The 90s was a great time for video game lovers. Arcade games entered a renaissance period as consoles began to dominate the home entertainment market. Japanese companies SEGA and Nintendo quickly became the dominant forces in the gaming world, with SEGA releasing the home entertainment consoles the Master System, Mega Drive, and handheld Game Gear, in competition with Nintendo's Super NES and Game Boy. The battle for supremacy took a right turn in 1994 when Sony released the Playstation and began to impact the gaming market. Nintendo rallied with the Nintendo 64 as SEGA's Dreamcast suffered poor sales and saw the once proud company struggle in a crowded market. But this was good news for gamers, as more options meant more games to experience.
With so many consoles on the market, there were a plethora of new games released regularly to satisfy gamers' needs. Nintendo captured people's imaginations with a long line of Mario Bros. games while SEGA released Sonic The Hedgehog to compete with their rivals. Arcade games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat found a second life on consoles while PCs continued to release fantastic games such as Quake and Sim City 2000.
Unfortunately, not every game that got released in the 90s lived up to expectations. For every Sonic or Mario Bros. there was a Shaq Fu or a Bubsy 3D, games that were so bad it's hard to explain how they even got made. This piece delves into games of the 90s and brings you 20 of the very worst ever put out during the decade, along with 10 of the best, just to even things out.
30 Worst: Far From Super
It's hard to think of a Superman game that's lived up to expectations but when it comes to disasters, Superman: The New Adventures is top of the list.
Released on the Nintendo 64 and commonly referred to as Superman 64, this game is abysmal.
The development of the game was affected by both DC Comics and Warner Brothers continually making changes to the game's content, with the release date pushed back by over six months. When it was eventually released, Superman: The New Adventures was savaged by the critics for its poor graphics, hard to master controls, repetitive gameplay, and a large number of glitches and bugs. Despite all this, it was one of the N64's best selling releases of 1999, with gamers obviously happy to forfeit a good gaming experience in favor of playing a Superman title after a five-year wait. People will never cease to amaze me.
29 Worst: Stick To Space Jam
Micheal Jordan was the biggest thing in basketball when this game was released 1994. At the time he had just won three consecutive championships with the Chicago Bulls and was the talk of the town, so it was inevitable he would find his way into a video game. What surprised many was Micheal Jordan: Chaos In The Windy City wasn't a traditional basketball game but a scrolling platformer involving Jordan beating up bad guys. On a quest to save his team who had been kidnapped, you play as Jordan, using basketballs to attack your enemies. There were many types of basketballs with different abilities, such as basketballs that exploded and others that froze the ground making enemies slip. The graphics were so-so and the music muffled and it's really weird seeing Jordan in a game where the objective isn't to shoot hoops. If this were a basketball shot it would be an air ball.
28 Best: Capitalizing On A Classic
To compete with Mario and his brother Lugi, SEGA developed the fast moving blue hedgehog, Sonic, and with it a franchise that's been going almost three decades. The original Sonic The Hedgehog was a platform game involving the title character making it through levels as quick as possible, focusing on speed and agility. The game was fantastic and fun to play, but it's the sequel that took the game to new heights.
The levels were larger, the visuals more spectacular, and the retro soundtrack enthralling.
The game also introduced a multiplayer option with another player able to team up with Sonic as Miles "Tails" Prower and play using a split-screen. Although many critics hated the multiplayer option I rather enjoyed it as it added another element to the game. Either way, the game's legacy is ongoing and Sonic The Hedgehog 2 will forever be known as one of the greatest platform games of all time.
27 Worst: One Of The Worst Games Ever Made
The 90s introduced a new type of interactive graphic adventure game featuring real-life actors playing characters who you would control. One of the worst exponents of this full motion capture concept was Plumbers Don't Wear Ties. Tasked with getting John and Jane together, this interactive romantic comedy is regarded as one of the worst games of all time. Despite being advertised as featuring full motion graphics. the majority of the game is presented as a slideshow, with the production values horrible, and storylines bordering on unbelievable, and comical acting worse than most soap operas. The game's so bad PC Gamer gave it 3/100, the lowest score the magazine has ever given any game. If that hasn't put your interest to bed you can watch a complete playthrough of the game here, but be prepared to waste 52 minutes of your life you'll never get back.
26 Worst: Socket The Hedgehog?
Released for the SEGA Mega Drive in 1993 Socket: Time Dominator is a poor mans Sonic The Hedgehog. You take on the role of the time-traveling duck Socket (named Minute in the Japanese version) who has been hired to stop an evil time-traveling overlord known as the Time Dominator.
Why play an unoriginal and boring Sonic clone when you have the real thing at your disposal?
After completing each stage you must battle the Time Dominator until you eventually defeat him on the last level. There's an emphasis on speed with this game as you race through colorful levels very similar to those seen in Sonic. The game received generally poor reviews upon release due to its likeness to Sonic.
25 Best: The Start Of Something Special
I'm sure there a many of you out there who would pick one of the Mario platform games for this list but for me it's hard to go past Super Mario Kart. Easily one of the most fun and entertaining multiplayer racing games of all time, Mario Kart is one of the few games that still brings a smile to my face when I play it today. Racing around Bowser's Castle as Toad, firing red shells at enemies, will never get old and the game's popularity is evident by the number of times it's has been redeveloped for new consoles, with the N64 version Mario Kart 64 the best of the lot. While the improved graphics and gameplay make Mario Kart 64 an overall better product, the original still has a soft spot in mine and many other's hearts and will always be a favorite amongst die-hard gamers.
24 Worst: A Virtual Let-Down
When it comes to Simpsons games, few are as lackluster and disappointing as Virtual Bart. Released for the Super NES and Mega Drive, the game involved playing as Bart as he navigated virtual worlds trying to escape a VR machine he entered. One of the biggest problems with this game is the fact it's very similar to the previously released Bart's Nightmare, a much more entertaining game.
Why play a game that fails to build on its predecessor?
The controls are sluggish and the graphics are far too simple for a game set in a "virtual world." Even cameos by established Simpsons favorites such as Homer and Moe can't save this one from making this list.
23 Worst: We Give This Hotel One Star
You might not be aware of Mario Hotel and that's probably a good thing. Released for the little known Philips CD-i console, Mario Hotel was a puzzle game that made no sense at all and was quickly buried by Nintendo. As with most Mario games, you're tasked with saving the Princess, and do to this must pass through seven hotels solving puzzles and defeating enemies to reach the end.
The game is besieged by horrible animation, putrid cutscenes, repetitive puzzles (many involve closing and opening doors), and a ludicrous storyline. The game is also really boring and provides no joy, making you want to check out of Mario Hotel as soon as possible.
22 Best: Finish Him!
You're either a Street Fighter fan or a Mortal Kombat fan, and for me, Mortal Kombat always got the nod. I first became hooked on the fighting game at my local arcade it became one of my most played games on the Sega Megadrive, something gamers also agreed with, with the franchise now totaling 22 titles and has made over $5 billion. The game's success was due partly to the realistic digitized graphics, easy to master combat system, and gory finishing moves.
Who can forget Rayden electrocuting his opponent until their head exploded or Scorpion turning his opponent to ash with his fiery breath?
While the focus was often on the intensity, the gameplay was terrific, with the fighters moving smoothly and the ability to perform special moves and combos a highlight. Although some of the further installments in the series have been less than great, Mortal Kombat set the benchmark for what a fighting game should be like.
21 Worst: A Pox On The Fighting Genre
If Mortal Kombat is regarded as one of the best fighting games of all time then Catfight is at the other end of the spectrum. Released on the PC in 1996, the game involved a number of female warriors duking it out for the ultimate power to control the universe, or something along those lines. Similar to Mortal Kombat, the game also used digitized actors for its characters, but the image quality was atrocious and the characters looked weird. The sound was awful, the graphics glitchy, and the gameplay average. The characters were also scantily attired and there were claims this was only done to enhance sales, which it didn't. The game was so poor PC Gamer described it as being "so bad, being caught [self-pleasuring] to it would actually be less embarrassing than being caught playing it." Enough said.
20 Worst: A Twisted Wreck
The Twisted Metal series was a new and exciting take on vehicular combat games but the franchise hit a bump in the road with the third installment. The game followed the previous releases in terms of plot, with the game centering around contestants dueling it out in their battle-ready cars in various post-apocalyptic landscapes across America. The biggest problem with the game was it failed to build on the previous entries in the franchise.
There wasn't anything new or mind-boggling to get players excited.
The combat and game level designs failed to inspire and the overall feel of the game just doesn't excite like the first two. Props to the developers for including a great multiplayer option and to Rob Zombie for his excellent soundtrack, but Twisted Metal 3 just doesn't meet the high expectations of the series.
19 Best: A Shooting Pioneer
Even if you're only a casual player, you would know about Doom and the impact it had on the video game world. The first person shooter paved the way for the genre and is regarded as one of the most influential games of all time. Doom's premise is simple; a gateway to the underworld has opened on Mars and you are the only person left to stop the hordes of invading demons. Armed with a variety of weapons, you navigate multiple levels, eliminating everything in sight in what can often be a bloody and frightening experience.
Doom was one of the very first games to use the first person view in an action scenario, helping the game become such a massive success. It made players felt like they were actually in the game. Although simple in its design and following a basic gameplay model of shoot and destroy, Doom did it with a violent flair that's yet to be bested.
18 Worst: If It Ain't Broke...
Bubsy was a successful 2D game with a cult following when developers Eidetic decided to bring the game into the 3D world with Bubsy 3D in 1996. It proved a complete disaster with the game savaged for its rudimentary graphics, inferior level designs, and stiff controls. For a 3D game, the visuals are exceptionally disappointing with the backgrounds and landscapes in the game dull and bland.
There really isn't anything redeeming about this game.
The camera angles are also quite strange and off-putting the music and sound effects are terrible. Bubsy himself also comes across as a bit of a naff bloke, with Bubsy 3D another in a long line of failed Mario ripoffs.
17 Worst: Real Paintball Is Already Fun
Why would you want to play a paintball based simulation when you can participate in the activity in the real world? This is something the developers didn't think about when they created the horrible Extreme Paintbrawl. Using a modified engine of Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition, the game is basically a first-person shooter as you go through various levels shooting paintballs at objects and people. Surprising, hey?
The game was plagued by bugs and strange A.I. behavior with dull graphics, poor level layouts, and an annoying soundtrack. This is one sport you're best getting involved with in the real world.
16 Best: One Of The Greatest Soundtracks Ever
After making his debut X-Games performance in 1998, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk was quickly positioned as the face of the sport, resulting in the awesome skateboard simulation Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Players were able to play a multitude of game modes as they performed tricks in a variety of real-world locations, including a schoolyard, warehouse, and mall.
Players could perform eye-catching combos with the game containing innovating gameplay and detailed graphics.
Hawk provided his likeness and voice for the game along with a number of other high profile skaters. The game is also remembered for its excellent soundtrack (including Primus' "Jerry was a Racecar Driver," "Suicidal Tendencies' "Cyco Vision," and Dead Kennedys' "Police Truck") that helped drive the game's sales and made developers realize how important music could be to a game.
15 Worst: This Game Should Stay As Mythology
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was the first spin-off of the Mortal Kombat franchise and it completely failed to live up to expectations. The beat em'up action platformer was set before the first Mortal Kombat game and revolved around Sub-Zero battling a variety of enemies as he tried to find a sacred amulet. The game melds the fighting style of Mortal Kombat with a standard platform game, and while it sounds good on paper, doesn't quite work out that well when playing. The cut scenes were horrible and the graphics sub-standard, although the basic control system makes fighting easy. Rumors persisted there was meant to be a number of Mythology games released about different characters but after Sub-Zero bombed, Midway decided to re-focus on another Mortal Kombat fighting game, releasing Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance five years later.
14 Worst: Seeing Red
Mario Clash was an exclusive title released for Nintendo's Virtual Boy, a new console that required players to wear a VR headset and play games in a virtual reality state with a new handheld controller.
Much like the gaming device itself, Mario Clash was a huge failure.
The game was designed as a 3D version of the original Mario Bros. arcade game, but the new 3D capabilities didn't add anything to the game. The excitement of playing in 3D quickly wore off and the fact you couldn't save your progress in the game added to its problems. Many people also suffered headaches from wearing the VR headset and the repetition of the game became very tedious.
13 Best: Come On And Slam!
The 2K series of NBA games are generally regarded as the top basketball games around, and while many of them are faithful simulations of the real sports, they lack the fun of 90s favorite, NBA Jam. Developed by Midway and using the same digitized graphics as Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam was an over-the-top, two-on-two basketball game with an emphasis on extreme dunks over meticulous gameplay. The game featured the biggest ballers of the time from each of the NBA franchises (although some like Micheal Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal were absent) along with secret characters in a fast-paced game that was frenetically fun. Very much like Super Mario Kart, this was the type of game you got friends around to play with and would wonder where the time went five hours later. “BOOMSHAKALAKA."
12 Worst: Cash Grabs Are The Worst
The first Crow film was a dark thriller best known for being the last film to star Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee. The sequel, The Crow: City Of Angels, was an exploitive cash grab that was a massive turkey and did nothing but tarnish the legacy of the first film.
The tie-in action video game of the same name was just as horrendous.
Loosely following the plot of the film, you played Ashe Corven as he looked for revenge for his and his son's demise. The game was a platform beat em'up with horrible background designs and an annoying control system. The game was one of the worst movie game licenses and, much like the film, is best left to brood alone in the darkness.
11 Worst: Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?
Anything Micheal Jordan can do, Shaquille O'Neal can do better, except for when it came to video games. If you thought Micheal Jordan: Chaos In The Windy City was bad then wait until you play Shaq's very own fighting game. A Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter ripoff with worse graphics, gameplay, and controls, it's hard to understand who thought Shaq Fu would be a winner. Similar to Shaq's rap career, Shaq Fu is looked down upon by gaming fans, with the characters in the game, including Shaq, being animated extremely small and move sets being very similar to Street Fighter. Despite the game's failure it's said to be resurrected this year in the form of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. I hold my breath in anticipation.
10 Best: The Zombie Craze Begins
The first game to be dubbed "survival horror" by critics, Resident Evil helped usher in a new genre of first-person and third-person games involving gory action, puzzle solving, and plenty of scares. While many of the sequels over the past decade rank high in the franchise, the original game is still one of the best releases of the 90s.
There's nothing as scary as being faced with hordes of zombies running towards you.
Trapped in a mansion infested with zombies and all manner of frightening creatures, players had to navigate their way through the building and uncover the secrets behind the Umbrella Corporation. The games engaging storyline, brilliant atmosphere, gripping pace, and varied difficulty levels, helped make Resident Evil a success, with the game winning multiple awards and featuring on many "best game end of year lists" in 1996.
9 Worst: Maybe Ninjas Aren't That Cool
Fighting games feature quite heavily on this list. You'd think it would be easy to create a game inspired by classic fighting titles that also adds something new to the genre, but it appears to be harder than it looks. Case in point, Kasumi Ninja. One of the few fighting games released for the short-lived Atari Jaguar, Kasumi Ninja tried to emulate the over-the-top nature of Mortal Kombat but ended up being one of the worst fighting games ever released. It's practically Mortal Kombat with a funky game engine and terrible graphics. The bloody stuff and button bashing control system are straight out of the Mortal Kombat handbook while the gameplay and glitchy graphics fail to inspire any joy in players. It's games like this that helped push the Jaguar into obscurity.
8 Worst: Like A Rap Battle But Worse
Despite being labeled as volume one, there was never a sequel to the Super NES game RapJam. The basketball game featured rappers as playable characters, with the likes of LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Onyx, and Coolio, all part of the roster. While the rappers in the game are reflective of the time of its release (1995), you'd think they could have got some bigger names like 2Pac, Ghostface Killah, or Nas. In short, RapJam is a standard 16-bit basketball simulation that just wasn't needed.
The control system was awkward with your highlighted player often changing to another at random who was nowhere near the ball.
You'd also think for a game featuring rappers that the soundtrack would be awesome, but there's a lack of licensed music in the game, with monotonous computer sounds used instead. Avoid at all costs.
7 Best: This Has Us All Myst-y Eyed
First released for the Mac in 1993, Myst was a surprise success that went on to become one of the biggest selling computer games of all time. Players took control of the Stranger and used a special book to solve puzzles as they traveled the island of Myst to discover who they were. The game looked beautiful and allowed players to explore the island at their own pace as they searched for clues. Despite being a fairly standard single-player game, Myst captured the attention of gamers who enjoyed the simplicity of the interactive world. Along with the amazing graphics the sound was also top notch and the puzzles ranged from easy to increasingly difficult. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea due to the slow pace but Myst helped create a new wave of point-and-click adventure games and solidified itself as one of the best in the process.
6 Worst: Keep This One In A Pit
Using digitized characters created via a blue screen and released two years before Mortal Kombat, Pit Fighter was an enjoyable arcade fighter. When the game was ported to home consoles such as the SNES and Mega Drive, it was drained of all the fun, resulting in a boring game with outdated graphics. There was a choice of only three fighters in the game, another downer, and you must fight through every competitor with only one life and no health regeneration.
The fighters are mostly based on familiar stereotypes, with Chainman Eddie looking like Bennett from the Arnie classic Commando.
The final boss, named the Masked Warrior, was also extremely hard to beat, meaning you'd often be playing this game for hours on end trying to defeat him.
5 Worst: Not Even Aerosmith Could Save This One
Whoever thought creating a video game starring Aerosmith was a genius idea needs to rethink their career path. First released as an arcade shooter in 1994, this Midway produced game quickly found its way onto the major consoles of the day. where it was torn apart by critics. The graphics of the arcade version had been toned down and the colors looked washed out. The aggression was also subdued and without being able to use a light gun as a controller, the aiming system was poor. The gameplay is repetitive and the soundtrack lacked the number of Aerosmith hits heard in the original arcade game, although some might think this is a good thing. Either way, Revolution X was a stinker and one game you want to stay away from.
4 Best: One Of The Best Games Ever Created
The fifth game in the Zelda franchise and the first to use 3D graphics, Ocarina Of Time was a major win for the Nintendo 64. The action adventure game introduced elements of role-playing and fantasy games and was gorgeous to look at. The massive and expansive environment meant there was much to explore as you took control of Link and completed various missions.
At times, the game made you feel like you were actually in the fictional kingdom of Hyrule.
The puzzles in the game were brain wracking and the game had a depth usually reserved for PC games. Ocarina Of Time set a new bar for console RPGs and is still recognized by many as the greatest game in the Zelda series.
3 Worst: A Critical Mistake
Sony attempted to keep the Saturn alive with the 3D fighting release, Criticom, but the game only helped push the console closer to the edge of obscurity. First released on the PlayStation in 1995, the game failed to take advantage of the greater capabilities of the Saturn. In the game, players can choose from a number of different alien fighters as you battle it out on round, elevated platforms for some kind of ultimate prize. While the game is attractive to look at, the controls are sluggish and the frame rate not up to standard. It's very much a poor man's Tekken 2 and was named by GamePro as the worst fighting game on the Saturn in 1997.
2 Worst: This Whole Game Is A Trap
The interactive movie video game Night Trap caused a massive stir when it hit the shelves in 1992. Taking on the role of a secret agent watching a house full of teenage girls who, unbeknownst to them are in danger, you must trigger traps in the house to keep the girls safe from intruders. Night Trap was used by the American Government in 1993 as an example of games featuring gratuitous stuff and problems with women, and was soon pulled from circulation.
Innovative at the time of its release, Night Trap hasn't aged well.
The graphics are bad, the humor isn't great, the acting poor, and the gameplay overly simple. You pretty much just click on different cameras to watch the girls before setting off traps when danger is near. If not for the controversy the game garnered, Night Trap would never had made a dent in the market and most likely would have faded from sight as another boring SEGA release.
1 Best: A Fantastic Spy Thriller
Not only is GoldenEye 007 one of the few film adaptations that worked well as a game, but it's also one of the best games released in the 90s full stop. Playing the suave special agent, James Bond, the game is a first-person shooter that follows the plot of the movie it's based upon. The game was a major boost for the N64 and showed that first-person shooters with realistic environments could succeed on consoles. Stealth was also a big part of the game and introduced another element to first-person shooters often overlooked in similar games. The best thing about the game though is the multiplayer option. I can still remember spending countless endless hours playing against mates as we pretended to be Bond, James Bond.
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