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

10. Kirby’s Adventure (1993)

While SNES had been out for about a year and a half, NES was nearing the end of its run. However, in one last push of pure quality, we were treated to this gem of a video game at number 10. Kirby’s Adventure was the second video game of the Kirby series (the first being Kirby’s Dream Land in 1992). This game took every last inch of power they could find in the outdated console and created some pretty stunning graphics for an 8-bit system. The game follows Kirby as he tries to put back the pieces of the Star Rod that King Dedede had destroyed. He battles several bosses and finally gets to the final boss of Dedede…only that Dedede wasn’t exactly the final boss. Instead, Dedede was trying to protect Nightmare (the big bad) from invading his kingdom. The game has served as the blueprint for most other Kirby games and even other platformers for generations to come. Not bad for a late generation game.

Why Mel loves Kirby’s Adventure

I’m an unapologetic Kirby fangirl who would’ve thrown on Kirby’s Dream Land and Kirby’s Dream Land 2 on here if I had the chance, but then I realized that being biased is totally not cool. Besides, Kirby’s Dream Land was pretty short and is more like the artifact game. What makes Kirby’s Adventure stand out to me is the fact that this was the first Kirby game that established the formula of several Kirby games to come (well, the standard Kirby games). This was the first Kirby game where the copy ability was used which brought a variety of gameplay that had barely been seen before. This was also the first game in this franchise where we got the fake-boss in King Dedede (spoiler alert!) which then made way for Nightmare, a source of Nightmare Fuel for several kids of my generation of gaming. And this was also the first Kirby game I ever played. This game made me fall for the franchise and I fell hard. Not bad for a game that was put out late in a console’s run.

9. Chrono Trigger (1995)

Squaresoft had made its killing in the realm of RPGs, as we all know. While most of them fell under the Final Fantasy label, there were a few that were completely original works. One of these said works is the 1995 classic Chrono Trigger, a unique RPG that blends together time travel, an engaging storyline, likable characters, and brought on the magic of alternate endings, depending on how one beat the final boss. The story is about Crono, a boy from 1000 AD who befriends a girl named Marle. In a mishap of a teleporter, Marle ends up sent way back in time and it’s up to Crono to save her. Once the plot takes off, we begin to see different time periods, all leading up to one prophecy that in 1999 AD, the demon Lavos will erupt from the earth and destroy it into pure desolation. It’s up to Crono and the friends that he made in the different time periods to team up and change the future so that this fate doesn’t happen. What makes this game especially unique is the combat system. Instead of just walking around and cursing as you hear the encounter music, the monsters are already on the screen for you, ready to go into battle. Chrono Trigger is an RPG for the ages.

Why Katharine loves Chrono Trigger

Living in Europe, I didn’t actually get to experience Chrono Trigger on SNES. I had to wait until it finally came out on DS, but I was immediately entranced by its colourful cast of characters and its long, sprawling tale that spanned across several aeons. It was a bit like Doctor Who meets JRPGs, and in my book that can only be a good thing. I can only imagine what it must have been like to experience at the time– perhaps I could borrow Chrono’s Epoch to find out– but it remains not only one of the finest RPGs on SNES, but one of the most sophisticated games in the history of Nintendo. Its stunning soundtrack and innovative battle system instantly made it stand out from its contemporaries (and when you’ve got RPGs like Final Fantasy II and III (or IV and VI to contend with, that’s saying something), and there have been few games since who have matched its ambition and story-telling prowess. And who can forget all those multiple endings? They may seem like old-hat now, but if it wasn’t for Chrono Trigger who knows where the state of player choice would be today?

8. Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Nobody had ever seen Donkey Kong quite like this… both graphically and gameplay wise. Donkey Kong Country was a platformer that tested the boundaries in so many ways. It brought a lot of uniqueness with its graphics, one of the first home video games that used pre-rendered 3D graphics. We had seen semblances of 3D attempting to be implemented in a few games like Star Fox and F-Zero (but never quite like this!). It also helped revive a character that people always thought of as nothing but a relic of Nintendo’s past: Donkey Kong. The big gorilla himself got a new leash on life when he starred in this video game. Donkey Kong, our hero, teams up with his nephew Diddy Kong as they try to save their stolen hoard of bananas from the evil King K. Rool (get it?). Along the way, we meet quirky side characters like the appropriately named Cranky Kong who can act as either comic relief or help along the way. Donkey Kong Country was a game that showed that you can teach an old character some new tricks.

Why Michael loves Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country had a beautiful art style and fantastic music. The game has plenty of collectibles and fun boss battles, especially the final brawl with King K. Rool on a pirate ship. Just when you think the battle is over, the Kremling ruler returns. The game constantly innovates and raises the difficulty level as Donkey and Diddy visit new worlds filled with lava, snow, and much more. A visit to Cranky’s Cabin is always a hoot and perhaps my favorite part of the game is Candy’s Save Point. After fighting to stay alive on a particular level, finally reaching a save point made me feel like I accomplished something. Donkey Kong Country was the beginning of something great on Super Nintendo.

7. Street Fighter II (1992)

In what is considered the Coca Cola to Mortal Kombat’s Pepsi, we have ourselves what is probably one of the most influential video games of all time in Street Fighter II. Originally released as an arcade game in 1991, the game took life of its own and helped launch the fighting game craze in the early 1990s. Street Fighter stood out above the rest for its most influential gameplay mechanic– combos. By pressing one of the many buttons in a certain order, you were given the ability to do combo attacks, something that actually came to be by accident! The characters were varied and each had their own unique way of fighting. Plus, they also had one of the more enduring female video game characters outside of Samus Aran and Lara Croft– Chun-Li (though personally, I preferred Blanka). The story lines also added a unique kick to the game– each having their own certain story. There was Ryu’s quest to be a true warrior, Chun-Li trying to avenge her father’s death, Guile looking to defeat the man who killed his best friend, or Blanka reuniting with his mother. This added an extra incentive for some players who decided to play the tournament as their favorite character.

Why Lewis loves Street Fighter II

Wow, well where do you start with a title like Street Fighter II? Forget the fact that the series is still going strong today. Forget the fact that the original title singlehandedly dragged arcades out of the mire, placing a competitive edge on the whole scene. What really matters is the impact this had on SNES owners worldwide. Being able to play a version of SFII at home, on your own TV, with all characters was simply MINDBLOWING. The SNES pad seemed as though it was designed with the game in mind, the music was spot, the graphics amazing.

Capcom managed to bring the single biggest third party IP of the time exclusively to Nintendo, and this, just as much as any Mario game, helped cement SNES’s reputation as a serious piece of hardware. Genesis owners could only try to hide their jealousy at what they witnessed on the TV screen before them. Indeed with only three buttons on a Genesis pad at the time, it was impossible to see how SFII could work at all.

Hearing the legendary stage music was something else. Ryu, Ken, Guile, Sagat. The list could literally include every character’s theme. They were all (and still are) timeless pieces of music, and SNES’s snazzy new audio chip handled them all brilliantly, helping to fully realise an experience that before then could only be found in arcades.

6. Final Fantasy VI [Final Fantasy III] (1994)

Disregarding the wonky decision to rename the sixth installment in the famed Final Fantasy franchise as the third in America, when FFVI hit SNES in April of 1994, it  immediately garnered critical acclaim. Cutting ties with the medieval setting found in the three entries before it, Final Fantasy VI took players in a bold, new direction and introduced them to a beautifully rendered Steampunk-inspired world. Following the story of Terra, a human-Esper hybrid that has been enslaved by the Empire through the use of a dastardly device that controls her mind, the game bestows upon players a malevolent scenario that ultimately calls upon its wondrous, ensemble-like cast to deliver a story that is truly unforgettable. With a diverse lot of characters, sweeping musical scores, the much loved ATB combat system and more scenes of melodrama than you can shake a stick at, Final Fantasy VI is often toted as one of the best, if not the single best, installment in the timeless franchise. Without the existence of this title, which helped put the series on the map, it may be safe to assume that, at least in North America and Europe, we may have never seen the classics that preceded this sixth installment. FFVI is a game with a tremendous amount of heart, and is so damn charming that it went on to spawn re-releases on four separate platforms, including the PS one, GBA, Virtual Console and PSN. I’d call that a definitive success. After all, how many games can you list that have that achievement under their belt? Not many, I’d venture to guess.

Why Bradly loves Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI is my second favorite entry in the series for more reasons than I can fit into this concentrated blurb. For starters, the characters are so damn unique, different and delightful, that I stand by my accusation that no other Final Fantasy title has even come close to matching this game’s troupe of magnetic personalities. The way in which they all are so strikingly opposite of one another, and yet work so well together, is awe-inspiring. It’s this delicately balanced and perfectly crafted character development that ties the entire story together. Secondly, Kefka is just plain awesome-sauce, and is without question one of the most heinous antagonists in all the franchise. I mean, he poisons a whole village for the love of God, and doesn’t bat an eye at it. In actuality, he just laughs like a complete madman. Now, that’s my kind of villain. Sorry, Sephiroth, you’ve got nothing on Kefka– he even wears bizarre make-up! Now I know where Suzanne Collins got her idea for the creation of the Capital people in The Hunger Games. Anyhow, that’s neither here nor there. My most important memory with VI, however, has to be the infamous opera scene. Not only does the soundtrack truly shine at this stage in the game, but it’s what makes the whole segment. There is so much emotion, drama and heartfelt sincerity in how this scene is scripted and executed, that I’m not sure any RPG since has been able to re-recreate the kind of genuine magic found in this act. Any game that is pushing two decades old, and still holds the top spot in a category like the one I just described, should absolutely be considered a true masterpiece– and that’s what Final Fantasy VI is in a nutshell: a masterful piece of gaming architecture.

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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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