The '90s were the most magical time in gaming. At least that's what you'll hear anything who owned a Nintendo 64 or an original PlayStation say. They'll then regale you with tales of their epic sleepovers involving four controllers and a copy of GoldenEye 007 or Mario Kart 64. If they're a Sony fan, they'll lament why Crash Bandicoot hasn't gotten a new game despite defining their childhood. That's the running thought behind most fans of '90s gaming, really. "This game literally was my childhood!"
Despite being the bedrock of so many childhoods, the '90s can only ever fade away. Blockbuster could never compete with Netflix. Toys "R" Us fell victim to corporate woes as well as the rise of more convenient services like Amazon. The harsh truth is that the world will move on, whether we like it or not.
Yet somehow, '90s gaming just won't go away. Shaq Fu, one of the worst games of all time, got a sequel because of nostalgia. Nintendo packaged 20-year-old games in mini form and charged $80 for it. It sold like hotcakes. Despite advancements like online multiplayer, virtual reality, and video games literally on our phones, gamers can't let the '90s go. So let's take a good hard look at the classic games from that time period. It was an age of wonky controls, blocky characters, and bugs galore. Here are 12 of your favorite games that aren't as good as you remember, and their superior modern-age equivalents. It's time to embrace the future, because the '90s sure as heck aren't coming back.
24 You Probably Forgot How Many Bugs This Game Has
Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue launched a global phenomenon, making Pikachu a household name. They also created a new sub-genre in the creature-collecting RPG. Countless franchises have tried to copy Pokémon to varying degrees of success, but Pikachu remains king. Funny then, that the original games are kind of a mess. Glitches and bugs are well documented, some minor and some game-breaking. Reviewers at the time even pointed them out, knocking some points off the final review score. Imagine that happening in an era where IGN still gets mocked for giving a Pokémon game a 7.8/10. While the concept's freshness and imagination cannot be denied, the packaging certainly needed work.
23 The Least Popular Gen Had The Best Story
Since Pokémon's core mechanics are so rock-solid, every sequel has only ever needed to build on them. This allows every game to be greater than the last. And yet, fans love to compare everything to the original as though the '90s were peak Pokémon. In truth, the originals were outdone several times over. Take Pokémon Black, White, Black 2, and White 2. The fifth-gen introduced a slew of much-needed Pokémon, in particular adding to the Dark-type that desperately needed a buff. Gen five also had the series' most compelling story, questioning the morality of capturing Pokémon and making the world feel like a place where people lived. And there were less glitches!
22 This Was An Amazing...Foundation For Better Games
The game that launched the Nintendo 64 was also Mario's first foray into the 3D plane. Super Mario 64 is beloved for its imaginative worlds, unique take on power-ups, and iconic soundtrack.
The music probably started playing in your mind as soon as you looked at this picture of Bob-omb Battlefield.
But just like any initial display of new technology, Mario 64 had kinks to work out. The camera was the biggest one. C-button camera controls were the best they could do at the time. Unfortunately, they simply didn't allow for fluid perspective. This often clashed with the precision required of Mario-style platforming.
21 Hats Off To This Masterpiece
Fast-forward to 2017, and video cameras have gotten a lot better. However, Mario Odyssey doesn't just beat Mario 64 because it has modern advancements on its side.
It just uses its world better.
The 3D parts of this game are more assured, making excellent use of the new ability to possess enemies with Mario's magical cap. With enemies fast, slow, and made of steel, the gameplay switches at the (literal) drop of a hat. Another piece of clever design also puts in throwback sections that have Mario turn into his pixelated 2D self. These make for another bit of fun, unique platforming. Unlike its predecessor, Mario Odyssey takes full advantage of the space it creates.
20 The Game That Started It All
When Fallout 76 was announced, there was some backlash from fans of the series. They wanted a solo RPG, not an MMO. Yet longtime fans of Fallout were quick to remind their fellows that the series had already lost a part of itself before. Fallout and Fallout 2 were turn-based isometric games, with none of the FPS elements gamers recognize from the series' current entries. If modern Fallout already ruined the series, what could 76 really do? But were the classic Fallouts really that great? Depends on your preference. For one, turn-based is always an iffy prospect. It works great in some games but can also bog pacing down. Fallout 2 was also known for having quite a few bugs, so really nothing's changed.
19 The Game That Made It Better
The switch to the first-person perspective has always been a divisive topic among Fallout fans. While some still mourn the more strategic elements of old Fallout, others argue that becoming the character creates more immersion. Immersion does seem to be Bethesda's goal recently. The worlds it creates in Fallout and Elder Scrolls has always been deep, but advancements in technology really let players go deeper. Fallout 4 even became VR compatible, making it a more interactive experience than anything that came before. And that interactivity is welcome, because Fallout 4 really fleshed out its setting and let players create their own story in a way no previous Fallout ever has.
18 You Can't Say The Name Without Hearing The Song
Mortal Kombat is an example of controversy generating sales. Were it not for the content that shocked people of its time, the game might not have become such an iconic franchise. That's not to say the original Mortal Kombat is bad, it's just lacking compared to its more technical rival Street Fighter. However, it didn't need gameplay to make headlines for its defining feature, Fatalities, as well as its general imagery. This spawned a lot of the "video games are corrupting our youth" talk that plagues the industry even today. As if to add to that momentum, the Super Nintendo version was censored in comical ways to make it more "family friendly." This gave Mortal Kombat a place in gaming history, even if other fighting games were better.
17 Adding Batman Makes It Automatically Better
In today's world, the violence of Mortal Kombat isn't even close to headline-worthy. You see worse stuff on most HBO shows. With shock no longer a selling point, the developers have focused on making a solid fighter. One that was good enough to earn them the rights to a classic license. The Injustice series takes the classic "What if superheroes fought each other?" question and uses Mortal Kombat's fighting system to answer it. But since the combatants are now sentries of justice, brutal violence takes a backseat to balanced fighting. After all, developers have to put in a lot of work to create a fighting game where Superman feels strong but doesn't dominate. The Fatalities are also gone, with flashy superpowers in their place.
16 The Legend Of Zelda: Overrated Of Time
Now let's get one thing straight: calling these games overrated doesn't mean they're bad. It just means that nostalgia often clouds people's minds when it comes to talking about them. Ocarina Of Time is a prime example of this. Even today, the game's interesting world and colorful characters inspire fans in a way that the following Zelda games have to callback to them just to seem relevant.
It's the mechanics that aren't as good as you remember.
Z-targeting set the standard for what modern game cameras have become, but it is a rather limiting system. Combat doesn't quite flow in the N64 Zelda games, to the point that replays can be frustrating.
15 Link Can Climb! He Can Fight!
Say what you will about how often weapons break, but Breath Of The Wild's combat reaches heights other Zelda games can only dream of. Anything can be a weapon. Aside from the addition of lances and axes as main weapons, creative players have found ways to turn boxes, boulders, and even the enemies themselves into tools of destruction. It's this freedom that makes Breath Of The Wild the best Zelda game by far.
You can go anywhere and do pretty much anything, even things you think would break the game.
Ocarina, by comparison, flirted with the idea of exploration but kept to a fairly linear path. It's an iconic game, but one that doesn't stack up to the advancements of 21st century gaming.
14 It Didn't Quite Stay On Target
With EA making quite a bad name for itself lately, you'll often hear cries from Star Wars fans who want to return to the good old days. The days when LucasArts made its own Star Wars games. Games like Tie Fighter. This game is singular for offering a rather unique take in that you play as an Imperial pilot. It's also praised for offering some of the best spaceship flying in all of gaming. While the game was certainly awesome, the rest is hyperbole. The missions got repetitive by the end, with the dogfights only offering so much fun. As for the unique story? It will certainly please Thrawn fans but really doesn't go that deep into the plight of the Imperial soldier.
13 Say What You Will About Loot Boxes, The Ship Gameplay Is Amazing
Yes, I'm actually praising EA's Battlefront II. For all of the controversy that bogged down the game's launch, the gameplay itself is sharp. The space battles are a particular highlight. Dogfights vary based on which ship you choose, from the powerful but slow bombers to the speedy interceptors. This adds a layer of thought and requires piloting skill that Tie Fighter simply didn't. And of course, multiplayer space battles add a new element of tension and excitement that the older games could never match. While the story in this one also tries and fails to make an Imperial trooper sympathetic, it more than makes up for it by delivering truly epic Star Wars battles.
12 Go Ahead, Pretend The Controls Aren't Terrible
There's a running theme with the games on this list. For many people that grew up in the '90s, the Nintendo 64, Game Boy, or PlayStation was their first video game console. So the games of these consoles were the bedrock of many "firsts." Ocarina of Time was their first Zelda game. Goldeneye was their first FPS. And Mario Kart 64 was their first racing game. As such, these games are the standard to which all future games are held. And that's the problem. Mario Kart 64 has some very wonky controls. Just turning a corner makes for a wild ride, and not in a good way.
11 Tight Controls And Options Galore
With each new Mario Kart game, the controls get tighter and tighter. Unless you play with tilt controls, because then you're either a lunatic or a meme. Still, it's fun that an option for motion-controlled steering even exists. That's the exact appeal the newer Mario Karts have over 64: options. There's all kinds of crazy karts you can customize to drive according to your style, and even motorcycles! Link, the Animal Crossing villagers, and Splatoon Inklings are all a part of the roster now! There's also online multiplayer! The sheer amount of content in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, not to mention the addition of Switch portability, make it a better game than 64 ever could be. And you can actually steer correctly.
10 This One Was Innovate...For Its Time
System Shock 2 is one of those games that seems flawless, even when held by today's standards. Its blend of tight shooting mechanics, RPG-esque progression, and tense horror setting achieved a genre mashup that many games struggle with to this day. Look at retrospectives about SS 2 and you'll find frequent use of the phrases "ahead of its time" and "Game Of The Year." Yet even a so-called defining game has its flaws. For one, the weapon degradation system.
Ammo is limited, weapons wear down and break, and the enemy creatures respawn constantly.
This combination was designed to create tension, but just sort of made exploration a chore. A developer on the game even admitted that the weapon degrading got out of hand.
9 Adding Scary Scuba Divers Made It Twice As Good
System Shock 2 was so successful that Ken Levine and his team decided to do it again. BioShock had the creepy story told through audio logs, blend of horror and RPG elements, and weird superpowers. The only real difference was that it was underwater instead of in space. Oh, and the resources were much better managed.
There's none of the weapon damage that made System Shock 2 more tedious than tense.
Ammo is still fairly limited, but vending machines scattered throughout Rapture help alleviate this. The tension is intact, however, as frequent challenging battles make it so you never feel like you're too powerful. No matter how upgraded you are, a Big Daddy charging at you is still one of gaming's most terrifying sights.
8 Yes, We Know You Spent So Many Hours During Sleepovers On This
Ask any '90s kid what video games defined their childhood, and you're likely to get one of a handful of answers. Specify multiplayer, and it narrows down to two games: Mario Kart 64 and GoldenEye 007. Thanks to the James Bond license and fun multiplayer modes, GoldenEye made fantastic sales. The majority of Nintendo 64 consoles in the West had GoldenEye either inside or sitting nearby in a stack of games. As a result, most kids had their first FPS experience with GoldenEye. However, the experience is not as perfect as you remember. The N64 controller, with its lack of dual joysticks, was a clumsy way to play a first-person shooter. And don't even get me started with how Oddjob ruins the game.
7 Motion Controls Can Make It Better
GoldenEye got a remake on the Wii, and was actually better for it. Daniel Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan as the Bond likeness in the remake, which was jarring. But Bonds are like pizza toppings, it's really just a matter of preference. As for the gameplay, the Wii version offered motion controls. While motion controls immediately make some people scream in passionate defiance, they do work a lot of the time. GoldenEye is one such example. At the very least, aiming with a Wii remote is a lot better than aiming with a Nintendo 64 controller. And for joystick purists, the Wii version also supported the classic controller. Overall, GoldenEye for Wii was an upgrade even if it didn't care to respect nostalgia.
6 Not The Final Fantasy
Lightning gave him some competition with her modeling stint for Luis Vuitton, is seen as THE Final Fantasy. It's to the point where Cloud is basically the mascot of the franchise despite appearing in about as many flagship games as anyone else. but Cloud still got chosen for Smash Bros. So what is it about FF VII that makes it so iconic? The story and characters were certainly memorable. We already spoke to Cloud's mascot status, but Aerith's fate is still one of a gamer's most tragic memories. The gameplay was also solid, mixing traditional turn-based RPG battles with a huge world to explore. But that's also its greatest weakness. FF VII is very much a standard JRPG.
5 They Promise Active Combat Won't Be Bad
Final Fantasy XV, meanwhile, took pains to bring the series into the modern era. Gone are the traditional turn-based battles, and in their place is action-packed real-time combat. Cue fan complaints that active combat goes against what Final Fantasy is, but turn-based battles have honestly been stale for years. The story of FF XV has just as much character as any previous entry. The bromance between the main squad is expertly balanced against the epic tale of a kingdom on the brink of destruction. Like FF VII before it, it seamlessly blends fantasy elements with a technological aesthetic. But it's backed by streamlined modern gameplay elements. Overall, Final Fantasy XV provides a more complete package.
4 First But Not Best
Once upon a time, Sonic the Hedgehog was a name that could rival Mario as the mascot of gaming. Nowadays, he's known more as a meme and cartoon character than a gaming icon. That's because Sonic's games have gotten bad, to the point where they're actually more known for their soundtracks than the actual gameplay.
With how far Sonic fell from grace, you'd think the original Genesis game must be a masterpiece.
That is not so. While the speeds it achieved were notable for its time, they also prevented players from really enjoying the scenery. Although the scenery is not the best either. For how often it gets recycled, Green Hill Zone is a pretty standard starting level. Newer Sonic games have delivered much more interesting environments.
3 Now That Processing Can Really Blast!
I could say that the 3D Sonic games are better than the 2D classics, but I think I enjoy using social media without being harassed. So instead I'll point you to Sonic Mania. The visual style of Sonic Mania deliberately calls back to the pixelated days of yore.
But with modern hardware, those environments can hold more detail.
As for the speed problem, that's alleviated with the addition of Tails and Knuckles as playable characters. You can still blaze by as Sonic, but you can also take some time as Tails to fly around and pick the level apart for secrets. Sonic Mania brings the charm of old Sonic with the variety of new Sonic, and is better for it.
2 Geno Wasn't Even That Cool
Unique for its time, Super Mario RPG did the unthinkable. It combined Mario's world with classic RPG elements from the makers of Final Fantasy. Colorful lands and characters met turn-based battles. There was actually a story, one that went beyond the usual "Bowser kidnaps Peach" plot. This story is one of the things fans praise the most, particularly the way it introduced new characters that weren't the usual Mario fare. Geno is one such addition, one that fans went crazy for. I...never understood the love for Geno.
1 Surprisingly Heartfelt For A Mario Game
The GameCube's Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is honestly one of the greatest games Nintendo has ever produced.
Like Super Mario RPG before it, it gives the Mario world a unique twist and an actual story.
Unlike Super Mario RPG, that story is filled with lovable characters that could actually make a comeback in future games (Geno is the property of Square Enix making him a tougher case). Paper Mario's battle system also smartly blends turn-based RPG fighting with action prompts to sustain that Mario feel. Super Mario RPG attempted a similar blend, but Paper Mario's version is more responsive and therefore rewarding. To put it simply, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the funniest, heartfelt, and fun Mario RPG on the market.