like the king that sits on the throne.
It was so complex, packed with a mature story and atmosphere that can go head to head with some of my favorite books and movies. It’s whimsical when it needs to be, and serious when you don’t expect it. It’s a perfect game through and through… there’s really not much more to say then that, go play it!
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