The Greatest Years in Gaming History - 1990-99

The Greatest Years in Gaming History - 1990-99

With the games industry now spanning five decades, we thought we'd look back to see which year is gaming's most historically significant.

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The Greatest Years in Gaming History - 1990-1999

The 1990's saw significant evolutionary improvements both in games and the technology used to play them. Two years in particular stand out as highly notable – 1991 and 1997. These were the years that represented the peak periods of change – and were witness to some of the most memorable games of the decade.

YEAR: 1990

Important Software

F-Zero (SNES) Showcased the system's Mode 7 graphics.

Commander Keen (PC) Early shareware product. Popularized PC platform games.

Wing Commander (PC) First in the series.

Super Mario World (SNES) Significant sales - 20.6m. First appearance of Yoshi.

Notable Hardware

SNK Neo Geo Multi-Video System. A multi-game arcade system that became the basis of the Neo Geo AES console the following year.

Nintendo Super Famicom launched (Japan).

Sega Game Gear. Key launch titles include Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Super Monaco GP, and Columns.

Galoob Game Genie. A popular game cartridge modifying too.

Key Events

Companies founded this year: Eidos plc, Interactive Studios, Team17 Software Limited, Natsume Co., Ltd, Revolution Software.

YEAR: 1991

Important Software

Another World

Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis) Significant sales – 15m

Another World (Amiga) Benchmark game for seamlessly blending cutscenes and gameplay.

Sid Meier's Civilization (PC) First of the series.

Lemmings (Multi) First of the series. It's the most ported game of all time.

Tecmo Super Bowl

Tecmo Super Bowl (NES) The most consistently-played and hacked Nintendo game of all time.

Notable Hardware

Sega Mega CD (Japan). The CD-ROM add-on to the Mega Drive/Genesis goes on to sell almost 3m units –a 6.5% adoption rate.

Philips CD-I launched (Europe) A CD-ROM machine, its key launch games include Defender of the Crown, Battleship, and Connect Four.

Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II (Arcade) The biggest-grossing coin-op of the 90's established a fighting game format that remains largely unchanged today.

Time Traveler (Arcade) Novelty coin-op with "holographic gameplay." In reality it's QTE scenes projected onto a curved mirror.

Key Events

Super Nintendo Entertainment System launched (US)

YEAR: 1992

Important Software

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy) Significant sales – 11m

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis) Significant sales - 6m

Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy) First appearance of Kirby.

Dune II (PC) Sets the template for the modern real-time strategy genre.

Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D (PC) Very early first person shooter genre.

Super Mario Kart (SNES) First of the series.

Star Control II (PC) Landmark PC game.

Alone in the Dark (PC) Establishes horror-survival game mechanics.

Zool (Amiga) Best-selling game on Amiga.

Notable Hardware

Mortal Kombat (Arcade) Controversial and violent fighting game.

Key Events

Sega CD launched (US). One of its games, Night Trap, causes national controversy in the United States due to its perceived violence.

Activision (then called Mediagenic) files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

YEAR: 1993

Important Software

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country (SNES) Significant sales - 10m

Disney's Aladdin (Genesis, SNES) Significant sales - 4m

Myst (PC) Significant sales - 6m. Widely regarded to be the "killer app" for CD-ROM hardware. Helped drive its mass-market adoption. 6m

Star Fox

Star Fox (SNES) First of the series. Also, the first game to use the Super FX Chip

X-Wing (PC) Landmark Star Wars game.

Doom (PC) Set the template for the modern first-person shooter.

The 7th Guest (PC) Key CD-ROM game. Its broad-appeal gameplay helped drive gaming beyond its core audience.

Notable Hardware

3DO launched (US) American console notable for its excellent technology, high price, and low sales.

Virtua Fighter

Virtua Fighter (Arcade) Fighting games go 3D.

Atari Jaguar launched (US) The first "64-bit" console. The last US-made video game system until the Xbox.

NBA Jam Midway (Arcade) A new take on arcade sports games is a huge hit with gamers.

Key Events

Companies founded: nVidia Corporation, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.

YEAR: 1994

Important Software

System Shock

System Shock (PC) Landmark first-person action RPG.

Need for Speed (3DO) First game of the series. Becomes the most successful racing game franchise of all time.

Mortal Kombat 2 (SNES) Notable for having uncensored content, a turn-up for the books for usually-conservative Nintendo.

Warcraft (PC). First in the series. Landmark RTS.

Marathon (Mac) First in the series. Landmark FPS. Introduced the concept of freelook.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid (SNES) Seminal action adventure game. Distributed on a 24-megabit cartridge.

Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (PC) Notable for mixing full-motion video and space combat. Its budget of $4 million was far higher than most games of the period.

Notable Hardware

32X launched (US) Ill-fated Mega Drive/Genesis peripheral.

Playdia launched (Japan)

Sega Saturn launched (Japan)

PlayStation launched (Japan)

Neo Geo CD (Japan) home console

Key Events

Silicon & Synapse changes its name to Blizzard Entertainment.

Commodore goes out of business.

Companies founded: Neversoft Entertainment

YEAR: 1995

Important Software

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger (SNES) Seminal JRPG.

Earthbound (SNES) Conceptually advanced JRPG.

Command & Conquer (PC): Landmark RTS.

Rayman (PS1) First of the Series.

Notable Hardware

Atari Jaguar CD launched (US)

Nintendo Virtual Boy launched (Japan)

Key Events

Sega Saturn launched (US)

Sony PlayStation launched (US)

The first Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is held in Los Angeles, California

Companies founded: Interworld Productions, which is renamed Mythic Entertainment, BioWare.

YEAR: 1996

Important Software

Mario Kart 64

Mario Kart 64 (N64) Significant sales - 10m

Pokémon Red, Blue and Green (Game Boy) Significant sales –23.6m

Super Mario 64 (N64) Significant sales - 11.6m

Tomb Raider (Multi) Significant sales - 8m

Crash Bandicoot (PS1) Significant sales - 6.8m

Duke Nukem 3D (PC) Notable for being vaporware.

Super Mario RPG (SNES) First of the series.

Quake (PC) Notable FPS.

NGL2 Resident Evil

Resident Evil (PS1) Landmark horror-survival game.

Star Ocean (SNES) First of the series.

Wipeout XL 2097 (PS1) Landmark sci-fi racing game.

Bubsy 3D (PS1) Notable lesson in how not to execute a character-driven game.

Diablo (PC) Notable action-RPG dungeon crawler.

Notable Hardware

Nintendo 64 launched (US)

Nintendo Game Boy Pocket launched (US)

Key Events

Midway Games, Inc. acquires Atari Games Corp

Companies founded: Valve Corporation, Firaxis.

CUC International, Inc purchases Sierra On-Line, Blizzard Entertainment and Davidson & Associates.

Technos Japan Corporation, goes out of business. Assets acquired by Atlus Corporation.

YEAR: 1997

Important Software

Guitar Freaks (Arcade) Notable music/rhythm game.

GoldenEye 007 (N64) Significant sales - 8m

Gran Turismo (PS1) Significant sales - 11m

Final Fantasy VII (PS1) Significant sales - 9.7m

Tomb Raider II (multi) Significant sales -2 8m

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1) Notable Arcade adventure.

The Last Express (PC) Conceptually advanced realtime adventure game.

Star Wars: X-Wing vs TIE Fighter (PC) Notable space combat simulation.

Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1) Conceptually advanced turn-based strategy game.

Fallout PC First of the series.

Ultima Online (PC) First major MMORPG

Grand Theft Auto (PS1) First of the series.

PaRappa the Rapper (PS1) Innovative rhythm game.

Notable Hardware

Game com launched (US)

Key Events

Electronic Arts Inc. acquires Maxis

Companies founded: Crave Entertainment, Inc., Irrational Games LLC founded

YEAR: 1998

Important Software

Dance Dance Revolution

Dance Dance Revolution (Arcade) Innovative dance game.

Metal Gear Solid (PS1) Significant sales - 7m

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) Significant sales - 7.6m

Pokémon Yellow (Game Boy) Significant sales - 9m

Sonic Adventure (Saturn) Biggest-selling game on Saturn– 2.5m

Tekken 3 (PS1) Significant sales - 8.5m

Crash Bandicoot: Warped (PS1) Significant sales - 7m

StarCraft (PC) Significant sales - 11m

Unreal (PC) First of the series.

Banjo-Kazooie (N64) First of the series.

Spyro the Dragon (PS1) First appearance of Spyro.

Thief: The Dark Project (PC) First of the series.

Mario Party (N64) First of the series.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) Seminal arcade adventure.

Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus (PS1) First of the series.

Rogue Squadron (N64) The first Expansion Pak game.

Half-Life (PC) Landmark first-person shooter.

Notable Hardware

Sega Dreamcast launched (Japan)

Nintendo Game Boy Color launched (US)

Bandai WonderSwan launched (Japan)

Key Events

Sega Dreamcast launched (US)

Eidos Interactive acquires Crystal Dynamics.

Electronic Arts Inc. acquires Virgin Studio and Westwood Studios, Inc.

Companies founded: Rockstar Games.

Havas/Vivendi acquires Cendant Software, whose holdings include Sierra On-Line and Blizzard Entertainment

Square Co. and Electronic Arts form Square Electronic Arts LLC.

YEAR: 1999

Important Software


Shenmue (Dreamcast) Landmark storytelling action adventure game.

Pokémon Gold and Silver (GBC) Significant sales – 23m

Gran Turismo 2 (PS1) Significant sales - 9.3m

Final Fantasy VIII (PS1, PC) Significant sales - 8m

Unreal Tournament (PC) Notable multiplayer first-person shooter.

Medal of Honor (PC) First of the series.

Asheron's Call (PC) Early MMORPG.

Everquest (PC) Notable MMORPG.

Soulcalibur (DC) First of the series.

Silent Hill

Silent Hill (PS1) Conceptually advanced horror game.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (Multi) Landmark skateboarding game.

Pokémon Snap (GBC) Unusual execution of a first-person shooter concept.

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (PC) Landmark turn-based sci-fi strategy game.

Notable Hardware

Nintendo 64DD launched (Japan)

SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color launched (US)

Key Events

Sega Dreamcast launched (US)

Infogrames Entertainment, SA acquires Accolade, Gremlin Interactive, GT Interactive Software (GTIS), and Ozisoft

Activision acquires Elsinore Multimedia, Expert Software, and Neversoft Entertainment

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