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

5. Earthbound (1995)

If you ever wanted to see a textbook example of how bad advertising and/or marketing can lead to the public missing out on an amazing game, look no further than Shigesato Itoi’s diamond in the rough known as Earthbound. While it didn’t initially sell well in the US, its legacy has caught on and the magic of emulators has brought the game the level of appreciation and love that it deserves. The second in a 3 game series known as Mother, this is the only one of the three games that got a North American release (mostly due to licensing rights and the lack of sales of Earthbound), which is a shame. In Earthbound, we are introduced to Ness, a young boy who embarks on a journey to save the world on a prompt from a little alien known as Buzz-Buzz. Ness is given a Sound Stone and must locate the 8 melodies, which serve as the only way to defeat the evil Giygas, the main enemy of the game. Along the way we meet other characters such as Paula, Jeff, and Poo who help with their own powers. This game is a little south of strange, but there’s no question that the biggest thing that this game has going for it is its heart. Its heart and silliness have influenced several RPGs such as the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series in which they don’t quite take themselves too seriously but are still just as fun as the serious stuff.

Why Andrew loves Earthbound

Frankly speaking, Earthbound is a game that beleaguered old-school video game fans love to love. Not until Mother 3 did Earthbound fans, famously prolific on the Internet (just check out and the translation project for Mother 3), find another game that had as much heart as Earthbound did. And I do mean heart: Shigesato Itoi, creator and auteur of the Mother series, continues to discuss that elusive spark which makes his games great, and we listen, because we want to make and play great games, too. The thing is, it’s hard to describe why Earthbound is so great without sounding, erm, distracted. “There’s a Beatles ripoff! And you can fight police! But not like cop-killing. And you have to find sounds! And you play as a preschooler who’s psychic! And you find a man who’s also a dungeon!” Yeah, it’s a weird game. But it’s our weird game. Earthbound‘s a little odd to play these days, with a dated menu interface and other idiosyncrasies that take getting used to– but somehow, these only make the game shine. PSI Rockin!

4. Super Mario World (1991)

What’s a console launch without a Mario game bundled with it? Especially in the 1990s, it was pretty much standard practice that every console or handheld was bundled with a Mario game with every launch. No different with the release of Super Nintendo in 1991. Super Mario World is in the argument along with Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 as one of the best Mario games of all time. And there’s good reason why it’s considered that high. This is a fantastic game full of so much fun and joy. While vacationing in Dinosaur Land, Mario and Luigi come to find out that (yet again) Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser. They come across a dinosaur egg that hatches and reveals to be Yoshi, who is upset because his friends have been kidnapped too. So Mario and Luigi venture into different worlds to find Yoshi’s friends and Princess Peach. Like SMB 3, we have to deal with the Koopalings in each world before finding the big man himself, Bowser. This game brought on the power of the cape, the spin jump, and expanded upon the power of flying (though it’s more falling with style, to steal a line from Toy Story). With the memorable soundtrack and the influence that is felt in the countless ROM hacks that we’ve seen from aspiring video game developers, Mario’s first foray in the 16-bit era proved to be a true classic.

Why Kyle loves Super Mario World

If you ask me, Super Mario World is hands-down the best 2D Mario title. What are some amazing things about it? Let me think. It’s got a huge linking world map, a plethora of secret goals, the cape feather, shell kicking mechanics, an item reserve system, not one but two hidden regions, perfect controls, sprawling levels, and Yoshi. The amount of content that Nintendo packed into Dinosaur Land is amazing. I still compare modern platformers to the greatness of this game, and none have been able to surpass it. New Super Mario Bros. is all fine and well, but where’s our New Super Mario World?

3. Super Metroid (1994)

After the so-so sequel to the original Metroid (Metroid II: Return of Samus) was released, nobody seemed to be that sure that the badassed bounty hunter Samus Aran would ever make as big of an impact as she (spoilers!) did in her first go round. The original game was engaging, fun, introduced a whole new way to play action platformers, and gave us one of the first twist endings in video game history (Samus is a girl!). So when Super Metroid came out in 1994, it came to the surprise of many people in the public that the game would not only be what is likely one of the best Metroid games in franchise history, but one of the greatest games in Nintendo history. In the official timeline, Super Metroid picks up right after Metroid II and we are introduced to a little baby Metroid who has taken to Samus as being its mommy. She transfers it to the Ceres Space Colony but later comes to find that the baby has been stolen. So Samus goes on a quest to chase down the Space Pirate Ridley on the planet Zebes as she tries to track down the larva. This game became a huge hit in the US, but yet didn’t sell too well in Japan. The game has been constantly compared to the 1986 film Aliens, also starring a strong female lead, and with good reason– this is a must play for any fan of the action genre.

Why Kyle loves Super Metroid

I’m not going to be subtle here: Super Metroid is an absolute masterpiece and one of the greatest video games ever made. Everything is just superb– the level design, the atmosphere, the incremental progression. The world of Super Metroid is truly an absorbing world that I get sucked into every time I play. Every nook has something to find, every pit has its secrets. Entire areas take on new meaning when you return to them with a new upgrade. And the whole time, you are utterly alone. I think about life sometimes when I play. Where am I going? What details have I overlooked? I think that Super Metroid was quite ahead of its time, and we are still seeing its influences today.

2. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)

Just like with Mario games, it is never an official Nintendo system release without a Legend of Zelda game. While it may not be a part of the launch, it won’t feel like an official system without another tale of the Hero of Time on his never-ending quest to save Hyrule or whatever land he finds himself in. In A Link to the Past, we are given the overall setting of The Legend of Zelda combined with some of the innovations of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link to create Link’s debut in the land of Super Nintendo. We are also introduced to a variety of weapons and techniques that would become the hallmark of Nintendo’s favorite hero in green (sorry, Luigi!) including the Ocarina, the Spin Attack, and the ultimate weapon itself– the Master Sword.

In this incarnation of our hero, Link is a young boy who is awakened in the middle of the night by a voice, who we learn is Princess Zelda. She asks for Link’s help, saying that she is locked in Hyrule Castle. So Link adventures in the middle of the night to go and save the princess. From there, Link is told that a sorceror from the Dark World is planning to break the seal of the Seven Sages that is holding Ganon– the ultimate evil– away from the world. After collecting 3 pendants, he is given the Master Sword, only for the princess to be captured again. We see Link as he travels between the Light World and the Dark World as he continues his quest and tries to save the princess and the kingdom of Hyrule. This Zelda game ranks up there among the best, some even insisting it’s better than Ocarina of Time.

Why Joseph loves Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This was the first Zelda game I ever played, though I didn’t realise it until I powered up the Game Boy Advance version for the first time, triggering that sort of primal memory that only sound was able to do. I had somehow forgotten playing this aged 8, so only with the GBA version did I experience the full pleasure of this masterpiece. Wielding the Master Sword for the first time, finding all the Heart Pieces, rescuing sages, reams of text– these are all mainstays of the franchise, and while this may only be the third instalment, this was the trendsetter that has continued to fuel further inspiration for the series as it has progressed.

Why Lewis loves Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past is not only my favourite Zelda game of the entire series, it is also in my humble opinion the greatest game ever made. Everything is perfectly balanced. From the pacing of the story, to the items, enemies and dungeons (yes even the infamous Ice Palace), every aspect of the game feels substantial and considered. Switching from Light to Dark worlds for the first time hammered home a sense of scale that I had never before witnessed in a video game. The way in which they interlinked was intelligent and offered us essential perks for our troubles. Who could forget reuniting the blacksmiths, or draining the water at Swamp Palace to access its sadistic delights? More than anything though, ALttP ignited my desire for exploration in games. Lifting a rock to discover a switch, or exploring every corridor and cliff edge for a piece of heart was made enjoyable by this epic adventure. I can play ALttP to this day and still enjoy every minute. I sincerely hope the rumours of a remake or sequel are true. Nothing would bring me more joy than returning to a Hyrule based on this game’s sublime incarnation of the fabled land. Make it happen Nintendo!

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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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