The 90s were a wild time. While the prior decade was all glitz and glamor, the last ten years before the new millennium did away with fancy facades, trying to be as real as it gets. Grunge replaced hair metal, gangster rap took over the radio waves, and independent cinema became mainstream.
Video games were a big contributor to this as well. Child-friendly mascots were still popular, but the medium started drawing a teenage audience. First, there was Sonic, an edgier alternative to Mario. Then, the PlayStation came out, which appealed to teens and adults. The move worked, as the system was a huge success. Many of the titles from that decade went on to have a lasting impact on the industry. The following ten entries will present ten video games from that decade that were way ahead of their time.
10 Mega Man Legends
Before Mega Man Legends, open-world RPGs were a thing. The Elder Scrolls, for example, already had a solid following on PC, but this spin-off of the classic side-scrolling shooter took it a step further by handcrafting the entire world, eschewing procedural generation.
It was one of the only games of its kind in 1999, and definitely the only one available on the PlayStation. Features like optional dungeons, side quests, and even a subtle karma system were mechanics would take years to become commonplace on consoles.
9 Metal Gear Solid
Hideo Kojima's first two Metal Gear games weren't big hits, and the second one only came out in Japan. He brought the series back when 3D gaming surfaced with Metal Gear Solid, and storytelling in games has never been the same since.
The story features fully voiced cut scenes that explore a deep narrative taking place in an ever so slightly different world than ours. The story would be nothing without gameplay, though, and MGS fully delivers in that department too. The level design is linear, but there are numerous ways to approach a situation.
8 Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 perfected the 3D platformer, and it would be years before any game even came close to reaching its standard. Bad cameras, unresponsive controls, and muddy graphics plagued all other early games in the genre, but Super Mario 64 avoids these traps.
It was one of the two launch titles on the Nintendo 64, and arguably the best cartridge one could ever put into the machine. There were lots of great titles released for the system over its lifetime, but this remained one of the very best.
7 Dune II
Dune is one of the most influential science fiction novels ever written, which was turned into a less-than-stellar film.
The franchise, fortunately, had more luck in the gaming space with Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty. Real-time strategy existed beforehand, but Dune II established some of the conventions the genre still uses today.
The Driver series has been dormant for several years, but its first entry was really something special upon release. It offered four highly detailed maps, each of which could be fully explored from the comfort of an automobile.
This was two years before GTA III started the open-world gaming craze. Unfortunately, the series was not able to compete with Rockstar's flagship series. 2011's Driver: San Francisco is one of the highlights of the franchise. It's a great title, and worth people's attention.
5 Omikron: The Nomad Soul
In Omikron, death is not a game over. Instead, the character is reincarnated, taking control of an NPC. In today's day and age, developers still go for simple game over and restart screens, but Quantic Dream's 1999 title worked around this cliché.
Permadeath existed before, but this mechanic is even more creative. Plus, David Bowie did the music and voiced a character in the game. If that's not a glowing endorsement, we just don't know what is.
Before Half-Life, first-person shooters were thin excuses for players to slay monsters and demons. These games are still classics, of course, but the genre needed to evolve, and Half-Life heeded the call.
Not only does the game have a focus on narrative, but it tells its story without ever taking control away from the player or leaving the first-person viewpoint. It perfectly melds together gameplay and plot, making the two inseparable.
3 System Shock
System Shock is less of a first-person shooter and more of an action-adventure game. It focuses less on obliterating bad guys and more on advancing the plot and solving problems.
It offers a level of environmental interaction and character progression that other games couldn't touch at the time. Only in the next decade would games like Deus Ex and Bioshock reach this level of detail in their worlds.
2 Jurassic Park: Trespasser
This one is infamous for how wildly far it missed its mark. Trespasser had lofty ambitions and was the first game to use ragdoll physics. It took a hyper-realistic approach to the genre but ended up a frustrating mess.
Nothing worked right, and the controls were confusing. Still, its ideas were unlike anything else its contemporaries were doing, nor would other games attempt them for many years. That's something you've just got to admire. If earlier titles hadn't taken such creative risks, today's gaming landscape would look very different.
1 Alone In The Dark
Alone in the Dark was one of the first survival horror games. Not only that, but it also pioneered the use of 3D character models against 2D backdrops, a technique many games utilized in the early 3D era.
The graphics are quaint now, but sitting in front of a keyboard late at night with this more than twenty-five-year-old game will still scare the bravest of souls. You have to wonder where genre mainstays like Resident Evil would be without this one, or if they'd even exist today at all.