Being a 90s kid, video-games constituted a sizable portion of my childhood. Here I’m simply listing a few titles (in random order) that left an impression in most of us video-game junkies back in the days.
- MAX PAYNE (PC)
When this third-person shooter released back in 2001, it became an instant rage. It presented us with the story of a broken hero, on a rampage, killing pretty much every bad guy in sight. The technicalities, especially the bullet-time feature, were excellent for a game of that period and the noir-styled journey through NYC’s criminal underworld was met with rave reviews. I should say there were nights when I would simply lay in bed pondering upon whether a real life Max Payne was actually living out there. The ending of the first game provided a lot of matter to chew on. I would even conjure up storylines in my head on how Max’s journey would progress. And then came Max Payne 2, in 2003, which took the excitement to an altogether different pedestal, with the addition of a romantic angle. However, the game performed poorly in terms of sales unlike its predecessor. Written by Sam Lake and voiced by James Mcaffrey, this series will have its own special place in my memory. Max Payne 3 (written by Dan Houser) was a brilliant take, however, compromised the noir style and remodeled itself like an 80s style actioner, but with enhanced gameplay features.
2. GRAND THEFT AUTO 3 (PC)
90s kids were introduced to the sandbox-styled gameplay in GTA 3. The open-world perspective was met with overwhelming critical acclaim and brought many a gaming studio to take up expensive projects involving sandbox-styled gameplay. What made GTA stand out from other games of its era, were the facts that you could roam about the city, take up missions at will, and each action having a consequence. There were days where I would simply roam around the city, running people over, beating them up with a baseball bat and stealing their money, to the point of getting busted by cops multiple number of times or wasted while falling off tall buildings or attempting some inane stunt. The missions were equally fun as well, and gave us the feel of living like a rogue-turned-gangster in 1970s NYC.
3. COUNTER STRIKE (PC)
An average 90s kid would’ve spent a good few years indulging his night-outs playing Half-Life Counter Strike (atleast I know I did!) at gaming parlors or at friends’ houses. “Terrorists Win!” is a phrase that won’t be forgotten by my era for sure. Counter Strike took over multiplayer gaming world by storm on its arrival, and till date, there’s an enormous fan-base for this series. I, for one, am not a big fan of FPS, yet can assure that Counter Strike marked a massive step in the gaming revolution of the early 2000s. This particular game sparked a number of FPS titles in latter years.
4. SUPER MARIO BROS (NES)
Undoubtedly, this is the game pretty much all 90s kids spent most of their early years on. You would plug on the adapters and start off with it, as early as 7 in the morning, as there was no Save system attached to NES games. You have to go through levels 1-1 through 8-4 as you beat super-villain after super-villain just to finish the game. The last level was especially exhaustive and confusing, and you could reach the final BOSS villain only if you followed a set-pattern of ascent n’ descent. Forget kids, even parents have had a tough time playing Super Mario Bros. It may not be the greatest game of all time, but it most righteously takes up a spot in the Top 10.
5. CONTRA (NES)
This 1987 side -scroller from Konami was nothing short of tremendous. This title gave the simultaneous 2-player option and even the opportunity to flick ‘lives’ off the other player. LOL! The level designs were pretty varied and ranged from waterfalls to hangars to alien lair to oil rigs. The BOSS levels were pretty tough to beat as well. The characters were distinguished by the color of their pants. It gave rise to a number of spin-offs and sequels, with Contra Force being one of my favorites. The catchy BGM used to be the tune hummed during showers. This title has also been inspiration in the making of movie franchises such as The Expendables.
6. STREET FIGHTER II (ARCADE)
The 1990s witnessed a boom in fighting games. Major gaming developers went into inventing franchises pertaining to this genre, and Street Fighter II was an essential title in this particular era. The game brought multiple characters into picture, each with their unique looks, special moves, combos and distinctive fighting styles. This gaming franchise also resulted in the making of a few feature films, web-series, short-films and animated series. Ryu and Guile still remain some of my favorite video-game characters. Over the years, CAPCOM released sequels that were highly successful, especially Street Fighter IV.
7. MORTAL KOMBAT 4 (PC/ARCADE)
We all know how many keyboards we replaced back in the days, due to excessive Mortal Kombat-ing. In addition to the much-revered characters, the new ones were met with exceptional response. The combo-moves, along with the much celebrated ‘Fatalities’ were a rage amongst fighting-game enthusiasts during those times. The characters Quan Chi, Shinnok and Fujin were rendered superbly, while the hidden characters Goro and Noob Saibot simply added to the fun element. 2011 saw a revamp of the entire series with the release of Mortal Kombat, and led to the superb Mortal Kombat X (2015).
8. TOMB RAIDER (N-GAGE/PC/PS)
The wanderer / explorer within every gamer was unleashed with the introduction of Lara Croft. We took on Lara’s journey of retrieving her lost Scion artefacts with complete fervour. Many of the sequels were met with lukewarm response, but the franchise kept going successfully. Gamer dudes would consider Lara Croft their favorite female video-game character at some point of time. The reboot in 2013 was one of the greatest things in video-game history, and completely humanized the character of Lara Croft. The series also brought out a couple of sub-par action flicks with Angelina Jolie playing the titular character. Hollywood is planning on revamping the series with Alicia Vikander. Hopefully, this turns out to be the film fans have been waiting for.
9. PRINCE OF PERSIA (PC)
There would be very few people born in the 90s who haven’t played POP atleast once in their lives. I clearly remember the times when all the Cybernetics Club (in school) used to do was, take us to the Computer Lab, assign each of us a PC and let us play POP for two to three hours straight. Being a cinematic platformer, the game was designed in such a fashion that the jumps were difficult to execute. Also, the timer system made it sufficiently tough to move between levels. Nevertheless, we all spent a good amount of time trying to beat the game. We were seemingly drawn into the ancient Persian universe comprising of dungeons, lairs, towers, booby traps and doppelgangers. The 3D action reboot arrived in the form of ‘Sands of Time‘ in 2003, and was nothing short of exemplary.
10. ROADRASH (SEGA GENESIS/PC)
Is there anyone in this world born in the late 80s or early 90s who hasn’t played this game? Roadrash would usually come pre-loaded when you bought a new PC back in the late 90s or early 2000s, along with Dangerous Dave and Virtua Cop 2. The street-biking experience in this game was comparable to no other, back then. Kicking your fellow-rider or a cop, or even beating them up with a rod or maneuvering them to crash into a pole or incoming traffic were uninhibited joys. No 90s kid would be able to forget The Peninsula, Napa Valley, City, Sierra Nevada or Pacific Coast Highway.
11. NEED FOR SPEED UNDERGROUND & MOST WANTED (PC/PS2/XBOX)
For the first time in the NFS series, a career mode was established and a storyline was introduced in Need for Speed Underground (2003). It also applied the enhanced THX technology. A huge variety of customization and upgradation options were handed out to us, in the ‘garage’ mode. The underlying theme is Street Racing, but not on the Streets. It was a colossal success and spawned sequels, mostly proferring the style of the Fast n Furious films. We, as gamers, were mighty satisfied with the street-racing-at-home-experience. The inclusion of a hot female ally and a fierce villain only added to the oomph factor. Most Wanted took things to the next level, and included in-game cinematics, while the camera took up POV perspective of the player. The stylishly designed circuits and the customized cars were definite reasons to cheer about. While the races in Underground took place only at night, MW had races during the day. I have beaten both these games multiple number of times and would still play them, just for getting to rev up that Acura Integra Type R or BMW M3 GTR one more time.
12. HITMAN: CODENAME 47 (PC)
When you think of the words ‘stealth’ or ‘assassin’, Hitman is the first game that comes to the mind of a 90s gamer kid. Hitman gave us the opportunity to get into the role of an assassin who would take down wealthy businessmen or criminals by way of stealth or other reinforced methods of murder. The sequels were way more intense in terms of action as well as storyline, with Blood Money being the best of the lot. Along with Splinter Cell, Hitman occupies an important position in revolutionizing stealth games.
13. THE THING (PC)
The Thing (2002) is set as a sequel to John Carpenter‘s 1982 movie of the same name. The game boasts of an exciting plot (but with a very lukewarm climax), taking place after the events of the film. The horrors endured by the titular character Capt. J F Blake gradually tend to grow on the gamer as well. The fear/trust system was an impressive feature which added to the already tension-filled levels. The boss-battles were extremely difficult to beat. Oh, not to forget the cameo at the very end from Kurt Russell’s character in the film – R J MacReady. If you happen to have played this game alone at night back when you were little, you’re bound to have had nightmares.
P.S: The ardent gamer would know that these are not the only titles that made a great impact in the 90s and 2000s. Listing all of them would be a gargantuan task. Hence I’ve limited to mentioning just 13 titles. Other significant titles that were supposed to be included in the list (but not necessarily from the early 90s or 2000s) would be Red Dead Redemption, Batman Arkham City, GTA Vice City & San Andreas, Uncharted series, Mafia & Mafia 2, The Last of Us, and Call of Duty Modern Warfare.
P.P.S (Disclaimer): This list is purely a generalized view on gaming. I might have omitted Strategy or FPS Shooter titles, because they APPARENTLY aren’t my forte. Hence, fans of Far Cry, Deus Ex, Crysis or Warcraft need not worry about trolling me. Cheers! 😀