We have compiled some of the best classic games from the 90s that every retro gaming fan should try, and also those nostalgic who want to remember the video games that marked their childhood or youth.
At the gaming level, the 90s had two generations: Super Nintendo (SNES) and Sega Mega Drive in the first five years, and the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64 in the second half. Sega Saturn was very little popular outside of Japan, for its part, arcades (arcade machines) in the 90s were still successful, but shortly after came their decline.
EmuOS, play classic games online and for free
Some of these classics from the 90s will require us to install a computer emulator and get a copy of the original games, but others are still available in digital or physical stores , which makes it easy to enjoy them in optimal conditions and in a 100% legal way.
We open the list with the version of Aladdin for Sega Mega Drive (on SNES it was a different game and not so good), a fun, frenetic platform with a very high quality animation , which at the time was surprising due to its fidelity with respect to the Disney movie.
In Spain and much of Latin America the Mega Drive was very popular (it was called Sega Genesis in other regions), and Aladdin is one of the classics of the first half of the 90s with which many millennials will relive their childhood in front of the console.
18 online games to play in the browser without installing anything
The best options to enjoy Aladdin after so long are the Steam version or the edition called Disney Classic Games on PS4, Xbox and Switch. In both it is accompanied by The Lion King (another excellent game from the same studio) and incorporates numerous improvements over the original.
Chrono Trigger is, for many, the best of the superb Japanese RPGs (JRPGs) released on the Super Nintendo. This classic among classics, the work of Square-Enix, was not officially released in Europe in its 1995 release, so it is a stranger to many.
Among those responsible are director Hinorobu Sakaguchi and composer Nobuo Uematsu , who later shaped some of the key games in the Final Fantasy series. The recognizable character design was the work of Akira Toriyama , the creator of Dragon Ball.
Chrono Trigger embarked us on an epic time travel adventure to save the world , and included innovative ideas for its time, such as various alternate endings or secondary missions for the different characters.
Currently, Chrono Trigger can be played on PC through Steam, or on Android and iOS mobiles , unfortunately it has not received a version for any current console (only Nintendo DS and Wii / Wii U).
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the best-rated classics in the series , and we’re talking about a franchise full of outstanding games. The hero Link must save Princess Zelda in an action role-playing game that surprised by including two versions of its wide setting: a world of light and a dark world .
Many of the mechanics from later Zelda games premiered in A Link to the Past, including the spinning attack, the grappling hook, the Master Sword, or the main theme song.
Using a 1MB cartridge (twice the normal size for SNES games) he was able to combine detailed graphics with large stages, and an excellent soundtrack by Koji Kondo.
Produced by Shigeru Miyamoto , it was released in 1991, and was relaunched on GameBoy Advance in 2003. Currently it can be played through a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online or if we own a Super NES Classic Mini.
Super Metroid is an ambitious example of “metroidvania” (the genre that he helped to coin), a 2D platformer where non-linear exploration is key , to obtain improvements that open up new areas. In Super Metroid new weapons and tools appear, many secret areas and the mix of action with adventure typical of the saga.
The massive 2MB cartridge made it possible to create some of the biggest scenarios on the SNES, including spectacular final bosses. On a plot level, we accompany space bounty hunter Samus Aran (one of the first female protagonists in video games) to the planet Zebes to rescue the last Metroid in the universe, an alien creature of great value.
Like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the best way to enjoy Super Metroid today is through Nintendo Switch Online, where it is included for free, or in the SNES Classic Mini if we were lucky enough to have Got a unit of this retro console sold between 2017 and 2018.
Earthworm Jim is a 2D platformer with shooter, minigames and a lot of humor. The protagonist is a worm who acquires super powers thanks to a robotic suit, and embarks on a quirky journey to rescue a princess.
Among the strengths of the Earthworm Jim we have a fresh gameplay , striking graphics in the style of cartoons of the time and fluid animations. It always appears among the best classic Sega Mega Drive games , although its high level of difficulty makes it not very accessible to current players.
Released in 1994, it received sequels and covers throughout the 1990s until the franchise fell apart. Today it can be played on PC from Steam and also through compilations, in addition to the retro Mega Drive Mini console that had it installed.
Comix Zone appeared in 1995, at the end of the life of Mega Drive, and is a “me against the neighborhood” for a fairly conventional player in the playable: the protagonist kicks and punches his way in a post-apocalyptic command against mutant creatures.
However, on an artistic level it is dazzling to simulate that we are advancing through the vignettes of a comic , with characters based on sprites of enormous size (at the cost of reducing the enemies that appear at the same time on the screen).
It is not one of the best-known games of the 90s, however it is well worth a look. The options are many, including versions for Android and iOS, computers and Xbox. It has also appeared in several Mega Drive compilations and even reproductions of the original cartridge are sold.
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country wowed gamers in 1994 with its attractive 3D designs: although it was a standard 2D platformer, the graphics were created by computer and translated into pre-rendered sprites , a surprising and very expensive technique at the time.
In the game we control Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy , we can also ride other jungle animals such as rhinos to advance through the levels, at the end of each world we will find a final enemy.
Rare took the SNES to one of its technical ceilings with this title , which is currently difficult to enjoy in its original version outside of emulators, since the only relatively modern platform that includes it is the already discontinued SNES Mini Classic.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Although the original Super Mario World, another undisputed classic, could perfectly appear on the list, perhaps today the original and precious Yoshi’s Island is more worth recalling.
At first, it surprises with its graphics that look like a children’s drawing made by hand , a visual display in a SNES game from the 90s, possible thanks to the fact that the cartridge added a Super FX2 chip to the hardware of the console.
No less unexpected is its mechanics: Mario is a baby, and we control Yoshi, who must carry him on his back to the end of the level . If an enemy touches us, we lose Mario and we must run after him to recover him or we will lose the game.
Like other games from the Japanese company, the options to legally enjoy Yoshi’s Island go through the Switch Online subscription or have the SNES Classic Mini.
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid was launched on the first PlayStation in 1998 , one of the best years in the history of video games thanks to titles such as Half-Life, StarCraft or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
This revolutionary stealth action game puts us in the shoes of Solid Snake, a retired special agent who must intervene on a remote island in Alaska, where members of his former unit have entrenched themselves with nuclear weapons and threaten an attack if not meet your demands.
Metal Gear Solid is a playable and narrative gem that laid down many of the foundations for later games. Full of ideas and memorable moments, it also made the most of the original PSX hardware , and in Spain it came with a Spanish dubbing of a quality not seen until then.
Metal Gear Solid is a game that stays quite fresh , and it is also short (about 10 hours), so it is worth replaying it through an emulator. Surprisingly, the only remake he has received was Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, which was released for the GameCube in the distant 2004.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the first 3D installment of the saga , one of the best games of the 90s and of all time. Released on Nintendo 64 in 1998, it offered us an epic adventure to save the kingdom of Hyrule from the evil of Ganondorf.
It offered excellent graphics, a neat combat / exploration system, and a huge world to explore, full of secrets . In addition, it provided the striking mechanics of controlling Link as a child and as an adult after the decline of the kingdom, through time travel.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of those classics that time has treated well, it is quite playable today . Unfortunately, some segments like the challenging Temple of Water can be too difficult for the average player.
In addition to the helpful emulators, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is coming to Switch Online, so it will be easy to enjoy one of the jewels of the 90s legally and in the best conditions.
Half-Life is a first-person shooter game where Valve redefined the genre, as the action is just one more element: we have an absorbing story, clever puzzles and level design, a great setting and a luxurious technical section.
In Half-Life we play Gordon Freeman, an assistant of the Black Mesa laboratories who must survive a failed experiment: a portal to another dimension gives entry to monstrous creatures , which endanger not only the facility, but the future of the entire Humanity.
Half-Life is still for sale on the Steam digital store for Windows, Mac and Linux, and it is playable, although its graphics have not aged well. If we prefer modernized classic games, in 2020 Black Mesa has been released , a complete remake that brings the original up to date.
Fans have been demanding Half-Life 3 for decades, or at least the promised Half-Life 2: Episode Three, but by now it seems clear that Valve prefers to focus on exploiting the profitable Steam digital store rather than picking up on its classic games.
Another of the most influential 90s classics was Blizzard’s StarCraft, a real-time strategy title heir to WarCraft , but with a space theme. It allows you to control three factions in contention across the galaxy: Terra humans, Zerg insects, and Protoss aliens.
In addition to the careful setting, StarCraft offers a very refined gameplay and where you can go enormously in depth . Its multiplayer mode set the precedent for eSports, and in South Korea it is still immensely popular.
StarCraft is still interesting decades later, though more for real-time strategy fans. If it attracts us, it is advisable to opt for the remake of 2017 , very faithful to the original in its mechanics, and which focuses on renewing the visual and sound aspects.
Of course, there are other classic games from the 90s that are worth trying , but with this selection we have many safe bets if we want to enter the retro gaming of one of the golden ages of video games.