1994 was an interesting year. In a year marked by a tremendous amount of political strife, video games once again showed the way. 1994 saw the release of some retro gaming classics. Returning franchises hit it out of the park, and some new contenders proved that gaming success wasn’t just the domain of the big developers. 32-bit systems were on the ascendancy, but several 16-bit Super Nintendo titles showed that the technology was far from obsolete yet.
It’s difficult to number these, since so many of them have nostalgic value and are important to gamers for different personal reasons. However, we’ve done our bestto narrow the list down. Without further ado, let’s turn back the clock and look at the best retro video games of 1994.
One of the easiest ways to gauge the power of 16-bit gaming is to play Super Metroid. This game scores near-perfect points for every gaming benchmark that counts. It has spectacular graphics, an incredible world and truly memorable combat and boss fights. Super Metroid features vastly improved controls and even adds the wall jumping ability. Even though this is like a reimagining of the original Metroid, it has enough finesse and content to feel like a completely new thing. Even today, Super Metroid and its world of Zebes is one of the best retro gaming experiences from the Super Nintendo you can have.
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country is an important part of many gamers’ childhoods. Many of us can fondly recall lazy afternoons spent trying to find every single thing in a level, and replaying the game over and over to beat our friends or siblings’ scores. Donkey Kong Country looks and feels fantastic, and represents our favorite gaming simian’s triumphant return to form, especially since a certain plumber was rising through the ranks in recent years. Gaming historians often credit this game as one of the reasons the Super Nintendo was able to compete with the Sega Genesis. The game has a ton of secrets, unlockables, a beautiful art style and a level of challenge that kept things interesting through endless replays.
Street Fighter II was an absolute monster hit and singlehandedly created the fighting game genre. In an era where Mortal Kombat and Virtua Fighter were desperately trying to carve a slice of the fighting game market, Killer Instinct made a mark of its own. This game has to be seen to be believed. It has some of the most fluid animations that had ever been seen in a fighting game and boasted a breakneck pace that gamers enjoyed. Listening to the in-game commentator shout your combos out never stopped being fun. Killer Instinct was daring, polished and original.
Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI is one of the best Final Fantasy games and one of the best RPGs of all time. The story was deep and complex, and the sense of being part of a global, epic adventure was incredible. The post-apocalyptic setting of the game served as the perfect backdrop to the time-bending combat system. The graphics are spectacular and the high production value really shines through. The game features several sequences that are breathtakingly cinematic, and were unprecedented for video games back in 1994.
There are lots of first-person shooters, but there’s only one Doom. The game that inspired (and continues to inspire) countless shooters in its wake returned in 1994, and everything was bigger and better. Doom II was almost exactly like the original Doom, except with improved graphics, extra weapons, a larger map and some more monstrosities you could wipe off the face of the earth in hilariously over the top fashion. Good times.
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
1994 was the year the world was first introduced to the amazing world of Warcraft. Blizzard was still a new and unproven developer, and it was tough to tell how Orcs & Humans would turn out. But then the game finally arrived and was instantly transported into the gaming hall of fame. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was a massive success and revived the RTS genre that had seen only a few entries and even those weren’t very noteworthy. The two opposing factions were distinct and equally fun to play as, and the easy multiplayer capabilities launched a gaming tradition that continues to this very day.
Sonic & Knuckles
Sonic and Knuckles introduced the world to Knuckles, and the world of Sonic was never the same. This game was originally intended to be part of Sonic 3, but development issues pushed it back and the studio later released it as a separate game. The lock-on system was one of the most delightful additions to the series. Sonic & Knuckles also gave you the ability to play with Tails or Knuckles through the campaign of Sonic 2 and 3.
Alien vs. Predator
Alien vs. Predator is one of the few good things that comes bearing its name. The franchise has seen a lot of forgettable movies and comics, but AVP for the arcade is one of the great gaming experiences. You get to play as several characters from both the predator and human sides, and you battle an army of xenomorphs. It’s a side-scrolling retro gaming classic in the beat’em up genre. The graphics are colorful, the combat is crisp and Dutch still kicks ass.
System Shock features one of the most iconic game villains – SHODAN. An AI that watches your every move and makes you question the nature of reality and existence, slowly pushing you to despair as you descend deeper into the technological labyrinth. The exploration and hacking, interspersed by the looming spectre of SHODAN made things tense, enjoyable and highly satisfying. It still stands as one of the shining examples of narrative and dialogue in a video game. While the game wasn’t a commercial success, it deserves its place in the retro gaming hall of game.
Honorable mentions – The Elder Scrolls: Arena, Demon’s Crest, Shining Force II, Heretic, Star Wars: TIE Fighter
That ends our recap of 1994, one of the most iconic years in gaming history. Which other retro video games would you have liked to see on this list? Are there any other “best of” recaps that you want us to tackle? Let us know in the comments.