Gaming through the decades: the 90s | Virgin Media
Video still from Super Mario 64

Gaming through the decades: the 90s



The first thing that comes to mind when we think of the 90s is a kid on a skateboard yelling cowabunga. The second thing that comes to mind is the emergence of videogaming from a niche interest to the mainstream. The decade saw the arrival of Super Mario 64, the PlayStation, and FFVII, making it a tough act to follow. Here are the biggest events in gaming from that decade. 



1990: Super Mario World

Video still from Super Mario World

This was the year Japan got the new SNES console.

Global release dates were still the stuff of science fiction in the early '90s, so it was only Japan that got the new SNES console this year, with launch titles Super Mario World and F-Zero. We were stuck with our Nintendo magazines that would tease all the big Japanese releases, causing us to be giddy with excitement for much of the year (and the following one too).

1991: Sonic the Hedgehog

Video still from Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic was more popular than Mario throughout the '90s.

With the SNES not released in Europe until 1992, Sega's super speedy mascot remained more popular than Mario in the UK throughout the '90s. Sega massively played on Sonic’s speed, advertising the Mega Drive by claiming that it featured something called ‘Blast Processing’. Also released this year was the arcade version of beat 'em-up classic Street Fighter II.

1992: Mortal Kombat

Video still from Mortal Kombat

The first big videogame nasty.

This was the year that gory Mortal Kombat became the first big videogame nasty, drawing us from our comfy sofas into the arcade. As soon as we discovered that the game featured ‘fatalities’, we practically moved in! As well as Ed Boon’s big game, 1992 was also Mario Kart's debut year.

1993: Doom

Video still from Doom

Doom became one of the most influential games ever.

The 3D revolution hit the big time this year with the first Ridge Racer and Virtua Fighter coin-ops, plus Starwing (aka Star Fox) on the SNES. But it was first person shooter Doom that became one of the most influential games ever, and introduced us to our life-long love of boomsticks and chainsaws. Groovy.

1994: Daytona USA

Video still from Daytona USA

Japan saw the release of Sega's Saturn in 1994.

Sega released the Saturn this year in Japan. Its version of Virtua Fighter was passable but the subsequent home version of the ground-breaking Daytona USA showed it couldn't match the 3D power of the other console released this year: the PlayStation.

1995: WipEout

Video still from WipEout

WipEout was one of the key PlayStation titles.

The release of the PlayStation in the West completely changed videogames, not just in terms of the move to 3D graphics but also with more visible, adult marketing. WipEout was one of the key titles, while other big games this year included Command & Conquer.

1996: Super Mario 64

Video still from Super Mario 64

This was also the year of the first Tomb Raider.

This was the year that 3D graphics really made a difference. Just look at Mario 64 up there – it still looks gorgeous to this day. The new N64 really revolutionised 3D gaming thanks to the flawless execution of an analogue control system. It was also the year of the first Tomb Raider, as well as Resident Evil, Duke Nukem 3D and Quake.

1997: Final Fantasy VII

Video still from Final Fantasy VII

One of the best RPGs ever released.

Another year for cast iron classic games, the legendary Final Fantasy VII came out alongside massively multiplayer online game Ultima Online. GoldenEye 007 on the N64 became the first hit FPS on a console, and both Diablo and Grand Theft Auto hit the PC.

1998: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Video still from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Arguably the best game ever?

Still regularly described as the best game ever (and with good reason), the first N64 Zelda was not the only classic this year, as Metal Gear Solid arrived on the PlayStation. It was also the year 3D graphics cards went mainstream on the PC, making hits of games Half-Life and Unreal.

1999: SoulCalibur

Video still from SoulCalibur

Sega tried a last throw of the dice with the Dreamcast.

By the end of the 90s the PlayStation had begun to show its age, but it would still be a while till its successor appeared. Meanwhile, Sega tried a last throw of the dice with the Dreamcast. It had a good start too with graphically impressive games like SoulCalibur. Eventually, the console would bomb, but it still holds a special place in our hearts as the home of classics like Phantasy Star Online and Jet Set Radio.

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