The Top 20 Games of 1991-1995

Somewhat haphazard Top 20 List of video games from the SNES/Game Boy era.

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 05/01/2012 11:00 7 Comments     ShareThis

15. Mario Paint (1992)

Mario Paint is probably one of the few cases where a game isn’t quite a game. The Wiki actually put “Non-game” for a genre. But what Mario Paint was more than makes up for it. It was a tool for creativity, whether it was drawing, coloring, or making music. Sure there were mini games that came with the game, but it was mostly about creating something of your own. The game, which came with a mouse accessory that never really caught on, isn’t on here for popularity but for innovation and inspiration. You can see its fingerprints all over the WarioWare series and even a little bit in Earthbound.

Why Mel loves Mario Paint

This is a very underrated game in my own opinion. This was like a fun pack of little games or activities that you could do in your own spare time– so long as you had that damn mouse accessory that always got lost somewhere in the house. It’s likely this accessory is why the game never really got much love. There was a little bit of everything. There’s also a huge amount of influence in current games today, especially WarioWare. The mini games in WarioWare definitely have a huge influence coming from Mario Paint. And also, how can you go onto YouTube and NOT see the music creator game being used to try to recreate different songs from many different genres? This game’s influence may be subtle but it’s there.

14. Star Fox (1993)

Star Fox is the link between the old and the new, the exact point where you could see space shooters starting to change and become more evolutionary. With Star Fox, you were given polygonal triangles which were made out to look like starships. While today, these graphics look very terrible, they were pretty stunning at the time. You could see flashes of older games like Asteroids in the model of the game, but it brought something new to the table by helping pioneer the 3D graphics system, something that would help evolve the gaming experience for generations to come. In the game, you play as Fox McCloud or one of his teammates (Falco Lombardi, Slippy Toad (whom everybody hates), and Peppy Hare) to defend their home of Corneria from the hands of the evil Andross. The game’s sci-fi elements and character personalities all but made the gaming experience all the more intriguing.

Why Andrew loves Star Fox

Let’s be honest: Star Fox for SNES just doesn’t age well. Those meager triangles-for-ships look a bit unfortunate in more ways than one, and without an analog stick it’s difficult to aim while flying (or vice versa). But just remember again what this looked like back in 1993! And I’m not talking about the three-dimensional graphics (though they were the first to grace Nintendoland). Three other pilots with disparate personalities constantly made you feel like you were playing with friends, even if they didn’t shoot too well. And three routes to fly to the end? There were too many ways to play this game, and we gladly did.

13. Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

Despite being the bane of most gamers’ existence, nobody can deny the impact that sports video games have had on gaming. And none is more true than the world famous Tecmo Super Bowl, which came out for NES in 1991. What makes this game unique is that this was the first game that had licensing from both the NFL and the Players Association. This meant that there was not only all the teams, but all the players and stats included. Before, most video games would have only the teams and stop at that. But this one was different. You could play as such legends as Troy Aikman, Joe Montana, and the ever famous Bo Jackson. The video game version of Bo Jackson is so well renowned that people actually call him one of the greatest athletes of all time… no, not just video game athletes– athletes in general. His stats were off the charts and anybody who chose to play as the Oakland Raiders was automatically named the winner sometimes due to competing players just getting up and quitting, knowing they had no chance against Tecmo Bo.

Why Mel sort of loves Tecmo Super Bowl

I don’t particularly love this game, but nobody else wanted to comment on this. So I’ve decided to step in here and give some of my brother’s impressions of the game. This was a game that was a frequent rental from our video store along with Blades of Steel and Final Fantasy. My brother would play the crap out of this with his friends, all yelling and hollering as they’d argue about who could play as the Oakland Raiders. My brother notes this game as one of the most enduring memories of his childhood. I wish I could give you more information but I barely remember playing this at all as a kid.

12. Final Fantasy IV [Final Fantasy II] (1991)

After scoring big with Final Fantasy in 1987, Squaresoft released two other sequels to the game, which unfortunately did not make it to North America until much later on in life. However, by the time Final Fantasy IV came rolling around, it was brought it back to North America and it ended up being a huge hit. Also known as Final Fantasy II, this RPG is thought of as being one of the first to be character-driven and using the medium of a video game as an avenue to tell a tale as grand as this one. We follow Cecil Harvey, a dark knight with a change of heart, around with his friends and allies to keep a sorcerer named Golbez from destroying the crystals of the world (which in turn would destroy the world itself). The plot twists and sympathetic characters makes for this gaming experience to be all the more fascinating and stimulating than one that had been seen previous. Its influence is prevalent in the long and winding threads of stories we see in RPGs today.

Why Noah loves Final Fantasy IV

As a North American gamer in the ’80s and ’90s, I initially never saw the original Final Fantasy II and III. So you can imagine how dumbfounding an upgrade “Final Fantasy II” (yes, yes, really IV) was from the original 8-bit Final Fantasy. The timeless soundtrack, flying airships over a Mode 7-skewed landscape, and, most of all, the story, ensured I’d be an RPG fan for life. With video games initially being my primary window into fantasy sci-fi, and not having any experience yet in D&D or reading expansive fantasy novels, (20-year old spoiler alert!) loss of a party member was the most striking experience Final Fantasy IV provided. At a point over halfway in the game, one of your party members, who is quite powerful and has a very unique skillset, is swallowed by a sea monster. There’s no foreshadowing or warning that this was going to happen; like everyday life it just did, and it hit me strongly. I had really grown fond of this character and they were such an essential part of my battles that I didn’t know how I would cope. Frankly I wasn’t sure if I should continue, but of course I did and was rewarded for my persistence. Not until six years and three sequels later would Squaresoft pull this plot twist again in Final Fantasy VII(which granted was resolved in a different fashion), but hearing the strong reaction to that development amongst gamers whose first Final Fantasy was VII made me knowingly smile.

Plot surprises aside, the scope of Final Fantasy IV‘s adventure, taking gamers unexpectedly (second 20-year old spoiler alert) to the moon and back in its endgame made the convoluted story in Final Fantasy I seem like child’s play. Of all the classic 8-bit and 16-bit Final Fantasies, that this is the one to have received a sequel and excellent DS remake is no surprise. It’s really that good, and you should play it if you’ve not yet.

11. Mortal Kombat (1992)

In the early 90s, there was a pretty big fighting game boom with the releases of two of the most legendary fighting game franchises– Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Both games are considered to be very good but despite their similar formulas, there were a lot of significant differences. The most obvious one is known as the blood and gore in Mortal Kombat. While the SNES version decided that gore was a terrible idea (within some reason), the game was still very well received and it wasn’t like it was completely non-violent. Mortal Kombat has you choose from a variety of characters from Sonya Blade to Johnny Cage to Scorpion. The setting is the fictional world known as Earthrealm where there is a tournament on Shang Tsung’s Island. There, you must defeat the other characters in 7 different stages. This game brought a more violent look to fighting games which brought a whole new different spectrum to that genre.

Why Lewis loves Mortal Kombat

It really is a shame that Nintendo deemed it necessary to censor the original MK. The graphics, sound and overall gameplay were brilliant; indeed it was the closest you could get to the arcade at home save for one missing detail: copious amounts of gore. The biggest selling point of the entire game was left out of the SNES version. There was to be no code, no hidden method or anything for extracting an ounce of blood out of this cartridge. Even some of the fatalities were changed, to facilitate this lack of entrails and the like.

That’s not to say I didn’t get hours of enjoyment out of the title, but all the while there was a niggling thought as to what the game could have been had my thirst for blood been quenched. Nintendo rectified the situation with MK2 a couple of years later. But this, the breakthrough game will always be remembered for its awkward and detrimental stance over the issue of morals, something Nintendo still holds true to this day.

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7 Responses to “The Top 20 Games of 1991-1995”

  • 21 points
    Dave Magliano says...

    Can’t really argue with the top 3, but maybe not that order. Super Metroid is no doubt my tops of not just these 5 years, but maybe any year. It stands up well today despite its age. Atmospherically, it may be the best SNES game to stick with you after putting it down, with that soundtrack, the searching, and a slick finale. Good job on the write ups, btw. And kudos for having the guts to put a kart racer number 1, even if I think it should be #3. :)

  • 42 points
    Gaviin says...

    I’m absolutely loving these Top 20 pieces. Reading about the games from the beginning (NES) and early days (SNES) of my gaming “career” (and life) brings back so many memories and confirms that it truly was a golden age of video games.

    Keep ’em coming!

    P.S. Chrono Trigger should have been ranked higher than it was. :)

  • 21 points
    Dave Magliano says...

    And one more thing, really would have liked to see Lemmings get some love here. Was released all over the place, but is still one of the most clever and entertaining puzzlers ever. And with a cool, stylized-classical soundtrack.

    • 1332 points
      Andrew Hsieh says...

      The first time I played Lemmings was on my personal computer, but I definitely remember seeing Lemmings on SNES! Now that was a crazy interface to play Lemmings on. I never was that great at that game.

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    Yoshi Island is such a good ga,e, i just finished again this week on the 3ds. And i think that the idea for spherical worlds in galaxy has its origins here, in one boss batle you fight a fat black bird in a spherical moon, and you move across the surface. It looks prety cool, as does the rest of the game.

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    Tecmo Superbowl better than Satar Fox? Sorry guys, but it seems that your american tastes clouded your judgment here.

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    I get that mario kart was more influential that the other games, but, it was a better game? I dont think so. mario World and Super metroid are better games, sadly i have never played Alttp so i cant argument on that, but i think Suoer Metroid is a Masterpiece and should have been higher than Mario kart. anyway, this is my top 3.

    1. Super Mario World
    2. Super Metroid
    3. Donkey Kong Country

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