The 90s—a time when music, movies, and video games all hit their respective primes, or so we always say. The case for music is a strong one for sure, especially when you're toting around greats like Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, and unironically, the Backstreet Boys (because "I Want it That Way" will forever be a banger). And when it comes to movies, it's pretty tough beating Spielberg's trifecta of Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan (we're all trying our best to forget Hook).
But what about video games? Well, any 90s kid will probably tell you... "N64! PlayStation! Rare! Oh my!" It truly was a groundbreaking decade for games, yet when you look back on the stand out games of the 90s they seem to be missing that glisten that we all remember.
You know, maybe the graphics are unbearably ugly when compared to today, or it just could be that some of these supposed masterpieces weren't as good as we remember. Nostalgia is a heck-of-a substance and more often than not it clouds our judgment, especially when it comes to our childhood.
The '90s is perhaps the biggest culprit of nostalgia blindness—nope, you're not remembering The Matrix wrong, that's really how ugly those special effects were back then, and yes, Super Mario 64 really did look that blocky. Time to unveil the rose-colored nostalgia glasses from our eyes and reevaluate the best games from the '90s. What was really good? And what was really just an overrated game, that was maybe just fun for the decade it released in. Well, guess it's time to find out.
30 Overrated: Sonic The Hedgehog
For being one of the premiere mascots in gaming, our cheeky-blue hedgehog friend has a pretty bad track record when it comes to his games. Even before it was popular to trash the bad 3D games of the 2000s, Sonic games were also pretty spotty when it came to the originals.
Sure, the first game wasn’t bad, but it was practically outdone in every way when it came to its sequel. The second time around, the levels were significantly improved, Sonic could actually be controlled, and the soundtrack still bops to this day.
29 Worth A Second Look: Diddy Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing split the Nintendo racing fanboys into three groups—those that preferred Mario Kart, those that preferred Diddy Kong Racing, and the few that were cool with both. Sorry, that probably felt a bit anticlimactic, but at the time this debate felt important.
Ironic, ain’t it, that many blamed Diddy Kong Racing for Mario Kart only for Mario Kart to copy Diddy Kong Racing years later. Diddy Kong Racing was way ahead of its time with offering three ways to race being, air, water, and ground—now Mario Kart’s playing catch up.
28 Overrated: Banjo Kazooie
Yeah, we’re going to step on some toes early and get a few of these hot takes out of the way—this one being Rare’s crown jewel, Banjo Kazooie. Back in its heyday, Banjo Kazooie was the Michael Jackson of games.
And this game deserves the praise it still gets today, because it was one of the standouts of the ’90s. But it’s overrated—for one, it helped create a genre that went nowhere (and it destroyed that genre if we’re being honest), and the game has a very hard time holding up today (just look at sales of Rare Replay).
27 Worth A Second Look: Battletoads
Banjo Kazooie might be worthy of Rare’s crown, if just for popularity alone, but Battletoads has always been a game that has challenged that throne. You’ve probably seen the jokes and the memes, but Battletoads was the Dark Souls of its era, and yes, that meant a lot of broken controllers.
Sure, the game was challenging, but far from impossible. This is much like its fellow friend, Dark Souls. A formula like this offered something truly great for the tired beat 'em up genre.
26 Overrated: Mario Golf 64
Golf isn’t the most entertaining sport in the world, especially if you’re the type that doesn’t own a fleet of convertibles. Sure, there were golf games before Mario Golf, but Mario Golf was one of the first to make the sport fun, at least in the gaming world.
The idea was amazing: make a golf game and cast Mario and his friends to star in it. The only problem is, it’s still golf at the end of the day, and this series didn’t really stand out until it made it onto the GameCube.
25 Worth A Second Look: Lion King
We live in the days of bad movie to game adaptations, and vice versa. Transformers games? Flop. Harry Potter? Straight garbage. And don’t ever mention that E.T. game to your dad or you’re sure to hear a rather heated rant.
But out of all the trash stands one company, one that especially shined in the ’90s: Disney. Sure, they’ve just become money hungry with their infinity line, but in the ’90s Disney was on fire. Lion King is probably one of the best platformers from the decade and boasts one awesome soundtrack.
24 Overrated: Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Here’s how you ruin an amazing run of games: you do it by overhyping the heck out of a compilation that brings nothing new to the table. Yeah, this one’s going to feel a little nitpicky to many of you who aren’t fans of the popular fighting franchise, but this was one of the first instances of a company milking their game.
The game packaged all three original games and promised to add several new features for fans that already owned all three titles. Well, what we get here are empty promises and more ways for Midway to make money.
23 Worth A Second Look: Cadillacs And Dinosaurs
Beat 'em ups were a staple of the late ’80s and ’90s, so it quickly became a competition of how creative developers could get with the genre—enter Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.
The game’s a little before my time, so I don’t have much experience with it, but from one play you’ll see it’s a beat 'em up that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, making it all the better. This showed with its creative cast of characters and the enemies, which ranged from standard baddies to a hilarious assortment of dinos.
22 Overrated: Final Fantasy VII
HOLD ON! Before you aggressively type onto your keyboard, let’s talk this out. Okay, a little calmer? Nope? Well, we’re jumping into this anyway—Final Fantasy VII isn’t technically overrated, because it really is a masterpiece.
But the sheer volume of blind praise, especially due to its remaster and Cloud’s inclusion in Smash puts it in a really tough situation. Final Fantasy VII isn’t even the best game in the series (at least in my opinion) and it’s quite possible outshining a lot of other great games in the franchise. But, it’s still an amazing game. Rant over.
21 Worth A Second Look: Final Fantasy Tactics
Here’s an example of a Final Fantasy game we’d put above VII, along with V and a XIV: A Realm Reborn, but hey, who’s counting? Either way, Tactics might be one of the most underrated in the series, and for good reason.
The story has incredible depth for an RPG released in the ’90s, and don’t even get us started on that soundtrack! This game was overlooked particularly for its graphics which definitely paled in comparison to VII. Both games are amazing, but fundamentally Tactics gets the edge.
20 Overrated: Medal Of Honor
Innovation: it’s one of the biggest reasons that we at least attempt to look back at the Medal of Honor series in some sort of positive light. Well, that is, the people that have at least played the games, because ask anyone today and they likely have all but forgotten Medal of Honor.
Man oh man, did this game feel awesome at the time, and then we were introduced to two little games known as Halo and Call of Duty. Medal of Honor did its duty paving the way for these games, but its relevance is growing thinner and thinner.
19 Worth A Second Look: Smash TV
“Big Money. Big Prizes. I Love It.” You might be confused, but these were the soundbytes that you’d find my dad and I echoing as we fought off waves of enemies in Smash TV.
Smash TV puts you in the shoes of two game show competitors, except on this show you’re fighting for your life. It plays like the Binding of Isaac in terms of combat, and the bosses are too hilarious for words. Plus, your ultimate goal is to collect more money, cars, and prizes than your friend by the end—still holds up today.
18 Overrated: Grand Theft Auto
The first Grand Theft Auto made a lot of buzz when it initially dropped, but that was more so for content over gameplay. And when it comes to making controversy in the media this wasn’t even one of the biggest entries to make a splash.
It's another example of a game that doesn’t hold up at all today and truthfully wasn’t even all that good when it came out. The roads were being paved for future entries with this game, but this is one that you should save your time and choose not to revisit.
17 Worth A Second Look: Grand Theft Auto: London 1969
Here we have the strongest candidate for being the best of the GTA top-down games, and it’s likely one you might not have even heard of. GTA: London 1969 was a mission pack for the original Grand Theft Auto, but it was fully fleshed out enough that it was considered to be an entry worth ranking amongst other GTA games.
Thankfully, the bad controls were improved, and they gave the game it’s own little flair, turning “You’re Wasted” into “You’re Brown Bread” or “You’re Knicked.”
16 Overrated: Sonic CD
Another example of a game that is pretty good, and seriously worth your time, especially if you're a Sonic fan. But this game is regarded as the best Sonic game across everything, and to that, we say: “NO. Nope, never, never in a million years. Absolutely not.”
The game’s level design is very poor compared to other 2D Sonic games, and it’s got one of the weaker soundtracks, and yes, that’s extremely important in this franchise. Where did all the hype come from regarding this game? Because it’s good, but far from great.
15 Worth A Second Look: Fallout 2
When you talk about great writing in a video game, you’re not having the write conversation unless you’re bringing up Fallout 2. Unfortunately, the game is a bit buggy, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best in the franchise.
The locations are some of the best in the series, and you get to do some seriously insane things like talk to Deathclaws and explore San Francisco. Plus, this game is really dark; like, you really get to understand that juxtaposition between that upbeat 50s music and the bleak atmosphere. In short, this is a masterpiece.
14 Overrated: Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger is a role-playing game that defined the genre during the 90s, and more and more fans are watching the game fall to time. Because at the time, Chrono Trigger was revolutionary, but today it’d be very easy to write off.
While the soundtrack might still bang, the gameplay is ridiculously easy, the characters are pretty one-dimensional, and the story falls flat. Not the words you want to describe what is supposed to be one of the best RPGs of all time—curse you, father time!
13 Worth A Second Look: Blood
The 90s offered a lot of video game clones, and since the video game industry was still extremely young, it was pretty hard to mask the imitation. One game that was famous for being plagiarized was the original Doom.
Many clones failed to bring anything new to the table, that is until Blood came along; one of the best FPS games of the decade. In Blood, you play as Caleb, a man who is only interested in guts, and, unironically, blood. This is just a must-play if you like Doom or gross shooters.
12 Overrated: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
This one seems to pop up on overrated lists just for the shock value alone, but it really does deserve a spot on this list, even if it’s still a masterpiece. But just because it’s a masterpiece doesn’t mean it’s barred from criticism.
Yet another entry that isn’t truly overrated, but one that is constantly, and more often than not, blindly praised as being the GOAT of games. There isn’t much I can say about the game except for this important point—to me, it isn’t even the best Zelda game to come out of the ’90s *mic drop*.
11 Worth A Second Look: Aladdin
We’re going back to Disney for this one, and looking at their amazing streak of games to come out on the SNES. For some reason, Disney just figured out the formula for platformers back in the ’90s; they should really go back to it rather than milk parents' money over overpriced toys and games.
Regardless, Aladdin is another game that offers some top-notch platforming, even better than Lion King in some respects. If you’re a platformer junkie, or even a fan of Aladdin, then this is a must-play.
10 Overrated: Earthworm Jim
Platformers are a genre that has made great leaps since the ’90s. Even games that look like they were ripped straight out of the decade like Shovel Knight and Cuphead have dialed up this tired formula to an entirely new level.
Earthworm Jim is just one of those platformers that screams the 90s. And unlike Aladdin or Sonic 2, that isn’t a good way. The game feels needlessly difficult in some places, and while it does have a cute aesthetic, it just doesn’t feel as fun compared to its counterparts.
9 Worth A Second Look: Spyro The Dragon
Insomniac Games, the studio famous for Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive, and more recently, Spider-Man PS4, really broke onto the scene back in 1998 with Spyro the Dragon. While some might argue that these games aren’t underrated with their remasters recently released, we’d argue that without those this franchise would’ve been all but forgotten.
Thankfully, this series is still on the minds of someone out there, because it was crazy ahead of its time with gameplay, graphics, and a soundtrack that easily hold up today. But we’ll still take those remasters (ASAP, please).
8 Overrated: Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!
Rarely is the third entry in a franchise ever overrated, but Rare’s eclectic library is definitely an exception. Rare’s hype was so strong back in the ’90s that it was easy for any of their games to get blown out of proportion.
While the first two Donkey Kong Country games were amazing, the third is where the series begins to trip a bit. The levels are still quality, and the soundtrack is golden, but leaving Donkey Kong and Diddy behind for Baby and Dixie still hurts to this day. Still a good game, just the worst in the series.
7 Worth A Second Look: WWF Attitude
WWE games might have a somewhat spotty track record today, but they were initially pushed into the forefront with WWF Attitude. Plus, it still sported the old WWE name, and of course, that means including some of the best wrestlers to ever do it.
This is a game that surely wears a ton of its influences on its sleeves, but it brings it all together to become one of the best wrestling games at the time. It doesn’t hold up as well as we’d like, but it’s still a really great game.
6 Overrated: Pokémon Red And Blue
Oh boy, here come the Gen 1 fanboys. Don’t get us wrong, without Gen 1 we wouldn’t have all this Pokémon goodness that we have today. But Red and Blue are just another example of games that have aged poorly and have been done better.
Granted they haven’t aged that badly compared to other games on this list, but the first Gen has been outdone by every Pokémon game since. Plus, it’s an amazing cast of Pokémon, but it can be argued that Gen 2 and 3 beat it almost immediately.
5 Worth A Second Look: Doom 64
Doom ruled the 90s—it was likely being addictively played in your uncle or dad’s dorm room while a crowd argued over who was going to play next. But when most people think of Doom, they rarely remember the hidden gem that was Doom 64.
This time the game was developed by Midway instead of id software, and you can tell the difference from the get-go. The game is much more brutal, believe-it-or-not, and looks like a revamped version of the original Doom; except with better-designed enemies and levels.
4 Overrated: GoldenEye 007
This is going to be a tough pill for some to swallow, but it isn’t the first time we tackled this subject. My reasons for thinking the game is overrated is one that we’ve reiterated over and over in this list: it hasn’t held up well.
This could quite possibly be the most innovative game on this list, but it hasn’t aged well compared to other innovators in the FPS genre. While games like the OG Halo or even early Call of Duty games like the second can be appreciated, it’s tough to enjoy 007 without those rose-tinted nostalgia glasses.
3 Worth A Second Look: Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
When it came to puzzle games in the ’90s, there was only one that people were willing to appreciate, and that was Tetris. Most puzzle games that weren’t Tetris didn’t bode too well, and that was especially true for the games that resembled it.
Dr. Mario, Puyo Puyo, and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine were some of the few to be overlooked in the ’90s because of their resemblance to Tetris. Most gravitate towards Puyo Puyo, but Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine was a personal favorite for the excellent sound design and graphics.
2 Overrated: Mario Kart 64
The hot takes need to go out with a bang, and that bang is Mario Kart 64. What to say, what to say.. well, this game ain’t as a great as everyone makes it out to be.
Mario Kart 64 is laughably dated now and somehow that’s become part of its appeal today; the fact that it’s so old that it can’t compare to the new games. Mario Kart on SNES is better. Mario Kart on Game Boy and DS is better. Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64? It might be one of the worst renditions of the series.
1 Worth A Second Look: Super Mario RPG
For every game Nintendo has that’s overrated, they have about 100 that are completely underappreciated—say hello to Super Mario RPG, perhaps the king of underrated Nintendo games.
Super Mario RPG is a masterpiece, and it’s honestly staggering how they were able to give characters of the Mushroom Kingdom so much depth. In a decade ruled by extensively detailed RPGs, it’s pretty awesome to think that a Mario game challenged this genre as well. Plus it opened the door for all those beautiful Paper Mario games.