There must have been something in the water back in 1993, because those 12 months gave birth to some of the very best video games ever created.
To celebrate this quarter of a century landmark (how old do we all feel now?), we’ve collated 25 of our favorites from that year, which was no easy task considering how many incredible titles were released in such a short time frame.
So whether you were a serious gamer in 1993 or just a twinkle in your parent’s eye, sit back and enjoy our look at 25 of the best retro video games turning 25 this year.
1MORTAL KOMBAT 2 (MIDWAY)
While Street Fighter II was the game every kid played at home, Mortal Kombat 2 was the fighting game every kid wishes they could play. However, their overbearing parents took exception to little Jimmy ripping his opponent’s head off and holding it aloft in a celebration of his victory.
MK2, as it came to be known, wasn’t available on a console until 1994, but in 1993 it was the ultra-violent sequel that had kids lying, cheating, and stealing quarters to play in the arcades.
2DAY OF THE TENTACLE (LUCASARTS)
Tim Schafer’s sequel to the Maniac Mansion – the first LucasArts video game ever designed – is a shining example of the point-and-click adventure genre that is as fresh today as it was in 1993, a quarter of a century ago.
3SUPER MARIO ALL-STARS (NINTENDO)
Super Mario All-Stars contained top-notch remakes of the 4 original Super Mario games released on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Gone were those 8-bit clunky graphics, replaced by the 16-bit beauty we had come to love on the SNES.
The game – which could only be acquired by buying a Super Nintendo and sending proof of purchase to Nintendo themselves – also included a rare Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, which came to be known as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. It was so successful that it sold over a million copies in its first 10 months and still brings a few dollars on eBay today.
4STAR FOX/STARWING (NINTENDO)
For many of us, Star Fox (or Starwing) was the first video game we ever played with polygonal graphics. Operating as a typical rail shooter, this was Nintendo’s first dabblings outside the world of two-dimensions and was really nothing more than a test run for things to come.
With that being said, it is perhaps a stroke of luck that this experiment became one of the most popular Nintendo titles ever made, not to mention one of the most important, and breathed new life into the console at a time when sales were on the decline.
5SPLATTERHOUSE 3 (NAMCO)
Taking the formula of games like Streets of Rage, Splatterhouse 3 transplanted the action from the streets to the interior of a mansion filled with ghouls. Here though, players were free to roam around the building, rather than in the linear side-scrolling manner we’d become accustomed to in similar games, and at times the game even finds itself edging more towards the survival horror genre than a typical beat-em-up.
6STAR WARS: X-WING (LUCASARTS)
Even if you’re not a fan of flight simulator games, there’s a very good chance you’ve had a go at piloting your very own X-Wing, thanks in no small part to LucasArt’s Galactic Empire battling effort from 1993.
The fixed-view, isometric style of the game made it look and feel far more important than it probably ever was. For a generation of kids who had grown up playing Super Mario Bros., this cyberpunk shooter was the real deal.
8STREET FIGHTER II (CAPCOM)
Street Fighter II first appeared in the arcades in 1991, but Hadoukened it’s way on to the Super Nintendo a year later. The insanely popular fighting game pretty much became a Nintendo calling card for a number of years, finding its way into package deals when anyone paid out for their gaming consoles.
Capcom counted Street Fighter II, and it’s many spin-offs, as its most successful video game creation ever, grossing over $10 Billion in total revenue, until it was finally surpassed by Resident Evil 5 in 2013.
9COOL SPOT (VIRGIN GAMES USA)
Cool Spot may not have been groundbreaking, and it may have been a propaganda piece for 7 Up, but it looked bloody fantastic.
10SHINOBI III: RETURN OF THE NINJA MASTER (SEGA)
Whether you’re battling Ninjas in the treetops, or racing across the landscape on a horse as Ninjas try to dethrone you, there’s never a dull moment in this all-action 16-bit sequel that remains the only Shinobi video game you’ll ever really need to play. Except for maybe Revenge of Shinobi. That was great too.
11SECRET OF MANA (SQUARE)
RPG’s were no longer the sole domain of smelly, sweaty teenagers locked in their bedrooms. When Secret of Mana came along on the SNES, it allowed for drop-in and drop-out multiplayer action, allowing multiple smelly, sweaty teenagers to hang out in one bedroom instead.
There’s a reason Secret of Mana is so highly regarded though. It was an immersive action-role-player that ate up hours of your day and looked absolutely fantastic. In fact, if you had to have one video game as your girl or boyfriend then by golly you’d be taking Secret of Mana to the prom. Just don’t get caught up on Lover’s Rock with that sucker though, ok? There’s no coming back from that kind of thing.
12GUNSTAR HEROES (SEGA/TREASURE)
Created by a bunch of ex-Konami developers, Gunstar Heroes was a balls-out, run-and-gun shooter that looked like the kind of animated fun you’d stick your kids in front of to keep them quiet, but was, in fact, a highly advanced (for its time) challenger for Contra’s throne.
13ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS (LUCASARTS)
Imagine if all your neighbors were having the time of their lives, burning hot dogs on the BBQ, drinking beer, and neglecting their parental responsibilities, and all the while you and your best buddy are saving their asses from zombies, aliens and mad men with chainsaws. That’s the premise of Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and we’re still scratching our heads as to why there’s never been a modern day remake of this incredible run-and-gun.
14DISNEY’S ALADDIN (CAPCOM)
Capcom adapted Disney’s Aladdin for the 16-bit consoles in 1993, and it was a surprising hit. Presented more like a Disney animation than a simple video game, Aladdin was a 2D side-scrolling platformer in which players controlled the titular tramp and his pet monkey.
Critics raved about the visuals and the soundtrack, while it was frequently namedropped in discussions for the best 16-bit platformer games ever made. Some video games in 2018 don’t look as good as Aladdin did in 1993, which is a testament to Capcom really.
15SAM AND MAX HIT THE ROAD (LUCASARTS)
Remember when Sam & Max was a thing? I guess they still are, but they pretty much peaked back in 1993 with this insane (and brilliant) point-and-click adventure game.
16JUNGLE STRIKE (EA)
Shoot shit from a helicopter. Watch shit blow up. Shoot some more shit. Laugh maniacally while chomping a cigar. Shout “Get too da choppah.” Repeat.
17PHANTASY STAR IV: THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM (SEGA)
Simply put, Phantasy Star IV is one of the greatest RPG’s ever made for the Sega Genesis – or any console for that matter. Japan landed Phantasy Star IV first, with the rest of the world having to wait until 1995 to experience this pure joy of a game. It is the blueprint for every RPG to follow to this day, and despite the advances in graphics and storytelling, there really hasn’t been a game that’s managed to top it.
18SIMCITY 2000 (MAXIS)
There was a craze back in the last millennium, where adding the number 2000 to everything made it feel futuristic. And it’s easy to see why. The year 2000 was the future after all. A future where we’d all be ‘driving’ around in our flying cars, would live on the moon, and have sex with robots. Sadly, almost none of that ever happened, and here we are in 2018 as average as we were 25 years ago.
Sim City 2000 was a fun city-building simulator that allowed teenagers to sit at home and create the ultimate futuristic landscape … and then smash the shit out of it with ‘natural disasters’, invading monsters, or alien invasions.
The Sims series would go onto bigger and brighter things, but not necessarily better than this.
19DAYTONA USA (SEGA)
Daytona USA was only released in the arcades back in 1993, but it’s still deserving of a spot on our list because it was so damn good. It received tons of critical praise upon its release and is as good, if not better, than most modern era racing games.
20VIRTUA FIGHTER (SEGA)
Developed from the mind of the amazing Yu Suzuki, Virtua Fighter was a groundbreaking arcade fighter, that was the first of its kind to use fully functioning3D polygon graphics.
Unlike Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter 2, Virtua Fighter’s action was based in the real world, utilizing fighting techniques that you could realistically see in a genuine fight – if genuine fights weren’t sloppy slap-fests involving 2 or more drunk’s in an alley.
21THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK’S AWAKENING (NINTENDO)
So much has already been written about the Legend of Zelda series. Link’s Awakening, which was released on the Game Boy in 1993, and ignores the traditional ‘Triforce’ story-arc, remains the best selling handheld game in the entire series.
22DOOM (ID SOFTWARE)
It may not have been the first of its genre to come along, but if you ask anyone to name the greatest FPS of all time and they’ll say Doom every time. If they don’t, well they’re idiots.
Set on a remote outpost on the planet Mars, players take on the role of ‘unnamed marine’, as he wonders around blasting the shit out of demons and creatures intent on wearing him like a hat. It was ultra violent when being ultra-violent meant something, and was named in the top 20 video games of all time by Next Generation magazine a mere 3 years after its initial release.
We’ve already covered Doom extensively in a retrospective last year, but it’s one gaming franchise we never get tired of.
23SAMURAI SHODOWN (SNK)
If Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat weren’t violent enough for you, then there was always Samurai Shodown, a classic arcade-style fighter in which you could pull chunks out of your opponents with a series of very cool weapons.
Samurai Shodown also introduced the now famous ‘rage gauge’, which filled up as you got your ass kicked. Once the little meter was full you could go into full-on berserker mode, meaning the end results of the fights weren’t as predictable as other fighting games.
24THE 7TH GUEST (VIRGIN)
Players got to run around an ultra-realistic, haunted mansion on this underrated interactive movie puzzler. The game, which pioneered 3 pre-rendered graphics, was originally released on PC but is perhaps best known as one of the few successful titles for the ill-fated CD-i console. It’s sinister and often adult-themed plot was something very new for the era, and as such, it is regarded as a classic in the horror video game genre.
Before The Sims came along, Myst was the most successful PC game ever released. In many ways it was the epitome of old-school PC gaming, opting for incredible rendering and immersive gameplay rather than the more simplistic side-scrolling platformers we were used to on our Sega or Nintendo consoles.
Myst offered no dialogue, no means to be killed, and some incredibly difficult puzzles. Modern developers wouldn’t dare make a game straight up in this vein today as audiences likely wouldn’t have the patience, and would tire of the lack of explosions or unlockable achievements. That doesn’t take anything away from Myst, though. It is still one of the most influential games ever created, and you’ll often here modern-era games being referred to as Myst-like in reviews.
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