Video games have come a long way since Atari/Pong in 1972. Even with the joy found in current tech and graphics, classic video games prompt some serious nostalgia.
Sometimes when we revisit the past, it’s just not the same. However, these video games from the 1990s have a special place in history.
If they were the games from your childhood, get ready for a trip down memory lane; if you’ve never heard of them or played them, here’s an education in awesome. With that said, it’s time to blow the dust out of the cartridges because we’re taking a trip down nostalgia lane.
Embark on a journey of endless fun and excitement with our list of 25 Classic 90s Video Games You Need to Play. Get ready to press play and relive the magic!
Donkey Kong 64 (1999)
What was really cool about this 3D game was the ability to use different characters with their unique talents to explore the world and collect various items. This game is perfect for collectors at heart.
Super Smash Bros (1999)
If it seems like Mario and his friends have done a bit of everything, you would be correct. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 90s that they joined the world of player vs player fighting in Super Smash Bros. Each arena had a unique design, each character a unique fighting power, making it another solid fighting game to enjoy.
Golden Eye 007 (1997)
In 1995, the James Bond movie, GoldenEye was released, and with the popularity of the movie, a video game was born. It was an excellent game for anyone wanting to explore their inner intelligence agent and fight against criminal overlords.
Gran Turismo (1997)
No modern-day arcade would be complete without a racing game or five. You can partially thank this video game for that. While Gran Turismo wasn’t the first racing video game, it certainly shot the racing-simulator genre forward, paving the way for other popular racing games.
Crash Bandicoot (1996)
How would you like to play a genetically modified bandicoot (think shrew-like, small mammal – I had to look it up, too) on a mission to defeat a mad scientist and save your girlfriend? What if I tell you that at one point you get to ride a wild boar?
Ah, Diablo…the game LAN parties were made of. Grab your questionably-safe energy drinks and settle in for hours of hacking, slashing, and looting on your quest to defeat Al’Diabolos (aka Diablo). This came quickly developed a cult following that continues to this day, with the release of Diablo 4 approaching in June 2023.
Tomb Raider (1996)
Tomb Raider was one of the first video games to feature a female protagonist, in the form of archeologist Lara Croft. Not only was she an adventurer, she was also an adept fighter and puzzle-solver. There have been several sequels and 3 movies.
Mario Kart 64 (1996)
If you love the world of Mario, racing, and 3D graphics, this game has all of those things. This super fun racing game allowed you to lob turtle shells, banana peels, and other weapons at your opponents all set to the colorful world of Super Mario. It was the perfect addition to the already amazing franchise.
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994)
This real-time strategy (RTS) game first released for MS-DOS and spurred quite the franchise. In this original Warcraft game, players chose to be human inhabitants of a place called Azeroth or the invading Orcs. There was both single and multi-player settings, each with different objectives. The versatile gameplay and cohesive storyline made the game popular among many gamers.
Earthworm Jim (1994)
Imagine…you are an earthworm. Not just any earthworm, but a spacesuit wearing, gun-wielding earthworm on a mission to save Princess What’s-Her-Name. Now imagine you can also use your earthworm head to whip enemies. It may seem like a late-night junk food-fueled dream, but I can assure you, it’s just a video game.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (1999)
Tony Hawk is such an iconic skater, so it only makes sense that he has his own video game. Gamers were able to hang ten and pull off some sick moves, all set to a playlist worthy of any skater. What’s not to love about completing a Backside 180 in a school courtyard while the Suicide Machines rock out in your headphones?
Scientists can be video game heroes, too!
In this first-person shooter game, exclusive to your PC, you play Gordon Freeman on a quest to survive evil alien invaders.
Half-Life won several awards due to its graphics, storyline, and gameplay.
Final Fantasy VII (1997)
This classic Sony PlayStation game is known for its cutting edge graphics, intricate and captivating storyline, challenging, turn-based battles, and a fascinating world to explore. You may enjoy playing the latest release of this game, but it’s totally worth playing the original.
Resident Evil (1996)
Many are familiar with the Resident Evil movies, but in case you didn’t know, the video game is an excellent way to explore that terrifying and shocking world. This game is perfect if you like psychology, horror, and mystery.
Super Mario 64 (1996)
When the Nintendo 64 game system came out in 1996, released with it were a few games we will never forget, like Super Mario 64.
Not only was this game 3D (a huge technological advancement), it was peppered with hidden secrets and bonuses, making it, just like the original, a great game to play over and over again.
Pokemon: Red, blue, and yellow (1996/98)
Long before smart phones or the Switch became the portable go-tos for games, the Nintendo Gameboy was host to Pokemon Red/Blue. This game hooked the hearts of millions, launching a world still very much loved and expanded on today. The ability to roll-play on this adventure with intense battles and enthralling creatures captivated gamers around the world.
In 1998, Pokemon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition was released, with game play starting out adapted to the TV show.
Beautiful graphics, mind-numbing puzzles. Not many players were able to make it through without the use of a guide, so if you are looking for a challenge, Myst will be right up your alley. Each solved puzzle allows you travel to other “Ages” to figure out each character’s backstory as not all characters are who you think they are.
FIFA International Soccer (1993)
We would be remiss to skip out on the advancement of sports video games in the 90s. While other sports had their time in the spotlight, it’s tough to beat the popularity of Soccer. Starting at the end of 1993 and continuing through the rest of the decade (and well beyond), EA came out with several games for soccer-lovers with progressively cutting-edge graphics.
Mortal Kombat (1992)
This game broke out on the scene surrounded by controversy, thanks to its violent graphics. This controversy, of course, made it an incredibly popular game. There have been several spin-offs, sequels, and a couple movies.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
Mix together some Sonic Speed, massive attitude, and colorful worldbuilding, and you’ve got the amazing Sonic the Hedgehog. This game is addictive, simple fun, and Sonic’s impatience and quick wit made it even more entertaining.
It’s worth noting here that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came out in 1992 as a follow up and introduced us to Tails. If you’re going to play the first one, you might as well play the second, too.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (1991)
It was hard to make it through the 90s without enjoying the pizza-loving TMNT. This hallmark franchise was made complete with metal lunchboxes and a totally gnarly video game. In this game, you play Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, or Raphael to save the city from the evil antics of Shredder.
The Legend of Zelda: A link to the past (1991)
After Zelda II: The Adventure of Link fell a little flat with fans, Nintendo back-tracked to expand on the first version of Legend of Zelda, which is what hooked fans in from the beginning. This game was known for its epic and well written adventures and detailed settings…forests, rivers, dungeons, magic potions…what more could your 90s-gamer heart desire?
Street Fighter II (1991)
This fighting game for the SNES introduced players to a multitude of characters, each with a special move or two (if you knew the controller codes) in addition to the basic kicks, punches, and blocks. It was one of the first player vs player games, and if you adjust for inflation, it still sits as a top grossing video game of all time.
Super Mario World (1990)
This game, released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), continued the adventures of Mario and Luigi on their quest to rescue Princess Peach. This game allowed players to complete levels in multiple ways and introduced the much-loved character of Yoshi.
Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
Kicking off this amazing decade was the Secret of Monkey Island. The open format allowed players to move through the island freely. However, it was a new form of gameplay as it also guided you through the game instead of letting you figure it out alone.
Want to discover more groundbreaking video games that changed the industry? Check out our list of 25 Best Video Games That Changed Everything!
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Before you race off to play, let us know what you think. Did this list bring back fond memories? Did any inspire you to hit up an old-school arcade?