The Best Retro Games Of The 90s

The Best Retro Games Of The 90s

When it comes to video games of the past, some have remained in the minds and hearts of gamers ever since, while others simply haven’t stood the test of time. Between The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII, the 90s in particular is responsible for many high-quality releases of the time that are worthy of playing decades later.

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During a time when emails were still largely professional and smartphones didn’t yet exist, there were video games. Nintendo, PlayStation, and Sega brought the world of home entertainment to a whole new level. Gaming has come a long way, but there are still those classic, retro games that stick around.


10 Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong hanging from a rope in Donkey Kong Country

Between minecarts and being shot out of cannons, Donkey Kong Country is fun for the whole family. The plot involves Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong rescuing stolen bananas in an attempt to defeat the Kremlings. In the game, players control Donkey Kong, a gorilla, who is followed by his nephew Diddy Kong for hours of 2D side-scroller entertainment.

Originally made available for Nintendo and Super Nintendo (SNES), there’s never a dull moment with Donkey Kong Countryand it has remarkable replay value. Interestingly, the game design was inspired by Super Mario.

9 Super Metroid (1994)

Samus running through a hallway in Super Metroid

In this action-adventure retro 2D side-scroller, players control Samus, a human woman tasked with rescuing an infant alien creature. As a main character, Samus is known for her armor, weapons, and ability to curl up into a ball to plant bombs, among other game features.

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Super Metroid, a Super Nintendo (SNES) game, thrives as being a game of exploration, and it’s received huge amounts of critical acclaim over the years as being one of the best games of all time due to its elegant cohesion, thought-provoking levels of complexity, and good musical soundtrack.

8 The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time (1998)

Link and Navi Ocarina of Time

The plot of this classic game follows Link, a boy who must traverse through the fantasy world of Hyrule to stop Ganondorf. Featuring mystical dungeons and time travel, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often heralded as one of the best games of the 90s and possibly of all time, and it’s easy to see why. Especially with the game’s 3D third-person perspective and thoroughly enjoyable cut scenes.

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If visual quality wasn’t enough, the soundtrack by composer Koji Kondo is a masterpiece. The Legend of Zelda series is often regarded as showcasing one of the most successful video game soundtracks. Players will go on to remember the songs they learn on Link’s ocarina in this game for years to come.

7 Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)

Sonic Genesis Green Hill Zone

Back in the day, Sonic was in real league with Mario when Nintendo and Sega were rivals. While Sega didn’t succeed in the console wars, Sonic the Hedgehog as a game still stands up today and was excellent to play back in the 90s.

In the game, players control Sonic, a blue hedgehog, and in two-player mode, the fox Tails, through a 2D side-scrolling adventure of difficult terrain that can be conceptualized as a fast-paced adventure to defeat the antagonist, mad scientist Doctor Eggman. With a unique soundtrack as well, Sonic the Hedgehog easilystands the test of time as being an amazingly fun retro game, and there are more successful games in the franchise too, both adequately challenging and fun.

6 Pokemon Red/Blue (1996)

Pokemon Red (left) and Pokemon Blue (right) GameBoy covers

This one is a tie, and that’s fair. Both Pokemon Red and Blue were out in the same year, complementary games revolutionary in paving the way for how much a game could become a part of mainstream culture. The Pokemon games were originally released for Gameboy.

Players control Ash Ketchum, a ten-year-old boy questing to become the very best Pokemon master by battling others and competing in gym tournaments. The Pokemon franchise has seen considerable success over the years, with an anime series, movies, playing cards, and more, so it’s no surprise that the game is on this list as it was one of the most successful games of the 90s.

That phenomenon of Pokemon all started with Pokemon RedandPokemon Blue, a two-in-one package deal for awesome retro games.

5 Grand Theft Auto (1997)

Box art for the first Grand Theft Auto, showing a police car driving through a city with a skyscraper in the background.

The first of the Grand Theft Auto series, this 3D open-world action game took the world by storm. This game is important for its place in the history of gaming and its influence on gaming culture, often included in best-of-game lists. There is a sense of freedom offered to players of Grand Theft Auto that makes the game’s missions appealing. Listening to music on the radio of the vehicles being driven became popular as well.

Originally released as a PC game, a month later it was released for and popularized on PlayStation.

4 Super Mario World (1990)

Mario Riding Yoshi in Super Mario World

Released internationally for the Super Nintendo (SNES) and met with critical acclaim, Super Mario World is, in a nutshell, the Mario game with Yoshi, where players must have Mario make his way through Dinosaur Land, using familiar mechanics to complete the game.

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While Super Mario 3 is up there too when it comes to retro gaming for this series, Super Mario World confidently remains a classic that still holds up to this day. Who can say no to the Mario franchise? Yoshi makes including this game easy.

3 Final Fantasy VII (1997)

A character from Final Fantasy VII looking out at a city

This turn-based RPG strategy game is heralded as among the best of all Final Fantasy games whether they were released before or after. It’s clear to see why that’s well-deserved. Between the impressive graphics, cut scenes, and the original soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu, Final Fantasy VII is a hard game to beat when it comes to retro games from the 90s.

Released for PlayStation, Final Fantasy VII involves players controlling the character Cloud Strife, who’s determined to seek out Sephiroth and save the world from an evil megacorporation. The Final Fantasy series, universe, and characters have continued to captivate gamers over the years, and this one paved that way.

Snake from Metal Gear Solid, in a hallway

Metal Gear Solid is one of the most influential video games ever in part because it popularized dramatic cut scenes, an association that’s continued throughout the series. In this first game and a classic from the 90s, players control the character Solid Snake as he completes various missions to neutralize a terrorist organization. Snake has various abilities he can use to navigate through buildings undetected, for example, and to defeat bosses.

Released for the PlayStation, Metal Gear Solidhas an interesting plot and a formidable antagonist, Liquid Snake, who leads the terrorist splinter cell. The game is one of several within the Metal Gear series, with this first game remaining popular over time for its characters and game mechanics.

1 Age Of Empires (1997)

Age of Empires, a village

Age of Empires made it on the list because of its unique concept, playability, and influence on further gaming. The turn-based PC strategy game ended up being the first of nine released in this series, which allows players to explore historical settings and reenact battles between factions over land and other resources.

Spanning from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, and set in regions of Europe, Africa, and Asia, Age of Empiresoffers battle, strategy, and historical learning. Originally released in 1997, the series has been keeping gamers engaged ever since.

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